American Studies Home Site Map Gallery of Prints Writing Across the Curriculum Currier & Ives Introduction Currier & Ives Opening

Cities

New York City clean and attractive; New York dirty and crowded.

Cities for the most part were filthy. Every sort of debris was tossed into the street. A city like New York, for instance, in 1888 endured "a daily deposit of 2.5 million pounds of manure and 60,000 gallons of urine from the city's 60,000 horses" which hardened into chunks during severe cold and blew about in the wind (Murphy 33).

Workers in textile factories, one of the biggest of the New England industries, paid the average male in the 1850s about $6.00 per week, females about $3.00, and children $.75 to $1.50. It cost a family of five about $11.00 per week to live. Often the work was erratic, but a solid work week might equal sixty-five hourse at no additional pay (McDonald 392-393).

Housing could not keep up with the growth of the urban population, which between 1830 and 1850 burgeoned from 1,127,247 to 3,543,726. Cities could not keep pace with the need for water, sewage, or garbage disposal. The streets served as repository for slop buckets and forage for hogs. Firefighters used outmoded equipment that could not cope with the overcrowded conditions. Cholera, yellow fever, and typhoid epidemics, along with disastrous fires, periodically swept the cities (McDonald 394). It is little wonder that Easterners turned to the bucolic world presented in the images of Currier and Ives, or that they sought refuge in the West.

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American Studies Home Site Map Gallery of Prints Writing Across the Curriculum Currier & Ives Introduction Currier & Ives Opening

Site created by Marcy McDonald, American Studies, UVA. Last modified: July 30, 2005. E-mail: asgrp@virginia.edu

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