American Moves to the City

1865–1900

America Moves to the City is chapter 25 of the APUSH curriculum. This outline provides notes, additional facts, and links to entries to provide students with a deeper understanding of concepts and topics related to immigration and urbanization during the Gilded Age.

APUSH Chapter 25, American Moves to the City, Gilded Age

Mulberry Street in New York City in 1900. Image Source: Library of Congress.

Immigration and Urbanization During the Gilded Age

Following the Civil War, the population of the United States increased significantly, nearly doubling from 1870 to 1900. During the same period, the population of American cities tripled and by the end of the 19th century, an estimated 40% of Americans lived in cities. The rapid growth of cities was aided by immigration from new parts of Europe, however, cities struggled to adapt, leading to unsanitary living conditions and poverty. The urbanization of America brought social issues to the forefront and helped transform the arts, culture, and religion.

1. The Urban Frontier

Between 1870 and 1900, the population of the United States doubled and the number of people living in cities tripled. Cities expanded in all directions, including upward, with the appearance of skyscrapers. Cities transformed from small, walkable areas into sprawling metropolises that required more advanced methods of travel, such as electric trolleys. Electricity, indoor plumbing, and telephones made urban living more attractive, while department stores offered jobs to the urban working class and drew in middle-class shoppers. However, city life also led to significant waste production. Unlike farmers who reused or repurposed waste, city dwellers easily discarded unwanted items. Criminal activity thrived in cities, and the lack of clean water, garbage collection, and general cleanliness made urban areas unsanitary. As the poor gathered in city slums, the wealthy moved to the suburbs.

1.1 — Growth of American Cities

  • In 1860, no U.S. city had a population of over a million, but by 1890, New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia had surpassed this mark.
  • By 1900, New York had become the second-largest city globally, with around 3.5 million people, trailing only London.
  • Skyscrapers emerged, allowing more people and workplaces in limited space, with the electric elevator being a crucial factor.
  • Architect Louis Sullivan’s “form follows function” principle contributed to the skyscraper’s development.
  • Many Americans started to live in these steel-skeleton high-rises, resembling modern cliff dwellers.

1.2 — Commuting and Expansion of Urban Areas

  • Commuting became common, with mass transit lines connecting cities to suburbs.
  • Electric trolleys played a significant role in expanding city limits outward.
  • The traditional “walking city” transformed into a sprawling megalopolis, segregated by various factors like race, ethnicity, and social class.

1.3 — Causes of Rural-to-Urban Migration

  • Industrial jobs were a primary attraction for people leaving rural areas.
  • Urban amenities such as electricity, indoor plumbing, and telephones became more widespread, making city life more appealing.
  • Engineering marvels like skyscrapers and the Brooklyn Bridge added to the allure of cities.

1.4 — Department Stores in Urban Areas

  • Stores like Macy’s and Marshall Field’s attracted urban middle-class shoppers and provided employment opportunities, especially for women.
  • These high-end department stores marked the beginning of consumerism and highlighted class divisions.
  • The character Carrie Meeber in Theodore Dreiser’s “Sister Carrie” was inspired by the dazzling department stores in Chicago, which ignited her desire for an elegant urban lifestyle.

1.5 — Urban Lifestyle and Consumerism Increase Waste

  • Rural dwellers generated less household waste compared to urban residents.
  • In the countryside, food scraps were often fed to animals, and clothing was mended rather than discarded.
  • In contrast, city life introduced throwaway packaging for goods and the disposal of clothing, contributing to increased waste generation.
  • Urban areas faced challenges with waste disposal due to the absence of barnyards for garbage disposal.
  • The availability of cheap ready-to-wear clothing and changing fashion trends led to the disposal of old clothing.
  • The increase in waste production reflected a cultural shift from thriftiness to consumerism in urban societies.

1.6 — Urbanism Contributed to Poor Living Conditions

  • The rapid urbanization came with problems such as a rise in crime, inadequate sanitation facilities, impure water, uncollected garbage, and a strong odor in some cities.
  • Baltimore was specifically noted for its unpleasant smell, being described as smelling like a billion polecats.
Gilded Age, New York City, How the Other Half Lives, PM
This photograph by Jacob Riis shows three boys and a man on the steps of an entrance area, on the Lower East Side, in New York City. Image Source: Preus Museum/Flickr.

1.7 — Cities Mixed the Best and Worst of Humanity

  • They were home to both wealthy merchant princes and impoverished paupers, elegant banks and sooty factories, green suburbs, treeless ghettos, towering skyscrapers, and overcrowded tenements.
  • New York was noted for its glaring contrasts, much like a lady in a ball costume with her toes out at the boots.

1.8 — Slum Conditions, Dumbbell Tenements, and the Lung Block

  • Slums were overcrowded, filthy, and rat-infested, particularly after the introduction of the “dumbbell” tenement in 1879.
  • Dumbbell tenements were characterized by minimal ventilation, multiple families on each floor, and shared toilets in the hall.
  • These slums, such as New York’s “Lung Block,” were detrimental to the health of their residents, leading to high mortality rates.
  • Flophouses were prevalent, offering meager accommodations for the destitute and unemployed.

1.9 — Bedroom Communities in the Suburbs

  • Many slum dwellers made significant efforts to leave their wretched living conditions.
  • While some managed to move to other urban neighborhoods, often of the same ethnicity or religion, others sought a better life in semi-rural suburbs.
  • These suburbs, often referred to as “bedroom communities,” surrounded cities with a greenbelt of affluence.
Gilded Age, Bayard Street Tenement, New York City, PM
This photograph by Jacob Riis shows crowded sleeping conditions in a tenement on Bayard Street in New York City. Image Source: Preus Museum/Flickr.

2. The New Immigration

Most immigrants before the 1880s came from Britain and Western Europe and were educated, and used to representative government. This changed in the 1880s when people from southeastern Europe, less educated, started immigrating. These people are referred to as the New Immigrants. By the early 1900s, they made up over 60% of U.S. immigrants, a dramatic increase from 19% in 1880.

2.1 — Record-Breaking European Immigration

  • A significant number of immigrants continued to arrive in the United States from Europe, drawn by the allure of American cities.
  • From the 1850s through the 1870s, over 2 million migrants arrived each decade, but in the 1880s, this number surged to over 5 million.
  • In 1882, a record-breaking 788,992 immigrants arrived in a single year.

2.2 — Early American Immigrants

  • Most early immigrants came from the British Isles and Western Europe, including Germany and Scandinavia.
  • They were often of Anglo-Saxon and Teutonic backgrounds and primarily Protestant, except for Irish and some German Catholics.
  • Many had relatively high literacy rates and were familiar with representative government, making it easier for them to assimilate, especially when they pursued farming.

2.3 — The New Immigrants of the 1880s

  • The nature of immigrants changed significantly in the 1880s with the arrival of New Immigrants from southern and eastern Europe.
  • These newcomers included Italians, Croats, Slovaks, Greeks, and Poles, who often practiced Orthodox Christianity or Judaism.
  • They hailed from countries with limited histories of democratic government and few opportunities for advancement.
  • Largely illiterate and impoverished, they preferred industrial jobs in crowded cities over farming.

2.4 — Growing Influence of New Immigrants

  • In the 1880s, New Immigrants constituted only 19% of arrivals, but by the early 20th century, they made up a remarkable 66%.
  • They clustered in cities like New York and Chicago, leading to the emergence of ethnic enclaves such as “Little Italy” and “Little Poland.”
  • Concerns arose among some Americans about the integration of these newcomers and whether the nation was a “melting pot” or a “dumping ground.”

