Industrialization and transformation in Thomas W. Hanchett’s and Paul Johnson works

Industrialization and transformation in Thomas W. Hanchett’s Sorting out the New South City: Race, Class, and Urban Development in Charlotte, 1875-1975 and A Shopkeeper’s Millennium by Paul Johnson


The history of every city is unique though we can easily trace certain patterns in development of settlements through time in different countries. For instance, the cities in the United States of America have similar history in terms of transformation and the role of industrialization in the formation of neighborhoods.

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Class and race distinctions were obvious before industrialization came to the country whereas their interactions with the new way of life became apparent when the city emerged as a scope of neighborhoods each based on class and racial distinctions.

The concepts of transformation and industrialization can be seen in the books Sorting out the New South City: Race, Class, and Urban Development in Charlotte, 1875-1975 (1998) by Thomas W. Hanchett and A Shopkeeper’s Millennium (1978) by Paul Johnson.

Space and the City

Race and class. Every city has its functions as well as every district of it is inhabited by people that have something in common.

Though it is difficult to stay calm while talking about racial discrimination that took place a long before such a concept appeared, racial and class distinctions can be considered one of the primary reasons why neighborhoods were built in this way. As such, Hanchett (1998) labeled the chapters of his book in accordance with the racial belonging of the citizens that inhabited the neighborhoods in Charlotte, North Carolina.

As such, the distinction between different races was obvious even in the framework of the old country town where employees were farmers as well as their employers. At the same time, every person knew about those transparent borders that existed between the neighborhoods and chances of living in one of those.

Relationships between employees and employers can be considered one of the complicated issues in the world history. The roles may shift, the rights may widen while it is impossible to predict the changes in economical development of the society.

As such, people that lived in Rochester, New York and Charlotte, North Carolina could not guess that employees would obtain a kind of freedom with regard to independent living compared to the living on the territory of their employer before industrialization and further changes. As reported by Johnson (1978) about working men that performed different tasks in the farms, “these men moved too fast to be counted” (p. 37).

At the same time, “day laborers and journeyman craftsmen made up 71 percent of the adult male work force” (Johnson, 1978, p. 38). In this respect, there were enough men to work though not all of them were representatives of the upper classes.

Employment and urban structure. Transformation of so-called country towns was an integral part of the changing circumstances. In other words, the space of the city Charlotte and the one of Rochester was logically divided into the territory of white-collars and blacks, rich people and those who could not afford even commodities.

At the same time, the practical framework of such division was obvious as people obtained a chance to live on their own when the industrialization rose. However, as suggested by Johnson (1978), “Rochester retained the economic functions and much of the look and feel of a country town” (p. 37).

This means that basic economic functions were shaped before industrialization and the transformations were insignificant regarding the previous area planning of the city. Rochester, as well as many other cities of the time, was a country town with its functions and traditions and employees could easily live in the house of their employer due to the necessity of waking up early and perform various functions.

Every person had certain rights though the rules of living were not written but clear to everyone because they concerned the division of neighborhoods. It is obvious that the current neighborhoods are results of the policies and traditions that existed long before the industrialization shifted roles of employees and employers.

The previous scheme introduced an employer and his helpers who were hired to fulfill the same job or other minor operations than the employer. As reported by Johnson (1978), the industrialization shifted roles of employers and employees and changed the way they were perceived: a new image of the trading field completed “the separation of men who made shoes from those who sold them” (p. 39).

As such, people treated those two categories of workers differently making distinctions between men that can sell things and those who are able only to make those. However, the main distinction lies in the manufacturing of commodities and the fields of specialization of other people that were not involved into metal and machinery issues.

Hanchett (1998) outlines the situation in the urban planning as an integral part of the process of industrialization which contributed greatly to urbanization making countrymen move to cities while seeking for a job.

However, tension in the cities such as Charlotte made everything even worse: “tensions that had arisen during the 1890s and goaded the development of a new feature on Charlotte’s urban landscape: sizable blue-collar residential districts” (Hanchett, 1998, p. 90). At the same time, it is necessary to emphasize that ‘black’ neighborhoods also emerged in the process of industrialization when representatives of two races tried to avoid each other at least in their residence while they had to work together.

Nevertheless, the problem of neighborhoods became apparent only for people that care about it and think that the historic differentiation based on race and class belonging became an unwritten rule for all citizens. The times change as well as traditions of urban planning; so, people are free to choose their neighborhoods.

Transformation and time. Transformations in urban planning can be treated as the result of changes that took place in society and in economic situation while the roots of those changes lie deep in the class distinctions between masters and slaves. Though manufacturers had to produce a lot of commodities, the blue-collars could be also divided into specific groups in accordance with the industry in which they were involved.

As such, Hanchett (1998) suggests that “a 1926 survey showed 141 Charlotte manufacturers producing a total of 81 different commodities” (p. 94) while “corps of carpenters, brick masons, and painters almost matched the number of textile mill employees. A third important blue-collar group were the metal workers and machinery men” (p. 95).

In other words, the blue-collars were workers that were involved into the manufacturing industries that produced commodities while lack of demand was an integral part of the industries where blacks were the majority of the work force.

Transformations cannot be made within a year or two. At the same time, the changes in the neighborhoods of Rochester and Charlotte cannot be eliminated within a year or two because they have deep roots in the history of those cities based on class and race discrimination and consequences of industrialization.

In other words, the cities like Rochester and Charlotte that were country towns could remain those silent country towns with farmers and small workshops whereas the period of industrialization enabled people of those cities to take their chance and become manufacturers and salesmen.

When talking about the history of transformation in the neighborhoods, it is necessary to focus on the reasons and consequences while the urban planning cannot be changed because people built their neighborhoods consciously without being forced to do that. Besides, no person can force others to live in the neighborhood with someone he/she does not like regardless of the reasons for such dislike for those people.


People may choose whether to live in Charlotte or in Rochester though every of the cities with long history lives in accordance with traditions that depend on the class and racial discrimination that emerged long before industrialization.

It is necessary to understand that industrialization cannot be treated as the main and only reason for such a division where black neighborhoods are clearly distinct from those of blue-collars. Every person should be able to differentiate between the consequences and stereotypes that can be overcome with regard to the changes that take place in modern cities.


Hanchett, T. W. (1998). Sorting out the New South City: Race, Class, and Urban Development in Charlotte, 1875-1975. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press.

Johnson, P. (1978). A Shopkeeper’s Millennium. New York: Hill and Wang.