A survey of the 1990's, a century after the focal time of this chapter,
announced that 40% of American adults had attended
during the year one or more classical music concerts, opera
concerts, jazz concerts, musical comedies, ballet, theater, and art or
museum exhibitions. Popular happenings - marching bands and glee
clubs, reggae, salsa, and rap - were favored by the same 40% more
than by the rest of the population, except that
country and western music fans attended less to the
fine arts (nota bene, a class apart).
Obviously, interest in sophisticated culture overlaps with interest in
popular culture. Probably we are speaking of a century-long
condition, but must recognize that most of the sophisticated
performing arts were not available to most Americans early: most
would have nowhere to go.
Elite and sophisticated culture were more separated in England than in
continental Europe; the loutish lord with a dim-witted family was a
familiar character going back to the Middle Ages with little indication
of improvement. The sources of British decency, manners, literature
and the arts - with their failings, alas, - were middle class, and the
British middle classes were called upon to inspire the American middle
classes, who really should have been enlarging and improving and
creating their American culture from the advantages afforded by the
Indian, African and immigrant cultures - so, alas, again.
But, now, the American middle classes had to begin to accept all
manner of "foreign" influences in the course of suppressing and
contemning them. They did not receive much help from the upper
class, for this group, with the several enclaves of which I have
spoken, and will speak again, was the most barren culturally of any on
the European or American continents. Paleo-sophisticates were as
rare as hen's teeth.
The daughter of an Argentine, Uruguayan, or Mexican cattle
rancher probably spoke - besides Spanish - some French, Italian
and English, and had been educated in the liberal arts as well as in
the history of religion. This did not happen in America until the
American cattle rancher helped organize the local State College, sent
his daughter there, and, in the summer time, saw her off for a
month of "State College Abroad" at Tours or Florence to pick up a
few words of French and view some paintings and buildings. Much
more than now, the rich, the powerful and the famous of America one
hundred years ago were cultural illiterates.
There was no hereditary class with regard to culture or religion,
no Brahmin class to whom respect must be accorded.
The Hindu Brahmin caste monopolized as a hereditary right
the retention and conveyance of truth, both religious and secular,
consigning fighting to a warrior caste, trade to a Merchant's caste,
and various more demeaning tasks to an
upper and lower worker caste,
with even a final most disgusting and poor
existence to outcasts. Reincarnation would permit a
well-behaved soul to raise his caste status.
More secular, Americans insisted that wealth proved a man's
well-behaved soul, and low inheritance taxes should assure his family of
keeping his status. Often it worked, even though
"from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations"
became a proverb. It was generally expected in
America from the beginning, except in the
ever-narrowing New England of divines,
that wealth was the best avenue to all other values,
including getting to heaven, which for a
time even pious ministers confirmed.
There was for awhile a loosely-knit category of
Bostoners whom people, half in awe, half in jest,
called Brahmins because their families had managed,
with appropriate exclusiveness and over several generations,
to maintain both wealth and educated habits at
the same time. In every city, a paler version appeared in
representatives of a small number of families who had gotten rich
and stuck it out for several generations. And when journalists found
such a one who could tie his shoes and chew gum at the same time
and interviewed him, they were sure to stress that he came out of
this background - or at least an aunt did.
When Russian sophisticates of this age doubted their identity, they
pretended to be French, or descended into the masses. Tolstoy
recounts how as a youth he pursued assiduously the conduct of
"comme il faut," a supercilious dandy of wispy profundities.
Dostoevski plunged into the lower depths of society in pursuit of his
major characterizations. Americans of upper-class and sophistication
did very much the same; they reached across to England, or
Germany, or France, or paraded with the great people, acting as
antiquarians of popular culture, as if they did
not really mean that this was high culture.
There were not many truly American cultural sophisticates; as
Hungarians, Bohemians, Russians, Italians, and Germans arrived in
each generation, they would exhibit frequently a deeper cultural
knowledge than the upper-classes in America. We speak not only of
musical culture and literature, but of the plastic arts, interior
decoration, clothing, historical knowledge, architecture,
horse-racing, antiquarianism, museums and cuisine.
The immigrants lacked wealth and fluency of language,
so had precarious perches on the social ladder,
liable to scorn and upset not only by the
ignorant and scornful populace, prone to tipping over ladders,
but also by the wealthy and powerful, who hated to feel
below others who were poorer and spoke accented American.
