The Gilded Age 1878–1900

  • Corporations and trusts begin to accumulate large capital reserves, ushering in Era of Big Business
  • Western frontier rapidly parceled out and populated; Native Americans forced to assimilate and/or relocate
  • Reconstruction policies leave African Americans behind in South as post–Civil War recovery continues
  • Development of cities fueled by immigration and rise of business

1878 Timber and Stone Act opens land in California, Oregon, Nevada, and Washington to purchase by settlers

Exoduster migration of black communities to Kansas to escape Democratic control of South after the end of Reconstruction

Bland-Allison Act requires purchase of silver by treasury

Women’s suffrage amendment introduced in Congress after work by activist Susan B. Anthony; Senate does not vote on it until 1884

1879 Thomas Edison invents the electric light

White settlers begin to descend upon Native American reservations in Oklahoma, clamoring for land

1880 James Garfield elected 20th president

British charitable organization Salvation Army starts work in United States

1881 Disappointed office-seeker Charles Guiteau assassinates Garfield; Vice President Chester A. Arthur becomes 21st president

Booker T. Washington becomes principal of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, which provides vocational training to blacks

Henry James publishes novel The Portrait of a Lady

Federal trademark laws instituted to protect patent holders, encourage innovation

1882 Chinese Exclusion Act bans Chinese immigration for 10 years

John D. Rockefeller forms Standard Oil Trust

National time zones established

Brooklyn Bridge completed, speeding already rapid growth of New York City

Supreme Court declares Civil Rights Act of 1875 unconstitutional

Northern Pacific Railroad between Chicago and Seattle completed

1883 Pendleton Civil Service Act counters patronage, reforms U.S. government’s corrupt hiring practices

1884 Grover Cleveland elected 22nd president

Mark Twain publishes novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

1885 Violent anti-Chinese riots occur in Rock Springs, Wyoming, and Tacoma, Washington

1886 Haymarket riot occurs when Chicago police disperse striking union workers demanding 8-hour workday; 7 policemen killed, 4 protesters sentenced to death; union movements nationwide suffer as a result

American Federation of Labor (AFL) formed to salvage labor movement; Samuel Gompers acts as leader until 1924

Chiricahua Apache leader Geronimo deported to Florida as prisoner of war

Wabash v. Illinois ruling holds that only federal government can regulate trade between states

1887 Interstate Commerce Act establishes federal commission to regulate trade between states

Dawes Severalty Act denies tribal rights, advances policy of forced assimilation and integration upon Native Americans; reduces tribal land claims sharply

Low rail fares encourage mass relocation of Midwesterners to Los Angeles

United States acquires naval rights at Pearl Harbor in Hawai‘i

1888 Benjamin Harrison elected 23rd president

1889 North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Washington admitted to Union as 39th, 40th, 41st, and 42nd states

Oklahoma land rush transfers more than two million acres of native-held land to white settlers

Jane Addams founds Hull House to provide relief to Chicago poor

Motion-picture camera invented

1890 Idaho and Wyoming admitted to Union as 43rd and 44th states

Congress establishes Oklahoma Territory, further stripping Native Americans of land claims in region

Federal forces massacre more than 200 Sioux at Wounded Knee

Congress establishes Yosemite National Park in California

Mississippi Plan levies poll tax, effectively disenfranchising black voters

Sherman Antitrust Act outlaws monopolies, price-fixing, other trade restraints

Sherman Silver Purchase Act is passed

U.S. Census Bureau announces frontier officially closed

McKinley Tariff raises duties on imports, strengthening U.S. businesses

1891 Forest Reserve Act allows president to set aside western lands for federal control, limiting private claims

Populist Party formed; composed primarily of western farmers

Electric trolleys begin to replace horses as primary mode of public transportation

1892 Geary Act extends Chinese Exclusion Act by 10 years, requires existing Chinese-American citizens to register with government

Steelworkers strike in Homestead strike against Carnegie Steel; Pinkerton Detectives called in to break strike; 10 people killed in riot

Dawes Act opens more than two million acres of Crow lands in Montana to white settlement

Grover Cleveland elected 24th president

1893 Panic of 1893 leads to a four-year period of financial instability

Six million acres of Cherokee land in Oklahoma opened to white settlement

Great Northern Railroad completed

Sherman Silver Purchase Act repealed

World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago celebrates 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s voyage to New World

1894 Carey Act grants more than one million acres of land to western states on condition of irrigation and resale to settlers

Pullman Strike, led by labor organizer Eugene V. Debs, cripples railroads nationwide; federal troops called on to restore order

Wilson-Gorman Tariff reestablishes high tariff levels after cuts

Coxey’s Army of 500 unemployed citizens marches on Washington, D.C., demanding relief for destitute and unemployed

1895 Booker T. Washington gives Atlanta Compromise speech at Cotton States Exposition, urging African Americans to accept second-class-citizen status in exchange for civil rights and equal education

Publishers William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer compete for readership through practice of sensationalistic yellow journalism

U.S. v. E.C. Knight Co. ruling effectively disables Sherman Antitrust Act

1896 Utah admitted to Union as 45th state

Plessy v. Ferguson ruling repeals Civil Rights Act of 1875, upholding constitutionality of separate but equal services

William Jennings Bryan makes “Cross of Gold” speech at Democratic National Convention in Chicago, urging free coinage of silver and other Populist reforms

William McKinley elected 25th president

1898 Louisiana establishes grandfather clause for voting rights, placing literacy and property requirements on blacks but excusing whites from similar standards

Holden v. Hardy ruling upholds work hour limits for miners

USS Maine sinks in Havana Harbor, Cuba; U.S. press and public blame Spain

Spanish-American War takes place; Teddy Roosevelt leads Rough Riders in Battle of San Juan Hill in Cuba; United States crushes Spain in naval battles

Treaty of Paris ends Spanish-American War; United States annexes Guam, Philippines, and Puerto Rico

United States annexes Hawai‘i

Teller Amendment declares Cuba independent from Spain by U.S. authority

1899 United States announces Open Door Policy to gain foothold in Chinese markets

Cumming v. County Board of Education ruling declares laws establishing separate schools for white students constitutional even if comparable schools are not available for black students

1900 International forces quell Boxer Rebellion against Western imperialism in China

Criminalization of lynching proposed in Congress but fails in committee

McKinley reelected president

Foraker Act grants Puerto Rico limited degree of self-government

Gold Standard Act declares paper money backed by gold reserves

Credits: Sparknotes

The Gilded Age 1878–1900
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