The Gilded Age Gilded is not golden. Film Description In the closing decades of the nineteenth century, during what has become american century investments jobs as the Gilded Age, the population of the United States doubled in the span of a single generation.
The nation became the world’s leading producer of food, coal, oil, and steel, attracted vast amounts of foreign investment, and pushed into markets in Europe and the Far East. A Sarah Colt Productions Film for American Experience. American Experience is a Production of WGBH, which Is solely responsible for its content. Narration: A vicious cold snap hit New York in the first week of February, 1897, but nothing could slow the preparations for the impending revelry. Rebecca Edwards, Historian: During the Gilded Age Americans feel quite certainly that they are the vanguard of civilization and progress. This is an enormous period of opportunity, and possibility, and hope. Narration: No group felt more confident about the future than the guests who would gather for the party at the luxurious Waldorf Hotel.
The evening’s total price tag, according to newspaper reports, was enough to feed nearly a thousand working class families for a full year. Defenders noted that the ball stood to benefit the entire city. John Kuo Wei Tchen, Historian: It was a fractious time in which a sense of desperation amidst growing wealth was emerging. If I as, as a member of this society lack the ability to pay my bills, and to feed my family then I am not a free citizen of a healthy republic. I’m something, something else, something that the Founding Fathers would not recognize. Richard John, Historian: The magnitude of the late 19th century transformation of American society is hard to exaggerate. It was as if you woke up in one country and went to bed in another.
Narration: Thirty years after the Civil War, America had transformed into an economic powerhouse. But the transformation had created stark new divides in wealth, standing and opportunity. Nell Irvin Painter, Historian: Gilded is not golden. Gilded has the sense of a patina covering something else. It’s the shiny exterior and the rot underneath. Narration: By the time New York’s elite gathered at the Waldorf ballroom, the richest four thousand families in the country — less than one percent of all Americans — had scooped up nearly as much treasure as the other 11. God knows how, but we intend to keep it if we can.
Brands, Historian: There is this fight over what is America’s collective self-identity. Are we two nations, the poor and the wealthy, or are we one nation where everybody has a chance to succeed? David Nasaw, Historian: When this nation comes out of the Civil War we are still a nation divided by regions. If you need a pair of shoes you don’t get it from a factory 100 miles away.
You get it from the local shoemaker. Nell Irvin Painter, Historian: Life was much, much more local, much more what was going on right around you, what your neighbors were doing, what your friends were doing, what your enemies were doing and how you were doing on a day-to-day basis. Brands, Historian: America had been founded, its political system had been founded for a country of farmers but it was becoming a nation of industrialists. It was becoming a nation of urban workers. It was becoming a nation of cities.
Brands, Historian: Railroads knit the entire country together in a way that hadn’t existed before. So now merchants, manufacturers, industrialists can think nationally. You don’t have to think simply in terms of your local market. If you have a good idea, if you have a good procedure for producing something you can think of selling your goods all over the country.