A Comprehensive Picture Of America During 1890-1940

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Last updated: April 6, 2019

The rapid growth of American cities and population in the last decades of the nineteenth century had turned some of the American cities into places of crime, violent, corruption, congestion and disease. This article is about the historical and socio-economic background of America which led to the development of modern crime, crime-fighting forces and crime fiction. It will be covered two periods: 1890-1917 and 1917-1940. Reasons of the rapid growth of American cities and population To begin with, we should first discuss why there was a rapid growth of American cities and population, how it affected life in America afterward.The main reasons for the rapid growth of American cities and population in the nineteenth and twenties century are urbanization and immigration.

In the half-century after the Civil War, the urban population increased sevenfold. Many people from the rural area moved to the cities. In 1920, the urban population exceeded the population living in the rural areas for the first time. In the late nineteenth century, many Americans left the declining agricultural regions of the East and moving to the West.Most of the Americans who left the rural areas for industrial cities in the 1880s were southern black as they wanted to escape from oppression, poverty and debt in the rural South. (Alan Brinkley, 2004) However, the main source of urban population growth at that time was came from abroad, for example, from Canada, Latin America, China, Japan and Europe. However, later there was an increasing number of immigrants came from southern and eastern Europe. Italy, Russia and Poland were among the biggest sources of the late nineteenth century migrants.

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Especially after 1890, more than half of all immigrants came from these regions. Alan Brinkley, 2004) Influences of the rapid growth of American cities and population Resentment among the native-born Americans All these led to a numerous problems in America afterward. Firstly, with the number of immigrant continuous increase, there is a radical shift in the nation’s ethnic background. According to Ronald Allen Goldbery, around 14. 3 million people arrived in America between 1900 and 1917.

In 1920, there were around 14 million foreign-born people out of a total population of 105700000 in America. That is why many American had a fear of being overwhelmed and of suddenly finding one day that they are no longer themselves.Secondly, according to Alan Brinkley, by 1890, most of the population of the major urban areas consisted of immigrant: 87 percent of the population in Chicago, 80 percent in New York, 84 percent in Milwaukee and Detroit. However, there was no single national group dominated in America. As there are a huge numbers of new immigrants who have different cultures and languages from the native-born Americans, it provoked fear, resentment and a strong sense of racial prejudice among the native-born Americans.Ronald Allen Goldbery had his own view toward the culture conflict developed during the late nineteenth and early twenties century in America. ..



.. Not only the volume but also the cultures and lifestyles of the newer immigrants seemed threatening to the old-stock Americans. Most were Catholics and Jews from southern and eastern Europe and possessed different core values. They were not used to free enterprise, industrialism, competition, self-help and social mobility..

…. A culture conflict developed, as old-stock Protestants living in rural America had difficulty accepting the manners and values of the cities, with their diverse ethnic groups, relaxed ethical codes and easy political virtues.

1 Crime and violentMost of the new immigration of the late nineteenth century did not have enough capital to buy farmland and lacked the education to establish themselves in profession (Alan Brinkley, 2004). Many of these immigrants were livings in poor conditions. For example, in Boston, immigrants moved into cheap three-story wooden house. In Baltimore and Philadelphia, the new arrivals crowded into narrow brick row houses. And in New York and many other cities, they lived in tenements, which were miserable places, with many windowless rooms and little or no plumbing and heating (Alan Brinkley, 2004).And because of the poverty and crowding, many people turned to crime and violent.

According to Alan Brinkley, the American murder rate rose rapidly in the late nineteenth century, from 25 murders for every million people in 1880 to over 100 by the end of the century. In South American the level of violence (lynching and homicide) was very high. In Western part of America, rootlessness and instability of new communities created lots of violence, too. At the same time, many women who moved into the city drifted into a life of ‘sin’ which exploited by predatory men.That why some of the American said that crime in America is the result of the violent proclivities of immigrant groups. They believed that the immigrant groups cited the rise of gangs and criminal organizations. However, just as what Alan Brinkley, in fact, native-born Americans in the cities were as likely to commit crime as immigrant. Situation in America 1890-1917 Crime and corruption Despite of the problems brought by immigration, there were other factors that cause the rise in violence in America.

