“The City in American History” by Arthur Schlesinger follows the relationship between England and America as Boston, alongside New York and Pennsylvania, begin their lives as port cities. For the colonies on the Atlantic coast, cities provided an urban community with companionship and collaborative efforts, and over time larger cities began competing for economic power. The rivalry between Boston's trade abilities and England led to the passion found in the people of Boston, who, later become important leaders in the revolution. Schlesinger describes the growth of American cities through needs: fire protection, garbage disposal, and sewer systems are just a couple of daily problems in early 18th century cities in America. The responses to these needs are what kept the American cities, like Boston, at the same inventive level as counterpart cities to those in England. “The City in American History” also calls back to Frederick Turner's worries in the late 19th century about the history of cities and where it might go.
American cities fought for economic rule. Boston, with its trade advantages, was in the lead for a century. New York, Philadelphia, and others, though at first not as powerful, started establishing their dominance with their sway over other areas, such as New York holding sway over western Connecticut and eastern New Jersey, as well as the rest of New York State, while Philadelphia had sway over the rest of New Jersey, Delaware, northern Maryland, and the rest of Pennsylvania. New York and Charleston were even the first cities in the anglophone world to have chambers of commerce. New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore not only wanted dominance over the areas close-by but also over lands farther away, achieved through western trade. Middle-western cities such as Chicago and Saint-Louis, influenced by these eastern cities, also started to struggle for power. However, city dominance caused jealousy and resentment. There was also distrust from more rural areas, seen in the opposition to a second United States bank. This was also reflected in the widening gap between the more urban North and the more rural South, with the South resentful of the northern trading centers. This, in part, figured into the southern succession. -Francesca Maisano
The war fought between cities for economic dominance was a war fought with transportation infrastructure. Turnpikes and railroads funneled trade from the west into the great eastern cities as they competed with one another. In much the same way that the increasing settlement of the west spurred the economic competition of eastern cities, the increases in transportation infrastructure and attempts of the eastern cities to extend their reach westward facilitated the growth of Midwestern urban centers which sprung up around railroads. These cities often functioned as markets where the population of the west could exchange its produce for eastern manufactured goods. -Jason Elms
While American cities were modeled after European standards and guidelines, American cities were eventually able to differentiate between their international counterparts. American cities were pioneers in lighting, communication, and rapid transit. New York created the first elevated railroad in 1868, and San Francisco started using cable cars in the same year. Richmond was also a pioneer in rapid transit in that it was the first city to have an electric trolley system. Public lighting in terms of street lamps in cities across the U.S. allowed the public to feel safer while traveling at night within cities. The construction of telephone lines allowed communication to expand and become a major aspect of living in cities. In these aspects, American cities were able to set an example for their European counterparts. However, in terms of politics, American cities were a place of great struggle as the populations learned how to govern themselves in more densely populated areas. The increased population density as well as the stresses of life in a city negatively impacted so many people that neurasthenia, or immense nervousness, was deemed by some to be “the national disease of America.” ~ Morgan G.
Just as Turner suggested that the American frontier line created the circumstance in which pioneers could develop an American identity, Schlesinger argues that conditions in urban spaces created a need for inventive change. He cites items that are common in modern American cities such as street lighting, fire departments and sewage disposal as innovations that came to define American urban spaces. -Amanda Miller
Cities are a hub not just for people but for industrialization, crime, social movements, corruption, technological advancements (the lightbulb for example). The proximity of people combined with the number of people leads to a million both good and bad things, but it is because of cities that the need for these things, the attention for these things, and the passion for these things arise, thrive, and turn and develop spreading across the state, the country, the world. Cities are more than just buildings in a designated area, they are an amalgamation of people, ideas, beliefs, values, technology, religions, cultures, economies, et cetera.
The City in American History by Author M. Schlesinger went over how the city provided a way for people to express their talents and knowledge. The cities also were ahead in development and was a model to other states for having certain everyday life needs. For example, Philadelphia having public water systems and Boston having the first public own sewage system. Urbanization provided major opportunities and intellectual growth in communities. Even though the city was known to express talents some people were opposed to living in cities. Schlesinger explained how country ministers viewed cities as being cursed and full of crime. The city overall helped contribute to public libraries, schools, and museums. – Jasmine Williams
In “The City in American History” by Arthur M. Schlesinger, the concept of the urban point of view is considered in relation to Frederick Jackson Turner's article, “The Significance of the Frontier.” Since the late 1800s, American culture, way of life, overall civilization has evolved due to the “persistent interplay of town and country” (Schlesinger, 43). - Theophilus Felder
“The City in American History” describes how the growing city movement generated an American inventiveness through necessity. Growing population centers such as New York, Chicago, Philadelphia amongst others would need to adapt their societies to these dense population areas through creating social services that would contradict the more individualistic countryside societies. This would lead to the beginning of the idea of social responsibility and begin to create connected American societies. -Justin Binns
Schlesinger states that the American city was important in providing vital goods and supplies to the areas surrounding it. The city was also a source of community and companionship, as well as protection. Having access to all that the city provided allowed for people to be more successful in their endeavors, and made it possible for them to thrive. -Mariah Morton
Schlesinger critiques Frederick Jackson Turner's 1893 essay the “Significance of the Frontier in American History.” Schlesinger feels that America is found in her cities not on the frontier as Turner felt. Deborah Hunnel
Schlesinger’s 1940 paper on the historical significance of urban history in the formation of an American national identity is both a response to Turner’s speech of 1893 and a prediction of the rise of suburbs that within the decade. Turner argued that the conquest of the western frontier had created a singular American national identity, but Schlesinger argues against that. He pointed out the role of urban centers such as cities in motivating the westward expansion. At the end of his paper, Schlesinger argues that, “The old hard-and-fast distinction between urban and rural will tend to disappear, and a form of society take its place which, if America is to realize her promise, will blend the best features of the two traditional modes of life.” (Schlesinger 66) This can serve as a primary source on the rise of suburbs as a new central part of American national identity in the following decades, which could be seen as the “synthesis” (Schlesinger 66) of rural and urban saw. -Nick Skibinski