The Urban Frontier
From 1870 to 1900, the American population doubled, and the population in the cities tripled.
Cities grew up and out, with such famed architects as
working on and perfecting
skyscrapers (first appearing in Chicago in 1885).
The city grew from a small compact one that people could walk through to get around to a huge
metropolis that required commuting by electric trolleys.
Electricity, indoor plumbing, and telephones made city life more alluring.
like Macy’s (in New York) and Marshall Field’s (in Chicago) provided urban
working-class jobs and also attracted urban middle-class shoppers.
told of a woman’s escapades in the big city and made cities
dazzling and attractive.
However, the move to city produced lots of trash, because while farmers always reused
everything or fed “trash” to animals, city dwellers, with their
like Sears and
Montgomery Ward, which made things cheap and easy to buy, could simply throw away the things
that they didn’t like anymore.
In cities, criminals flourished, and impure water, uncollected garbage, unwashed bodies, and
droppings made cities smelly and unsanitary.
Worst of all were the slums, which were crammed with people.
The so-called “
” (which gave a bit of fresh air down their airshaft) were the
worst since they were dark, cramped, and had little sanitation or ventilation.
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 British Isles and western Europe
(Germany and Scandinavia) and were quite literate and accustomed to some type of representative
government. This was called the “
.” But by the 1880s and 1890s, this shifted to the
Baltic and Slavic people of southeastern Europe, who were basically the opposite, “
While the southeastern Europeans accounted for only 19% of immigrants 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 eliminated many jobs.
America was also often praised to Europeans, as people boasted of eating everyday and
having freedom and much opportunity.
Profit-seeking Americans also perhaps exaggerated the benefits of America to Europeans, so
that they could get cheap labor and more money.