3. Southern Europe Uprooted

Europeans migrated to America for various reasons, including a lack of opportunities for employment and land ownership. America was praised for its abundance, freedom, and opportunities that were simply not available to many people in Europe. Many immigrants successfully created new lives in America but retained important aspects of the cultural traditions.

3.1 — Exodus from Europe to America

  • Europe faced population growth and agricultural changes, causing an increase in unemployment, and pushing millions from the countryside into cities.
  • The European peasantry was uprooted due to factors like American food imports and European industrialization.
  • By the 19th and early 20th centuries, around 60 million Europeans left the Old Continent, with over half choosing the United States as their destination.
  • Immigration to America was influenced by the urbanization of Europe.

3.2 — Influence of “America Fever” in Europe

  • The United States was portrayed as a land of immense opportunity through letters sent by friends and relatives who had already migrated.
  • Economic advantages, such as better food and freedom from military conscription and religious persecution, attracted European immigrants.
  • American industrialists, railroads, states, and steamship lines actively promoted immigration to the U.S., making it more accessible.
Ellis Island, Immigrants, 1908, NYPL
Immigrants at Ellis Island, New York in 1908. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

3.3 — Persecution of Minorities in Europe

  • In the late 19th Century, violent persecutions of minorities, such as Jews in Russia, forced many to seek refuge in America.
  • Eastern European Jews brought urban skills with them, having experienced city life in Europe.
  • Some earlier German-Jewish immigrants in the U.S. employed their fellow Jews as cheap labor, creating tension.

3.4 — Birds of Passage

  • Many immigrants did not plan to become Americans; some were single men who worked in the U.S. for a limited time and then returned home with their earnings.
  • Approximately 25% of the nearly 20 million immigrants who arrived between 1820 and 1900 were “birds of passage” who eventually returned to their home countries.
  • The American magnet had a weaker hold on these individuals.

3.5 — Preserving Traditional Culture in America

  • Catholics expanded their parochial school system.
  • Jews established Hebrew schools.
  • Foreign-language newspapers were widespread.
  • Immigrants maintained cultural practices through Yiddish theaters, kosher food stores, Polish parishes, Greek restaurants, and Italian social clubs.

3.6 — Challenges in Maintaining Old World Customs in America

  • The passage of time impacted these preservation efforts and they faded.
  • Despite efforts to conserve their cultural heritage, the children of immigrants grew up speaking fluent English.
  • They sometimes made fun of their parents’ broken English.
  • Many second-generation immigrants rejected their parents’ Old Country manners and embraced American culture, aiming to assimilate fully into mainstream American life.

4. Reactions to the New Immigration

The Federal Government provided little assistance for immigrants, so they turned to local politicians like William “Boss” Tweed for help. In return, the immigrants provided the votes needed to keep the bosses in office, which was a key part of the Spoils System. As the awareness of poor living conditions and poverty in cities increased, organizations were created to help people find stability. Champions of the poor, such as Jane Addams and Florence Kelley worked to bring social issues to the forefront and create more opportunities in society for women.

4.1 — Political Machines and Bosses

  • America’s government system, developed in rural areas, was not well-suited for the rapidly growing cities.
  • The federal government offered minimal assistance in immigrant assimilation, focusing primarily on screening for criminals and the mentally ill.
  • State governments, often dominated by rural representatives, did little, and city governments were overwhelmed by urban growth.
  • Immigrant assistance was mainly provided by urban political machines led by bosses like New York’s William “Boss” Tweed, who controlled Tammany Hall.
William M. Boss Tweed, Brady, NA
William “Boss” Tweed. Image Source: National Archives.

4.2 — Political Machines Addressed Immigrant Needs

  • Political bosses leveraged jobs, services, and housing to gain the loyalty of thousands of immigrant followers in exchange for their votes.
  • Bosses helped immigrants with food, clothing, minor legal issues, and the construction of essential infrastructure in immigrant neighborhoods.
  • While reformers criticized this exploitation, political bosses provided valuable assistance that no other source offered.

4.3 — The Social Gospel

  • Several Protestant clergymen, including Walter Rauschenbusch and Washington Gladden, played a prominent role in addressing the challenges faced by immigrant communities in cities.
  • They advocated the application of Christian principles to improve the living conditions in slums and factories.
  • These clergymen preached the “social gospel,” emphasizing that the Sermon on the Mount could guide society, and some even predicted that Christianity would lead to socialism.
  • Their efforts raised awareness among the middle class and contributed to the progressive reform movement in the early 20th Century.

4.4 — Jane Addams

  • Jane Addams, born into a prosperous Illinois family, was among the first college-educated women of her generation.
  • She sought outlets for her talents beyond traditional roles like teaching or charitable volunteer work.
  • In 1889, inspired by a visit to England, she established Hull House in Chicago, a prominent American settlement house.
  • Despite her soft-spoken demeanor, Addams gained recognition as a prominent reformer and was admired as an urban American saint.
  • William James, the philosopher, praised her for speaking the truth that others sought in vain.
  • Addams was a broad-gauge reformer who condemned both war and poverty, eventually winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.
  • However, her pacifism also led to criticism and expulsion from organizations like the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Jane Addams, 1906, Portrait, NPG
Jane Addams. Image Source: National Portrait Gallery.

4.5 — Hull House and Settlement Houses

  • Hull House, located in an immigrant neighborhood, provided services like English instruction, counseling, childcare, and cultural activities.
  • Other cities followed her lead in establishing settlement houses, including Lillian Wald’s Henry Street Settlement in New York, founded in 1893.

4.6 — Settlement Houses and Social Reform

  • Settlement Houses played a central role in women’s activism and social reform.
  • The women of Hull House successfully advocated for an Illinois antisweatshop law in 1893, protecting women workers and prohibiting child labor.
  • Florence Kelley, a prominent figure at Hull House, was a lifelong advocate for women, children, blacks, and consumers, known for her socialist insights and passionate voice.
  • She later served as the general secretary of the National Consumers League.

4.7 — Pioneering Women Reformers

  • Jane Addams, Lillian Wald, and Florence Kelley paved the way for women, and some men, to enter the new field of social work.
  • Their work in reform demonstrated that the city offered opportunities for women similar to how the wilderness had been a frontier for men.

4.8 — New Opportunities for Women

  • Urbanization created fresh possibilities for women in the workforce, with over a million women joining in the 1890s.
  • Social norms dictated which women could work and the types of jobs they could hold.
  • Married women were discouraged from working, so the majority of working women were single.
  • Job opportunities varied based on factors like race, ethnicity, and social class.
  • Black women had limited opportunities beyond domestic service, while native-born women often held white-collar positions like social workers, secretaries, department store clerks, and telephone operators.
  • Immigrant women tended to concentrate in specific industries, such as Jewish women in the garment trades.
  • Although working conditions were often challenging, jobs provided working women with some economic and social independence.
  • After contributing to their families’ finances, many women still had enough income to enjoy social activities like excursions to amusement parks and Saturday night dances with friends.

5. Narrowing the Welcome Mat

A movement against immigration surged in the 1880s. “Native” Americans blamed immigrants for many of society’s troubles, including unemployment, low wages, and the spread of socialist ideology. Congress responded by passing laws that placed restrictions on immigration, including the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Chinese Worker, Central Pacific Railroad
Photograph of a Chinese worker on the Central Pacific Railroad. Image Source: Stanford Libraries.

