Advance ticket sales have ended but plenty of additional tickets remain available at the door.
Profs and Pints DC presents: “A Return to the Gilded Age,” with Allen Pietrobon, assistant professor of Global Affairs at Trinity Washington University and former professorial lecturer of history at American University.
Crippling economic crises. Fears related to immigration and disease. Income inequality. Corporate monopolies. Technological disruption. Big money unduly influencing politics. A few wealthy men seizing control of how most Americans exchanged information and got the news.
Sound like 2022? Actually, here we’re talking about America from 1875 to 1900.
Known as “The Gilded Age,” it was a crucial era of rapid industrialization, economic dislocation, social change and turbulence, and political turmoil. It set the United States on the path to becoming the most economically powerful country in the world while also creating an astronomical wealth gap between the rich and the poor.
Some enterprising Americans took advantage of economic disruption to succeed. Industrial tycoons like the Rockefellers and the Carnegies built unthinkably large business empires and then used their monopoly power to hold down wages and shut down competition. They deployed their vast profits to buy politicians, corrupting politics and tilting it and the economy in their favor.
Expansive new factories needed unskilled workers, who arrived via the largest wave of immigration in American history. New arrivals from Europe and Asia poured into rapidly expanding major cities, which came to be seen as rife with corruption and filled with squalor. As many American who were ill-equipped to compete in this new economy found themselves left behind, strikes broke out and labor violence, protests and counter-protests bloodied the streets. All the while Americans grew increasingly divided and angry at their political leaders.
Join award-winning professor Allen Pietrobon as he describes this tumultuous period and explores why this all sounds so familiar to us today. Among the questions he’ll answer: How did this period draw to a close? Might ours have a similar end? (Advance tickets: $12. Doors: $15, or $13 with a student ID. Listed time is for doors. Talk starts 30 minutes later. Please allow yourself time to place any orders and get seated and settled in.)
Image: An 1883 cartoon from Puck magazine depicts rich robber barons being carried by the workers of their day (Library of Congress / Wikimedia).