The Gilded Age
Following the Civil War, from 1877 to 1893 Americans experienced the Gilded Age. Symbolic of this era of tremendous economic wealth was steel production and railroads.
An article, written by Carl Swenson for “Model Railroader” in July of 2006, exemplifies, both the positive and negative aspects of the relationship formulated between the railroads and livestock shippers (Swenson, 2006). Railroads and livestock shippers have experienced many conflicts dating back to the 1850s. Such conflicts developed after the end of the Civil War and cultivated with the progression of stockyards developing in big cities and meat-processing factories. The struggle slowly began to vanish during the 1960s. Railroads have taken on a significant role in the livestock transporting industry. With the development of refrigerated boxcars in the 1880s, the livestock transporting industry began to grow extraordinarily quick. The development of these boxcars allowed meats to be shipped throughout the United States, without any apprehension that the meat would spoil.
The expansion that America experienced in the 1880’s was attributed to westward migration, however it would be railroads that would bookmark history as the end of the Gilded Age. The first signs of trouble for the railroad was the bankruptcy of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad. As international trade increased, so did the demand for American steel production. (Stevens, 1894).
The railroad company had financially over extended themselves by incurring expenses that could not be covered by incoming revenue. The Quarterly Journal of Economics published Analysis of the Phenomena of the Panic in the United States in 1893. The article identifies banking habits and rail road speculation as major indicators of “The Panic of 1893”.
Equally important are the social ramifications