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U.S. Culture

American culture is rich, complex, and unique. It emerged from  the  short
and rapid European conquest of an enormous landmass  sparsely  settled  by
diverse  indigenous   peoples.   Although   European   cultural   patterns
predominated,  especially   in   language,   the   arts,   and   political
institutions,  peoples  from  Africa,  Asia,  and   North   America   also
contributed to American culture. All of these  groups  influenced  popular
tastes in music, dress, entertainment, and cuisine. As a result,  American
culture possesses an unusual mixture of patterns  and  forms  forged  from
among its diverse peoples. The many melodies of American culture have  not
always been harmonious, but its complexity  has  created  a  society  that
struggles to achieve tolerance and produces  a  uniquely  casual  personal
style that  identifies  Americans  everywhere.  The  country  is  strongly
committed to democracy, in  which  views  of  the  majority  prevail,  and
strives for equality in law and institutions.

Characteristics such as democracy and equality flourished in the  American
environment long before taking firm root in European societies, where  the
ideals originated. As  early  as  the  1780s,  Michel  Guillaume  Jean  de
Crvecoeur, a French writer living in Pennsylvania  who  wrote  under  the
pseudonym J. Hector St. John, was impressed by the  democratic  nature  of
early American society. It was not  until  the  19th  century  that  these
tendencies in America were most fully  expressed.  When  French  political
writer Alexis de Tocqueville, an acute social observer,  traveled  through
the United States in the  1830s,  he  provided  an  unusually  penetrating
portrait  of  the  nature  of  democracy  in  America  and  its   cultural
consequences. He commented that in all areas of culturefamily life,  law,
arts, philosophy, and  dressAmericans  were  inclined  to  emphasize  the
ordinary and easily accessible, rather than the unique  and  complex.  His
insight is as relevant today as it was when  de  Tocqueville  visited  the
United States. As a result, American culture is more often defined by  its
popular and democratically inclusive features, such as blockbuster movies,
television comedies, sports  stars,  and  fast  food,  than  by  its  more
cultivated aspects as performed in theaters, published in books, or viewed
in museums and galleries. Even the  fine  arts  in  modern  America  often
partake of the energy and forms of popular culture, and  modern  arts  are
often a product of the fusion of fine and popular arts.

While America is probably most well known for its popular arts,  Americans
partake in an enormous range of cultural activities.  Besides  being  avid
readers of a great variety of books and magazines  catering  to  differing
tastes and interests, Americans also attend museums, operas,  and  ballets
in large numbers. They listen to country and  classical  music,  jazz  and
folk music, as well as  classic  rock-and-roll  and  new  wave.  Americans
attend and participate  in  basketball,  football,  baseball,  and  soccer
games. They enjoy food from a wide range  of  foreign  cuisines,  such  as
Chinese, Thai, Greek, French, Indian,  Mexican,  Italian,  Ethiopian,  and
Cuban. They  have  also  developed  their  own  regional  foods,  such  as
California cuisine and Southwestern, Creole, and Southern  cooking.  Still
evolving and drawing upon  its  ever  more  diverse  population,  American
culture has come to symbolize what is most up-to-date and modern. American
culture has also become increasingly  international  and  is  imported  by
countries around the world.


                             Imported Traditions

Today American culture often sets the pace in modern style.  For  much  of
its early history, however, the United States  was  considered  culturally
provincial  and  its  arts  second-rate,  especially   in   painting   and
literature, where European artists  defined  quality  and  form.  American
artists often took their  cues  from  European  literary  salons  and  art
schools, and cultured Americans traveled to Europe to become educated.  In
the late 18th century, some American artists  produced  high-quality  art,
such as the paintings of John Singleton Copley and Gilbert Charles  Stuart
and the silver  work  of  Paul  Revere.  However,  wealthy  Americans  who
collected art in the 19th century still bought works by  European  masters
and acquired  European  decorative  artsporcelain,  silver,  and  antique
furniture. They then ventured further afield seeking more  exotic  decor,
especially items from China and Japan. By acquiring foreign works, wealthy
Americans were able to obtain the status inherent  in  a  long  historical
tradition, which the United States  lacked.  Americans  such  as  Isabella
Stewart  Gardner  and  Henry  Clay  Frick   amassed   extensive   personal
collections, which overwhelmingly emphasized non-American arts.

In literature, some 19th-century American writers believed that  only  the
refined manners and perceptions associated with the European upper classes
could produce truly great literary themes. These  writers,  notably  Henry
James and Edith Wharton, often set  their  novels  in  the  crosswinds  of
European and American cultural contact. Britain especially served  as  the
touchstone for culture and  quality  because  of  its  role  in  America's
history and the links of language and political  institutions.  Throughout
the 19th century, Americans read and imitated British poetry  and  novels,
such as those written by Sir Walter Scott and Charles Dickens.

                     The Emergence of an American Voice

American culture first developed a unique American voice during  the  19th
century. This  voice  included  a  cultural  identity  that  was  strongly
connected to nature and to a divine mission. The new  American  voice  had
liberating effects on how the culture was perceived, by Americans  and  by
others. Writers Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau proposed  that
the American character was deeply individualistic and connected to natural
and spiritual sources rather than to the conventions of social life.  Many
of the 19th centurys most notable figures of  American  literatureHerman
Melville, Emily Dickinson, and Mark Twainalso influenced this  tradition.
The poetry of Walt Whitman, perhaps  above  all,  spoke  in  a  distinctly
American voice about peoples  relation  to  one  another,  and  described
American freedom, diversity, and equality with fervor.

Landscape painting in the United States during the  19th  century  vividly
captured the unique American cultural identity with its  emphasis  on  the
natural environment. This was evident in the huge canvases set in the West
by Albert Bierstadt and the more intimate paintings of Thomas Cole.  These
paintings, which  were  part  of  the  Hudson  River  School,  were  often
enveloped in a radiant light suggesting a special connection to  spiritual
sources. But very little of this American culture moved beyond the  United
States to  influence  art  trends  elsewhere.  American  popular  culture,
including craft traditions such as quilting or local folk music forged  by
Appalachian farmers or former African slaves, remained largely local.

This sense of the special importance of nature for American  identity  led
Americans in the late 19th century to become increasingly  concerned  that
urban  life  and  industrial  products  were  overwhelming   the   natural
environment. Their concern led for calls to preserve areas  that  had  not
been developed. Naturalists such as John Muir were pivotal in establishing
the first national parks and preserving scenic areas of the American West.
By the early 20th century, many Americans supported the drive to  preserve
wilderness and  the  desire  to  make  the  great  outdoors  available  to

                          Immigration and Diversity

By the early 20th century, as the United States  became  an  international
power, its cultural self-identity became more complex. The  United  States
was becoming  more  diverse  as  immigrants  streamed  into  the  country,
settling especially in  Americas  growing  urban  areas.  At  this  time,
America's social diversity began to find  significant  expression  in  the
arts  and  culture.  American  writers  of  German,  Irish,  Jewish,   and
Scandinavian ancestry began to find an  audience,  although  some  of  the
cultural elite resisted the works, considering them crude and unrefined.

