“Something to Marvel At”:
Urban Life in America, 1880–1910

Thursday, February 9, 2012
7:00–8:30 p.m. (EST) Enter Classroom Enter Forum


Henry Binford
Associate Professor of History and Urban Affairs
Northwestern University
National Humanities Center Fellow

About the Seminar

Between 1880 and the first decades of the twentieth century, American cities became something new on the nation's landscape. Millions of men and women from small-town and rural America and from abroad flooded into them. Some found jobs in skyscrapers, rode the subways, and played in amusement parks. Others toiled in sweat shops, lived in tenements, and starved. But for all, the experience of the metropolis was new. How did life in the great cities change the way we worked, the way we traveled, the way we played, the way we saw the world, and the way we saw ourselves?

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Assigned Readings

  1. From the American Memory Timeline from the Library of Congress: The Rise of Industrial America, 1876–1900: City Life in the Late 19th Century.
    1. Ben Dickstein
    2. The Ginsbergs
    3. Harry Reece (Daca) ... His Story
    4. Mr. Paul's Story
    5. Mapping Population Growth in Chicago, 1850–1900
    6. Urban and Suburban Living
    7. Vertical Growth of the American City
    8. Industrial Cities
  2. From the American Memory Timeline from the Library of Congress: Progressive Era to New Era, 1900–1929: Cities During the Progressive Era.
    1. The Lure of the Past, the Present and Future
    2. A Trip to the City, or At the Phone Booth
    3. General Comments on the Progress of Los Angeles
    4. The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906
    5. Progressive Reforms Affected Cities in Many Ways
    6. Photo Collage of New York City in the Early 1900s
    7. Photographs of Urbanization
  3. From the National Humanities Center's primary source collection Gilded & Gritty: America, 1870–1912: People: Assimilation and the Crucible of the City.
    1. "State Street, Chicago," photo; and New York, painting
    2. Rube and Mandy at Coney Island, Thomas A. Edison, Inc., film clip
    3. "Amusing the Million," Frederic Thompson
    4. Ragged Dick; Or, Street Life in New York, Horatio Alger, Jr., excerpts
    5. Photographs of immigrants, Ellis Island, Lewis W. Hine
    6. How the Other Half Lives, Studies Among the Tenements of New York, Jacob Riis, excerpts
    7. "The Lost Beautifulness" and "Soap and Water," short stories, Anzia Yezierska
    8. Yekl: A Tale of the New York Ghetto, Abraham Cahan, excerpts
    9. "The Wife of His Youth," Charles W. Chesnutt, short story