Gay Nineties, common name for the 1890s in U.S. history. Although the early years of the decade were marked by economic expansion, there was a serious depression from 1893 to 1897, millions of industrial workers lost their jobs. Farmers suffered too. Many had gone into debt to purchase machinery that would increase their production, and falling prices left the farmers with too little money to repay their debts. The depression ended only with the Spanish-American War, which marked the emergence of the United States as a world power. The term “Gay Nineties” came into use in the 1930s, when the worldwide economic crisis made people nostalgic for what they chose to remember about the 1890s: the victorious war, the prosperity experienced by some, and the simpler charm of life.