Mock Trial: The Gilded Age through the Progressive Era Unit
The eras between 1865 and 1917* is known in the United States as the ―The Gilded Age‖ and
―The Progressive Era.‖ The Gilded Age is remembered most for its massive industrial changes, its
influx of immigrants, and the western migration of many pioneers. Despite the positive changes, there
were many negatives as well. Progressivism was one of the responses to the excesses of the ―Gilded
Age.‖ These positives and negatives continue to affect America today. To help you better understand
how we got where we are today, it is now your chance to decide: Did the benefits of this new
industrialized America outweigh the costs, or was the price too high to merit such a drastic change
in our country over such a short period of time?
The year is 1917*. You are all members of the People’s Court scheduled to convene on
November 6 and 9 to settle this issue once and for all. (* The end date of this era fluctuates. However,
for the sake of the mock trial some witnesses, who were quite active from 1898-1917, will be
Plaintiff: Two lawyers will try to prove that the status quo is BAD by arguing that older America
(pre-Civil War) was better and industrialization, urbanization, railroads, inventors, business
combinations, etc. are harmful to America and Americans and progressive policies, like labor unions,
settlement houses, conservation are needed to move American forward.
Witnesses for the Plaintiff
1. John Muir (environmentalist/conservation movement)
2. Eugene Debs (labor movement/socialist)
3. Factory worker (someone who is not in management, but a regular, hourly worker)
4. Teddy Roosevelt (President and good government guy)
5. City tenement resident (recent immigrant from eastern or southern Europe)
6. Upton Sinclair (muckraker/socialist)
7. Jane Addams (middle class women/settlement house movement/suffragette)
8. Ida Tarbell (muckraker)
Defense: Two lawyers will defend the status quo by arguing that industrialization, urbanization,
railroads, inventors, business combinations (trust and monopolies), etc. are GOOD for America and
Witnesses for the Defense
1. Young, city-dweller (works in professional-type job)
2. William Howard Taft (President/pro-business)
3. Andrew Carnegie (Captain of Industry/philanthropist)
4. John D. Rockefeller (Captain of Industry/philanthropist)
5. J.P. Morgan (Captain of Industry)
6. Thomas Edison (Captain of Industry)
7. Gustav Swift (Captain of Industry)
8. Henry Ford (Captain of Industry)
Jury: class members who are not lawyers or witnesses.
Research for the Mock Trial:
Research is reading what others have to say about a topic. It is looking for facts, statistics, examples,
and stories to support your role and side in the mock trial. This is an assignment which requires all
class members to be ready to participate on time on November 6, 2009. There will no extra time
allowed to complete your portion of the assignment. Time to research using your text will be given in
the library on November 2, 2009 and in class on November 3 and half the time on November 4. Time
to meet with your teams; plaintiffs, defense, or jury, will be allowed on November 5, 2009.
You must have at least three sources. Cite your sources as part of your preparation materials
for your roles using MLA format (use citationmachine.net for assistance).
Lawyers: look for court cases from the time period, labor disagreements, and legislation
proposed or passed to support your case beyond having an understanding of the people and
events of the time period.
Witnesses: Prepare a word-processed statement that includes the 10 most important events or
decisions of the individual’s life that impacted (or was impacted by) life during the Gilded Age.
If you are you are creating a character, research what it was like to live or work in the
conditions of the era. Then create a very specific character based on your research. In
developing your character, you must identify what the character has, needs, and wants during
the time period of the trial. What is their motivation? What obstacles do they face? Keep in
mind that these obstacles may be external (no money, home, etc) and internal (fear, not
speaking the language, anger, etc.). How does your character plan to overcome these obstacles?
Jury: review major events of the time period (labor disagreements, proposed or passed
legislation, and social movements) to prepare your outline of possible arguments.
