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Mud Flood Mansions and The Gilded Age Deception

Is the Gilded Age a cover story for Mud Flood Mansions of America and out of place architecture? We look at the story of America’s new millionaires building luxurious Mansions and if that is the truth.

In United States history, the Gilded Age is a term coined by Mark Twain and used by some historians to refer roughly to the period from 1877 to 1900, which occurred between the Reconstruction Era and the Progressive Era. It was a time of rapid economic growth, especially in the Northern and Western United States. As American wages grew much higher than those in Europe, especially for skilled workers, and industrialization demanded an increasing unskilled labor force, the period saw an influx of millions of European immigrants.

Mud Flood Mansions in The Gilded Age 1877–1896

The rapid expansion of industrialization led to real wage growth of 40% from 1860 to 1890 and spread across the increasing labor force. The average annual wage per industrial worker (including men, women, and children) rose from $380 in 1880 to $564 in 1890, a gain of 48%. Conversely, the Gilded Age was also an era of abject poverty and inequality, as millions of immigrants—many from impoverished regions—poured into the United States, and the high concentration of wealth became more visible and contentious.

Railroads was the major growth industry, with the factory system, mining, and finance increasing in importance. Immigration from Europe and the Eastern United States led to the rapid growth of the West based on farming, ranching, and mining. Labor unions became increasingly important in the rapidly growing industrial cities. Two major nationwide depressions—the Panic of 1873 and the Panic of 1893—interrupted growth and caused social and political upheavals.

The South remained economically devastated after the American Civil War; the region’s economy became increasingly tied to commodities, cotton, and tobacco production, which suffered from low prices. With the end of the Reconstruction Era in 1877 and the rise of Jim Crow laws, African-American people in the South were stripped of political power and voting rights and were left economically disadvantaged.

The political landscape was notable in that despite some corruption, election turnout was very high, and national elections saw two evenly matched parties. The dominant issues were cultural (especially regarding prohibition, education, and ethnic or racial groups) and economic (tariffs and money supply). With the rapid growth of cities, political machines increasingly took control of urban politics. In business, powerful nationwide trusts formed in some industries. Unions crusaded for the eight-hour working day, and the abolition of child labor; middle-class reformers demanded civil service reform, prohibition of liquor and beer, and women’s suffrage.

Local governments across the North and West built public schools chiefly at the elementary level; public high schools started to emerge. The numerous religious denominations were growing in membership and wealth, with Catholicism becoming the largest. They all expanded their missionary activity to the world arena. Catholics, Lutherans, and Episcopalians set up religious schools, and the largest of those schools set up numerous colleges, hospitals, and charities. Many of the problems faced by society, especially the poor, gave rise to attempted reforms in the subsequent Progressive Era.

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