Victorian City demographics and artifacts found in people’s homes
The Victorian time period in Great Britain and in The America’s is surprisingly similar concerning the ideas of city structure. During this time period England and Scotland were going through the post-enlightenment and an urbanization phases in their history. There were also many medical advances that happened during this period. Gone were the crowded streets and out came the squares.
Notice that everything is in square blocks on the picture on the left compared with the crowded streets of the right. This is due to the fact that many mid to upper-class people recognized crowded housing to be a bad thing. They believed that air was better and space was a grand thing. This was because of new advancements in medicinal practices and wider views of health. They also wanted to clean up the city of its poor so by putting the poor in what is considered the “slums” and moving themselves to the cities outer boundaries. If you compare the image on the left (which is of the upper class) to the image on the right (lower class) one can see the difference in just one city. The upper and middle class pictured in yellow and dark red ink are housed with more area and more air space compared to the black and blue sections of London which are crowded and shoved together. In the Victorian period the town square becomes known and parks are also being developed within cities. This is happening all over Great Britain.
Just by viewing these two images of London one can see that the upper-class has way more room to get fresh air and breathe than that of the lower class. The streets themselves look very close and packed together where the lower class lives. This closeness was seen as unhealthy in the Victorian age. A chapter in London Labour and the London Poor, by Henry Mayhew that is named, ” Of the Street-Sellers of Eatables and Drinkables”, talks about the streets and what was located on them. Many of the shops were, and still are located closer to the heart of the city instead of where the middle and upper class would live. In the story called String of Pearls, written by an unknown author, describes the streets as well. In The String of Pearls it talks about crime and where it is located in the Streets of London. Most of the crime is not in the places where the middle and upper class reside but in the slums of London.These images came from a digitized version of Charles Booth’s 1889 poverty map of London. http://www.umich.edu/~risotto/ is where you can explore more areas of London from the 1889. The different location of where the upper class and lower class live is interesting to view.
In the Neville Museum there is a photo of Green Bay and Fort Howard from the late 1800’s that shows the same thing as the images of London during this time. It is interesting to note that even though Green Bay is half way around the world, the Victorian era still has an impact on how the town developed. Looking at the picture the town is set up in a very checkerboard fashion with large square blocks and plenty of space which was the ideal city set up at the time in Great Britain.
An interesting household item that I found from the Victorian period in America at the Neville Public Museum is this miniature of Cupid and Psyche. The original is at the Louvre in Paris, France. I have seen the original last spring when I was in Paris. The fact that people had this particular statue in their homes is interesting because the story behind Cupid and Psyche is about love and curiosity. The story of Cupid and Psyche is something that might have been found in The Keepsake, because many stories and poems that are in The Keepsake deal with love being able to conquer all. An example of this is the story “The Sisters of Albano” where the love of a sister saves the curious and the man sacrifices himself in the name of love. The story of Cupid and Psyche is about love conquering all and that curiosity can be a bad thing. Curiosity gets Psyche into trouble when she wants to see what her husband looks like, and when she wants to see the beauty of Proserpine, Hates wife. Cupid’s love for Psyche saves her from marrying a monster at Venus’s expense and from failing the tasks that Venus tells Psyche to do in order to prove worthy of Cupid’s love. It’s interesting to note that the Victorian age was a time of enlightenment in Great Britain, and that this statue would be in somebody’s home. It symbols love and curiosity which are two things that were prevalent during this time.
Curiosity in learning and exploring new subjects and being virtuous in love were two things that were valued. The fact that people wanted to show a Greek inspired statue in their homes, in America, at a time where Great Britain was Christianized is very interesting. This may lead one to thinking that people were still trying to learn about different religions in the America, because the United States has the freedom of religion and the Enlightenment period in the late 18th century encouraged knowledge in all things. The one that is on display at the Neville Public Museum is on a tall pedestal, where as the original (shown below) is on a marble platform. The picture below is of the original Cupid and Psyche that is on display in Paris, France.