American Thought in Transition: The Impact of Evolutionary Naturalism, 1865-1900

By Paul F. Boiler Jr. | Go to book overview

Chapter 10
Things to Come

"It is a new century," Henry Adams wrote John Hay from Paris on November 7, 1900,

and what we used to call electricity is its God.... The period from 1870 to 1900 is closed.... The period from 1900 to 1930 is in full swing, and, gee-whacky! how it is going! It will break its damned neck long before it gets through, if it tries to keep up the speed. You are free to deride my sentimentality, if you like, but I assure you that I ... go down to the Champ de Mars and sit by the hours over the great dynamos, watching them run as noiselessly and as smoothly as the planets, and asking them—with infinite courtesy— where in Hell they are going.

Henry Adams wasn't the only American who looked upon the dawn of the twentieth century as an occasion for retrospect and prospect.The approach of the new century inspired a flood of articles and editorials in the 1890's on the achievements of the nineteenth century and the possibilities of the twentieth. There was, inevitably, some dispute over the precise birth date of the new century. One man wrote the Nation in December, 1900, criticizing the magazine for totally ignoring the birth of the new century, only to be told that the

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