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Gilded Age, Tarnished Promise

Between the 1870s and the 1910s, the United States experienced seismic change: economic expansion, industrialization, population growth, and military victories abroad. It was a time of seemingly boundless opportunity. However, the reality was not always so rosy, with many left in poverty, “Jim Crow” laws denying African-Americans their rights, and discrimination directed at new immigrants.

The most emblematic literary work of the era was The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today (1873). This satire, co-written by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner, not only lent its name to the period but also succinctly summarized it as a time when “every dark cloud had its silver lining … and every silver lining had its dark cloud.”