|Social and Political Heterogeneity: Discovering and Understanding Spatial Patterns in Two Nineteenth Century American Cities|
|This paper explores the process of mapping two diverging city types in nineteenth century America and the initial findings emerging from that effort. Alexandria, Virginia, a commercial and slave-owning city, had a population of about 15,000 on the eve of the American Civil War; Newport, Kentucky, an industrial town of about the same size, was heavily Irish and German on the eve of the Depression of 1874. Both cities were mapped at the individual level, necessitating extensive linkage procedures to locate the same person in handwritten census, tax and other individual level nineteenth century social inventories. In both cities, tax records proved central to the mapping process and in the end permitted about 78 percent of the population of Alexandria in 1859 and about 89 percent of the population of Newport in 1873 to be returned to their nineteenth century place of residence. All individual and family information is held in GIS files associated with the place of residence, permitting any of 53 variables in Alexandria and 48 in Newport to be displayed spatially, individually or in combination.
One unique variable for each city is the political record of all eligible voters -- adult white males in pre-Civil War Alexandria and adult males in post-Civil War Newport. Adding individual level political information to the databases of these two cities is possible because the states of which they were a part required oral, or viva voce voting, the same mode of voting used at that time in Canada, England, Denmark, Hungary, Iceland, and Prussia. For Alexandria, state and federal election material has been added to the record, while in Newport, the political information is from municipal contests. Alexandria and Newport are, I believe, the only two cities fully mapped out at the individual level with individual-level political information as part of the database.
In the case of Alexandria, I have added individual religious membership records from each of the city’s white religious institutions and I am in the process of adding affiliation information for the members of all religious institutions in industrial Newport.
This unique combination of social, economic, cultural, and political information makes possible the study of the spatial patterns of a wide range of variables in two diverging types of nineteenth century cities – one commercial and depending on a race- based labor system and the other industrial and using immigrant labor. The availability of political information opens the way to asking new questions about the complex relationships between social and political lives. The fact that both cities were in periods of considerable economic expansion and were confronting crises, political as well as economic, adds a further layer of comparability and interest.