The Emergence of Urban America

American cities experienced unparalleled growth during the latter half of the nineteenth century. Most of this was due to the emergence of factories, mines, and mills, which needed people for work. Oftentimes, the companies that owned the businesses would construct houses and whole villages for people to work for them. The company owned the houses, for which workers paid rent; owned a "company" grocery store, where groceries could be bought on credit against one’s paycheck, even built schools and churches.

Gates grew up in a "mill village," all the houses, row houses, were built by the mill company. Grandfather often called the local grocery the "company store." Some companies even had towns named for them. The Hershey Chocolate factory is responsible for Hershey, Pennsylvania. Pullman, Ohio was named for George Pullman.

People moved to the cities by the millions. Factories, and the opportunity for work also caused increased immigration, somewhat different from that experienced in the first half of the century. Many of these came from Southern and Eastern Europe, notably Poland, Russia, Greece. New problems arose as a result of the large influx of population.

Cities themselves became a draw, just as the frontier had been. Although transportation was important (every major city was built on a port, or had major railroad connections, it was the growth of industry that caused them to expand rapidly. Largest population growth in the big cities was in the Northeast.

Northeastern Cities had little room to expand outwardly, so they expanded upwardly. People had nothing to sell but their labor had no land, so they had to rent, often in high-rise tenements or rented homes.

Growth of cities encouraged new transportation devices:

· 1889 –Otis elevator installed first electric elevator. (Before this time, buildings couldn’t exceed three or four stories; too far to climb steps, and elevators couldn’t reach that high.)

· Electric Cable cars moved people.

· Subway systems developed; the cantilever bridge and cable-supported bridge.

More affluent people moved into suburbs, outside noise and bustle of city. Poorer folk lived in town. Towns were often congested, crime-ridden.

City Politics: The sheer size of cities meant that individuals began to depend upon government for services, etc. that they could not provide for themselves; such as paving streets, police protection, etc. This made them easy pickin’s for political rings and bosses who performed favors for people, and then depended upon their support to get them elected to office; when elected, they used the office to enrich themselves.

The most famous ring was the Democratic Organization in New York City, Tammany Hall. Its Boss was William Marcy "Boss" Tweed. The organization performed little favors for poor families, particularly those of immigrant origin. They would provide food baskets during hard times; a funeral car when there was a death in the family, etc. Everyone knew if they needed a favor, they called upon the machine, and it took care of them. In return for the favor, they were only too happy to vote for candidates whom the machine picked. This done, the city officials, who were picked by the machine, awarded government contracts to the machine’s members, who picked the government clean. Tweed and company milked the city for over $20,000,000. In one instance, they requisitioned carpet for a building near City Hall. The bill showed the purchase of enough carpet to cover the entire Municipal complex (several buildings) four times over.

The group got its name from its origins as the Order of St. Tammany; named for Tamarend, an Indian chief who had met William Penn. They had secret rituals; the lodge was called a "wig-wam," etc.

Tweed was arrested for graft and corruption, but left the country, via Cuba for Spain, but once there, he was recognized from all the political cartoons, and was arrested an extradited. He died in prison.

Tammany Hall is often portrayed in the Political Cartoons of Thomas Nast.


The New Immigration

By 1900, 30 % of residents of major cities were foreign born. They provided labor at a time when it was needed, but racial and ethnic tensions developed also. In 1890, 80% of the residents of New York were foreign-born.

The City had twice as many Irishmen as Dublin; an equal number of Germans as Hamburg, and half the number of Italians of Naples. Chicago had the third largest Polish population in the world.

Immigrants tended to come from Southern and Eastern Europe. Among them were Poles, Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Russians, Romanians, Greeks and Jews. They were drawn by promises of jobs at a time when there was no work, or political/religious oppression in Europe. Railroads and others advertised in Europe to bring people over to buy land. They gathered in the large cities to be with others of their nationality; and because they didn’t have the means to travel West and purchase a farm. Precious few of them had lived in large cities before, or worked in factories, but this was the life for which they had to settle.

Between 1890 - 1900, Southern/Western immigrants made up 70% of the immigration traffic.

All these people brought different languages and customs. They also brought with them Roman Catholicism and Judaism. This alone contributed to racial and ethnic bias.

Ethnic jokes, rumors spread as a result of this. Because they were often forced to live in filthy conditions, people assumed that this was their nature. Polish people who by nature were very clean, proud people, were subjected to "polish jokes" about how filthy and stupid they were, when the opposite was true.

Many immigrants arrived at New York at Ellis Island, passing by the Statue of Liberty. They were processed at the Island, not helped. They were asked a series of questions, and if they were criminals or had any number of diseases, they were sent home. The steamship company picked up the tab for the return fare.

