Topics in the News
American Women's Fashion
Rich and Poor.
The new century brought a tremendous influx of immigrants, growth in the economy, and an explosion of new businesses and technologies. Women in the slums of the large cities and those on farms struggled to feed, shelter, and clothe their families, while middle-class women whose husbands worked in business or government offices lived in comfortable homes with hired help. Their children went to schools and enjoyed warm food and new clothes, while children of the poor worked for pennies and attended school erratically. At the other extreme, wealthy women, whose numbers grew in the first decade of the century, had domestic staffs, several homes, and plenty of time to supervise their families' active social lives. The disparity between the working poor and the idle rich had never been more glaring than it was as the new century opened.
Paris and London set the fashion trends American women followed, if they could afford to do so, and these trends were tied to the tastes of the French and British upper classes. In America middle-class women copied the Vanderbilts, Astors, and Roosevelts, who, in turn, copied the looks of the European aristocracy. In this way, Paris and London influenced the dominant look of American women, even if elite European designers did not directly design for the masses....
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Apparel for Men
For middle- and upper-class men, as for their female counterparts, dress followed rigid rules. In 1901 such men typically changed clothes three times over the course of a day. For the office a man wore a dark frock coat or morning coat, a waistcoat in a contrasting color, and striped trousers. The lounge suit provided a more relaxed alternative for leisure activities: the lounge jacket had short, pointed lapels and was shaped at the waist; the trousers were narrower than those of the business suit and sported a crease down the center of the leg. Following the example set by King Edward VII of Britain, many younger men chose to wear the lounge suit during business hours.
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Architecture, Interior Design, and Furniture
The Classical Revival.
On the eve of the twentieth century American architecture was at a crossroads. Victorian architecture and design were preoccupied with past styles, particularly Greek and Roman classicism. The classical revival in architecture took its lead from the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, where, beginning in the mid nineteenth century, many American architects studied; upon their return to the United States they passed on the Beaux Arts philosophy to their own students. Beaux Arts principles were dominant in American architecture for about a hundred years.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Beaux Arts was challenged by two related developments that took their inspiration from organic growth in nature: the Chicago school in architecture and the Arts and Crafts movement. The first, and the most important, architect to employ the organic concept was Louis Sullivan. Sullivan used the term organic to mean that a building's structure should be...
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The Horseless Carriage.
It was not clear at the turn of the century whether steam, electricity, or gasoline would prove the most efficient power source for automobiles. Americans had been experimenting with mechanized road vehicles since the 1880s; called "horseless carriages," these early cars took many of their design features—high, thin wheels; simple chassis; buggylike interiors; and tillers for steering—from traditional horse-drawn carriages and were nearly indistinguishable from them. Charles E. Duryea of Springfield, Massachusetts; Freelan O. and Francis E. Stanley of Newton, Massachusetts; and Rollin H. White of Cleveland, Ohio, were a few of the more successful mechanics who struggled to build a reliable motorized vehicle in the 1890s.
The Stanley Steamer.
As the decade opened, it appeared that steam would win the motorization battle. The Stanley brothers' steam car had no driveshaft, no spark advance to manipulate, no irritating vibration when in motion, and no difficulty racing up any hill. The car, however, carried only a twenty-mile supply of water. An even greater inconvenience than the...
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Burnham, Daniel H. 1846-1912
ARCHITECT AND CITY PLANNER
Forging the Chicago Style.
Burnham and Root was one of the most successful architectural firms in America in the late nineteenth century. Daniel Hudson Burnham and John Wellborn Root became partners in 1873 and designed many of Chicago's most notable buildings. Their early works, such as the Montauk Block (1882), the Calumet Building (1884), and the Rookery (1886), had castiron interior columns and load-bearing masonry walls. The first building in which they used an all-steel frame was the Rand-McNally Building (1890). Burnham and Root's creative partnership was abruptly ended in 1891 by the death of Root at the age of forty-one. The firm, renamed D. H. Burnham and Company, went on to build many important buildings, such as the Great Northern Hotel (1892) and the Masonic Temple (1892), the tallest buildings of their day, each at twenty stories. The Reliance Building (1895) gained praise with its steel frame and structure-revealing terra-cotta and glass walls.