Many of these writers focused on 20th-century city life and  themes,  such
as poverty, efforts to assimilate into the United States, and family  life
in the new country. These ethnically  diverse  writers  included  Theodore
Dreiser, of German ancestry; Henry  Roth,  a  Jewish  writer;  and  Eugene
O'Neill and James Farrell, of Irish  background.  European  influence  now
meant something very different than it once had: Artists changed the  core
of American experience by incorporating their  various  immigrant  origins
into its cultural vision. During the 1920s and 1930s, a  host  of  African
American poets and novelists added  their  voices  to  this  new  American
vision. Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston,  and  Countee  Cullen,  among
others, gathered in New York Citys Harlem district. They began  to  write
about their unique experiences, creating  a  movement  called  the  Harlem

Visual artists of the early 20th century also began incorporating the many
new sights and colors of the multiethnic America visible in these new city
settings. Painters associated with a group known as The Eight (also called
the Ashcan school), such as Robert Henri and  John  Sloan,  portrayed  the
picturesque sights of the city. Later painters and  photographers  focused
on the citys squalid and seamier  aspects.  Although  nature  remained  a
significant  dimension  of  American  cultural  self-expression,  as   the
paintings of Georgia O'Keeffe demonstrated, it was no longer at the  heart
of American culture. By  the  1920s  and  1930s  few  artists  or  writers
considered nature the singular basis of American cultural identity.

In popular music too, the songs of many nations became American songs. Tin
Pan Alley (Union Square in New York City, the center of  music  publishing
at the turn of the 20th century) was full of immigrant talents who  helped
define American music, especially in the form  of  the  Broadway  musical.
Some songwriters, such as Irving Berlin and George M.  Cohan,  used  their
music to help define American  patriotic  songs  and  holiday  traditions.
During the 1920s musical forms  such  as  the  blues  and  jazz  began  to
dominate the rhythms of American popular  music.  These  forms  had  their
roots in Africa as adapted in the American South and then in  cities  such
as New Orleans, Louisiana; Kansas City, Missouri; Detroit,  Michigan;  and
Chicago, Illinois. Black artists and musicians such  as  Louis  Armstrong,
Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and Count Basie became the instruments of
a classic American sound. White composers  such  as  George  Gershwin  and
performers such as Bix Beiderbecke also  incorporated  jazz  rhythms  into
their music, while instrumentalists such as Benny Goodman  adopted  jazzs
improvisational style to forge a racially  blended  American  form  called
swing music.

                          Development of Mass Media

In the late 19th century, Americans who enjoyed the arts usually lived  in
big cities or had the money to attend live performances. People  who  were
poor or distant from cultural centers settled for second-rate  productions
mounted by local theater troupes or touring groups. New technologies, such
as the motion-picture camera and the phonograph, revolutionized  the  arts
by making them available to the masses. The movies, the  phonograph,  and,
somewhat later, the radio made entertainment available daily  and  allowed
Americans to experience elaborately  produced  dramas  and  all  types  of

While mass media made entertainment available  to  more  people,  it  also
began to homogenize tastes, styles, and points  of  view  among  different
groups in the United States. Class and  ethnic  distinctions  in  American
culture began to fade as mass media transmitted movies and music to people
throughout  the  United  States.  Some  people  criticized   the   growing
uniformity of mass culture for lowering the  general  standard  of  taste,
since mass media  sought  to  please  the  largest  number  of  people  by
appealing to simpler rather than more  complex  tastes.  However,  culture
became more democratic as modern technology and mass media allowed  it  to
reach more people.

During the 20th century, mass entertainment extended the reach of American
culture, reversing the direction of influence  as  Europe  and  the  world
became consumers of American popular culture. America became the  dominant
cultural source for entertainment and popular fashion, from the jeans  and
T-shirts young people wear to the music groups and rock stars they  listen
to and the movies they see.  People  all  over  the  world  view  American
television programs,  often  years  after  the  programs  popularity  has
declined in the United States. American  television  has  become  such  an
international fixture that  American  news  broadcasts  help  define  what
people in other countries know about current events and politics. American
entertainment is probably one of the strongest  means  by  which  American
culture influences the world, although some  countries,  such  as  France,
resist this influence because they see it as  a  threat  to  their  unique
national culture.

                          The Impact of Consumerism

Popular culture is linked to  the  growth  of  consumerism,  the  repeated
acquisition of an increasing variety of goods and services.  The  American
lifestyle is often associated with clothing, houses,  electronic  gadgets,
and  other  products,  as  well  as  with  leisure  time.  As  advertising
stimulates  the  desire  for  updated   or   improved   products,   people
increasingly equate  their  well-being  with  owning  certain  things  and
acquiring the latest model. Television and other mass  media  broadcast  a
portrayal of a privileged American lifestyle that many Americans  hope  to

Americans often seek self-fulfillment and status through gaining  material
items. Indeed, products  consumed  and  owned,  rather  than  professional
accomplishments or personal ideals, are often the standard of  success  in
American society. The media exemplify this success with the most glamorous
models  of  consumption:  Hollywood  actors,  sports  figures,  or   music
celebrities. This dependence  on  products  and  on  constant  consumption
defines modern consumer society everywhere. Americans have  set  the  pace
for this consumer ideal, especially young people,  who  have  helped  fuel
this consumer culture in the United States and the world.  Like  the  mass
media with which it is so closely linked, consumption has been extensively
criticized. Portrayed as a dizzy  cycle  of  induced  desire,  consumerism
seems to erode older values of personal taste and economy.  Despite  this,
the mass production of goods has also allowed more  people  to  live  more
comfortably and made it possible for anyone to attain a  sense  of  style,
blurring the most obvious forms of class distinction.

                                WAYS OF LIFE

                               Living Patterns

A fundamental element in the life of the American people was the  enormous
expanse of land available. During the colonial period, the access to  open
land helped scatter settlements. One effect was to make  it  difficult  to
enforce traditional European social conventions, such as primogeniture, in
which the eldest son inherited the parents  estate.  Because  the  United
States had so much land, sons became  less  dependent  on  inheriting  the
family estate. Religious institutions were also affected,  as  the  widely
spread settlements created space for newer religious sects and  revivalist

In the 19th century, Americans used their land to grow crops, which helped
create the dynamic agricultural economy  that  defined  American  society.
Many Americans were lured westward to obtain more land. Immigrants  sought
land to settle, cattle ranchers wanted land for their  herds,  Southerners
looked to expand their slave economy  into  Western  lands,  and  railroad
companies acquired huge tracts of land as they bound a loose society  into
a coherent economic union. Although Native Americans had inhabited most of
the continent, Europeans and American settlers often viewed it  as  empty,
virgin land that they were destined to occupy. Even before the  late  19th
century, when the last bloody  battles  between  U.S.  troops  and  Native
Americans completed the white conquest of the West, the idea of possessing
land was deeply  etched  into  American  cultural  patterns  and  national

Throughout the 19th century, agricultural settlements  existed  on  large,
separate plots of land, often occupying hundreds of acres.  The  Homestead
Act of 1862 promised up to 65 hectares (160 acres) of free land to  anyone
with enough fortitude and vision to live on or cultivate the  land.  As  a
result, many settlements in the West  contained  vast  areas  of  sparsely
settled land, where neighbors lived great distances from one another.  The
desire for residential privacy  has  remained  a  significant  feature  of
American culture.

This heritage continues to define patterns of life in the  United  States.
More than any other Western society, Americans are committed to living  in
private dwellings set apart from neighbors. Despite the rapid urbanization
that began in the late 19th century, Americans insisted that each  nuclear
family (parents and their children) be privately housed and that  as  many
families as possible own their own homes. This  strong  cultural  standard
sometimes seemed unusual to new immigrants  who  were  used  to  the  more
crowded living conditions of Europe, but they quickly adopted this  aspect
of American culture.

