While studying the many aspects of popular culture; the highs and the lows, the fads and the popular trinkets of the times, I found myself looking for some distinct trend. A trend that would almost explain the urbanization and mixture of American culture into one entity as it seems today. The times came and went, the people and their goods increased and found success in various forms of business, but it all had to depend upon a central trend. There had to be something linking these people and their culture with one another. There was money to be made in the markets selling goods, and there were many people changing toward this "urban market" idea, but how did they learn about it? I came across many interesting things thus far in this class, but the most prominent trend I can find is the trend through technology. Americans in the 1800's had many things about them that were changing.
There was a developing system of classes where there was no longer just rich and poor, ones in wealth and ones in poverty. The invention of many things were about to change the way they would establish a household, order and or make goods for their families, even change the location of where said household is placed. Technology would make everything easier for the average American family, causing many things to change in society. An onlooker to the early 1800's would find a mainly rural society, living toward the east more than the west. These rural farmers or pioneers found it hard to get the goods that they needed and getting these goods quickly was an impossibility.
These people grouped together to form small towns so as to be able to receive goods from others in trade for goods made by themselves. If you needed something and someone in the town didn't make it, you never got it. Life was definitely simpler and people owned much less than they do today, although they did much more of their share of work than we do today. The invention of the steam engine and the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869 brought many changes to these rural communities. Instead of making a shelf, you could have a man you " ve never met in New York make one for you, and ship it via railroad to you.
This change I believe was the most prominent change in American popular culture, because it influenced and encouraged the mixture of styles. Instead of there being a common shelf distributed among a community made by one man, there were now many different kinds of shelves distributed among them, and their goods distributed around the country. The "American style" is nothing more than many many different styles in collision with each other. This railroad shipping system accounted for handmade goods, of certain cultural style, to be shipped to another place of different culture and encouraged the "oneness" of an American society. This trend toward one culture instead of many smaller subcultures has been growing and changing ever since the last spike was driven into the railroad system. Some may say the telephone was the most important invention of early America, but the "average Joe" family did not have the wealth to attain this until the early 20 th century.
Surely being able to talk to someone 3, 000 miles away was very exciting, but there were no goods exchanged nor were there any cultural mixtures derived from simple word exchange. This 10, 000 people per telephone was not comparable to the amount of change a railroad and its many benefits brought to 19 th century America. Inventions continued to shape the landscape and change the nation, with the first mail-order catalogue being introduced by A. M.
Ward in 1872, making it even faster for the American to receive the goods that he or she needed. This was a trend that changed America forever. Not only could you order clothing, medicine, and other widgets, you could even order your house. This influenced a mixture or generalization of culture from wrist watches to homes and lagoon designs. Simply placing an order for something and in a few weeks it coming by railroad car made the melting pot of culture so much faster. Urbanization was fast approaching.
The ability to transfer goods and services at a more rapid pace than even dreamed of prior to these inventions sparked an "instant gratification" society. It was easier than ever to buy and sell your goods. To the 19 th century person it must have seemed like Ebay seems to us, you can reach anyone anywhere with your product and receive within the same scope. It seems to me that these inventions almost made the American people lazy. The American can now do things in less and less time due to the industrial revolution and can go to work (which is now in a factory) and do things progressively faster and faster. The introduction of the 8 hour work day also was derived from this time.
Before these technological advances, you worked from dawn until you could no longer see your hands working in the dusk. Americans were now enjoying more free time than ever. The big industry trend led to more urbanization. The farmer from central Illinois moved to the city of Chicago, got a job in the factory making railroad parts, and received almost all of his goods from a catalogue or a department store. No longer did he have to make his shelves or did his wife have to make the children's clothing, they were free to work less and get more leisure time. This led to more and more people on separate sides of the country having the same goods and the same clothing.
The inventions of early America sum up what America is and what it will be in the future. Without the inventions that we know now, half of the actions we engage in on a normal day would not be possible, which parallels itself to the inventions of the 19 th century. Were it not for the invention of the railroad car and the steam engine, no one would have searched for faster means of transportation, leading to internal combustion, diesel, and commercial air flight, which changed the face of America forever.