One of the factors is that the police forces could spawn corruption and brutality.For example, in 1894, the government of New York organized a special investigation to investigate how bad things were in New York and the report was that crime No. 1 was the New York Policy Department. Also the politician enriched themselves and their allies though various forms of corruption. The most famously corrupt city boss was William M. Tweed, boss of New York City’s Tammany Hall in 1860s and 1870s, whose extravagant use of public funds on projects that paid kickbacks to the organization landed him in jail in 1872 (Alan Brinkley, 2004).The others factor for the rise in violence in America was the poor funding of the public agencies and private philanthropic organization.

Because of this reason, some of the poor people turned to crime so as to ‘survive’. Fire, disease and pollution Urbanization and the increasing congestion of the city together with the disability of the government and the private agencies led to some others serious problems in the society. For example, fire, disease and pollution. As there was not enough sanitation facilities. Many cities lacked systems for disposing of human waste.

As what Alan Brinkley said, as long as sewage continued to flow into open ditches or steams, polluting cities’ water supplies, the disease such as typhoid fever and cholera would continuous to spread. Also, the improper disposal of human and industrial waste led to the pollution of the rivers and lakes. Air pollution was come mainly from factories and from stoves and furnaces in offices, homes. Favorable conditions that encourage development of crime fictions Under this poor living condition and in this age of crime and violence, writing crime fiction became a fashion in the late nineteenth century.

By 1905, detective fiction was finally popular enough to get public attention. So what other factors that favored the development of crime fictions in America. To begin with, it is the mass circulation of magazine, for example, Collier’s, Cosmopolitan, Mc Clure’s and Munsey’s. Take Mc Clure’s as an example, its sales volume raised from 8000 to 250000 in 12 years. At the same time, the circulation of daily newspapers also increased nearly ninefold from 1870 to 1910.

For example, Saturday Evening Post. Because of this reason, there is a rise in the number of muckrakes and they are also the one who write the crime fictions.The success of the publication of the crime fiction encouraged more people to write it. Relationship between the crime friction and the situation in America As we mentioned before many of the writers of the crime fiction were the muckrakers, it is very nature for them to write what they saw in the daily life into the fiction.

At the same time, the crime fiction also to a certain extent influenced the society. For example, Sherlock Holmes was a famous crime fiction character. He even got a real metal from the police force.In the fiction, the police used new technology (e.

g. microscope). This inspired the police in the real world used this technology to investigate the crime. Austin Freeman was another crime fiction writer who tried to tell the people that finger print may not be the only evidence to prove a crime. After his fiction became popular, the police began to revise their investigational process. Difference between the American crime fiction and the British ones So what is the difference between the American crime fiction and the British ones? Firstly, they are different in tone.The American crime fictions are mainly talking about the temporary background of the current event.

Secondly, they are different in subject matter. The American crime fictions usually do with the politic and social element, which expose the corruption, crime to the public light. Thirdly, they are different in style. The American crime fictions usually written in hardboiled style, there is a sense of fast moving and short in speed. Others important innovation in 1890-1917 Despite of the above poor living condition, in the period of 1890-1917, there was also some important innovation.Firstly, it was the great city park, which showed the desire of a growing number of urban leaders to provide an antidote to the congestion of the city landscape. For example, the New York’s Central Park. Secondly, in Chicago, the construction in 1884 of the first modern ‘skyscraper’, which is the later standards relatively modest building, ten stories high.

The early Chicago skyscrapers paved the way for some of the great construction marvel later in the twentieth century: the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building in New York, the Lasalle Building in Chicago.Conclusion In general, in 1890-1917, as the population increase in a very rapid way that exceed the capacity of a city. There were a lot of problems like disposing of sewage, curing disease, rising of crime.

Although the government had tried to do sometime to cope with it, it would not be effective as long as the government agency were still corrupt. As there was an increase in number of immigrants, there are a lot of races, ethnic groups’ problems inside the city.The American cities in 1890-1917 had both great achievements and serious problems. Situation in America from 1917 to 1940 In 1917-1940, especially around 1920s, urban America confronted an old insular, rural America and culture conflict reached new levels of tension. With new population trends and ideas testing the nation’s core belief.

This urban-rural conflict was manifested in the Prohibition, anti-immigrant sentiment, rise of the Ku Klux Klan, fear of radicals, and a determined counterattack by the fundamentalists. (Ronald Allen Goldberg)

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