FRANKLIN CIRCLE: 1880-1920
Rachelle DeRubeis and Tim Kassouf
edited by Sherry Maruna

The phenomenon of mass immigration, which occurred between the mid 1840's and the 1920's, caused America's population to explode "sixfold." The phenomenon of immigration changed character from one decade to another. The highest number of immigrants entering the United States during this time was between 1880-1885. "Old" immigrants such as the Irish, Germans, British and Norwegians arrived in America earlier, roughly between 1840 and 1880. The second wave of "new" immigrants arrived after 1880 and were mostly from Southern and Eastern Europe. These "new" immigrants added a full 10% to the United States population.

Immigrants were attracted to labor and industrial jobs found in Midwest cities. During the 1890's, the Midwest's rapid expansion matched the trend that was taking place nationwide. Investors poured capital into urban development despite the odds against success. There were many factors that would either positively or negatively impact a town's growth in the Midwest during the first half of the 19th century. One of these included access to a navigable body of water. Midwest cities that were located on one of the Great Lakes had an advantage over one that was not. Cleveland, for example, was located on Lake Erie and was accessable to the interior of the country through the Ohio and Erie Canal. This access was an advantage for the city in its commercial endeavors and development.

After the 1850's, railroads became important to the growth of many towns. They were particularly necessary for towns that were further inland than the coastal areas of the United States. Locomotives were adept at navigating through treacherous terrain, such as the Appalachian Mountains. The result was an infrastructure that connected the country coast to coast. This development came to replace waterways as the predictor of a town's success. However, towns that had both navigatable waterways and railroads provided a combination of transportation that substantially increased its growth and develeopment. Midwest cities such as Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago and Milwaukee contained this combination.

Between 1880 and 1920, the Great Lake cities of Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago and Milwaukee were rapidly developing. These cities began to deal with their increasing population by making use of urban planning to relieve the pressure of overcrowding and rapid growth. One solution to eleviate the overcrowding involved the expansion of city boundaries into the more rural CSU Special Collectionsareas. Another solution was for cities to build upward by creating taller apartment dwellings. The expanding population was more densely packed within smaller areas. The first solution moved residents farther away from their places of employment. As a result. public transportation in the form of the streetcar was created to meet the needs of the citizens who lived in these enclaves and were beyond walking distance.

The presence of residential areas made it necessary for a portion of the population to travel back and forth to work. Though streetcars provided viable public transportation, the invention of the automobile in the early 1900's soon replaced them as the preferred mode of transportation. A new economic resource was on the rise and the Great Lakes region was key to its success.The production of automobiles was centered in Detroit although Cleveland ranked second in the amount of cars produced in a single city nationally in 1919. Other Midwest cities specialized in manufacturing the parts. Midwest cities were vital to the manufacturing of the automobile and becoming centers for other industries as well.CSU Special Collections

Emerging as a major industrial urban center, the city of Cleveland experienced many of these changes between 1880 and 1920. A portion on the west side of the city, Franklin Circle, provided an opportunity to examine these changes. In 1880, Franklin Circle was comprised of 84% American born and 16% foreign born residents. In this respect, the enclave was inconsistant with other working class parts of Cleveland. For example, the Flats were predominately Irish with 85% of the population either born in or were children of parents born in Ireland. Franklin Circle was comprised of only 5.5% Irish and 9.5% German. In 1920, the American born population dropped to 71% of the 1,109 residents surveyed in Franklin Circle. Along with a change in the dominant ethnic groups, the area experienced a change in ethnic minorities. In 1880, the ethnic minorities were 4.5% Irish, 4% English 3% German and 4.5% Other. By 1920, the ethnic minorities were 8% Hungarian, 3.5% Finnish, 3% German, 3% Canadian, 3% Irish, 2% English, 6.5% Other. The Other was comprised of Swiss, Chinese, Italians and Brazilians. Another interesting population shift during this time of rapid growth was found in relation to African American's presence in Cleveland. The black population in realtion to caucasians had dropped from 15% to less than 10% by 1920. The increasing influx of European immigrants had significantly effected the ratio of Caucasians to African Americans during this time period.The change was attributed to the "new" or second wave of immigrants from Southern and Eastern European countries such as Hungary, Yugaslavia, Italy, Russia and Poland. These statistical changes represent a substantial shift in the ethnic makeup of the neighborhood. The change in ethnicity in Cleveland's west side was a phenomenon that most of the Midwest cities experienced between 1880-1920 as well.

