Note: The primary sources for this week are two important essays by two keen observers of American life.
- What relationship did first generation immigrants have with capitalism and urban centers?
- How did immigrants shape urban culture in the gilded age?
- What circumstances pulled immigrants towards urban centers instead of the frontier?
- Why and How was Chicago founded? What is the meaning of the name “Chicago”?
- How did the evolution from water based transport to rail based transport impact American development in the gilded age?
- Describe the events in Chicago in the fall of 1871
- What questions faced Chicagoans in the aftermath of the fire? How did they answer them?
- What opportunities were afforded due to the disaster that otherwise would have been unlikely?
- Describe how intercity transportation evolved and how its growth and expansion fueled both urban overcrowding and suburbanization
- Who was Walt Whitman and what did he contribute to American culture?
- Describe how Walt Whitman’s essay “Democratic Vistas” reflects on American Life
- Describe how Mark Twain’s essay “On the Decay of the Art of Lying” reflects on American Life
- Compare and Contrast the Perspectives and Focus of Walt Whitman and Mark Twain (with Perspective being the historical and current panorama a person views events against and Focus being what you dwell on what a person latches onto)
Response / Thought Questions
- ““I cannot convey to you how the streets looked,” Mary related to her mother the next day. “Everybody was out of their houses, without exception, and the sidewalks were covered with furniture and bundles of every description. The middle of the street was a jam of carts, carriages, wheelbarrows, and every sort of vehicle—many horses being led along, all excited and prancing, some running away. I scarcely looked right or left, as I kept my seat by holding tightly to the trunk. The horse would not be restrained, and I had to use all my powers to keep on. I was glad to go fast, for the fire behind us raged, and the whole earth, or all we saw of it, was a lurid yellowish red.””
- ““When I got out of doors I found it literally raining fire,” Tree recalled afterward. “Along Randolph and Clark streets canvas awnings in front of many of the stores, and in several instances the large wooden signs, also, were burning. Here and there where the sparks had found a lodgment small jets of flames were darting out from the wooden cornices on the tops of buildings, while the sparks and cinders which were constantly falling upon the streets were being whirled around in little eddies and scattered down the basement stairways.” Not even the sidewalk beneath his feet was safe. “Along North State and Ohio streets, the dead leaves which the wind had from time to time caught up and deposited against and under the wooden sidewalks had been ignited in many places by the flying sparks, which had in turn set fire to the sidewalks, so that every few yards tongues of fire were starting up between the cracks in the boards.””
- ““Babylon had her hanging gardens, Egypt her Pyramids, Athens her Acropolis, Rome her Coliseum—so Brooklyn has her bridge. Over its broad roadway the teeming millions of the two cities may pass; under its spacious arch the commerce of the world may pass.””
- ““I view great cities as pestilential to the morals, the health and the liberties of man,” Thomas Jefferson told Benjamin Rush. “True, they nourish some of the elegant arts, but the useful ones can thrive elsewhere, and less perfection in the others, with more health, virtue & freedom, would be my choice.””
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