Why did mass culture develop in the 19th century?

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kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mass culture is the name given to a set of ideas and values that develop when people are exposed to the same media sources. This process began in America in the nineteenth century and there are a number of causes for its sudden emergence. Firstly, the rise of the tabloid newspaper and the popularly-termed penny press brought news and an information to a much wider audience. Newspapers, like the New York World and the St Louis Post Dispatch, featured banner headlines, crime stories, society news and illustrations which made them a popular must-read. This was accompanied too by an increasing number of popular magazines in a wide range of subjects, from comics to scientific journals.

Popular entertainment also contributed to the rise of mass culture. Nights at the theatre to watch comedies and trips to attend sermons, political speeches and poetry readings were at the height of popularity in the years after the Civil War.

Finally, the rise of mass advertising is another important factor to consider. In 1898 the National Biscuit Company launched a million-dollar national advertising campaign, the first in American history. While advertising wasn't new, manufacturers soon began developing catchy slogans and colourful packaging to peddle their wares to the American consumer.