Demographic Distribution

In 1870, it is estimated that 70% to 80% of the population in the United States worked on farms.

Between 1870 and 1916, the United States went through a transformation (from an agrarian society to an industrialized powerhouse), as the value of goods produced by American industry grew by a factor of ten.  In 1870, about 25% of the population lived in cities; by 1916, almost 50% did.

Bethlehem Steel, Bethlehem, PA

Color Print of Bethlehem Steel works in 1881

Modern steel factories in western Pennsylvania, oil exploration and refining in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, electric generation and distribution in Massachusetts were on the verge of transforming America and eventually the rest of the world.

In 1870, New York City was still mostly rural, with the population concentrated below 14th Street.   Immigrants filled unregulated, filthy tenements in lower Manhattan, as they poured through Ellis Island.  These tenements may have been fertile ground for disease; however, they were also fertile ground for musical development.

Immigrant Arrivals at Ellis Island

Immigrants Arriving at Ellis Island in 1902

During the late 1800’s, American railroads created a vast nationwide network of transportation hubs, connecting north to south and east to west.  The steam engines burned coal to provide power.

The railroad network made it possible to move goods around the country, to ship grain from silos in the Mid-West to mills and bakeries all around the country. It made it possible to ship iron ore from the Mesabi Range in Minnesota to the steel mills in Pittsburgh, to ship coal to heat homes or to run electric generators.

1890 Map of Rail Lines

Growth of Rail Coverage in United States 1880-1890

And don’t forget that by 1916, airplanes were flying combat missions in WWI!

Our inventions and commercial development made new masters and new servants, expanded the number of people who could acquire wealth but also the number of people who would toil under horrendous conditions to make that wealth creation possible.