After all the excitement of the Civil War and Reconstruction, it’s time for our textbooks for Christian homeschoolers to turn to America’s best time ever, the Gilded Age, before all those troublesome unions and Progressives and minorities started causing trouble. For a change, our 8th-grade text from A Beka, America: Land I Love, has the more accurate definition:
The author Mark Twain called the Age of Industry the Gilded Age because when a cheap object is covered with gold paint (gilded) it appears to be worth more than it actually is. Twain felt that the prosperity of the age covered up a great deal of corruption in politics and society.
Our 11th/12-grade text from Bob Jones University Press, United States History for Christian Schools, seems to have missed Twain’s point altogether:
In his 1873 work The Gilded Age, Mark Twain unwittingly but fittingly named the postwar era. Industrialization put its golden stamp of prosperity on much of society. The rich got richer, and even the poor got less poor.
Twain (and co-author Charles Dudley Warner, who’s not mentioned by either book) would have hated to see the novel’s ironic title seen as an endorsement of the shallow prosperity of the era’s One Percent — that’s just gilt by association.