How is it that in modern times, everyone in that apartment building can take a hot shower, cook food, and wash dishes without a hiccup in service or fear of dirty water?

Have you ever stopped to think about how it is that so many people can live comfortably on a single city block? How is it that in modern times, everyone in that apartment building can take a hot shower, cook food, and wash dishes without a hiccup in service or fear of dirty water? When one thinks about the scale of the waterworks needed for a city such as New York or Chicago, for example, it is awe-inspiring. There are several key technologies that emerged at the end of the nineteenth century that made the skyscraper age of urban density possible. They include innovative steel steel-refining processes that made upward construction strong and stable, elevators that made living and working high above the ground not only possible, but enjoyable, and plumbing, sewage management, and waste water treatment systems that operate on an industrial scale.
Water quality was a challenging topic during the Gilded Age. A sanitation reform movement emerged in order to combat some of the causes and consequences of the difficult living conditions in tenements and densely populated areas. Much discussion in history texts centers on the race- and class-tinged nature of reform movements. Since the poor areas of Gilded Age cities were often where foreign immigrants and African- American refugees from the Jim Crow South settled, many reformers believed that if only “those” people could learn better choices, their environments would not become so disease-ridden. The histories of immigration and conflicts amongst ethnicities and race, not to mention economic realities, are indeed important to learn and contemplate. But one way to look at the topic of urbanization is that underlying the ability of so many people to live and work together at all are technological innovations that make city living possible and even enjoyable. The documents included in this assignment are designed to get the student thinking about the impact of the technological inventions that came about during the Industrial Age and the Gilded Age.
Document 1 is a painting by George Bellows, whose work captured the feel of city life, especially that of average working people. To the extent that good art allows us to “feel” a time period, as well as examine it closely for its factual details, “Cliff Dwellers” does that.
Document 2 is an example of what Elisha Otis’s invention of the “safety elevator” in 1852 made possible. In 1885, the Chicago Home Insurance Building was the tallest in the world, soon to be eclipsed by taller structures in Chicago, New York, and all around the world.
Document 3 is a collection of excerpts from a book produced by George Waring, a man who spent his post-Civil War life engrossed in the study of water-borne illness and how to eradicate it by developing and installing industrial drainage and water treatment systems. As is evident from the excerpts, Waring was part of an international community of people studying these problems and sharing with each other their solutions. The Industrial Age created the problems by luring more and more people into urban areas, but also solved them by generating the needed technologies.
1. Read textbook Chapter 19.
2. Observe closely “Cliff Dwellers” (May 1913) by the artist George Bellows (1882-1925).
3. Examine the photograph of the Chicago Home Insurance Building. Your textbook mentions this building and its importance.
4. Read this collection of excerpts from a book by George W. Waring, “Draining for Profit, and Draining for Health,” 1867
5. Answer the questions that follow at the end of this page.
Write a minimum of 250 words total for this exercise.
The format should be: Times New Roman with 12 size font, standard margins for college essays, and following the traditional format for a scholarly essay.
Your answers must be complete, unique and in your own words. Quote only when you are trying to analyze a specific passage. Cite all work that you consult at the end of your reply. Skip paper identifiers like date, name, title. Do not write out the questions.
Document 1
“Cliff Dwellers” by George Bellows: Digital Image © Museum Associates / LACMA. Licensed by Art Resource, NY
Source: “Cliff Dwellers” by George Bellows: Digital Image © Museum Associates / LACMA. Licensed by Art Resource, NY
Document 2
Home Insurance Building, exterior, Chicago, IL: Library of Congress
Source: Home Insurance Building, exterior, Chicago, IL: Library of Congress
Document 3
“The following is extracted from a report made by the General Board of Health to the British Parliament, concerning the administration of the Public Health Act and the Nuisances Removal and Diseases Prevention Acts from 1848 to 1854.
“Where instances have been favorable for definite observation, as in broad blocks of buildings, the effects of sanitary improvement have been already manifested to an extent greater than could have been anticipated, and than then can be readily credited by those who have not paid attention to the subject.
“In one favorable instance, that of between 600 and 700 persons of the working class in the metropolis, during a period of three years, the average rate of mortality has been reduced to between 13 and 14 in 1000. In another instance, for a shorter period, among 500 persons, the mortality has been reduced as low as even 7 in 1000. The average rate of mortality for the whole metropolis being 23 in 1000.” (p. 223)
“The work which has been done, and which is now in contemplation, in England, is suggestive of what might, with advantage, be adopted in the larger cities in America. Especially in New York an improved means of outlet is desirable, and it is doubtful whether the high rate of mortality of that city will be materially reduced before effective measures are devised for removing the vast accumulations of filth, which ebb and flow in many of the larger sewers, with each change of the tide; and which are deposited between the piers along the river-sides.
“It would be practicable to construct a main receiving sewer under the river streets, skirting the city, from the vicinity of Bellevue Hospital on the east side, passing near the outer edge of the Battery, and continuing to the high land near 60th street on the west side; having its water level at least twenty feet below the level of the street, and receiving all of the sewage which now flows into the river. At the Battery, this receiving sewer might be connected, by a tunnel, with the Brooklyn shore, its contents being carried to a convenient point south of Fort Hamilton, where their discharge, (by lifting steam pumps), into the waters of the Lower Bay, would be attended with no inconvenience. The improvement being carried out to this point, it would probably not be long before the advantages to result from the application of the sewage to the sandy soil on the south side of Long Island would be manifest.
“The effect of such an improvement on the health of the city, which is now in constant danger from the putrefying filth of the sewers, (these being little better than covered cess-pools under the streets,) would, no doubt, equal the improvement that has resulted from similar work in London.” (p. 228)
“For a district inhabited by 10,000 persons, a 12-inch pipe would afford a sufficient outlet, unless the amount of road drainage were unusually large, and for the largest sewers, pipes of more than 18 inches diameter are rarely used, these doing the work which, under the old system, was allotted to a sewer 6 feet high and 3 feet broad.” (p. 231)
“The principles herein set forth, whether relating to sanitary improvement, to convenience and decency of living, or to the use of waste matters of houses in agricultural improvement, are no less applicable in America than elsewhere; and the more general adoption of improved house drainage and sewerage, and of the use of sewage matters in agriculture, would add to the health and prosperity of its people, and would indicate a great advance in civilization.” (p. 239)
Source: Accessed at The Project Gutenberg EBook of Draining for Profit, and Draining for Health by George E. Waring
This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at
Title: Draining for Profit, and Draining for Health
Author: George E. Waring
Release Date: October 4, 2006 [Ebook #19465]
Language: English
Character set encoding: UTF-8
Questions to Answer:
1) What factors combined to make the United States a mature industrial society after the Civil War?
2) Document 1: Use specific observations from the painting “Cliff Dwellers” to explain what you believe George Bellows is trying to say about life in the crowded tenements of New York City.
3) Document 2: What do you think is the significance of the Home Insurance Building in Chicago?
4) Document 3: What is George Waring’s approach to solving the problems of water-borne illness?

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