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Gold Money and the Constitution of Man

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Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780226629377
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226629391 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226629391.003.0005
Gold Money and the Constitution of Man

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The decades after the Civil War were characterized by a rapid increase in mass-produced commodities in America. Mass production allowed factories to churn out millions of identical copies for the first time in human history. These products not only democratized taste but also made social mobility, or at least its appearance, easier than ever to accomplish. In the 1890s, while radical racism continued to pervade American society through Jim Crow and disfranchisement, the money debate shifted to white ethnic immigrants and drew on Darwinian evolution to perpetuate the idea of “low wage” races, people who simply could not understand economic exchange. The triumph of the gold standard in 1896 also marked an emphasis on social Darwinism and eugenics. This chapter examines the problems and pleasures of mass production during the Gilded Age and looks at the career of Emanuel Ninger, an immigrant counterfeiter.

Keywords: Gilded Age; America; mass production; money; immigrants; evolution; low-wage races; eugenics; gold standard; Emanuel Ninger

Chapter.  13400 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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