Vast this firm wealth and also a fee-based administration structure sustained widespread corruption throughout America"s Gilded Age.

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As the joined States grew into the world’s leading industrial power throughout the late 19th century, those atop the financial ladder in America’s Gilded Age built up spectacular fortunes. By 1890, the country’s 4,000 millionaires organized 20 percent that the country’s wealth, and also with that huge affluence came colossal politics corruption.

Corporate titans could buy anything they wanted—including politicians. Richard White, professor emeritus the in ~ Stanford University and also author the The Republic for Which the Stands: The united States throughout Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896, says the Gilded period was among the many corrupt ages in American primarily due to the fact that of “the climb of corporations and also the development of modern way of interaction that intensified the means corruption have the right to work.”

“This is a government of the people, through the people and for the people no longer,” former president Rutherford B. Hayes composed in his diary in 1886. “It is a federal government by the corporations, of the corporations and also for the corporations.” politicians took spectacularly handsome bribes from corporations and demanded kickbacks as the help hand they prolonged often came through an open palm.


Editorial cartoon on railroad influence portraying a man with a vapor train head making company deals in Congress, by cutting board Nast, 1880s.

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Railroads to be at the forefront of politics Corruption

Railroads pushed the expansion of the American economic situation as tracks expanded almost fourfold between 1871 and 1900. The federal federal government helped finance these huge infrastructure jobs by granting more than 150 million acre of land to railroad companies, which marketed them come raise revenue. “Railroads need monopoly franchises and subsidies, and to gain them, lock are an ext than willing to bribe publicly officials,” White says. The main Pacific Railroad, because that example, spent $500,000 annually in thinly disguised bribes in between 1875 and 1885.

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In the most infamous instance that corruption associated to the railroads, Union Pacific railroad executives formed a sham building and construction company, Crédit Mobilier, the submitted bills for nearly double the building cost that the eastern part of the Transcontinental Railroad and pocketed the overcharges. To avert any type of investigation and also ensure votes to benefit the company, rail officials bribed roughly one dozen influential congressmen with Crédit Mobilier shares at below-market prices. Swept up in the Crédit Mobilier scandal was not just Ulysses S. Grant’s an initial vice president, but his second one as well.


President Ulysses S. Grant dressed as a trapeze performer, holds up corrupt members that his management in this political cartoon native Puck magazine, 1880. His management was plagued through scandal, including the famous Whiskey Ring fraud in which end $3 million in taxes to be taken native the commonwealth government.