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One major problem was overcrowding. Society was beginning to move away from agriculturally-based living conditions (small communal farms spread across the land) and towards urban environments supported by those farms. This allowed far more people to congregate in a small space, making it hard or even impossible to identify missing persons. The Chicago World's Fair, which brought in even more people, added to the problem; Holmes found it easy to identify and abduct poor people on the fringes of society. Busy with managing the Fair and the increasing number of new problems brought on by urban living, societal controls (such as police) were hard-pressed to realize or care if poor people went missing. This new paradigm of living, including homeless people and travelers, made it easy for Holmes to indulge his evil desires.
One of the biggest problems was greed. Innocent but naïve people were taken advantage of. Chicago was greeted by the World’s Fair, and that resulted in all kinds of abuse and cons. The excitement of the fair and the newness of the ideas made the city ripe for cons.
The Exposition Company’s decision raised a groundswell of greed throughout Chicago’s South Side. (p. 74)
Any con man with an idea could convince some sap to give him all his money. Holmes had other cons going, but the fair gave him good ideas for more. He could move on from selling stolen bicycles (bought on credit not paid back) to larger construction cons.
The problems of urban life do not have that much to do with Burnham and the fair or "Holmes" and his murders. The general problems of urban life at this time had mainly to do with the lack of modern conveniences and the poor working and living conditions. Cities at this time were rather dirty places that tended to have a lot of diseases because of the filth. They were places where people had to work in dangerous jobs at low pay. These people typically then went home to cramped and crowded apartments. Life was not at all easy in these cities, particularly for the working class.
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