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The student understands how Americans strived to reform society and create a distinct culture


City Problems: Poverty and Slums
Resource Type: Document-Based Question
Exploring the cholera epidemic in mid-nineteenth century New York City, this selection of primary sources provides a case-study of immigration, urbanization (e.g., slums such as the Five Points), and social and moral reform that can be applied to the study of any city in the industrialized world.

The Five Points Slum
Resource Type: Primary Source
Five Points, the great slum of antebellum New York, was located at the convergence of Worth, Baxter, and Park Streets in present-day lower Manhattan. Its residents suffered terribly during the cholera epidemic of 1832.

Report of the Magdalen Society
Resource Type: Primary Source
Led by John Robert McDowell, a Princeton divinity student, the Magdalen Society was founded in 1831 to help reform prostitutes living in the Five Points slum.

Petition to Have the Five Points Opened
Resource Type: Primary Source
Merchants owning property along the periphery of Five Points petitioned the municipal government in 1829 to demolish the heart of the slum by widening and extending Anthony and Cross Streets.

Cholera Epidemic Editorial
Resource Type: Primary Source
As far away as New Hampshire, editorials denounced the New York cholera epidemic of 1832 as divine retribution for decadence and sin.

Urban Society: Central Park and Social Reform
Resource Type: Document-Based Question
This microhistory of Central Park in New York City provides students with a laboratory for learning how social reformers attempted to clean the city of its slums and promote the well-being of its residents. These tools can be applied to the study of any large city.

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