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City Life in the Late 19th Century

Due to the expansion of industry, U.S. cities grew by about 15 million people in the two decades before 1900. The population growth of cities was aided by immigrants arriving from around the world and people from rural America migrating to the cities during this period.

Industrial expansion and population growth radically changed the face of the nation's cities. Noise, traffic jams, slums, air pollution, and sanitation and health problems became commonplace. Mass transit, in the form of trolleys, cable cars, and subways was built. Communities, known as suburbs, were built just beyond the city; commuters, began to increase in number.

Many of those who resided in the city lived in rental apartments or tenement housing. Neighborhoods, especially for immigrant populations, were often the center of community life. In the neighborhoods, many immigrant groups attempted to hold onto and practice precious customs and traditions.

During the final years of the 1800s, industrial cities, with all the problems brought on by rapid population growth and lack of infrastructure to support the growth, occupied a special place in U.S. history. Cities promoted a special bond between people and laid the foundation for the multiethnic, multicultural society that we cherish today.


Source: City Life in the Late 19th Century
Library of Congress

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