Processors often could not understand names, or didn’t want to. Slavic names, which could be quite long, were often shortened to ten letters or less, and people gained a new identity with names that were shortened. Mike Khrochmalny’s father’s real name (Russian) was Khrochmalninski

Between 1892 – 1943 (when it closed), 70% of all European Immigrants passed through Ellis Island. Among them: Irving Berlin (Russia); Knute Rockne (Football hero, coach at Notre Dame); Felix Frankfurter (Austrian Jew, later Supreme Court Justice); and Bob Hope (England).

Neighborhoods soon developed in which immigrants lived, and could preserve their culture and language. Many cities had a "little Italy," "Little Hungary," "Chinatown." Usually, when they moved into an area; the older residents moved out, and took any social prestige with them; as a result, immigrant communities were generally considered as slums.

Housing and sanitary codes were typically not enforced. People often lived in high-rise tenements that might have only two toilets per floor, some less. There was very little space between buildings, just enough to create a draft in the event of a fire. Kids had no place to play except in the street, odors were rampant, disease was everywhere. Infant mortality was sometimes in excess of 60%.

The large influx of immigrants created a nativist response of resentment to the newcomers. Many people complained that the immigrants were dirty; would work for nothing, taking jobs from "real" Americans. One Stanford Professor even described them as "illiterate, docile, lacking is self reliance and initiative, and not possessing the Anglo-Teutonic conceptions of law, order, and government."

Cultural differences reinforced the belief that Nordic peoples who got here first were superior to the Slavs and Latin people who came later. Immigrants were often used as strikebreakers, which made them unpopular with labor. Jews who came tended to have long hair and beards, and wear long black coats; entirely different from the concept of Jews that Americans previously held.

Restrictions on Immigration: A number of movements began with the intention of excluding immigrants. The Chinese Exclusion Act (1882) suspended Chinese immigration for a period of ten years. It was renewed several times, and not removed until 1943.

Public schools, primarily secondary schools, grew in the second half of the 19th century. Curricula at first involved higher mathematics and classical languages; later they began vocational training.

High schools installed shop classes to teach carpentry; printing, drafting, machine work. The Morrill Act of 1862 granted land for land colleges; among them Clemson. Tuskegee institute was a vocational institution exclusively for black students.

College and University enrollment also increased, colleges began an elective system of course choices. (Previously, the course of study was pretty rigid, primarily a "classical" education). This allowed students to work within areas. One of the first to do this was George Washington University in Virginia in 1866, under its President, Robert E. Lee.

Women’s access to Education improved also. Vassar College opened in 1865; it was the first women’s college to teach by the same standards as men’s colleges.

Johns Hopkins University became the first University to make graduate work its chief concern. The idea was that graduate students would learn a craft, just as a medieval journeyman while working under a scholar. They were admitted to the craft upon completion of a masterpiece, in this instance, a dissertation, which was to make an original contribution to knowledge. They were then awarded a Ph.D. degree.

New patterns of recreation and leisure developed as a result of the rise of urban America. People were more mobile, and did not live with extended family, as they did on the farm.

Middle and upper class families spent time singing around the piano, reading, playing board games, and viewing the "steropticon," a 3-D image thing sort of like a viewmaster.

Black families continued to live in rural areas, operated within extended family networks; cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. Entertainment involved farm functions, planting and harvesting; or attending tent meetings. Church and religious meetings were an extremely important part of leisure time activities for black families.

In towns and cities, new forms of entertainment arose:

· Traveling Circus: One of the first was one created by Phineas T. Barnum and James A. Bailey; the Barnum and Bailey Circus. They later merged with a circus formed by the five Ringling Brothers to form Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus; billed "The Greatest Show on Earth."

It was Barnum who said "there’s a sucker born every minute."

· Politics. People went to hear speeches in halls, plazas, even from railroad cars. These meetings also included some form of entertainment, to keep the crowd happy.

· Wild West Shows. The most famous was Buffalo Bill’s Wild West traveling show, starring Buffalo Bill Cody, which toured all over the U.S. and Europe 1883 – 1917. He had people like Annie Oakley, live elk and buffalo, horses and cowboys, Indians; he even had Sitting Bull tour with him for a while.

Cody himself was the star attraction. He had been a Pony Express Rider, Indian fighter, and buffalo hunter. He had received the Congressional Medal of Honor for one battle with the Indians. The ads for his show described him as "young, sturdy, a remarkable specimen of manly beauty, with the brain to conceive and the nerve to execute. . . the exemplar of the strong and unique traits that characterize a true American frontiersman.

The heir to Buffalo Bill’s shows is the modern day Rodeo.

· Vaudeville: This consisted of variety shows, with comedians, singers, musicians, minstrels, animal acts, jugglers, gymnasts, magicians, etc. They built theaters, and billed themselves as family type entertainment. There were no class distinctions there, and operators used the motto: "ever to please—and never to offend."

