Rise of Entertainment during the Gilded Age
The Gilded Age marked a time of industrial revolution, growth, and prosperity. The Gilded Age sprung out of post-Civil War and post-Reconstruction and is defined by the rapid economic and population growth. Marked by the creation of the modern industrial economy, the Gilded Age saw the rapid rise of industrialists such as John D. Rockefeller, Andrew W. Mellon, Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, and Cornelius Vanderbilt. It was also during this time that America saw the rise of expositions, amusement parks, and other entertainment outlets.
Expositions of the Gilded Age included the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, the World’s Fair (World’s Colombian Exposition) held in Chicago, the St. Louis World’s Fair, and the Panama Pacific International Exposition. These expositions featured vast exhibition halls and were intended to display the latest technological marvels of the time. Many times, amusement parks were situated on the periphery of these expositions, and utilized new technologies to amuse and entertain the public (an Introduction to American Cultural Expression during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era). Of the first and most memorable amusement parks is Coney Island. Amusement parks encouraged innovations in the entertainment and industrial field and saw the development of rides featuring extreme drops and high speed rides meant to thrill passengers (Rutherford, 2000).
The Gilded Age also saw a rise in live entertainment, specifically in vaudeville. Prior to the Civil War, “American audiences boisterously voiced their approval or disapproval at theatrical performances by screaming, hollering, stomping, throwing vegetables and other missiles, or in certain instances even rushing the stage to attack performers or plead for encores” (About Vaudeville, 1999). Vaudeville grew out of the “culture of incorporation” of post-Civil War America,
and rose to prominence through organizational efforts, savvy business marketing, spending power, and an increase of leisure time among the white-collar worker. Vaudeville combined centuries-old traditions including the English Music hall, minstrel shows of pre-Civil War America, and Yiddish Theatre (About Vaudeville, 1999). Additionally, traveling entertainment became popular during this period. One of the most popular, and most enduring traveling shows was Barnum
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