Life On The Streets Of New York

City In The 19Th C Essay, Research Paper Ragged Dick, by Horatio Alger, is a splendidly written novel involving a colorful character named Dick Hunter who works as a bootblack in New York City. He has no home to speak of in the beginning of the story. Dick dreams of becoming a respectable young man. The entire novel is the story of how he does just that.

City In The 19Th C Essay, Research Paper

Ragged Dick, by Horatio Alger, is a splendidly written novel involving a colorful character named Dick Hunter who works as a bootblack in New York City. He has no home to speak of in the beginning of the story. Dick dreams of becoming a respectable young man. The entire novel is the story of how he does just that. Throughout the story, there are many detailed explanations of what life was like on the streets in the 19th century. By the end of the story, Dick is no longer living in the streets and acquires a well-paying job by saving a drowning infant. It is a heartfelt story and, according to studies of Alger, was written to inspire young boys of that time to listen to their parents and be good children. Alger’s heart was in the right place, but real life on the streets of New York City in the 19th century was not portrayed accurrately in Ragged Dick. In fact, it was unbearable for some. The orphaned and abandoned children of that century often called the streets home. Long streets paved with cobblestone, lined with two-to-three story brick houses with flat roofs which were overflowing with immigrants. In the 1860s, the rich were very rich and the poor were very poor. The middle class was virtually non-existent. The rich paraded around the city in elegant carriages, smoked fine Cuban cigars and enjoyed such pleasures as ballroom dancing, opera and theatre and dining in the finest restaurants in the city. Meanwhile, as the rich dined and danced their lavish lives away, just down the street, the immigrants were fighting just to survive. The Industrial Revolution began in the 1860s. This revolution created many jobs. However, the workers were paid nominal wages and required to work long hours in the sweatshops of the city. Of course, the immigrants filled these positions eagerly. They came to America in hopes of attaining the “American Dream”, which occupied their thoughts during the long and tiresome journey at sea to the New World. To immigrants coming from foreign lands, the United States was the land of opportunity. Many of the boats carrying immigrants landed on Ellis Island, which is located just outside of New York City. So, naturally, many began their life in America in New York City. They eagerly stepped off the boats sharing laughter and dreams of freedom and opportunity. Little did they realize that they were entering a country with “relentless capitalism, widespread corruption, vulgar tastes, and ostentatious displays of wealth”. Most of the immigrants spoke little or no English but were willing to perform any kind of work available. This often meant they had to put their wives and children to work in an attempt to make ends meet. In 1890, the average annual income was $380, well below the line of poverty. Frequently, families could no longer afford to feed their children so they abandoned them and put them on the streets to survive. In the middle to late 19th century, vagrant crowds, consisting of innumerable children, roamed the streets of New York City. They slept wherever shelter could be found. Dick Hunter, Alger’s main character is portrayed as happy to be in the streets. He sleeps in warm hay wagons and wakes every morning refreshed and content to begin his day. This is not an accurate portrayal of a child’s life on the streets in New York City. Often the children of the streets slept in hay wagons, which provided food for the horses, a major method of transportation during that century. Other children would sleep in doorways, attics and cellars. Rarely did a child sleep in the same place two nights in a row. However, these children were not energized by their night of rest. The freezing winters and unbearably hot summers caused many health problems for the children. Some of them did not survive the night and would freeze or be asphyxiated in their sleep. These children, either orphans or run-aways, woke to begin their days of hard labor in such jobs as bootblacks, street-sweepers, newspaper boys and other menial jobs. The pay was nominal, but was enough for them to eat. Unlike in Ragged Dick, it was rare that the children were fortunate enough to work their way up the ranks to more respectable lives. Marilyn Irvin Holt tells one account of an eleven-year-old girl in The Orphan Trains. She was instructed by her family to go around to the docks and pick up pieces of coal left by the ships. Once at the docks, the child would place the lumps of coal in a burlap bag and drag them home, which was quite a distance away. This proved backbreaking work for such a young child. This example shows the hard times a young child had to endure in the 19th century. Dick Hunter, the main character in Ragged Dick, makes it a point to tell the reader that he is an honest young man. He states clearly that he does not steal, cheat or lie. He also states he finds those characteristics unrespectable. Unfortunately, with the poor living conditions of the vagrants and the lack of any substantial work, many of the children living in the streets in the 19th century turned to criminal behavior such as petty theft. The police force of the 19th century labeled these thieves as “street-rats”. They were “too quick and cunning to be often caught in their petty plundering, so they gnawed away at the foundations of society undisturbed.” Those who did earn money often spent it gambling or in some