Cultural/intellectual Trends

By Winston Udeh, Mason McConnell and Damon Flueck

The Knowledge Revolution

    • industrialization altered the way Americans thought as well as the way they made a living

    • the new industrial society placed new demands on education and gave rise to new ways of thinking about education

    • Darwin’s theory of evolution influenced almost every field of knowledge

    • America emerged from the intellectual shadow of Europe, as Americans began to make significant contributions to the sciences as well as the relatively new social sciences, and American literature flourished.

Magazine Journalism

    • by the turn of the century, more than five thousand magazines were in publication

    • prior to the 1880s, a few staid publications, such as Harper’s and The Atlantic Monthly, dominated the field of serious magazines

    • in the 1860s and 1870s, Frank Leslie’s magazines appealed to a broader audience

    • after the mid-1880s, several new, serious magazines adopted a hard-hitting, controversial, and investigative style and inquired into the social issues of their day.

Colleges and Universities

    • the number of colleges increased as state universities and coeducational land-grant colleges sprang up across the nation

    • still, less than 2 percent of the college age population attended college

    • Harvard led the way in reforming curriculum and professionalizing college teaching

    • established in 1876 and modeled on German universities, Johns Hopkins University pioneered the modern research university and professional graduate education in America.

Scientific Advances

    • Americans made enormous contributions in the fields of pure science during the nineteenth century

    • Josiah Willard Gibbs single-highhandedly created the field of physical chemistry

    • Albert A. Michelson was the first man to measure the speed of light accurately.

Revolution in the Social Sciences

    • social scientists applied the theory of evolution to every aspect of human relations

    • they also attempted to use scientific methodology in their quest for objective truths in subjective fields

    • controversies over trusts, slum conditions, and other problems drew scholars into practical affairs

    • classical economics faced a challenge from the institutional school

    • similar forces were at work in the disciplines of sociology and political science.

Progressive Education

    • educators began to realize that traditional education did not prepare their students for life in industrial America

    • settlement house workers found that slum children needed training in handicrafts, citizenship, and personal hygiene as much as in reading and writing

    • new theorists argued that good teaching called for professional training, psychological insights, enthusiasm, and imagination, not rote memorization and corporal punishment.

Law and History

    • social evolutionists affected even the law

    • in 1881, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., in The Common Law, best summarized this new view, averring that “the felt necessities of time” and not mere precedent should determine the rules by which people are governed

    • also responding to new intellectual trends, historians traced documentary evidence to discover the evolutionary development of their contemporary political institution.

Realism in Literature

    • the majority of America’s pre-Gilded Age literature was romantic in mood

    • however, industrialism, theories of evolution, the new pragmatism in the sciences, and the very complexities of modern life produced a change in American literature

    • novelists began to examine social problems such as slums, political corruption, and the struggle between labor and capital.

William Dean Howells

    • initially for Howells, realism meant a realistic portrayal of individual personalities and the genteel, middle-class world that he knew best

    • he became, however, more and more interested in the darker side of industrialism

    • he combined his concerns for literary realism and social justice in novels such as The Rise of Silas Lapham and A Hazard of New Fortunes

    • following his passionate defense of the Haymarket radicals in 1886, he began calling himself a socialist.

Realism in Art

    • Realism had a profound impact on American painting as well as writing

    • foremost among realist artists was Thomas Eakins, who was greatly influenced by the seventeenth-century European realists

    • as an early innovator in motion pictures, Eakins used film to study people and animals in motion

    • Winslow Homer, a watercolorist from Boston, used all of the realist’s techniques for accuracy and detail to enhance his sometimes romantic land- and seascapes.