1900s: The Progressive Era

  • Leisure time became more crucial; included family time, commercial recreation at fairs and carnivals.
  • Time of peace/economic comfort
  • Gibson Girl was the symbol of the ideal woman every female aspired to be.  The Gibson Girl was athletic, smart, independent, and ironically, didn’t seek gender equality.
  • Men aspired to be like the Gibson girl’s suitors: without a mustache, well-cut suits, and more thinner to appear younger.
  • Being American meant purchasing/acquiring goods.  They spent as much on clothes as they did on rent.
  • Baseball rose to popularity
  • Children in both the country and the city led similar lives: both carrying out extensive labor at a young age.
  • The language barrier in schools between teachers and students grew deeper as more immigrants arrived.
  • Ragtime
  • New Jersey’s Thomas Edison had strict rules on filmmaking.  Thus, the film makes began fleeing to Hollywood—a small town at the time—in order to break away from Edison’s rules.

1910s: World War

  • People began to go on travels
  • WWI brought inspiration to art.  The US also gained world recognition and power through the world
  • Artists such as the Ashcan School group wished to portray their country in a more honest way: through paintings of dirty cities
  • More appreciation toward ethnic/African art and music
  • Women achieved a voice through the 19th Amendment and through comics.
  • Women also developed a more “flowing” look after the appearance of Irene Castle’s graceful dance routines.
  • Through movies, a common society language/terms were developed
  • Charlie Chaplin became famous with his clever, subtle acting.  Sound and movement could not be recorded at the same time.

1920s: The Roaring Twenties

  • Radio was valued as a crucial aspect of everyday lives.
  • African Americans develop a voice for themselves during the Harlem Renaissance (a group of black artists and writers such as Langston Hughes rise to express their views on their lives as Americans).
  • Period of slang
  • Prohibition and flappers revolutionized American society
  • Model T Ford
  • The rise in popularity of Charleston dance
  • Jazz age
  • Warner Brothers, Paramount Pictures, MGM, Columbia Pictures rose to popularity, producing film after film.
  • Films were finally successful in recording sound and movement at once.
  • Hollywood reached its peak in 1929, marking the commencement of its Golden Age, which would stretch until 1948.
  • Stock Market Crash/Black Thursday: October 24th, 1929
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The Progressive Era

1930s: Dirty 30s

  • The Depression gave rise to many revolutions in culture.
  • Robbers and murderers were viewed as celebrities (inspired by the idea of Robin Hood)
  • Seek inexpensive leisure activities and radical hobbies to pass the time such as dance marathons, stamp collecting, watching movies, etc
  • The teenage culture began to rise as adolescents turned to each other for advice.  Markets started to aim products at them and teens developed new terms such as “dating”, a term still used today.
  • African Americans were demeaned in advertisements, limiting their voice.
  • Their voice was further limited when there were bans on their music once they began appealing to the white audience.
  • Swing music
  • Smoking grew popular among both genders, signifying urbanity, sophistication
  • Regionalists painted American values and country life.
  • Films at the time portrayed many ideas, allowed Americans to relax and escape daily problems, and western films soon ascended to represent American history.
  • Films were a method of showing the world America’s talents.

1940s

  • “Kilroy was here” was a popular symbol for soldiers
  • Superman symbolized Americans themselves: that they led dual day/night lifestyles, heroes of the world, and their aspirations to be important and larger than life.
  • Since America couldn’t attain fashion news from Paris during the war, they had no choice but to develop their own fashion.  Fashion capitals soon shifted from Paris to New York.
  • American fashion=more variety, comfortable, convenient.
  • Their late entry into WW2 and their atomic bomb on Hiroshima approved that they don’t jump into circumstances because everyone else is and they proved to be intelligent.  They outshined old-world powers, especially with the USA’S entry into Cold War.
  • In the early 1940s, America was divided on views of isolation and participation in the war.
  • The government used Hollywood films to make Americans feel proud of their position in the war, stir support and nationalism even though these films were completely inaccurate.
  • The debut of escapist films.
  • Television was popular in the late 40s, following the war because prior, television programs were heavily censored
Cite this article as: William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team), "American History & Identity: 1900-1950," in SchoolWorkHelper, 2019, https://schoolworkhelper.net/american-history-identity-1900-1950/.

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