Urban mass transit A horse-drawn streetcar moving along rails in New York City.
America’s Move to Town Urbanization and the environment A garbage cart retrieves trash in New York City, ca. 1890.
The New Immigration Steerage deck of the S.S. Pennland, 1893 These immigrants are about to arrive at Ellis Island in New York Harbor.
The New Immigration The Registry Room at Ellis Island Inspectors asked arriving passengers twenty-nine probing questions, including “Are you a polygamist?”
Anti-Chinese protest, California, 1880 Widespread racism and prejudice against the Chinese resulted in the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882), which banned Chinese immigration for 10 years.
Vaudeville For as little as one cent, vaudeville offered customers entertainment.
Charles Darwin (1809-1882) Darwin’s theories influenced more than a century of political debate. In the later nineteenth century, Europe and the United States moved from the accepted idealism of life to a more scientific, “realist” study. Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859) argued that life evolved through a process known as natural selection.
Social Darwinism Herbert Spencer and other writers of the time applied Darwin’s ideas to social thought, arguing that society adopted a system in which the “survival of the fittest” allowed man’s better characteristics to be passed on. Spencer argued that people, like animals, compete. Darwin objected to Spencer’s assumption that the evolutionary process in the natural world had any relevance to the current human realm.
Pragmatism William James (1842-1910) proposed the concept of pragmatism, that ideas gain their validity not from their inherent truth but instead from their social consequences and practical applications. John Dewey (1859-1952), a philosopher of pragmatism, preferred the term instrumentalism. Believed that education should not just be abstract but a process of learning to live better and improve society. Emphasized practical education. Supported progressive social movements. labor, women, education, promotion of peace.
Women as Students An astronomy class at Vassar College, 1880.
Reform Darwinism Working to counteract Social Darwinism, Lester Frank Ward (1841-1913) argued that humanity could control and shape the process of evolutionary social development. – Reform Darwinism Ward fought his way up from poverty and had great empathy for the underdog. Along with competing, humans show compassion and collaborate. Humanity could control and shape the process of evolutionary social development. Like Pragmatism, it was an effort to interpret Darwinist evolutionary theory to justify efforts at social reform. The progressive movement will grow out of this type of intellectual support for social reform.