American Culture in the 19th Century
"Culture" means the ways in which people understand themselves and interact with each other and their environment. This essay will look at how immigration, poverty, labor disputes, and women struggling for a place in this time period shaped the 19th century. The 19th century was a time of rapid growth and change in America. It was a century of Westward expansion, and the building up of muscular new cities like Chicago. Immigrants brought their cultural traditions to their adopted land. The last three decades of the 19th century were marked by relentless capitalism, corruption, vulgar tastes and ostentatious displays of wealth. While the rich wore diamonds, many other Americans wore rags. In 1890, 11 million of the nation's 12 million families earned less than $1200 per year; the average annual income for most families was $380.00, well below the poverty line. In 1871 Mark Twain was quoted as saying "What is the chef end of man?-to get rich. In what way? – dishonestly if we can; honestly if we must."
There were three new social classes in America during the 19th century thefirst two were the industrial capitalists, it included men like Andrew Carnegie. The second social class was the urban middle class. It included mostly doctors, lawyers, shop keepers, factory clerks, and the managers. The urban poor were an extremely larger group. The frustrations of the poor factory workers transformed the labor movement into a vigorous, if often violent force. Workers saw men like Andre Carnegie getting fabulously rich, and were enraged at being left behind. Violent strikes and riots were common place throughout the turn of the century. There was a feeling of unrest and brooding revolution.
Industrialists took a hard line against the formation of unions, but the labor movement continued to grow. In 1877, three national unions existed; in 1880 there were eighteen. In 1886, a nat…

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