ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT IN THE LATE 19TH CENTURY
Greater education meant greater interest in reading and in entertainment in general. Newspapers grew as most people learned to read. The invention of the linotype (1885), which automatically set type for newspapers reduced the price of papers and made them more colorful.
The Associated Press, founded in the 1840s, allowed newspapers all over the world to share stories from reporters on the scene. Unfortunately, newspapers sometimes resorted to sensational and often misleading yellow journalism (1895) to grab readers. The term yellow journalism comes from an early color newspaper comic strip featuring a character called the Yellow Kid.
The rise in newspapers also led to a boost in literature and in access to art and music, because news on these items was suddenly more public. Following are some other notable achievements in art and entertainment:
- Henry Richardson designed massive civic buildings decorated with Gothic arches.
- The Chicago World's Fair of 1893 presented the dream of a beautiful future city and sold enough tickets to admit almost half of the population of the United States.
- Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show (1885) brought cowboys and Indians to the world. Among the stars of the extravaganza was crack shot Annie Oakley.
- The Barnum and Bailey Circus hit the road in 1881.
- Professional baseball got its start in the 1870s; college football was big by the 1880s; and basketball was invented by YMCA instructor James Naismith in 1891.
Literature leading to action
Civil War General Lew Wallace thought that Christianity needed defending from attacks by Darwinists (see Chapter 13), so he wrote a moving book called Ben-Hur (1880) that became, like Uncle Tom's Cabin, a best-selling, international hit. The book's main character, Judah Ben-Hur, accidentally injures a high-ranking Roman commander, for which he suffers a life of punishment, and is redeemed in the end by an encounter with Jesus. Ben-Hur was the first work of fiction to be blessed by the pope.
Following are other notable authors and works of the period:
- Low-profile but still beloved was the reclusive Emily Dickinson (1886), whose poetry still moves people.
- Henry James (1889) used authentic characters to explore the worlds of Americans and Europeans and even women's rights in Daisy Miller and The Bostonians.
- California writers brought fresh Western ideas:
- Jack London wrote about nature in The Call of the Wild (1903).
- Frank Norris took on the railroad monopoly in The Octopus (1901).
- Theodore Dreiser pioneered social realism with Sister Carrie (1900).
- Upton Sinclair created public uproar with his novel The Jungle, a muckraking expose of the meatpacking industry. Books like The Jungle led to the passage of the Pure Food and
Drug Act (1906).
- Jacob Riis took pictures that changed society's view of the poor in How the Other Half Lives (1890). His book led a young police commissioner named Teddy Roosevelt to close dangerous rooming houses.
Question: What was Jacob Riis's How the Other Half Lives?
Answer: The book was a photographic study of poverty in New York in the
Arts and music
Music and art grew in popularity. Now competing with photographers, artists mixed feeling with realism:
- Thomas Eakins (1895) ignored Victorian fashion to paint a world he considered beautiful beyond the need for idealization.
- Winslow Homer (1890) painted life near the sea in beautiful watercolors.
- Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1890) made moving sculpture, including memorializing the heroics of blacks in the Civil War.
Symphony orchestras and opera houses were founded in major American cities in the late 1800s. As black musical traditions merged with white folk and country music, "ragged music" became ragtime, spirituals became blues, and rhythm became jazz (and, eventually, rock-and-roll).