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Step 1: Analyze the sources.

Read the linked sources below.

Take a look at

wealthy capitalist and steel magnate Andrew Carnegie’s 1889 essay, the “Gospel of Wealth”,


published in the

North American Review.

Carnegie made his fortune in steel manufacturing after starting as a teen in the railroad business. I suppose his career actually started as a child, working as a bobbin boy in a factory. Regardless, this article is a successful capitalist’s defense of Social Darwinism. Consider what he is arguing in this article. Whose responsibility does Carnegie say it is to take care of society’s working class and urban poor?


this excerpt from Jacob Riis’

How the Other Half Lives


about the plight of the urban poor. Riis was a photographer and writer, and his book, excerpted here, was a piece of groundbreaking photojournalism. Riis is one of the early ‘muckrakers’ (or investigative journalists) that we study in this class. He photographed and wrote about the decrepit living conditions of New York City’s working class apartment buildings and neighborhoods, and brought this suffering to the attention of his middle- and upper-class readers. This excerpt can be a bit hard to read (emotionally), particularly those who work with or have children.


this excerpt from Edward Bellamy’s 1888 novel

Looking Backward


. It is about a young man who falls asleep in the 1887 and wakes up in the year 2000. In the time he was sleeping, the US embraced the American working class. He wakes up in a socialist-style ‘utopia’, described to him by a doctor he meets after waking up. This excerpt follows their conversation. This book was a huge best-seller, so we can get an idea of what people were reading en mass in the late 1880s.

Read through

the political platform of the Populist Party, or People’s Party, written in 1892


. Many of these platform points were popular in western states and territories in the 1870s and 1880s, mostly amongst Grange societies, Farmer’s Alliances, and other cooperative farming “unions” formed in response to high railroad shipment rates and a perceived lack of political representation in an industrialized, modernizing nation. The People’s Party sought to connect the concerns of the rural and urban working classes– the small farmers and factory workers alike. Consider what this document can tell us about what is going on in American society just by these demands?

Step 2: Written Reflection

Using the sources linked above, as well as our textbook chapter, answer the following prompt in a one- to two-page, double-spaced reflection essay (about 250-400 words). No formal citations required.

What can the linked sources above tell us about Gilded Age society? How did people of different social classes define “freedom”? (Carnegie above represents the elite capitalist perspective, while the others generally represent middle-class reformers– other groups, like labor unions, farmers, and the urban working class can be referenced from our textbook). What modern social parallels to the Gilded Age do you observe?

Step 3: Submit

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