American culture had a slow steady start, and for a while it seemed as though it would remain that way. This was until an island on the coast of New York changed American culture and society. This island was called Coney Island. What was Coney Island and what did it bring to the Americans? It was an island that fulfilled the changing wants of American’s. This island influenced American’s wants from labor, and high society to leisure. Though the island didn’t remain on its all-time-high forever, it caused a “turn of the century.” This “turn of the century,” was a vast shift in the mass culture of America.
Before the “turn of the century,” Coney Island consisted of citizens whom abided to an old, reserved set of values (or culture) that America lived by. The culture is commonly referred to as Victorian, and it is believed that American’s lived in more of a Victorian era than England; ironically England was the country reigned by Queen Victoria. Victorian values were values of moral, and self-righteous. In Kasson’s book, it referred to these values as matters of self-control, moral integrity, industriousness, and sober earnestness (Kasson 4). The idea was that all activities whether in the home or at work remained useful. For example while in the home, women or children must be doing labor or anything considered productive. Activities considered as productive were fiction, arts, poetry, or anything pertaining to that matter. Protestant educators, ministers, and reformers were the cultural elites (or genteel reformers) who tried to greatly influence the urban-industrial democratic government. These reformers founded institutions such as libraries, museums, and symphonies, which set a basis for the culture. Unfortunately, the reformers did not grasp the control they sought due to the diversity in American culture.
Coney Island became the place for the manifestation of the diversity America’s social culture. In the twentieth century, the culture formed by the reformers came to an end because of limitations the culture. The younger generations thought of experiences and issues outside of what the reformers considered respectable. With the fall of the reformers, entrepreneurs found new opportunities. Impresarios soon became the platform for cultural refinement, moral elevation, and scientific instruction. Attractions that were once only available to high-class elites became available to working middle-class. Examples of these attractions were cakewalks, music, sports, and dancing. The most transformative attraction on American culture would have to be the amusement parks. Amusement parks began this “turn of the century,” where mass culture thrived for entertainment.
The “turn of the century” was very different from what was known. Before the rise of amusement parks, America was only exposed to projects that stood for social culture. Two of these “projects” were New York’s Central Park and Chicago’s Columbian Exposition. The main idea of these projects was to bring social conduct and public taste to high standards. Frederick Law Olmsted designed New York’s Central Park, and his ultimate goal was to have America become a “nation of cities.” However his plan for the New York’s Central Park was for it to be an escape from the urban society America was becoming. It would provide a restful environment for all who entered. He believed that having the park as an escape would relieve the unhappy and encourage individuals to uphold themselves to the social cultural standards (Kasson 12-15). Unfortunately, this idea of Central Park was not upheld when “Boss” William M. Tweed gained control. The old ideas clashes with the politician ideas and the park became more business controlled. The next to rise was the Columbian Exposition of 1893, which also strove to uplift society. However, the Columbian Exposition had a different strategy, instead of leisure and relaxation, it believed in elevating the social...
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