The Age of the City, 1825-1933

History 134A

Spring 2012
100 Lewis
Day & Time: 
TuTh 2-3:30
  • This course satisfies the American Cultures Requirement.
  • For most of human history, urban living has been the experience of a distinct minority. Only in the past two hundred years have the physical spaces, social relations, and lifestyles associated with large cities entered the mainstream. This course examines the long century of urban growth between 1825 and 1933, when the modern metropolis came into being in the United States. Focusing on large cities (especially New York, San Francisco, and Chicago), we will study the way urban spaces provided sites and sources of new kinds of personal interaction, popular entertainment, social conflict, and political expression. We will also follow the way these environments became the settings for formative cultural encounters among men and women of different ethnicities (especially African Americans, European Americans, and Asian Americans), urban encounters that produced much of what we think of today as American culture. By exploring the origins and evolutions of race riots, elevated railroads, boxing matches, department stores, world's fairs, strikes, ethnic enclaves, baseball stadiums, fire companies, minstrel shows, sex work, skyscrapers, sensational journalism, apartment buildings, amusement parks, gas-lit promenades, neon billboards, personal ads, nickelodeons, and numerous other artifacts, engines, and symbols of a socially promiscuous world in ethnically heterogeneous and divided cities, we can take stock of a way of life we have come to take for granted.