Why did romantic ideas so capture the minds of Americans in the early nineteenth century?
Let us remember that principally Romanticism is about escaping dull realities and rising to a higher form of truth. This was achieved through a return to myths, legends and fables, but also through a return to nature and an escape from the industrialised city of the early 19th century. If we look at New York as an example of just such an industrialised city, we can understand the desire for an escape and a return back to nature. Let us remember that between 1820 and 1840 the population doubled to reach a staggering 312,000 people. The living conditions were squalid and terrible, with eight people or more sharing a single room. The dirt, squalour and disease was an everyday part of life. In Manhattan during the summer of 1832, a cholera epidemic struck that killed on average 100 people a day. Given the realities of existence for so many people in such cities, it is no surprise that the ideas of Romanticism became very popular. It was the poet William Cullen Bryant, who came up with the idea of creating a massive park in the city of New York as a way of bringing the countryside to people who were trapped in an urban hell. Central Park was thus created in 1876.