Urban Infrastructure and Services Changed in the Colonial Era to 1860
Urban infrastructure and connected services had a massive impact in the development of the colonies, all the way up to the end of the 19th century. In just a few decades, the quaint colonial townships which had once existed were no longer around, but had manifested into bustling metropolitan centers. This paper will demonstrate how much of that evolution was as a result of the values of Puritanism which guided and helped the colonies to evolve and develop into the modern era. The values of Puritanism spurred people to work and to thrive, causing the towns to work and to thrive into cities.
Pennsylvania is a shining example of how urban infrastructure and such related factors were able to modernize and urbanize such a colony. Philadelphia largely offers a clear example of how both privatism and a rejection of traditional values were some of the elements that pushed the forward development of urban infrastructure forward, driving the city into the modern era. "Privatism lies at the core of many modern cultures: privatism alone will not distinguish the experience of America from that of other nations. The tradition of privatism is, however, the most important element of our culture for understanding the development of cities. The tradition of privatism has always meant that the cities of the United States depended for their wages, employment, and general prosperity upon the aggregate successes and failures of thousands of individual enterprises, not community action" (Warner, 4). In a sense, individuals starting their own businesses, and individuals working hard to create their own opportunities were part of the reason that the colonies (not just the city of Philadelphia) were able to evolve so rapidly and at a consistent pace.
Essentially, urban infrastructure was underscored by the rugged individualism and pioneer spirit that had characterized the entire development of the nation at large. This was an important distinction to focus on and to understand: the colonies were able to modernize because of the individual people who made up the colonies. This makes sense historically since the colonies had worked so hard to overthrow the British influence in their own lives and create independence and solidarity for themselves. Given everything that they had gone through, it's absolutely no surprise that they thrived off of autonomy and individualism.
Individualism as manifested through privatism turned out to be an ideal match for the needs and obligations of the colonies at this time: where they were and where they were headed. "In the eighteenth century the tradition of privatism and the social and economic environment of colonial towns nicely complemented each other. Later as towns grew into big cities, and big cities grew into metropolises, the tradition became more and more ill-suited to the realities of urban life. The tradition assumed that there would be no major conflict between private interest, honestly and liberally viewed, and the public welfare" (Warner, 5). Essentially the colonies were able to thrive and to modernize because the separate and distinct towns within each of the colonies believed that they would thrive if they supported these individual men: the belief was that if individuals succeeded then the entire town would. This hypothesis turned out to be true over and over again.
Since individualism proved to be such an essential part of the development of the colonies, it's also worth acknowledging how the mentality and belief systems of the colonies at large were absolutely essential in this development of individualism and thus to the entire modernization and urbanization of this early part of America at large. The colonies were characterized by American Puritanism, and as it turned out, Puritanism was a core value of American society. American individualism, founded in Puritanism placed a tremendous value on self-reliance, privacy and mutual respect and greatly values the anti-authority tradition (Kang, 149). "Puritanism, being a product of the religious reform, keeps the anti-authority tradition and develops a strong self-awareness. Firstly, Puritans' 'justification-by-faith' concept led to the denial of Pope's authority, and bridged the gap between God and man. That is, every Christian can communicate directly with God through his faith to Him, and everyone can be his own priest. So, the minds of Christians were emancipated from rigid Roman Catholicism. In this sense, personal values were stressed, and one's soul became more free and independent" (Kang 149-150). Furthermore, in accordance with Martin Luther's pillars, Puritans created their own church, selected their own priest, and eradicated the hierarchical system within the church; this meant that Christians no longer had to live under the shackles and narrowness of the Roman Catholic system of rules and fear (Kang, 150). This meant that the guidepost of the Church had become a free organization of Christians and that salvation was pursuit which was individual and personal (Kang, 150).
Moreover, the sense of 'predestination' within Puritanism was something which fortified the Puritan self-awareness to better oneself, as Puritans believed that their religious purity and overall salvation was something that they could accomplish through self-discipline, self-improvement, and a strong level of hard work (Kang, 150). The puritan anti-authority and intensive level of self-awareness helped to carve the way for the evolution of individualism within colonial America and it is this foundation which helped it to thrive as the most important value of American people in general (Kang, 150). Again, the modernization of Philadelphia is a shining example of this phenomenon and how it worked, and how it was able to benefit the colonies. Philadelphia in the 1700s was a place where the individual was in search of wealth and where the one-man shop prevailed and where the city was full of entrepreneurs (Warner, 7). It would only be in later years that the city (and others like it) would be full of factories, offices, stores and have construction crews helping it to further evolve. Philadelphia and other towns within colonies like it, was able to make the transition to small town ways and shift over to big city ways through adaptability and flexibility: once the city was able to make a strong commitment to privatism and essentially cling to that through the process of urbanization, then it would be able to guide it into the modern era.
Part of the development and urbanization of the colonies and the city centers within them meant that there would also be slums as well and other undesirable neighborhoods. While slums such as New York City's Five Points neighborhood were considered to be epic-centers of crime, prostitution, and crammed tenement living, they were also a manifestation and clear sign of urban life. A slum like Five Points signified in many ways that one's city had in fact arrived and that modernization was well underway. For an area like Five Points, the ground was dark and swampy, giving it a poor foundation of support for the houses there: "The increasing association of the area with immigrants and blacks also played a role in its decline. Discrimination forced African-Americans into certain occupations -- especially those of chimney sweep, barber and sailor -- whose status and pay kept them in constant poverty… Finally it was Five Points development into a center of prostitution that sealed its disreputable fate. Until 1820, the waterfront district around Water Street had housed the city's largest concentration of prostitutes and brothels" (Anbinder, 52). In a sense, this sort of moral disintegration is a byproduct of urbanization, and is something that many of the major cities within these original thirteen colonies experienced. This was a manifestation of rapid urbanization and the booming business of cities along with immigration and rapid development.
However, the things which eventually ended up riddling the development of urbanization and the pillars of infrastructure thereafter, were not connected to the original Puritan values. One…