In general people speak of The Gilded Age as the period between the Civil War and the turn of the 20th century, an era that was marked by industrial and technological advancement, massive immigration, political, social and economic tumult and a growing gulf between the wealthy and the poor.
The rise of the railroads gave business people and industrialists a way to build wealth and power at breakneck speed at the expense of the working class. Criticism of the corruption and greed exposed some of what went on.Cartoon by Frederick Opp in Puck, a magazine founded by two immigrants from Austria and Germany and first published in September 1876 in German as “Puck Illustrirte Humoristiches … Continue reading
Jacob Riis immigrated from Denmark to the U.S. in 1870. His first few years were lived in extreme poverty. Often the only shelter available to him was in police lodging houses. In time he was hired as a police reporter for the New York Evening Sun and resolved to get the lodging houses shut down.
Over a quarter century he exposed the reality of life in the tenements, venturing into the worst and most dangerous areas of Manhattan to document the living conditions of the poor and immigrants being exploited by slum lords.
Power brokers, less than pleased by the growing trend in journalism to expose poor and exploitative practices, called Riis and others like him muckrakers.
Compare this photo taken by Riis to the accounts of the Vanderbilt Costume Ball of 1882.
|↑1||Cartoon by Frederick Opp in Puck, a magazine founded by two immigrants from Austria and Germany and first published in September 1876 in German as “Puck Illustrirte Humoristiches Wochenblatt” [An Illustrated Comedic Weekly]. Following its success, the English-language Puck appeared first in March 1877. Publication of the German-language version continued until 1897 (Kahn & West 2014, 11, 16). The date and translation of the title are taken from the English-language version, published in Puck for February 8, 1882. The title has elsewhere been referred to as “Monopoly Millionaires Carving Up the Country.” Repository: Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library. Archival Collection: P.J. Mode collection of persuasive cartography|