The Thousand Islands Gilded Age
The American Gilded Age was a time of rapid technical advances, industrialization, and thousands of new inventions from about 1870-1910. Mark Twain coined the term in his 1873 novel The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today that satirizedthe era of social problems that were masked by a layer of thin, gold gilding. All of my books are based during the Thousand Islands Gilded Age, when the wealthy came and scooped up the islands and built lavish summer homes, mansions, and castles.
It was an era of economic growth. Since wages were higher than Europe, massive immigration drew about twenty million to the U.S. shores. Unions fought to stop child labor and establish an eight-hour work day. Social reforms included women’s suffrage, prohibition, and other civil changes. In the cities, labor unions became important in regulating industry, while trusts grew stronger in several industries. Education, prohibition, and racial inequalities dominated politics as did economic affairs of money supply and tariffs.
Unfortunately, it was also a time of unequal distribution of wealth where the rich got richer and the poor working class suffered. Many young women worked as servants until they married, and that’s what my stories are about—those nameless, faithful women who cooked and cleaned and served tables for the rich and famous. These “downstairs” women had fascinating stories to tell, and I plan to tell many of them.
The Gilded Age titans of industry changed our world—people like John D Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt, George Pullman, and others who were sometimes called “robber barons.” But there were others who quietly made a difference—people like Frederick Bourne who took the Singer sewing machine around the globe as highlighted in my novel, Devyn’s Dilemma.
When city growth ballooned during this time, so did the economic problems of housing, the poor, and many social problems. Factories, railroads, finance, and mining were just a few of the growing industries during this time, while immigrants and others moved West and filled jobs in mining, farming, ranching, and building railroads. The number of public schools multiplied and so did membership in churches, especially in Catholicism due to so many Irish, Italian, and other immigrants. But the Panic of 1873 and the Panic of 1893 depressed growth for a season and brought political and social strife.
During this era, technology and industrialization grew the economy. Mechanization created less expensive products. The steel industry exploded, and the first transcontinental railroad opened in 1869. For the first time one could travel from New York to San Francisco in just six days. By 1880, railroad mileage tripled and brought the nation closer together. Markets became national and the world smaller.
During the Gilded Age, America led the world in innovation. A half-million patents were issued for new inventions including hundreds by Thomas Edison, Westinghouse, and others. Thanks to inventions such as delivery of electric power, the world became lighter, safer, more convenient and comfortable, and all around better.
So this is why I write Thousand Islands Gilded Age stories. To share the rich heritage this era gave us and better understand what it was like. What fascinates you about this time? I’d love to know.
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