If I stress this point, it is because for the duration of U.S. history,
until the late 1900's, the majority of Americans of
sophisticated culture were foreign-born,
a fact nastily handled or ignorantly suppressed.
When Anton Dvorak wrote his Ninth Symphony in E minor,
while teaching in New York, his purpose was to
lay the foundations for a national American school of composition.
But by the time he had arrived in America from Bohemia,
it was practically impossible to learn and hear
the music of the Indian nations. Only a few stictches of it
hemmed his work. which is too sweet for the modern ear, but had it been
truly indianized, he would have becomeipso factoa foremost modern
composer, alongside Gustav Mahler.
In this un-jingo realization, we are better disposed to regard the merits
of Remington as depictor of the romantic West, of Winslow Homer's
seascapes, of Whitman, Dickinson, Twain, Howells, Wharton, and
Henry James as writers, and of the best native restaurant in the land -
it must have been in New Orleans.
Painting (and sculpting) in America was 99% mediocre or worse until
the 1910's and onwards. The few who could afford training journeyed
to Italy and France, and came back to engage in
portraiture and landscapes, survivals of which are valuable for their
historical references to people (George Washington, depicted rather
as Michelangelo did God in the Sistine Chapel, but with more
clothes) and scenery (the picturesque Hudson Valley, for example).
An early portraitist of renown was Gilbert Stuart, a later one was
John Singer Sargent, an Italianate who rose so high as to be
admitted to the British Royal Academy, where the tea served was
better than the paintings. (Actually an earlier American colonist,
Benjamin West, was promoted by King George III to be an
Historical Painter to the King, a form of "Provisioner to His Majesty.")
Audubon's paintings of birds were, of course, informative
and pretty. So, too, Albert Bierstadt's grand scenes and George
A tramp through the numerous museums that preserve American art
from the period 1700 - little was done earlier - to 1915, would throw
up almost no competitors to the well-known work of a few men.
Foremost is James Whistler, an early isolate who worked long in
Europe, yet whose Americanism stands out in his work - theme, mood,
colors, and fairly avant-garde style. John Sloan, Rockwell Kent, Carl
Sprinchorn, Everett Skinn, and Robert Henri (this last artist less of a
hero of the propaganda struggle): they were complimented by the
moniker "Ashcan School" for their attention to
realism and ordinary existence.
The "Great Event" in the history of American painting is generally said
to have been an "Armory Show of 1913." Exo-academy types like
Arthur B. Davies joined up and put on exhibition in New York City
over fifteen hundred works by over 300 American artists, the young,
unknown, and unconventional. Something so huge and garish attracted
crowds and inspired reams of foolish publicity.
To reinforce the weak mob of American artists, canvases of noted
modernist Frenchmen like Gauguin, Cézanne and Van Gogh were
brought over. Marcel Duchamp's surreal "Nude Descending the
Staircase," brought down the house; many were the derisory jokes.
The show then went on tour with all the hoopla of
circuses of Barnum and Bailey.
Soft, conformist, but intellectually fairly appealing Americans
came with the return from Paris sojourns of Thomas Hart Benton, Grant
Wood, and J.S. Curry. They felt that a more vivid and understandable
narration of ordinary life conveyed a superiority of their canvas to the
inheritors of the Armory Show tradition. Perhaps so; most Americans
preferred (and do prefer still) their style and messages
Louis Sullivan, working out at Chicago,
might be called the nation's first great architect.
His iron skyscrapers were beautifully sturdy.
He could have made of Chicago's World Fair of 1893 the
greatest exhibition of the potential of architecture,
but was passed over in favor of fancy
cookie-box, fairy-tale designers.
The huge structures stood deserted, an eyesore in mid-city
for a city that needed no more eyesores,
for half a century.
A student of Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, came of a
Unitarian family that said prayers in Welsh,
his mother's tongue, but gave the utmost of the secular to
his "Prairie style." William Morris, an English designer,
supplied a model. After Wright had worked in Japan, he carried into
his designs Japanese ideas as well. He was functionalist, organic, a
pragmatist by nature (that is, by social osmosis), like Pollock would be
in painting, and hence to be
connected with the large half-vociferous and half-unconscious
pragmatic philosophical and behavioral movement of the country. In
Wright's houses could be found a rigid logic, an initial total
solution, an employment of materials that performed their functions
honestly. (Also a leaking roof, at least once.)
