I. The Urban Frontier
By 1890, New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia all had a population greater than 1 million. Louis Sullivan contributed to the development of the skyscraper. City limits were extended outward by electric trolleys. People were attracted to the cities by amenities such as electricity, indoor plumbing, and telephones. Trash became a large problem in cities due to throwaway bottles, boxes, bags, and cans.
II. The New Immigration
The New Immigrants of the 1880s came from southern and eastern Europe. They came from countries with little history of democratic government, where people had grown accustomed to harsh living conditions.
Some Americans feared that the New Immigrants would not assimilate to life in their new land. They began asking if the nation had become a melting pot or a dumping ground.
III. Southern Europe Uprooted
Immigrants left their native countries because Europe had no room for them. The population of Europe nearly doubled in the century after 1800 due to abundant supplies of fish and grain from America and the widespread cultivation of Europe.
“America fever” caught on in Europe as the United States was portrayed as a land of great opportunities. Persecutions of minorities in Europe sent many fleeing immigrants to the United States. Many immigrants never intended to stay in America forever; a large number returned home with money. Those immigrants who stayed in the United States struggled to preserve their traditional culture.
IV. Reactions to the New Immigration
The federal government did virtually nothing to ease the assimilation of immigrants into American society. Trading jobs and services for votes, a powerful boss might claim the loyalty of thousands of followers. In return for their support at the polls, the boss provided jobs on the city’s payroll, found housing for new arrivals, and helped get schools, parks, and hospitals built in immigrant neighborhoods. The nation’s social conscience gradually awakened to the troubles of cities. Walter Rauschenbusch and Washington Gladden were Protestant clergymen who sought to apply the lessons of Christianity to the slums and factories.
Jane Addams established Hull House, the most prominent American settlement house. Addams condemned war as well as poverty. Hull House offered instruction in English, counseling to help immigrants deal with American big-city life, childcare services for working mothers, and cultural activities for neighborhood residents. Lillian Wald established Henry Street Settlement in New York in 1893.
The settlement houses became centers of women’s activism and of social reform. Florence Kelley was a lifelong battler for the welfare of women, children, blacks, and consumers. The pioneering work of Addams, Wald, and Kelley helped to create the trail that many women later followed into careers in the new profession of social work. The urban frontier opened new possibilities for women. The vast majority of working women were single due to the fact that society considered employment for wives and mothers taboo.
V. Narrowing the Welcome Mat
Ant foreignism, or nativism, arose in the 1880s with intensity. Nativists worried that the original Anglo-Saxon population would soon be outnumbered and outvoted. Nativists considered eastern and southern European immigrants inferior to themselves. They blamed the immigrants for the dreadful conditions of urban government, and unionists attacked the immigrants for their willingness to work for small wages. Among the antiforeigner organizations formed was the American Protective Association (APA). Created in 1887, it urged to vote against Roman Catholic candidates for office.
Organized labor was quick to show its negative attitude towards immigrants. Immigrants were frequently used as strike-breakers. In 1882, Congress passed the first restrictive law against immigrants. It forced paupers, criminals, and convicts back to their home countries. In 1885, Congress prohibited the importation of foreign workers under contract-usually for substandard wages. Federal laws were later enacted that were made to keep the undesirables out of America. In 1882, Congress barred the Chinese completely from immigrating to the United States (Chinese Exclusion Act).
VI. Churches Confront the Urban Challenge
Protestant churches suffered significantly from the population move to the cities, where many of their traditional doctrines and pastoral approaches seemed irrelevant. A new generation of urban revivalists stepped into this spreading moral vacuum. Dwight Lyman Moody, a Protestant evangelist, proclaimed a gospel of kindness and forgiveness.
He contributed to adapting the old-time religion to the facts of city life. The Moody Bible Institute was founded in Chicago in 1889 to carry out his work. Roman Catholic and Jewish faiths were gaining enormous strength from the New Immigration. By 1890, there were over 150 religious denominations in the United States. The Church of Christ, Scientist was founded in 1879 by Mary Baker Eddy who preached that the true practice of Christianity heals sickness.
VII. Darwin Disrupts the Churches
Published in 1859 by Charles Darwin, On the Origin of the Species stated that humans had slowly evolved from lower forms of life. The theory of evolution cast serious doubt on the idea of religion. Conservatives stood firmly in their beliefs of God and religion, while Modernists flatly refused to accept the Bible in its entirety.
VIII. The Lust for Learning
During this time period, public education and the idea of tax-supported elementary schools and high schools were gathering strength. Teacher-training schools, called “normal schools”, experienced great expansion after the Civil War. The New Immigration in the 1880s and 1890s brought new strength to the private Catholic parochial schools, which were fast becoming a major part of the nation’s educational structure. Public schools excluded millions of adults. Crowded cities generally provided better educational facilities than the old one-room rural schoolhouses.
IX. Booker T. Washington and Education for Black People
The South lagged far behind other regions in public education, and African-Americans suffered the most. The leading champion of black education was ex-slave Booker T. Washington. He taught in 1881 at the black normal and industrial school at Tuskegee, Alabama. His self-help approach to solving the nation’s racial problems was labeled “accommodationist” because it stopped short of directly challenging white supremacy.
