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Word Count: 279
During the Gilded Age every man was a potential Andrew Carnegie and Americans who achieved wealth celebrated it as never before While the rich wore diamonds many wore rags In 1890 11 million of the nations 12 million families earned less than 1200 per year of this group the average annual income was 380 well below the poverty line Rural Americans and new immigrants crowded into urban areas Tenements spread across city landscapes teeming with crime and filth Americans had sewing machines phonographs skyscrapers and even electric lights yet most people labored in the shadow of poverty To those who worked in Carnegies mills and in the nations factories and sweatshops the lives of the millionaires seemed immodest indeed An economist in 1879 noted a widespread feeling of unrest and brooding revolution Violent strikes and riots wracked the nation through the turn of the century The middle class whispered fearfully of carnivals of revenge For immediate relief the urban poor often turned to political machines During the first years of the Gilded Age Boss Tweeds Tammany Hall provided more services to the poor than any city government before it although far more money went into Tweeds own pocket Corruption extended to the highest levels of government During Ulysses S Grants presidency the president and his cabinet were implicated in the Credit Mobilier the Gold Conspiracy the Whiskey Ring and the notorious Salary Grab Europeans were shocked America may have had money and factories they felt but it lacked sophistication When French prime minister Georges Clemenceau visited he said the nation had gone from a stage of barbarism to one of decadence -- without achieving any civilization between the two
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