Changes to the Urban Population in America

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6th Sep 2017 History Reference this


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The Urban Frontier

The New Immigration


Southern Europe Uprooted

Reactions to the New Immigration

Narrowing the Welcome Mat

Churches Confront the Urban Challenge

Darwin Disrupts the Churches

The Lust for Learning

Booker T. Washington and Education for Black People

The Hallowed Halls of Ivy

The March of the Mind

The Appeal of the Press

Apostles of Reform

Postwar Writing

Literary Landmarks

The New Morality

Families and Women in the City

Prohibition of Alcohol and Social Progress

Artistic Triumphs

The Business of Amusement

  1. From the end of the Civil War to 1900, America’s urban population tripled.
  2. The advent of skyscrapers allowed more people to be packed in a small geographical footprint.
  3. Cities grew to become sprawling metropolises where people commuted to work in electric trolleys. Amenities like electricity, indoor plumbing, and telephones made city life alluring.
  4. Department stores like Macy’s and Marshall Field’s provided jobs and shoppers.
  5. However, cities had their own issues. Lots of trash was generated, crime was rampant and uncollected garbage made cities unsanitary. Slums were crammed with people with little sanitation and ventilation.
  6. Until the 1880s, most of the immigrants were well educated migrants from Britain and Germany, who fit well into American society. In the 1880s, a new wave of immigration was made up of Italians, Croats, Greeks and Poles, who were illiterate and poor.
  7. Europeans came to America driven by population growth in Europe and lack of opportunity due to industrialization. America was advertised as the land of opportunity by profit-seeking Americans looking to get cheap labor.
  8. However, some 25% of the 20 million people who came between 1820 and 1900 returned to Europe. Those who remained tried to retain their own culture, although their children embraced American culture.
  9. The federal government did little to help the assimilation of immigrants assimilate into American society, leading to immigrants being controlled by powerful “bosses” who provided jobs and shelter in return for political support.
  10. The nation gradually awoke to the plight of the immigrants, led by protestant clergymen like Walter Rauschenbusch preaching the “Social Gospel”.
  11. Settlement houses such as Hull House founded by Jane Addams in 1889 and Wald’s Henry Street Settlement in New York, became centers for women’s activism and reform.
  12. The cities gave women opportunities to earn money and support themselves.
  13. The anti-foreignism of the 1840s roared back in the 1880s, as the “nativists” gave the new immigrants a rude welcome, fearing the mongrelization of the Anglo-Saxon race.
  14. Trade unionists saw the new immigrants as depressing wages.
  15. In 1882, Congress passed the first of the anti-immigration, laws, banning paupers, criminals, and convicts from entering the U.S. The 1882 immigration law also specifically barred the Chinese.
  16. In 1886, the Statue of Liberty arrived from France as a gift from the French.
  17. The changing character of the urban population posed challenges to American churches especially Protestant churches. Older richer churches failed to address the issues of urban poverty and suffering, and were starting to become irrelevant.
  18. This resulted in a new wave of liberal Protestant revivalism led by people like Dwight Lyman Moody, a former shoe salesman.
  19. Roman Catholic and Jewish faiths also grew thanks to the new immigrants..
  20. The Young Men’s ad Women’s Christian Associations also grew rapidly.
  21. Charles Darwin’s idea of natural selection published in his boon “On the Origin of Species” in 1859, resulted in splitting the religious camp into two: A conservative minority that stood firmly behind the Bible and the “Accommodationists” who take a more liberal view.
  22. Public education, especially high schools grew rapidly. The idea that a high school education should be a birthright became popular.
  23. The Chautauqua movement, launched in 1874, educated adults.
  24. The South lagged badly behind in education where about 44% of Blacks were uneducated. Southern black education was led by many blacks.
  25. Most famous was an ex-slave, Booker T. Washington who started by heading a black normal and industrial school in Tuskegee, Alabama, teaching the students useful skills and trades.
  26. Another was W.E.B. Du Bois, the first Black doctorate from Harvard University, who founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1910.
  27. Numerous colleges and universities were established after the Civil War. Women and Black education also grew at a rapid clip.
  28. The Morrill Act of 1862 provided a generous grant of the public lands to the states for education. The Hatch Act of 1887 provided federal funds for the establishment of agricultural research in land-grant colleges.
  29. Private philanthropy also played an important role, resulting in universities such as Cornell, and the University of Chicago, funded by Rockefeller.
  30. Homegrown influences shaped the American education system.
  31. The elective system and specialization gained popularity. Medical schools and science bloomed after the Civil War.
  32. Discoveries by Louis Pasteur and Joseph Lister improved medical science and health. William James helped establish behavioral psychology.
  33. Public libraries well stocked with books were also being built. Carnegie contributed $60 million for public library construction.
  34. The invention of the Linotype in 1885 allowed the press to keep pace with demand. Competition sparked so-called “yellow journalism” which reported wild and fantastic stories that were either false or hyped.
  35. Two new journalistic tycoons emerged: Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, although their influence was not always wholesome.
  36. Magazines like Harper’s and the Atlantic Monthly, were popular.
  37. An enduring journalist-author was Henry George, who undertook to solve the association of poverty with progress and left a mark on Fabian socialism.
  38. After the Civil War, “dime-novels” became the rage. The king of dime novelists was Harland F. Halsey, who wrote 650 of these novels.
  39. Horatio Alger rags-to-riches books about virtue, honesty, and industry being rewarded by success, wealth, and honor, were widely popular.
  40. Emily Dickinson became famous for her poems after her death.
  41. American novelists now wrote about the human drama of everyday life.
  42. New notable writers were Kate Chopin, who wrote “The Awakening” and Mark Twain who wrote “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”.
  43. Bret Harte’s California gold rush stories were popular. Henry James often made women the main characters in his novels. Two noted black writers were Paul Laurence Dunbar and Charles W. Chesnutt, who used black dialect and folklore in their poems and stories.
  44. Victoria Woodhull’s proclamation of free love in 1871 shook conventional morality. Economic freedom for women encouraged sexual freedom and resulted in the increase of birth control, divorces, and frank discussion of sexual topics.
  45. Urban life was hard on families who had to take care of everything themselves without support from their clan. Urbanization resulted in families having less children. Marriages were delayed and birth control was used.
  46. In 1898, Charlotte Gilman’s Women and Economics, advocated for women to abandon their dependent status and contribute through productive involvement in the economy. The National American Woman Suffrage Association was formed in 1890. Ida Wells was a tireless crusader for better treatment of Blacks and formed the National Association of Colored Women in 1896.
  47. The National Prohibition Party was founded in 1869. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union also crusaded against alcohol, calling for a national prohibition of alcohol. The Anti-Saloon League was founded in 1893.
  48. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was founded in 1866 and the American Red Cross in 1881.
  49. American Art had proved mediocre so far. Many of America’s finest painters such as James Whistler and John Singer Sargent made their living in Europe.
  50. Sculptors included Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who made the Robert Gould Shaw memorial, located in Boston, in 1897.
  51. Music scaled new heights with the building of opera houses and the emergence of jazz. Edison’s phonograph, brought “canned” music into people’s homes.
  52. In entertainment, Phineas T. Barnum and James A. Bailey teamed up in 1881 to stage the “Greatest Show on Earth”.
  53. “Wild West” shows, like those of “Buffalo Bill” Cody were very popular.
  54. Baseball and football became popular as well. Baseball became America’s national pastime. In 1891, James Naismith invented basketball.
  55. Croquet and bicycling crazes also swept the country

