“What is the chief end of man? A: To get rich.”
This is the story of the Gilded Age and its first three presidents: Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, and Chester A. Arthur.
Mark Twain calls this era a “Gilded Age”–that is, a time of great greed covered with a thin veneer hiding the nation’s decadence. Is it? We’ll assess and define this oft-forgotten time. In doing so, we’ll meet three oft-forgotten presidents. Rutherford (or Rutherfraud?) Hayes, who receives the presidency through a Reconstruction-ending compromise, is fighting for reform in the civil service. His successor James Garfield doesn’t want to be president but holds great promise. Sadly, an assassin will end his life before this last log-cabin president can even put his agenda into play. Can his compromised, spoils-system created VP Chester “Chet” Arthur rise to the occasion?
Strikes, assassination, reform, unlikely presidents: welcome to the Gilded Age.
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