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Historical Context

American historians call the time between Post-Reconstruction (1878) and Pre-Progressivism (1889), the Gilded Age. Originally coined by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley, the Gilded Age was satirized in their 1873 work “Gilded Age: A Tale of Today.” Twain and Dudley used gilded to illustrate how the undeniable growth of immigration, metropolises, and industrial-based technology disguised the dark past of Civil-War America and failed Reconstruction. Furthermore, the facade of gilding, glittering, or golden-like times served to cover America’s rising levels of urban slums, poverty, and internal corruption.


Historians have expanded upon Twain and Dudley’s characterization of the Gilded Age by discussing the ways in which fast-paced growth in industry, immigration, and cities, trickled down into affecting everyday interactions. Ultimately this historical framework of the Gilded Age serves as a key component to exploring the fateful day of October 2nd, 1879, when the Wooster community was uprooted by a violent murder at the Old Wayne County Fairgrounds.  The murder, trial, and subsequent public execution catalyzed the beginning divisions within Wooster, Ohio.1


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1. Shrock, Joel. The Gilded Age. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2004. Pp xiii.