Thursday, November 3, 2011

Consumption Incarnate

Chicago is the American city that reflects the US during the 1890s because it's development embodied everything that the Gilded Age had to offer- from strikes and large corporations to huge population spikes and urban development.
Chicago is the poster city for the transformation of the United States during the end of the 19th century.
It had once been a town of less than 100 people but during the Gilded Age, the town grew into what is the 27th largest metropolitan city in the world today. Much of this was due to the rich farmland that attracted entrepreneurs, which in turn attracted individuals or families in need of employment. Roads were built to encourage interstate trading and later railroads were built, which made it easier for people to travel from one city to another to work. The transformation brought about the growth and concentration of towns, turning once smally populated areas into almost overcrowded area due to the need for jobs. Society became no longer reliant in trading goods among their neighbors and having a few employees trained in one position because this system proved ineffecient in the ever-increasing world population and increasingly modernized century. Chicago embraced these changes in society, rapidly becoming heavily populized by the end of the 19th century.
Not only is Chicago representative of the US transformation due to population but also because of  its strikes. Because urban development increased and brought a more populous area, more and more corporations set up base in Chicago hoping to turn a profit at the cost of the salary of many employers. Employees of big factories joined unions in order to combat the unfair treatment and unreasonable salaries. One of the biggest labor conflicts in history, the Haymarket affair (1886), started out as a peaceful rally but then turned into chaos when one of the rally participants threw a bomb. This event represents unionization at its most extreme and demonstrated what was quickly becoming a problem around the US.
With urbanization came invention. The most important, efficient and useful invention that came from Chicago was the skyscraper- 1885, by George Fuller. Metropolitan cities such as Chicago and New York were easily able to accomdate the growing masses by building several hundred feet into the air to fit more people into one building. Throughout the United States new creations and ideas were being created which gave way and possibility to the idea of the American Dream. It was now possible for anyone to become rich as long as one had a creative idea. Everyone had to obtain more, because more was now in their reach and Chicago embodied all of the characteristics of the era. Chicago is consumption incarnate.

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