America's Gilded Age: Intimate Portraits from an Era of Extravagance and Change, 1850-1890

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The societal, cultural and technological upheavals in the U.S. that occurred from roughly the middle of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th were influenced significantly by, and reflected in, the lives of the 36 people portrayed here. Starting with a mini-biography of troubled dreamer Horatio Alger, Rugoff ( The Beechers ) selects his subjects from a variety of fields: journalism, industry, religion, politics and the military. Social climbers and leaders of the inchoate women's rights movement are also represented. The format inhibits the depiction of fully satisfactory portraits, but the author nonetheless presents some interesting sketches, notably the sexual meanderings of Henry Ward Beecher, the haughty ambition of John C. Fremont and the staunch convictions of Sojourner Truth. Rugoff's thesis--that this era contained the seeds of many modern-day perils--is only vaguely supported at times, but his enchantment with the period, whether describing the financial manipulations of Jay Gould or the scandals of the Grant administration, is contagious. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Rugofff ( The Beechers, LJ 8/81), presents 36 minibiographies of mostly familiar 19th - century American achievers. He revises the stereotypical interpretation of the Victorian era as one of repression and unveils a vivid and personal view of a period of great change in American values and ideals: Americans put aside the ideal of an agrarian democracy and made a transition into an urbanized, industrial state where individual initiative, progress, and prosperity became the bywords of success. Corruption, greed, and expressive sexuality accompanied the new values. Rugoff scores his points well and delivers sound support for his premise that today's America derives its basic values from the so-called ``Gilded Age,'' an intense period of modernization. This belongs in most public and university libraries.-- Susan E. Parker, Harvard Law Sch. Lib.
School Library Journal
YA-- Even more than the opulence that characterized it, the Gilded Age is famous for the many strong individuals who lived then. Rugoff discusses many of the people whose names are synonymous with that period, such as Jay Gould, Jim Fisk, John Charles Fremont, and Cornelius Vanderbilt. The most fascinating sections, however, are about people who might not normally be included in a work on this era. Sojourner Truth is covered, including a dramatic meeting between her and Lincoln. Horatio Alger, ever the model hero, is shown to have had a surprising flaw. Bethenia Owen-Adair, the first woman surgeon, overcame a lack of basic education and the bias against women doctors to win her goal. Rugoff dedicates a surprisingly large part of his book to describing the lives of women who had impact in the late 19th century. In addition to these, he gives a clear picture of American life at that time as reflected by sexual mores, industry, family life, and slavery. A fascinating book.-- Barbara Weathers, Duchesne Academy, Houston AT A GLANCE Books in familiar series, titles that seem self-explanatory, new editions of YA stand-bys. all examined and approved by the Young Adult Reviewing Committee.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805008524
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/10/1989
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Pages: 400

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