The Culture of Nineteenth-Century American Cities

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During the late-nineteenth century, American cities grew drastically and rapidly. The introduction of technologies like the elevator and steel frame of skyscrapers blended together in a perfect recipe for expansion. Major cities beginning to develop and flourish during this time, including Chicago, New York City, and Boston, not only influenced the development of American society, but were also influenced by several factors of American life. The key areas of immigration, transportation, and popular culture influenced, changed, and developed American cities between 1865 and 1900.

A number of “new immigrants” arrived in America post-Civil War through the end of the nineteenth century and ultimately helped shape American cities. The vast majority of these 16.2 million immigrants came mostly from southern and eastern Europe, from nations like Italy, Greece, Croatia, Slovakia, Poland, Russia, and additionally, China. Most immigrants were impoverished and fleeing totalitarian governments, and therefore did not bring with them much wealth. Lack of wealth pushed most immigrants into the poorer neighborhoods of large cities like New York. This led immigrants to be forced to live in confined space trying often unsuccessfully to live comfortably, giving way to mass waste disposal issues that caught the attention of city officials and resulted in the introduction of the waste disposal routines cities continue to implement today. In addition to their poverty, their common illiteracy led to the establishment of settlement houses. These settlement houses provided childcare services, English classes, and sponsored community events in order to help immigrants participate in and become involved with other city dwellers in their neighborhoods. The need to run and establish the settlement houses in turn provided many people, especially women, with jobs. In addition, many of the mostly-Protestant cities of this time period saw the growth and rising influence of Roman Catholic,...
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