This week at In The Past Lane, the history podcast, we present Part 3 of our multi-episode examination of the Gilded Age. In this episode, we look at some of the people and organizations that took on the problems that arose in the Gilded Age. In the case of the former, we examine reformers like Henry George and Mary Elizabeth Lease. And in the latter, we tell the story of the Knights of Labor and the People’s Party. Taken together, these people and organizations pushed the nation to rethink its commitment to small and decentralized government, arguing that to let big business and banks operate with no regulations would lead to the disintegration of American democracy. This three-part series on the Gilded Age should remind us that all the things Americans value in their nation – all the rights, laws, norms, and liberties that we would never want to live without – have come from struggle. None of them fell from the sky. Rather, they’ve always come from the hard work, sacrifice, and vision of people who worked against the odds to push the nation to live up to its high ideals.
Among the many things discussed in this episode:
How did reformers in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era push the nation to redefine its understanding of the role of government vis-a-vis liberty?
Who was Henry George and why did he wield such influence in the Gilded Age?
How America has two competing traditions, individualism and the common good.
What was the Knights of Labor and what did its members want?
What was the extraordinary Henry George campaign for Mayor of NYC in 1886 about?
What was the People’s Party insurgency of the 1890s?
How did Gilded Age activists set the table for Progressive Era reformers?
Sven Beckert, The Monied Metropolis: New York City and the Consolidation of the American Bourgeoisie, 1850-1896 (2001)
Rebecca Edwards, New Spirits: Americans in the Gilded Age: 1865-1905 (2006)
Michael McGerr, A Fierce Discontent: The Rise and Fall of the Progressive Movement in America, 1870-1920 (2003)
Edward T. O’Donnell, Henry George and the Crisis of Inequality: Progress and Poverty in the Gilded Age (2015)
Nell Irvin Painter, Standing at Armageddon: A Grassroots History of the Progressive Era (1987
Heather Cox Richardson, The Death of Reconstruction: Race, Labor, and Politics in the Post-Civil War North, 1865-1901 (2001)
Richard White, The Republic for Which It Stands: The United States during Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896 (Oxford, 2017)
Related ITPL Podcast Episodes:
Episode 44 with Richard White on the Gilded Age and Reconstruction
Music for This Episode
Jay Graham, ITPL Intro (JayGMusic.com)
Kevin McCleod, “Impact Moderato” (Free Music Archive)
Blue Dot Sessions, “Sage the Hunter” (Free Music Archive)
Jon Luc Hefferman, “Winter Trek” (Free Music Archive)
The Bell, “I Am History” (Free Music Archive)
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Associate Producer: Tyler Ferolito
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