5.1 — The Rise of Nativism

  • Anti-foreignism, or “nativism,” had previously been directed at Irish and German immigrants in the 1840s and 1850s but gained renewed strength in the 1880s.
  • The New Immigrants, coming from Eastern and Southern Europe, faced a hostile reception from nativists who viewed them as culturally and religiously exotic.
  • Concerns arose about the high birthrate of these immigrants and the fear of the Anglo-Saxon stock being outbred and mongrelized.

5.2 — Anti-Immigration Sentiment

  • “Native” Americans feared the immigrants’ impact on urban government and blamed them for degradation.
  • Trade unionists criticized the newcomers for accepting low wages and bringing dangerous ideologies like socialism, communism, and anarchism.
  • Some business leaders, initially welcoming cheap labor, began to fear the consequences of their actions.
  • Anti-foreign organizations like the American Protective Association (APA) emerged, advocating voting against Roman Catholic candidates and promoting inflammatory publications.

5.3 — Organized Labor and Immigration

  • Organized labor supported efforts to restrict the influx of foreigners.
  • Immigrants were often used as strikebreakers and were difficult to unionize due to language barriers.
  • Labor leaders argued that just as American industry deserved protection from foreign goods, American workers should be protected from foreign laborers.

5.4 — Congress Restricts Immigration

  • In 1882, Congress passed the first restrictive law, barring entry for paupers, criminals, and convicts, requiring their return at the shipper’s expense.
  • In 1885, Congress responded to labor concerns by prohibiting the importation of foreign workers under contract, often offering substandard wages.
  • Subsequent federal laws expanded the list of undesirables to include the insane, polygamists, prostitutes, alcoholics, anarchists, and individuals with contagious diseases.
  • A proposed literacy test, favored by nativists, was not enacted until 1917, after facing opposition and vetoes from three presidents who argued that literacy measured opportunity more than intelligence.

5.5 — The Chinese Exclusion Act

  • In 1882, a law was enacted to completely exclude one ethnic group: the Chinese.
  • Before this, America had officially welcomed oppressed and underprivileged individuals of all races and creeds.
  • After this law, the gates were closed to both “defective undesirables” and the Chinese.

5.6 — The Statue of Liberty

  • In 1886, the Statue of Liberty was erected in New York Harbor, a gift from France to the United States.
  • The statue’s base featured an inscription by Emma Lazarus, emphasizing the nation’s historical welcome to those seeking freedom and opportunity, including the tired, poor, and huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
Statue of Liberty, 1886, Unveiling, Moran
Unveiling The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World, 1886, by Edward Moran. Image Source: Wikimedia.

5.7 — Contributions of the New Immigrants to American Progress

  • Nativists often viewed the Statue of Liberty’s inscription as an accurate description of the “scum” brought by the New Immigrants.
  • However, these uprooted immigrants, unlike those with earlier ancestry in the United States, became citizens through a more challenging path.
  • New immigrants arrived as adults, often strong and ready to contribute to the nation’s industrial development.
  • The nation owes a significant debt to these latecomers for their physical strength, intelligence, courage, and the diverse perspectives they added to American society.

6. Churches Confront the Urban Challenge

Immigration and urbanization created challenges for the Protestant churches in America, as they were faced with an increase in dissenting viewpoints, including Jews and Catholics. To spread Christianity and provide support for the poor, new organizations were founded, including the YMCA, YWCA, and the Salvation Army.

6.1 — New Challenges for Religion

  • The urbanization of America presented significant challenges to its churches, which had originated in rural settings.
  • Protestant churches, in particular, struggled to adapt to the city’s changing character, as many of their traditional doctrines and approaches seemed out of touch.
  • Some affluent churches appeared more focused on being sacred diversions or amusements than addressing social and economic issues.
  • Prominent figures like John D. Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan were associated with specific churches but were not known for taking strong stands against societal vices.
  • Concerns grew among religious leaders about the moral decline, materialism, and the emphasis on wealth as a measure of success.
JP Morgan, Titan of Business, Gilded Age, Portrait
JP Morgan (1903), during the Gilded Age. Image Source: Wikimedia.

6.2 — Dwight L. Moody

  • A new generation of urban revivalists, led by figures like Dwight Lyman Moody, stepped into the moral void created by these challenges.
  • Moody, a former shoe salesman, preached a message of kindness and forgiveness and conducted revival campaigns in various American cities in the 1870s and 1880s.
  • His powerful preaching style attracted large audiences, to the extent that special trolley tracks had to be laid in Brooklyn to accommodate the crowds.
  • Moody’s work continued through the Moody Bible Institute, founded in Chicago in 1889, even after he died in 1899.

6.3 — Growth of Roman Catholic and Jewish Faiths

  • The Roman Catholic and Jewish faiths gained strength from the New Immigration.
  • By 1900, Roman Catholics had become the largest single denomination, with nearly 9 million communicants.
  • These groups maintained a more relatable connection with their followers compared to some leading Protestant churches.
  • Cardinal Gibbons, a prominent urban Catholic leader known for his devotion to American unity, was popular among both Roman Catholics and Protestants.
  • He had close relationships with multiple U.S. presidents and used his influence to support the American labor movement.
  • By 1890, Americans had a wide array of religious choices, with around 150 religious denominations available.

6.4 — The Salvation Army

  • Among the newcomers to the religious scene was the Salvation Army, originating in England in 1879, known for its street-corner presence and appeal to marginalized individuals.
  • The Salvation Army made a practical impact, particularly through its provision of free soup to those in need.

6.5 — Christian Science Movement

  • Mary Baker Eddy founded the Church of Christ, Scientist, also known as Christian Science, in 1879, following her struggles with health.
  • She propagated the belief that true Christianity could heal sickness, expounded in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (1875), which achieved remarkable sales of 400,000 copies during her lifetime.
  • Eddy’s teachings found a receptive audience in America’s fast-paced, stressed, and urbanized society, offering hope for relief from discord and diseases through prayer as practiced in Christian Science.
  • By her death in 1910, Eddy had established an influential church with several hundred thousand devoted followers.

6.6 — YMCA and YWCE

  • Urban dwellers participated in a new form of religious-affiliated organization, the Young Men’s and Women’s Christian Associations.
  • The YMCA and YWCA, which had their roots in the United States before the Civil War, experienced significant growth.
  • These organizations combined physical and educational activities with religious instruction, making them a presence in nearly every major American city by the end of the 19th century.

7. Darwin Disrupts the Churches

Immigration and urbanization also created challenges on a theological level, as men like Charles Darwin and Robert G. Ingersoll presented theories that clashed with religion.

7.1 — Challenges to Traditional Beliefs

  • Traditional religion faced challenges from contemporary developments, including the rising popularity of books on comparative religion and historical criticism of the Bible.
  • Particularly unsettling for religious conservatives was Charles Darwin’s 1859 work, On the Origin of Species, in which he introduced the controversial theory of evolution, suggesting that humans had evolved gradually from lower life forms, encapsulated in the phrase “survival of the fittest.”
  • The theory of evolution raised questions about the literal interpretation of the Bible’s account of creation in six days.

7.2 — Theologians Respond to Darwin

  • Theological debates over Darwinism caused divisions within churches and educational institutions in the post-Civil War period.
  • “Fundamentalists” staunchly defended the Bible as the inspired and infallible Word of God, condemning Darwin’s theory as the “bestial hypothesis.”
  • In contrast, “Modernists” rejected the Bible as a complete source of history and science, leading to a split within religious circles.

