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words & definitions

Political machine

(1800s) A highly organized nineteenth-century political group, often compared to a new technological innovation because of its efficiency and complexity.
• Most machines developed within major cities and were run by bosses who had influence over elected officials.
• Politicians within a machine provided services or favors for their constituents in exchange for votes, sometimes resulting in their being brought up on charges of bribery or corruption.
• Tammany Hall, New York City's Democratic Party political machine was a famous example.

Tammany Hall / William Macy ("Boss") Tweed

(1800s) The most notorious political machine of the nineteenth century, located in New York City and run by Democrat

Wm. Macy "Boss" Tweed.

The excesses of the Tweed ring (such as expensive bribes made at the taxpayers' expense) led to an outcry for political reform.
• Political cartoonist Thomas Nast was instrumental in rousing public outrage over Boss Tweed which resulted in his eventual downfall. Tweed fled to Europe in 1871 to avoid prosecution but was eventually convicted and died in jail.

Nouveau riche

(late 1800s) French for "new rich." Referred to people who had become rich through business rather than through being born into a rich family or inherited wealth. The nouveau riche made up much of the American upper class of the late 1800s.

Tenements

(late 1800s- early 1900s) High-density, cheap, five- or six-story housing units built in the late nineteenth century and designed for large urban populations. In the United States, tenements were built in northern cities to house the growing immigrant and later African-American population in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Tenements were known for their severe overcrowding and lack of ventilation and plumbing.

John A. Roebling/ Brooklyn Bridge

(1806-1869) (1880s) Roebling pioneered the development of suspension bridges and designed the Brooklyn Bridge, but died before its construction was completed. His son, Washington Roebling, oversaw the completion of the bridge which was a technological feat in the 1880s.

Thomas Nast

(1804-1902) Artists, Newspaper cartoonist who produced satirical political cartoons, he invented "Uncle Sam" and came up with the elephant and the donkey for the political parties. Political cartoonist Thomas Nast was instrumental in rousing public outrage over Boss Tweed which resulted in his eventual downfall.

James McNeill Whistler

(1834-1903) Artists, A member of the Realist movement, although his works were often moody and eccentric. Best known for his Arrangement in Black and Grey, No.1, also known as Whistler's Mother.

Winslow Homer

(1836-1910) Artists, A Realist painter known for his seascapes of New England. Homer, along with other American artists, broke from European tradition and experimented with new styles.

Ashcan School,

(1908) Artists, Also known as The Eight, a group of American Naturalist painters formed in 1907, most of whom had formerly been newspaper illustrators. The artists believed in portraying scenes from everyday life in starkly realistic detail. Their 1908 display was the first art show in the U.S. and included artists such as George Bellows and Edward Hopper. One critic maintained their works should be thrown out with other trash - hence the name "Ashcan School."

Armory Show

(1913) Artists, An art show in the U.S. organized by the Ashcan School. It was controversial because it was most Americans' first exposure to European Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art, and caused a modernist revolution in American art

Edwin Lawrence Godkin

(1831-1902) Writers, Editor who established the Nation magazine in 1865. I n 1881 he became an editor of the New York Evening Post and in 1883 editor in chief, carrying the Nation, by then an influential critical weekly, with him as a weekly in connection with the Post.
• Godkin was a political independent and attacked the carpetbag regime, corruption under President Grant, free silver, organized labor, and high tariffs.
His integrity gave Godkin's opinion weight. He was an important spokesman of laissez-faire in economic policy.

William Dean Howells

(1837-1920) Writers, Eminent American novelist and critic, whose championing of such diverse American writers as Stephen Crane, Frank Norris, Henry James, and Mark Twain made him the most influential literary force of his day.
• Howell wrote over 30 novels. His most famous novel was The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885); it was a study of a self-made businessman who was ultimately ruined but never lost his integrity.
In the mid-1880s Howells became concerned with social issues of his time. These social concerns were reflected in his fiction. He risked public denunciation in 1887 when he expressed his belief that the Chicago anarchists tried for their involvement in the Haymarket Square Riot were convicted and executed for their political beliefs, not for their crimes.

William James

(1842-1910) Writers, Developed the philosophy of pragmatism which argued modern society should use the test of scientific inquiry rather than tradition or ideals to develop policy. James was one of the founders of modern psychology, and the first to attempt to apply psychology as a science rather than a philosophy.

Henry James

(1843-1916) Writers, American writer who lived in England. Wrote numerous novels around the theme of the conflict between American innocence and European sophistication/corruption, with an emphasis on the psychological motivations of the characters. Famous for his novel Washington Square and his short story "The Turn of the Screw."

Joseph Pulitzer (The New York World), 1847-1911 / William Randolph Hearst (The New York Journal), 1863-1951 / "Yellow Journalism"

Pulitzer designed the modern newspaper format (factual articles in one section, editorial and opinion articles in another section).
• He and his rival William Randolph Hearst owned the most important newspaper chains in the country.
Both men also used sensational reporting, known as "yellow journalism," to boost newspaper sales.

