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Face ValueThe Entwined Histories of Money and Race in America$
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Michael O'Malley

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780226629377

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226629391.001.0001

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Gold Money and the Constitution of Man

Gold Money and the Constitution of Man

Chapter:
(p.124) Chapter Four Gold Money and the Constitution of Man
Source:
Face Value
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226629391.003.0005

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

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