->''"Every age has its temptations, its weaknesses, its dangers. Ours is in the line of the snobbish and the sordid."''
-->-- '''UsefulNotes/RutherfordBHayes'''

The Gilded Age is one of the most common terms for the period in American history between the end of the [[UsefulNotes/TheAmericanCivilWar Civil War]] and the presidency of UsefulNotes/TheodoreRoosevelt at the turn of the 20th century. During this period extensive British investment in American industry made it a rich country, which was eventually reflected in its military spending and pursuit of formal and informal dominion over the Americas. This coincided with the era of mass immigration from Europe and (to a far lesser extent) Asia, with largest single ethnicity changing from English to German and the British ethnic groups (English, Scots, Irish) becoming a minority.

The "native" [[WhiteAngloSaxonProtestant WASPs]] welcomed the 'pure' Nordic and Germanic immigrants but lamented the racial watering-down that came with the influx of Irish, Italians, and various groups from UsefulNotes/TsaristRussia. Particularly alarming to White America was the large influx of Jews and Chinese. While anti-miscegenation laws making Chinese-European and African-European marriages illegal were successfully enacted in a number of states, there was no success with preventing intermixing between European ethnicities - though immigration quotas restricting their numbers were soon implemented. All these immigrants came chasing UsefulNotes/TheAmericanDream; the vast majority were treated to slums and sweatshops in America's rapidly-growing cities. It should come as no surprise, then, that the name "Gilded Age" comes from a story co-written by Creator/MarkTwain and Charles Dudley Warner in 1873, and refers to the [[CrapsaccharineWorld extreme opulence of the era contrasted with widespread poverty on the ground]], compared to a "gilded" item: one covered in gold, but actually made of something less valuable.

As you might imagine, this era is particularly [[{{Pun}} rich]] in tropes. J. P. Morgan, Jay Gould, the Vanderbilts, and other [[CorruptCorporateExecutive Robber Barons]] populate the posh districts of New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, while the poor new immigrants [[AnImmigrantsTale find life hard]] in the vast slums. The Republican Party runs everything in [[UsefulNotes/AmericanPoliticalSystem Washington]] as a [[CorruptPolitician political machine]] despite the protests of the reforming "Mugwumps" within the GOP. The only Democrat to win the White House during these 35 years was UsefulNotes/GroverCleveland, a reformer who only won because he had support from the Mugwumps--indeed the term "Mugwump" arose as a term of abuse (convoluted story, but in essence it accused them of being HolierThanThou) for Republicans who supported Cleveland.

In the South, there is Reconstruction and then its end: the aftermath of the end of slavery, with Carpetbaggers coming from the North to take advantage of business opportunities and blacks getting their rights only to see them stripped away in the wake of the deal to put UsefulNotes/RutherfordBHayes in the White House in the election of 1876. Expect to see the former SouthernBelle as a PrincessInRags and the SouthernGentleman as a member of TheKlan.

As for the economy, deflation and banking panics were huge problems, big monopolies crushed local competition, and unions and farmers struggled to find their voice. Eventually, people got so fed up with everything going on that a widespread reform movement began in the country around the 1890s. This is known as the Progressive Era, and it brought us UsefulNotes/TheodoreRoosevelt and UsefulNotes/WoodrowWilson.

Out West is TheWildWest, which is of course a trope of its own.

See also: UsefulNotes/VictorianBritain[=/=]VictorianLondon and TheEdwardianEra (which covers this time period across UsefulNotes/ThePond). For Japan see UsefulNotes/MeijiRestoration.

NOTE: WildWest examples should go in that page.

* AllJewsAreAshkenazi: As this is an American trope, it's tied to American history. Until the post-Civil War period, the American Jewish population was quite small and was relatively balanced--possibly even mostly Sephardi. The massive influx (mostly from the Russian Empire, some from Austria-Hungary) changed that perception.
* BombThrowingAnarchists: "Propaganda of the deed" was very popular among anarchists everywhere, of course, but American anarchists took the cake by assassinating UsefulNotes/WilliamMcKinley at the end of this era (in 1901). Anarchism in general spread to America via the massive immigration from Southern, Central, and Eastern Europe (where radical leftist ideologies were more popular).
* ConspicuousConsumption: Practiced by industrialists and other newly-rich folks; gaudy bombast was very popular then. The term "conspicuous consumption" dates from the tail end of this era, with Thorstein Veblen's ''Theory of the Leisure Class'' in 1899.
* CorruptCorporateExecutive: While greedy merchants are of course nothing new, the corporations grew to even greater heights in in this era, being founded to support the new railroads and other business ventures; the first modern general incorporation statute was passed by UsefulNotes/NewJersey in 1888; Delaware passed its famously business-friendly statute in 1899, and has been the standard for large corporations ever since. Corporate executives were called "captains of industry" by those who supported them, and "robber-barons" by those who didn't. The "trusts" were probably the most famous expression; the first competition legislation--the Sherman Anti-Trust Act--appeared in this era.
* DimeNovel hero Literature/NickCarter was created in TheGildedAge.
* {{Eagleland}}: Type 2. The first record of the term "Ugly American" is from about this era.
* TheGayNineties: Form the last full decade of the era (all definitions of the Gilded Age have it end during TR's administration).
* HighClassGloves: The old money decided the type of gloves to wear at certain events.
* AnImmigrantsTale: They didn't first show up during this era, but the immigration boom brought millions to the United States. Although it doesn't really appear in fiction of the era quite so strongly--since said immigrants were too busy surviving to write--the better-off children and grandchildren of the immigrants who came during this period of massive immigration often set immigration stories in this time.
* TheKlan: First showed up in the South during the Reconstruction period, but only lasted until 1874. The Klan didn't come back until the middle of the [[UsefulNotes/WoodrowWilson Wilson]] Administration, 10-15 years after the end of the era.
* NobilityMarriesMoney: Many British noble families got their fortunes restarted by marrying into robber baron families. Consuelo Vanderbilt is a RealLife example, being forced to marry the Duke of Marlborough.
* NouveauRiche: The "robber barons" were rarely well-off to begin with.
* PimpedOutDress: Crinoline and bustle dresses were often loaded with fancy decorations.
* SelfMadeMan: Of whom John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, and Thomas Edison were the most prominent, but really there were quite a few. Of course, there were far more who never made it, or even tried to make it.

!! Works set in this time period
* ''Film/GoneWithTheWind'', the parts after the war.
* ''Film/TheBirthOfANation1915''
* ''Literature/TheAgeOfInnocence''
* Many of the works of Creator/MarkTwain (who, as noted, named the era with his book ''Literature/TheGildedAge'').
* ''WesternAnimation/AnAmericanTail''
* ''VideoGame/BioShockInfinite'' (especially since Columbia seemed to be made to extend this era)
* A good portion of ''Literature/TheEmigrants'', although the rural Minnesota setting straddles it with the West/frontier.
* ''Literature/TheJungle'' was written in 1906 (a few years after the accepted end of the Gilded Age), but is set a few years earlier.
* ''WesternAnimation/AmericanPop'' begins with the first generation arriving in the 1890s.
* WebVideo/CrashCourse US History [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Spgdy3HkcSs has an episode]] on this period. (Actually, it has [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRhjqqe750A a]] [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6tRp-zRUJs few]].)
* The very beginning of the Vito Corleone sections of ''Film/TheGodfather Part II'' is set at the tip end of the Gilded Age, in 1901, when Vito arrives at Ellis Island.
* About 9/10 of ''Comicbook/TheLifeAndTimesOfScroogeMcDuck''.