Stephen Crane

(1871-1900) Writer, Writer who introduced grim realism to the American novel.
• His book Maggie, A Girl of the Streets starkly depicted slum life and created a sensation when it was published in 1893.
His best known work was The Red Badge of Courage (1895), a realistic psychological study of a young soldier in the Civil War.

Jacob Riis

(1890) Writer, Newspaper reporter and photographer who wrote How the Other Half Lives to show Americans how the poor lived in tenements. The book shocked Americans with its stark depiction of poverty.

Upton Sinclair

(1906) Writer, Wrote an expose of working conditions in the meatpacking industry in the book The Jungle. Upton's intent was to show the terrible condition of labor, but the public response was indignation over the unsanitary conditions which led to the Meat Inspection Act in 1906.

Frank Norris

(late 1800s-early 1900s) Writer, Novelist who wrote in a naturalistic style. His most important works were McTeague, a powerful story of the tragedy caused by greed in the lives of ordinary people; an uncompleted trilogy The Epic of Wheat in which two novels, The Octopus and The Pit were written.
• The Octopus depicted the struggle between oppressed wheat farmers and powerful railroads in California.

Frederick Law Olmsted / Calvert Vaux / New York Central Park

(late 1850s) Architects, Law and Vaux designed the innovative New York Central Park with the purpose of making it look natural even though it was in an urban setting. Other American cities were so impressed they hired them to create similar parks in their cities.
• Olmsted also worked on the landscaping of the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.

Louis Sullivan/ Chicago School

(1856-1914) Architects, Known as the father of the skyscraper because he designed the first steel-skeleton skyscraper in Chicago. Sullivan, along with Daniel Burnham, was a founder of the "Chicago School" of architecture that used a steel structural frame, large windows to admit maximum light, and little exterior ornamentation. One of Sullivan's most famous designs was the Wainwright Building in St. Louis.

Frank Lloyd Wright

(1867-1959) Architects, He was the most famous student of Louis Sullivan and was considered America's greatest architect. Pioneered the concept that a building should blend into and harmonize with its surroundings rather than following classical designs. His most famous buildings were a series of residences with low horizontal lines and strongly projecting eaves that echoed the rhythms of the surrounding landscape, these were called his "Prairie Style."

"New Immigration"

(1865-1910), Referred to the second major wave of immigration to the United States.
• Between 1865-1910, 25 million new immigrants arrived. Unlike earlier immigration, which had come primarily from Western and Northern Europe, the new immigrants came mostly from Southern and Eastern Europe, fleeing persecution and poverty.
• Many of the new immigrants were non-English speaking and Catholic or Jewish. Americans of the time contrasted this to "Old Immigration" (prior to 1865 which was primarily Northern and Western Europe and Protestant).
Cultural and religious prejudice brought many native Americans to condemn the "new immigrants."

American Protective Association

(1887), A nativist group of the 1890s which opposed all immigration to the U.S. Founded by Henry Bowers, its membership reached 500,000 by 1894. Nativist sentiment flourished as a reaction to the "New Immigration."

Immigration Restriction League

(1894), A nativist group which sought to limit "undesirable "immigration through literacy tests and other criteria. Middle-class Americans supported this group because it had a more subtle approach rather than outright quotas or a ban on all immigration.

Dillingham Commission Report

(1911), The U.S. Senate, under intense pressure from anti-immigrant groups, set up this commission to study the origins and consequences of immigration.
• The Report linked the rise of social and economic problems to the shift in immigration patterns. It argued before the 1880s most immigrants came from northern and eastern Europe. After the 1880s, however, "inferior" immigrants from southern and eastern Europe became the norm.
• The Report blamed the nation's social problems on these new migrants and recommended that the federal government use literacy tests to stop poor and uneducated immigrants from entering the U.S. and causing additional social unrest.
Anti-immigrant groups used the Report as ammunition in their quest to stop or severely restrict immigration.

Streetcar suburbs

(1870s) The appearance of the horse drawn streetcar (precursor to the electric streetcar) made living within the heart of the city unnecessary. People began moving to the edges of the cities and commuting to work by streetcar. Led to growth of suburbs.

Gilded Age

(1875-1900) A period of enormous economic growth and lavish displays of wealth during the last quarter of the nineteenth century.
• The social and economic reorganization brought about by the industrial revolution resulted in dramatic changes in U.S. society, including a newly dominant group of rich entrepreneurs and an impoverished working class.
• Increasingly, wealth became concentrated in the hands of fewer people.
• The phrase "Gilded Age" was coined by writer Mark Twain to symbolize all the problems brought by industrialization that lay below the glittering surface wealth and power of the nation.
• America emerged as the world's leading industrial and agricultural producer.

John Hopkins University

(1876), A private university in Baltimore, Maryland, founded as a research university whose professors were expected to research and write as well as instruct students.
John Hopkins revolutionarized higher education in America and led to the creation of the research university system as it currents exists.

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