7.3 — Ongoing Influence of Darwinism

  • Over time, an increasing number of liberal thinkers managed to harmonize the theory of evolution with their Christian beliefs.
  • They viewed Darwinism as a new and profound revelation of the ways of the Divine, reconciling science and religion.
  • The advent of Darwinism played a significant role in eroding religious convictions and fostering disbelief, particularly among those who had been exposed to a multitude of religious teachings.

7.4 — Robert G. Ingersoll

  • A prominent figure during this era who openly espoused skepticism and was widely criticized for it was Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll.
  • Ingersoll was a charismatic orator who delivered lectures on subjects like “Some Mistakes of Moses” and “Why I Am an Agnostic,” openly challenging orthodox religious beliefs.
  • While Ingersoll possessed great oratory skills and might have pursued a successful career in politics, his provocative attacks on organized religion, characterized by his phrase “giving hell hell,” hindered his political prospects.

8. The Lust for Learning

Immigration and urbanization created a shift toward public education, not only for children but also for adults. This led to an increase in literacy rates.

8.1 — Expansion of Public Education

  • Tax-supported elementary schools, established nationwide before the Civil War, continued to gain support.
  • Compulsory grade-school education was adopted by more states from around 1870, helping combat child labor.
  • The proliferation of high schools was particularly noteworthy, with their numbers reaching approximately six thousand by 1900.
  • Taxpayers increasingly provided free textbooks during the late nineteenth century.
  • The expansion of teacher-training schools, known as “normal schools,” was remarkable, growing from twelve in 1860 to over three hundred in 1910.
  • Kindergartens, originally imported from Germany, gained popularity.
  • The New Immigration in the 1880s and 1890s bolstered private Catholic parochial schools, becoming a significant part of the nation’s educational landscape.

8.2 — Chautauqua Movement

  • Public schools primarily benefited children, leaving millions of adults without educational opportunities.
  • The Chautauqua Movement, initiated in 1874 at Lake Chautauqua, New York, aimed to address this deficiency.
  • The movement achieved considerable success through nationwide public lectures, frequently conducted in tents, and featuring prominent speakers, including the humorous Mark Twain.
  • Chautauqua also offered extensive home study courses, with 100,000 people enrolling in these programs in 1892 alone.

8.3 — Improved Literacy Rates

  • Despite the issues in crowded cities, they generally offered better educational resources compared to the old one-room, one-teacher red schoolhouses.
  • The success of public schools is evident in the decline of the illiteracy rate from 20% in 1870 to 10.7% in 1900.
  • Americans were increasingly placing their faith in formal education as the ultimate solution to their problems, although this belief was sometimes misplaced.

9. Booker T. Washington and Education for Black People

Immigration and urbanization had an impact on the black population in America. Men like Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois looked to provide opportunities to educate African Americans but differed in their approaches, based on their personal experience.

Booker T Washington, Portrait, LOC
Booker T. Washington. Image Source: Library of Congress.

9.1 — Education in the South

  • The South, devastated by the effects of war and poverty, significantly lagged behind other regions in terms of public education.
  • African Americans faced severe challenges, with a striking 44% illiteracy rate among nonwhites in 1900.
  • Some assistance came from philanthropists in the North, but the primary advocate for black education was Booker T. Washington, a former slave who had experienced extreme hardships in his pursuit of education.

9.2 — Black Normal and Industrial School

  • In 1881, Booker T. Washington took on the leadership of the Black Normal and Industrial School at Tuskegee, Alabama, which started with 40 students in a dilapidated building.
  • Washington’s approach emphasized teaching black students practical trades to empower them with skills, self-respect, and economic stability.
  • His approach, often termed “accommodationist,” refrained from directly challenging white supremacy and didn’t focus on social equality.
  • Instead, Washington accepted segregation, aiming to gradually develop economic and educational resources within the black community, ultimately seeing economic independence as the path to achieving political and civil rights for African Americans.

9.1 — George Washington Carver

  • Washington’s dedication to providing practical education to young black students at Tuskegee Institute influenced the school’s curriculum.
  • George Washington Carver, who had been born into slavery, joined the faculty of Tuskegee Institute in 1896.
  • Carver gained international fame as an agricultural chemist, significantly contributing to the southern economy.
  • His groundbreaking work included discovering numerous innovative uses for previously overlooked crops such as the peanut (e.g., for shampoo and axle grease), sweet potato (for vinegar), and soybean (for paint).

9.2 — W.E.B. Du Bois

WEB DuBois, 1907, NPG
W.E.B. Du Bois. Image Source: National Portrait Gallery.
  • Other prominent black leaders, including Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, criticized Booker T. Washington, accusing him of perpetuating racial inequality.
  • Du Bois, a Massachusetts native with a diverse heritage, was the first African American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard.
  • He advocated for complete equality for black Americans, both socially and economically, and played a pivotal role in the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1910.
  • Du Bois rejected Washington’s approach of gradualism and separatism, instead emphasizing the need for the “talented tenth” of the black community to have full and immediate integration into American society.
  • Du Bois, known for his expertise in history, sociology, and poetry, passed away in Africa in 1963 at the age of 95, having spent much of his life in self-exile.
  • The differences between Du Bois and Washington were shaped by the distinct life experiences of southern and northern black communities.

10. The Hallowed Halls of Ivy

Immigration and urbanization led to an increase in opportunities for higher learning in America. The Morrill Act and private donations helped establish new colleges, providing opportunities for men and women, including African Americans, to earn a college degree.

10.1 — College Opportunities for Women and Minorities

  • College education became increasingly important for achieving success.
  • Women’s access to education expanded significantly, with women’s colleges like Vassar gaining ground and universities becoming coeducational, particularly in the Midwest.
  • By 1900, one in four college graduates was a woman.
  • Black institutions established during Reconstruction evolved into southern black colleges, including Howard University, Hampton Institute, and Atlanta University.
  • These black colleges played a crucial role in providing higher education for black Americans until the civil rights movement enabled attendance at white institutions.

10.2 — Morrill Act of 1862 and Land Grant Colleges

  • The Morrill Act was passed during the secession of the South and granted public lands to states to support education.
  • “Land Grant Colleges” were established, many of which later became state universities.
  • These colleges were committed to providing specific services, such as military training.
  • The Hatch Act of 1887 extended the Morrill Act and provided federal funding for agricultural experiment stations at land-grant colleges.

10.3 — Philanthropy and Higher Education

  • Industrial millionaires, driven by social conscience, donated substantial fortunes to educational causes.
  • From 1878 to 1898, these philanthropists gave approximately $150 million to educational endeavors.
  • Notable new private universities included Cornell (1865) and Leland Stanford Junior (1891), founded in memory of a railroad tycoon’s deceased child.
  • The University of Chicago (1892) quickly rose to prominence, partly due to John D. Rockefeller’s financial contributions, totaling around $550 million.

10.4 — John Hopkins University

  • Specialized institutions, equipped with modern laboratories, expanded rapidly.
  • Johns Hopkins University, established in 1876, stood out as the nation’s first high-quality graduate school.
  • American scholars, previously attending German universities, were attracted to Johns Hopkins, which continued the Germanic tradition of comprehensive scholarly works.
  • Scholars no longer needed to travel abroad for prestigious graduate degrees, with figures like Dr. Woodrow Wilson earning their Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins.

11. The March of the Mind

Immigration and urbanization led to advances in college curricula, medicine, and scientific studies.

11.1 — Elective Courses in College

  • The classical curriculum in colleges was in decline due to industrialization’s demand for practical courses and specialized scientific training.
  • The elective system, allowing students to choose courses, gained popularity.
  • Dr. Charles W. Eliot, as president of Harvard College, played a pivotal role in promoting the elective system and reshaping education.

