The American 1890s

A Cultural Reader

The American 1890s

Book Pages: 488 Illustrations: 22 b&w photographs Published: July 2000

American Studies, History > U.S. History, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism

America at the last fin de siècle was in a period of profound societal transition. Industrialization was well under way and with it a burgeoning sense of professionalism and a growing middle class that was becoming increasingly anxious about issues of race, gender, and class. The American 1890s: A Cultural Reader is a wide-ranging anthology of essays, criticism, and fiction first printed in periodicals during those last remarkable years of the nineteenth century, a decade commonly referred to as the “golden age” of periodical culture.
To depict the many changes taking place in the United States at this time, Susan Harris Smith and Melanie Dawson have drawn from an eclectic range of periodicals: elite monthlies such as Scribner’s, Harper’s, and the Atlantic Monthly; political magazines such as the North American Review and Forum; magazines for general readers such as Cosmopolitan and McClures; and specialized publications including the Chatauquan, Outing, and Colored American Magazine. Authors represented in the collection include Andrew Carnegie, Edith Wharton, Theodore Roosevelt, Susan B. Anthony, Booker T. Washington, Stephen Crane,
W. E. B. DuBois, Jacob Riis, and Frederick Jackson Turner. A general introduction to the period, a brief contextualizing essay for each selection, and a comprehensive bibliography of secondary sources are provided as well. In examining and debating the decade’s momentous political and social developments, the essays, editorials, and stories in this anthology reflect a constantly shifting culture at a time of internal turmoil, unprecedented political expansion, and a renaissance of modern ideas and new technologies.
Bringing together a carefully chosen selection of primary sources, The American 1890s presents a remarkable variety of views—nostalgic, protective, imperialist, progressive, egalitarian, and democratic—held by American citizens a century ago.


“A splendid collection! This combination of fiction, editorials, and essays offers multiple themes and insights into the concerns of 1890s America that still hold sway over the public imagination today.” — Emory Elliott, University of California, Riverside

“This excellent sourcebook covers a range of topics, from education to mental health, from labor and the city to reading and culture. A thorough and well-conceived collection.” — Priscilla Wald, author of Constituting Americans: Cultural Anxiety and Narrative Form


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Susan Harris Smith is Associate Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh. She is the author of American Drama: The Bastard Art and Masks in Modern Drama.

Melanie Dawson is a Visiting Lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Pittsburgh.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Figures


A Timeline of America at Century’s End


1. Becoming Cultured and Culture as Commodity

“The Ideal of Culture” (Chautauquan) / F. W. Gunsaulus, D.D.

“Wealth” (North American Review) / Andrew Carnegie

Brief Observations on the Habit of Reading (Critic)

“The Reading Habit”

“Courses of Reading”

“What Chicago People Read”

“A Note on Servants’ Libraries”

“The Novel-Reading Habit” (Arena) / George Clarke, Ph.D.

“The Pelican” (Scribner’s) / Edith Wharton

“The Economic Theory of Women’s Dress” (Popular Science Monthly) / Dr. Thorstein Veblen

2. The Idea of Types

“The Modern American Mood” (Harper’s) / William Dean Howells

“The Provincials,” from a series, “Sketches of American Types” (Scribner’s) / Octave Thanet

”The Conduct of Life,” from a series, “The Art of Living” (Scribner’s) / Robert Grant

“Talma Gordon” (Colored American Magazine) / Pauline E. Hopkins

“The Ecollege Graduate and Public Life” (Atlantic Monthly) / Theodore Roosevelt

“The Awakening of the Negro” (Atlantic Monthly) / Booker T. Washington

“The Status of Woman, Past, Present, and Future” (Arena) / Susan B. Anthony

3. Labor

“The Workers—The West: Among the Revolutionaries” (Scribner’s) / Walter A. Wyckoff

“In the Depths of a Coal Mine” (McClure’s) / Stephen Crane

“A Paying Concern: A True Story of American Factory Life” (McClure’s) / Gertrude Roscoe

“The Night Run of the ‘Overland’: A Story of Domestic Life Among the Railroad People” (McClure’s) / Elmore Elliott Peake

“Women and Girls in Sweat-Shops” (Chautauquan) / Florence Kelley

“Working-Girls Clubs,” (Scribner’s) / Clara Sidney Davidge

4. Social, Ethnic, and Racial Strife

“Club Life Among Outcasts” (Harper’s) / Josiah Flynt

“The Future of the Red Man” (Forum) / Simon Pokagon

“Lynch Law in the South” (North American Review) / Frederick Douglass

“A Ghetto Wedding” (Atlantic Monthly) / Abraham Cahan

“The Genesis of the Gang” (Atlantic Monthly) / Jacob A. Riis

“Step-Brothers to Dives” (Harper’s) / Louise Betts Edwards

5. Mental Health & Physical Training

“ The Gospel of Relaxation” (Scribner’s) / William James

“Fashion’s Slaves” (Arena) / B. O. Flower

“ Woman and the Bicycle” (Scribner’s) / Marguerite Merington

“A Fin de Cycle Incident” (Outing) / Edna C. Jackson

“Physical Education vs. Degeneracy” (Independent) / H. W. Foster

“On Being Civilized Too Much” (Atlantic Monthly) / Henry Charles Merwin

6. The Promises of Formal Education

“A Negro Schoolmaster in the New South” (Atlantic Monthly) / W. E. Burghardt Du Bois

“Modern College Education” (Cosmopolitan) / John Brisben Walker

“The Greatest Need of College Girls” (Atlantic Monthly) / Annie Payson Call

“The School Days of an Indian Girl” (Atlantic Monthly) / Zitkala-Sa

“The March of Progress” (Century) / Charles W. Chesnutt

“The Ingrate” (New England Magazine) / Paul Laurence Dunbar

“The Genius of Bowlder Bluff” (Scribner’s) / Abbe Carter Goodloe

7. The Future and Cultural Change

“What a Great City Might Be—A Lesson from the White City” (New England Magazine) / John Coleman Adams

“The Problem of the West” (Atlantic Monthly) / Frederick J. Turner

“The Divorce of Man from Nature” (Arena) / Anna R. Weeks

“Susan’s Escort” (Harper’s) / Edward Everett Hale

“Twenty-Four: Four” (Harper’s) / Elizabeth Stuart Phelps

“Within an Ace of the End of the World” (McClure’s) / Robert Barr


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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2512-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2476-8
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