Only in Marin County, California, stood a
public building of his until, as the twentieth century
closed, the City of Madison, Wisconsin, dusted off
his old designs of a half century earlier and
built something of what he intended.
History seemed to be gone from Wright's constructions;
they were rooted into the landscape, or in the future.
Quite old, he compensated for his five-foot-tall frame
by designing a mile-tall skyscraper for Chicago,
that went unbuilt, of course.
Wright was thus typically American,
an a-historical creature of history.
Like many another invention that peaked its
improvements just as it had to be phased out and replaced,
the skyscraper city began to get shaky at the end
of the twentieth century. Business and industry
found that they might exchange their high-cost inner city
settings for accessible handsome low-cost digital
work nests amid the outlying sprawl.
The skyscraper and the sprawling suburbs,
two authentic grand inventions, were endangered by
new conditions and states of mind of the new millennium.
Exponential growth in estimable non-fiction and journals of science
occurred in the later 1800's, coincidental with the same phenomenon
abroad. The "age of science" was trumpeted. Religious creationists
retreated in sophisticated circles, not to return until the mid-twentieth
century, and then with intriguing neo-catastrophist arguments and
surreal psychologies of scientifically
Public high schools were increasing exponentially but becoming
vocational rather than promoting their graduates to higher education.
In the 40 years before World War I, they increased 60-fold.
A few universities began to surpass the status of "cow colleges,"
theological seminaries, and adolescent boys' clubs.
Student rebellion against evangelism erupted now and then.
Political activity remained at a low level; nor was social conscience
in respectable supply. The first women's colleges came into being,
a "softer" curriculum and stricter supervision of conduct.
Considering the turbulence of American politics, university
campuses were shamefully silent. Walter Lippmann and a few others
founded a Socialist Club at Harvard in 1911, 63 years after the
European Revolutions of 1848 and the Communist Manifesto of
Karl Marx and Frederick Engels! Few who attended the best
universities but were not of the minority of wealthy gentile families.
The University of Wisconsin was exceptionally
progressive and accessible.
One had to note the formidable birth of the University of Chicago in
1893, like Minerva full-blown from the head of Jupiter, the Vulcan
hammering the head to release her being short plump divinity
Professor William Rainey Harper of Yale, the rather shriveled Head
being John D. Rockefeller, up from popular perdition with the help of
philanthropic public relations, the attendants on the occasion being
Jewish businessmen and Baptists. A momentous occasion, for while
Johns Hopkins University of Baltimore had been first to germanicize
its system of graduate departments, Chicago followed suit with a
vengeance. Chicago became quickly, resplendently, medieval,
architecturally, and, with Harper's raids upon high-ranking scholars of
the East, garnered faculty with more creativity
per capita than any other university.
Although they were not to be considered of first rank intellectually or
scientifically, the Catholic, especially the Jesuit Colleges, that were
popping up in every city of the nation, were an astonishing
accomplishment. Indeed, one needs remark upon the Catholic Church's
resilience generally, to thrive in a nation without state blessing or aid
and in the face of an indifferent upper-class and
hostile Protestant mass. Its formula, which we know by now,
included a disciplined clergy and mass, however impecunious, and the
strong support of local politicians.
Whom could one nominate as the greatest creative Americans of the
Age? The comparative deep studies are not available. There are still
"minor" figures who ought to be "major." From 1870 to 1920, might
we not name Mark Twain, the story-teller, Walt Whitman, the poet,
William James and John Dewey, the pragmatists, James Whistler, the
painter, and Louis Sullivan, the builder of iron skyscrapers?
When his book arrived in America during the Civil War, more people
disbelieved than believed The Origin of Species by Natural Selection,
Darwin's theory of long-term evolution by gradual effects of
unconscious natural selection. Few were ready to give up the Bible's
creation story or stretch out time long enough to account for the
multitudinous changes from worm to man. America had built into its
bones and villages that good and evil were manifest and one had to
fight out the battle within oneself to see whether he or she would be
one of those saved and received into Heaven.
There were scientists and the materialist determinists
(not a little of which shows in the Constitution).
They were inclined to pick up not only evolution
but the extensions of the idea into social life,
to assert that progress by evolution was in the natural order.