As cities became more densely populated, Americans moved to  the  suburbs.
Streetcars, first used during the 1830s, opened suburban rings around city
centers, where congestion was greatest. Banks offered long-term loans that
allowed individuals to invest in a home. Above all, the automobile in  the
1920s was instrumental in furthering the move to the suburbs.

After World War II (1939-1945), developers  carved  out  rural  tracts  to
build millions of single-family homes, and more Americans than ever before
moved to large suburban areas that were zoned to  prevent  commercial  and
industrial activities. The federal government directly fueled this process
by  providing  loans  to  war  veterans  as  part  of   the   Servicemens
Readjustment Act of 1944, known as the GI Bill of Rights, which provided a
wide range of benefits to U.S. military personnel.  In  many  of  the  new
housing developments, builders constructed homes  according  to  a  single
model,  a  process  first  established  in  Levittown,  New  York.   These
identical, partially prefabricated units were  rapidly  assembled,  making
suburban  life  and  private  land  ownership  available  to  millions  of
returning soldiers in search of housing for their families.

American families still choose to live in either suburbs or the  sprawling
suburban cities that have grown up in newer regions of the  country.  Vast
areas of the  West,  such  as  the  Los  Angeles  metropolitan  region  in
California, the area around Phoenix, Arizona, and the Puget Sound area  of
Washington state, became rapidly populated with new housing because of the
American desire to own a home on a private plot of land. In much  of  this
suburban sprawl, the central city has  become  largely  indistinct.  These
suburban  areas  almost  invariably  reflect  Americans   dependence   on
automobiles and on government-supported highway systems.

As a result of Americans choosing to live in  the  suburbs,  a  distinctly
American phenomenon developed in  the  form  of  the  shopping  mall.  The
shopping mall has increasingly replaced the old-fashioned urban  downtown,
where local shops, restaurants, and  cultural  attractions  were  located.
Modern malls emphasize consumption as an exclusive activity. The  shopping
mall,  filled  with  department   stores,   specialty   shops,   fast-food
franchises, and movie multiplexes, has come to dominate retailing,  making
suburban areas across America more and more  alike.  In  malls,  Americans
purchase food, clothing, and  entertainment  in  an  isolated  environment
surrounded by parking lots.

The American preference for living in the suburbs has also affected  other
living experiences. Because suburbs emphasize family life, suburban  areas
also  place  a  greater  emphasis  on  school  and  other  family-oriented
political issues than more demographically diverse cities. At  their  most
intense levels, desire for privacy and fear  of  crime  have  led  to  the
development of gated suburban communities that keep out those who are  not

Despite the growth of  suburbs,  American  cities  have  maintained  their
status as cultural centers  for  theaters,  museums,  concert  halls,  art
galleries, and more upscale restaurants, shops,  and  bookstores.  In  the
past  several  decades,  city  populations  grew  as  young   and   trendy
professionals  with  few  or  no  children   sought   out   the   cultural
possibilities and the diversity not available in the suburbs. Housing  can
be expensive and difficult to find in  older  cities  such  as  New  York;
Boston, Massachusetts; and San Francisco, California. To cope,  many  city
dwellers restored older apartment  buildings  and  houses.  This  process,
called  gentrification,  combines  the  American  desire  for  the  latest
technology with a newer appreciation for the classic and vintage.

Many poorer Americans cannot afford homes in the suburbs or apartments  in
the gentrified areas of cities.  They  often  rely  upon  federal  housing
subsidies to pay for apartments in less-desirable areas of the city or  in
public housing projects. Poorer people  often  live  crowded  together  in
large apartment complexes in congested inner-city  areas.  Federal  public
housing began when President Franklin  Roosevelt  sought  to  relieve  the
worst conditions associated with poverty  in  the  1930s.  It  accelerated
during the 1950s and 1960s, as the government subsidized  the  renewal  of
urban areas by replacing slums with either new or refurbished housing.  In
the late 20th century, many people criticized public  housing  because  it
was often the site for crime, drug deals, gangs, and  other  social  ills.
Nevertheless, given the expensive nature  of  rental  housing  in  cities,
public housing is often the only option  available  to  those  who  cannot
afford to buy their  own  home.  Private  efforts,  such  as  Habitat  for
Humanity, have been organized to help the urban poor  move  from  crowded,
high-rise apartments. These organizations help construct low-cost homes in
places such as the South Bronx in New York City, and  they  emphasize  the
pride and autonomy of home ownership.

In recent years, the importance of home ownership has increased as  higher
real estate prices have made the house a valuable investment.  The  newest
home construction has  made  standard  the  comforts  of  large  kitchens,
luxurious bathrooms, and small gardens. In line with the  rising  cost  of
land, these houses often stand on smaller lots than those  constructed  in
the period following World War II, when one-story ranch houses  and  large
lawns were the predominant style. At the same time,  many  suburban  areas
have added other kinds of housing in  response  to  the  needs  of  single
people  and  people  without  children.  As  a  result,   apartments   and
townhousesavailable as rentals and as condominiumshave  become  familiar
parts  of  suburban  life.  For  more  information  on  urbanization   and

                              Food and Cuisine

The United States has rich and productive land that has provided Americans
with plentiful resources for a healthy diet. Despite this,  Americans  did
not begin to pay close attention to the variety and quality  of  the  food
they ate until the 20th century, when they became concerned  about  eating
too much and becoming overweight. American food  also  grew  more  similar
around the country as American  malls  and  fast-food  outlets  tended  to
standardize eating patterns throughout the nation, especially among  young
people. Nevertheless, American food has become more complex  as  it  draws
from the diverse cuisines that immigrants have brought with them.

Historically, the rest of the world has envied the  good,  wholesome  food
available in the United States. In the 18th and  19th  centuries,  fertile
soil and widespread land ownership  made  grains,  meats,  and  vegetables
widely available, and famine that was common elsewhere was unknown in  the
United States. Some immigrants, such as the Irish,  moved  to  the  United
States to escape famine, while others saw the bounty of food as one of the
advantages of immigration.  By  the  late  19th  century,  Americas  food
surplus was beginning to feed the world. After World War I (1914-1918) and
World War II, the  United  States  distributed  food  in  Europe  to  help
countries severely damaged by  the  wars.  Throughout  the  20th  century,
American food exports have helped compensate for  inadequate  harvests  in
other parts of the world. Although hunger does exist in the United States,
it results more from food being poorly distributed rather than  from  food
being unavailable.

Traditional American cuisine has included conventional European foodstuffs
such as wheat, dairy products,  pork,  beef,  and  poultry.  It  has  also
incorporated products that were either known only in the New World or that
were grown there first and then introduced to Europe. Such  foods  include
potatoes, corn, codfish,  molasses,  pumpkin  and  other  squashes,  sweet
potatoes, and peanuts. American cuisine also varies  by  region.  Southern
cooking was often different from cooking in  New  England  and  its  upper
Midwest offshoots. Doughnuts, for example,  were  a  New  England  staple,
while Southerners preferred corn bread. The  availability  of  foods  also
affected regional diets, such as the different kinds of fish eaten in  New
England and  the  Gulf  Coast.  For  instance,  Boston  clam  chowder  and
Louisiana  gumbo  are  widely  different  versions  of  fish  soup.  Other
variations often depended on the contributions of indigenous  peoples.  In
the Southwest, for example, Mexican and Native Americans made hot  peppers
a staple and helped define the spicy hot barbecues and chili dishes of the
area. In Louisiana, Cajun influence similarly created spicy  dishes  as  a
local variation of Southern cuisine, and  African  slaves  throughout  the
South introduced foods such as okra and yams

By the late 19th century, immigrants from Europe and Asia were introducing
even more variations into the American diet.  American  cuisine  began  to
reflect these foreign cuisines, not only in their original  forms  but  in
Americanized versions as well. Immigrants from Japan and Italy  introduced
a range of fresh vegetables that added  important  nutrients  as  well  as
variety  to  the  protein-heavy  American  diet.  Germans   and   Italians
contributed new skills and refinements  to  the  production  of  alcoholic
beverages, especially beer and wine, which supplemented the more customary
hard  cider  and  indigenous  corn-mash  whiskeys.  Some  imports   became
distinctly American products, such as hot dogs, which are  descended  from
German wurst, or sausage. Spaghetti and pizza from Italy, especially, grew
increasingly  more  American  and  developed  many   regional   spin-offs.
Americans even adapted chow mein from China into a simple  American  dish.
Not until the late 20th century did Americans rediscover  these  cuisines,
and many others, paying far more attention to  their  original  forms  and
cooking styles.

