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Urbanization in America


Urbanization in America: Urbanization in America in the late 1800's which was fueled by the Industrial Revolution and Industrialization.

Definition and Summary of the Urbanization in America

Summary and definition: Urbanization means the redistribution of populations from rural (farming or country life) to urban (town and city) life. Urbanization in America saw the emergence of many new towns and cities which became even larger as more and more people, attracted by employment possibilities, begin living and working in towns and cities.

Urbanization in America in the late 1800's
This article contains interesting facts and information about Urbanization in America in the late 1800's which was fueled by the Industrial Revolution and Industrialization. During this period in American history workers moved towards manufacturing centers in cities and towns seeking jobs in factories as agricultural jobs became less common. Urbanization in America in the late 1800's was also driven by the massive influx of unskilled immigrants who also flocked to the industrial cities to start their new life in America, the land of opportunity.

Urbanization in America in the late 1800's: Causes of Urbanization in America

The entrepreneurs, inventions and new technologies of the Industrial Revolution

The rural populations were displaced by increasing agricultural efficiency prompting a move from rural areas to the towns and cities. This led to the Great Migration of African Americans in WW1

The Industrialization of America that led to the mechanization of industries and the emergence of Factories and the Factory System

Increased immigration levels from Europe and the massive influx of immigrants to the cities

The industrial focus of the American economy that gave rise to Big Business and Corporations who had money to invest in new industries

New technologies in construction, particularly the use of steel during the Urbanization in America

New Technologies in Transportation and Communications

Urbanization in America in the late 1800's: Effects of Urbanization in America

Cheap accommodation was developed as tall, narrow tenement buildings in dark, crowded, unpleasant and unhealthy living conditions

Massive rises in the population of cities during the Urbanization in America

Rapid growth and lack of planning led to inadequate basic facilities and services

Pollution and poor sanitation led to deadly epidemics in the towns an cities. A major reason for the rise of the Conservation Movement.

Separation by class and neighborhoods

High levels of congestion alleviated by new transportation systems

Urban sprawl - the movement to more rural areas outside the central city areas

Rise in crime due to poverty and lack of control

Machine Politics in cities based on bribery, corruption and unfair business practices

Rise in Nativism in America (anti-immigration) and resentment towards immigrants

Social unrest - Poor living conditions led to riots and strikes by workers

Urbanization in America in the late 1800's: Benefits of Urbanization in America

New public transport systems were developed

New styles of buildings (skyscrapers) were introduced made possible by cheap steel and the invention of elevators.

New roads and bridges were built during the Urbanization in America

Increased employment opportunities

Cultural advances with the establishment of museums and libraries

Recreational resources and parks were established during the Urbanization in America

Easy access to goods and services - convenience and variety

Urbanization in America in the late 1800's: History of Urbanization in America
The history of Urbanization in America is inextricably linked to Industrialization and Immigration. The incredible inventions of the First Industrial Revolution, that centered on textiles, agriculture, iron, and steam engine technology, provided farmers with the McCormick Reaper, the Cotton Gin and Cotton Spinning Machinery and revolutionized farming methods in the United States and led to the expansion of the mills.

Steam power then led to the invention of railroads and the Grain Elevators, the "Prairie Skyscrapers" that enabled the fast transit of wheat and other grains to market. Increased agricultural efficiency resulted in fewer jobs in the farming areas and the rural population started looking to the cities and towns for employment beginning urbanization in America.

The Second Industrial Revolution moved America from the Age of Iron into the Age of Steel and replaced steam power with electric power. Great factories were built, there were further advancements in mechanization and transportation systems and these were all based in the emerging towns and cities and the urbanization in America increased at an incredibly rapid rate. For additional facts refer to  Industrial Revolution Inventions.

The Tenement Buildings
The manufacturing centers of Business and industrialization were centered in the towns and cities where the factories and factory system attracted ever increasing numbers of both American and immigrant workers. The workers had to be housed and the price of real estate was becoming expensive. Existing buildings, that had once been single-family dwellings, were increasingly divided into cramped, multiple living housing to accommodate the growing population - the tenement building was created.

