America Moves to the City
I. The Urban Frontier
From 1870 to 1900, the American population doubled, and the population in the cities
Cities grew up and out, with such famed architects as LouisSullivan working on and
perfecting skyscrapers (first appearing inChicago in 1885).
The city grew from a small compact one that people could walkthrough to get
around to a huge metropolis that required commuting byelectric trolleys.
Electricity, indoor plumbing, and telephones made city life more alluring.
Department stores like Macy’s (in New York) and MarshallField’s (in Chicago) provided
urban working-class jobs and alsoattracted urban middle-class shoppers.
Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie told of a woman’sescapades in the big city
and made cities dazzling and attractive.
However, the move to city produced lots of trash, because whilefarmers
always reused everything or fed “trash” to animals,city dwellers, with their mail-order
houses like Sears and MontgomeryWard, which made things cheap and easy to buy,
could simply throw awaythe things that they didn’t like anymore.
In cities, criminals flourished, and impure water, uncollectedgarbage, unwashed bodies,
and droppings made cities smelly andunsanitary.
Worst of all were the slums, which were crammed with people.
The so-called “dumbbell tenements” (which gave a bit offresh air down their
airshaft) were the worst since they were dark,cramped, and had little sanitation or
To escape, the wealthy of the city-dwellers fled to suburbs.
II. The New Immigration
Until the 1880s, most of the immigrants had come from the BritishIsles and western
Europe (Germany and Scandinavia) and were quiteliterate and accustomed to some
type of representative government. Thiswas called the “Old Immigration.” But by the
1880s and1890s, this shifted to the Baltic and Slavic people of southeasternEurope, who
were basically the opposite, “New Immigration.”
While the southeastern Europeans accounted for only 19% ofimmigrants to
the U.S. in 1880, by the early 1900s, they were over 60%!
III. Southern Europe Uprooted
Many Europeans came to America because there was no room in Europe,nor was there
much employment, since industrialization had eliminatedmany jobs.