other unproductive manner, which meant the next day, they would begin again with no money . Dick Hunter loved to gamble. This was one trait he portrays that is true to that era for the children of the streets. This was the vicious cycle the children were caught up in. Unlike Dick Hunter, the reality of ever breaking these habits was unlikely. The uncontrollable vagrancy situation was the reason for the institution of organizations such as The New York Children’s Aid Society. This particular organization was created in the late 19th century and devised a plan to remove some of the children from the streets and place them in homes. Many were placed on farms in the West. This was operation became known as the Orphan Train. It gathered the homeless children in New York City and other major cities, and took them on a journey westward. Once the train stopped, the children were often placed on platforms where the local farmers chose them. The unfortunate ones not chosen were taken back to the cities. In some cases, not being chosen was a blessing. The farmers often treated the children like slaves. The children worked long hours doing housework and farm work. Often they were expected to perform the work of two to three men or women. They were frequently ignored and not allowed to interact with the family. Alger mentions this operation through Dick Hunter’s friend, Johnny Nolan. Johnny tells Dick that he used to have a warm bed to sleep in on a farm out West. When Dick asks Johnny why he left, Johnny tells Dick he was lonely. This is a kind way of portraying life for the orphans and run-aways who were taken by the Orphan Trains to the West. In Ragged Dick, Dick Hunter, maintained his dignity and refuses to steal, cheat or lie. He moves up the economic scale by being virtuous and honest. Actually, a lot of luck was involved with Dick’s success. He was fortunate to meet the many characters that aided his success. Not every child of the 19th century was so fortunate. The distance between the rich and the poor contributed to the immense poverty and innumerable vagrants in the street. The rich placed themselves so far above the poor that they didn’t even consider the poor immigrants and their children as human beings. For example, the article “The Life of the Street Rats”, by Charles Loring Brace, is indignant and condescending toward the immigrants. It was unclear whether he was giving his opinion or the opinion of the upper class, but either way, the article lacked compassion towards the immigrants. An example of this is in his statement, “All these great masses of destitute, miserable, and criminal persons believe that for ages the rich have had all the good things of life, while to them have been left the evil things. Capital to them is the tyrant.” The streets where immigrants lived in New York City during the 19th century were filled with slums and tenement districts that were notoriously overcrowded and considered a miserable existence. Few of the children who were orphaned or abandoned to the streets could read, much less find inspiring words in Alger’s writings. They would have found little reprieve in the stories like Ragged Dick, which was geared toward the middle to upper class of that era. Another problem that was arising quickly in the dirty, orphan-filled streets was street gangs like the “Bowery Boys.” Crime was uncontrollable and drugs were sold on the streets. This problem was the inspiration of the development of yet another organization called the “God’s American Volunteers”. Founded by Ballington Booth in 1896, he wrote, “It is not enough to provide economic security and material comforts. Those who strive for man’s betterment must seek it first through touching the spirit.” The organization set up areas throughout the city which provided the homeless with a meal, warm clothes and friendship. This organization is known today as Volunteers of America. New York City in the 19th century was obviously a glorious time only for the rich. The poor, however, found disease, homelessness and hardship. The poor consisted of mostly immigrants who were new to our country and came here in search of achieving the “American Dream.” They found that the dream they were thinking of on the trip over was actually a nightmare. They were forced to live in unsanitary conditions of crowded tenements and often forced to abandon their children because they could not afford to feed them. The streets were overflowing with orphans and runaways who had to fend for themselves by performed such tasks as bootblacking, selling newspapers, sweeping streets and other small jobs that paid very little. The children slept wherever they could find a dry, hopefully warm spot. Every night brought new challenges of where they would get nourishment and warmth. The American dream for many of them was actually the American nightmare. It is difficult to fathom the horrendous living conditions they had to endure. Some of the children endured the hardship and survived, however, many did not. It was not uncommon for a child to die in the streets. Ragged Dick, by Horatio Alger, is a splendidly written novel involving a colorful character named Dick Hunter who works as a bootblack in New York City. He has no home to speak of in the beginning of the story. Dick dreams of becoming a respectable young man. The entire novel is the story of how he does just that. Throughout the story, there are many detailed explanations of what life was like on the streets in the 19th century. By the end of the story, Dick is no longer living in the streets and acquires a well-paying job by saving a drowning infant. It is a heartfelt story and, according to studies of Alger, was written to inspire young boys of that time to listen to their parents and be good children.

