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In the wake of civil war, American politics were racially charged and intensely sectionalist, with politicians waving the proverbial bloody shirt and encouraging their constituents, as Republicans did in 1868, to "vote as you shot." By the close of the century, however, burgeoning industrial development and the roller-coaster economy of the post-war decades had shifted the agenda to pocketbook concernsthe tariff, monetary policy, business regulation. InFrom Bloody Shirt to Full Dinner-Pail, the historian Charles W. Calhoun provides a brief, elegant overview of the transformation in national governance and its concerns in the Gilded Age. Sweeping from the election of Grant to the death of McKinley in 1901, this narrative history broadly sketches the intense and divided political universe of the period, as well as the colorful characters who inhabited it: the enigmatic and tragic Ulysses Grant; the flawed visionary James G. Blaine, at once the Plumed Knight and the Tattooed Man of American politics; Samuel J. "Slick Sammy" Tilden; the self-absorbed, self-righteous, and ultimately self-destructive Grover Cleveland; William Jennings Bryan, boy orator and godly tribune; and the genial but crafty William McKinley, who forged a national majority and launched the nation onto the world stage.From Bloody Shirt to Full Dinner-Pailalso considers how the changes at the close of the nineteenth century opened the way for the transformations of the Progressive Era and the twentieth century.
Charles W. Calhoun is the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of History at East Carolina University. He is the author of Minority Victory: Gilded Age Politics and the Front Porch Campaign of 1888 and Benjamin Harrison: The 23rd President, 1889-1893.
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“[A] long-overdue and sorely needed overview of American politics from the end of the Civil War through the beginning of the 20th century . . . The author’s inviting prose and steely knowledge of his subject remind us that the political compromises and executive decisions forged during the latter half of the 19th century have come to define the most central tenets of modern American politics . . . Lucid and illuminating.” —Kirkus Reviews
“A smoothly written account of a critical half century in American history . . . With this fine book, Charles Calhoun fills in a puzzling gap in U.S. history.” —Geoffrey Wawro, History Book Club
“In this impressively succinct and insightful book, Charles W. Calhoun makes a compelling case both for the importance of Gilded Age politics and for the significant political transitions that occurred during that era. Altogether, a splendid performance.” —Michael F. Holt, author of The Fate of Their Country
“Calhoun has distilled a lifetime of research in Gilded Age politics into a succinct and engrossing book, demonstrating convincingly that the interlude between Reconstruction and Progressivism was far from inconsequential. There was a two decade struggle between the nationally oriented Republican Party, willing to use federal power and presidential leadership to enforce civil rights and to achieve economic prosperity, and the laissez-faire, states rights Democratic Party, that ended with Republicans as the dominant majority. That victory presaged the Progressive Era.” —Ari Hoogenboom, Professor Emeritus, Brooklyn College
“In our time, the scope, cost, effectiveness, and integrity of government have again become stormy public issues. Despite all the loose parallels drawn by some present-day writers, the Gilded Age is gone, and we do not live in a new one. Yet in this accessible narrative of national politics during the late nineteenth century, the respected historian Charles W. Calhoun offers clear and convincing analysis of a period whose political divisions and issues are now manifestly relevant, and one that has never deserved its exceptionally low reputation.” —Alan Lessoff, Professor of History, Illinois State University, and editor of Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era
“At last, a succinct, perceptive and well-written account of national politics from Grant to McKinley. Charles W. Calhoun’s engaging book delivers a comprehensive account of presidents, parties, and policies during the Gilded Age.” —Jean Baker, Professor of History, Goucher College