Topics in the News
American Artists Rebel
Signs of Revolt.
Between 1910 and 1920 three fundamental concepts concerning art in America were seriously reconsidered: what "art" is, who makes decisions about standards, and how art is shared with the viewing public. At the start of the decade the American art world was largely controlled by the National Academy of Design, which promoted and exhibited American works in established genres, such as those of landscape painter Winslow Homer, portraitist John Singer Sargent, and impressionist William Merritt Chase. Then, in 1908, a group of artists who became known as The Eight—Robert Henri, John Sloan, William Glackens, George Luks, Everett Shinn, Ernest Lawson, Maurice Prendergast, and Arthur B. Davies—put on an exhibition of their works, nearly all of which (except two by Henri) had been rejected by the academy. In 1910 the group held a larger, open show, the Exhibition of Independent Artists, featuring five hundred American works that had been rejected by the academy. Nearly two thousand people attended its opening. These first independent exhibitions were important not only because they existed outside the academy but also because they broke its traditions: they had no juries and awarded no prizes. Still, the works in these shows (including those of The Eight themselves) seem conventional in comparison with the art of the later 1910s.
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The Armory Show and its Legacy
A Revolutionary Event.
Of all the art exhibitions during the 1910s, the Armory Show in 1913 issued the greatest challenge to the art establishment. In late 1911 more than two dozen New York painters and sculptors, many of whom had been involved in the independents' exhibitions, organized as the Association of American Painters and Sculptors, with Arthur B. Davies, a member of The Eight, as the first president. The new group decided to hold a major international exhibition. Hoping to include a large number of artworks, they rented the Sixty-ninth Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue in New York City and spent the next year scouting, especially in Europe, for works to exhibit. When the show opened on 17 February 1913, it included more than thirteen hundred paintings, drawings, and sculptures, some introducing new styles and ideas that both fascinated and shocked the opening-night guests. Reviewers called the show an event not to be missed, and over the next month some seventy-five thousand viewers came to see it.
The Armory Show offered a wonderful collection of works by established artists, mostly Europeans (Pierre Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet, Edouard Manet, Vincent van Gogh, Georges Seurat, Auguste Rodin, Paul Cézanne, Camille Pissarro, Paul Gauguin, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec) and some Americans (Albert Pinkham Ryder, James...
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Dancers Break the Rules
The Professional Dance World.
During the 1910s most Americans thought of dance as amusement rather than art. Yet several events in the world of professional dance made headlines—and affected the evolution of dance traditions in the United States. Among them were the first American performances of Sergey Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in 1916 and the debuts of two great Russian ballet dancers, Anna Pavlova in 1910 and Vaslav Nijinsky in 1916. Moved by Pavlova's Dying Swan, parents dressed their daughters in tutus and sent them off to ballet school. Modern dance was also taking hold in the United States. The first American pioneer of this dance form, Isadora Duncan, spent most of the decade performing in Europe and South America, but she danced at the Century Theatre in New York City during the 1914 season and performed in New York City and San Francisco in 1917.
More significant than Duncan's contributions to modern dance during this era were those made by Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn. The New Jersey-born St. Denis (originally just Ruth Dennis) had spent the first decade of the century dancing in Broadway shows while developing her own exotic style based on Asian traditions. During the early years of the 1910s she toured vaudeville theaters performing dances with names such as Egypta and the Japanese O-Mika....
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Literature: An American Voice Emerges
As in art, American literature during the 1910s was dominated by writers trying to break free of older, usually European models, to find their own subject matter in their own country, and to create new forms and styles of writing. If the art, theater, and music worlds revolved around New York City, American literature during the 1910s came primarily from writers of the country's heartland: Willa Cather (Nebraska), Booth Tarkington and Theodore Dreiser (Indiana), Edgar Lee Masters and Carl Sandburg (Illinois), and Sherwood Anderson (Ohio). Hamlin Garland, whose short stories and novels were influential in the first decade of the new century and beyond, published his autobiography, A Son of the Middle Border (1917), about growing up in Minnesota, Iowa, and South Dakota. During the 1910s Chicago became an important literary base, giving rise to the literary phenomenon known as the Chicago Renaissance.
Realism in Prose.