Vaudeville shows were very careful to preserve propriety. Ushers would walk down the aisles and hand cards to patrons who got to unruly. One such card read "Gentlemen will kindly avoid the stamping of feet and pounding of canes on the floor, and greatly oblige the Management. All applause is best shown by clapping of hands."

Some Vaudeville jokes by today’s standards would be considered pretty corny. It normally involved two guys; one who played a dolt, the other a wisecracker who often carried a cane. He would ask "Hey, Joe, why did the chicken cross the road?" The dolt would say, "I dunno, why did the chicken cross the road?" You know the rest; and when he cracked the punch line, he would poke the other guy in the ribs with the cane. Another

was, "Why is Ohio the strangest looking state?" Because it’s high in the middle and round on both ends: Oh-hi-oh.

Outdoor Recreation: New York’s Central Park was created in 1858, parks began to spring up all over the country.

Croquet and tennis became popular. Tennis was considered a leisurely sport, best suited for women. The Harvard Student Newspaper in 1878 said that it was "well enough for the lazy or weak man, but men who have rowed or taken part in a nobler sport should blush to be seen playing Lawn Tennis.

Bicycling became popular also. The first bicycles had one large front wheel, sometimes 5 feet high, and had no brakes; which made them hard to ride and dangerous. J.K. Starley produced the first "safety bicycle, complete with brakes, air-filled rubber tires, and evenly mounted wheels.

At first, bicycling was considered somewhat immodest for a young woman, because she had to do it without wearing a corset or bustle, or full dress. To ride, she normally wore bloomers or a split skirt, which was considered sexually provocative. One minister even wrote that bicycling was "detrimental to the advancement of morality.

Spectator Sports: Became popular:

· Football – a modified form of rugby and soccer. First collegiate game was played in 1869 between the College of New Jersey (Princeton) and Rutgers. Rutgers won 6 – 4. Players wore no protective gear or helmets, which promoters used to promote it as a "blood sport" that drew crowds. Many players were seriously hurt; some even killed.

· Basketball: 1891 – Dr. James Naismith, a P.E. instructor, nailed two peach baskets to the walls of the YMCA training school in Springfield, Mass. The baskets were ten feet high, as that was the height of the balconies at each end of the gym. First college basketball team was from Vanderbilt.

· Baseball: Contrary to legend, it was NOT invented by Abner Doubleday. It was first organized by Alexander Cartwright, a N.Y. bank clerk in 1845. It was played first in the streets of Manhattan. First professional team was the Cincinnati Red Stockings, in 1869.

Originally, there were no called strikes; one only accumulated three strikes after he had swung three times and missed. Also, there were no walks.

By the 1880’s Baseball was the great American pastime; particularly professional baseball; but only Whites were allowed to play.

In 1859, Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species. He argued that all species, including humanity itself had evolved through a long process of "natural selection" from less complex forms. Those species that adapted by whatever advantage reproduced, while others fell by the wayside.

Darwin’s ideas shocked religious conservatives. Heated arguments came about between scientists and religious leaders. Some scholars suggested a "higher criticism of the Bible" which troubled many others. Many people managed to reconcile Darwin’s ideas and religion; by saying that evolution was simply the act of Divine Will…the way that the Almighty made it happen.

Darwin never said men were descended from Apes; nor did he use the phrase "survival of the fittest." He simply spoke of "natural selection."

Darwin’s ideas led some philosophers to apply his theory to society itself. Chief among these was an English philosopher, Herbert Spencer, who became the prophet of Social Darwinism.

It was Spencer, not Darwin, who used the phrase, "survival of the fittest." He meant it not in terms of biological, but in terms of human survival and success."

Spencer argued that human society and institutions, like organisms, passed through the process of natural selection. Social evolution implied progress, ending "only in the establishment of the greatest perfection and the most complete happiness."

Spencer believed that individual freedom was sacrosanct, and government should not interfere with the process of social evolution. Biology determined the workings of society. Business should not be regulated; housing and sanitation should not be policed; as this only allows the "unfit" to survive. He even argued against laws to prevent quacks from practicing medicine. Said he, "fostering the good-for-nothing at the expense of the good is an extreme cruelty."

Spenser sounds suspiciously like Adolph Hitler, who insisted that the German people were naturally, biologically superior, and were destined to rule the world.

Spenser found a lot of support in America. People there who followed his ideas said that businessmen and corporations were the engines of social progress. If small businesses were choked out by big business, that was part of the process.

John D. Rockefeller told his Baptist Sunday School Class that "the growth of a large business is merely a survival of the fittest… This is not an evil tendency in business, it is merely the working-out of the law of nature and the law of God.

