Gilded Age
A name for the late 1800s, coined by Mark Twain to describe the tremendous increase in wealth caused by the industrial age and the ostentatious lifestyles it allowed the very rich. The great industrial success of the U.S. and the fabulous lifestyles of the wealthy hid the many social problems of the time, including a high poverty rate, a high crime rate, and corruption in the government.
Solid South
Term applied to the one-party (Democrat) system of the South following the Civil War. For 100 years after the Civil War, the South voted Democrat in every presidential election.
Roscoe Conkling
(October 30, 1829-April 18, 1888) A politician from New York who served both as a member of the United States House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. He was the leader of the Stalwart faction of the Republican Party.
Favored tariff reform and social reform, major issues from the Democratic and Republican parties. They did not seem to be dedicated members of either party. Between stalwarts and Mugwumps were the Halfbreeds, who were less patronage-oriented than the Stalwarts, but not as reform-minded as the Mugwumps.
A political movement comprising Republicans who supported Democratic candidate Grover Cleveland in the United States presidential election of 1884. They switched parties because they could not in good faith support the Republican candidate, James Blaine of Maine. After the election was over, mugwump survived for more than a decade as an epithet in American politics, and the Mugwumps themselves continued many of their associations as reformers well into the 20th century.
Rutherford B. Hayes
19th President, Hayes entered office after the scandalous election of 1887. His opponent Samuel Tilden won the popular vote, but the electoral votes from four states (three of which were under military occupation) were disputed. The election was settled with the Compromise of 1877, which stated that if Hayes became president, he would pull federal troops out of the South and end Reconstruction, and at least one southerner would be on his cabinet.
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James Garfield
20th President of the United States (1881) and the second U.S. President to be assassinated. he Held office from March to September of 1881, President Garfield was in office for a total of six months and fifteen days.
Chester A. Arthur
21st president, took office after the assassination of James Garfield. He was widely suspected of having conspired in Garfield’s assassination. Before entering politics, Arthur had been Collector of Customs for the Port of New York but was fired by Rutherford B. Hayes under false suspicion of bribery and corruption. Ironically, he devoted his presidency to civil service reform and the passage of the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act.
Thomas Reid
American novelist who wrote numerous popular novels set in untamed settings, especially the American West. His tales, based on his adventures in America, captivated American youths, including the young Theodore Roosevelt.
James G. Blaine
A U.S. Representative, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, U.S. Senator from Maine and a two-time United States Secretary of State. He also ran for President of the United States, obtaining the 1884 Republican nomination, but failed to be elected, losing to Grover Cleveland. As such, he was the only Mainer to ever receive a major-party Presidential nomination.
Grover Cleveland
The 22nd and 24th President of the United States (1885-1889 and 1893-1897). He was known as an honest, independent President opposed to corruption and the spoils system.
Greenback Party
The Greenback party (also called the National Greenback party) was organized in 1876 to campaign for expansion of the supply of paper money—”greenbacks”—first issued by the federal government in 1862 to help pay for the Civil War. The idea that maintaining a flexible supply of paper money served the interests of working people, whereas paper money backed by specie (hard money, like gold or silver) benefited only the rich, had been advanced by Edward Kellogg as early as 1841.
James B. Weaver
He held several offices in Iowa before he adopted the cause of reform and was elected (1878) to the U.S. House of Representatives on the Greenback party ticket. In 1880 he was the unsuccessful presidential candidate of the Greenback party. Weaver continued to advocate “soft-money” views. He helped form the Farmers’ Alliance—an agrarian reform movement—and when that organization became the Populist Party, Weaver ran (1892) as its presidential candidate. Although defeated, he polled more than one million popular and 22 electoral votes.
Crime of 1873
The Fourth Coinage Act was enacted by the United States Congress in 1873 and embraced the gold standard and de-monetized silver. U.S. set the specie standard in gold and not silver, upsetting miners who referred to it as a crime
Billion-Dollar Congress
51st congress; held by Harrison; responsible for passing the Land Revision Act of 1891, which created the national forests. Harrison authorized America’s first forest reserve in Yellowstone, Wyoming, the same year; its lavish spending and, for this reason, it incited drastic reversals in public support that led to Cleveland’s reelection in 1892. Other important legislation passed into law by the Congress included the McKinley tariff, authored by Representative (and future President) William McKinley; the Sherman Antitrust Act, which prohibited business combinations that restricted trade; and the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, which required the U.S. government to mint silver.
