American Theaters

Towards the end of the 19th Century going into the 20th, many changes in America had been taking place, the most amazing of which was the rapid growth of commercialized entertainment. Prior to this, stemming from Puritan ideals and the Republican hostile view towards extravagance, American Victorians gravitated towards associating theaters, circuses, etc as such vices as gambling, sex, swearing, drinking, etc. However by the early 20th century, the Victorian ideals of correctness and self-restraint, once frequent in the nineteenth century, gave way to the notion that "having fun" was good for one's health and overall well being. The mass media promoted the concept of fun to encourage Americans of all economic levels to engage in leisure activities. Dreiser mentioned this in Sister Carrie by contrasting the character of Carrie and her brother-in-law Sven Hanson. Carrie expresses the new, 20th Century leisurely attitude that became prevalent in the inner city, unlike Sven who had an old Puritan critical mindset of working hard and accumilating wealth as opposed to spending it. In chapter 4 of Sister Carrie, it is clear that Carrie and Sven hold opposing ideals: "Carrie, after a time. "Why don't we go to the theatre to-night?" "Oh, I don't think Sven would want to go to-night," returned Minnie. "He has to get up so early.""

The following exhibit displays various major theaters in the beggining of the 20th Century that played a major role in this new American mindset. 


For further reading of the theaters in this exhibit: