Urbanization in the late 1800’s


The United States, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century industrialized and urbanized, as a result of advancements in four things Communication, Energy, Transportation and Business’. Industrialization and urbanization was an important part of this countries success, for this was Alexander Hamilton’s vision to the road of acquiring wealth in this great country. Hamilton’s vision was a stark contrast to Thomas Jefferson’s vision of agriculture. Nevertheless, the late 1800’s brought on advancements in these four areas, which is where we are today. It is important for one to realize that urbanization and industrialization go together. This is what is called a dual phenomenon.

Railroads enabled mass industrialization to take place, because railroads were important for business organizations and they were a faster mode of transportation than the turnpike era system of transportation that was in place, earlier. For example, railroads converted a three week trip from Chicago to New York to two days. In addition to becoming a faster form of travel, railroads became the first modern corporation, first billion dollar industry and the first industry to hire professional managers. This industry had its setbacks, for example, in the beginning each railroad company used different gauge of tracks and service was untimely, with no set schedule. One way the industry made for timely travel was the creation of the four time zones that we have in place today Eastern, Mountain, cenral and Pacific time zones. Later on, In the year 1900 there were over 200,000 miles of track in this country. This number was 1/3 of all the tracks in the world. 1869 marked the first year of the Transcontinental Railroad which made it possible for people to travel, and business’ to transport goods from coast to coast. Railroad companies needed to employee people and in 1893 The Pennsylvania Railroad had 110,000 employees. In order for these employees to come to work every day, to make a living, they had to live close to work, and that led to urbanization. In the urban communities, people could have the opportunity to live close to work and share in the latest technological advancements that In contrast, earlier days In order for Railroads to perform they needed tracks. In the early days, tracks were made from Iron. Later on it was evident that Iron tracks were weak, so they were replaced by Steel. Steel played an important role in industrialization, because the Steel Industry that was created by Andrew Carnegie had a major stronghold in this country. The invention of steel led to the construction of bridges, tunnels,train tracks, and the modern day skyscraper. Transportation also led to the creation of the mass transit system. In 1850 Boston was centered around City Hall and people lived within a two mile radius. Thanks to the development of a mass transit system, specifically Electric trolley’s and Subways, in 1900 that number spread out to a six mile radius. This was due in part to the advancement of Energy.

Early Americans relied on water, animals and people as a source of energy. In 1790 the first mill was created in Pawtucket, Rhode Island as Slater Mill. The Slater Mill relied heavily on water as a source of energy to run the power needed to produce textile, but water had its limits. In the winter water would ice up. Also, there would be periods of draught due to a lack of rainfall. This source of energy would be replaced in the late nineteenth century by coal. Coal was the ultimate source of energy and enabled factories to be located away from water sources. From the 1860’s-70’s it was a major source of energy to the steel mills, and as previously mentioned it was a source of energy for the railroad cars. Andrew Carnegie’s steel firms were the largest consumers of energy in Pennsylvania. To put it in perspective in 1820 forty-thousand tons of coal were mined. By 1860 that number turned into fourteen million tons. Coal production doubled everyday. Also, in the latter part of the century electricity was utilized. In the 1890’s Thomas Edison, Westinghouse and General Electric were constructing generators to city blocks in urban areas for factories and business. In the year 1912 one out of six homes had electricity. In the 1920’s more and more homes had the luxury of electricity.

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