Additional floors were added and the open areas, that once were the backyards, were also built on. The space in existing tenements eventually ran out. A new form of cheap tenement housing developed in which these new buildings grew upward, rather than outward. The typical tenement was usually built on a lot that was 25 feet wide and 100 feet long, with less than 1 foot between the tenements. The long, narrow tenement buildings were typically 4 - 6 stories high and divided into small apartments. It was not unusual to find a whole family living in one small room often accommodating more than ten people. They lived in unsanitary conditions, without fire escapes or access to light - health and safety hazards and at risk from lethal cholera epidemics. The rise of the tenements were one of the Effects of Urbanization in America.

Urbanization in America for kids: Effects of Urbanization in America - The Neighborhoods
The cities evolved into areas that contained the poor, the middle class and the wealthy. Class separation evolved, based on the neighborhoods where people lived and the houses they lived in. The small percentage of wealthy people occupied the prime locations in the center of the cities, near their businesses and banks. The wealthy lived in massive, opulent houses, with stunning architecture, designed to look like a chateau, villa or manor house. The wages of the middle class were more than double those of the poor and lived in comfortable 6-8 roomed houses. The poor lived in crowded tenements in deplorable living conditions densely populated and highly congested neighborhoods. Poor immigrants formed ethnic enclaves in America's cities where members of minority groups lived - referred to as ghettos.
Separation by class and stark contrasts between the resulting neighborhoods fostered resentment and discontent and was one of the Effects of Urbanization in America.

Urbanization in America for kids: Effects of Urbanization in America - Urban Sprawl
The centers of cities became full of people and the richer inhabitants moved outside the city center to escape the overcrowded, dirty conditions to the suburbs with their clean, green spaces. Tenements were also constructed on the outskirts of the city in undesirable districts close to stockyards or slaughterhouses. The movement to the more rural areas outside the central city areas is referred to as Urban sprawl, yet another of the effects of
of Urbanization in America.

Effects of Urbanization in America: Urban Problems (Lack of Planning)
The rapid urbanization in America was accelerated by industrialization, technology, and the migration of people. The sudden rise of towns and cities in America left little time for rational urban planning. The lack of planning and a proper infrastructure led to considerable social problems during urbanization in America.

  • Basic services such as adequate fire and police departments were inadequate to meet the numbers of city populations

  • There was a lack of adequate waste disposal systems

  • Sanitation was a huge problem. The sewer systems were inadequate leading to high amounts of untreated waste and raw sewage.

  • Vast numbers of people shared just one toilet

  • Their was a lack of hospitals and medical facilities

  • The lack of adequate sanitation led to the contamination of the water supply triggering deadly epidemics of cholera and typhoid fever

  • Pollution was another major issue. In the early stages of urbanization horse waste was left in the streets and the smoke that belched from the factories and chimneys polluted the air

Effects of Urbanization in America - Urban Problems (Rise in Crime)
The sheer number of people and the lack of adequate police control led to a rise in crime in the cities. The anonymous nature of the cities and the teeming masses of inhabitants provided opportunities for thieves and pickpockets. The consumption of alcohol increased as people tried to escape from the boredom and drudgery of their daily lives. There was no way out of the poverty trap. Children were forced to work just enable poor families to survive. The prevalence of Child Labor meant that the poor could not receive an education to enable them to get better, skilled jobs. The levels of violence were high, including the number of murders in the city. These were all the worst effects of Urbanization in America.  

Urbanization in America for kids: Immigration and Urbanization in America
The levels of immigration in the 1800's had a massive impact on Urbanization in America. Between 1821 - 1830 143,439 immigrants arrived in America. The number of immigrants increased each year and between 1881 - 1890 a total of 5,246,613 immigrants arrived in America - for additional facts and information refer to Immigration History. The majority of immigrants were unskilled and flocked to the towns and cities in search of a new life and employment in the factories. In 1890 the population of New York City approached 2 million and 42% of the inhabitants were foreign born. The low paid, unskilled immigrants lived in the cheap dirty, crowded conditions and faced discrimination in the workplace from native workers.