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Literature: The New Poetry
Much of the credit for the identification of the 1910s as a period of literary renaissance must be given to its poets, who revolutionized literature—and whose works had close ties to those of the visual artists of the period. Chicago and New York contributed equally to the flood of new poets and new styles. At least eight periodicals devoted exclusively to poetry were founded during the decade. More-general literary and arts periodicals of the day, such as The Smart Set, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic Monthly, The Little Review, and The Seven Arts, featured poetry prominently, as did the nation's book-stores.
Like several of their counterparts in prose, the greatest poets of the day chose specific regions of the country as their subjects. The poems in Edwin Arlington Robinson's The Town Down the River (1910) describe the residents of a fictional small town in New England. The same region was depicted in the work of the new poet Robert Frost, whose first three books—A Boys Will (1913), North of Boston (1914), and Mountain Interval (1916)—appeared during the decade and established his reputation. Edgar Lee Masters's Spoon River Anthology, a collection of epitaphs for deceased residents of a fictional midwestern small town, was published in 1915; the following year...
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Movies: The Business, the Studios, the Stars
The Early Business in New York.
By 1910 the movie business had been in existence for nearly a decade, concentrated in and around New York City. In 1908 the major studios formed what was essentially a trust, the Motion Picture Patents Company, under Thomas Edison, whose inventions had enabled the development of the moviemaking process. The Motion Picture Patents Company had nine production companies—Edison, Biograph, Vitagraph, Essanay, Kalem, Selig, and Lubin, as well as Pathé Frères and Méliès (American subsidiaries of French companies)—and had an exclusive agreement with Eastman Kodak, then the only manufacturer of raw film. By 1912 the trust also controlled nearly sixty film-distribution companies. Two of the first companies to operate successfully outside the trust were Carl Laemmle's Chicago-based Independent Motion Pictures Company (IMP) and the New York Motion Picture Company. During the early 1910s almost all the movies these companies made were one-reel shorts destined for the country's more than ten thousand nickelodeons—storefront theaters where, for a nickel, customers could view two or three short movies, each lasting ten or fifteen minutes.
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Movies: The Directors and the Pictures
The First Great Directors.
Despite the rise of the star system, the 1910s were without question a decade of great movie directors. Directors made the stars, and the most influential were given their own studios and free rein over the creative aspects of their pictures; most also became producers. The greatest of all was D. W. Griffith, who made more than four hundred short films for Biograph between 1908 and 1913 before turning his attention to the feature films that would make him famous. In The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Intolerance (1916), both twelve reels long, Griffith pioneered the techniques of close-ups, cross-cutting, and flashbacks; raised the standards for sets and action in films; and made stars of Lillian Gish and Mae Marsh. Another great director who got his start during the 1910s was Cecil B. DeMille, whose films for Jesse Lasky—including Joan, the Woman
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The Music Downtown
Tin Pan Alley.
In its early years during the late nineteenth century, Tin Pan Alley was literally an alley—West Twenty-eighth Street between Broadway and Sixth Avenue in New York City. Later, the phrase was used to identify the dozens of companies in the booming sheet-music business, most of them still based in Manhattan. By 1910 sheet music was so popular across America that the local Woolworth's store in any midsized city was likely to stock more than a thousand titles. Music stores employed pluggers—singers who would perform any song upon a customer's request. The price for the sheet music itself usually ranged from a penny to ten cents. Top songwriters included George M. Cohan, Irving Berlin (who wrote more than three hundred songs during the decade), Jerome Kern, brothers Harry and Albert Von Tilzer, Harry Ruby, Gus Kahn, Eddie Green, Richard Whiting, Harry Carroll, and Percy Wenrich. Between 1910 and 1919 Tin Pan Alley produced thousands of hits. Among the most popular were Berlin's "Alexander's Ragtime Band" (1911), Cohan's "Over There" (1917), Whitings "Till We Meet Again" (1917), and George Gershwin's "Swanee" (1919). "Over There" and "'Till We Meet Again" are just two of hundreds of tunes written about World War I. Though songs written in the early years of the European war, such as Al Piantadosi and Alfred Bryan's "I Didn't Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier" (1915), leaned toward...
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The Music Uptown
The Symphonic Scene.
