*in 1873, mark twain wrote a novel entitled the gilded age. it described american society as gleaming on the surface, but rotten at the core. it was true that america had many problems—violent labour relations, corrupt politicians, increasing poverty in crowded cities, discrimination—but on the surface, america was prosperous and americans had more to buy and do then ever before.
*as more and more people worked for wages or salaries rather than raising their own food on farms, they had more money to spend. as industry became more successful, people had more things to buy and at lower prices than ever before. this led to a culture of conspicuous consumption, in which people wanted to buy the newest, best, and most things simply to have them.
consumption was popularised by
department stores. in 1858, rowland h.
macy opened the first department store in
wanamaker, a department store
*for example, as clothing became easier to make and cheaper to sell, styles converged: soon the middle class and even the poor could wear the same style clothes as the rich (although the quality of cloth and stitching might still vary). many different products were soon the same across the country. this is known as mass culture, when most people own and do the same kinds of things.
*some of the things
that were most advertised
and most sold were household appliances.
stoves and later iceboxes, vacuum cleaners, and other appliances
housework easier for women, and they were often the ones who made the
about what to buy, particularly as many men had longer trips to work on
streetcars then they had when they still walked to work.
advertising became so widespread
was the growth of newspapers. newspapers
had been important in american life since the colonial period, but in
1880s, joseph pulitzer and william randolph hearst made newspapers into
business. they got a lot of income from
advertisers, but got people to buy their papers by stirring up
publishing sensational stories, criticising (and investigating) big
and corrupt politicians, and even inventing the comic strip.
*more and more americans could read, too. by the late 1800s, most places offered some public education and in most of the north and parts of the south, attendance was compulsory. educators tried new teaching methods and were able to learn them as many more teaching colleges opened across the country (east tennessee state normal school opened in 1911). by 1900 about 90% of americans were literate.
*not only did many
more high schools and
colleges open (and colleges began creating modern curricula), but
other ways to educate themselves. in
1874, a series of lectures and entertainment organised sort of like a
revival or a summer camp was offered at
*mass culture also
included entertainment. as people crowded
into cities, they wanted
ways to escape from the as well. in 1884
the first roller coaster opened at
*for the first time, people began to attend professional sports. the national league organised baseball as a business in 1876. college football became popular, although people worried that it was too violent. professional football began in 1892, but did not become nearly as popular as college ball until the late 1950s. basketball was invented by james naismith in 1891, and professional teams appeared not long afterwards (although the basketball association of america was not formed until 1946 and was renamed the nba in 1949). boxing was extremely popular, particularly among immigrants who would root for boxers of their own ethnicity.
*by the end of the 1900s, americans across the country were more connected and lived more similar lives than they ever had before.