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Popular Culture

Questions to Consider

How did the new technologies change entertainment and popular culture in the early decades of the 20th century?

What did people do for entertainment?

How have these forms of entertainment changed over the years?

About the Images

These images show some of the ways that people spent their free time during the early part of the 20th century. They also reflect how new technologies, shorter workdays, and the growth of a consumer society influenced the way people spent their free time.

Overview

Many forms of entertainment and leisure activities people participated in during the early decades of the 20th century are not that different from those we enjoy today. At the turn of the century people found entertainment at carnivals and festivals and exhibitions. Photographs here include the California Midwinter International Exposition in San Francisco in 1894, and the Anaheim Carnival of 1911.

Sports were also a popular pastime. Photographs show people participating in tennis and golf, but spectator sports were also popular. In 1929, Miss Jessie Darnley apparently swam her way to the title of Miss Anaheim in a pool filled with three tons of oranges. A number of players became celebrities, as witnessed by publicity stills of baseball greats Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Carl Klindt.

Electricity and improved communications meant that entertainment was no longer confined to live theater. People turned to the radio for both information and entertainment. One photograph shows the family of a Democratic nominee for US Senator, Sheridan Downey, gathered around the radio listening to election results. Another depicts a live radio broadcast.

During this era the film industry boomed in Hollywood, generating popular images and mythologies surrounding the movies and movie stars. Photographs in this group include some on-set shots of actors, directors, and movie-making equipment. The owner of the famous Chinese Theater in Hollywood, Sid Grauman, is pictured with film star Mary Pickford. Other images include silent film stars, the original "Our Gang" cast at the opening of the Broadway Theater, and a shot of the Spreckels Theater on the night of a Three Stooges film premiere in 1934.

As had been true for centuries, people enjoyed music, literature, and the arts. Images here include jazz musicians performing and a studio portrait of Roland Hayes, considered one of the greatest tenors in the 1920s. Popular literary figures pictured include author Upton Sinclair, whose 1906 book The Jungle helped raise popular awareness about food processing and contributed in large part to the passage of the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906. Photographs of poets and writers who wrote about or resided in California include Joaquin Miller, George Sterling, Charles Warren Stoddard, Robinson Jeffers, Edwin Markham, and Mary Austin (standing in front of a mural with Mexican artist Diego Rivera).

California Content Standards

English-Language Arts

Grade 4:

1.0 Writing Strategies: Research and Technology

2.0 Writing Applications
2.3 Write information reports.

2.0 Speaking Applications
2.2 Make informational presentations.

Grade 8:

1.0 Writing Strategies: Research and Technology

2.0 Writing Applications
2.3 Write research reports.

2.0 Speaking Applications
2.3 Deliver research presentations.

Grade 10:

2.0 Reading Comprehension
2.5 Extend ideas presented in primary or secondary sources through original analysis, evaluation, and elaboration.

3.0 Literary Response and Analysis: Literary Criticism
3.12 Analyze the way in which a work of literature is related to the themes and issues of its historical period. (Historical approach).

1.0 Writing Strategies: Research and Technology
1.3 Use clear research questions and suitable research methods (e.g., library, electronic media, personal interview) to elicit and present evidence from primary and secondary sources.

2.0 Writing Applications
2.3 Write expository compositions, including analytical essays and research reports.

2.0 Speaking Applications
2.2 Deliver expository presentations.

Grade 11:

1.0 Writing Strategies: Research and Technology

2.0 Writing Applications
2.4 Write historical investigation reports.

2.0 Speaking Applications
2.2 Deliver oral reports on historical investigations.
2.4 Delivery multimedia presentations.

History-Social Science

Grade 4:

4.4 Students explain how California became an agricultural and industrial power, tracing the transformation of the California economy and its political and cultural development since the 1850s.

Grade 8:

8.12 Students analyze the transformation of the American economy and the changing social and political conditions in the United States in response to the Industrial Revolution.

Grade 10:

10.3 Students analyze the effects of the Industrial Revolution in England, France, Germany, Japan, and the United States.

Grade 11:

11.2 Students analyze the relationship among the rise of industrialization, large-scale rural-to-urban migration, and massive immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe. (11.2.1)

11.5 Students analyze the major political, social, economic, technological, and cultural developments of the 1920s. (11.5.6)

Visual Arts

3.0 Historical and Cultural Context Understanding the Historical Contributions and Cultural Dimensions of the Visual Arts. Students analyze the role and development of the visual arts in past and present cultures throughout the world, noting human diversity as it relates to the visual arts and artists.

Analysis Tools

6C's of Primary Source Analysis (PDF) (Source: UCI History Project)
Photographs (PDF) (Source: Library of Congress)
Primary Source Activity (PDF) (Source: Library of Congress)

Who was Dorothea Lange?

Dorothea Lange (1895-1965), a great American photographer, is perhaps best known for her photographs of Dust Bowl migrants during the Great Depression.

General note about Lange’s images

Due to the limits of technology and the scanning process used, the digitized versions of Dorothea Lange’s photographs in some cases do not accurately represent the high quality of the original images.