Classical music in 1910s America was still strongly influenced by European traditions. An increasing number of Americans had access to symphonic music, thanks to the proliferation of symphony orchestras in cities and towns across the United States and the growing recording industry. (Both the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Boston Symphony were recording regularly by 1918.) Most major orchestras had been founded in the closing decades of the nineteenth century, and the New York Philharmonic was three-quarters of a century old in 1917. Nevertheless, most American musicians and conductors went abroad for their training, and concerts given by American orchestras were dominated by works of European masters and new European composers such as Igor Stravinsky and Sergey Prokofiev. Even the orchestral accompaniment (played live) for early feature films was European music: at the 1915 premiere of D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation, for instance, the score included works by Franz Schubert, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Gustav Mahler, and Richard Wagner.
A Distinctly American Composer.
Ironically, at just this time one of the first major American classical composers was writing his best works, which would not be widely heard for several decades. Connecticut-born Charles Ives wrote music that drew on...
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Theater: The American Stage in Transition
Abandoning Old Formulas.
Writing for The Theatre magazine in 1919, Broadway producer Daniel Frohman lamented the passing of what he considered "the two prime requirements" of good theater: "cleanliness and a happy ending." At the beginning of the decade most plays performed in America had both. But by middecade a shift had occurred in the theater, one similar to the advent of realism in American literature and art: instead of portraying how life ought to be, new plays reflected their writers' perspectives on how life was. Small theater companies were springing up across the country, experimenting with new themes, new staging, and new styles of acting. The qualities common to turn-of-the-century stage productions—predictable plots, melodramatic acting, and happy endings—gave way to psychological, often gritty, drama, some of it in plays by one of the century's greatest playwrights, Eugene O'Neill.
The 1910s were important years for the "Royal Family" of the American theater, the Barrymores. Though she had been featured in Broadway plays since 1901, Ethel B anymore was not considered a dramatic star until her 1910 appearance in Arthur Wing Pinero's Mid-Channel. Her brother John's first important role in a serious stage drama came in John Galsworthy's Justice in 1916. The third Barrymore sibling,...
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Theater: Musicals Take Center Stage
A New Theatrical Form.
During the 1910s what is now recognized as the American musical was beginning to take shape in Broadway theaters. (It became fully formed with Show Boat in 1927.) Musical theater of the 1910s tended to take one of two forms: the musical, a usually thinly plotted play set to music; and the revue, a series of separate musical acts linked by a common theme and ending in a big production number featuring the entire company. Most producers, singers, dancers, and songwriters of the day were involved in both sorts of productions.
Beautiful Girls—and More.
The 1910s were the peak decade for the epitome of the musical revue, the annual Ziegfeld Follies, which ran from 1907 to 1931. The Follies became famous for presenting a stage full of tall, beautifully dressed women, otherwise known as Ziegfeld Girls. Florenz Ziegfeld had a knack for choosing talent as well as beauty. Many of the names connected with his early shows—either his Follies or his other revues—later became famous. Among them were Fanny Brice, Will Rogers, W. C....
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The Heyday of Vaudeville.
The first two decades of the twentieth century were the heyday of vaudeville, a theatrical form that included performances such as music, dance, light drama, comedy, juggling, magic acts, animal acts. Vaudeville theaters featured several performances a day: in big-time vaudeville performers were expected to present their acts only twice a day, but small-time theaters offered as many as six shows a day. Some performers were lucky enough to get long-term employment in the same theater, but most spent considerable time touring, visiting the thousands of vaudeville theaters in towns all across the country.
In addition to Keith-Albee and the Shuberts, new powers in vaudeville during the 1910s included Marcus Loew and William Fox, whose theaters, like many vaudeville houses of the day, showcased the new feature-length movies as well as live acts. Though some major American vaudeville theaters were outside New York City—such as the Orpheum Theater in San Francisco and the American Music Hall in Chicago—Manhattan was home to the greatest number, including Koster and Bial's, Proctor's, Keith's, and Tony Pastor's. The five-thousand-seat Hippodrome in New York City, built in 1905 for $2 million, was the only truly spectacular theater in Manhattan at the start of the 1910s, but New York soon had other...
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"The Village," the Salons, and Other Gatherings
The Birth of "The Village."