Veterans’ pensions
When a claimant was denied a pension through the regular procedure, an appeal could be made to a friendly Congressman, who would often introduce a special bill for the veteran. Congress approved thousands of such bills – many of them blatantly fraudulent. Cleveland, unlike his predecessors, subjected these bills to close inspection and vetoed hundreds of them. This grate nailed on the federal trough enraged the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic) and many in Congress.
Sherman Silver Purchase Act (1890)
Required that the US buy nearly twice as much silver as before the act was passed. Added substantially to the amount of money already in circulation. Threatened to undermine the Treasury’s Gold reserves.
Populist (People’s) Party
Offically named the People’s Party, but commonly known as the Populist Party, it was founded in 1891 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Wrote a platform for the 1892 election (running for president-James Weaver, vice president-James Field) in which they called for free coinage of silver and paper money; national income tax; direct election of senators; regulation of railroads; and other government reforms to help farmers. The part was split between South and West.
Omaha Platform
Populist Party platform for the 1892 election (running for president-James Weaver, vice president-James Field) in which they called for free coinage of silver and paper money; national income tax; direct election of senators; regulation of railroads; and other government reforms to help farmers.
Panic of 1893
Considered extreme depression; profits dwindled, businesses went bankrupt and slid into debt. Caused loss of business confidence. 20% of the workforce unemployed. Let to the Pullman strike.
Gold drain
The national gold reserve was steadily declining due to the cost of the Billion Dollar Congress and The Sherman Silver Purchase Act, which caused many citizens to redeem their paper money in gold.
Coxey’s Army
A march led by “General” Jacob Coxey, a wealthy quarry owner from Ohio. Starting Easter Sunday 1984, Coxey, accompanied by his wife and infant son, Legal Tender Coxey, led 500 unemployed men, women, and children from OH to Washington. Supported a public works program of road building.
William Jennings Bryan; “Cross of Gold”
An American lawyer, statesman, and politician. He was a three-time Democratic Party nominee for President of the United States noted for his deep, commanding voice. Cross of Gold speech was a speech delivered by William Jennings Bryan at the 1896 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The speech advocated bimetallism. At the time, the Democratic Party wanted to standardize the value of the dollar to silver and opposed pegging the value of the United States dollar to a gold standard. The inflation that would result from the silver standard would make it easier for farmers and other debtors to pay off their debts by increasing their revenue dollars. It would also reverse the deflation which the U.S. experienced from 1873-1896.
Free silver
After the discovery of silver, several disparate factions in American politics began to agitate for the feds to allow it to be minted freely at the rate of $1 per troy ounce. As the gold standard in effect at the time valued gold at the official price of $20 per troy ounce, the result of this policy would have been a considerable increase in the money supply and resultant inflation.
“Gold Bug” Democrats
The popular name given to Democrats who split with their party over the silver issue in 1896 and supported the gold standard as the basis of U.S. monetary policy. The Gold Bugs, or Gold Democrats, called themselves the National Democratic party, held their own convention, and nominated their own presidential candidate in 1896, John M. Palmer, a 79-year-old Kentuckian. In their platform, the Gold Democrats criticized William Jennings Bryan and the regular Democrats as being reckless radicals. “They advocate a reckless attempt to increase the price of silver by legislation to the debasement of our monetary standard, and threaten unlimited issues of paper money by Government.”
William McKinley
The 25th President. For high tariffs on imports. Defended the Gold Standard against Free Silver. Introduced new advertising-style campaign techniques that revolutionized campaign practices. As president, he fought the Spanish-American War; he annexed the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, and Hawaii.
Mark Hanna
An industrialist and Republican politician from Ohio. The campaign manager of McKinley in the 1896, in what is considered the forerunner of the modern political campaign, and subsequently became one of the most powerful members of the U.S. Senate.
Dingley Tariff
Passed in 1897, the highest protective tariff in U.S. history with an average duty of 57%. It replaced the Wilson – Gorman Tariff, and was replaced by the Payne – Aldrich Tariff in 1909. It was pushed through by big Northern industries and businesses.

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