Alger’s heart was in the right place, but real life on the streets of New York City in the 19th century was not portrayed accurrately in Ragged Dick. In fact, it was unbearable for some. The orphaned and abandoned children of that century often called the streets home. Long streets paved with cobblestone, lined with two-to-three story brick houses with flat roofs which were overflowing with immigrants. In the 1860s, the rich were very rich and the poor were very poor. The middle class was virtually non-existent. The rich paraded around the city in elegant carriages, smoked fine Cuban cigars and enjoyed such pleasures as ballroom dancing, opera and theatre and dining in the finest restaurants in the city. Meanwhile, as the rich dined and danced their lavish lives away, just down the street, the immigrants were fighting just to survive. The Industrial Revolution began in the 1860s. This revolution created many jobs. However, the workers were paid nominal wages and required to work long hours in the sweatshops of the city. Of course, the immigrants filled these positions eagerly. They came to America in hopes of attaining the “American Dream”, which occupied their thoughts during the long and tiresome journey at sea to the New World. To immigrants coming from foreign lands, the United States was the land of opportunity. Many of the boats carrying immigrants landed on Ellis Island, which is located just outside of New York City. So, naturally, many began their life in America in New York City. They eagerly stepped off the boats sharing laughter and dreams of freedom and opportunity. Little did they realize that they were entering a country with “relentless capitalism, widespread corruption, vulgar tastes, and ostentatious displays of wealth”. Most of the immigrants spoke little or no English but were willing to perform any kind of work available. This often meant they had to put their wives and children to work in an attempt to make ends meet. In 1890, the average annual income was $380, well below the line of poverty. Frequently, families could no longer afford to feed their children so they abandoned them and put them on the streets to survive. In the middle to late 19th century, vagrant crowds, consisting of innumerable children, roamed the streets of New York City. They slept wherever shelter could be found. Dick Hunter, Alger’s main character is portrayed as happy to be in the streets. He sleeps in warm hay wagons and wakes every morning refreshed and content to begin his day. This is not an accurate portrayal of a child’s life on the streets in New York City. Often the children of the streets slept in hay wagons, which provided food for the horses, a major method of transportation during that century. Other children would sleep in doorways, attics and cellars. Rarely did a child sleep in the same place two nights in a row. However, these children were not energized by their night of rest. The freezing winters and unbearably hot summers caused many health problems for the children. Some of them did not survive the night and would freeze or be asphyxiated in their sleep. These children, either orphans or run-aways, woke to begin their days of hard labor in such jobs as bootblacks, street-sweepers, newspaper boys and other menial jobs. The pay was nominal, but was enough for them to eat. Unlike in Ragged Dick, it was rare that the children were fortunate enough to work their way up the ranks to more respectable lives. Marilyn Irvin Holt tells one account of an eleven-year-old girl in The Orphan Trains. She was instructed by her family to go around to the docks and pick up pieces of coal left by the ships. Once at the docks, the child would place the lumps of coal in a burlap bag and drag them home, which was quite a distance away. This proved backbreaking work for such a young child. This example shows the hard times a young child had to endure in the 19th century. Dick Hunter, the main character in Ragged Dick, makes it a point to tell the reader that he is an honest young man. He states clearly that he does not steal, cheat or lie. He also states he finds those characteristics unrespectable. Unfortunately, with the poor living conditions of the vagrants and the lack of any substantial work, many of the children living in the streets in the 19th century turned to criminal behavior such as petty theft. The police force of the 19th century labeled these thieves as “street-rats”. They were “too quick and cunning to be often caught in their petty plundering, so they gnawed away at the foundations of society undisturbed.” Those who did earn money often spent it gambling or in some other unproductive manner, which meant the next day, they would begin again with no money . Dick Hunter loved to gamble. This was one trait he portrays that is true to that era for the children of the streets. This was the vicious cycle the children were caught up in. Unlike Dick Hunter, the reality of ever breaking these habits was unlikely. The uncontrollable vagrancy situation was the reason for the institution of organizations such as The New York Children’s Aid Society. This particular organization was created in