When the Greenwich Village section of New York City (the part of Manhattan below Fourteenth Street and above Houston Street) was officially designated a residential area in 1916, it was already home to some of the most influential artists and intellectuals in the city. They had moved there partly because the neighborhood was inexpensive—rent for a single room was typically eight dollars a month, or an entire floor of a brownstone house was available for about thirty dollars a month—and partly because of its bohemianism, the prevailing tolerance of a wide variety of lifestyles. The Village was also gaining a reputation as the American Left Bank, a place like the section of Paris where the brightest minds in politics, journalism, and the arts came together. Between 1913 and 1919 Greenwich Village, less than a mile square in size, included the homes of playwrights Eugene O'Neill, George Cram Cook and Susan Glaspell, and Louise Bryant; novelistplaywright Floyd Dell; poet-playwright Alfred Kreymborg; novelists Willa Gather, Theodore Dreiser, Sinclair Lewis, and Sherwood Anderson; poets Hart Crane, Marianne Moore, and Edna St. Vincent Millay; journalists Max Eastman and John Reed; and painters John Sloan, Everett Shinn, William Glackens, Marsden Hartley, George Luks, Maurice Prendergast, Charles Demuth, and William and Marguerite Zorach. Cather was the only one not...
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War and the Arts: The Two Faces of Patriotism
Artists in the War.
Some of the young American men who served or lived in Europe during World War I later made their marks in various arts, particularly the writers who used their war experiences as creative material. Several artists with already-established reputations were involved in the war as well. Among those who interrupted successful careers for wartime service were comic actor Buster Keaton, songwriter Irving Berlin, vaudeville cowboy wit Will Ahern, and dancer Ted Shawn. The careers of dancer Vernon Castle and poets Joyce Kilmer and Alan Seeger ended when they became war casualties. Other artists were involved in a professional capacity. Photographer Edward Steichen supervised aerial photography for the U.S. Army. Short-story writer Ring Lardner was a war correspondent in France for Collier's magazine. John Singer Sargent, an American expatriate, served as the offical wartime painter for the British government. (One resulting work, Gassed, was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1919.) John Philip Sousa was put in charge of all U.S. Navy bands. Dance-band leader James Reese Europe, commissioned as an army lieutenant, directed the regimental band of the New York Fifteenth Regiment, an all-black corps that endured 191 consecutive days under fire.
The Home Front.
Throughout the war more than twelve hundred American...
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Workers Unite: ArtÏSts Organize
Stage Set for Action.
With a few exceptions, artists remained outside the considerable union activity among American workers in the late nineteenth century. Yet during the first two decades of the twentieth century—as owners, producers, and managers in several creative fields formed business trusts to increase their bargaining power with artists—artists began to organize, seeking control over their work and careers. The political atmosphere of the day was also conducive to union activity, owing in part to the strength of Progressive reform movements and the bargaining power American unions gained during the war years.
Playwrights were among the first artists to organize during the 1910s, forming the Dramatists Guild in 1912 to help individual playwrights bargain with producers. Actors were next, forming the Actors Equity Association on 26 May 1913 in response to what they felt was inequitable treatment from theatrical management. By then a few people controlled the majority of the theaters across America. The most powerful of these producer-managers were Abe Erlanger, Mark Klaw, the brothers Charles and Daniel Frohman, Martin Beck, partners B. F. Keith and E. F. Albee, and the Shubert brothers. In 1900 the managers formed a central booking service—later formalized as the United Booking Offices of America...
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Castle, Vernon 1887-1918 and Castle, Irene 1893-1969
A Whirlwind Career.
In just three years, 1912 to 1915, Vernon and Irene Castle rose from a nightclub act to the most famous ballroom dancers in the world. Three years after that their partnership ended in tragedy. Yet by 1918 this husband and wife's choreography—together with the high-class aura they lent the new and controversial phenomenon of public dancing—had transformed popular entertainment and brought millions of Americans onto the dance floor.
The Beginning of a Team.
Though Vernon Castle preceded his partner into show business, it was Irene Castle's ambition that steered the couple toward stardom. Born Irene Foote on 7 April 1893 in New Rochelle, New York, she spent much of her comfortable, upper-middle-class childhood appearing in local amateur productions and dreaming of acting on Broadway. In contrast Vernon Castle—born Vernon Blyth in Norwich, England, on 2 May 1887—studied engineering in college and was planning a career in that field when he took a vacation to New York City, where his actress sister was appearing in a play. He got a small part in it and, to avoid appearances of nepotism, chose a made-up last name, Castle, for the program. Vernon Castle remained in New York, appearing in Broadway comedies for the next three years. During the summer of 1910 he met the Foote family, and...
