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Defining America During 1860-1900: Distinctive Cultural and Social Aspects

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The most significant event in America during our time frame of 1860-1900 is the Civil War, and thankfully everybody should already know at least the gist of the defining moment. Most of us know what happened, why it happened, and the general outcome of it all despite everyone’s opinion and interpretations. What most people don’t know is what was going on culturally during the era. We are going to expand everyone’s knowledge of the time period by exploring more about distinctive cultural and social aspects such as music, theater, entertainment, hair, fashion, the Olympics, and art.

Before we dive into expanding our knowledge, we are going to briefly list a few historical facts to help set the mood of the time and provide slightly basic historical knowledge of the era, just as a review.

With the creation of the Pony Express, communication became faster. Our new nation was becoming more and more connected (U.S. History: Civil War and Reconstruction – 1850–1899 2000-2018).B. In 1860 South Carolina succeeds from the union, kicking off the domino effect that soon after started the Civil War.

In 1861 Abraham Lincoln becomes the 16th president (U.S. History: Civil War and Reconstruction – 1850–1899 2000-2018).B. In 1861 the Civil War begins at Fort Sumter and later ends in 1865 when the 13th Amendment also passes (U.S. History: Civil War and Reconstruction – 1850–1899 2000-2018). This is obviously a key defining event in America that shaped the circumstances of the time and created the future that we now live in today.

While A.1. steak sauce was created earlier than 1831 by a cook that worked for King George IV, it was later commercialized in 1862 and introduced to America in 1895. Now it is a very popular sauce in America and can only be found in Britain in specialty American food stores.

One of the most dominant aspects of being an American is defining what it is to be an American. This has a lot to do with the significantly younger age of our country but defining what America is has been an essential part of our growth altogether.

While our time period was filled with the conflict of the civil war, according to Andrews and McCoy, the Civil War had very little inspiration and influence on American art of the time. Looking through art and paintings of this time period, I have particularly noticed a motif of including painters in the paintings. This gives me the impression that people became more accepting of “breaking the fourth wall” and revealing what happens at the other end of the brush, illustrating the lifestyles of the actual artists.

Artists eventually became more and more drawn towards Europe, which created a great European influence on American artists. They were drawn to Europe because of the expansive history of art and civilization in the older countries that gave it a more rounded and strong artistic ground. America, by contrast, was an “artistic desert”.

Coinciding with this information, these are some examples of artists and art from 1800 to 1900 that are a good representation of the time period stylistically and topically. “Cliffs of Green River” is an oil on canvas painting done by Thomas Moran in 1874.

“H. Prouse Cooper’s Down Town Store, New York” was done in 1880 by an unidentified painter using watercolor paint, pen, and ink (ARTstor). This oil painting is entitled “Bo-peep” and was painted by Eastman Johnson in 1872 (ARTstor). This oil painting of a still life was created by John Frederick Peto in 1885 and is entitled “The poor man’s store”. “The daughters of Edward Darley Boit” is an oil on canvas painting from 1882 done by John Singer Sargent. This painting was done with watercolor paints over graphite on paper by Maurice Brazil Prendergast in 1899. It is entitled “Umbrellas in the Rain”. This image is another oil on canvas painting that dates back to about 1861-62 and was created by Martin Johnson Heade.

Despite all the hullabaloo over the Civil War and its impact on America, there’s more to the era than most people realize. Cultural aspects were just as important in defining America as the Civil War was. Our society was at a key point in our development as a budding nation, taking the necessary steps to get where we are in our country today. America from 1860 to 1900 crucially defined our nation’s society and what we have developed into through to the present day.

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Defining America During 1860-1900: Distinctive Cultural And Social Aspects. (2020, May 19). GradesFixer. Retrieved September 22, 2022, from
“Defining America During 1860-1900: Distinctive Cultural And Social Aspects.” GradesFixer, 19 May 2020,
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