what extent did reform movements advance the ideals of
"We have listened too long to the courtly muses of
Europe." - Emerson (1837)
The US was emerging as a distinctly different
democratic culture, as seen in their thinking,
literature, and institutions.
No longer tethered to Europe, the USA will now create
theories, literary trends, and institutions, which
In Search of Native Grounds
Many American writers in the early 19th century
attempted to reveal the "American Genius" but only
James Finnamore Cooper succeeded with: The
Spy (1821), The Pioneers (1823), and The
Last of the Mohicans (1826).
Cooper represented a clear shift from classical
literature to romantic literature, using emotion and a
concern for beauty and freedom. Cooper exemplified
American intelligentsia leaders - pro-Democrat. -
Most literary writers could only imitate European
novelists, who dominated much of the literature read
American painting two levels:
European trained artists painted wealthy and
patriotic heroes from the revolutionary period.
I.E.- Charles Peale founded Pennsylvania Academy of
Self-trained American painters provided art for
rural American, celebrating the frontier's beauty.
I.E.- Thomas Cole J. Fischer.
The Romantic View of Life
A departure from the Enlightenment, "Romantic" authors
valued feeling, intuition and differences between
Consistent with Jacksonianism and the
glorification of the ordinary and the individual
This view spurred Transcendentalism, which
valued the individual and not the intellectuality,
religion, or institutions.
Transcendentalism influenced many movements and
reflected the general "spirit".
Transcendentalism defines the unknowable and
indefinable - to transcend is to "rise above"
A New England movement, transcendentalism was not a
religion nor an institution, though it did influence
CHARACTERISTICS OF ROMANTICISM: A conviction that
intuition, imagination, and emotion are superior to
reason. A conviction that poetry is superior to
science, a belief that contemplation of the natural
world is a means of discovering the truth that lies
behind mere reality. A distrust of industry and city
life and an idealization of rural life of the
wilderness; an interest in the more "natural" past and
in the supernatural.
Emerson and Thoreau
Leading Transcendentalist - Ralph Waldo Emerson
- Harvard graduate and minister, who abandoned the
pulpit. Emerson asserted fervor and purpose to
In "The American Scholar," he urged a departure from
European views to "spiritual powers" and
self-reliance. Unfortunately, Emerson often alienated
other reformers and intellectuals in
Henry David Thoreau - Harvard graduate and
highly inflexible as a person, but a gentle dreamer,
who loved nature.
Thoreau felt that the drive for profit propelled by
capitalism destroyed mankind and nature. He
represented a divergence from "typical" American
Thoreau spoke out against the majority of one
and opposed government. He felt that a person is
solely responsible for taking proper action. "Whenever
were the good and the brave in the
Thoreau put his beliefs to the test in his 2 year
experience on Walden Pond. There he wrote the book,
Walden, and criticized the American life style
During the Mexican American War, he refused to
pay a poll tax in protest of the institution of
slavery. He was jailed for one night and wrote his
Essays on Civil Disobedience - impacted Gandhi
and Martin Luther King Jr.
Thoreau refused to participate in reform movements and
was loved by many from afar.
Edgar Allen Poe
Poe - a tortured genius of the romantic period.
Huge personal problems but could still produce -"on
the edge" neurotic. He had financial, alcohol, drug,
He was a fantastic author, great editor, exact critic
and fine writer of short stories, poems and
His works were widely read during his life - "The
Murder of Rue". His science fiction themes were
visionary and generations ahead of his time. "Pit and
the Pendulum" and his poem "The Raven" were instant
Synthesized the mystery and dark elements of
A man of incredible reach, Poe died at 40.
Interested in Puritan New England, he settled in
Concord and participated in the transcendentalist
movement, but was unimpressed with Emerson and felt
the movement was flawed.
He was fascinated with the history of New England and
wrote The Scarlet Letter and House of Seven
He was widely read in this time but not wealthy - a
democrat and Jacksonian.
Friend to Hawthorne and had a similar upbringing of
hardship and loss of a parent.
Melville went to sea for 18 months - jumped ship in
the south Sea and lived with cannibals. He moved to
Tahiti and spent another year at sea.
Motivated by research of Shakespeare, he continued
writing and was inspired by Emerson and rejected the
European influences in writing, suggesting that men as
worthy as Shakespeare were being born on the banks of
He cited naval brutality and abuse in "White Jacket"
and "The Tartarus Maids" which depicted women working
in paper mills.
He was not a cynic like Hawthorne but showed his
realism of the dark side of human nature in Moby
Dick a masterpiece not recognized until the
1890's. Melville's work became more intense, and he
fell from favor with his contemporary
Published "Leaves of Grass" (1855) - was the
most romantic and distinct writer of his
Jacksonian, but a Free Soiler who was motivated by
Emerson in "Leaves of Grass".