Until the early 20th century, the federal government did not regulate food
for consumers, and food was sometimes dangerous  and  impure.  During  the
Progressive period in the  early  20th  century,  the  federal  government
intervened  to  protect  consumers  against  the  worst  kinds   of   food
adulterations and diseases by passing legislation such as  the  Pure  Food
and Drug Acts. As a result, American food became safer. By the early  20th
century, Americans began to consume convenient,  packaged  foods  such  as
breads and  cookies,  preserved  fruits,  and  pickles.  By  the  mid-20th
century, packaged products had expanded greatly to include  canned  soups,
noodles, processed breakfast cereals, preserved meats, frozen  vegetables,
instant puddings, and gelatins. These  prepackaged  foods  became  staples
used in recipes  contained  in  popular  cookbooks,  while  peanut  butter
sandwiches and packaged cupcakes  became  standard  lunchbox  fare.  As  a
result, the American diet became noteworthy for its blandness rather  than
its flavors, and for its wholesomeness rather than its subtlety.

Americans  were  proud  of  their  technology  in  food   production   and
processing. They used fertilizers,  hybridization  (genetically  combining
two varieties),  and  other  technologies  to  increase  crop  yields  and
consumer selection, making foods cheaper if  not  always  better  tasting.
Additionally, by  the  1950s,  the  refrigerator  had  replaced  the  old-
fashioned  icebox  and  the  cold  cellar  as  a  place  to  store   food.
Refrigeration, because it allowed food to last longer, made  the  American
kitchen a convenient place to  maintain  readily  available  food  stocks.
However, plentiful wholesome food, when combined with the sedentary  20th-
century  lifestyle  and  work   habits,   brought   its   own   unpleasant
consequencesovereating and excess weight. During the 1970s, 25 percent of
Americans were overweight; by the 1990s that had increased to 35 percent.

Americas foods began to affect the rest of the worldnot only raw staples
such as wheat and corn, but a new American cuisine that spread  throughout
the world. American emphasis on convenience and rapid consumption is  best
represented in fast foods such  as  hamburgers,  french  fries,  and  soft
drinks, which almost all Americans have eaten. By the 1960s and 1970s fast
foods  became  one  of  America's  strongest  exports  as  franchises  for
McDonalds and Burger King spread through Europe and other  parts  of  the
world, including the former Soviet Union and Communist China.  Traditional
meals cooked at home and consumed at a leisurely pacecommon in  the  rest
of the world, and once common in  the  United  Statesgave  way  to  quick
lunches and dinners eaten on the run as other countries mimicked  American
cultural patterns.

By the late 20th century, Americans had become  more  conscious  of  their
diets, eating more poultry, fish, and  fresh  fruits  and  vegetables  and
fewer eggs and less beef. They also began appreciating  fresh  ingredients
and livelier flavors, and cooks began to rediscover many world cuisines in
forms closer to their original. In California, chefs  combined  the  fresh
fruits and vegetables available year-round  with  ingredients  and  spices
sometimes borrowed from immigrant kitchens to create an innovative cooking
style that was lighter than traditional French, but more  interesting  and
varied than typical  American  cuisine.  Along  with  the  states  wines,
California cuisine eventually took its place among the acknowledged  forms
of fine dining.

As Americans became more concerned about their  diets,  they  also  became
more  ecologically  conscious.  This  consciousness  often   included   an
antitechnology aspect that led some Americans to switch to a partially  or
wholly vegetarian diet, or  to  emphasize  products  produced  organically
(without chemical fertilizers and pesticides). Many considered these foods
more wholesome and socially responsible because their production was  less
taxing to the environment. In the  latter  20th  century,  Americans  also
worried about the effects of newly introduced  genetically  altered  foods
and irradiation processes for killing bacteria. They feared that these new
processes made their food less natural and therefore harmful.

These concerns and the emphasis on variety were  by  no  means  universal,
since food habits in the  late  20th  century  often  reflected  societys
ethnic and class differences. Not  all  Americans  appreciated  California
cuisine or  vegetarian  food,  and  many  recent  immigrants,  like  their
immigrant predecessors, often continued eating the foods they knew best.

At the end of the 20th century, American eating habits and food production
were increasingly taking place outside the home.  Many  people  relied  on
restaurants and on new types of fully prepared meals to help busy families
in which both adults  worked  full-time.  Another  sign  of  the  publics
changing food habits was the microwave oven, probably the most widely used
new kitchen appliance, since it can quickly cook foods and reheat prepared
foods and leftovers. Since Americans are generally cooking less  of  their
own food, they are more aware than  at  any  time  since  the  early  20th
century of the quality  and  health  standards  applied  to  food.  Recent
attention to cases in which  children  have  died  from  contaminated  and
poorly prepared food has once again directed the publics attention to the
government's role in monitoring food safety.

In some ways, American food developments are contradictory. Americans  are
more aware of food quality despite, and maybe because of, their increasing
dependence on convenience. They eat a more varied  diet,  drawing  on  the
cuisines of immigrant groups  (Thai,  Vietnamese,  Greek,  Indian,  Cuban,
Mexican, and Ethiopian), but they also regularly eat fast foods  found  in
every shopping mall and along every highway. They are more  suspicious  of
technology, although they rely heavily on it for  their  daily  meals.  In
many ways, these contradictions reflect the many  influences  on  American
life in  the  late  20th  centuryimmigration,  double-income  households,
genetic technologies, domestic and foreign traveland food has  become  an
even deeper expression of the complex culture of which it is part.


In many  regions  of  the  world,  people  wear  traditional  costumes  at
festivals or holidays, and sometimes more regularly.  Americans,  however,
do not have distinctive folk attire with a long tradition. Except for  the
varied and characteristic clothing of Native American  peoples,  dress  in
the United States has rarely been specific to a certain region or based on
the careful preservation of decorative patterns and crafts. American dress
is derived from the fabrics  and  fashions  of  the  Europeans  who  began
colonizing the country in the 17th century.  Early  settlers  incorporated
some of the forms worn  by  indigenous  peoples,  such  as  moccasins  and
garments made from animal skins (Benjamin Franklin is famous for flaunting
a raccoon cap when he traveled to Europe), but in general, fashion in  the
United States adapted and modified European styles. Despite the number and
variety of immigrants in the United States, American clothing  has  tended
to be homogeneous, and attire  from  an  immigrants  homeland  was  often
rapidly exchanged for American apparel.

