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Rock Street, San Francisco

The
term gilded is defined, in terms of jewelry, as having a gold exterior and a
cheap interior. This term is used to describe a time in US history where everyone
thought that cities were a land of opportunity, but in reality, they were a
dark and unforgiving place to live. This time period was called the Gilded Age.

The Gilded Age lasted between —–During this time, there was a very large
margin between classes. The working class lived in tenement apartments, which
were dirty and crammed. The middle and upper class focused on things such as
dinner parties and the etiquette rules of society. These cities were cruel
places to live if you were not wealthy. New Wave Immigrants and the working
class were the ones who were mostly preyed upon because they had no wealth to
pay their way out of bad situations. If you were poor you would be taken
advantage of, abused, blackmailed, or even arrested. In cities, the police were
corrupt, crime was high, saloons were a safe place, and new wave immigrants
were being stereotyped. The Gilded Age was a corrupt and time where the cities
were ruled by wealth and governmental power.

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These cities were also difficult to live
in because they were very corrupt. Everyone was, “dominated by an
all-controlling and overshadowing dread of the police department” (The New York
State Senate). As explained by the New York State Senate, they, “operate from
the higher officials down, rather than from the patrolmen up” (The New York
State Senate), meaning that the police were all controlled by the higher
government officials. The New York State Senate quotes tat, “the suppression
and repression of crime depended, not so much upon the ability of the police to
enforce the law, but rather upon the will of that organization or faction to
have the law enforced” (New York State Senate). If the lower-class people or, “people
from humbler walks of life” (The New York State Senate), failed to comply to
the officers wants then they would be “abused, clubbed, and imprisoned, and
even convicted of crime on false testimony by policemen and their accomplices.

Men of business were harassed and annoyed in their affairs…” (New York State
Senate). The policemen would commit this cruelty until the target of their
cruelty would stoop to their needs. The members of the lower class who didn’t
listen and give in to the extortion from the cop would be held in jail, abused,
or charged with a false crime and be convicted. On the other hand, if an
illegal business would do good for the police or the higher up officials, it
would be ignored even if it was written about in the papers. All of these cruelties
would happen under the reign of the higher government officials, making the
cities more of a dictatorship.

             In such a corrupt city, most people were
uneducated and were desperate to make money anyway that that they could. Many
turned to criminal activities such as shoplifting and pickpocketing because
they were fast ways to make a living. In Thomas Byrnes’ Professional Criminals of America, he states that, “robbery is now
a profession” (Thomas Byrnes). Not only the lower class were burglars though,
many middle-class woman would steal the things that they couldn’t afford to
fulfill their desires. Thievery had become a very common occurrence, this shows
the greater theme of corruption in a big city. It is the ultimate act of
desperation, stealing from someone for your own benefit. Also from Byrnes’
article, he explains that not everything is as it seems. He tells a story of a
woman who is a shoplifter who is, “a wife and mother whose home is an honest
one, who attends religious services regularly, and who seems far removed from
the world of crime, should be carried away from her admiration of some trinket
or knickknack as to risk home, honor, everything to secure it” (Thomas Byrnes).

            In contrast to the previous authors
condemning certain aspects of city life, Royal Melendy shines a light on saloons
an escape from the cruelty and corruption of the city. In his article Saloon Culture, Melendy explains that
saloons are often generalized, “places where men and women revel in drunkenness
and shame” (Royal Melendy), but in actuality they offered a sense of community
and safety from thins like thievery and police control. Saloons were, “part of
the neighborhood; it fulfills in it the social functions which unfortunately
have been left to it to exercise” (Royal Melendy). The environment was
welcoming and described as, “as you step in, you find a few men standing at the
bar, a few drinking, and farther back men are seated about the tables, reading,
playing cards, eating, and discussing, over a glass of beer, subjects varied
from the political and sociological problems of the day to the sporting news
and the lighter chat of the immediate neighborhood” (Royal Melendy ). They were
spread all over the cities; an example of their abundance is shown in a table showing
the appearance of saloons in Chicago, it shows that there were 163 saloons
scattered around the city. Saloons were also places were people would learn.

They could talk to the other saloon goers and learn whatever crafts that they
knew and vise versa. It was, “the working man’s school” (Royal Melendy).

            In an article by Jane Addams called
“The ‘Juvenile-Adult’ Offender”, she emphasizes
that city life was focused entirely on the financial. The article examines the
story of six teenage boys who had killed a man and were being tried for murder
as an adult because they were over the age of being a juvenile, but were still 17-21.

They were robbed of all the resources a juvenile would have because they were
just out of the age range. The topic of whether a making age range called a
“Juvenile-Adult” was brought up where they wouldn’t be tried as an adult, but
wouldn’t be tried as a delinquent. Also, this article explains how bad the
cells were in the jails. They were seven feet by nine feet, overcrowded, and
dirty. This is inhumane treatment of people who are just over the age of being
considered and tried as children. A reporter went to their home and asked their
parents about their children’s situation, the mothers explained that the only
question they would every ask their sons about work was, “how much money on
Saturday?” (Jane Addams), not what they were doing for work. One of the fathers
merely claims, “I don’t care what they do with them; they may hang them, shoot
them or cut them into pieces; it is nothing to me” (Jane Addams). Another
claimed, “neither of those boys ever brought home a penny”. All these children
except for one were New Wave Immigrants. Because New Wave immigrants came to
America with very little to no means of employment, they had to turn to other
sources to make money therefore there was most likely a stereotype for
immigrants to be juveniles. One of the mothers explained that he was always, “a
good boy at home” (Jane Addams. This proves that the city and the desperation
to make money changes people.

            In all of these articles, the main
focus is to draw attention to different aspects of city life and to criticize
the negative parts and highlights the positive parts. Thomas Byrnes, Jane
Addams, and the New York State Senate all criticize the corruption of the city
in their articles. The New York State Senate article claims that the police
force preys upon the lower class, takes advantage of their lack of wealth, and
blackmail them into doing things they want them to. Brynes proves that cities
were only focused on wealth in his article. The shoplifters are middle class
people who are financially stable, yet greed drives them to steal unneeded
things. While people such as pickpockets are only stealing in order to survive.

On the other hand, Royal Melendy’s article emphasis a positive aspect of the
city, saloons. They are an escape from this cruelty explained by the other
articles. 

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