THE FLATS IN 1880 TO 1920
Nichole Bahrt, Mark Steinbrunner, and Hilary Stites

The Midwest, like the rest of America, experienced much growth and many changes during the forty year period from 1880 to 1920. Industrialization had an effect on the nation like nothing ever had before and it helped to establish the Midwest cities as major urban center. The nation's as well as the Midwest's population exploded, causing prosperity as well as many problems. This increase in Midwestern populations was mainly caused by the immigration of millions of Europeans during this period, but was supplemented by the migration of African Americans from the South.

By the 1860's the Midwest had become an extremely important center of industry, as manufacturers chose to establish their companies in this resource rich area with excellent land and water transportation routes. This growing region, lead by Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit, was the leader of the industrial growth that would forever change the country. Midwestern cities had for the most part already been established before industrialization, but the increase in industry is what prompted the population explosions, especially in the towns along the Great Lakes. By 1860 cities of the Midwest such as Cincinnati, St. Louis and Chicago had populations well over 100,000 while cities such as Cleveland and Detroit had surpassed 40,000. By 1920 these cities; population were near or in the millions.

The growth and industrialization that occurred in the Midwest would not have been possible without the influx of immigrants from Europe, who formed a high percentage of the industrial workforce. From the early to the late 1800's the most prominent immigrant groups were Northern Europeans, especially from Ireland, Germany and England. From the late 1800's to the early 1900's Southern Europeans immigrants were numerous, although Northern Europeans continued to come, just in reduced numbers. Old immigrants, such as the Germans and English, moved up in the American social hierarchy as new Southern European immigrants came to fill the growing number of unskilled labor positions that appeared as industrialization progressed. The Irish, who had filled the lower level labor jobs in earlier years, in most cases, did not move up as much as the other old immigrants.

African Americans lived in Midwestern cities in small numbers in the 1800's and the very beginning of the 1900's, but by 1920 a great African American migration occurred as blacks fled from southern prejudice. Many African Americans obtained employment in unskilled and service positions.

Cleveland was an ethnically diverse, industry-dominated Great Lakes city that enjoyed both the success and dealt with the problems that industrialization caused. The Civil War was a factor in the industrialization of Cleveland, as the city began producing war goods for the North. "The war found Cleveland a commercial city and left it a manufacturing city." The abundance of railroad lines in the city also helped to increase the pace of industrialization, as the railroads were a way to transfer products made in the city to the rest of the country. The most important industries in Cleveland during this period were iron, steel and oil. Cleveland was the home of John D. Rockefeller and his Standard Oil Company. By the early 1900's automobiles were the third largest industry in Cleveland.

<font size="+1"><font size="-1"><i>Photograph Courtesy of the Cleveland Press Immigrants swarmed to the city during this period dominated first by the Irish and the Germans and later by Eastern Europeans such as Hungarians and Poles. African Americans also migrated to Cleveland in great numbers. The population rose 308% from 1910 to 1920. These new residents provided much of the labor for new industries, while the native population filled the skilled and professional positions. Cleveland experienced many problems indicative of an industrialized urban city such as congestion, lack of housing, poor sanitation, disease and increased crime. Cleveland also experienced labor unrest in the late 1800's like many other Midwestern cities, and it was a center the the labor movement.

Ohio City, the West Side of CCSU Special Collection leveland that was once a competing city, played an integral part in the industrialization of Cleveland as a whole. In the early 1800's this area that would soon be a part of Cleveland was developing independently across the Cuyahoga River. As Cleveland achieved commercial success due to the Ohio Canal, Ohio City was left to fend for itself, which aided in its development as an industry-based town. In 1840 69% of Ohio City's heads of household were employed in industry. In 1854 Cleveland annexed Ohio City,but its isolation continued as
they had yet to build an adequate bridge between the two. Ohio City became an area for working class immigrants, especially Irish and Germans. The lowland area of Ohio City (mainly the Flats) became an area for the city's poor residents to live, and this trend continued throughout this period. In 1870 nearly all of the laborers in Ohio City were Irish, a trend that continued even up to 1920, despite the introduction of new immigrant groups into the area.

CSU Special Collection The Flats was a predominantly working-class neighborhood throughout that was dominated by Irish-born and people of Irish descent. It encompases the area down the hill, closest to the West Bank of the Cuyahoga River. The area sampled for 1880 included Main Avenue, Mulberry Street, sections of Pearl Street, Winslow Street, Washington Avenue, Spruce Street and Center Street. In 1920 the sampling changed slightly as Center Street was excluded due to its transformation into a business district. In 1880, 868 residents were sampled, while in 1920, due to Cleveland's massive population increase, the sample increased to 1,293, even after excluding
Center Street.

