|The Rise of the Modern City
|Digital History ID 3049
In the 40 years after the Civil War, over 24 million people
flocked to American cities. They came from rural areas in the
United States but also across oceans from farming areas and industrial
cities in Europe. While the United States' rural population doubled
during these years, the urban population increased more than seven-fold.
In 1860, 16 cities had a population over 50,000 and only
nine had a population over 100,000. By 1900, 38 cities had more
than 100,000 inhabitants.
The modern American city was not simply a larger version of
older towns. In the late 19th century, American cities changed
dramatically in physical size and spatial layout. In Boston in
1873, the outer boundary of settlement stood just two-and-a-half
miles from City Hall. In the 1890s, after the establishment of
the electric street railway, the outer border of settlement was
six miles away. By annexing surrounding lands and filling in bays,
cities grew larger, allowing for greater differentiation in the
use of space.
Manufacturing and commerce crowded into city centers. Meanwhile,
the development of steam railroad lines in the 1860s, electric-powered
streetcars and elevated railways in the 1880s, and electric trolleys
in the 1890s allowed the wealthy and the middle class to move
along newly constructed trolley and rail lines to the country's
first suburbs. At the same time the urban poor were concentrated
in newly constructed tenements, few of which had outside windows.
Less than 10 percent had indoor plumbing or running water.
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