An examination of North American history will reveal that a consumer revolution occurred during the middle of the eighteenth century, and it played a significant role in the growth of society, especially in the United States. This raises the question of how consumerism affected specific social groups. It might be assumed that the consumerism was something that was restricted to only the higher classes, but this is not true. This essay will examine how the rise of consumerism affected the immigrant, and the immigrant's relationship with the city. From this it will be clear that the rise of consumerism in the late nineteenth century provided an opportunity for the immigrant to go from scarcity to abundance, and it made the city more accessible for many immigrants as well.
In the decades leading up to the First World War, there was a mass migration of immigrants from all over the world, but specifically Europe, to North America, specifically the United States. These immigrants immediately noticed the difference in condition from where they came from to where they had landed. It was an exciting time in America, and one that was benefiting from the industrial revolution in a way that was creating unprecedented wealth all across the country.
[...] Ithaca: Cornell University Press Stearns, Peter N. Consumerism in world history: the global transformation of desire. New York: Routledge United States Immigration Commission, Reports. Washington, D.C vol E Emigration Conditions in Europe. Peter N. Stearns. Consumerism in world history: the global transformation of desire. (New York: Routledge, 2001) Leonard Dinnerstein and David M. Reimers. [...]
[...] Consumerism in the United States was making the cities accessible to all, including the many immigrants that were descending on the United States during the late nineteenth century. The cities were accessible to immigrants because they were given opportunities to work and consume, unlike their homelands where they were often tied to land that they did not own. As well, they had been so conditioned to conditions of material scarcity that they easily overlooked what many citizens might have thought to be unacceptable conditions. [...]
[...] Because of the growing population of immigrants and the growing trend of consumerism at this time, the saloons and rundown shops of the past were replaced by grocery stores, cafes and restaurants, all catering in large part to the large number of immigrants who were eager to embrace and engage in the consumerism that they were not able to in their homeland. The relationship between the immigrant and the city was fuelled in many ways by consumerism. The reality was that the number of immigrants was so large at that time, that they could not ignore consumerism. [...]
[...] This is another way that consumption made the cities more accessible to immigrants, and it helped form a lasting relationship between the immigrant and the city. The cities were also opened up by the sense of wonder and excitement that immigrants had when they arrived in the American cities. Immigrants to the city were enthralled by the thing such as bigger meals and more variety in the diet. This was a big deal fro those immigrants that came from the poverty-stricken areas of Europe. The foods that they once knew existed in but could not afforded were now available as a result of the rise of consumerism. [...]
[...] The fact is that these immigrants were poor, but they also worked very hard, and the consumerism boom was in large part tailored to their needs, as they represented such a large part of the population. As was mentioned, there are some that believed that immigrants were not able to engage in consumerism like the rest of the country, but as this essay has shown, this is not true, and in fact the wave of consumerism that came with the new industrial economy served as a way of opening the city to the immigrants and allowing them to forge a relationship with urban living that is still evident today. [...]
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