The gilded age is a period from around 1875 to 1900 that was characterized as a time of wealth but also of greed and corruption. The word gilded means something that is covered in gold on the outside and the inside is cheap and inferior. This age is also known as the second industrial revolution where manufacturing and transporting goods became rather easy with the help of new machines. It was an age of scientific breakthrough and also technological innovation. Life may sound much better than it would have been during this era of reconstruction, but these new advantages mainly benefitted upper middle class white men. Big companies and manufacturers no longer needed skilled laborers they just needed abled enough bodies to operate machines.
The US economy became more industrial. Big companies like Standard Oil and Carnegie Steel Company held many monopolies over the labor industry. Because of this it became increasingly hard for new companies to provide competition. This meant that laborers for these companies had little to no work rights. Workers were even denied the right to strike because striking violated the companies rights.
Rockefeller and Carnegie where among the wealthiest few people in america. They funded art programs, schools, and social institutions. Andrew Carnegie gave the people of America hope that they could achieve what he was able to achieve. He was seen ultimately as a good guy who held an obligation to give back to the society, that treated him well. Rockefeller among others gained the name “‘robber baron” to the fact that they steal from the people with one hand and give back to them with the other.
Although most of the business billionaires in the gilded age donated their time and money to social institutions of some kind, it was the imbalance of wealth and deplorable working conditions that gave money to the pockets of these men that created the need to have social assistance in the first place. The aftermath of the Louisiana purchase and westward expansion created many opportunities for Americans This also symbolized freedom and prosperity. Chinese immigrants attracted to the new opportunities that the west held, faced a lot of discrimination and unfair treatment.
Chinese immigrants usually came through Angel Island. Most were single men who wanted to find work. Chinese immigrants did not assimilate as successfully as the Jewish and Irish immigrants did in New York. Chinese immigrants tended to be isolated from the white majority and were often discriminated against. This stemmed from the fear of white Americans that America was becoming less white and that immigrants would take the jobs of the white people.
There was increased anxiety surrounding the availability of jobs at this time, as there were so many people out of work companies treated laborers as dispensable entities. This is demonstrated by the panic of 1893. Although successful westward expansion created more job opportunities and prospects for innovation it also lead to the discrimination of the Chinese and their eventual exclusion.