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Cather, Wllla 1873-1947
Voice of the Heartland.
Willa Cather, whose best-known novels were published during the 1910s, was one of the few major novelists to emerge during that decade. In a period notable for the rise of literary modernism, she wrote fiction that looked back to America's agrarian past. Yet Cather's approach was in accord with the realism of her contemporaries: her celebrations of the pioneer spirit are tempered by compromise, sacrifice, and even suicide.
Though she is usually identified as a midwestern writer, Cather lived in Nebraska for only twelve years, albeit formative ones. She was born on 7 December 1873 in Back Creek, Virginia, the first of six children. In early 1883, when she was nine, the family followed relatives to Red Cloud, Nebraska, where her father farmed and opened an insurance business. At first young Willa Cather found Nebraska lonely and depressing and hid away reading the classics in her parents' extensive library. She did enjoy the company of her Norwegian neighbors the Miners, especially when Mrs. Miner, an accomplished pianist, played opera selections. (Though Cather never...
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Frost, Robert 1874-1963
A Poet of New England.
When Robert Frost recited his poem "The Gift Outright" at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy in 1961, he was widely regarded as the greatest living American poet. Having carefully cultivated the image of the grandfatherly farmer-poet for several decades, he had claimed New England as his literary territory and the vernacular of its residents as his poetic voice. Ironically, his public persona tended to blind critics to his accomplishments as a poet and to cause them to overlook how innovative his experiments in capturing the sounds of everyday speech had seemed when he published his second book, North of Boston, in 1914.
Robert Lee Frost was born in San Francisco on 26 March 1874. When he was eleven his father died, and Frost, his mother, and his younger sister went to live in Lawrence, Massachusetts, near his paternal grandparents, where...
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Griffith, D. W. 1875-1948
Motion Picture Pioneer.
One of the first movie directors to explore the creative possibilities of the medium of film, D. W. Griffith made a major impact on the development of the art and techniques of moviemaking.
David Wark Griffith was born on a Kentucky farm on 22 January 1875, the youngest child of a former Confederate officer whose regiment had failed to keep William Tecumseh Sherman from burning Atlanta. In 1889, four years after his father's death, the family moved to Louisville, where David Griffith went to work in a dry-goods store, quitting in 1893 to take a job in a book-store. While volunteering as an usher and stagehand in various Louisville theaters, he saw stars such as John Drew, Lillian Russell, and Julia Marlowe. In 1896 he got his first acting job, embarking on a career that took him all over the country during the next ten years, a period in which he was also writing plays, poetry, and short stories. On 14 May 1906 he married actress Linda Arvidson, and the two settled in New York, where they were cast in The One Woman, a play by Thomas Dixon Jr., author of The Clansman (1905), a novel that would play a pivotal role in Griffith's later work.
A Career in the Movies.
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Handy, W. C. 1873-1958
BLUES COMPOSER AND BANDLEADER
The Father of the Blues.
W. C. Handy is often called "The Father of the Blues," a title he gave himself. Most music historians believe that the blues—songs with three-line verses of woeful lyrics and a melody marked by repeated use of flatted thirds and sevenths (blue notes)—were being performed by African American folksingers before the turn of the twentieth century. While Handy did not invent the blues, he deserves credit for popularizing the genre, because he was the first musician to publish blues sheet music. He also had good timing: the song that made him famous, "The St. Louis Blues," appeared in 1914, a year in which African American music was in vogue nation-wide among whites as well as blacks.
William Christopher Handy was born on 16 November 1873 to former slaves in Florence, Alabama. From childhood he longed to be a musician, despite the disapproval of his father, a Methodist minister. He sang choral music and learned to play the cornet and the guitar. During his teens he toured with a minstrel show, a vocal quartet, and various brass bands, and in 1896 he...
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Pickford, Mary 1892-1979
By the time she was voted the most popular actress in America by the readers of a fan magazine in 1917, Mary Pickford was famous for the juvenile heroines she had played in movies such as The Poor Little Rich Girl (1917) and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1917). Despite her childlike appearance she was an astute business-woman amassing a fortune, the most powerful woman in the film industry.