American dress is distinctive because of its casualness. American style in
the 20th century is recognizably more informal than in Europe, and for its
fashion sources it is more dependent on what people  on  the  streets  are
wearing. European fashions take their cues from the  top  of  the  fashion
hierarchy, dictated by  the  world-famous  haute  couture  (high  fashion)
houses of Paris, France, and recently those of Milan, Italy,  and  London,
England. Paris designers, both today and in the past,  have  also  dressed
wealthy and fashionable Americans,  who  copied  French  styles.  Although
European designs  remain  a  significant  influence  on  American  tastes,
American fashions more often come from popular sources, such as the school
and the street, as well as television and movies. In the last  quarter  of
the 20th century,  American  designers  often  found  inspiration  in  the
imaginative attire worn by young people in cities and ballparks, and  that
worn by workers in factories and fields.

Blue jeans are probably the single most representative article of American
clothing. They  were  originally  invented  by  tailor  Jacob  Davis,  who
together with dry-goods salesman Levi Strauss patented the idea in 1873 as
durable clothing for miners. Blue jeans (also known as  dungarees)  spread
among workers of all kinds in the late  19th  and  early  20th  centuries,
especially among cowboys, farmers, loggers, and railroad  workers.  During
the 1950s, actors Marlon Brando and James Dean made blue jeans fashionable
by wearing them in movies, and jeans became part of the image  of  teenage
rebelliousness. This fashion statement exploded in the 1960s and 1970s  as
Levi's became a fundamental part of the youth  culture  focused  on  civil
rights and antiwar protests. By the late 1970s,  almost  everyone  in  the
United States wore blue jeans, and youths around the world sought them. As
designers began to create more sophisticated styles of blue jeans  and  to
adjust their  fit,  jeans  began  to  express  the  American  emphasis  on
informality and the importance of subtlety of detail. By highlighting  the
right label and achieving the right look, blue jeans, despite their worker
origins, ironically embodied the status consciousness of American  fashion
and the eagerness to approximate the latest fad.

American informality in dress is such a strong part  of  American  culture
that many workplaces have adopted the idea of casual Friday, a day  when
workers are encouraged to dress down from their usual professional attire.
For many high-tech industries located along the West  Coast,  as  well  as
among faculty at colleges and universities, this emphasis on casual attire
is a daily occurrence, not just reserved for Fridays.

The fashion industry in  the  United  States,  along  with  its  companion
cosmetics industry, grew enormously in the second half of the 20th century
and became a major source of competition for  French  fashion.  Especially
notable during the late 20th century was the incorporation of sports logos
and styles, from athletic shoes to tennis shirts and baseball  caps,  into
standard American wardrobes. American  informality  is  enshrined  in  the
wardrobes created by world-famous U.S. designers such as Calvin Klein, Liz
Claiborne, and Ralph Lauren. Lauren especially adopted the American  look,
based in part on the tradition of the old West (cowboy  hats,  boots,  and
jeans) and in part on the clean-cut sportiness of suburban style (blazers,
loafers, and khakis).

                            Sports and Recreation

Large numbers of Americans watch and  participate  in  sports  activities,
which are a deeply ingrained part of American life. Americans  use  sports
to express interest in health and fitness  and  to  occupy  their  leisure
time. Sports also allow  Americans  to  connect  and  identify  with  mass
culture. Americans pour billions of dollars into sports and their  related
enterprises, affecting  the  economy,  family  habits,  school  life,  and
clothing  styles.  Americans  of  all  classes,  races,  sexes,  and  ages
participate in sports activitiesfrom toddlers in infant  swimming  groups
and teenagers participating in  school  athletics  to  middle-aged  adults
bowling or golfing and older persons practicing tai chi.

Public subsidies and private sponsorships support the immense  network  of
outdoor and indoor sports, recreation, and athletic  competitions.  Except
for  those  sponsored  by  public  schools,  most  sports  activities  are
privately funded, and even American Olympic  athletes  receive  no  direct
national sponsorship. Little  League  baseball  teams,  for  example,  are
usually  sponsored  by  local  businesses.   Many   commercial   football,
basketball, baseball, and hockey teams reflect large private  investments.
Although sports teams are privately owned, they play in stadiums that  are
usually financed by taxpayer-provided subsidies  such  as  bond  measures.
State taxes provide some  money  for  state  university  sporting  events.
Taxpayer dollars also support state parks, the National Park Service,  and
the Forest Service, which provide places for Americans to  enjoy  camping,
fishing, hiking, and rafting. Public money also  funds  the  Coast  Guard,
whose crews protect those enjoying boating around the nation's shores.

Sports in North America go back to the Native Americans, who played  forms
of lacrosse and field hockey. During colonial times, early Dutch  settlers
bowled on New York City's Bowling Green, still a small  park  in  southern
Manhattan. However, organized sports competitions and local  participatory
sports on a substantial scale go back  only  to  the  late  19th  century.
Schools and colleges began to encourage athletics as part  of  a  balanced
program emphasizing physical as well as mental vigor, and  churches  began
to loosen strictures against  leisure  and  physical  pleasures.  As  work
became more mechanized, more clerical, and less physical during  the  late
19th century, Americans became concerned  with  diet  and  exercise.  With
sedentary urban activities replacing rural life, Americans used sports and
outdoor relaxation to balance lives that had become hurried and  confined.
Biking, tennis, and golf became popular for those who could  afford  them,
while sandlot baseball and an early version of basketball  became  popular
city activities. At the same time, organizations such as  the  Boy  Scouts
and the Young Mens Christian Association (YMCA) began to  sponsor  sports
as part of their efforts to counteract unruly behavior among young people.

Baseball teams developed in Eastern cities during the 1850s and spread  to
the rest of the nation during the Civil War in the 1860s. Baseball quickly
became the national pastime and began to produce sports heroes such as  Cy
Young, Ty Cobb, and Babe Ruth in the first half of the 20th century.  With
its city-based loyalties and all-American aura, baseball appealed to  many
immigrants, who as players and fans used the game as a  way  to  fit  into
American culture.

Starting in the latter part of the 19th century, football  was  played  on
college campuses, and intercollegiate games quickly followed. By the early
20th century, football had become a feature of  college  life  across  the
nation. In the 1920s football pep rallies were commonly  held  on  college
campuses, and football players were among the most admired campus leaders.
That enthusiasm has now spilled way beyond college to Americans throughout
the country. Spectators also watch the professional football teams of  the
National Football League (NFL) with enthusiasm.

Basketball is another sport that is very popular as both a  spectator  and
participant sport. The National  Collegiate  Athletic  Association  (NCAA)
hosts championships for mens and womens collegiate teams. Held  annually
in March, the mens NCAA national championship is one of the most  popular
sporting  events  in  the  United  States.  The  top  mens   professional
basketball  league  in  the  United  States  is  the  National  Basketball
Association; the top womens is Womens National  Basketball  Association.
In  addition,  many  people  play  basketball  in  amateur   leagues   and
organizations. It is also common to see people playing basketball in parks
and local gymnasiums around the country.

Another major sport played in the United States is ice hockey. Ice  hockey
began as an amateur sport played primarily in  the  Northeast.  The  first
U.S. professional ice hockey team was  founded  in  Boston  in  1924.  Ice
hockeys popularity has spread throughout the country since the 1960s. The
NCAA holds a national collegiate ice hockey championship in April of  each
year. The countrys top professional league is the National Hockey  League
(NHL).  NHL  teams  play  a  regular  schedule  that  culminates  in   the
championship series. The winner is awarded the Stanley Cup,  the  leagues
top prize.