11.2 — Medical Advances During the Gilded Age

  • Medical schools and medical science thrived after the Civil War.
  • Despite the sale of patent medicines and remedies, scientific progress led to improved public health.
  • Discoveries by scientists like Louis Pasteur and Joseph Lister abroad influenced American practices.
  • Efforts to promote public health, including campaigns against spitting in public, contributed to increased life expectancy at birth.

11.3 — William James

  • William James, a prominent American intellectual, served on the Harvard faculty for 35 years.
  • His work, including Principles of Psychology (1890), helped establish behavioral psychology.
  • He explored the philosophy and psychology of religion in The Will to Believe (1897) and Varieties of Religious Experience (1902).
  • James is renowned for Pragmatism (1907), which emphasized testing truth through practical consequences and action.

12. The Appeal of the Press

Immigration and urbanization contributed to increased literacy, which allowed for the growth of libraries. Initially, newspapers struggled but embraced sensationalism as a way to improve sales and distribution. Men like Joseph Pulitzer and Willam Randolph Hearst transformed the industry through the use of “Yellow Journalism,” which also contributed to the outbreak of the Spanish-American War.

12.1 — Libraries and Literature

  • Books remained a significant source of education and enjoyment for both young and adult readers.
  • Bestsellers of the 1880s included classics like David Copperfield and Ivanhoe.
  • Public libraries, often referred to as the “poor person’s university,” saw encouraging progress, particularly in Boston and New York.
  • The Library of Congress building, opened in 1897, became the largest and costliest library structure globally.
  • Andrew Carnegie’s generous contributions, totaling $60 million, supported the construction of public libraries across the country.
  • By 1900, there were approximately nine thousand free circulating libraries in the United States, each with a minimum of three hundred books.
Andrew Carnegie, Titan of Business, Gilded Age, Gospel of Wealth, NPG
Andrew Carnegie (1905), during the Gilded Age. Image Source: National Portrait Gallery.

12.2 — The Rise of Sensationalism in Entertainment

  • Newspaper presses, driven by the invention of the Linotype in 1885, efficiently met the growing demand for information. However, there was a concern about maintaining revenue from advertisers and subscribers.
  • The era of aggressive editorial content, characterized by figures like Horace Greeley, was declining. Feature articles and noncontroversial syndicated material were becoming more common in place of confrontational editorials.
  • Sensationalism became popular among the public due to factors like semiliterate immigrants and urban commuters.
  • This trend led to the demand for news that was written in a simple and punchy style.
  • Sensational topics such as sex, scandal, and human-interest stories started making headlines.
  • Critics lamented the rise of sensationalism and referred to some newspapers as “presstitutes.”

12.5 — The Newspaper Tycoons

  • Joseph Pulitzer, originally from Hungary and partially blind, was a pioneer in sensational journalism, particularly with the New York World.
  • He used colored comic supplements, featuring the “Yellow Kid,” which led to the term “yellow journalism” for his sensational newspapers.
  • William Randolph Hearst, who had been expelled from Harvard College, built a powerful chain of newspapers, starting with the San Francisco Examiner in 1887.
  • Both Pulitzer and Hearst championed some worthy causes but also resorted to sensationalism and scandal in their quest for higher circulation.

12.6 — Effects of Sensationalism and Yellow Journalism

  • While both Pulitzer and Hearst supported various noble causes, they also compromised journalistic integrity in pursuit of higher readership.
  • They were known for their penchant for scandal and sensational stories.
  • The negative impact of their sensationalism was somewhat mitigated by the introduction of syndicated material and the strengthening of the Associated Press, founded in the 1840s, for news gathering.

13. Apostles of Reform

Immigration and urbanization led to the publication of new media in the form of magazines, which were used to spread ideas about social reform in America.

13.1 — Establishment of Magazines

  • Magazines like Harper’s Weekly, the Atlantic Monthly, and Scribner’s Monthly satisfied the public’s appetite for quality reading.
  • The New York Nation, founded by Edwin L. Godkin in 1865, was highly influential, particularly among intellectuals like professors, preachers, and publicists.
  • The Nation crusaded for civil service reform, government honesty, and moderate tariffs.
  • Although it had a modest circulation of about 10,000, Godkin aimed to reach the right 10,000 leaders to influence the broader population.

13.2 — Henry George and Wealth Distribution

  • Henry George became an influential thinker and writer, despite limited formal education.
  • His treatise “Progress and Poverty” sought to explain the association of progress with poverty and proposed a 100% tax on unearned land profits to address economic inequalities.
  • Initially, his ideas were rejected by publishers due to their controversial nature, but the book eventually became a best-seller, selling around 3 million copies.
  • George’s lectures in the United States and Britain influenced discussions on wealth distribution.

13.3 — Edward Bellamy and Bellamy Clubs

  • Edward Bellamy published the socialist novel “Looking Backward” in 1888.
  • The novel features a protagonist who awakens in the year 2000 and finds that social and economic injustices have been eliminated through the nationalization of big business.
  • The book, addressing concerns about trusts, sold over a million copies and sparked the formation of Bellamy Clubs.
  • These clubs discussed the book’s utopian socialism and had a significant influence on American reform movements at the end of the 19th century.

14. Postwar Writing

Immigration and urbanization increased the need for entertainment. Writers responded with “Dime Novels,” but also produced works that responded to the social and political issues of the Gilded Age.

14.1 — Dime Novels for Entertainment

  • As literacy rates rose, book reading became more popular in post-Civil War America.
  • “Dime Novels” were widely read and often depicted adventures in the Wild West, featuring Indians, gunmen like “Deadwood Dick,” and the triumph of virtue.
  • While parents disapproved of these paperbacks, young readers often hid them.
  • Harlan F. Halsey was a prolific dime novelist who wrote around 650 novels, sometimes completing one in a single day.

14.2 — Lew Wallace and Ben Hur

  • General Lewis Wallace, a lawyer, soldier, and author, sought to combat Darwinian skepticism with his novel Ben Hur, published in 1880.
  • The book became a massive success, selling approximately 2 million copies in multiple languages, including Arabic and Chinese.
  • It was seen as a counter to Darwinism and a support for the Holy Scriptures.

14.3 — Horatio Alger and Juvenile Fiction

  • Horatio Alger, a Puritan-reared New Englander, shifted from the pulpit to writing in 1866.
  • He authored over 100 volumes of juvenile fiction, selling more than 100 million copies.
  • Alger’s stories emphasized that virtue, honesty, and industry would lead to success, wealth, and honor.
  • His works promoted the idea that there is always room at the top, especially if one saves the life of the boss’s daughter and marries her, despite criticism of Alger’s own bachelor life.

14.4 — Walt Whitman

  • Walt Whitman, despite his shattered health from serving as a Civil War nurse, continued to revise his famous work, “Leaves of Grass.”
  • He was inspired by the Assassination of President Abraham Lincoln to write two poignant poems, “O Captain! My Captain!” and “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d.”
Walt Whitman, 1887, Portrait, LOC
Walt Whitman. Image Source: Library of Congress.

14.5 — Emily Dickinson

  • Emily Dickinson, a reclusive Massachusetts poet, did not gain recognition until after she died in 1886 when her poems were discovered.
  • She wrote over a thousand short lyrics on scraps of paper but only allowed two to be published during her lifetime.

14.6 — Sidney Lanier

  • Sidney Lanier, a southern poet, experienced poverty and ill health and was torn between his love for flute playing and poetry.
  • Despite his challenges, he wrote some of his best poems while battling tuberculosis with a high fever of 104 degrees.
  • One of his notable works is “The Marshes of Glynn,” a poem that reflects the tension between Darwinism and orthodox religion at the time.

