The and others like him in the
The Gilded Age was a time of great wealth and prosperity in the United States, but with it came corruption and greed. Capitalism boomed and those who spurred it were, more often than not, part of the miniscule and wealthy high class. The revenue flowing through the country would be sucked into the tight grasp of just a lucky few. This, for better or for worse, sparked controversy within the American people. Some of these prominent figures include Horatio Alger, an author who rose from rags to riches, Booker T. Washington, a former slave who instilled hope into other african americans, and Ida Tarbell, a muckraker seeking justice. These three people formed very distinct opinions concerning American wealth in the late nineteenth century.Horatio Alger’s career as an author took off when he wrote his first novel Ragged Dick. It tells the story of a poor boy who’s hard work and good values pays off, when a lucky break allows the riches to come pouring in. Alger wrote many books all following a similar plotline. These books convey his belief that admirable character plus persistent effort plus luck equals prosperity. Although this formula for instant wealth worked in Alger’s favor, this was not true for all who preached this lifestyle.Booker T. Washington was a former slave who drew inspiration from the gross unfairness dealt to African Americans. He too, was an author, like Alger, but the similarities don’t stop there. Washington also believed in hard work to gain economic progress, but not for the same purpose. Rather than Alger’s belief that hard work led to becoming rich, Washington believed that African Americans could work hard to earn money, which in turned earned them respect. In his perspective, the more money a person had, the more they were respected. Therefore, if black people could make enough money, their opinions and thoughts would be heard. But until then, they must not rebel against whites. Not all attempted to become a part of the handful at the top of the totem pole though. While Alger and Washington were both looking to build their way up to a higher class, Ida Tarbell took a different approach and seeked to tear down the wealthy.Ida Tarbell grew up watching her father struggle in the oil industry. While Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company was booming, her father, and others like him in the middle class, found themselves rapidly sinking into bankruptcy. This was due to the corrupt schemes that the Standard Oil Company was using to force smaller oil companies into selling to them. She thought it was unfair that those with wealth forced the middle class into poverty only making themselves richer. Tarbell made it her mission to expose this company for what it really was, a few rotten, greedy, and rich men attacking lower classes to rise even higher in the already unbalanced economy. She thought it was unfair that those with wealth forced the middle class into poverty, only to make themselves richer. She did just this, publishing articles and slowly but surely ruining the oil tycoons. Tarbell’s childhood strongly compelled her hatred for those who held American wealth in their palm’s. Throughout the Gilded Age, a fortunate few rose to great power and prosperity, while the majority of American citizens fell into the middle class and below. Those like Horatio Alger and Booker T. Washington strived to reach that level of affluence and others like Ida Tarbell strived to bring about its downfall. Although these arguments occured over a century ago, they are still issues that plague present-day America. The upper class has only gotten wealthier and more exclusive leaving the rest of America to wonder when they might see their share of it.