Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 68.djvu/259

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URBAN AND RURAL LIFE

URBAN AND RURAL LIFE
By FRANK T. CARLTON

AT the beginning of the twentieth century, approximately one third of the total population of the United States were living in cities, and were classed as urban inhabitants. A considerable percentage of this twenty-five million human beings are to-day living in crowded and uncomfortable quarters, despite the evident fact that there exist in nearly all sections of the nation many valuable abandoned farms and half-deserted villages. The exigencies of manufacture and trade, and the glamor and hurry of city life, as contrasted with the dullness and monotony of rural existence, have gathered this great host of men, women and children into our crowded, smoky, restless cities. In the building of the modern manufacturing and commercial city, everything held dear by the poet and the lover of humanity has been ruthlessly and heedlessly sacrificed on the altar of industry and wealth. Human life and happiness have been overlooked or ignored in the mad scramble for wealth, trade and power. Exports and imports, bank clearances, cotton, sugar, oil, beef, iron and steel, not men, or women, or children, are the important and desirable, even the paramount, considerations. Human health and human weal are thrown in the balance against gold and silver, and are found wanting. The unparalleled growth of cities during recent decades is, in a large measure, to be attributed to modern methods of transportation of goods and people, and of transmission of energy and intelligence. Change the conditions in regard to any one of these items, and the forces which make for centralization or decentralization are modified or reversed. Railroads and electric wires, telephones and telegraph instruments, rural free delivery and good roads are important factors in the distribution of population.

Great populations have migrated from country to city; long-established modes of living are quickly changed; old customs and habits, upheld and cherished by the dearest traditions, are suddenly brushed aside. A race of city dwellers is being developed. On the very threshold of a new century these questions are forced upon a reluctant people: Can a nation grow strong, vigorous and progressive if a large percentage of its population are dwelling in cities? Is city life natural? Is the sharp demarcation between rural and urban conditions conducive to healthful political activity? Are decentralizing tendencies becoming noticeable?

History records many rhythmic movements in human society. Cer-