15. Literary Landmarks

Immigration and urbanization led to more realistic works of fiction that incorporated events the average American was familiar with. Some authors also broke new ground in American literature by dealing with controversial topics.

15.1 — Realism in Literature

  • American authors began to move away from romantic sentimentality and embraced rugged realism that portrayed the materialism of an industrial society.
  • They turned to the coarse human comedy and drama of their contemporary world for inspiration.

15.2 — Kate Chopin

  • Kate Chopin, a feminist author with connections to the South, addressed taboo topics such as adultery, suicide, and women’s ambitions in her work, The Awakening (1899).
  • While largely ignored during her time, later readers rediscovered her, recognizing her writing as suggestive of suppressed feminist sentiments during the Gilded Age

15.3 — Mark Twain

  • Mark Twain, born Samuel Langhorne Clemens, gained fame with early works like The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County (1867).
  • He co-authored The Gilded Age (1873) with Charles Dudley Warner, a satirical work that gave its name to the era.
  • Twain, known for his mustache, had limited formal education in frontier Missouri and represented a new breed of American authors who rebelled against the refined writing style of the old New England school.
  • He took the pen name “Mark Twain” from the boatman’s cry that signified two fathoms.
  • His masterpieces are The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884).
  • Twain’s later years were marred by financial difficulties resulting from unwise investments, leading him to engage in lectures to support himself.
  • In 1907, he received an honorary degree from Oxford University, a tribute to his self-taught genius and his contribution to American literature and culture.
Mark Twain, 1905, Portrait, LOC
Mark Twain. Image Source: Library of Congress.

15.5 — Bret Harte

  • Bret Harte, originally from New York and later based in California, achieved fame and fortune with gold rush stories, such as The Luck of Roaring Camp and The Outcasts of Poker Flat.
  • While catapulted into notoriety by these stories, Harte struggled to match their success in subsequent works.
  • He spent his final years in London, where he worked as a writer but did not regain his previous level of acclaim.

15.6 — William Dean Howells

  • William Dean Howells, the son of a printer from Ohio, had limited formal education but rose to prominence in literary circles.
  • He became the editor-in-chief of the prestigious Atlantic Monthly in 1871 and received honorary degrees from six universities, including Oxford.
  • Howells wrote about ordinary people and tackled contemporary and sometimes controversial social themes in his works.
  • A Modern Instance (1882) addressed divorce, while The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885) explored the challenges faced by a newly wealthy paint manufacturer in Brahmin Boston.
  • A Hazard of New Fortunes (1890) depicted reformers, strikers, and Socialists in Gilded Age New York.

15.7 — Stephen Crane

  • Stephen Crane, the 14th son of a Methodist minister, delved into the gritty aspects of urban, industrial life in America.
  • Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (1893) depicted the harsh life of a prostitute who ultimately commits suicide. The grim nature of the story made it difficult to find a publisher, leading Crane to print it privately.
  • Crane gained rapid recognition with The Red Badge of Courage (1895), a compelling narrative about a young Civil War recruit experiencing the horrors of battle.
  • Remarkably, Crane had never witnessed a battle himself and relied solely on printed Civil War records for his portrayal.
  • He died from tuberculosis in 1900, at the age of 29.

15.8 — Henry James

  • Henry James, the brother of Harvard philosopher William James, was a New Yorker who transitioned from law to a literary career.
  • His prominent theme centered around the encounter of innocent Americans with sophisticated Europeans.
  • James authored several influential novels, including Daisy Miller (1879), The Portrait of a Lady (1881), and The Wings of the Dove (1902).
  • The Bostonians (1886) was among the earliest novels to include the emerging feminist movement.
  • James frequently featured women as central characters, skillfully delving into their inner reactions within complex situations, showcasing his mastery of “psychological realism.”
  • Having resided in England for an extended period, he became a British subject shortly before he died in 1916.

15.9 — Literature and Social Issues

  • By the turn of the century, literary works began candidly portraying contemporary life and addressing social issues.
  • Jack London (1876–1916), known for his nature writing, shifted to depict a potential fascist revolution in The Iron Heel (1907).
  • Frank Norris (1870–1902), also from California, authored The Octopus (1901), a narrative about the railroad’s stranglehold and corrupt politicians’ influence over California wheat ranchers.
  • Norris followed with The Pit (1903), focusing on the activities of speculators on the Chicago wheat exchange.

15.10 — Paul Laurence Dunbar and Charles W. Chesnutt

  • Two black writers, Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872–1906) and Charles W. Chesnutt (1858–1932), made significant contributions to late-19th-century literature.
  • Dunbar used poetry, notably Lyrics of Lowly Life (1896), to embrace black dialect and folklore, previously avoided by black authors, capturing the vibrancy of southern black culture.
  • Chesnutt employed fiction, including short stories published in the Atlantic Monthly and The Conjure Women (1899), to achieve similar aims by incorporating black dialect and folklore.

15.11 — Theodore Dreiser

  • Theodore Dreiser (1871–1945), an Indiana native, stood out among the emerging “social novelists.”
  • In 1900, he gained recognition with Sister Carrie, a vividly realistic narrative portraying the life of a poor working girl in Chicago and New York.
  • The fictional Carrie’s disregard for prevailing moral standards initially led to the withdrawal of the book from circulation due to publisher objections.
  • Despite this setback, the book resurfaced as a celebrated American classic.

16. The New Morality

Immigration and urbanization led to a clash over what was acceptable to openly discuss in society, including adultery and sexuality, especially for women.

16.1 — Victoria Woodhull

  • Victoria Woodhull, a real person, created a sensation in 1871 when she publicly advocated the concept of free love.
  • She was an attractive and articulate divorcée, at times a stockbroker, and an enthusiastic feminist advocate.
  • Woodhull and her sister, Tennessee Claflin, published the unconventional periodical Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly.
  • In 1872, the sisters further shocked society by accusing Henry Ward Beecher, a renowned preacher, of engaging in an adulterous affair.

16.2 — Anthony Comstock and Comstock’s Law

  • Pure-minded Americans strongly resisted these challenges to their moral values.
  • Anthony Comstock, a stout crusader, took it upon himself to combat what he considered “immoral” behavior.
  • After 1873, armed with the federal “Comstock Law,” he confiscated a significant number of “obscene pictures and photos,” items associated with abortionists, and “obscene pictures” displayed in saloons.
  • Comstock claimed to have driven at least 15 people to commit suicide in his zealous pursuit of his mission.

16.3 — Changes in Attitudes Regarding the Role of Women in Society

  • The actions of the Woodhull sisters and Anthony Comstock brought to the surface the ongoing struggle in late-nineteenth-century America concerning sexual attitudes and the status of women.
  • In the booming cities, switchboards and typewriters became tools of women’s liberation.
  • Economic independence contributed to greater sexual freedom, leading to the emergence of the “new morality.”
  • This shift was reflected in increasing divorce rates, the adoption of birth control practices, and more open discussions of sexual topics.
  • By 1913, some argued that America had embraced a more open attitude towards sexuality.

17. Families and Women in the City

17.1 — Challenges for Families in Cites

  • Urban life in the late nineteenth century posed difficulties for families.
  • Despite the close physical proximity in crowded cities, urban families often felt emotionally isolated and had to navigate life without the support of extended family and community.
  • Families became the primary source of intimate companionship and emotional fulfillment, but this role subjected them to unprecedented stress.
  • The strain on families contributed to the rise of divorce, marking the beginning of the “divorce revolution” that reshaped American society in the twentieth century.

