The following deals with events, conflicts, and people during the years 1865-1900.
DISCLAIMER: This does NOT serve as a replacement for reading Chapter 25.
As the American Civil War came to close, a huge boom in population came to the US. More and more left the confines of rural living and came to cities. Also, loads (and I mean loads) of people immigrated to the US, mostly from Europe.
The more people, the more space needed. Cities began to build upward as huge buildings crowded the sky. The patriarch of the modern skyscraper was Chicago businessman Louis Sullivan. These huge hubs of business meant more people had to come to work from lots of places. This led to the commuter revolution.
But not only did cities become modernized, houses did as well. Electricity, indoor plumbing, and telephones now became a staple in American homes. Department stores sprung up all over the place and provided many work opportunities for women.
With the large influx of people in cities, the trash they spewed would soon become an issue. Unsanitary conditions, among criminals and horrible water made city living a living hell. But the worst of the worst came from slums. Few immigrants escaped from this hell on earth, but the few that did found refuge in ghettos among their religion or race. For example, ‘Little Italy’.
But why would all these Europeans risk everything and come to a foreign land? Most felt that Europe didn’t have enough room for them and ‘American Fever’ was a pandemic. American tycoons even went overseas to seek cheap labor in lieu of organized labor with unions. These immigrants would know little of unions and the big bosses saw them as little threat. However, some immigrants took advantage of the ‘Hit and Run’ method and quickly left the US after their wallets were filled.
Many religious and humanitarian groups saw it as their duty to take care of these new Americans. Christians recalled ‘The Sermon on the Mount’ as their calling to serve. Women, namely Jane Addams (Yes, double D’s), sought to build special ‘houses’ in which immigrants could come and learn or cope with American life. These groups also lobbied for change in legislation.
The onslaught of women social workers would lead to a boom in employment for women. This, in turn, would also lead to suffrage in 1920. However, the vast majority of these women workers were single. Mainly due to fact that men still brought the most bacon home.
As mentioned earlier, most immigrants in the late 1800s came from Europe. The first swarm (1870s- early 1880s) came from Western Europe. The second swarm (Mid 1880s onward) came mostly from Eastern Europe and were met with much racism and discrimination, comparative to the current situation between the Shiite and Sunni Muslims in the Middle East.
They all came for the same reasons: to escape poverty and find opportunity in the US. However, the first group was mainly of Anglo-Saxon blood and came from the West or North. The second group had come from the East or South and were considered to be of inferior blood. Also, the latter group wasn’t as used to democracy as the first group was.
Though they were immigrants themselves, many Americans saw this constant flow of immigrants as threatening and many anti-immigration organizations were formed. Among them were the APA. Congress finally gave into the APA and other groups in 1882 when they passed new immigration laws, restricting companies from shipping cheap labor to the US. Other laws included new literacy tests and completely barring Chinese people from immigrating to the US.
The religions of these new Americans were as numerous as the stars. But, it was mostly the Jewish and Catholic faiths that grew the most. The influx of immigrants also led to the formation of new places of worship, such as the Christian Science Church (not to be confused with Scientology). Also formed were new charities such as the Salvation Army and the YMCA.
But soon an Englishman would disrupt religion all over the world with a single idea.
Charles Darwin formed the theory of evolution by natural selection in 1859 with his book, On the Origin of Species. At first, his theories were thought of evil as evolution has atheistic implications. But soon, the majority of scientists agreed his theory, though flawed, best explained the rise of our species. That would start the fight between faith and science that rages to this day.
Another major issue was education. While the first swarm of immigrants were literate and educated, the second batch were not. Seeing as the second group came in much larger droves than the first, this was a problem. Congress got to work, though, and soon public school would drop the rate of illiteracy from 20% to 10% in just 30 years.
While black people were no longer enslaved, their lack of education was still a form of bondage. Booker T. Washington sought to change that. He along with Carver and Du Bois founded the NAACP as an organization that stood up for the social and economic equality of blacks. These three men inspired young people, both black and white, around the nation to take charge of their education.
As more and more kids became educated, the need for places of higher education became greater.
The philanthropy of many wealthy individuals helped found private institutions. However, most people saw these philanthropists as people ‘who stole privately and gave publicly’. Black universities also became popular during reconstruction. One of the authors of the text-book must have gone to John Hopkins University as an entire paragraph is dedicated to the large boner the author has for said school.
Colleges also became more secular as the fight between science and religion continued. Many places of higher learning were also reformed as the modern era of education came rushing in. Mental health also became a huge deal and many books were published on the subject.
Entrepreneurs such as William Randolph Hearst and Joey Pulitzer sought to capitalize on the booming population by increasing circulation of press. New forms of investigative journalism also gave rise as people became more aware of their surroundings and the inner workings of the modern city. Biased political magazines also became popular. While biased to certain political parties, most magazines wanted reform and went about getting it by influencing their readers.
Literature also boomed as Mark Twain and Emily Dickinson were rocketed into becoming household names. Authors like Kate Chopin also wrote candidly about stark issues like suicide and adultery. Books also inspired new ways of thinking and living life. The writing was so eloquent that most authors became celebrities.
Soon morality would become a pressing issue in the minds of many. No matter their faith, nearly everyone saw morality as a guiding light. Tony Comstock fought on the front lines of the war against the immoral and proudly boasted that he drove fifteen ‘immorals’ to suicide. Morality would also change the attitudes towards women as they became more and more independent.
Women became more rebellious and free as the divorce rate climbed steadily during the final years of the 19th century. The rate of marriage and birth in the US also slowed. Feminists across the nation demanded that women stand up for their rights and stop letting men do all the work. Certain feminists also wanted alcohol to be made illegal.
Prohibition parties would sprout up all across the county and made their views be known. Some went as far to burn down saloons and bars, namely Carrie Nation (sounds like a female wrestler). They would finally get their way when on December 5, 1919, prohibition was passed. Prohibition would lead to notorious gangs and thugs such as Al Capone as well as the deaths of thousands.
The Gilded Age, or whatever the hell age it was, also had its own particular genre of art. Artists of this age wanted to fully represent the feelings and emotions of those who lived through these troubled times. Inventions like the phonograph made the art of music recordable. Buildings also became forms of art as steel empires invaded the skies.
People also wanted some fun in their crappy lives. Not to overgeneralize, but seriously, it was not fun living in this era. Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show was the most popular attraction at the time. Circuses and gun shows were also popular. Sports like baseball and basketball took their show on the road as they became spectator sports. The bicycle also became like a drug.
To wrap it up, the amazing amount of new Americans forever changed the way the US was viewed and the way the US viewed things. It also lead to many political, social, and technological advances. But, most of all, it made America more diverse and different from the rest of the world.