There was a reaction to all of this, primarily a movement known as Reform Darwinism. Its primary proponent was Lester Frank Ward. Ward had worked his way up from poverty; and never forgot his humble origins. He said that Spencer and company had overlooked the human brain as a factor. People had minds and could determine their own destiny. It was not a matter of natural selection; it was a matter of invention. People could actually improve their situation, and need not necessarily be "weeded out."

Ward is known as the father of American Sociology.

Realism in Fact and Fiction

Darwinism had the same effect on the social sciences as had romanticism earlier. Romanticism had been a reaction to the "cold light of reason." Social thought not turned against abstract logic, and towards reality.

The study of history as a science became important. It became important to examine documents critically, examine all the evidence to determine validity and relevancy.

Sociologists and economists no longer relied on theories, but on statistics, observation, and the study of actual conditions.

William James (Brother of the Author) developed a new theory of philosophy, Pragmatism: Truth could be determined by practical experimentation; it was not an abstraction.

John Dewey: said society would progress through education. He became the prophet of "progressive education," and emphasized the teaching of history, geography and science. To enlarge a child’s personal experience. He also said schools had to inculcate values once taught at home. With families working, children did not always learn these values.

A series of writers of fiction began writing in a style known as "local color." Typical were:

· Bret Harte: Who wrote The Outcasts of Poker Flat, and The Luck of Roaring Camp.

The Luck of Roaring Camp is a rather sad story of a group of miners who adopt a baby after it’s mother dies.

· Hamlin Garland, Main Traveled Roads. (19=891) about farm families in Midwest.

· Sarah Orne Jewett: The Country of the Pointed Firs.

Many stories surfaced about life in the Old South. The most famous of these were written by Joel Chandler Harris in stories of Uncle Remus.

Among the most famous:

· Samuel Langhorne Clemens: (Mark Twain) who wrote of life in Missouri and on the Mississippi River. His works included Tom Sawyer, and Huckleberry Finn, (considered his masterpiece).


· William Dean Howells. The Rise of Silas Lapham. (1885).

· Henry James: Portrait of a Lady (1881).

Another group of writers developed a style known as Naturalism. They showed people as being subject to animal forces, and internal drives that they could neither understand nor control:

· Stephen Crane: The Red Badge of Courage. (A civil war novel).

· Jack London: The Call of the Wild. (1903) Gates loved Jack London stories as a child.

· Theodore Drieser: Sister Carrie; Maggie. His books were the "dirty books" of the day, about people who had sex with impunity, and were not punished for it.

Most of these writers expressed some degree of outrage at human misery. Among them:

· Henry Demarest Lloyd: Wealth against Commonwealth. Based on study of the Standard Oil Company.

· Thorstein Veblen: The Theory of the Leisure Class. Said property became the basis for reputation. For the upper classes, one must consume time nonproductively to evidence one’s ability to afford a life of leisure.


The Social Gospel: Many established churches were swayed by Social Darwinism, including Henry Ward Beecher’s church. As churches moved to the suburbs and became prosperous, they developed a theory of respectability rather than of mission.

Two groups represented change:

· The Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA)

· Salvation Army

Both came from England, and provided programs to help people, more social than religious. In one instance, the Baptist Temple of Philadelphia developed a night school for working people that became Temple University.

A "Social Gospel" developed, which was based on the biblical admonition to love thy neighbor as thyself.


Early Efforts at Urban Reform

Reformers sought to deal with the problems in the slums by opening "settlement houses" occupied by young women dedicated to helping those who lived in the area:

· Jane Addams: Hull House. The house offered babysitting and kindergarten programs for the children of the neighborhood, employment services, even job training and a savings bank, all in an attempt to help people get on their feet and lead more comfortable lives.

These people worked for political reform, for housing laws, public playgrounds, pensions for working mothers, and legislation against child labor. For her efforts, Jane Addams won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.

A women’s movement began also, as the number of women employed outside the home increased substantially. The woman’s movement divided over the issue of whether they should support women’s suffrage alone, or promote other causes as well. In 1890, the separate groups united to form the American Woman Suffrage Association. Their overriding aim was women’s suffrage, which they gained gradually in state by state.

1866: Young Women’s Christian Association was formed.

State Regulation of Industry: States begin passing laws regulating work conditions, hours of work, child labor, etc. However, much of this was struck down by the Supreme Court, in a twisted interpretation of the 14th Amendment.

The court said that a corporation was a "person" within the meaning of the Amendment. They said that legislatures could pass laws so extreme as to deprive a "person", in this case, a Corporation, of property to an unreasonable degree, and thereby violate due process.

The Court even took the position that the states power to regulate railroad rates was subject to review by the Court, and might violate the 14th Amendment.

Later the court adopted a doctrine of "liberty of Contract," which it said was one of the liberties protected in the Due Process Clause. It said a person was free to contract proper to carrying out his purposes. Thus an employee’s "liberty" to contract for work under the worse conditions was his right. It was a twisted interpretation at best.