Television transformed sports in the second half of the 20th  century.  As
more Americans watched sports on television, the sports industry grew into
an enormous  business,  and  sports  events  became  widely  viewed  among
Americans as cultural experiences. Many Americans shared televised moments
of exaltation and triumph throughout the year: baseball during the  spring
and summer and its World Series in the early fall, football throughout the
fall crowned by the Super Bowl in January,  and  the  National  Basketball
Association (NBA) championships in the spring. The Olympic Games,  watched
by millions of  people  worldwide,  similarly  rivet  Americans  to  their
televisions as they watch outstanding athletes compete on behalf of  their
nations. Commercial sports are part of practically every home  in  America
and have  allowed  sports  heroes  to  gain  prominence  in  the  national
imagination and to become fixtures of the consumer culture. As  well-known
faces and bodies, sports celebrities such  as  basketball  player  Michael
Jordan and baseball player Mark McGwire are hired to endorse products.

Although televised games remove the viewing  public  from  direct  contact
with  events,  they  have  neither   diminished   the   fervor   of   team
identification nor dampened the  enthusiasm  for  athletic  participation.
Americans watch more sports on television than ever, and  they  personally
participate  in  more  varied  sporting  activities  and  athletic  clubs.
Millions of young girls and boys across the country play soccer, baseball,
tennis, and field hockey.

At the end of the 20th century, Americans were taking part  in  individual
sports of all kindsjogging, bicycling, swimming, skiing,  rock  climbing,
playing tennis, as well as more unusual sports  such  as  bungee  jumping,
hang gliding, and wind surfing. As Americans enjoy more leisure time,  and
as Hollywood and advertising emphasize trim, well-developed bodies, sports
have become a significant component of many people's lives. Many Americans
now invest significant amounts of money in sports equipment, clothing, and
gym memberships. As a result, more people are dressing in sporty styles of
clothing. Sports logos and athletic fashions have become common aspects of
peoples wardrobes, as people need to look as though they  participate  in
sports to be in style. Sports have  even  influenced  the  cars  Americans
drive, as sport utility vehicles accommodate the rugged terrain, elaborate
equipment, and sporty lifestyles of their owners.

Probably the most significant long-term development in 20th-century sports
has been the increased participation of minorities and  women.  Throughout
the early 20th century, African Americans made  outstanding  contributions
to  sports,  despite  being  excluded  from  organized  white  teams.  The
exclusion of black players from white baseball led to the  creation  of  a
separate Negro National League in 1920. On  the  world  stage,  track-and-
field star Jessie Owens became a national  hero  when  he  won  four  gold
medals and set world and Olympic records at the Berlin Olympics  in  1936.
The racial segregation  that  prevented  African  Americans  from  playing
baseball in the National League  until  1947  has  been  replaced  by  the
enormous successes of African Americans in all fields of sport.

Before the 20th century women could not play  in  most  organized  sports.
Soon, however, they began to enter the sports arena. Helen Wills Moody,  a
tennis champion during the 1920s, and Babe Didrikson Zaharias, one of  the
20th centurys greatest women athletes, were examples  of  physical  grace
and agility. In 1972 Title IX of the  Education  Amendments  Act  outlawed
discrimination based on gender  in  education,  including  school  sports.
Schools then spent additional funding on women's athletics, which provided
an enormous boost to womens sports of all kinds,  especially  basketball,
which became  very  popular.  Women's  college  basketball,  part  of  the
National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), is  a  popular  focus  of
interest. By the end of the 20th  century,  this  enthusiasm  led  to  the
creation of a major professional womens  basketball  league.  Women  have
become a large part of athletics, making their mark in  a  wide  range  of

Sports have become one  of  the  most  visible  expressions  of  the  vast
extension of democracy in 20th-century  America.  They  have  become  more
inclusive, with many Americans both personally participating and  enjoying
sports as spectators. Once  readily  available  only  to  the  well-to-do,
sports and recreation attract many people, aided by the  mass  media,  the
schools and colleges, the federal and state highway and park systems,  and
increased leisure time.

                          Celebrations and Holidays

Americans celebrate an enormous variety of festivals and holidays  because
they come from around the globe and practice  many  religions.  They  also
celebrate  holidays  specific  to  the  United  States  that   commemorate
historical events or encourage  a  common  national  memory.  Holidays  in
America are often family or community events. Many Americans  travel  long
distances for family gatherings or  take  vacations  during  holidays.  In
fact, by the end of the 20th century, many national holidays in the United
States had become three-day weekends,  which  many  people  used  as  mini
vacations.  Except  for  the  Fourth  of  July  and  Veterans  Day,   most
commemorative  federal  holidays,  including  Memorial  Day,  Labor   Day,
Columbus Day, and Presidents Day,  are  celebrated  on  Mondays  so  that
Americans can enjoy a long weekend. Because many Americans tend to  create
vacations out of these holiday weekends rather than celebrate a particular
event, some people believe the original  significance  of  many  of  these
occasions has been eroded.

Because the United States is a secular society founded on  the  separation
of church and  state,  many  of  the  most  meaningful  religiously  based
festivals and rituals, such as Easter, Rosh Hashanah, and Ramadan, are not
enshrined as national events, with one major exception. Christmas, and the
holiday season surrounding it, is an  enormous  commercial  enterprise,  a
fixture of the American  social  calendar,  and  deeply  embedded  in  the
popular imagination. Not until the  19th  century  did  Christmas  in  the
United States begin to take on aspects of the modern holiday  celebration,
such as exchanging  gifts,  cooking  and  eating  traditional  foods,  and
putting up often-elaborate Christmas decorations. The holiday has grown in
popularity and significance ever since. Santa  Claus;  brightly  decorated
Christmas trees; and plenty of wreathes, holly, and  ribbons  help  define
the season for most children. Indeed, because some religious faiths do not
celebrate Christmas, the Christmas season has expanded in recent years  to
become the holiday season, embracing Hanukkah, the  Jewish  Festival  of
Lights,  and  Kwanzaa,  a  celebration  of  African  heritage.  Thus,  the
Christmas season has become the closest thing to a true national  festival
in the United States.

The expansion of  Christmas  has  even  begun  to  encroach  on  the  most
indigenous of American festivals, Thanksgiving.  Celebrated  on  the  last
Thursday in November, Thanksgiving has largely shed its original religious
meaning (as a feast of giving thanks to God) to become  a  celebration  of
the bounty of food and the warmth of  family  life  in  America.  American
children usually commemorate the holidays origins at school,  where  they
re-create the original event: Pilgrims sharing a harvest feast with Native
Americans. Both the historical and the religious origins of the event have
largely given way to a secular celebration  centered  on  the  traditional
Thanksgiving meal: turkeyan indigenous American birdaccompanied by foods
common in early New England settlements, such as pumpkins,  squashes,  and
cranberries.  Since  many  Americans   enjoy   a   four-day   holiday   at
Thanksgiving, the occasion encourages family  reunions  and  travel.  Some
Americans also contribute time and food to  the  needy  and  the  homeless
during the Thanksgiving holiday.

Another holiday that has lost its older, religious meaning in  the  United
States is Halloween, the eve of All Saints Day. Halloween  has  become  a
celebration of witches, ghosts, goblins,  and  candy  that  is  especially
attractive to children. On this day and night, October 31, many homes  are
decorated and lit by jack-o'-lanterns, pumpkins that  have  been  hollowed
out and carved. Children dress up and go trick-or-treating,  during  which
they receive treats from neighbors. An array of orange-colored candies has
evolved from this event, and most trick-or-treat bags  usually  brim  with
chocolate bars and other confections.