The urban population in America rapidly increased following the Civil War. Cities became sprawling metropolises of skyscrapers where people commuted to work. The nature of immigration also changed. Before the 1880s, the bulk of the immigrants came from Britain and Germany. After 1880, a new wave of poor and illiterate immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe came to the U.S., driven by population growth in Europe and lack of opportunity. The federal government did little to help these new immigrants assimilate into American society. Many of them came under the control of powerful bosses who traded them food and shelter for political support. In time, community houses such as Hull House as well as Churches especially the Protestants would help out. The anti-foreignism of the 1840s came back in the 1880s, driven by a fear that the new immigrants would sully the anglo-saxon bloodline. Congress would pass a number of laws restricting immigration. Paupers and criminals were no longer allowed. A specific law barring Chinese immigration was also passed in 1882. In 1886, the Statue of Liberty arrived in New York as a gift from France. The changing nature of immigration also took its toll on American churches, resulting in a Protestant liberalism wave. Catholicism and Judaism also gained ground. Darwin’s idea of natural selection also split the faithful into 2 camps, one that still clung to the old orthodox view of the Bible and the other, a more liberal view that sought to have both science and the Bible co-exist. Support for public education as a birthright was high and numerous high schools sprouted. In the South, badly hit by the Civil War, education for Blacks was led by a number of notable black figures such as Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois who founded the NAACP in 1910. Higher education also got a fillip after the Civil War, with numerous universities and colleges being established. Private philanthropy also played an important role in establishing many respected private colleges. The American education system was also shaped by local influences. The elective system and specialization became popular. Medical science also improved with the establishment of medical colleges and important discoveries by Pasteur and Lister. The number of public libraries also increased rapidly. The invention of the linotype in 1885 enabled the popular press to keep pace with demand. Magazines like Harper’s also served to partially satisfy the demand for printed material. Yellow journalism which published sensational and often false stories also became widely popular. Dime novels were another fad. The character of American writing also changed from the earlier romanticism to more worldly stories about human drama and life, written by famous authors like Mark Twain. Urban life was hard on families since a family had to do everything themselves without much support from others such as a clan. Urbanization generally caused a reduction in family size, delayed marriages and the use of birth control. Anti-temperance became popular again, with the National Prohibition Party being founded in 1869 and the Anti-Saloon league in 1893. American painters still had to go to Europe to make a decent living. Music took off especially with the fusion of European and Black music resulting in new music genres such as Jazz. Edison’s phonograph also enabled “canned” music to be brought to American homes cheaply. In the field of entertainment, shows such as “The Wild West Show” and Barnum’s Circus were very popular. Baseball soon became America’s sport. Basketball was invented in 1891. Criquet and cycling also became very popular especially with women.

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