Thursday, November 10, 2011

Population Expansion, Iconic of the Guilded Age, Transforming Chicago

One major factor of the Guilded Age was the dramatic explosion of the population in cities. Chicago was no exception, and its rapid population growth reflected the main trend in cities all over the US.

Chicago joined New York City on the list of most populous and largest US cities during the Guilded Age. Just before they began work on the World Fair, Chicago passed the one million people mark. The movement of single, ambitious men and women in search of independence and opportunity, to cities was common place during the Guilded Age. People were flooding to industrial centers, and it was this large increase in population and commerce that aided Chicago i n the fight to host the World Fair.

In preparation for the WOrld Fair, a location in CHicago had to be chosen. CHicago was a rapidly growing city, not only in terms of population, but in physical size as well. As train loads of young, old, skilled and unskilled people of all backgrounds and ethnicities unloaded in Chicago many of the middle class workers moved out into suburbs. THis move out of the dangerous, dirty and chaotic city distinguished more clearly the different emerging classes in the new social order.

Also, the Guilded Age brought on a mindset that emphasized large size. Everything was about being BIG. As Mr. Larson described, "the city was growing in all available directions"(Larson 44). Skyscrapers popped up when horizontal growth was impossible. In the city, every living space available, even with the middle and upper classes moving out, was taken. This population explosion helped put Chicago on the map, as a viable contender for the host of the World Fair.

The motivation for Burnham's masterpiece, the World Fair, was to have it larger, better, and more advanced than the exhibition in Paris. He envisioned it being at least one third larger than the one in Paris, which was monumental as it was. Size and grandeur were important to the architects and designers of the World Fair in Chicago. Such qualities were important, more in the Guilded Age when pride became something dependent on achievement, rather than colonial power.

Chicago's population boom was emblematic of the Guilded Age, and facilitated its rise to being the home of the US's World Fair.

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