The doctrine of survival of the fittest was implicit in Malthus,
then in Darwin and flagrant in Herbert Spencer's work,
reaching a peak during the next generation in Charles Sumner's
What the Social Classes Owe to Each Other,
the answer being "nothing."
Additionally we see the beginnings of Nazi racism here in a series of
pseudoscientific movements. In France Gobineau waxed lyrical over
the presumed existence of an Aryan and Saxon Germanic heritage of
the countries just then flouting their power and wealth:
France, England and Germany.
The science of genetics and therefore eugenics was being founded in
England and the thought now was of pure races, an idiotic notion
that gave breath to the English professional classes, that provided
especially as a tool against their own elite, the Franco-Normans,
who had suppressed the Anglo-Saxons after 1066. By the end of the
1840's the unseemly word "Anglo-Saxon" was in the air, though
neither the English nor the rest of the Anglophones in the world
could demonstrate much of a racial homogeneity with the tribe of
Alfred the Great except a possible disproportion of square heads or
Roundheads coming from the Alpine (not Nordic) stock.
The echoes of this were not without effects in the USA.
Owning and ruling circles, sponging from English drawing room
talk, gabbed about their superior racial origins. They were
blatant against the newer immigration from Southern and Western
Europe, not to mention the Indians, Blacks and Hispanics of course,
and conveniently forgot what a heavy infiltration of Celtic types had
occurred (but then practically a racial distinction was made between
Catholic and other Irish, Scots, and Welsh Celts.)
Richard Wagner was composing great music in new forms,
and writing his own librettos from Germanic and Celtic myth;
the Chamberlains of England who had picked up on Gobineau
married into the Wagners; the Wagnerian opera lofted the racists
into Valhalla; the Austrian postcard artist and paperhanger
took to politics, and after the Aryan racist movement
had lost its chic in Britain and America
(but lurked in millions of schoolbooks andmurky minds)
the Nazis introduced it into the hitherto advanced
German society with a fanfare and proceeded
to combine eugenics, mass euthanasia, and genocide.
Germany's world-class culture came to a disastrous end.
The nation with the highest level of popular and sophisticated
culture, education, and science in the world - Germany -
could be exploded by an insane set of low-brow gangsters.
However, American social science evaded control by its crazies and
went its way, with the theory of Darwin faithfully taught by
biologists and social Darwinism by social scientists,
with less mean and direct prejudices
emanating from the corpus scientiae.
Theodore Roosevelt ("eugenics" would have put an end to the sickly
child) and his circle, including that killer of the League of Nations,
Senator John Cabot Lodge (whose family tree included English
Roundheads of the Great Migration to Massachusetts) looked with
favor upon such writers and politicians as Madison Grant, who argued
that people like himself would be out-birthed by lesser
breeds. John D. Rockefeller rested from his labor long enough to
opine the theory of the survival of the fittest in the business world,
meaning of course the Standard Oil Company.
One felt that one could not run a factory or have an Empire
without possessing a racial theory helping to
justify the oppression of the mass of people.
An economic theory of laissez-faire was not enough in itself,
although the English ruling class felt that there was
enough truth in the theory to starve a large part
of the Irish population in the 1840's (while
Darwin and Spencer were thinking and writing).
Even do-gooders got into the act. Medical men, wishing to assist
science and public health, decided that the poor kids of New York City
had all incurred respiratory disease from the bad conditions of their
life, which was true, and descended upon them with the help of the
Board of Education and teachers ("We shall stop this sniffling once
and for all."), and newly invented tongs for the newly explored
adenoids, and proceeded to pull them out wholesale.
Whereupon distraught Italian and Jewish mothers gathered in force
and marched upon the schools, causing
the suspension of the crusade.
Recall now the early mention of applied political science in the
creation of the numerous constitutions and hundreds of different
electoral devices. In their revolt against the old and royal, and
encouraged by their new explosive environment, Americans became
pragmatic and inventive.
The utopia continued as America's typical continuous invention
machine. One could get the prototype machine into
As we shall see, however, the combination of ideology and
industrialization according to laissez-faire, buttressed by courts and
politicians, clashed with the American dream as expressed in
utopianism. Noble combinations of laborers and farmers,
populists, anarchists, would put up a hard fight.