Washington avoided the issue of social equality. George Washington Carver taught and researched at Tuskegee Institute in 1896. He became an internationally famous agricultural chemist. Black leaders, including Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, attacked Booker T. Washington because Washington condemned the black race to manual labor and perpetual inferiority. Du Bois helped to form the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1910.
X. The Hallowed Halls of Ivy
Female and black colleges shot up after the Civil War.
The Morrill Act of 1862, passed after the Southern states had seceded, provided a generous grant of the public lands to the states for support of education. The Hatch Act of 1887 extended the Morrill Act and provided federal funds for the establishment of agricultural experiment stations in connection with the land-grant colleges. Millionaires and tycoons donated generously to the educational system. Johns Hopkins University, founded in 1876, maintained the nation’s first high-grade graduate school.
XI. The March of the Mind
Due to new scientific gains, public health increased.
William James made a large impact in psychology through his numerous writings.
XII. The Appeal of the Press
The Library of Congress was founded in 1897 from the donations of Andrew Carnegie. The invention of the Linotype in 1885 increased the production of texts. Joseph Pulitzer was a leader in the techniques of sensationalism in St. Louis. William Randolph Hearst built up a chain of newspapers beginning with the San Francisco Examiner in 1887. The Associated Press, founded in the 1840s, was gaining strength and wealth.
XIII. Apostles of Reform
Magazines partially satisfied the public appetite for good reading. Possibly the most influential journal of all was the New York Nation.
Started in 1865 by Edwin L. Godkin, it crusaded militantly for civil-service reform, honesty in government, and a moderate tariff. Henry George, another journalistic author, wrote the book Progress and Poverty in 1879, which attempted to solve the association of progress with poverty. According to George, the pressure of growing population on a fixed supply of land unjustifiably pushed up property values, showering unearned profits on owners of land. He supported a single tax. Edward Bellamy wrote the socialistic novel, Looking Backward, in which the year 2000 contained nationalized big business to serve the public interest.
XIV. Postwar Writing
As literacy increased, so did book reading. “Dime novels” were short books that usually told of the wilds of the West. General Lewis Wallace wrote the novel, Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ, to combat Darwinism. Horatio Alger was a Puritan-driven New Englander who wrote more than 100 volumes of juvenile fiction involving New York newsboys in 1866.
XV. Literary Landmarks
In novel writing, the romantic sentiment of a youthful era was giving way to the crude human comedy and drama of the world. In 1899, feminist Kate Chopin wrote about adultery, suicide, and women’s ambitions in The Awakening. Mark Twain was a journalist, humorist, satirist, and opponent of social injustice. He recaptured the limits of realism and humor in the authentic American dialect. Bret Harte was also an author of the West, writing in California of gold-rush stories. William Dean Howells became the editor in chief of the prestigious Boston-based Atlantic Monthly.
He wrote about ordinary people and about contemporary, and sometimes controversial, social themes. Stephen Crane wrote about the unpleasant underside of life in urban, industrial America. Henry James wrote of the confrontation of innocent Americans with subtle Europeans. His novels frequently included women as the central characters, exploring their inner reactions to complex situations with a skill that marked him as a master of psychological realism.
By 1900, portrayals of modern-day life and social problems were the literary order of the day. Jack London was a famous nature writer who turned to depicting a possible fascistic revolution in The Iron Heel. Black writer Paul Laurence Dunbar embraced the use of black dialect and folklore to capture the richness of southern black culture. Theodore Dreiser wrote with disregard for prevailing moral standards.
XVI. The New Morality
Victoria Woodhull wrote the periodical, Woodhull and Clafin’s Weekly in 1872, which proclaimed her belief in free love. Anthony Comstock made a life-long war on the immoral. The Comstock Law censored “immoral” material from the public.
XVII. Families and Women in the City
Urban life launched the era of divorce. People in the cities were having fewer children because more children would mean more mouths to feed. Women were growing more independent in the urban environment. Feminist Charlotte Perkins Gilman called upon women to abandon their dependent status and contribute to the larger life of the community through productive involvement in the economy. XVIII. In 1890, the National American Woman Suffrage Association was founded. The re-born suffrage movement and other women’s organization excluded black women. Ida B. Wells helped to launch the black women’s club movement, which led to the establishment of the National Association of Colored Women in 1896.
XIX. Prohibition of Alcohol and Social Progress
Liquor consumption had increased in the days of the Civil War and had continued to flourish afterwards. The National Prohibition Party was formed in 1869. The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union was formed in 1874 by militant women. The Anti-Saloon League was sweeping new states into prohibiting alcohol, and in 1919, the national prohibition amendment (18th) was passed.
XX. Artistic Triumphs
Music and portrait painting was gaining popularity.
The phonograph, invented by Thomas Edison, enabled the reproduction of music by mechanical means.
XXI. The Business of Amusement
The circus, arising to American demand for fun, emerged in the 1880s. Baseball was also emerging as the national pastime, and in the 1870s a professional league was formed. The move to spectator sports was exemplified by football.
Basketball was invented in 1891 by James Naismith.