Effects of Urbanization in America: Social Unrest
A wave of Nativism (anti-immigration) in the 1880's was fueled by the Labor Unions. Mechanization and Industrialization in America  saw new methods of mass production and the emergence of huge factories and the Factory System during the Urbanization of America. Industrialists amassed great wealth which saw the Rise of Big Business and Corporations headed by advocates of Social Darwinism, the men who were called the Robber Barons. The greedy, unethical and ruthless 'Robber Barons'  exploited their workers who protested about their poor wages and appalling living conditions which led to Riots and Strikes in the towns and cities. Social unrest gave rise to reformers in the Progressive Movement.

Effects of Urbanization in America: Machine Politics
The 1800's were marked by bribery and corruption in politics at both state and federal government levels. Bribery and corruption soon became a feature of city politics which lacked proper, regulated government practices.  Machine Politics was a political system and the party held control, led by "party bosses". The "party bosses" were professional politicians who dominated city government and held power over their "Machines" they used to get jobs done. Bribes were accepted from building contractors and permits were sold to operate public utilities, such as the transportation, water and power facilities.

The "machines" controlled voter loyalty by distributing political and economic benefits such as jobs and city contracts. The political machines and the party bosses exchanged votes for helping newcomers, especially immigrants, with jobs, housing, police protection and other services. Urban immigrant groups exerted tremendous voting strength and voted in overwhelming numbers for the "party bosses" and their political machines. Two of the most famous  "party bosses" were William M. “Boss” Tweed and George Plunkitt were based in Tammany Hall and wielded power over the Machine Politics in New York City. The system of Machine politics were one of the negative effects of Urbanization of America, with its bribery and  corruption, that continued until the start of the 20th century.

Urbanization in America: Effects of Urbanization in America - New Transportation Systems
The expansion of the cities led to the problem of transportation as factories were not in easy walking distance from the houses. Horse-drawn carriages had developed into the omnibus. Then, with the technology of the railroads,
a street carriage on rails that was pulled by horses, called a Horse Car, was invented. The Horse Car was one of the earliest forms of public transport. With advances in Industrialization and technology new transportation systems developed that ran on rails and were propelled by electricity instead of horses. These became known by a variety of names - the streetcar, the trolleybus and the tram.

Some cities went on to create overhead railway systems and others went on to develop underground transportation systems - the subway. The combination of electricity and the production of cheap steel made these advances that contributed to Urbanization in America enabled inhabitants to travel to and from their city jobs.

Urbanization in America: Industrialization and Urbanization in America - Skyscrapers
Taller commercial buildings began to be built in cities, consisting of fire-proof, iron framed structures with deep foundations. Industrialization in America led to the invention of the elevator and electric lighting making these tall buildings practical. The Bessemer Process lowered the cost of steel production and replaced cast iron.

Urbanization in America literally moved to another level when new buildings called 'Skyscrapers' were developed. The method of building Skyscrapers used a grid of steel beams and columns that were strong enough to support this new form of tall buildings that shaped the architecture and skylines of the cities in America.

Urbanization in America for kids: Industrialization and Urbanization in America - Bridges
The development of cheap steel resulted in the building of bridges in America. An example of this is the Brooklyn Bridge, the first steel-wire suspension bridge in the world, that opened in 1883 that connected the cities of New York (Manhattan) and Brooklyn.

Benefits of Urbanization in America: New York City
The lack of planning due to the rapid expansion of towns and cities were addressed as the years passed. Planners realized that it was important to address the importance of the basic facilities of inhabitants which led to a building boom in the cities and towns. People also realized the importance of creating areas for recreational activities and the opportunity to socialize. An example of this is the construction of Central Park in New York.

Beauty and culture was brought to the city with a sweeping parkland with a variety of unusual trees, plants and flowers. Classic styles of architecture were used in the buildings in Central Park, together with elegant fountains and statues of famous people to bring culture to New Yorkers. The Brooklyn Bridge connected Manhattan and Brooklyn and in 1898 the City of Greater New York consolidated the existing city with Staten Island, East Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens County.

Benefits of Urbanization in America
Other benefits of Urbanization in America included the building and establishment of museums, theaters, art galleries and libraries. Important facilities such as hospitals were built improving the health and survival rates of inhabitants. A variety of jobs were available and the standard of living of most inhabitants were improved. Access to goods and services adds to convenience and the range of items available.

US American History
1881-1913: Maturation Era

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