Many would fall before juggernaut;
Science wounded religion among secure, secular, or brazenly
cynical Americans. Organized churches, with their hangers-on and
backsliders hoping to escape guilt, were too desperately necessary
for the neurotic masses, to be more than put on guard. People
wanted more than philosophy or deism; they wanted to feel themselves
alive in social functions, to have leaders who were not as
authoritative as government, but ready to help and console; they had
vague memories of having fought to be able to read the Bible and
expound its contents without being called stupid; they were not
ready to say, on the word of a chilling science, that it was all in
vain. Churches appealed to Americans especially since a person
could move in and out of them, and adjust according to one's goals
and life-style the exact degree of one's involvement.
Considering how obsessed a great number of people were with religion
over four centuries of time, it is momentous that not a
single great theologian emerged; one is prompted to mention
Jonathan Edwards of colonial times, but a brief scan will put him
out of the running.
Reinhold Niebuhr would be the most prominent candidate, coming
in the mid-twentieth century, however, "after the owls of Minerva
had taken flight," you might say.
All the more incongruous is this condition when one recalls the
thousands of schools and colleges that were founded with the
explicit and even with a principal aim to become centers of
theology. Even today the richest kind of affirmative quotas are
granted to students who are inclined to devote their careers to the
study and contemplation of religious subjects.
Already in the later nineteenth century, we see the bifurcation of
psychology - German experimentalism arrives carrying some
elements of the French - and social psychology
(French quasi-psychology with phrenology and mesmerism moving
over to Breuer, then Freud in Austria, the crowd psychologists,
Le Bon et al., these to be distinguished from the American pragmatists,
who, if one were searching for analogues, relate to the phenomenologists
and existentialists coming along in Europe. Sociology descends through
Comte and St. Simon in France and Spencer in England to America
with Lester Ward and W.I. Thomas. America remains a generation
behind, even at the top colleges, but is catching up.
The trouble is the thinness of American ranks; there aren't enough
good students; we have to wait for the waves of the "new
immigration" to arrive. The infrequency of high talents encouraged
versatility, but the flimsiness of the cultural substructure (including
the very houses and landscape) kept the
best from achieving greatness.
There would be no true Renaissance men or women.
Benjamin Rush of Philadelphia was a poor successor to
America's greatest Renaissance man, Benjamin Franklin:
he worked at medicine, where he was unfortunately
a fanatic for bleeding patients as therapy for many ailments.
He wrote the first casebook in psychiatry,
then unrecognized and undeveloped -
as is to be seen in the quality of his work.
He did better in public affairs, where the patient does not die
and is already incurably mad.
J. Hughlings Jackson and Weir Mitchell advanced medicine and
psychiatry as neurologists. Mitchell was especially prolific,
foreshadowing Freud's interest in so-called female hysteria -
obviously a disease already common in America and probably
associated with the suppressed rage of a great many women who
were not able to join the liberated outwardly raging feminists. He
also published Wear and Tear (1871), wherein heavy wear comes
from the increasing urban pressures, and tearing comes
from the final incapacity for coping. Mitchell wrote
many psychiatric novels and books of poetry.
He was a highly constructive figure in the field of public health,
worked as an army surgeon in the Indian and Civil Wars, taught
many a productive scientist-to-be, and was widely honored.
Although a trustee of the University, he was never able to gain
appointment as a Professor, a lapse that he attributed - probably
correctly - to professional jealousy and political discord.
He maintained friendships and a correspondence with a half-hundred
of the most prominent men of the Anglophone world, from Andrew
Carnegie to Walt Whitman. I have already mentioned the "American
Aristotle," sociologist Lester Ward, as far from the Miletian, but a
first-ranking carrier of the ideas recently
evolved by Auguste Comte.
Pragmatism came into hard play: the virtues of actions are to be
judged by their consequences and the harder and more material the
better. The term "pragmatist" itself was invented by the philosopher
Peirce, the philosophy itself developed by Peirce, but mainly William
James, brother of the novelist Henry, and John Dewey. Dewey began
by demolishing Hegel's theory of the absolute ideological world and of
history as inevitability. (Hegel's ideas were meanwhile getting into the
American mainstream via Germanic groups in St. Louis.) Karl Marx's
inversion of Hegelian idealism brought dialectical materialism and
economic determinism, a history that was going places, namely into
communism and the working-class majoritarian democracy. Dewey
rejected all of this, too, for being non-empirical and a
vain attempt to pre-set the future society.