Early Life and Training.
Burnham was born in upstate New York in 1846 and moved to Chicago with his family when he was nine. After graduating from high school, in which his grades were poor except in drawing, Burnham became a store clerk and then a miner in Nevada and ran unsuccessfully for the Illinois Senate before being hired by...
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Gill, Irving 1870-1936
Though he had no formal training in the field, Irving Gill became a pioneer of modern architecture. Unlike Victorian architects, Gill viewed a building's interior and the surrounding land as integral parts of the architecture. Aesthetically, he rejected the ornamentation and detail work of architectural historicism. He also cared about low-cost housing and about using the most modern materials in his buildings. Gill shared the concern of his fellow California architects, Charles Sumner and Henry Mather Greene, with craftsmanship; but unlike the Greene brothers, who designed intricate, handcrafted details for their buildings, Gill was led by his interest in craftsmanship into modernism—into simplifying his structures almost to the point of abstraction. Also influenced by the simple adobe forms of early California Spanish missions, he used new materials, especially reinforced concrete, to erect buildings with plain, clean surfaces and minimal ornamentation.
Early Life and Training.
Gill was born in Syracuse, New York, in 1870. His only early training in architecture came from exposure to his father's work as a building contractor and a brief job in an architect's office. In 1890 he went to Chicago and went to work as a draftsman for the firm of Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan; a fellow...
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Greene, Charles 1868-1957
Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Greene were the foremost American proponents of the Arts and Crafts movement. The movement, which had started in the middle of the nineteenth century in England, promoted the handcrafting of household items out of wood, metals, and textiles. The Greene brothers were deeply committed to the use of craftsmanship in architecture and furniture design during their twenty-one-year joint architectural practice in Pasadena, California. They were also influenced by Japanese domestic architecture and the wooden houses of Switzerland. These interests came together in their exquisite bungalows.
Early Life and Training.
Born in Cincinnati in 1868 and 1870, respectively, Charles and Henry Greene grew up in Saint Louis. They attended a high school sponsored by Washington University, where they received training in handcraftsmanship. From 1888 to 1891 they were trained in the Beaux Arts tradition at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They established their firm, Greene and Greene, in Pasadena in 1893.
The Bungalow Style.
By the 1900s the Greenes' practice was flourishing. Their house designs increasingly took on an open, Japanese feeling that harmonized with the surrounding environment. They also...
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Le Baron Jenney, William 1832-1907
E>NGINEER AND ARCHITECT
Leader of the Chicago School.
Trained as an engineer, William Le Baron Jenney became one of the most influential architects of his time. With his knowledge of structural engineering, he was the first architect to build tall buildings. He and his students, who became known as the Chicago school, used iron and, later, steel skeletons to support their buildings. In time they stopped trying to adapt traditional styles and began to design the exteriors of their buildings to reveal the underlying structure. Jenney's influence on modern architecture came by way of the men who trained and worked under him: Louis Sullivan, Martin Roche, William Holabird, and Daniel Hudson Burnham were the nucleus of the Chicago school.
Early Life and Training.
Jenney was born in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, in 1832, the son of the owner of a fleet of whaling ships. After studying engineering for two years at the Lawrence Scientific School of Harvard University, he joined the California Gold Rush of 1849 and then helped to build a railroad in Panama. He entered the Ecole Centrales des Arts et Manufactures in Paris in 1853, graduating three years later. In 1861 Jenney joined the Union army as an engineer, becoming a major and serving on the staffs of generals Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman....
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Maybeck, Bernard 1862-1957
Bernard Maybeck's eclecticism made him unique in American architecture. In what many consider his best building, the First Church of Christ, Scientist (1910), in Berkeley, California, Maybeck drew on design elements of Byzantine, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Japanese, and Chinese architecture. A free spirit, he inscribed the initials of his future wife in a monogram that ran around the top of one of his early buildings. He designed his own clothes, including trousers with a high waist that served as a vest.
Early Life and Training.
Maybeck was born in New York City in 1862 to German immigrants. His mother wanted Maybeck to become an artist, but he did poorly in school and joined his father as an apprentice wood-carver. At eighteen he went to Paris as an apprentice in furniture design. The shop was across the street from the Ecole des Beaux Arts; this exposure led him to become fascinated with architecture, and he enrolled in the school. From his years in Paris came Maybeck's love of classic Greek, Romanesque, and Gothic forms.
