A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN CITY AND NEW HAVEN
The city is not a modern occurrence. There have been cities since man learned to grow and transport food. The first cities developed in Egypt, Mesopotamia and India. The land was fertile and well-watered. The climate was dry.
Trade, commerce, the manufacturing of goods and raw materials, the printing press, books and newspapers all contributed to the Industrial Revolution and the development of the American city. By the 19th century, canning, refrigeration, food preservation; the telephone, telegraph, radio and gasoline engine attracted hordes of people to urban areas.
The colonists were mainly agriculturist, yet many felt comfortable with town life. Therefore, many colonists flocked to towns for companionship, mutual protection as well as economic reasons. An area was considered urbanized if 2,500 people resided in it. In these small urban areas common concerns occurred which involved fire protection, street care, crime prevention, sewage disposal, water and community health.
The city became a place where men found a variety of outlets for their special talents. The city also became a cultural center. The “Three R’s” were stressed and the greatest cultural contributions to the city were: art museums, public libraries, publishing houses, art schools and conservatories of music. Benjamin Franklin contributed to these cultural phenomenon and he took advantage of what the city had to offer. He became a printer, publisher, journalist, educator and scientist.
Because cities like Boston, New York and Philadelphia were situated by large bodies of water, they became the forerunners in commerce, trade and culture. Other places such as Baltimore, Trenton, Hartford and New Haven, Raleigh and Charlotte; and Charlestown soon were to follow.
While the city attracted and fascinated hordes of immigrants and migrants, problems of social malajustment and human misery developed. New-comers had difficulty adjusting to the frenzied pace of urban life. One ethnic group was against another. These social problems caused the urban inhabitants to develop severe cases of nervousness and stress, which became known as the “national disease of America.”
Now that we have general knowledge of the development of the city, we must understand how the city grows and changes. In order to understand the modern city, it is important to know how and why the population is drawn into a given area of an urban setting.
Segregation and specialization are two words that have been used synonymously to refer to areas where people of similar backgrounds live together. Often, these people feel compelled to cluster or gravitate because of the poverty/and or prejudice, race or cultural background. From this natural city occurrence, the following segregated areas developed in various American cities: Little Italy, Chinatown, Nob Hill, The Black Belt, and The Wrong Side of the Tracks.
These neighborhoods do not remain intact. They change when they are invaded by business, racial and/or cultural groups. The groups that invade these segregated areas are often economically inferior.
Two examples of areas that changed, racially, economically, and culturally in the 1920’s are Harlem and Chicago. Harlem changed from an area of affluent Jews to poor, but aggressive blacks. Chicago was inhabited by Czechs, Jews, Italians and blacks.
A sociologist, Ernest W. Burgess, observed that the city is divided into several zones or sections. The first zone was once the residence of upper class people who lived in mansions. These mansions, because of invasion, have been converted into cheap tenements, hotels, pawnshops and stores. The neighborhood has a high crime rate. There is much poverty, juvenile delinquency and mental disorder. The owners of these buildings are negligent. They continue to hold on to the property in hopes that the city will buy it from them at a good price. Alvin Toffler, the author of
describes the various vacant city lots in which portable playgrounds have been constructed so as to make the neighborhood think the city is doing something to provide the children with a safe place to play. But in reality, these portable playgrounds are placed on vacant lots until the owners or city planners can decide what to do with them. Meanwhile, the poor continue to have inadequate housing and the children continue to play in unsafe playgrounds.
The second zone consists of deteriorated housing inhabited by poor immigrants and migrants. This area has a mixture of poor Southern whites, blacks and Puerto Ricans. Toffler describes such an area. He says that the youths are robbed of adult role models. Other than their parents, who often provide a weak family bond, these children depend on their peers for comfort and support.
The third zone consists of the blue collar workers who live in a slightly better environment. The fourth zone consists of the middle class area where apartments and housing, lawns and porches are visible.
New Haven became a major center of industry in the late 1800’s. Eli Whitney had instituted in the early 19th century the first factory that used interchangeable parts in its gunshop. Other small factories in New Haven produced such goods as paper, clocks, cigars, hardware, corsets, men’s clothing, razor blades, bathing suits, etc. The Winchester Arms Plant employed the largest number of people. By the latter part of the 1900’s, the population of New Haven had reached 100,000.
The fact that Yale University attracted the sons and daughters of affluent men home and abroad seems to have contributed to the cultural development and success of the city. But by 1951, New Haven neighborhoods, predominately occupied by poor blacks and Hispanics and other immigrants, had begun to deteriorate. One politician, after a door to door campaign effort, describes a tenement on Oak Street. He said that the tenement smelled so badly that he became ill. The building had no electricity or gas. It had a kerosene lamp, but the light of day had never seen the corridors of the building. From this experience, the politician vowed to renew this section of the city if he were elected.
In 1962, the Federal Government gave large sums of money to urban planning agencies to try to find new ways to overcome poverty.
This was the beginning of community schools such as Lee High, which was named after Richard C. Lee, the mayor who worked to remodel New Haven. Mayor Lee was instrumental in the development of downtown New Haven. The construction of Edward Malley and Macy’s was intended to bring shoppers with money back into the city.
While ideas of urban renewal seemed promising, a long list of urban difficulties arose in New Haven. A demand for labor increased which led to an influx of blacks. These blacks gravitated to Newhallville and Dixwell Avenue sections of New Haven. This influx of blacks led to the flight of whites to the suburbs. The blacks that migrated to the city had little or no education. They could only find poor-paying jobs which did not allow them to contribute much to the maintenance of the city in the form of taxes. Even though blacks and other migrants and immigrants contributed little to the city, they needed many city services. They needed health care, welfare and special education programs.
The “white flight” or exodus in the early 1960’s left the city tremendously weak. Other groups that contributed to the change of the city were the Italians that clustered in Fair Haven and the Jews that gravitated to Westville.
The 1970-1980 census shows that still a substantial number of whites have moved out of New Haven. New Haven lost 8.4% of its population, declining to 126,109 in 1980 from 137,707 in 1970. The number of whites that lived in New Haven in 1970 was 99,986 and declined 21.6% to 78,326 in 1980. The number of blacks increased from 36,158 in 1970 to 40,235 in 1980. The number of Hispanics expanded from 4,717 in 1970 to 10,042 in 1980.
While statistics continue to show an influx of blacks, Hispanics and other minority groups to New Haven, economic statistics continue to indicate a steady decrease in the economic strength of the city. Poor people become poorer and old housing, in need of city renewal, sits deteriorating and waiting to be destroyed by pyro-maniacs.
Alan Trachtenberg, a professor of American Studies at Yale University, says that cities of all sizes have problems of poverty, race relations, drugs, crime and violence.
Professor Trachtenberg believes that this grim picture of the city is one-sided, for the city can be pleasureable and the city has opportunities that rural areas lack.
The students will spell these terms with 100% accuracy. They will define each term in accordance to its use in context. The students will also use the terms in good sentences. The sentences must relate to the content of the history.
(The following is a question in which the answer is expected to be developed in several well-constructed paragraphs.)
Because the colonists became accustomed to the conveniences of town life, what were some of the advantages and disadvantages of “clustering”?
1. The students will trace the history of one American city and compare it to New Haven.
2. The students will trace the history of one ancient city and compare it to a modern American city.