The Gay Nineties in America: A Cultural Dictionary of the 1890s

The Gay Nineties in America: A Cultural Dictionary of the 1890s

The Gay Nineties in America: A Cultural Dictionary of the 1890s

The Gay Nineties in America: A Cultural Dictionary of the 1890s

Synopsis

Whether for browsing or research, readers will reap rewards from this entertaining and enlightening compendium of the persons, events, institutions, and ideas of the era. Gale focuses on writers and their works, but also represented in the 500 entries are painters and politicians, social workers and industrialists, composers and inventors, explorers and evangelists; topics like crime, immigration, medicine, motion pictures, sports, and universities; and landmark events like the Panic of 1893, the Spanish-American War, and the World's Columbian Exposition. Fully cross-referenced and indexed, the dictionary also includes a chronology and a bibliography.

Excerpt

The American 1890s were the best of times, and they were the worst of times-- to paraphrase a memorable statement made about another fin de siècle epoch and another continent. Our 1890s were certainly a time of conflict and contrast.

Conservative religious leaders were buffeted by secular social Darwinians. Traditional romantic literature was popular, but realists were gaining strength and new-fangled naturalism was coming across the Atlantic Ocean from France. Folksy painting and neoclassical sculpture were being challenged by a whole generation of realists. Classical architecture was giving way to functional structures. Travel into the Far West and across the oceans was becoming more common. And through it all, the robber barons--crooked railroaders, industrialists, monopolists, bankers, and politicians--were making fortunes arrogantly and spending them conspicuously; at the same time, low wages or no wages shrouded too many ordinary folks, including the native born, Native Americans, African Americans, newly arrived immigrants, and mostly silent women. The effects of the Civil War were over, just in time for America to be caught up in the Spanish-American War, with expansionist consequences creating problems that would be felt to this day.

The 1890s were a time of momentous contrasts. According to Frederick Jackson Turner, the frontier closed at this time. But at the same time, machines first generated alternating current on a commercial basis, movies lit up in earnest, and radio messages first crackled through space. Stately magazines such as the Atlantic Monthly fought against the competition of newcomers like the Chap- Book and the Smart Set. The Panic of 1893 swept the country and caused untold misery, but in the same year the developers of the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago spent millions of dollars to praise the glories of the New World. While Walter A. Wyckoff earned 17⊄ an hour for a nine-hour day as a janitor in a New York insane asylum, John Pierpont Morgan earned a $7,000,000 commission for loaning the federal treasury gold from his ample reserves. A

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