Philanthropy in the Gilded Age
  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Give examples of how civil-society-sector giving can impact communities.

Learners will describe how communities were aided by the philanthropy of late nineteenth century industrialists.

PrintTwo Fifty-Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • describe characteristics of the Gilded Age.
  • describe how communities are improved through philanthropy.
  • Learner copies of Nineteenth Century Philanthropists ( Handout One )
  • Internet access
  • Boxes for the book drive
Home Connection: 

Interactive Parent / Student Homework: Ask learners to bring in favorite books in good condition to be contributed to the homeless shelter.


Resources will vary.

  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Put the two terms gold and gilded on the chalkboard. Ask the learners if they would rather own a gold ring or a gilded ring. Discuss the difference.


  2. Explain to the learners that the period in the United States between 1865 and 1900 is sometimes called the Gilded Age . This refers to the fact that the rise of new industries created some immensely wealthy Americans but their wealth often distracted attention away from the problems of immense poverty in the cities, scandals and other problems. 

  3. Break the learners into small groups and give each learner Nineteenth Century Philanthropists (Handout One). Each group will choose a name from the list of philanthropists and conduct group research.

  4. When researching is complete, have the groups present their findings.

  5. Discuss how the philanthropy of the individuals researched has made an impact on their communities. Reflecting on the unit, have the learners describe in their journals the importance of philanthropy throughout American history.

  6. Andrew Carnegie provided libraries for many communities. Ask the learners if they would be willing to provide books for those who have none. Contact a local homeless shelter and determine if they would accept a gift of books. If this is to be a school-wide project, set up boxes in various common areas of the school so other learners can give. Present the books.

  7. Ask students to journal about how this contribution of books might help the recipients and how it affected them as givers.


The research assignment and journal entries may be used as assessments of learning.