In my mind, the early 20th century was a defining period in history. Leading up to this, intelligent men such as Edison and Tesla were opening doors to a new era of conveniences. In the early 20th century, new inventions such as the automobile, the electric light, and the airplane took root and saw widespread use. New styles of art and music emerged in and around this time. It was an exciting era. In this blog, I will share two pieces of art from that era reflecting the technological advancements that were occurring. I will also share a song composed in this era, and connect it to technology’s influence in the early 20th century.
At 1.7 miles long, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, was the longest suspension bridge in the world when it was completed. Over 200,000 people came for its opening on May 27, 1937 (“Golden Route”). Chief Engineer Joseph Strauss managed the project well. A historical overview of the Golden Gate Bridge reported, “The Bridge opened ahead of schedule and under budget” (“Key Dates”). This bridge was just one example that America was leading the world in technological advancements. It also spoke to the country’s resilience following the Great Depression.
The perspective of this photograph, taken shortly after its opening, helps convey how massive this bridge is. The sweeping cables make your attention soar into the mountains on the far shore. It is an incredible view. The photographer did not seem to have a fear of heights.
During the early 1900s, transportation was undergoing a revolution. In 1900, there was only about 1 vehicle per thousand people in America. By 1935, there were about about 177 vehicles per thousand people (U.S. Census Bureau). This new mode of transportation is shown in Sargent’s impressionist painting, Truck Convoy. I could not find where this painting was made, but Sargent may have painted it in England since he lived there from 1886 to the end of his life. Although I am not a fan of impressionism, this painting is somewhat intriguing. With its sepia tones, it looks somewhat like an old photograph. The brownness gives a sense of dust on the road. If it were not for the tree behind the convoy and the green grass, the prominent presence of the spiky trees would imply that plant life was suffering. Many artistic depictions of the industrialized society of the early 20th century give the sense that natural beauty was being stomped out.
This familiar ragtime piece was likely written in St. Louis, Missouri, Joplin’s home between 1902-1907 (Trout). The syncopation in this song (typical of ragtime music) makes it a fun song to listen to. It is very upbeat.
Music was entering a new era in the early 1900s. Songs such as “The Entertainer” became more easily accessible as flat discs that played back at 78 RPM (not suprisingly called “78s”) became more popular. The first popular type of 78 was a disc with a thick wax coating that was carved with grooves to represent music. In 1925, the first electrically-based recording method using microphone was made. 78s were very limited, holding only about 3-5 minutes of audio per disc (“The History”). Nonetheless, they represented the entrance of a new era for music and entertainment. Technology was headed an exciting direction.
“Golden Route to Success.” World Highways. World Highways. Web. 26 Mar. 2016. <http://www.worldhighways.com/sections/key-projects/features/golden-route-to-success>.
“The History of 78 RPM Recordings: A Brief Guide to Aid in Cataloging.” Yale University Library. Yale U. Web. 25 Mar. 2016. <http://www.library.yale.edu/cataloging/music/historyof78rpms.htm>.
“Key Dates.” Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District. Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District. Web. 26 Mar. 2016. <http://goldengatebridge.org/research/dates.php>.
Trout, Carlynn. “Scott Joplin (c. 1868 – 1917).” The State Historical Society of Missouri: Historic Musicians. The State Historical Society of Missouri. Web. 26 Mar. 2016. <http://shs.umsystem.edu/historicmissourians/name/j/joplin>.
United States. Census Bureau. “Section 31: 20th Century Statistics.” Statistical Abstract of the United States: 1999. Washington: US Census Bureau, 9 Dec. 1999. Web. 25 Mar. 2016. <https://www.census.gov/prod/99pubs/99statab/sec31.pdf>.
Weinberg, H. Barbara. “John Singer Sargent (1856–1925).” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Oct. 2004. Web. 26 Mar. 2016. <http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/sarg/hd_sarg.htm>