Pickford's business sense was born of necessity during childhood. The girl dubbed "America's Sweetheart" was a Canadian, born Gladys Louise Smith on 8 April 1892 in Toronto. Her father, who had held various low-paying jobs, died in 1898, leaving his wife and their three children under the age of six—Gladys, Lottie, and Jack—on the verge of poverty. At a friend's suggestion, Charlotte Smith took her daughters to audition for a show that was looking for child actors, and by 1900 all three Smith children were touring the United States with a theater stock company. In 1907 the famous producer-playwright David Belasco cast Gladys in William deMille's new play,...
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Sandburg, Carl 1878-1967
A Varied Career.
Though best remembered for the poetry he wrote during the 1910s, Carl Sandburg is notable for a range of contributions to American letters, including not only poetry but also journalism and biography. A leading figure in a new group of literary talents emerging in the American Midwest, Sandburg, like a handful of his contemporaries, did not go to New York to make a name in literary circles. Instead they remained in the heartland they wrote about. Sandburg repeatedly paid homage to his roots in his work. His literary fame began with a poem named for Chicago and peaked with a biography of the great president from his home state, Abraham Lincoln.
The son of Swedish immigrants, Carl August Sandburg was born on 6 January 1878 in Galesburg, Illinois. Though his father, a blacksmith, was illiterate, his mother loved books and...
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Sloan, John 1871-1951
John French Sloan was born on 2 August 1871 in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, a lumber town where his family had a cabinetmaking business. After losing their business and their home during the depression of 1873, they moved to Philadelphia in 1876, when John was five. There he spent hours in a great-uncle's library, reading the classics and paging through magazines such as Punch and Harpers Monthly. He especially liked the illustrations, keeping a scrapbook of them and illustrating his own copy of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island when he was twelve. As a teenager he began to sell his pen-and-ink drawings; he also earned money by designing calendars and greeting cards.
A New Career and an Important Friend.
When he was twenty-one Sloan took a job as an illustrator for the Philadelphia Inquirer. That same year he met and became friends with the realist painter Robert Henri and began a year's study at the Pennsylvania Academy of Art. For several years Sloan's artwork took the form of illustrations for newspapers (first the Inquirer and then the Philadelphia Press) and for literary magazines. But in 1897, under the influence of Henri, Sloan turned his attention to painting, producing portraits and scenes of Philadelphia. Three years later his paintings...
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Ziegfeld, Florenz 1867-1932
The son of Dr. Florenz Ziegfeld, who had founded the Chicago Musical College in 1867, Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. was born in Chicago on 21 March 1867. In 1892, hoping to capitalize on the crowds that would be coming to the city for the Columbian Exposition of 1893, Dr. Ziegfeld set up a nightclub in Chicago and sent his twenty-five-year-old son to Europe and New York to find talent. The young scout brought back a Hungarian band, Russian dancers, and the Great Sandow, a German strongman who lifted people and pianos. Sandow was a hit, and Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. made $250,000 by managing Sandow's touring act over the next three years. When public fascination with Sandow faded, Ziegfeld moved to New York, where he managed the career of comedian Lew Weber. In 1896 he found a new client, and a wife: Anna Held, a Polishborn singer who was performing in Paris when Ziegfeld discovered her. Ziegfeld told American reporters that Held bathed daily in milk for her complexion and had won auto races in France; he draped her in diamonds and $20,000 gowns. He believed that money spent on promotion would come back in ticket sales—a philosophy that he maintained for the rest of his career.
The Birth of the Follies.
In several of the shows he produced for Anna Held, Ziegfeld surrounded the petite actress...
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People in the News
On 28 November 1917 brother-and-sister dance team Fred and Adele Astaire made their Broadway debut in Over the Top, starring Ed Wynn and Justine Johnstone.
On 9 April 1919 brothers John and Lionel Barrymore opened at the Plymouth Theater in New York in Edward Sheldon's play The Jest, which became a hit.
On 17 July 1913 Irving Berlin's wife, Dorothy, died of typhoid fever, five months after their marriage; in his grief Berlin wrote the ballad "When I Lost You," which sold two million copies of sheet music.
On 3 October 1910 Charlie Chaplin, a twenty-one-year-old member of a British pantomime company, performed his act "The Inebriate Swell" (complete with false moustache) at the Colonial Theater in New York City. He was a hit.
