Classroom Highlights – Gilded Age


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“The Gilded Age” was a term coined by Mark Twain and represents his hate of the political corruption, poor working conditions and treatment of the lower class, and extravagant displays of wealth that defined the era. However, this was also a time of progress. Industry flourished and the middle class expanded as a result. During the Gilded Age of Chicago, Chicago had a outward appearance of perfection and great wealth. This appearance was created from the backs of poor immigrants who had to endure terrible working conditions. The immigrants dwelled in unsanitary factories, which in turn contaminated the foods and public goods produced. These horrible conditions were written and documented down in the book called, “The Jungle”. This book, published in 1906 brought forth a reaction from the nation that cause the President, Theodore Roosevelt to signed the Food and Drug Act(FDA) on June 30, 1906. This book brought the greatest reaction due to the fact from 1879 to 1906, when “The Jungle” was published, almost 100 bills were written to the Congress to conduct and watch over food and drugs. In “The Jungle,” Upton Sinclair writes, “There was never the least attention paid to what was cut up for sausage; there would come all the way back from Europe old sausage that had been rejected, and that was moldy and white–it would be dosed with borax and glycerine, and dumped into the hoppers, and made over again for home consumption. There would be meat that had tumbled out on the floor, in the dirt and sawdust, where the workers had tramped and spit uncounted billions of consumption germs. There would be meat stored in great piles in rooms; and the water from leaky roofs would drip over it, and thousands of rats would race about on it. It was too dark in these storage places to see well, but a man could run his hand over these piles of meat and sweep off handfuls of the dried dung of rats. These rats were nuisances, and the packers would put poisoned bread out for them; they would die, and then rats, bread, and meat would go into the hoppers together. This is no fairy story and no joke; the meat would be shoveled into carts, and the man who did the shoveling would not trouble to lift out a rat even when he saw one– there were things that went into the sausage in comparison with which a poisoned rat was a tidbin.” In reading this, Chicago’s meat houses were so unsanitary, the meats that was to be eaten by the public were filled with rats, rat dung, spit, and mold, yum!

Elgamil, Benjamin. “Famous Marylanders – Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle and Its
Effects.”Teaching American History in Maryland. Maryland State Archives and the Center for
History Education (CHE), University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC),, 2001-2005.
Web. 18 Nov. 2015.

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