The American Journey Modern Times © 2009

Chapter 6: An Urban Society

Chapter Overviews

Section 1: The New Immigrants

In the late 1800s, fewer immigrants came to the United States from northern and western Europe, while the number of immigrants from eastern and southern Europe greatly increased. Many immigrants left their homes because of economic troubles or persecution. Others sought a better life in the United States. After entering America, many immigrants found work in factories and sweatshops. Those of the same ethnic group formed communities and learned to adapt to a new culture. Some native-born Americans resented this new wave of immigrants. Wanting restrictions on immigration, they supported the Chinese Exclusion Act and the Immigration Act of 1917.

Section 2: Moving to the City

American cities grew rapidly after the Civil War. Both immigrants and native-born Americans came to urban areas looking for jobs. The country’s expanding railroad network also fed the growth of cities, where the extremes of poverty and wealth existed.

In large cities, the poorest people lived in crowded tenements and slums, while those in the growing middle class lived comfortably, and the very rich built mansions and lived extravagantly. Besides poverty, people in growing cities also faced health and sanitation problems, fire, and crime. In the late 1800s, the look and feel of American cities began to change. To better use the city’s limited space, architects built skyscrapers, and others designed city parks to provide opportunities to enjoy nature. Transportation improved with the introduction of streetcars, trolleys, and large bridges.

Section 3: A Changing Culture

In the early 1900s, many Americans believed that education was important to the growth of the nation. As a result, the system of public schools expanded, and John Dewey’s philosophy of “progressive education” furthered the idea that learning should be related to the students’ interests and concerns.

Despite the increase in the number of public high schools, many boys went to work instead of school. In the South, many African Americans received little or no education. College education however expanded and began to be available to women and African Americans. Boarding schools for Native Americans were created, but they often cut students off from their ancestral traditions.

As opportunities for education grew for many Americans, more people became interested in reading. Public libraries and new forms of literature and journalism added to culture in the cities.

With increasing amounts of leisure time, Americans developed new forms of recreation. Watching baseball was very popular, as well as attending vaudeville and moving picture shows. Distinctively American forms of art and music became popular, including realistic paintings and jazz.

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