Rapid urbanization began in the 1870s as people flocked to the cities. These urban centers quickly crowded, and many cities became impersonal metropolises that were divided into business, residential, social and ethnic centers. Amidst this chaos, corruption thrived as political bosses ran the city for their own personal gain. It appeared as if the nation was modernizing quicker than it could deal with problems of urbanization.
George Washington Plunkitt: A minor boss in Tammany Hall and a member of the New York State Assembly, he was skilled in winning numerous votes for party candidates by associating with and being kind to the people in New York. He was paid by these candidates, and he received generous rewards.
"Honest Graft": This term, created by George Washington Plunkitt, referred to the police corruption that took place in the Tammany Hall political machine. The practices included paying bribes to make an individual a police officer, to get him a promotion, or to get him to the position of a sergeant.
Boss Tweed: He was an important figure in New York’s political machine, the Tammany Society. He held New York City and state political posts where he increased his power. Forming the Tweed Ring, which bought votes, he controlled New York politics, and encouraged judicial corruption.
Boss George B. Cox: Cox, the boss of Cincinnati’s Republican political machine, had a reputation for being one of the most honest bosses. He worked his way up the ladder from being a newspaper boy to being the head of the political machine. In addition, he helped with many public works in the city.
Tammany Hall: Founded by anti-federalist William Mooney, it is the name for the New York Democratic party machine, also known as the Tammany Society, whose supposed goal was to preserve democratic institutions. However, Tammany Hall gained a great reputation for its corrupt practices, and was opposed by reform groups. It began to gain power with the rise of Boss Tweed in 1868. Its leader, Alfred E. Smith, ran for president of the United States.
Thomas Nast: A political cartoonist and caricaturist, he became an illustrator for Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper in 1855. He later worked for Harper’s Weekly. He was best known for his cartoons slandering the corrupt Tammany ring of New York during the period from 1869 to 1872.
Streetcar Suburbs: The creation of electric streetcar systems allowed families to move farther from the city’s center. Streetcar companies purchased land on the city’s periphery and made tremendous profits on the sale of the real estate. The streetcar system allowed people to live farther away from their work. This facilitated the move away from the city’s center.
Tenements: Built by a landlord, tenements were small housing units that were extremely overcrowded, poorly built, and that contained filth. There was a lack of fresh air and light in these housing units, and in addition, they were inhabited mainly by new immigrants. The worst tenements became known as slums.
Denis Kearney: He was a labor leader who protested the increasing numbers of Chinese laborers when California had an economic depression in 1877. With his support, he formed the Workingman’s Party of California, which later became associated with the Grange movement.
James Bryce: He was a British historian and statesman who became the leader of the Liberal Party. He served as the ambassador to the United States from 1907 to 1913. He was also the author of The American Commonwealth (1888), which is one of the most discerning studies ever written on U.S. political institutions.
John A. Roebling: Roebling was one of the creators of the suspension bridges. He also created and manufactured steel-wire ropes which he used, along with steel cables, in his construction. One of his most famous works was the Brooklyn Bridge which he completed shortly before his death.
Louis Sullivan: Sullivan was an American architect who used steel frames to design skyscrappers. He was also the founder of what is now the Chicago School of Architects. His most famous pupil was Frank Lloyd Wright, who later became a famous architect. Together with his partner Dankmar Adler, he produced over 100 buildings.
Frank Lloyd Wright: Wright was one of the greatest twentieth-century architect and is cosidered a pioneer of the modern style. He began as a designer for the Adler Sullivan firm, and he introduced many innovations, including double-glass windows, metal furniture, and air conditioning. He created the philosophy of "Organic Architecture."
Ashcan School: This school contained a group of painters, known as The Eight, who exhibited their style together as a group in 1908. Led by Robert Henri, the Ashcan School focused on more contemporary subjects, rather than on the academic and impressionist styles of the 19th century.
Armory Show: It was an art exhibition that took place in New York between February 17 and March 15, 1913 at the 69th Regiment Armory. It was an international exhibition in which modern art was first shown in the United States. A quarter of a million paid to see the show.
Anthony Comstock: Comstock was a reformer, who helped organize the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice in 1873, of which he became secretary. He was also influential in the passage by Congress of the 1873 law concerned with obscenity in the U.S. mails. It became known as the Comstock Law.
Jacob Riis, How the Other Half Lives: Riis was a social reformer and writer who wrote one of the most influential, popular, and early social documentaries in American history. He wanted to reform tenement housing and schools. In addition, he was influential in bringing about parks and playgrounds in overcrowded neighborhoods.
Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class: Thorstein Bunde Veblen was best known for his book, The Theory of The Leisure Class, which was published in 1899. Introducing the concept of "conspicuous consumption," his writing was an assault on the values and lifestyles of the Gilded Age businessmen.