The nature of work had also changed for the residents living in Franklin Circle. In the 1880's, coal, iron ore, lumber, grain and hogs were the basic economic resources of the region. An immigrant laborer found work shoveling coal, loading lumber, bagging wheat or in a slaughter house. In the 1920's, a new spirit of ingenuity and invention began to sweep America and Cleveland's Franklin Circle reflected the new trends. New technology added jobs such as an automobile repairman or a telephone operator. Of the residents of Franklin Circle, thirty people worked in the auto industry and four were telephone operators. Additionally, several worked for the Electric Company and Western Union. The customer service and entertainment industry dealing in food and drinks employed 33 people or 7% of the working population of Franklin Circle. Cooks, waiters, bartenders, bakers and candy dippers were occupations in this newly expanding industry. Women in 1880's were domestic servants, but by 1920 they were cigar bunchers, telephone operators, knitting operators, salesladies and nurses. More women were in the work force than in 1880. Consequently, the number of multiple income households increased. Children still living in the family's home worked as well as the parents. Boarders and lodgers also contributed to the income of a family. Occupations of the residents of Franklin Circle had changed dramatically between 1880 and 1920.

The above trends in technological occupations were reflected in industrial jobs as well. By 1920, industries such as railroads, steel, iron, autos and the shipping dominated employment in Franklin Circle. Twenty percent of all working residents worked in these industries. Out of 782 adults, aged twenty and up, 106 were employed in industrial jobs. The emerging steel industry played a large role in the economics of Franklin Circle. Cleveland Cliff Steamers plowed the Great Lakes from Minnesota to Cleveland carry huge loads of iron ore. The ore was transformed into workable steel and then shipped to factories such as the automobile factories in Detroit. Labor was at a premium and immigrants were filling the void.CSU Special Collections

In 1880, 46% of the population of Franklin Circle was aged 11-30. By 1920, only 34% of the area's population was in this same age group. 540 people out of the 1,109 surveyed were 0-30 years of age or 49%, with 31-40 year olds making up the larges age bracket. There were 222 people in Franklin Circle between the ages of 31-40. In comparision, the Flats' largest age bracket was the 0-10 year olds which was 25% of that areas population. Franklin Circle, in 1880, contained only two people over the age of seventy. By 1920, there were sixteen people over the age of seventy-one in the same area. The increased likelyhood of a person to reach the age of seventy appeared greater in the 1920's. However, this statistic indicated that the "newness" of Franklin Circle was being replaced by an established neighborhood.

Family and household structure in Franklin Circle reflected interesting shifts as well as some consistancies. The ratio between men and women remained constant in Franklin Circle between 1880 and 1920. The area contained 607 men and 502 women in 1920. The population was 55% men in 1920 and relatively the same percentage in 1880. This may be explained by the large CSU Special Collectionsnumber of male immigrants to the United States. Men came to America, worked a few years and made enough money to send for their families. Though some would return to their birth country, many stayed in America and their families followed. In 1880, much of the Franklin Circle population were married and the same was true in 1920. Of the 1,109 people surveyed in 1920, 483 were married, 201 were single, 86 widowers and 12 people were divorced. Nearly 10% of the area's inhabitants were either widowed or divorced and represents a significant increase from 1880. Cities such as Detroit also experienced an increase in widows who were typically younger than in 1880. The widowed population in 1880 were generally women but in 1920, this changed to both men and women.

