The American Dream


The New Colossus, a poem engraved on the statue of liberty, heralds the incoming masses that would forever change the face of a country.

“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

– The New Colossus, Emma Lazarus

1890… A time of great change.  The Civil War was won by the Union, that not only established a strong centralized government, but also abolished the yoke of slavery for Blacks Americans.  A new amendment in the constitution gave these newly freed slaves the ability to be treated as equals.  A completed Transcontinental Railroad connected the eastern part of the US to the Western, making it not only safe for travel but efficient for trade.  What would take months before, would now take mere weeks to travel from one side of the country to the other.  The first catalog industry, where an individual from California could order a dress made in New York today and arrive within weeks, created a new type of consumer. Industry was booming within cities which drew in rural farmers and immigrants from overseas looking for work.  There was money to be made for those who were innovative enough to find it.   Great changes were occurring that would change the face of America for generations to come (Edwards 2005).

A simple farmer could be wealthy beyond his dreams, an immigrant could make enough money to support a family back home, a newly freed black man could own his own home!  The promise of wealth and success in a land of golden opportunity called all those far and wide.

Lady liberty’s golden promise of “The American Dream” was within your grasp!

5th ave and 59th 1897

Common Day on 5th avenue and 59th.  1897

Captains of industry like Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Vanderbilt created the greatest empires of wealth ever seen in American history.  The wealth created by these captains of industry trickled downward which helped created a large wealthy middle class.  With an emergence of a strong middle class, a new service based industry was created intentionally for the increased leisure time of the middle class.  With the creation of Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, the Department store was becoming an area that cultivated a consumer culture.  This in turn helped changed the role of women.  Where previously, women were expected to stay at home and tend to the children and establish a household, the department stores provided a venue women of status could safely venture to and discus the home with other women of like minds (Edwards, 2005).


Wealthy streets

The world was changing, yet for all this great change many things remained the same.  In some cases, the situation was getting worst.