Graduating from the Ecole des Beaux Arts in 1886, Maybeck returned to New York and joined the architectural firm Carrere and Hastings. In 1888 Maybeck moved to Kansas City, Missouri, and formed a...
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Sullivan, Louis 1856-1924
Chicago's Premier Architect.
While not recognized in his own time as a pioneer of modern architecture, Louis Henri Sullivan enjoyed the admiration of his peers during his years as Chicago's premier architect. He was one of the first architects in the late nineteenth century to struggle to free the profession from its adherence to styles of the past, to decoration for its own sake, to masking the functions of buildings in an effort to emphasize their surface effects. His dictum "form follows function" subsumed aesthetics to structure without sacrificing elegance. This dictum became the rallying cry of modern architects, beginning with Sullivan's most famous student, Frank Lloyd Wright. Sullivan's most important work took place between 1880 and 1905, after which he sank into obscurity. Later his reputation was restored by American and European architects who pointed out that Sullivan was the progenitor of architectural modernism. The great American architectural critic Lewis Mumford called him "the [Walt] Whitman of American architecture." The American Institute of Architects awarded Sullivan its...
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Tiffany, Louis Comfort 1848-1933
Decorator to the Wealthy.
Louis Comfort Tiffany began his career in the late nineteenth century as what today would be called an interior decorator. While helping wealthy clients coordinate the furniture, wallpaper, tapestries, carpets, and light fixtures in their new homes, Tiffany became interested in the decorative possibilities of leaded-glass windows. Rejecting etched and painted glass, he experimented with colored glass. He found most colored glass too dull for his tastes, so he hired chemists to develop richer and more vibrant colors. He also experimented with different types of glass and with double panes. Tiffany's daring techniques resulted in masterful designs that used light as an active element in a way that was previously unimaginable. Tiffany also experimented with multicolored glass in mosaics, designing large, inlaid murals for the Curtis Publishing Company in Philadelphia and for the National Theater in Mexico City; on the latter project twenty men worked for more than fifteen months to produce two hundred of the three-foot-square panels required for construction....
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Wright, Frank Lloyd 1867-1959
Frank Lloyd Wright was one of America's—and the world's—most innovative and creative architects. He began his sixty-six-year career copying past styles and went on to play an important part in the establishment of modern architecture. Wright experimented with steel and concrete cantilevers and poured concrete; he was one of the first architects to see the aesthetic value of concrete blocks. He designed buildings of custom-cast blocks with patterns. He also introduced open planning, creating spaces that flowed into each other rather than separating them into distinct rooms. The critic Lewis Mumford said that Wright "altered the inner rhythm of the modern building." Wright was also interested in the creative possibilities of the machine and frequently used factory-manufactured products in his buildings.
Early Life and Training.
Wright was born in Richland Center, Wisconsin, in 1867. His mother, who wanted her son to become an architect, began...
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People in the News
Bragging about the speed of his new Model 10 car, automaker William "Billy" Durant explained in 1908 that his car was for "men with real red blood who don't like to eat dust."
Old-time vaudevillians Gus Edwards and Vincent Bryan captured the nation's mood with their hit 1905 song "In My Merry Oldsmobile "—"It Glides! It Romps!! It Gallops!!!"
Ford's racing cars, the Arrow and 999, with their eighty-horsepower engines, went so fast that they had a tendency to take to the air. Inventor Henry Ford described the experience in October 1902: "Going over Niagara Falls would have been but a pastime after a ride in one of them."
Charles Dana Gibson, the illustrator who created the Gibson Girl, continued to be surprised by the notoriety of his heroine. "If I hadn't seen it in the papers," he said in 1906, "I should never have known that there was such a thing as a Gibson Girl."
Henry M. Leland explained his philosophy of car design in 1902: "There always was and there always will be conflict between good and good enough … one must sweat blood for a chance to produce a superior product."
Commentator Robert Sloss announced in Outing in 1909 that it was time to recognize that "woman not only can do but has done with the automobile everything of which man can...
