Kahlil Gibram wrote, “Progress lies not in enhancing what is, but in advancing toward what will be.” This is true when we reflect on American urbanization. If our forefathers had stood still and just enhanced rural life, that would have been the easy way out, instead they took that step forward into unchartered land. Palen defines urbanization as, “ the changes in the proportion of the population of a nation living in urban places, the process of people moving to cities or other densely settled areas” (Palen, 9)Several elements contributed to urbanization: the invention of the telegraph, development of the railroads, establishment of banking, the textile, shipping, agriculture and newspaper industries, the development of steam power and the use of iron products. The growing urban population and the construction of canals, railroads and factories stimulated the demand for raw materials and good. Much of this cargo was in the form of agriculture goods. The farmer became a shrewd businessman producing products that would make him the greatest profit margin. A growth in one industry would lead to demand for another industry’s product leading to growth in both. Manufacturing was the driving force to expansion. Transportation opened up new sites for manufacturing development, along with a way of quickly getting the goods from one location to another. The isolation of many rural communities was breaking down as goods flowed in and out.
The most important contributing element was the Industrial Revolution. The industrial revolution brought many positive aspects to society along with suffering, dissonance, and other social problems. For machine efficiency to be carried out, the machines needed to have people running, powering and keeping the machines in good working order. The idea of rural family life was changed as a result of the industrial revolution. It was a time of change from hand tools and hand made items to machine manufactured and mass-produced goods. Prior to the industrial revolution people worked at home, on farms, and children, once they were old enough, would help their family out with the chores. It was not uncommon for people to be born, grow up and die in the same geographical area. But, when the railway came all this changed. People were able to move from their small towns to the more urbanized areas of the country. They found that live was different from what they were normally used to.
Cities grew in size at a rapid pace, unable to keep up with this rapid growth, there became a lack of housing, good sanitation, or recreational facilities. Living in the city was very different from what people from the countryside used to. Homes became small unsanitary places that were squashed between other houses that all looked alike. Most of these homes had only one room for the whole family to live in, working conditions were even worse. Manufacturing changed the way people worked; it brought it out of the home and centralized it in the factory. This was a cultural shock for many who were used to the isolation of family farms and were now faced with the overshadowing of the industrialized industry. Prior to this, the family was the basic social unit. Most families were rural, large and self-sustaining; they produced and processed almost everything that was needed for their own support and for trading in the marketplace. Families were self-sufficient, but as families moved from the rural areas to more urban ones, the size of the family became smaller.
As the family’s functions diminished, in order to get ahead in the city, the family became secondary to work. The woman’s role became equal to the man’s because both parents needed to work in order to provide for the family. Due to lack of money that the family could generate, children had no choice but to work at the factories for as many hours as their parents. This meant that children were no longer getting the proper schooling. Uneducated adults were the result of children working in factories doing the same job everyday without any schooling. This then created the lower working class. The industrial revolution also gave way to a new type of working class that did not have any power or authority; they were regular people who were able to get factories started at the birth of the revolution. By doing this they were able to remove themselves from the lower working class. They did not have to do the hard work of the lower class, but were able to produce enough money to walk among the upper class. This class was the middle class. The middle class, were the people who controlled the worker and their duties inside the factories. This class was also responsible for many new products and inventions. During this time, life changed for many families and classes. It was hard to survive in a time where working like a dog for low wages did not amount to much. There also was the fact that workers were exploited by any means necessary just so the bigger guy could make the money.
This was a harsh period in time where people endured pain and hardship; they managed to pull through and never gave up. Without the hard times that these people went through, present society would not be what it is today.
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