It is hard to decide on which one city in the entire world has the most unique blend of arts and culture during the 1800’s. The entire 1800’s is a century of rapid global growth and advancement. The Industrial Revolution brought about the creation of the railroads which made travel easier and faster. Immigration was common as large ethnic groups moved around trying to find a better life. Yet of all the cities that experienced growth during this time, I can only think of three cities that could fit the bill: Paris, New York, and San Francisco.
Paris has long been a cultural mecca for the arts. A lot of its advances during the 1800’s is due to two men, both named Napoleon. As the capital of France, Paris grew into a center for learning. It was known as a city of pilgrimage during the 1300’s, under the guidance of Louis IX. After the French Revolution, a young officer named Napoleon Bonaparte seized power. Napoleon wanted to transform Pairs into a city that could rival Rome. He set about constructing architectural wonders inspired by the Italian city.
With the arrival of the Industrial Revolution, immigrants flooded the city looking for work. Monuments such as the Eglise de la Madeleine, Arc de Triomphe, and the Eglise du Dome were erected as was the famous Eiffel Tower (although that was at the end of the century). By mid-1800’s, the city’s population crested 900,000 and marked it as the second largest city in Europe.
At the end of a series of revolts, a new ruler was elected in 1848. The victor was Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, the nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, the former emperor. Under his rule, he transformed the city once more. He modernized the old Paris by building a new system of streets and wide boulevards. He changed the Bois de Boulogne and the Bois de Vincennes into parks.
Under Napoleon’s rule, Paris experienced what was called a bella époque; a Golden Age. It became renowned for its arts with the rise of the Impressionists movement. The Moulin Rouge became popular with its brothels, clubs, and cabarets which drew from a wide assortment of cultures. New monuments and architecture were built and Paris finally took on the current look that it has today.
New York City
New York has always represented the cultural melting pot of the United States. From its early colonial days with Dutch settlers to the influx of Germans in 1710, the beginnings of New York had a mix of European cultures. The construction of the Eerie Canal, which began in 1817 and was finished in 1825, would prove to be a valuable asset for bringing trade and economics to New York. It also created a way over the Appalachian Mountains for settlement.
By 1810, two-thirds of the inhabitants in New York were foreigners. The fledgling city had taken on the role as a place to do business and make money.
As the New York area expanded with commerce during the Pre-Civil War era, it also brought in a variety of ethnic groups. Germans, Dutch, Scots Irish from Pennsylvania, African-Americans, and immigrants from England and Ireland all moved into upstate New York and formed a large community. It wasn’t until after the American Civil War (and the New York Draft Riots) that New York began to take on a more modern urban look. As economy still grew, the city drew in more people from the railways and the steamboats.
Immigrants have always played a vital role in the creation of New York. The harbors of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and New Jersey provided ideal space for vessels to travel up and down the coast (as well as across the Atlantic) to deliver trade goods. These harbors proved valuable during the Irish Potato Famine and the Revolutions of 1848 when New York saw its largest influx of Irish and German immigrants.
All of these different cultures helped to shape New York. The city’s entrepreneurial attitude brought plenty of work in a confined place. Separate neighborhood districts developed as home to those different cultural groups. Today you can visit New York’s Chinatown, Little Italy, and other cultural areas.
Similar to New York on the east coast, San Francisco has grown into a diverse cultural mix. Owing a lot to its natural harbor, San Francisco grew due to trade and commerce that went on up and down the Pacific coast.
San Francisco started out as a Spanish settlement in the late 1700’s. It was later visited by the French and English but the next largest settlement was Russian. Russian explorers colonized a stretch of area from Alaska down to California.
In 1821, California gained its independence from Spain as part of Mexico. In 1835, the beginnings of what would become San Francisco occurred when an Englishman named William Richardson founded a small town named Yerba Buena. The town was where Portsmouth Square is today. During the Mexican-American war, the U.S. navy took up residence in the town and officially changed its name to San Francisco in 1847.
The California Gold Rush of 1848 started a huge boom in San Francisco. It drew in a large number of immigrants and workers for the railroad, mostly Chinese, and potential prospectors looking to get rich. One-fifth of the city’s population is still Chinese and the China Town district is one of the largest ethnic districts in the U.S.
By 1890, San Francisco became known as “The Paris of the West”. The city had built up a new sewage system, school districts, parks, a public library, and several businesses such as Levi & Strauss, Ghirardelli Chocolate, and Wells Fargo Bank. A 50-year plan was drafted to create new architecture to improve the city’s look and appeal. This culminated in the Opera House, the waterfront, a subway, and a number of wide streets and boulevards.
San Francisco is still a city that is a cultural mix. There are districts dominated by different ethnic groups and a wide variety of business and commerce that is rivaled only by New York City.