Why is ‘The Gilded Age’ called ‘The Gilded Age?’

gilded age hbo trailer scene
HBO/YouTube

The Gilded Age is one of the most anticipated dramas of recent years, and people have been excitedly waiting for the series to launch on HBO. But, now the first episode has been broadcast to critical praise, many are wondering why The Gilded Age is called The Gilded Age.

What is The Gilded Age

The Gilded Age is a television drama first announced as an NBC show in 2018. However, in 2019 the show moved to HBO. The series is written by Julian Fellowes, who is likely most known for his popular English period drama Downton Abbey, which followed people who lived and worked in the titular home between 1912 and 1926. 

However, aside from Downton Abbey, Julian Fellowes has also worked on the legendary Oscar-winning film Gosford Park, as well as many other movies and TV shows. 

What is The Gilded Age About?

The Gilded Age is a historical drama set in New York City in the 1880s. The drama, like Downton Abbey, will follow a large cast of characters as their lives are shaped by both their actions and the times.

This includes a young Marian Brook who moves from rural Pennsylvania to New York City after her father passes. In New York, Marian lives with her aunts Agnes van Rhijn and Ada Brook. However, her Aunts’ old money lifestyle causes friction between them and their neighbor George Russell, a wealthy railroad tycoon. 

Why is it called The Gilded Age?

The Gilded Age is called The Gilded Age after the period of American history when the show takes place. The term became commonplace in the 1920s, with the name originating in Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner’s 1873 novel The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today which satirized the period. Modern Historians say that the gilded age ran from the 1870s to about 1900. 

This was a period of immense change in America. Northern and Western America saw massive economic growth as industrialization picked up speed at a mind-blowing rate. This saw the workforce grow massively, with many immigrants moving to America looking for work. 

However, this growth led to an increased concentration of wealth in the hands of the rich, and the contrast between the rich and poor only became more stark and noticeable as the period went on. 

At the same time, Americans were fighting for equality. Reconstruction failed to provide the support Black Americans needed after slavery was abolished, leaving few opportunities, particularly in the South. Additionally, the Union and Suffragette movements grew massively in this period, with more and more people pushing for sweeping political change. 

One of the grandest symbols of the age was the railroads. With the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad in 1869, trains became a primary form of transportation for goods and people. It let people go from New York to San Francisco in six days rather than the six months it took previously, utterly revolutionizing many industries. However, it also perfectly encapsulated the concentration of wealth as while the owners lived in luxury, rail workers were often poor and faced many occupational hazards.