The Fourth of July, or Independence Day, is the premier American  national
celebration because it commemorates the day the United  States  proclaimed
its freedom from Britain with the Declaration of Independence. Very  early
in its development, the holiday was an occasion for fanfare, parades,  and
speeches celebrating American freedom and the uniqueness of American life.
Since at  least  the  19th  century,  Americans  have  commemorated  their
independence with fireworks and patriotic music. Because the holiday marks
the founding of the republic in 1776, flying the flag of the United States
(sometimes  with  the  original  13  stars)  is  common,  as  are  festive
barbecues, picnics, fireworks, and summer outings.

Most other national holidays have become less significant  over  time  and
receded in importance as ways in which  Americans  define  themselves  and
their history. For  example,  Columbus  Day  was  formerly  celebrated  on
October 12, the day explorer Christopher Columbus first landed in the West
Indies, but it is now celebrated on the second Monday of October to  allow
for a three-day weekend. The holiday originally served  as  a  traditional
reminder of the "discovery" of America in 1492, but  as  Americans  became
more sensitive to their multicultural population, celebrating the conquest
of Native Americans became more controversial.

Holidays honoring wars have also lost much of their original significance.
Memorial Day, first called Decoration Day and celebrated on  May  30,  was
established to honor those who died during the American Civil  War  (1861-
1865), then subsequently those who died in all American  wars.  Similarly,
Veterans Day was first named Armistice Day and marked the end of World War
I (1914-1918). During the 1950s the name of the holiday was changed in the
United States,  and  its  significance  expanded  to  honor  armed  forces
personnel who served in any American war.

The memory of America's  first  president,  George  Washington,  was  once
celebrated on his birthday, February 22nd. The date  was  changed  to  the
third Monday in February to create a three-day  weekend,  as  well  as  to
incorporate the birthday of another president, Abraham  Lincoln,  who  was
born on February 12th. The holiday is now popularly called Presidents Day
and is less likely to  be  remembered  as  honoring  the  first  and  16th
American presidents than as a school  and  work  holiday.  Americans  also
memorialize Martin Luther King, Jr.,  the  great  African  American  civil
rights leader who was assassinated in 1968. Kings birthday is  celebrated
as a national holiday in mid-January. The celebration of  King's  birthday
has become a  sign  of  greater  inclusiveness  in  20th-century  American


                              Role of Education

The United States has one of the most extensive  and  diverse  educational
systems in the world.  Educational  institutions  exist  at  all  learning
levels, from nursery schools for the very young to  higher  education  for
older youths and adults of all ages. Education in  the  United  States  is
notable for the many goals it aspires to  accomplishpromoting  democracy,
assimilation,  nationalism,  equality   of   opportunity,   and   personal
development. Because  Americans  have  historically  insisted  that  their
schools work toward these sometimes conflicting goals, education has often
been the focus of social conflict.

While schools are expected to achieve many social objectives, education in
America is neither centrally administered nor supported  directly  by  the
federal government, unlike education in other industrialized countries. In
the United States, each state  is  responsible  for  providing  schooling,
which is funded through local taxes and governed by local  school  boards.
In addition to these government-funded public schools, the  United  States
has many schools that are privately financed and maintained. More than  10
percent of all elementary and secondary  students  in  the  United  States
attend private schools. Religious groups, especially  the  Roman  Catholic
Church, run many of these. Many of America's  most  renowned  universities
and colleges are also privately endowed and run.  As  a  result,  although
American education is expected to provide equality of opportunity,  it  is
not easily directed toward these goals. This complex enterprise, once  one
of  the  proudest  achievements  of  American  democracy  because  of  its
diversity and inclusiveness, became the  subject  of  intense  debate  and
criticism during the second half of the 20th century. People  debated  the
goals of schools as well as whether schools were educating  students  well

                       History of Education in America

Until the 1830s, most American children attended school  irregularly,  and
most schools were either run privately or  by  charities.  This  irregular
system was replaced in the Northeast  and  Midwest  by  publicly  financed
elementary schools, known  as  common  schools.  Common  schools  provided
rudimentary instruction in literacy and trained students  in  citizenship.
This democratic ideal expanded after the Civil War to  all  parts  of  the
nation. By the  1880s  and  1890s,  schools  began  to  expand  attendance
requirements so that more children  and  older  children  attended  school
regularly. These more rigorous requirements were intended to  ensure  that
all  students,  including  those  whose  families  had   immigrated   from
elsewhere, were integrated into society. In addition, the schools tried to
equip children with the more complex skills required in an  industrialized
urban society.

Education became  increasingly  important  during  the  20th  century,  as
Americas sophisticated industrial society demanded a  more  literate  and
skilled workforce. In addition, school  degrees  provided  a  sought-after
means to obtain better-paying and higher-status jobs. Schools were the one
American institution that could  provide  the  literate  skills  and  work
habits  necessary  for  Americans  of  all  backgrounds  to   compete   in
industries. As a result, education expanded rapidly. In the first  decades
of the  20th  century,  mandatory  education  laws  required  children  to
complete grade school. By  the  end  of  the  20th  century,  many  states
required children to attend school until they were at least 16.  In  1960,
45 percent of high school graduates enrolled  in  college;  by  1996  that
enrollment rate had risen to 65 percent.  By the  late  20th  century,  an
advanced education was necessary for success in the  globally  competitive
and technologically advanced modern economy. According to the U.S.  Census
Bureau, workers with a bachelors degree in  1997  earned  an  average  of
$40,000 annually, while those with  a  high  school  degree  earned  about
$23,000. Those who did not complete high school earned about $16,000.

In the United States, higher education is widely available and  obtainable
through thousands of private, religious, and state-run institutions, which
offer advanced professional, scientific, and other training programs  that
enable students to become proficient in diverse subjects. Colleges vary in
cost and level of prestige. Many of the oldest and most famous colleges on
the East Coast are expensive and set extremely high admissions  standards.
Large state universities are less difficult to enter, and their  fees  are
substantially  lower.  Other   types   of   institutions   include   state
universities that provide engineering, teaching, and agriculture  degrees;
private universities  and  small  privately  endowed  colleges;  religious
colleges and universities; and community and junior  colleges  that  offer
part-time and two-year degree programs. This complex and diverse range  of
schools has made American higher education the envy of other countries and
one of  the  nations  greatest  assets  in  creating  and  maintaining  a
technologically advanced society.

When more  people  began  to  attend  college,  there  were  a  number  of
repercussions. Going to college delayed maturity and independence for many
Americans, extending many of the stresses of adolescence into  a  persons
20s  and  postponing  the  rites  of  adulthood,  such  as  marriage   and
childbearing. As society paid more attention to education, it also devoted
a greater proportion of  its  resources  to  it.  Local  communities  were
required to spend more money on schools and teachers, while  colleges  and
universities were driven to expand their facilities and  course  offerings
to accommodate an ever-growing student body. Parents were also expected to
support their children longer and to forgo their  children's  contribution
to the household.


Education is an enormous investment that requires contributions from  many
sources. American higher education is especially expensive, with its heavy
investment in laboratory space and research equipment. It receives funding
from private individuals,  foundations,  and  corporations.  Many  private
universities  have  large  endowments,  or   funds,   that   sustain   the
institutions beyond what students pay in tuition and fees. Many,  such  as
Harvard University in Massachusetts and Stanford University in California,
raise large sums of money through  fund  drives.  Even  many  state-funded
universities seek funds from private sources  to  augment  their  budgets.
Most major state universities, such as those in Michigan  and  California,
now rely on a mixture of state and private resources.

