American Society

Colonial cities grew quite rapidly. Boston had 7,000 residents in 1690 and over 15,000 residents in 1760. Philadelphia had 2,100 residents in 1690, over 9,000 residents in 1740, and over 20,000 residents by 1760. New Amsterdam’s population grew from 4,000 in 1690 to over 10,000 in 1740 and to 25,000 by the 1770s. Newport had 2,600 residents in 1690 and over 10,000 residents by the 1770s, and Charles Town grew from 1,100 in 1690 to over 10,000 by the 1770s. Much of the cities’ growth, except that of Boston, was fueled by immigration, which led to a diverse population. Colonial cities were heterogeneous places. The majority of urban dwellers came from England. There were, however, Swedes, Dutch, Scots, Scotch-Irish, Welsh, Swiss, Germans, and Africans living in colonial cities. New Amsterdam, Philadelphia, and Charles Town possessed much more racially and ethnically diverse populations than did Boston and Newport, which remained primarily English throughout the colonial period. Stark class distinctions also existed in colonial cities. By the end of the seventeenth century, a small, exclusive class of rich English merchants had emerged in each of the towns, assuming all of the characteristics of a commercial aristocracy. Rich Boston merchants, for example, built luxurious mansions made of stone and brick and wore fancy clothes, lace, gold braid, and slashed sleeves. They also prevented lower-class residents from exhibiting excess in their apparel. Even the Quakers in Philadelphia, who tended to be more modest, wore fine clothes, wigs, and side swords. They also built sturdy brick houses with balconies overlooking the Delaware, ate rich foods, and drank fine wine. Elite merchants in Newport and Charles Town, who had a greater amount of arable land at their disposal, established elaborate country estates. The majority of city dwellers were not wealthy, however. They were common laborers or skilled craftsmen who spent their days working to maintain themselves and their families. Class distinctions affected every facet of life in colonial cities. North American Cities, 1750. North America was a largely rural place in the middle of the eighteenth century. Then, as now, Mexico City was the largest metropolis on the continent with a population of over 100,000. By comparison, cities in the thirteen colonies were tiny. Philadelphia was the largest, with a population of less than 20,000. (Carto-Graphics) Two of the most important institutions in colonial cities were the church and the tavern. Puritans in Boston, Anglicans in Charles Town, and the Society of Friends in Philadelphia dominated the social life and social hierarchy in their respective towns. New Amsterdam and Newport proved more tolerant and more heterogeneous. All of the cities had numerous taverns and inns, which served a number of vital functions during the colonial period. Townsfolk went to the taverns daily to eat, drink, gossip, share important news, and engage in a small amount of trade. They posted notices on tavern walls for all to read. Travelers also lodged at local taverns and inns. Together, the church and the tavern provided the social, economic, political, and religious infrastructure necessary for survival in colonial cities. Colonial urban dwellers faced many of the same problems that continue to plague American cities in the twenty-first century. Colonists, for example, spent a considerable amount of time and effort constructing and maintaining adequate housing and roadways. With the exception of New Amsterdam, colonial cities looked very English. Initial structures were simple one-story buildings made of stone or wood, covered with thatch, and scattered about the settlement. As the cities grew, the buildings also grew, and residents increasingly took more care in determining their design and location. Initially, colonists created paths to get from one location to another, but as the seventeenth century progressed, paths became roads and roads became highways, all of which required increased maintenance and planning. Charles Town and Philadelphia, which were founded near the end of the seventeenth century, grew much more quickly than the other cities and required more initial planning. Colonists in all of the cities engaged in land reclamation and the building of bridges, canals, wharves, warehouses, churches, taverns, and other public buildings. Fire was always a major concern, as were maintenance of order and police protection. The relative congestion of colonial towns also forced residents to deal with sanitation and public health issues. Each city also found itself confronted early in its history with the necessity of providing for its poor and dependent residents. History ” American Society of São Paulo travelquaz


American Society

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American Society

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American Society

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