Gaslight Soldiers

Americans increasingly sought fulfillment in their leisure activities instead of the humdrum manual labor jobs at the start of the twentieth century, and based on the exorbitant compensation that was to be had in displaying their skills on the stage or their sense of fashion on the street, a new market of consumers had emerged, hungry for entertainment. Carrie in Dreiser’s Sister Carrie, is referred to as a “soldier of fortune,” and as the novel progresses, before her acting skills are to be gratified with overwhelming success, she becomes a fortune-seeking soldier of a different class, one that trains to become a figure in the glamour of the gaslight theater; Carrie becomes a “gaslight soldier.” Dreiser has attributed Carrie with raw acting ability, but expresses the necessary look that must be achieved and the discipline that must be attained in order to become successful, and it’s a struggle that’s likened to the old way of American success.

The following exhibit explores the real gaslight soldiers that contributed to the success of American Theater during the turn of the century.