by T. Jackson Lears

When I was a college student in the late 1960s, the most popular US history courses were the ones that covered the Gilded Age. They promised to illuminate the origins of urgent contemporary problems. Their canvas was broad and filled with compelling characters—a ruling class composed of swashbuckling robber barons, given to speculating in dubious securities, bribing entire legislatures, and squeezing maximum productivity from their workers; a multi-ethnic proletariat of restless, angry workers, frequently thrown out of work by lurches in the business cycle, footloose and wandering whole regions in search of jobs; a formally free but frequently dependent black population, striving for independence but often left to the mercy of their former masters; an emerging foreign-policy elite, eager to secure a place for Uncle Sam at the imperial banquet while there were still a few crumbs left. These figures were involved in nothing less than “The Making of Modern America.” Or so the course titles claimed.More »


Teenager operating machinery, 1913, by Lewis Hine. (LC-DIG-nclc-04898)

History Times: The Industrial Revolution

Author: Gilder Lehrman Institute Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
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Featured Primary Sources

"The Protectors of Our Industries," by Bernhard Gillam, February 7, 1883  (LOC)

Anti-corporate cartoons, ca. 1900

Creator: Curriculum Subjects: Art, Economics, Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Andrew Carnegie to Hiram Hitchcock, January 31, 1889 (GLC02896)

Building Carnegie Hall, 1889

Creator: Andrew Carnegie Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Color Voters Read, broadside, 1894. (GLC09000)

Campaigning for the African American vote in Georgia, 1894

Creator: the State Democratic Party of Georgia Curriculum Subjects: Economics, Government and Civics Grade Levels:
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Teaching Resources

Celebrating Labor Day

Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

Guided Readings: The Changing Status of Women

Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Guided Readings: The Gospel of Wealth

Curriculum Subjects: Economics Grade Levels: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
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Creation of the Modern City

Speaker(s): Kenneth T. Jackson

Morgan: American Financier

Speaker(s): Jean Strouse

New Spirits: Americans in the Gilded Age

Speaker(s): James G. Basker, Rebecca Edwards
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