A New Modern Era in America By: Amanda Morningstar, Madeline Jubran, Melanie Kienlen, Kaitlyn Manson

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, urbanization and new technological advances were on the rise which sparked an advanced modern era in America. Out of this time came inventions like the light bulb, telephone, sports like baseball and boxing, consumerism, and more.


Backed by J. P. Morgan and the Vanderbilts, Thomas Edison worked to improve the light bulb. He utilized a carbonated bamboo that made it much cheaper and more efficiently than gas bulbs. Edison's bulbs became wildly used now, and his were featured in events such as the Paris Lighting Exhibit in 1881. Thomas Edison's improvement of the light bulb made them commercially practical. To make his light bulb more practical, Edison had to also invent an electrical distribution system to make the light bulbs practical on a city wide scale. This technology was completely new, and changed American cities forever.

The first light bulb by Thomas Edison

With the light bulb, the sun no longer determined when it was time to go to bed. The new invention gave America longer working hours and the ability to enhance communication such as Morse Code. Around-the-clock work began, as factories brought workers in for different shifts, and cities were able to stay open all night. Over time, the light bulb became more commonly used around the world, therefore oil lamps and candles were packed away and only used during power outages.

Light bulbs were such a hit that they led to the need for a widespread electrical-distribution system. The world's first large-scale power station was built at Niagara Falls in 1895. At first, power was only distributed locally but that soon changed so that the power station could power streetlights and streetcars. Since street lights could now be operated, transportation became popular at night, not just during the day.

Lights bulbs brought electricity into homes, opening the door to a whole new world full of inventions. Homes could soon power appliances to make household tasks easier. Entertainment would soon begin to change as well. Families relied on playing board games, playing instruments and making conversation for entertainment, but with electrical devices such as the radio and television, all people would have to do is watch or listen.


Between 1860 and 1920, production increased by 12 to 14 percent while the US population only increased by three percent. This resulted in the supply being over the demand which is overproduction. This economic problem was solved by the reduction of work hours.

Women working in the factories.


With the cultivating new modern society, there were many things that affected American life. Education became a main area in which parents wanted their children to have for growing up. After 1865, public schools continued to use the three R's (reading, writing, and arithmetic) to teach students and after new education laws were passed requiring children to attend schools, the number of students dramatically increased. Along with the growing number of children attending elementary school, the number of U.S. colleges also increased in the late 1800s because of land-grant colleges established under federal Morill acts of 1862 and 1890, and universities founded by wealthy philanthropists. Women also were able to attend colleges and by 1900, 71 percent of colleges admitted women. The college curriculum also greatly changed in which the number of courses were reduced and electives were introduced. As the curriculum changed, colleges added social activities, fraternities, and sports.

Stanford University, as seen in this photo, was one college founded during the late 1800s by a wealthy philanthropist. Today, Stanford University is one of the top colleges in America.

During this time period, people were gaining more free time because their work hours were shortening. With the newly gained free time, Americans established activities for after work. Newspapers, amusements, and sports were developed and gained popularity quickly.


Newspapers had been around since the 1830s but did not exceed a million in circulation until Joseph Pulitzer's New York World. His newspaper contained stories of crimes, disasters, and economic and political corruption. Mass circulation magazines gained a new height that they were being sold for 10 cents each in the 1880s.

This newspaper is from April 20th, 1900.


Along with work hour reduction, transportation improved and promotional billboards and advertisements increasing, leading to more people leaving home for recreational activities. The most popular recreational activity in the 1800s was drinking and talking at the saloon. Large cities started establishing theaters and comedic dramas. Improved rail lines allowed for the traveling Barnum and Bailey and the Ringling Brothers circus which became known as the "Greatest Show on Earth". Commuter streetcars and railroads encouraged weekend activities by running on Sundays and holidays.


More free time allowed for an increase in healthy exercise for the body which made for the development of sports. In the late 19th century, boxing attracted a male audience which helped to gain national fame to boxers such as John. L Sullivan. Baseball was invented during this time in urban cities as a game of teamwork from industrial workers, the first league was the New York Knickerbocker Baseball Club in 1845. As the game gained fame, owners organized teams into leagues which eventually became Major League Baseball (MLB). William Howard Taft started the tradition of the president throwing out the first pitch of the season in 1909. Jim Crow last restricted African Americans from playing on baseball teams until the time of Jackie Robinson.










History.com Staff. "Thomas Edison." History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 19 Jan. 2017.

"Thomas Edison – Changing Our World Forever." The Mark of a Leader. N.p., 27 Oct. 2016. Web. 19 Jan. 2017.



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