Gilded Generation

Last Updated: Mar. 12, 2008

The Gilded Generation (Nomad, born 1822–1842) lived a hardscrabble childhood around parents distracted by spiritual upheavals. They came of age amid rising national tempers, torrential immigration, commercialism, Know Nothing politics, and declining college enrollments. As young adults, many pursued fortunes in frontier boom towns or as fledgling “robber barons.” Their Lincoln Shouters and Johnny Rebs rode eagerly into a Civil War that left them decimated, Confederates especially. Having learned to detest moral zealotry, their midlife Presidents and industrialists put their stock in Darwinian economics, Boss Tweed politics, Victorian prudery, and Carnegie’s “Law of Competition.” As elders, they landed on the “industrial scrap heap” of an urbanizing economy that was harsh to most old people. (AMERICAN: Ulysses Grant, Mark Twain, John D. Rockefeller, Louisa May Alcott, William James, Sitting Bull; FOREIGN: Lewis Carroll, Maximilian)

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