Turn of the 20th Century

By Dennis Salgado


Skyscrapers emerged after elevators & steel skeletons to bear weight were invented. Examples include Daniel Burnham’s Flatiron Building in NYC and Louis Sullivan’s Wainwright Building in St. Louis. The skyscraper, America’s greatest contribution to architecture, solved the issue of how best to use limited and expensive space

African American Universities

After the Civil War, thousands of African Americans pursued higher education, though excluded from white schools.

Booker T. Washington founded Tuskegee University to provide technical training.

W.E.B. Dubois founded the Niagara Movement to provide liberal arts education to blacks.

El's and Subways

A few large cities moved their streetcars far above street level, creating elevated or El trains. Other cities built subways by moving their rail lines underground

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In the early 20th century, brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright, experimented with engines and aircrafts. They built a biplane and on December 17, 1903, they flew it for 12 seconds over 120 feet. Two years later, they were making 30 minute flights and by 1920, the U.S. was using airmail flights regularly.

Electric Transit

Changes in transportation allowed cities to spread outward. By the turn of the century, intricate networks of electric streetcars – also called trolley cars – ran from outlying neighborhoods to downtown offices & stores.

Racial Discrimination

African Americans were usually excluded from secondary education. In 1890, less than 1% attended high school. By 1910, that figured had reached only 3%.

Plessy v. Ferguson

In 1896, a legal case reached the U.S. Supreme Court to test the constitutionality of segregation. In Plessy v. Ferguson the Supreme Court ruled that the segregation of races was legal and did not violate the 14th Amendment.


African Americans who did not follow the rules could face severe punishment or death. Between 1882-1892, more than 1,400 black men and women were shot, burned, or lynched. Lynching peaked in the 1880s and 90s but continued well into the 20th century.

Central Park

It made up of 840 acres of land in the middle of New York City. Designed to be a relaxing place in the center of a busy city. The park took many years to construct but is still used today by millions of people each day!

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Spectator Sports

Americans also became avid fans of spectator sports. Baseball and boxing became profitable businesses. Mark Twain called baseball, “the very symbol of the booming 19th century.”