Why did American cities grow so dramatically in the late 19th century?

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mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There were several reasons why cities grew so quickly in the United States in the late 1800s. One reason had to do with immigration. Many immigrants were coming to the United States during this time. There was a large influx of immigrants from South and East Europe in the late 1800s. Many of these immigrants settled in the cities. They settled in the cities because there were many people from their native countries living there. By living in ethnic neighborhoods, these immigrants could be with people who would help them learn about American ways of life. They could be with people who shared similar traditions, customs, and languages. This would make assimilation easier for these immigrants.

Another reason cities grew was that there were jobs available in the cities. As factories grew due to the industrial revolution, more workers were needed. These factories were located in the cities. Thus, jobs were also available. Additionally, cheaper housing was available in the cities. Many immigrants lived in the overcrowded tenement apartments because they could afford the rent to live there.

Finally, the cities offered more opportunities for doing things. The rural lifestyle was an isolated and lonely one. In the cities, there were more opportunities to do things. People could attend social and religious functions easier in the cities than they could in the rural areas. It was easier to get around in the cities than it was in the rural areas.

There were many reasons why cities grew in the late 1800s.

pholland14 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are two reasons for the rapid rise of American cities during this time period. The first reason was America's rapid industrialization. The United States industrialized rapidly after the Civil War, especially in the fields of steel and consumer goods. People from this time period did not drive to work; therefore they needed to live close to the factories. This led to the rise of the tenement as a source of inexpensive housing for entire families. Tenements could also be used as factories as well, especially in the tobacco and garment trades as entire families made clothing or created cigars for sale.  

The second reason for the rapid rise of American cities was the increase in immigration during this time period. Part of this increase was due to economic and political instability in Eastern and Southern Europe. Another reason was that the US was sold to immigrants as a land of plenty. Many young men came to the US and brought over their entire families after a year or two of hard work. While most did not strike it rich, they served in making the United States into an industrial titan due to their nearly endless supply of cheap labor. In time, immigrant communities also formed their own enclaves within cities with native language newspapers and schools. This also encouraged other immigrants to come to the United States as they knew that they would not be entirely ostracized.  

thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first cause of urbanization in nineteenth-century America was industrialization. Unlike agricultural labor, which was dispersed through the countryside, factory labor was concentrated in manufacturing towns. People moved to cities for factory jobs, and the availability of labor made cities attractive to manufacturers, creating a virtuous cycle. The existence of dense population clusters would then attract other businesses such as retailers, construction, and services. 

Next, the great northern manufacturing cities were located in states that did not have slavery as an institution, making them attractive to African-Americans, whether escaped or freed slaves.

Although some immigrants moved west on to the prairies to take advantage of plentiful land and farming opportunities, others clustered in cities. Immigrants from a given country would often move to communities where their compatriots were well established. 

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The major reason why cities grew during this time was industrialization.  As industry boomed, cities boomed.  Industry was booming as new processes were being invented to make things like steel more easily and cheaply.  As this happened, cities in the United States attracted masses of people from the rural US and from foreign countries.  These people came to the cities in search of jobs in the new factories that were popping up and getting to be very big.  Cities and industries, then, grew together in the late 1800s as America experienced rapid economic growth.