The household structure changed substantially in Franklin Circle between 1880 and 1920. In 1880, many of the households contained a single family unit. By 1920, nearly 23% of 1,109 people were lodgers or boarders. Taking in boarders was one way to increase family income and served to house single male immigrants.The largest numbers of immigrants residing in Franklin Circle came between the years 1900 and 1920. There were 316 immigrants living in the area in 1920. 67% of the 316 people came to the United in the 20 years prior. The 1880's held the next larges group of immigrants in the Franklin Circle area and 17% arrived between the years of 1880 and 1890. Ten residents in the Franklin area described their occupations as lodge keepers in 1920. In 1880, this occupation was virtually non-existant in Franklin Circle.

New to the Franklin Circle area was alternative residental housing. In 1920, two dwellings, a hospital and an orphanage had been erected. The St. John's Orphanage and Home was located on 2619 Franklin Avenue. Sister Ada Francis oversaw the female occupants of both the orphanage and the home. Helping Sister Ada were four other employees, a helper, an assistant, a cook, and a janitor. There were twenty children living at the St. John's Orphanage and Home ranging in age from 3 to 17. Thirteen of the children were born in the United States, five children were born in England and two were born in Scotland. The Lutheran Hospital, located at 2609 Franklin Avenue employed nine nurses. The Superintendent of the hospital was a women and so were most of the employees. Eighteen out of twenty general employees were female. The ages of the emplyees ranged from seventeen to fifty years of age. Nine out of the twenty employees were immigrants and Six out of the nine came from Finland between the years 1900 and 1920. Positions at the hospital included tray girl, cook, laundress, maid and orderly. These two dwellings provided services needed within the neighborhood.

Another service oriented facility found in 1920 that did not exist in 1880 in Franklin Circle, was a sanitarium to house individuals with tuberculosis. Between 1900 and 1920, the population of Franklin Circle doubled. The overcrowded conditions led to poor sanitation. The lack of public services such as sewage were just beginning to be recognized and dealt with. Tuberculosis, cholera, and dysentary were a few of the diseases that took their toll on the health of urban dwellers. However, another disease was also prevalent among residents in the area, alcohalism. Alcohol was responsible for public disturbances, theft, perversion and death in 1880. Incidences reported by the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Penny Press relate alcohol with criminal activity and domestic violence. Prohibition in the 1920's made it illegal to possess, sell, buy or consume alcohol in any form and was one of the main topics in the press. Rapid growth, overcrowding, disease and alcohol all played a role in the neighborhood composition from 1880 to 1920.

Crime and corruption played a role as well. In 1880 the press reported a number of instances of blatant city government corruption. It was common practice for city officials to allow crimes to occur unhampered and repurcusions mysteriously slip through the cracks. In September 1880, a raid took place at Jimmy Robinson's illegal gambling house on the west side of Cleveland. The police confiscated $700, a gambling machine, chips with Jimmy's monogram on them, and other "tools" of the trade. The law required the authorities to destroy all items from the gambling house. However, within a week, the items were back in Jimmy's house and it was business as usual. Progressive reform in the late 1800's and early 1900's attempted to deal with both corruption and social ills. An example of a progressive leader was Cleveland's mayor from 1901 to 1909, Tom Johnson. Johnson instituted political reforms, civil service exams and made significant inroads to improve the physical environment of the city. Lincoln Steffens, an early twentieth century critic of American urban politics described Cleveland as, "the best governed city in the United States." Progressive Reform brought the plight of urban life into a national context and marks the beginning strides for improvement.

Cleveland's west side and in particular, Franklin Circle, were representative of the changes occurring in the United States between 1880 and 1920 and specifically the Midwest region. Immigration, industrialization, urbanization and the inherent problems associated with rapid growth and development intersected within this region. Franklin Circle reflected what changed, the causes and how the area dealt with the change. In some instances, such as ethnicity, Franklin Circle presented both similarities and differences in comparison to the larger city of Cleveland, the Midwest region and the nation. Although local examinations have their limitations, Franklin Circle provided an understanding of life in America during an unsettled and rapidly changing time period.