His work was awkward for the time - sensitive,
egotistic and non-tradition.
Few recognized his greatness in the raw form of poems
(Thoreau and Emerson). (page 305 in text)
Some of his poems were shocking. Example: he was a
male nurse in the Civil War and formed relationships
His work was not appreciated until after his death in
The Wider Literary Renaissance
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - song of Hiawatha and Paul
James Russell Lowell - first editor of Atlantic
Oliver Wendell Holmes - poet and essay
Writers of focus were popular and influential during
Changes in architectural styles included a move to
Gothic style because of wood turning
Technologies of cloth weaving and color impacted
wallpaper and tapestries-furniture was modified in
construction and covering.
Paintings of Native Americans by George Catlin were
Engravings of popular works were sold with originals
and reproductions commanding high prices.
1850's Currier and Ives' prints became popular - sold
cheaply for 15 cents.
Lithographs displayed American domestic
behaviors including trains, horse races, and rural
Education For Democracy
Education for all (5 to 10 years of age) though few
continued beyond reading, writing and doing sums.
However, education was still lagging on the frontier
edge and the South - a disadvantage for the South
during the Civil War.
Rise of the Common (public) School - idea from
Jefferson - diffused knowledge to the
Tax-supported free schools were the eventual
Education was to be statewide and the profession of
teaching required training.
Leaders in the education movement were Henry Barnard
and Horace Mann from New England. These men
wrote journals, created states' school boards, and
issued reports promoting common schools and public
They criticized wealthy families, who sent their
children away to be educated, thus fracturing the
community and limiting local efforts to educate all.
Barnard and Mann encouraged young women to be teachers
due to lower salaries.
By the 1850's, all states (outside of the south) had
free primary education. Many extended public education
to the secondary level. Michigan and Iowa also had
Mann's success was due to the support of employers to
improve the work force and "Americanize"
Almost no working class children went to high school
until the late 19th century.
Mann suggested that education was "the great
equalizer". To maintain the self-prophecy of slave
inferiority, white Southerners restricted slaves from
obtaining an education before and after the Civil War
- possibly the most damaging long-term aspect -
Engines of Culture
New culture in the north was driven by the expanding
middle class and industrialization.
Creation of cheap books and other publications
directed behavior and communicated trends and
New novels of moralistic and sentimental topics
started. Interestingly, women were often the leading
authors of these publications. Hawthorne called them a
'damned mob of scribbling women".
Maria Cummings wrote, The Lamplighter, a story
of an orphan girl slave that sold 70,000 copies.
The Feminization of American Culture by Ann
Douglas - soap opera like stories.
Mary Jan Holmes sold religious literature - American
Bible Society used sales persons to sell 100,000's of
copies of numerous novels.
"How to" books became popular and philanthropists like
Astor supported mechanic libraries. Public funded
libraries began in Boston.
The Lyceum Movement was a key change, bringing
lectures to the public. Josiah Holbrook began the
Lyceums in 1826, and by the 1840's, Thoreau and
Emerson were often speakers at Lyceums as well as a
host of other speakers.
The State of Colleges
Colleges were lightly attended - example: 400 at Yale.
Attendance rose after 1840. - example: Virginia peaked
Some small colleges emerged in communities, but few
survived a decade.
Tuition was $25 to $55 .
Colleges had no grades-standards were somewhat lax -
included classics but little practical teaching
outside of clergy.
Professors were poorly paid and considered secondary
citizens - will shift as U.S. produces more services
Brown University led to the redirecting of collegiate
education to practical curriculum.
Yale (1847) created a school of science and Harvard
New colleges of agriculture and mechanics began in the
West and South.
Oberlin admitted women in 1837, creating a coed
school. Also Georgia Female College opened in
Gaining a college education was a part of early
presidential training (except Washington). Shift after
J.Q. Adams, as the majority did not.
Cultural centers (not Washington DC - ironic) were
Boston, New York and Philadelphia - with many smaller
cities taking a leadership role in civic culture -
Pittsburgh, Lexington, Kentucky.
Lawyers made up much of the aristocracy of the time
and biased the nation.
Civic activities as Dickens pointed out were mere
pigmies compared to Europe.
A decline in the interest of science after Jefferson
in the early 19th century - Tocqueville felt it was
due to our distrust of theory and abstract.
First American Journal of Science and Arts from Yale.
Stillman a professor of geology needed to publish to
communicate - great advances in geology.
Alexander Dallas Bache opened the Smithsonian
Samuel Morse's telegraph and Bache's lobbying create
the American Association for the Advancement of
Due to a gun accident, Dr. Beaumont did
state-of-the-art research on the human digestive
Based on juxtaposing Jackson-frontier or eastern
fictional characters were composed of American ideals
Russell Lowell added satire and The Bigalow
The Southwest provided another locale for juxtaposing
the genteel and the vulgar.