'American Experience: The Gilded Age'
(DVD / PG / 2018 / PBS)
Overview: 'The Gilded Age' presents a compelling and complex story of one of the most convulsive and transformative eras in American history.
DVD Verdict: In the closing decades of the nineteenth century, the U.S. population doubled in the span of a single generation, national wealth expanded, and two classes rose simultaneously, separated by a gulf of experience and circumstance that was unprecedented in American life.
During what has become known as the Gilded Age, the population of the United States doubled in the span of a single generation. The nation became the world's leading producer of food, coal, oil, and steel, attracted vast amounts of foreign investment, and pushed into markets in Europe and the Far East.
As for that term for this period, it came into use in the 1920s and 1930s and was derived from writer Mark Twain's 1873 novel The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today, which satirized an era of serious social problems masked by a thin gold gilding.
The early half of the Gilded Age roughly coincided with the middle portion of the Victorian era in Britain and the Belle Époque in France. Its beginning in the years after the American Civil War overlaps the Reconstruction Era (which ended in 1877). It was followed in the 1890s by the Progressive Era.
Moving on, and as national wealth expanded, two classes rose simultaneously, separated by a gulf of experience and circumstance that was unprecedented in American life. These disparities sparked passionate and violent debate over questions still being asked in our own times: How is wealth best distributed, and by what process? Does government exist to protect private property or provide balm to the inevitable casualties of a churning industrial system? Should the government concern itself chiefly with economic growth or economic justice?
The battles over these questions were fought in Congress, the courts, the polling place, the workplace and the streets. The outcome of these disputes was both uncertain and momentous, and marked by a passionate vitriol and level of violence that would shock the conscience of many Americans today.
'The Gilded Age' presents a compelling and complex story of one of the most convulsive and transformative eras in American history. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.