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Mass Entertainment
The Rise of Mass Entertainment
The World Series
The Circus
The World's Fair
Coney Island
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The Rise of Mass Entertainment

The story of the rise of mass entertainment is closely tied to the growth and expansion of the United States. The U.S. experienced both rapid territorial expansion and a massive population boom during the 1800s. Through war and diplomacy, the U.S. more than doubled in size over the course of the century. During the same period, the population grew from 5.7 million to 76 million. With the end of the Civil War and the start of westward expansion, the national economy boomed. Breakthroughs in technology led to a new wave of industrialization, which led, in turn, to the growth of American cities. These growing industrial cities were the birthplace of mass entertainment.

Entertainment for the Masses
During the 1800s, the main audience for art exhibits and performances of music and theater, was the wealthy. Mass entertainment, which appealed to a wider audience, came of age in the United States and Europe near the turn of the century. Numerous factors contributed to the rise of mass entertainment in industrialized countries. Technological advances made possible more lavish traveling shows. Communications technologies, such as the telegraph, made possible greater publicity for mass entertainment events. Reduced working hours gave working class people time to pursue leisure activities.

Two riders perform on horseback.

A Show for Every Taste
The roots of the circus extend at least as far back as the acrobats and menageries of ancient Egypt, the tightrope walkers of ancient China, the mimes of ancient Greece, and the horse racers of ancient Rome. The modern circus, which appeared first in England in 1768, made its way to the United States in 1785 and to Russia in 1793. In the U.S., circuses peaked in popularity at the beginning of the 20th century. Several dozen large circuses toured the country. The biggest shows also toured Europe.

Coney Island at night.

Amusement parks owed their creation to the development of electricity. America's most famous amusement park, New York City's Coney Island, thrilled millions of visitors with mechanized amusements like the roller coaster. The park was also considered exotic, with its performers from around the globe.

Waterway at the 1904 world's fair.

World's fairs sought to entertain and educate visitors. From 1900 to 1910, the United States hosted a record five world's fairs. The largest of these was the 1904 fair in St. Louis, which commemorated the 101st anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase. During the summer of 1904, some 20 million people attended.

Spectators at the 1903 World Series.

It stretched the truth to apply the title "World Series" to America's early baseball championships. When teams competed in the first World Series in 1903, professional baseball was played exclusively in the Northeast. But the sport quickly grew in popularity. By 1910, new ball parks were springing up in many parts of the country.


Credits: Cy Young © Bettmann/Corbis; Roller Coaster © Culver Pictures; Bareback riders © Culver Pictures; Luna Park at night © Bettmann/Corbis; Waterway © Bettmann/Corbis; Spectators, 1903 World Series-Huntington Avenue Grounds National Baseball Hall of Fame Library, Cooperstown, New York;

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Other Topics
Cave Art
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Counting: Calendars & Cords
The French Revolution
Mass Entertainment
Life in the 1920s
The Environment

These topics correspond to chapters in the Patterns of Interaction series (McDougal Littell, 2005).