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Resources for Parents and Kids: The Gilded Age

Illustration of a train


Honest History magazine Issue 24 cover featuring the Gilded Age of America for kids

Our latest issue, Issue 24 | American Glitter, dives into a fascinating era of U.S. history—the Gilded Age. From building the Transcontinental Railroad to landing on Ellis Island, there is a lot of history to explore in this age of change. We’re sharing some additional resources to help parents and kids continue their research journey. 

Researchers and Aspiring Academics

Here are some texts that researchers may find helpful as they jump into the Gilded Age.

Encyclopedia of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era
edited by John D. Buenker and Joseph Buenker: This is a useful reference as researchers read more about the late 19th century. The encyclopedia includes a list of nearly 900 entries and seventeen essays. Readers can find information on key events, laws, literature, art, organizations, and people from the period. 

The World Rushed In: The California Gold Rush Experience by J.S. Holliday. The California Gold Rush was an important event leading up to the Second Industrial Revolution. Few books have been able to surpass this account of the gold rush. Holliday’s text combines historical facts of the event with firsthand accounts via letters, journal entries, sketches, and maps. 

The American Railway by Thomas Curtis Clarke. This work, originally published in 1889, provides a rare glimpse into how steam locomotives actually worked. The text is a great primary source about railroads during the 19th century and includes over 200 hand-drawn illustrations from that time.

Black Cowboys in the American West: On the Range, on the Stage, Behind the Badge edited by Bruce A. Glasrud and Michael N. Searles: In Issue 24, kids learned that a third of the West’s cowboys were Black, Mexican, and Native. Researchers can dive deeper into the fascinating history of Black cowboys with this book. The text follows the story of Black cattle drivers from before the Civil War to the turn of the twentieth century. 

Nat Love

Image of cowboy and writer Nat Love. Image credit: Wikimedia



Parents and Educators

We’ve put together some free, digital resources to help you create lesson plans for your home or classroom. 

Gilded Age Mansions Tour: The Gilded Age was a period of extremes—extreme poverty and extreme wealth. You can explore some of the most luxurious mansions built during this time. The Preservation Society of Newport Country has put together eight different virtual tours of the grand homes in Rhode Island. You can also find general information about the Gilded Age on their website. 

The Transcontinental Railroad: Digital Public Library of America has an online exhibit with images and primary sources that educators can explore while putting together their own curriculum. Scholastic has also created a lesson on the Transcontinental Railroad that adults may find helpful as their kids think critically about the topic. 

Ellis Island Tour: At the end of the Gilded Age, Ellis Island became the final stop for weary immigrants ready to start their new lives. Take yourself on a walk around this famous site with the National Park Service’s virtual tour. Kids can also view historical images that help them imagine what it would have been like more than a hundred years ago. 


Ellis Island in 1905

Ellis Island in 1905. Image credit: The Library of Congress



Young Historians

Here are some educational books for kids as they learn more about the 19th century in the United States.

At Ellis Island: A History in Many Voices by Louise Peacock, illustrated by Walter Lyon Krudop: This picture book gives a glimpse into what it was like to step onto Ellis Island. It includes journal entries from children who immigrated to the United States and explores the many different reasons people left their homes for a better life. 

What Made California the Golden State?: Life During the Gold Rush by Shing Yin Khor, illustrated by Kass Gray: Learn about life during California’s Gold Rush with this graphic novel. The story is told from the perspective of two miners, William Miller and Henry Garrison, and investigates the experiences of those trying to strike it rich during an important period of U.S. history. 

If You Lived 100 Years Ago by Ann McGovern, illustrated by Anna DiVito: In this engaging book, kids can learn about life in New York City at the end of the 19th century. The text explores how both the rich and poor dined, dressed, traveled, and worked in the Gilded Age. It is a great way for young historians to understand just how much life has changed in the past 100 years.


Honest History Additions!

Issue 15 | A Native Story is an essential companion to Issue 24 as kids learn about westward expansion and its impact on Indigenous peoples. 

The Gilded Age was a period of innovation—including innovations in electricity! As kids read Issue 24, they should check out Issue 3 | War of the Currents to learn about the exciting technology that emerged during the late 1800s. 

Our book History is Rich is another great resource for kids who loved Issue 24. They can learn more about the American economy during the late 19th century and beyond. 

​​If you want to learn more about the Gilded Age, we hope you’ll check out our kids magazine Issue 24 | American Glitter. Stay tuned as we continue to share research tips and resources for future issues!