Sequence of Events during the Trial:
Day 1—November, 6, 2009:
1. Seat and instruct jury: 5 minutes
2. Opening statements from plaintiff’s lawyers: 3-5 minutes
3. Calling of witnesses, direct examination 20-40 minutes
4. Cross-examination 10 minutes
5. Re-direct 10 minutes
Day 2—November 9, 2009:
1. Opening statements from defense lawyers: 3-5 minutes
2. Calling of witnesses, direct examination 20-40 minutes
4. Cross-examination 10 minutes
5. Re-direct 10 minutes
6. Closing statements from defense lawyers 3-5 minutes
7. Closing statements from plaintiff lawyers 3-5 minutes
8. Jury deliberations 10 to 15 minutes
9. Jury’s decision read
Responsibilities of Lawyers: 100 points possible (of which up to 45 points extra credit may be
1. Prepare a word processed legal brief outlining your case with the assistance of your co-counsel
for submission to Mrs. Brandon prior to trial on November 6, 2009. Make sure that both
attorneys have their own copies of this document.(legal brief: 50 points)
2. Each lawyer takes responsibility for interviewing four of the eight witnesses. You and each
witness should discuss possible questions to ask during the trial. Find out who each person is
and what the best questions/responses would be to prove your case.
3. Each witness is responsible for preparing all questions/responses for lawyers in advance.
Lawyers are then responsible for asking witnesses to research additional questions/responses
based upon lawyers’ research and developing arguments. Both witness and counsel should
anticipate cross-examination by the opposing side.
4. Determine which lawyer will give the opening and closing statements. These statements, word
processed, are due to Mrs. Brandon the day your side presents its case. (statements 25 points)
5. During the trial, all eight witnesses will be called to the stand for each side. Each lawyer will
call five witnesses and ask them questions. (questioning witnesses 25 points)
6. You will have approximately two minutes to cross-examine the opposing side’s witnesses after
their testimony. You must be prepared to poke hole in witnesses’ arguments. Thus, consider
ahead of time, who the opposing witnesses will be and think of some questions that will strike
down their arguments.
7. Lawyers may re-direct questions to their own witnesses after cross-examination to clarify facts
of the case.
8. Lawyers should take and share notes with their partners during the trial, not only to help with
cross-examination, but to prepare for the Unit Test as this trial is the review for the assessment.
Responsibilities of Witnesses: 75 points possible (of which up to 10 points extra credit may be
1. You must research your assigned character or, if you are not a specific person, what life would
have been like for a typical person in your situation. You need to gather as much evidence as
possible about your character’s beliefs and life experiences that will help you prove your side
of the case. You must have at least three sources, (history textbook, plus one printed source
and one Web source—Wikipedia is a great site for overview, but may not be considered one of
2. Write a one page word processed statement about your character’s impact during the Gilded
Age and provide a copy to your side’s lawyers and Mrs. Brandon at the beginning of class on
November 4, 2009. You should also make copies for your attorneys and yourself. (biography:
3. Once you thoroughly understand your character, you should prepare a list of at least five
questions and responses you think would best reveal how your personal history and opinion on
the issues on trial will prove your side’s case. Share these questions/responses with your
lawyer. You must submit a list of all questions to Mrs. Brandon and your side’s lawyers with
answers at the end of class on November 5, 2009. (questions/answers: 25 points)
4. You will meet with your legal team throughout preparations to discuss the best strategy and the
questions your lawyers will ask. You need to be prepared to be called to the stand to testify on
the specified day for your side’s arguments.
5. Be prepared for cross-examination by the opposing council.
6. Witnesses should take notes during the trial—it serves as your Unit Test review.
Responsibilities of Jurors: 65 points possible
1. You each need to create a detailed outline with the anticipated arguments on the issues for
both sides – one side for industrialization, urbanization, etc. and one side against it on the
side of the progressives. Create your outline from notes, reading, and additional research.
Your outline must display at least four anticipated arguments per side, with five specific
details supporting each argument. This document must be turned in before the trial begins
on November 6, 2009. (40 points)
2. During the trial, you must listen to all statements and take careful notes on key arguments
presented by both sides comparing your anticipated arguments with those actually
3. After the trial is over, you will deliberate with the other jurors to determine the winner.
Remember the following: In order for the plaintiff to win, they must prove that the
problems of industrialization, urbanization, etc. outweigh the benefits. You are not looking
for evidence beyond a reasonable doubt but rather for a preponderance of evidence. For the
defense to win, they must prove that the benefits of industrialization, urbanization, etc.
outweigh the costs.
4. After the trial is over, you must write a well-written, one page, word processed summary
explaining your verdict and the reasoning behind it, based on the testimony presented
during the trial, supporting your opinion. You will turn your trial notes in with this
summary on Tuesday, November 10, 2009. (25 points)