CSU Special Collection The area directly next to the river was dominated by businesses both in 1880 and 1920. In 1880 these businesses, which were predominantly on Center Street included the Cleveland Burial Case, and Ironworks, A. Angstedt Boilerworks, J.H. Griffith and Co. Malt Shop, a Brass and lamp Works, C.H. Burton SteamPump Works (Machine Shop), and on Mulberry were O. Lapham and Co. Washboard Manufacturer, and a Lumber Works. In 1920 many of the businesses in the Flats (4) were owned by a Hungarian immigrant named Theodor Kundtz, who started by opening his own cabinet making company. Since the majority of workers both in 1880 and 1920 were unskilled laborers (79% and 59% respectively) many of these workers were most likely employed at these companies, since people of lower socioeconomic status, due to the high cost of transportation, tended to live near their places of employment.

There were many similarities that existed in our neighborhood in 1880 and 1920 with regards to ethnicity of the residents, their occupations, gender, household structure, crime and entertainment. If going strictly by country of birth, the majority of the residents of the Flats were American-born in both 1880 and 1920 (50% and 69% respectively), but once one looks at the country in which resident's parents were born, the dominance of the Irish is apparent in both 1880 and 1920. In 1880 45% of the foreign born people were Irish while 92% of the parents of American-born residents were Irish. In 1920 12% of the overall population was Irish, but the parentage of American-born residents was again dominated by the Irish, at 71%. Many of the occupations of the inhabitants of the Flats remained almost the same, as the unskilled laborer continued to dominate the working force of the area. The percentage of unskilled laborers, although falling from 79% to 59% during this 40 years, was still the majority of workers. The percentage of skilled workers in the Flats also stayed the same, 8% in both 1880 and 1920. Many of the jobs that were seen in 1880 were also seen in 1920 such as laborers, sailors, Policemen, engineers (surprisingly found both years), dressmakers, sewers, carpenters, machinists, boilermakers, blacksmiths, shoemakers, captains of boats, servants, laundry workers, midwives, boarding house matrons and Firemen. The gender of the people of the Flats was virtually the same in 1880 (48% female, 52% male) as in 1920 (45% female, 55% male). The household structure of the area was essentially unchanged in the 40 years between the 1880 and 1920 census, as the majority of the households both years were nuclear families with the occasional nephew, cousin, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, brother-in-law or boarder living with the families. Both years the houses were divided up into two or three family dwellings. In 1180 four boarding houses were found, while in 1920 only two. Both years lacked the development of ethnic enclaves, although they seemed to occur in 1880 due to the large number of Irish, but the few other ethnicities that lived within the Flats in 1880 lived interspersed among the Irish, not in separate ethnic areas. In 1920, this mixing of ethnicities mirrored that of 1880.

The crime in Cleveland, which would pertain to Ohio City as well, was much the same in 1920 as it was in 1880. Many of the crimes that were committed were related to alcohol, which, as the coroner's report indicates, drinking was a popular pastime of the residents of the Flats. This love of alcohol, coupled with the low socioeconomic status that existed in the Flats throughout this period, most likely produced a relatively high crime rate within the community.

Entertainment was also similar in both 1880 and 1920, for amusements including baseball, horse racing and yachting were seen both years as ways to enjoy one's free time. It is most likely that the residents of the Flats, if they had any free time (considering the long hours of the working-class American at the time), would be found at horse races (with gambling), possibly baseball and most definitely drinking, which was the most common pastime of the working-class ethnic residents that lived in the Flats. Seeing inhabitants of the Flats out yachting with Cleveland's elite is highly unlikely, and not a bit absurd (unless of course they worked in a service-oriented job, in which case they might be serving Cleveland's wealthy on their yacht). The Flats over this 40 year period found little change with regards to the dominance of the Irish, the percentages of men versus women, household structure, lack of ethnically homogeneous enclaves, types of crimes committed, or means of entertainment.

CSU Special Collection Many difference were also apparent in the Flats during this 40-year period in the areas of ethnicity, age, occupations, household structure and accidents that occurred during these years. The Flats, like the rest of Cleveland, the Midwest and the Unites States experienced a change in the pattern of immigration during the forty years, which is very apparent in the 1920 census. Although Irish-born and people of Irish descent still dominate the ethnicity of the Flats, many more ethnic groups are represented in 1920 than were represented in 1880. In 1880 the only ethnicities present in the Flats were the Irish, English, Scots, Germans and one person from Holland. In 1920 the number of different countries represented increased greatly to include Russia (people who spoke Russian, Polish, German, Lithuanian and one Russian-Jewish family that spoke Yiddish), Hungary (people who spoke Hungarian, German and Slovak), Austria (people who spoke Polish and Hungarian), Lithuania, Finland, Wales, Norway, Sweden, Tranzylvania, Slovenia, Serbia, Italy and one person from Syria. The American-born people who lived in the Flats, although overwhelmingly of Irish descent, were also of other nationalities including 20% Hungarian, 16% Lithuanian, 14% Russian (born in Russia), 12% Austrian (born in Austria), 5% German, and 6% other nationalities including Canadian, Polish, Serbian, British (English and Scottish) and Scandinavian (from Finland, Holland, Norway and Sweden).

