The Gilded Age was a time of sweeping changes. From roughly 1870 to 1900, the United States transformed from a largely agrarian society of farmers and small producers to an industrial economy based in large cities. During those few short decades, there was also an explosion of innovation in the fields of engineering, chemistry and technology, which brought us some of the modern world’s most groundbreaking inventions.

1. Telephone (1876)

As early as 1860, an Italian inventor named Antonio Meucci demonstrated a “talking telegraph” that he called a telettrofono, an electromagnetic device that could transmit speech over electrical wires. But Meucci, who had immigrated to the United States, fell on hard times and wasn’t able to renew a temporary patent for his device, which expired in 1874.