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American History 2--HIST 2112 (OER): Chapter 18: Life in Industrial America

American Yawp Chapter Summary

When British author Rudyard Kipling visited Chicago in 1889, he described a city captivated by technology and blinded by greed. He described a rushed and crowded city, a “huge wilderness” with “scores of miles of these terrible streets” and their “hundred thousand of these terrible people.” “The show impressed me with a great horror,” he wrote. “There was no color in the street and no beauty—only a maze of wire ropes overhead and dirty stone flagging under foot.” He took a cab “and the cabman said that these things were the proof of progress.” Kipling visited a “gilded and mirrored” hotel “crammed with people talking about money, and spitting about everywhere.” He visited extravagant churches and spoke with their congregants. “I listened to people who said that the mere fact of spiking down strips of iron to wood, and getting a steam and iron thing to run along them was progress, that the telephone was progress, and the net-work of wires overhead was progress. They repeated their statements again and again.” Kipling said American newspapers report “that the snarling together of telegraph-wires, the heaving up of houses, and the making of money is progress.”1

Chicago embodied the triumph of American industrialization. Its meatpacking industry typified the sweeping changes occurring in American life. The last decades of the nineteenth century, a new era for big business, saw the formation of large corporations, run by trained bureaucrats and salaried managers, doing national and international business. Chicago, for instance, became America’s butcher. The Chicago meat processing industry, a cartel of five firms, produced four-fifths of the meat bought by American consumers. Kipling described in intimate detail the Union Stock Yards, the nation’s largest meat processing zone, a square-mile just southwest of the city whose pens and slaughterhouses linked the city’s vast agricultural hinterland to the nation’s dinner tables. “Once having seen them,” he concluded, “you will never forget the sight.” Like other notable Chicago industries, such as agricultural machinery and steel production, the meatpacking industry was closely tied to urbanization and immigration. In 1850, Chicago had a population of about 30,000. Twenty years later, it had 300,000. Nothing could stop the city’s growth. The Great Chicago Fire leveled 3.5 square miles and left a third of its residents homeless in 1871, but the city quickly recovered and resumed its spectacular growth. By the turn of the twentieth century, the city was home to 1.7 million people. Read the rest of Chapter 18 from the American Yawp.

Things to Consider

Questions to be thinking about as you move through the content of this chapter

  1. How did mass transportation affect cities?  How did it affect industrialization?
  2. What factors led to urban in-migration from the countryside?
  3. Why did immigrants leave their countries and come to America?
  4. Describe the relationship between inner cities and poverty.  What types of housing problems did cities face?  Did reform efforts help?
  5. Discuss the emergence of the Jim Crow Laws in the American South.
  6. How did technology reshape the American economy?  Be sure that you can offer specific examples.
  7. Describe the role played by political machines, such as Tammany Hall in New York, in the new cities of the Gilded Age.
  8. How did the south attempt to redefine the meaning of the Civil War after Reconstruction?  Was it successful?  Why or why not?
  9. How did the economic and social changes of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries challenge traditional gender norms?
  10. Why was the development of the leisure and entertainment industries so important for urban life?  What impact did they have on urban dwellers?

Learning Objectives and Assessment

Student Learning Outcomes

  • Distinguish between primary and secondary materials and decide when to use each
  • Identify key events that define change over time in a particular place or region, and identify how change occurs over time
  • Explore the complexity of the human experience, across time and space.
  • Distinguish between historical facts and historical interpretations

Course Objectives

  • The student will be able to explain the social, economic, and political impact of the second Industrial Revolution and global migration of labor at the regional and national level of the late Nineteenth-early Twentieth Centuries.
  • The student will understand the development and impact of main ideologies, reform movements, and growth of international influence in late Nineteenth Century- early Twentieth Century World War I years.
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