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6-10-2015, 17:20

Railroad Suburbs

Railroads also contributed to increased suburbanization. At first, railroads were used more for transporting goods than people. However, by the 1840s, there was increased demand for local suburban travel. Soon, railroad entrepreneurs built more commuter stations for local stops, even offering reduced-price commuter tickets. The railroads then led to the emigration of some workers from the central city to the suburbs. Since the railroad was relatively expensive for many people, it was only the more affluent residents who could move to the suburbs, such as bankers, businesspeople, and lawyers. For example, by 1850, about half of the 400 lawyers working in Boston commuted from the suburbs. In Philadelphia, there were some forty commuter trains every day between the city and its northwest suburb of Germantown.

The stereotype of these “main line”railroad suburbs was one of affluent residents and their country clubs. For example, the Boston suburb of Brookline was sometimes called “the richest town in the world.” Although places such as Brookline indeed were home to the rich and famous, there were also many poor residents. In Brookline, 10 percent of the taxpayers controlled 70 percent of the property. At the same time, there was a large, blue-collar Irish community. In most of these railroad suburbs, typically 30-50 percent of the heads of households were businesspeople who commuted 5 or more miles to work, but many less affluent residents worked within the suburb. Many of these poorer residents worked for the wealthier residents, serving as domestic servants or gardeners. Others worked in small industries that sometimes appeared in the suburbs, making these early suburbs distinct from later suburbs in the twentieth century, which generally excluded industry and the working class.