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PARIS UNIVERSAL EXPOSITION
1900—Tiffany and Company wins three Grand Prix medals, ten Gold Medals, ten Silver Medals, and two Bronze Medals; Louis Comfort Tiffany is awarded a Gold Medal.
FIRST INTERNATIONAL EXHIBITION OF MODERN DECORATIVE ARTS IN TURIN, ITALY
1902—Louis Comfort Tiffany wins the Grand Prix and a special diploma.
SAINT LOUIS WORLD'S FAIR
1904—Louis Comfort Tiffany wins a Gold Medal.
1907—Louis Comfort Tiffany wins a Medal of Honour.
1909—Louis Comfort Tiffany wins a Grand Prix.
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Dankmar Adler, 55, architect, former partner of Louis Sullivan in Chicago, 15 April 1900.
William M. Aiken, 53, supervising architect of the U.S. Treasury Department, 7 December 1908.
Frank E. Alden, 49, architect, founding partner of Alden and Harlow in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and designer of the original Carnegie Library, 5 May 1908.
Thomas B. Annan, 67, Saint Louis architect, 12 November 1904.
Mifflin E. Bell, 58, who was appointed U.S. supervising architect by President Chester A. Arthur and later helped design the Illinois capitol, 14 June 1904.
John Bogardus, 74, who designed more buildings in Stamford, Connecticut, than any other architect of his time, 14 June 1903.
Walter Dickson, 69, one of the architects who designed and built the U.S. Immigration Bureau on Ellis Island in New York Harbor, 3 September 1903.
Thomas D. Evans, 59, prominent Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, architect who designed the Shakespeare Library, 20 April 1903.
Jackson Gott, 82, one of Baltimore's most significant architects, 9 July 1909.
Herbert D. Hale, 43, founding partner of New York City architectural firm Hale and Rogers, 19 November 1909....
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Maurice Bingham Adams, ed., Modern Cottage Architecture (New York: Lane, 1904);
Atlas Portland Cement Company, Concrete Country Residences (New York: Atlas Portland Cement, 1906?);
John Cordis Baker, ed., American Country Homes and Their Gardens (Philadelphia: Winston, 1906);
Isabel Bevier, The House: Its Plan, Decoration and Care (Chicago: American School of Home Economics, 1907);
The Book of a Hundred Houses: A Collection of Pictures, Plans and Suggestions for Householder (Chicago: Stone, 1902);
Helen Churchill Candee, Decorative Styles and Periods in the Home (New York: Stokes, 1906);
Oliver Bronson Capen, Country Homes of Famous Americans (New York: Doubleday, Page, 1905);
Frank George Carpenter, How the World Is Clothed (New York: American Book, 1908);
Chandler R. Clifford, Period Decoration (New York: Clif-ford & Lawton, 1901);
William T. Comstock, ed., Two-Family and Twin Houses (New York: Comstock, 1908);
Cyclopedia of Architecture, Carpentry and Building, 10 volumes (Chicago: American School of Correspondence, 1907);
Fred H. Daniels, The Furnishing of a Modest...
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Important Events in Fashion and Design, 1900–1909
- The S-curve silhouette is the dominant look in women's fashion.
- Rollin H. White of the White Sewing Machine Company of Cleveland, Ohio, begins marketing a steam-engine automobile, which he calls "The Incomparable White." Stately and powerful, the White becomes the first official presidential car when it is adopted by the William Howard Taft administration.
- The Franklin, Peerless, Stearns, Packard, and Auburn gasoline-powered automobiles are introduced.
- Woods Electrical Car, with enclosed passenger compartment and elevated seat for a footman, sells for three thousand dollars.
- The influence of American architect Louis Sullivan on Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen is displayed in his designs for the Finnish Pavilion at the Paris Exposition.
- From November 3 to November 10, the first U.S. automobile show, featuring a wide array of steam-, electric-, and gasoline-powered models, opens in Madison Square Garden in New York City.
- A New York Times want ad for a dressmaker offers $2.50 per day. An advertisement for women's shirtwaist suits carries prices of $2.25 to $4.50.
- Architects Charles and Henry Greene build one of their first bungalows in Pasadena, California, for David B. Gamble....
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