On 6 April 1917, after reading a newspaper report that the United States had declared war on Germany, George M. Cohan wrote "Over There," a patriotic song with a chorus based on a bugle call. Over the next several months it sold more than a million copies of sheet music and was widely recorded.
In 1919, at age twenty-two, actress Marion Davies got her own movie studio when her admirer, newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst, formed a production company called Cosmopolitan to create star vehicles for her,...
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The Pulitzer Prizes were first awarded in 1917 for journalism, biography, and history. Prizes for drama and fiction were added in 1918. In 1918 the Poetry Society of America, founded in 1910, gave its first award.
Poetry Society of America Prize: Love Songs, by Sara Teasdale
Pulitzer Prize for fiction: His Family, by Ernest Poole
Pulitzer Prize for drama: Why Marry?, by Jesse Lynch Williams
Poetry Society of America Prizes: Cornhuskers, by Carl Sandburg; Old Road to Paradise, by Margaret Widdemer
Pulitzer Prize for fiction: The Magnificent Ambersons, by Booth Tarkington
Pulitzer Prize for drama: no award
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Henry Adams, 80, historian, teacher, editor, and author of The Education of Henry Adams, which was published posthumously in 1919 and won the Pulitzer Prize for biography, 27 March 1918.
Amelia Barr, 87, author of popular romantic novels and short stories, 10 March 1919.
L. Frank Baum, 62, author of children's books, including The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900), 6 May 1919.
Ambrose Bierce, 72, short-story writer and journalist who disappeared while traveling in Mexico with the rebel army of Pancho Villa, exact date unknown, 1914.
Karl Bitter, 47, Austrian-immigrant sculptor who helped to organize several important American sculpture exhibits, 10 April 1915.
James A. Bland, 56, African American composer of minstrel-show songs, including "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny" and "Golden Slippers," 5 May 1911.
Randolph Bourne, 32, literary radical and cultural critic, 22 December 1918.
Vernon Castle, 30, husband and dance partner of Irene Castle, killed during a training exercise while serving as an aviation instructor, 15 February 1918.
William Merritt Chase, 66, painter, first president of the Society of American Artists, and an influential teacher whose students...
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Frances Agnew, Motion Picture Acting (New York: Reliance Newspaper Syndicate, 1913);
David Belasco, The Theatre through Its Stage Door (New York: Harper, 1919);
Van Wyck Brooks, America's Coming-of-Age (New York: Huebsch, 1915);
Carolyn Caffin, Vaudeville (New York: Mitchell Kennerley, 1914);
Huntley Carter, The New Spirit in Drama and Art (New York: Mitchell Kennerley, 1913);
Vernon and Irene Castle, Modern Dancing (New York: Harper, 1914);
Anna Alice Chapin, Greenwich Village (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1917);
Sheldon Cheney, The New Movement in the Theater (New York: Mitchell Kennerley, 1914);
Francis Collins, The Camera Man (New York: Century, 1916);
Kenyon Cox, Artist and Public (New York: Scribners, 1914);
Homer Croy, How Motion Pictures Are Made (New York: Harper, 1918);
Joseph F. Daly, The Life of Augustin Daly (New York: Macmillan, 1917);
Ernest A. Dench, Making the Movies (New York: Macmillan, 1915);
Thomas H. Dickinson, The Case of American Drama (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1915);
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Important Events in The Arts, 1910–1919
- The Christian Endeavor Group and other organizations seek censorship of all motion pictures that portray kissing.
- The Poetry Society of America is founded at the National Arts Club in New York City.
- On February 28, Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova makes her American debut at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City.
- On March 18, the Metropolitan Opera presents its first production of an opera by an American composer, Frederick Shepherd Converse's The Pipe of Desire.
- On March 21, Gustav Mahler conducts for the last time at the Metropolitan Opera.
- On March 28, Pablo Picasso's first one-man show opens at Alfred Stieglitz's 291 gallery in New York City.
- On April 1, some two thousand people attend the opening of the Exhibition of Independent Artists in New York City. The show continues through April 28.
- On June 20, Fanny Brice makes her debut in the Ziegfeld Follies.
- On November 3, the Chicago Grand Opera opens with a production of Giuseppe Verdi's Aida.
- On November 7, Victor Herbert's operetta Naughty Marietta premieres at the New York Theatre.
- On December 10, in New York City Ruth St. Denis opens in Egypta, a play that features...
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