Lewis Charles Mumford was a product of the New York City system of education—and one of the most prominent critics of the New York City way of life. Mumford, the illegitimate son of a businessman, was reared by his mother. He graduated from Stuyvesant High School in 1912, took five years of evening classes at City College, and then took graduate courses at Columbia University and the New School for Social Research. He never received a degree, but he became one of the country’s outstanding self-educated men.
Mumford trained himself in architecture by traveling through New York City and observing the condition of its old buildings and neighborhoods. He branched out into the study of literature, and then of culture in general. In 1922, he was one of the contributors to the famous symposium Civilization in the United States. Thereafter he wrote Sticks and Stones, a history of American architecture. In 1923, Mumford became a cofounder and charter member of the Regional Planning Association of America. In his capacity as planner and urban strategist he was involved in many studies of American cities. Just as notable was his editorial and scholarly work, done in connection with American Caravan, American Mercury, Harper’s, and other publications.
The first of his books that caused him to be called a major influence on U.S. culture was volume 1 of his four-part Renewal of Life, Technics and...
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