17.2 — Cities Contribute to the Decrease in Family Size

  • Urbanization brought about shifts in work patterns and family size.
  • Not only fathers but mothers and even children as young as ten often had to work, often in various locations.
  • While on the farm, having more children meant more help with labor, in the city, it meant more mouths to feed, crowded living conditions, and increased challenges in the quest for social mobility.
  • Consequently, birthrates declined, family sizes shrank, marriages were delayed, and more couples practiced birth control.
  • These trends were not limited to urban areas but also affected rural Americans and both old-stock “natives” and new immigrant groups.

17.3 — Rise in the Independence of Women

  • Women in urban areas were becoming more independent.
  • In 1898, feminist thinker Charlotte Perkins Gilman published Women and Economics, a seminal work in feminist literature.
  • Gilman, a relative of Harriet Beecher Stowe and Catharine Beecher, possessed the reformist spirit characteristic of the Beecher family.
  • She emphasized the importance of women abandoning their dependent status and contributing to the community through economic involvement.
  • Rejecting the idea that biology made women fundamentally different from men, Gilman advocated for centralized nurseries and cooperative kitchens to enable women’s participation in the workforce, anticipating the development of daycare centers and convenience food services in the future.

17.4 — Voting Rights for Women and Minorities

  • Feminists had been advocating for women’s suffrage since before the Civil War.
  • However, during the post-Civil War period, some female reformers temporarily shifted their focus to fighting for the rights of black individuals.
  • In 1890, militant suffragists established the National American Woman Suffrage Association.
  • Founders included early pioneers like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, who had been involved in women’s rights activism since the mid-19th century.
  • The Seneca Falls Convention, held in 1848, is considered to be where the Women’s Rights Movement started. Stanton and Lucretia Mott helped organize the event, and Sojourner Truth may have been in attendance.
Susan B. Anthony, Portrait, LOC
Susan B. Anthony. Image Source: Library of Congress.

17.5 — Carrie Chapmatt Catt and Woman Suffrage

  • By 1900, a new generation of women had taken charge of the suffrage movement.
  • One of the most effective leaders was Carrie Chapman Catt, known for her pragmatic and businesslike approach.
  • Catt shifted the suffragist argument away from the idea that women deserved the vote as a matter of inherent equality with men.
  • Instead, she emphasized the importance of women having the vote to fulfill their traditional roles as homemakers and mothers in the increasingly public urban environment.
  • The argument highlighted women’s responsibilities for family health and children’s education.
  • In the city, women needed a voice in public health, police commissions, and school boards to fulfill these roles effectively.

17.6 — Expansion of Women’s Rights

  • Suffragists made progress as the new century began, despite facing opposition, including rotten eggs and criticism from male critics.
  • Women were increasingly allowed to vote in local elections, particularly those related to education.
  • Wyoming Territory, later known as “the Equality State,” granted unrestricted suffrage to women in 1869, setting an important precedent.
  • Many other states followed Wyoming’s example in granting women the right to vote.
  • Concurrently, by 1890, most states had passed laws allowing wives to own or control their property after marriage.
  • The urban environment fostered the growth of numerous women’s organizations, including the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, which had around 200,000 members in 1900.

17.7 — Exclusion of Black Women

  • The revived suffrage movement and other women’s organizations excluded black women from their membership.
  • The National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) limited its membership to white women, fearing that an integrated campaign might undermine its efforts to secure the vote.

17.8 — Ida B. Wells

  • In response to this exclusion, black women took matters into their own hands and established their own associations.
  • Journalist and educator Ida B. Wells played a pivotal role in inspiring black women to launch a nationwide antilynching crusade.
  • She also contributed to the emergence of the black women’s club movement, which reached its culmination with the formation of the National Association of Colored Women in 1896.
Ida B. Wells, 1893, Portrait
Ida B. Wells. Image Source: Google Arts & Culture.

18. Prohibition of Alcohol and Social Progress

Immigration and urbanization contributed to the increase of consumption of alcohol in America and a perceived decline in family life. Various organizations were organized to bring about changes that led to the passage of the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

18.1 — Temperance Movement

  • The alarming increase in alcohol consumption, often referred to as “Demon Rum,” fueled the determination of temperance reformers.
  • The corner saloon, known as “the poor man’s club,” was a primary target of their efforts, as it perpetuated poverty within working-class families.
  • Liquor consumption had surged during the Civil War, and immigrant groups, accustomed to alcohol in their home countries, resisted temperance measures.
  • Some critics argued that temperance reform was essentially an attack by the middle class on working-class lifestyles.

18.2 — Temperance Organizations

  • The National Prohibition Party was established in 1869, advocating for temperance and gaining limited support in subsequent presidential elections.
  • The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) was founded in 1874, with Frances E. Willard as a prominent leader.
  • The WCTU used the white ribbon as a symbol of purity in its efforts to combat alcohol abuse.
  • The “Kansas Cyclone,” Carrie A. Nation, known for her violent and unconventional methods of smashing saloon bottles and bars, garnered attention but also brought disrepute to the prohibition movement.
  • The Anti-Saloon League was formed in 1893, gaining popularity through songs like “The Saloon Must Go” and “Vote for Cold Water, Boys.”
  • Female supporters of temperance sang “The Lips That Touch Liquor Must Never Touch Mine.”

18.3 — 18th Amendment to the Constitution

  • Statewide prohibition was making headway in various states, building on earlier successes in places like Maine before the Civil War.
  • The most significant victory for the temperance movement came in 1919 when the 18th Amendment was added to the Constitution.

18.4 — The American Red Cross and Other Organizations

  • In addition to the temperance movement, other social reform movements and organizations emerged.
  • The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was founded in 1866, driven by its founder’s witnessing of animal cruelty in Russia.
  • The American Red Cross was established in 1881, with Clara Barton, known for her wartime humanitarian efforts during the Civil War, serving as its leader.

19. Artistic Triumphs

Immigration and urbanization contributed to the development of a uniquely American style of art that influenced painting, music, and architecture. Technological advancements, such as the ability to record music, increased the availability of music to the masses. In the cities, skyscrapers started to appear, forever altering the landscape.

19.1 — Art in America

  • John Adams had hoped that the focus on nation-building would pave the way for the flourishing of art in the future.
  • However, the artistic results of this era were not particularly impressive.
  • Portrait painting remained a popular genre, as it had been since colonial times, but many of the country’s finest painters lived and worked abroad.

19.2 — Americans Painting in Europe

  • James Whistler, known for his famous portrait of his mother, primarily worked in England.
  • John Singer Sargent, another skilled portrait painter, also lived in England and produced flattering but somewhat superficial likenesses of British nobility.
  • Mary Cassatt, an American artist living in Paris, gained recognition for her sensitive portrayals of women and children and became part of the French impressionist painters’ circle.

19.3 — Inness, Eakins, and Homer

  • Several other talented artists enriched the artistic landscape.
  • Self-taught George Inness emerged as America’s leading landscapist, known for his distinctive appearance with long hair and a piercing gaze.
  • Thomas Eakins achieved a high degree of realism in his paintings, which was not always appreciated by portrait sitters.
  • Winslow Homer, originally from Boston, was considered one of the greatest American painters.
  • He displayed a uniquely American and resistant-to-foreign-influence style, focusing on rugged realism and bold concepts.
  • Homer excelled in portraying the power of the ocean and the lives of fisherfolk.
Battle of Yorktown, 1862, Painting, Homer
This painting by Winslow Homer depicts Union troops during the Siege of Yorktown (1862). Image Source: Yale University Art Gallery.

