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The Gilded Age

A History in Documents

Janette Thomas Greenwood

Publication Date - May 2003

ISBN: 9780195166385

192 pages
8 x 10 inches

In Stock

Now in paperback -- perfect for courses!


When many Americans think of the Gilded Age, they picture the mansions at Newport, Rhode Island, or the tenements of New York City. Indeed, the late 19th century was a period of extreme poverty thinly veiled by fabulous wealth. However, we should not remember the era only for the strides made by steel magnate Andrew Carnegie or social reformer Jane Addams. All Americans had to adjust to the dynamic social and economic changes of the Gilded Age--the booming industries, growing cities, increased ethnic and cultural diversity. African American W. E. B. Du Bois, Native American Sitting Bull, and Chinese American Saum Song Bo spoke out against racial injustice. European immigrants Mary Antin and Robert Ferrari suffered the pitfalls and praised the opportunities found in their new country. Pioneer Phoebe Judson lamented the loneliness of making a life out West. And workers at Homestead Steel lost their lives in an attempt to improve labor conditions. Drawing from the letters, memoirs, newspaper articles, journals, and speeches of Gilded Age Americans, author Janette Greenwood arranges all of these voices to tell a story more vibrant and textured than the simple tale of robber baron versus starving poor. In addition to these voices, visuals--such as advertisements, maps, political cartoons, and a picture essay on Jacob Riiss urban photographs--create a kaleidoscopic view of the quarter century when diverse Americans struggled for the same goal: a better way of life, with more justice and democracy for each and all.

Textbooks may interpret history, but the books in the Pages from History series are history. Each title, compiled and edited by a prominent historian, is a collection of primary sources relating to a particular topic of historical significance. Documentary evidence including news articles, government documents, memoirs, letters, diaries, fiction, photographs, and facsimiles allows history to speak for itself and turns every reader into a historian. Headnotes, extended captions, sidebars, and introductory essays provide the essential context that frames the documents. All the books are amply illustrated and each includes a documentary picture essay, chronology, further reading, source notes, and index.


  • Tells a vibrant and textured story of the Gilded Age in the US
  • Draws from the letters, memoirs, newspaper articles, journals, and speeches of Gilded Age Americans
  • Visuals such as advertisements, maps, political cartoons, and a picture essay on Jacob Riiss urban photographs create a kaleidoscopic view of the quarter century

About the Author(s)

Janette Thomas Greenwood is Associate Professor and Chair of the History Department at Clark University. Her previous works include Bittersweet Legacy: The Black and White "Better Classes" in Charlotte, N.C. 1850-1910 (UNC Press, 1994), The Black Experience in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, 1850-1920: A Curriculum Guide for Teachers (C-M Historic Properties Commission, 1984) and On the Home Front: Charlotte During the Civil War (Mint Museum of History, 1982).


"Brings to life an exciting time in U.S. history... Greenwood discusses the period objectively in a concise, lively commentary that frames scores of primary sources and black-and-white reproductions and photos.... Coverage of women and minorities is noteworthy. A fine source for both school assignments and browsing pleasure."--School Library Journal

"Greenwood...presents selections of primary source materials topically arranged to examine ten aspects of the period.... A demonstration of the wealth of material that can be culled for historical evidence. Students looking for fresh approach to research can find inspiration here."--Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"Interesting reading....An excellent addition."--VOYA

"Interesting--often gripping primary sources ....[With] excellent introductions."--History: Reviews of New Books

Table of Contents

    What is a Document?
    How to Read a Document

    Chapter 1: Big Business, Industry, and the American Dream

    Captains of Industry
    "Survival of the Fittest"
    Responsibilities of the Rich
    From Rags to Riches

    Chapter 2: Immigration to a "Promised Land"


    Chapter 3: The Sorrows of Labor

    The Knights of Labor
    The Haymarket Affair
    Trade Unions
    Industrial Unions
    Women in the Work Force
    Child Labor
    The Homestead Lockout

    Chapter 4: The Perils and Promise of Urban Life

    Social Activism
    Social Darwinism
    Ward Bosses

    Chapter 5: Jacob Riis and the Power of the Photograph

    Chapter 6: The New South

    A Sharecropper's Contract
    "A Perfect Democracy"
    Cotton Mill Workers
    The Rise of "Jim Crow"

    Chapter 7: The West

    An Indian Victory
    "Whitening" Indians
    Mexican Americans Fight Back

    Chapter 8: The Farmer's Revolt

    Farmers' Alliances
    The Populist Party
    Election 1896

    Chapter 9: The United States Builds an Empire

    The Spanish-American War
    The Philippines

    Chapter 10: New Women, Strenuous Men, and Leisure

    "The Strenuous Life"
    Rebellious Women

    Further Reading
    Text Credits
    Picture Credits

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