How did they make cities more livable in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries? What forms of leisure activity were available? How did religion change in this urban world?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the US in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the urban population across cities greatly expanded as poor people moved to the city to find work while wealthy people moved to the city to enjoy the growing industrial technologies, business opportunities, and entertainment of city life. By 1920, for the first time in American history, more people lived in the urban areas than rural areas.

In response to the massive influx of people into urban areas, cities began to pave their streets, build public parks, develop large-scale sewer and water treatment systems, build large low-rise apartment slums to house working-class tenants, and create public transportation systems. Advances in engineering led to the growth of high-rise buildings, trolleys, subways, and advanced bridge designs. Some philanthropic individuals funded the building of public libraries, museums, and hospitals.

Much like today, city life was sharply contrasted between the working class and the rich. During this Gilded Age, wealthy urbanites enjoyed the rise of urban shopping at department stores, lived in urban mansions (such as along Fifth Avenue in New York City), and attended Vaudeville performances. The working class, conversely, worked extremely long hours and lived in massively overcrowded apartment slums. When time afforded such leisure, the working class were able to attend free museums, parks, and sporting events.

Victorian era religious conservatism was certainly challenged in the urban areas as a diversity of entertainment arose and life was not as structured around the church and the performance of modesty.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team