Un-hegelian Von Ranke systematized the theory of empirical and
scientific history. American historians, like their English models,
considered history more a humanistic practice than science. Still,
many of them wished to emulate Von Ranke, and there was no
conflict with pragmatism except that pragmatists inclined to the
belief that only science with a useful end in view was worthwhile..
Dewy's theory of means and ends as different aspects of social
process was a radical innovation. Each was the other
transacting in a different combination. It resembled relativism.
Any means could become an end and vice versa.
Applying pragmatism to political philosophy, Dewey found the
Declaration of Independence to be an ideological venture into an
imaginary human nature. He had little respect for old documents.
His very long life let him become thoroughly involved in social
causes, where he placed philosophers at the forefront, and in
education where his theory of "Progressive Education," begun in the
University of Chicago at an experimental school (he was a great
advocate of experimentation in social and psychological affairs)
became the bellwether of American teaching flocks.
His theories of progressive education led schools to allow
more freedom to youngsters and, in time,
the severe old curriculum and discipline gave way.
Within a memorial generation of its conception,
liberal education was reducing exam scores of
children and youth up through college
in history, mathematics and science,
while raising their IQ and creativity.
Specialists on rock stars, not great Romans,
weak in spelling, bad at figures.
Used to play and games and to wander,
the youth showed initiative in new technology and
social inventions, in new and fetching gadgetry.
Dewey supported labor unions, women's rights,
peace movements, world union; he was a
veritable one-man army, a social science
Rambo. He was dismayed at the individualist
"dog-eat-dog," "root, hog, or die"
mentality of so many Americans.
He argued for cooperative learning,
for cooperative relations in industry,
for Jeffersonian participatory and majoritarian democracy.
Reality lay in the transactions between persons and the world,
not in the isolated soul. This seemed to be contradicted by his insistence
that the individual work out one's own education and career, one's
own moral position and choices - but he allowed this always and
only within a group framework. He was adamantly opposed to rote
learning, to absolute solutions, to authoritarianism in
learning, religion, and the factory and state. He was
empirical, evolutionary, quakerish.
Where his theories were practiced, the detection and banning of
many a foolish and harmful act may have escaped, but there came
about also a general liberality of thought and conduct,
a generosity of spirit, a considerateness
for the rights and ideas of others.
With William James and Professor George Herbert Mead, he
produced a comprehensive theory of social psychology for the new
secular and humanitarian age foreseen by the
The pragmatic theory of process and means and ends concluded with
and merged with the scientific theory of operationism, developed by
physicists, that true scientific statements are only hypothetical
descriptions of behaviors of things and beings. History is the
interaction or transactions of people over time. Definitions are never
to be treated as absolute, but only as tools (and here we move into
the twentieth century's logical positivism especially of Carnap and
Wittgenstein, that absorbed much of American philosophical
departments after World War II.)
There were great inventors and scientists coming up the line. The
favored sciences were electricity, applied physics and engineering,
chemistry. Radio transmission was in the offing. The telephone began
to displace the telegraph. In 1907 immigrant Leo Baekeland fashioned
the plastic called Bakelite. After a slow ugly start, the business picked
up speed when industrial designers became involved.
World War II found many new uses and forms, and
by 1979 the plastic industry grew so large as to
surpass in volume the production of steel.
Distribution deserves more credit as invention than it has received.
The sewing machine was not invented by Isaac Singer,
but it was he who could mass produce it for a worldwide
market that he was simultaneously developing.
It was probably in this age that the unintellectual pragmatic principle
became fully articulated: the best idea and invention could not make
a difference if it were not sold and distributed. The principle was
best exposed in the motion picture industry where the artist stood no
chance of leadership against the promotor and distributor.
In a way the principle was magnified in the great expositions that
glorified progress and the city that presented them, Paris,
preeminently, but in America, Philadelphia, Chicago, St. Louis, San
Francisco, and New York. On show were the presumed greatest
inventions of the age, and the technological and stylistic innovations
of the times and the future. Amusement for the masses furnished, of
course, a large part of the proceedings. Touted and
described in the press, the expositions created national
dialogue boxes on science and progress.
With state fairs and county fairs every year
all around the country, Americans could have a large number
of foci of attention and conversational interchange.
These were more educational than typical political campaigns,
although politics were often tied in,
and expositions were even more instructive than the circuses,
large and small, that toured the country
interminably in trains and wagons.