The 34th Annual Whitehall Lecture Series, The Last Days of the Gilded Age, presented each Sunday afternoon from February 3 to March 3, set the stage to eulogize the Gilded Age as the golden era of booming economy, rapid scientific and technological advancement, and strict social etiquette for some, and introduce the dawn of the Progressive Era, defined by years of push for social and political reform and cultural change. As the Series progressed, audiences heard from leading scholars in the areas of politics, social history, and the 1929 economic event that ended the era with a resounding crash.

When possible, each lecture was followed by a book signing with the author. Visit the Museum Store for a wide selection of books related to the Whitehall Lecture Series. 

Website visitors can now watch the lectures via a Livestream broadcast. There is no charge to watch the Livestream lectures. 

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Reforming America: Defining the Challenges and Changes of the Progressive Era

Jeff Johnson RGB72Jeff Johnson
February 10, 2019
3:00 p.m.

The Progressive Era was the answer to a tumultuous time in American history, defined by the rapid change in American life as social challenges and calls for reform dominated the headlines. The Era was marked by disparate distribution of wealth and an unprecedented expanding economy, battles for race and gender equality, and debate over labor reform. Johnson’s lecture will examine the wide array of contextual complexities presented during the transition between the height of the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era, including issues of social and political concern, science and technology innovations, influential art and literature, and popular culture.

1920: The Year of the Six Presidents

David Pietrusza RGB 72David Pietrusza
February 17, 2019

3:00 p.m.

The Presidential election of 1920 was among history’s most dramatic. Six once-and-future Presidents, Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, and Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt, jockeyed for the White House. With voters choosing between Wilson’s League of Nations and Harding’s front-porch isolationism, the 1920 election shaped modern America. Women won the vote, Republicans outspent Democrats 4-to-1, voters witnessed the first extensive newsreel coverage and modern campaign advertising, and results were broadcast on radio. America had become an urban nation. 1920 paints a vivid portrait of America gingerly crossing modernity’s threshold, beset by the Red Scare, jailed dissidents, Prohibition, smoke-filled rooms, bomb-throwing terrorists, and the Klan.

When the World Broke in Two: The Roaring Twenties and the Reshaping of American Culture

Erica Ryan RGB72Erica Ryan
February 24, 2019

3:00 p.m.

Americans in the early twentieth century moved through a rapidly changing world as industrialization, immigration, and international ties reshaped the landscape of people’s lives. The Gilded Age gave way to the Progressive Era, which culminated in the disruptions of World War I. By the time the war came to an end, more and more Americans began to realize they were witnessing a massive cultural shift. This lecture will demonstrate that American culture was, certainly by the 1920s, a modern culture, and that some people embraced changing views on family life, growing diversity, a flourishing urban consumer culture, and the rise of a secular worldview, while others sought to stem the sweeping tide of change, motivated by their religious beliefs, their racial or socioeconomic position, their politics, or their moral stance. In ways that may seem quite familiar to us now, people struggled to find and secure their own place in this newly modern American life.

Rainbow's End: The Crash of 1929

Maury Klein RGB72

Maury Klein
March 3, 2019
3:00 p.m.

The Roaring Twenties is remembered as a decade defined by lavish glitz and glamour, powerful millionaires, and a booming, optimistic economy dominated for the first time by consumer spending fueled by a host of enticing new products, creative advertising on a national scale, and new forms of credit that enabled people to buy now and pay later. However, by October 1929, a financial “perfect storm” sent the Stock Market crashing downward on a course to the Great Depression. Rainbow’s End tells the story of this last hurrah of the Gilded Age in a sobering light and examines the people, problems, and policies that led to the collapse.