CSU Press Collection

The ages of the residents changed slightly, most significantly in the age 1 through 10 category, which was 33% in 1880 and 25% in 1920. 11 through 20 decreased from 18% to 17%, 21 through 30 decreased from 17% to 15%, 31 through 40 stayed the same at 16%, 41 through 50 also increased significantly with a raise from 8% to 16%, 51 through 60 rose from 4% to 7%, 61 through 70 stayed the same at 2% as well as 71 through 80 and 81 through 90 which both stayed at 1%. It would appear that people were having less children and living longer in the Flats, which is very likely with the modernization that occurred in the field of medicine throughout those 40 years

A new consideration that existed in 1920 that did not exist in 1880 in the Flats was the appearance of African Americans in the area, for there was not one black person in 1880. African American accounted for a mere 11% of the population, but their presence signifies the change that was occurring in the number of African Americans throughout the Midwest. The majority of African Americans (89%) were born in Southern states with their parents also born in that same state. 70% of African American workers were unskilled, 3% were semi-skilled, 1% (a nurse, the only skilled African American in the Flats) were skilled and 26% worked in service-oriented fields as drivers, laundry workers, a barber, housekeepers and a bellboy. 23% of African American women worked, compared with 18% of the total population of women (in 1880 the figure was 11%). An amazing 83% of African American children of school age (6-18) attended school, compared to only 74% of the total population in 1920 (in 1880 the figure was 45%).

The semiskilled and service industries increased greatly throughout this 40 year period in the Flats, as the number of semiskilled increased from 8% to 18% and the number of service-oriented jobs increased from 5% to 15%. The modernization that occurred and the diversity of the ethnic make-up of the Flats produced many new jobs for the residents, and many new occupations were abound in 1920 such as auto mechanics, a telephone operator, office workers, stenographer and electricians. The increase in service-oriented jobs over this period was apparent in the resident's job titles such as cashiers, proprietors and proprietresses, sales ladies and men, restaurant owners (one German, one Irish and one Hungarian). cooks and grocery workers.

The household structure was virtually the same in 1880 as it was in 1920, except for the appearance of the father-in-law, grandchildren and stepchildren that occurs in 1920. Either divorce was less prevalent in 1880 or stepchildren were just not labeled as such, the first choice being more likely. 84% of families rented while only 16% owned their homes in 1920 (information not available for 1880).

In 1880 most of the accidents reported were work related, but by 1920 the largest amount were automobile related. Below is a list of vehicle-related accidents that occurred in one month in Cleveland (April 1920), as reported by the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Auto accidents 144
Number of persons killed by auto accidents 10
Street Car Accidents 50
Number of persons killed by street car accidents 3
Other street accidents 69
Number of persons killed in street accidents 11

1920 saw changes in ethnicity of the residents of the Flats, as a plethora of new countries represented the remaining 69% of foreign-born people who were not Irish. African Americans appeared in the Flats, with a high percentage of women workers and children attending school. The invention of the automobile effected the community as many were employed in jobs that this industry brought to Cleveland, and Cleveland as a whole was effected by careless drivers who ran down pedestrians with their new mode of transportation.

Ohio City overall changed much during the 40 year period between 1880 and 1920. The Irish and Germans, although still dominant groups in 1920 as they were in 1880, were joined by immigrants from other countries, especially Southern and Eastern Europeans, which was a change that occurred throughout the Midwest. The more affluent neighborhoods of Franklin Circle and Pearl Street seemed to lose many of its well to do residents to the suburbs, and people moved up in socioeconomic status in Ohio City to fill the void that was left by the rich residents of 1880. The areas of lower socioeconomic status (The Flats and Detroit Street), seemed to change less in their economic make-up, probably because of their high populations of Irish, who did not move up the social ladder as easily as other ethnic groups. African Americans trickled into Ohio City, especially in the Flats, as the great migration had its effect on the population of Cleveland and the entire Midwest. A slightly higher percentage of women were working, though this was not always so liberating as women made less than their male counterparts for the same amount of work, and many employers believed that women were easily exploited.People seemed to be living longer, as the age statistics for the neighborhoods seemed to have a higher percentage of people in the upper age brackets.

Cleveland had become a major industrial center with a large population, and it inherited many of the problems that congested industrial cities have. Housing seemed to be a major concern in Ohio City, especially by 1920, as people in every neighborhood were crowded into houses filled to capacity and beyond. As more African Americans began moving into the city, racial discrimination became more apparent. The future of Ohio City, Cleveland and the Midwest would have to be concentrated on trying to find solutions for the many social problems that had appeared due to industrialization and a sharp increase in population which occurred over this 40 year period, from 1880 to 1920.