Pop Culture and Society

Due to research constraints, the information contained herein is limited mainly to American popular culture circa 1911. However, European popular culture of the time was quite similar. Further resources and information can be found on the internet.

Theda Bera, a silent screen star, made vamping popular. Hot toys included the erector set, tinker toys, and lincoln logs. The Ouija Board became popular. Sales of this game soared. The Model T was affordable, so speed became a big fad. Chevrolet,DeSoto, Dodge, and Nash all were introduced during the 1910s. Prestige models became worth going into debt for - cars like Cadillac, Buick, Pierce, Haynes, Packard, and Studebaker. Ocean liners (floating hotels) were the rage. A neatly sized folding Kodak made picture taking easier and more popular for the masses.

Ballroom dancing was popular. Dance crazes included the Fox Trot and the Tango. Irene and Vernon Castle were 'off the charts'. Boston, New York, and Cleveland banned the tango. Parents worried about loosening morality. After all, lipstick was worn, actresses showed their legs. Dangerous times! There were "tent shows", entertainment spiced with educational and political messages.

The 1910s were called the Ballroom Decade. Many of the trendier restaurants were equipped with dance floors. Americans continued to write and perform ragtime, blues and jazz. Popular songs of the time included Alexander's Ragtime Band (Irving Berlin), Danny Boy, You Made Me Love You (Al Jolson), Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life, The Aba Daba Honeymoon, and All I Do is Dream of You.

Jerome Kern and George Gershwin continued to produced music and musicals in the 1910s. Fanny Brice migrated to the Ziegfeld Follies, Vernon and Irene Castle and Fred Astaire danced, Vaudeville boomed, Speakeasies sold booze, and entertainers sang Over There.

Top Music Hits (1910)

"Italian Street Song" by Rida Young
"A Big Bass Viol" by M.T. Bohannon
"Doctor Tinkle Tinker" by Otto Harbach
"The Chanticleer Rag" by Edward Madden
"Chicken Reel" by J.M. Daly
"A Banjo Song" by Howard Weeden
"Day Dreams" by Robert B. Smith
"Morning" by Frank Stanton
"Mother Macree" by Rida Johnson Young, Chauncey Olcott, & Ernest Ball

Top Music Hits (1911)

"Alexander's Ragtime Band" by Irving Berlin
"Ragtime Violin" by Irving Berlin
"Baby Rose" by Louis Weslyn
"Jimmy Valentine" by Edward Madden
"When You're Away" by Seymour Brown
"Daly's Reel" by J.M. Daly
"All Alone" by Will Dillon
"Honey-Love" by Jack Drislane
"The Oceana Roll" by Roger Lewis
"They Always Pick On Me" by Harry Von Tilzer and Stanley Murphy

The intellectual revolt against materialism spawned several books including those listed below (Books That Define the Time). The Education of Henry Adams assailed the nation's failure to live up to its founders' ideals. Walter Lippman and John Dewey were writing. Poets including Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Amy Lowell, T.S. Eliot (The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock), Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, and Carl Sandberg.

Edith Wharton wrote Ethan Frome and Willa Cather published O Pioneers! and My Antonia. Popular books of the period included The Secret Garden (Francis Hodgson Burnett), Sons and Lovers (D.H. Lawrence), Of Human Bondage (Somerset Maugham), Wild Fire (Zane Grey), and Tarzan of the Apes (Edgar Rice Burroughs). Margaret Sanger published information on birth control and women during this time.

Books That Define the Time:

The Masses by George Eastman
The Smart Set by H.L. Mencken
The New Republic by Herbert Croly
The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man by James Weldon Jackson
Uncle Remus by Joel Chandler Harris
The Economic Consequences of the Peace by J.M. Keyes
The American Language by M. L. Mencken
Democracy and Education by John Dewey
Family Limitation by Margaret Sanger

The Industrial Revolution influences many artistic movements and counter-cultures. The City became a subject for the realist movement. Artists painted scenes of the less glamorous aspects of modern life. In American, these became known as the Ash Can realists. They depicted gritty New York scenery and lower class residents. Some impressionists (John Marin) and cubists (Max Weber) and futurists (Joseph Stella) also painted the city. Industrialism was also a subject for the realistic art forms. Norman Rockwell began publishing his classic American portraits, which ultimately landed on the covers of the Saturday Evening Post.

Realism, primitivism, symbolism, Fauvism, Dadaism, Futurism, and Cubism were all "-isms" of this decade. Georgia O'Keefe began painting her sexual and controversial abstract forms. Other American arts of the decade included James McNeill Whistler, Childe Hassam and Mary Cassatt. Alfred Stieglitz was one of the most renown artists of this era. He elevated photography to an art form.

Theater, Film & Radio
The Teens had Theda Bara and vamping (a seductive dance) and posturing. Americans flocked to the Ziegfeld Follies and Vaudeville on Broadway to see such stars as Fannie Brice, Fatty Arbuckle, and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, who as a child tapped his way into legend for nickels and dimes. Bojangles invented the 'stair tap'. Musicals had major audience appeal. Jerome Kern was popular in the 1910s with such hits as Oh, Boy! and Leave It To Jane. Irving Berlin, Richard Rogers, Cole Porter, and George Gershwin (Dere Mable) all had hits during the 10s, and Victor Herbert's Naughty Marietta, premiered on Broadway. Other plays included those by George Bernard Shaw, Booth Tarkington, and Sinclair Lewis.

Movies were extremely popular in the 10s, such as. Birth of a Nation (D.W. Griffith), The Floorwalker (Charlie Chaplin), Daddy Long Legs, Les Miserables and A Tale of Two Cities. Top box-office stars were Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and Pearl White (The Perils of Pauline.)

Note: Most of the information in this section is credited to a survey of American Cultural History done by the Kingwood College Library. The full results of that survey are available online at http://www.nhmccd.edu/contracts/lrc/kc/decade10.html.

Copyright © 2003 Atlas Adventures. All rights reserved. Reproduction is forbidden without express written permission from Atlas Adventures.