Changes to the Urban Population in America
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Published: Wed, 06 Sep 2017
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
The New Morality
Families and Women in the City
Prohibition of Alcohol and Social Progress
The Business of Amusement
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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