19.4 — Augustus Saint-Gaudens

  • Augustus Saint-Gaudens, born in Ireland to an Irish mother and French father, became an adopted American.
  • He is widely regarded as one of the most gifted American sculptors.
  • One of his notable works is the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial, erected in Boston in 1897.
  • The memorial depicts Colonel Shaw, a young white officer from a prominent Boston family, leading his black troops into battle during the Civil War.

19.5 — Development of American Music

  • Music was gaining popularity in the United States during the 1880s and 1890s.
  • High-quality symphony orchestras were forming in cities like Boston and Chicago.
  • The renowned Metropolitan Opera House was built in New York in 1883, where the newly wealthy elite would often gather to display their opulence while enjoying European music.
  • Concurrently, new strains of American music were emerging in the South, derived from black folk traditions like spirituals and “ragged music.” 
  • These traditions would evolve into blues, ragtime, and jazz, significantly impacting American popular music in the 20th century.

19.6 — Impact of Music Recording Technology

  • A significant technological advance was the ability to reproduce music mechanically.
  • The phonograph, initially imperfect when invented by Thomas Edison, had become a common household item by 1900, found in over 150,000 homes.
  • The introduction of the phonograph led to the popularization of “canned music,”  gradually replacing the traditional “sitting room” piano in many homes.

19.7 — Notable American Architects of the Gilded Age

  • Alongside Louis Sullivan, another prominent American architect of the era was Henry H. Richardson.
  • Born in Louisiana and educated at Harvard and in Paris, Richardson settled in Boston and exerted significant architectural influence across the eastern United States.
  • He popularized a distinctive ornamental style known as “Richardsonian,” characterized by high-vaulted arches reminiscent of Gothic churches.
  • His most famous work was the Marshall Field Building (1885) in Chicago, showcasing his architectural talent.
  • Richardson was known for his love of champagne, laughter, and his trademark bright yellow vests.

19.8 — The Columbian Exposition

  • A revival of classical architectural forms occurred with the Columbian Exposition, held in Chicago in 1893 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s first voyage.
  • This exposition attracted 27 million visitors and contributed to raising American artistic standards and promoting city planning.
  • However, it also had its share of attractions, including a dancer named “Little Egypt,” which drew many spectators for its sensational performances.

20. The Business of Amusement

Immigration and urbanization contributed to the development of entertainment, including theater productions, sideshow spectacles, and spectator sports.

20.1 — Leisure and Entertainment in the Gilded Age

  • The pursuit of happiness, as championed in the Declaration of Independence, had evolved into a frenzied scramble for enjoyment by the end of the century.
  • Americans eagerly sought various forms of entertainment as they had aggressively expanded across the continent.
  • With more leisure time available, people pursued pleasures with great enthusiasm.

20.2 — The Rise of Theater

  • Americans, known as “joiners,” were inclined to escape the democratic equality of society by participating in hierarchical lodges and organizations.
  • The legitimate theater remained vibrant, with appreciative audiences captivated by the allure of the stage.
  • Vaudeville, featuring a mix of coarse humor and graceful acrobatics, enjoyed immense popularity during the 1880s and 1890s.
  • In the South, minstrel shows continued to thrive, featuring black singers and dancers instead of white performers in blackface, as had been the case in the North before the Civil War.

20.3 — Barnum, Bailey, and the Greatest Show on Earth

  • The circus, characterized by its high tents and multiple rings, became a major entertainment attraction.
  • In 1881, Phineas T. Barnum, a renowned showman known for his ability to entertain the public, joined forces with James A. Bailey to create the “Greatest Show on Earth.”

20.4 — Buffalo Bill and American Wild West Shows

  • Colorful “Wild West” shows, originating in 1883, represented a uniquely American form of entertainment.
  • William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, a charismatic figure with a goatee and a penchant for drinking, led these shows.
  • The troupe featured Native American Indians, live buffalo, and sharpshooters, including Annie Oakley.
  • Oakley, known for her remarkable marksmanship, could shoot a tossed-up card multiple times from a distance of 30 paces before it reached the ground, leading to the popular term “Annie Oakley” for a punched ticket or a free pass.

20.5 — Baseball as the National Pastime

  • Baseball, a sport that had been played widely before the Civil War, was now emerging as the national pastime, if not a national obsession.
  • The formation of a professional players’ league occurred in the 1870s.
  • In 1888, an all-star baseball team embarked on a world tour, even using the pyramids as a makeshift backstop in Egypt.
  • Contrary to popular belief, General Abner Doubleday did not invent the game. It is nothing more than a myth — the “Doubleday Myth.”

20.6 — Spectator Sports and the Rise of Football.

  • A trend toward spectator sports, as opposed to participative sports, was on the rise.
  • Football, known for its rugged nature and dangerous flying wedge formation, had gained popularity before 1889.
  • Yaleman Walter C. Camp selected his first “All American” football team in 1889.
  • The Yale-Princeton football game in 1893 attracted 50,000 enthusiastic fans, while some foreigners criticized the nation for becoming overly obsessed with sports.

20.7 — Jim Corbet and Boxing

  • Even pugilism, with its history of bare-knuckle fighting, gained a newfound and gloved respectability in 1892.
  • “Gentleman Jim” Corbett, known for his scientific boxing style, defeated the aging and alcoholic John L. Sullivan to become the world champion.

20.8 — Croquet and the Bicycle

  • Two popular fads swept the country in the closing decades of the century.
  • Croquet became a widespread craze, though it faced criticism from moralists of the “naughty nineties” for exposing feminine ankles and promoting flirtation.
  • The “safety” bicycle, which had a low frame, replaced the high-seated model.
  • By 1893, there were a million bicycles in use, and the “spinning wheel” of this new bicycle offered freedom to thousands of young women.

20.9 — Invention and Spread of Basketball

  • Basketball was invented in 1891 by James Naismith, a YMCA instructor in Springfield, Massachusetts.
  • It was designed as an active indoor sport suitable for the winter months, and it quickly gained popularity in the subsequent century.

20.10 — The Development of the Nationwide American Culture

  • Despite distinct neighborhoods and workplaces based on race and ethnicity, urban Americans were increasingly sharing a common popular culture.
  • The explosion of cities paradoxically made Americans both more diverse and more similar as the 19th century came to a close.

Immigration and Urbanization Gilded Age APUSH Resources

This outline is based on the 16th edition of The American Pageant and connects to Unit 5: 1844–1877 and Unit 6: 1865–1898 of the AP US History curriculum. We are working on guides for each of these APUSH Units. When they are completed, the links will be added here.

APUSH Chapter Notes and Outlines

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations, including APA Style, Chicago Style, and MLA Style.

  • Article Title American Moves to the City
  • Date 1865–1900
  • Author
  • Keywords Gilded Age, American Moves to the City, Immigration, Urbanization, Old Immigration, New Immigration, America Fever, Birds of Passage, Political Machines, Tammany Hall, Boss Tweed, Social Gospel, Jane Addams, Hull House, Nativism, Chinese Exclusion Act, Statue of Liberty, Salvation Army, Charles Darwin, Chautauqua Movement, Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver, W.E.B. Du Bois, Morrill Act of 1862, Land Grant Colleges, Mark Twain, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Carrie Chapmatt Catt, Woman Suffrage, Ida B. Wells, Temperance Movement, Columbian Exposition, Baseball
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date April 18, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update March 19, 2024

Taxonomies