the late 19th century and devised a plan to remove some of the children from the streets and place them in homes. Many were placed on farms in the West. This was operation became known as the Orphan Train. It gathered the homeless children in New York City and other major cities, and took them on a journey westward. Once the train stopped, the children were often placed on platforms where the local farmers chose them. The unfortunate ones not chosen were taken back to the cities. In some cases, not being chosen was a blessing. The farmers often treated the children like slaves. The children worked long hours doing housework and farm work. Often they were expected to perform the work of two to three men or women. They were frequently ignored and not allowed to interact with the family. Alger mentions this operation through Dick Hunter’s friend, Johnny Nolan. Johnny tells Dick that he used to have a warm bed to sleep in on a farm out West. When Dick asks Johnny why he left, Johnny tells Dick he was lonely. This is a kind way of portraying life for the orphans and run-aways who were taken by the Orphan Trains to the West. In Ragged Dick, Dick Hunter, maintained his dignity and refuses to steal, cheat or lie. He moves up the economic scale by being virtuous and honest. Actually, a lot of luck was involved with Dick’s success. He was fortunate to meet the many characters that aided his success. Not every child of the 19th century was so fortunate. The distance between the rich and the poor contributed to the immense poverty and innumerable vagrants in the street. The rich placed themselves so far above the poor that they didn’t even consider the poor immigrants and their children as human beings. For example, the article “The Life of the Street Rats”, by Charles Loring Brace, is indignant and condescending toward the immigrants. It was unclear whether he was giving his opinion or the opinion of the upper class, but either way, the article lacked compassion towards the immigrants. An example of this is in his statement, “All these great masses of destitute, miserable, and criminal persons believe that for ages the rich have had all the good things of life, while to them have been left the evil things. Capital to them is the tyrant.” The streets where immigrants lived in New York City during the 19th century were filled with slums and tenement districts that were notoriously overcrowded and considered a miserable existence. Few of the children who were orphaned or abandoned to the streets could read, much less find inspiring words in Alger’s writings. They would have found little reprieve in the stories like Ragged Dick, which was geared toward the middle to upper class of that era. Another problem that was arising quickly in the dirty, orphan-filled streets was street gangs like the “Bowery Boys.” Crime was uncontrollable and drugs were sold on the streets. This problem was the inspiration of the development of yet another organization called the “God’s American Volunteers”. Founded by Ballington Booth in 1896, he wrote, “It is not enough to provide economic security and material comforts. Those who strive for man’s betterment must seek it first through touching the spirit.” The organization set up areas throughout the city which provided the homeless with a meal, warm clothes and friendship. This organization is known today as Volunteers of America. New York City in the 19th century was obviously a glorious time only for the rich. The poor, however, found disease, homelessness and hardship. The poor consisted of mostly immigrants who were new to our country and came here in search of achieving the “American Dream.” They found that the dream they were thinking of on the trip over was actually a nightmare. They were forced to live in unsanitary conditions of crowded tenements and often forced to abandon their children because they could not afford to feed them. The streets were overflowing with orphans and runaways who had to fend for themselves by performed such tasks as bootblacking, selling newspapers, sweeping streets and other small jobs that paid very little. The children slept wherever they could find a dry, hopefully warm spot. Every night brought new challenges of where they would get nourishment and warmth. The American dream for many of them was actually the American nightmare. It is difficult to fathom the horrendous living conditions they had to endure. Some of the children endured the hardship and survived, however, many did not. It was not uncommon for a child to die in the streets. BIBLIOGRAPHY1. “About Volunteers of America”, Volunteers of America, www.voa.org 2. Alger, Horatio. Ragged Dick (September, 1990)3. “America in the Gilded Age”, The American Experience, www.pbs.org4. Brace, Charles Loring. “The Life of the Street Rats”, The Dangerous Classes of New York and Twenty Years Among Them(New York, 1872)5. Holt, Marilyn Irvin. The Orphan Trains (1992)6. Chernow, Ron. Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. (April, 1998) LIFE IN THE STREETS OFNEW YORK CITYIN THE 19TH CENTURY JoDe NorrisSfay/Eng 350The American Dream

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