A Guide to the History of Illinois

By John Hoffmann | Go to book overview

5
THE GILDED AGE, 1870-1900

MARK A. PLUMMER

THE GILDED AGE in Illinois was symbolized by the polished dome being built over the state capitol, by the state's miles of shining rails which led the nation in track mileage, by its bountiful, golden corn harvests, and by the glittering success of its agriculture-related industries. Yet the capitol was completed by spending money in excess of that allowed under the Constitution of 1870, and many of the state's political leaders became involved in the questionable political activities typical of the age. The railroads that brought prosperity to Illinois also brought grief, and the state took the lead in their regulation, albeit somewhat ineffectively. Crop overproduction and certain corporate and governmental policies greatly reduced the promised riches for many farmers. And industries such as Harvester and Pullman became the focal point for some of America's most excruciating labor problems. Not surprisingly, much has been written about Illinois in the Gilded Age. The politician-generals, the Grangers, the Liberal Republicans, the Haymarket bombing, and the Pullman strike all captured the attention of the nation. Yet much remains to be written regarding the state in the late nineteenth century.

The indispensable book on Illinois in the Gilded Age is John H. Keiser, Building for the Centuries: Illinois, 1865 to 1898 ( Urbana, 1977). Keiser's comprehensive work includes chapters on the people, government, politics, agriculture, transportation, industry, labor, and culture of the state, and on Chicago. The book is also a useful guide to the sources, with rich endnotes and a

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