The giant pot of peacock feathers and ornate furniture (Survey 5: 1850-1895)


Painters and posters: culture

In North America, industrial America was the hub of cultures mixing together through immigration and assimilation of people looking for new economic opportunities to support themselves and their families. Immigration hugely consisted of Europeans from Germany, Ireland, Britain, Italy, Poland, and other Slavic-speaking countries.

Urban culture consisted of minstrel shows which consisted of dances, skits, and songs that were originally based on stereotypes and racism and were popular even among the immigrant population; they primarily mocked people of African descent and included people dressing up in black face. Vaudeville, originating from the Parisian boulevard theatre, was another form of entertainment that consisted of many acts such as burlesque-styled dances and comedy, juggling acts, and magic shows and were popular in beer halls. Varying from raucous to elaborate they later became more respectable and family oriented. World fairs were starting to be held in cities to showcase their cultural and technological achievements, an example being The World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, known as the railroad center, in 1893 which undermined the Indigenous and celebrated Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the New World in 1492.

Shows consisted of about 10-12 acts including dancing, singing, juggling, magic shows, and comedy skits
A “Hurly Burly” extravaganza.











Advertisement of racist minstrel show with white actors and their black characters

Immigration not only brought new cultures, customs, and traditions, but also new tensions. Immigration was sometimes viewed as a problem by native-born Americans and the anti-immigrant attitude was stemmed from racist or ethno-centric attitudes. The Roman Catholic Church played a confusing role for Catholics by wanting to preserve the values of old country yet aiding in assimilation in America. For example, in North America bishops pushed for standardization by unifying the catechism, an introduction to the teachings of the Catholic Church, and control. Many native-born Americans however failed to notice that immigrants were assimilating and attempting to be a part of the broad ‘American culture’ and were an essential part of the working class.

Jewish market in the Upper East Side of New York, N.Y.

In order to combat this ‘threat’ of new cultures by immigration the upper class in society pushed for ‘high culture’ by combining art, classical literature, social sciences, and philosophical ideas and ideas of government based on western Europe. This was spread through museums, libraries, and universities. Opera, orchestral music, and theatre such as Shakespeare was moved from a casual vaudeville-setting into the stage where only the elite and educated could have the experience; opera houses, halls and nuseus alike were built and sustained by private patrons. This helped American cities transform into centres of high art and therefore become culturally distinct through the perceived threat of new immigrants.

The Metropolitan Opera House on Broadway in New York





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