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Henry George and the Crisis of InequalityProgress and Poverty in the Gilded Age$
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Edward O'Donnell

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780231120005

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231120005.001.0001

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“New York Is an Immense City”

“New York Is an Immense City”

The Empire City in the Early 1880s

(p.69) 3 “New York Is an Immense City”
Henry George and the Crisis of Inequality

Edward T. O’Donnell

Columbia University Press

This chapter examines Henry George's decision to pursue his radical plan of social reform in New York City. George set out to New York in the first week of August 1880. It had been eleven years since his last visit to the city, when the extremes of poverty and plenty so disturbed him. This chapter first describes the economic, social, and geographical changes that had occurred in New York since George's last visit there, along with the signs that embodied the “great enigma” George warned about in Progress and Poverty—a place experiencing the growth of poverty amidst extraordinary wealth. It then looks at the poor of Gotham, many of them immigrants, and how the poverty of the city's workers was exacerbated by squalid tenement housing. In particular, it considers the problem of tenement overcrowding which George argued offered a perfect real-life example of the pernicious effects of land monopoly. It also discusses New York's industrial progress; its politics, in particular the faction of the Democratic Party known as Tammany Hall; and labor activism.

Keywords:   poverty, Henry George, New York City, tenement housing, land monopoly, industrial progress, Democratic Party, Tammany Hall, labor activism

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