Before World War II, the federal government generally played a minor  role
in financing education, with the exception of the Morrill Acts of 1862 and
1890. These acts granted the states public lands that could  be  sold  for
the  purpose  of  establishing  and  maintaining  institutions  of  higher
education. Many  so-called  land-grant  state  universities  were  founded
during the 19th century as a result of  this  funding.  Today,  land-grant
colleges include some of the  nations  premier  state  universities.  The
government also provided some funding for basic research at universities.

The American experience in World War II (especially  the  success  of  the
Manhattan  Project,  which  created  the  atomic  bomb)  made  clear  that
scientific and technical  advances,  as  well  as  human  resources,  were
essential to national security. As a result, the federal government became
increasingly  involved  in  education  at  all  levels  and  substantially
expanded funding for universities. The federal government began to provide
substantial amounts of money  for  university  research  programs  through
agencies such as the National Science Foundation, and  later  through  the
National Institutes of Health and the departments of Energy  and  Defense.
At the same time,  the  government  began  to  focus  on  providing  equal
educational opportunities for all Americans. Beginning with the  GI  Bill,
which financed educational programs for veterans, and later in the form of
fellowships and direct student loans in the 1960s, more and more Americans
were able to attend colleges and universities.

During the 1960s the federal government also began to play more of a  role
in education at lower levels. The  Great  Society  programs  of  President
Lyndon Johnson developed many new educational initiatives to  assist  poor
children and to compensate for disadvantage. Federal  money  was  funneled
through educational institutions to establish programs such as Head Start,
which provides early childhood education to disadvantaged  children.  Some
Americans, however, resisted the federal governments  increased  presence
in education, which they believed contradicted the long tradition of state-
sponsored public schooling.

By the 1980s many public schools  were  receiving  federal  subsidies  for
textbooks, transportation, breakfast and lunch programs, and services  for
students with disabilities.  This  funding  enriched  schools  across  the
country, especially inner-city schools, and affected the lives of millions
of schoolchildren. Although federal  funding  increased,  as  did  federal
supervision,  to  guarantee  an  equitable  distribution  of  funds,   the
government did not exercise direct  control  over  the  academic  programs
schools offered or over decisions about academic issues. During the 1990s,
the administration of President Bill Clinton urged the federal  government
to  move  further  in  exercising  leadership  by  establishing   academic
standards for public schools across the country and  to  evaluate  schools
through testing.

                      Concerns in Elementary Education

The United States has historically contended with the challenges that come
with being a nation of  immigrants.  Schools  are  often  responsible  for
modifying educational offerings to accommodate immigrants.  Early  schools
reflected many differences among students and their families but were also
a mechanism by which to overcome these differences and to forge a sense of
American commonality. Common  schools,  or  publicly  financed  elementary
schools, were first introduced in the mid-19th century  in  the  hopes  of
creating a common bond among a diverse  citizenship.  By  the  early  20th
century, massive immigration from Europe caused schools to restructure and
expand their programs to more effectively incorporate  immigrant  children
into society. High schools  began  to  include  technical,  business,  and
vocational curricula to accommodate the various goals of its more  diverse
population. The United States continues  to  be  concerned  about  how  to
incorporate immigrant groups.

The language in which students are taught is one of the  most  significant
issues for schools. Many Americans have become concerned about how best to
educate students who are new to  the  English  language  and  to  American
culture. As children of all ages and from dozens of  language  backgrounds
seek an education, most schools have adopted  some  variety  of  bilingual
instruction. Students are taught in  their  native  language  until  their
knowledge of English improves, which  is  often  accomplished  through  an
English as a Second Language (ESL) program. Some  people  have  criticized
these bilingual programs for not encouraging  students  to  learn  English
more quickly, or at all. Some Americans fear that English will  no  longer
provide a uniform basis for American identity; others worry that immigrant
children will have a hard time finding employment if they  do  not  become
fluent in English. In response to these criticisms, voters in  California,
the state that has seen the largest influx of recent immigrants, passed  a
law in 1998 requiring that all children attending public schools be taught
in English and prohibiting more than one year of bilingual instruction.

Many Americans, including parents and business leaders, are  also  alarmed
by what they see as inadequate levels of student achievement  in  subjects
such as reading, mathematics, and science.  On  many  standardized  tests,
American students lag behind their counterparts in  Europe  and  Asia.  In
response, some Americans have urged the adoption of national standards  by
which individual schools  can  be  evaluated.  Some  have  supported  more
rigorous  teacher  competency  standards.  Another  response  that  became
popular in the 1990s is the creation of charter schools. These schools are
directly authorized by the state and  receive  public  funding,  but  they
operate largely outside the control of local school districts. Parents and
teachers enforce self-defined standards for these charter schools.

Schools are also working to incorporate  computers  into  classrooms.  The
need for computer literacy in the  21st  century  has  put  an  additional
strain on school budgets and local resources. Schools  have  struggled  to
catch up by providing computer equipment and  instruction  and  by  making
Internet connections available. Some companies, including Apple  Computer,
Inc.,  have  provided  computer  equipment  to  help  schools  meet  their
students computer-education needs.

                        Concerns in Higher Education

Throughout the 20th century, Americans have attended schools to obtain the
economic and social rewards that come with  highly  technical  or  skilled
work and advanced degrees. However,  as  the  United  States  became  more
diverse, people debated how to include different groups, such as women and
minorities, into higher education. Blacks have historically been  excluded
from many white institutions, or were made to feel  unwelcome.  Since  the
19th century, a number of black colleges have existed  to  compensate  for
this broad social bias, including federally chartered  and  funded  Howard
University. In the  early  20th  century,  when  Jews  and  other  Eastern
Europeans began to apply to universities, some  of  the  most  prestigious
colleges imposed quotas limiting their numbers.

Americans tried various means to eliminate the  most  egregious  forms  of
discrimination. In the early part of the century,  "objective"  admissions
tests were introduced to counteract the bias in admissions. Some educators
now view admissions tests such as the Scholastic Achievement  Test  (SAT),
originally created to simplify admissions testing for prestigious  private
schools, as disadvantageous to women and minorities. Critics  of  the  SAT
believed the test did not adequately account for differences in social and
economic background. Whenever something as subjective as ability or  merit
is evaluated, and when the rewards are  potentially  great,  people  hotly
debate the best means to fairly evaluate these criteria.

Until the middle of the 20th  century,  most  educational  issues  in  the
United States were handled locally.  After  World  War  II,  however,  the
federal government began to assume a new obligation to assure equality  in
educational opportunity, and this issue began to affect college admissions
standards. In the  last  quarter  of  the  20th  century,  the  government
increased its role  in questions relating to how all Americans could  best
secure equal access to education.

Schools  had  problems  providing  equal  opportunities  for  all  because
quality, costs, and admissions criteria varied greatly. To deal with these
problems, the federal government  introduced  the  policy  of  affirmative
action in education in the early 1970s. Affirmative action  required  that
colleges and universities take race, ethnicity, and gender into account in
admissions to provide extra consideration to those who  have  historically
faced discrimination. It was intended to  assure  that  Americans  of  all
backgrounds have an opportunity to train for professions in fields such as
medicine, law, education, and business administration.

Affirmative action became a general  social  commitment  during  the  last
quarter of the 20th century. In education, it meant that universities  and
colleges  gave  extra  advantages  and  opportunities  to  blacks,  Native
Americans, women, and other groups that were generally underrepresented at
the highest levels of  business  and  in  other  professions.  Affirmative
action also included financial assistance to  members  of  minorities  who
could  not  otherwise  afford  to  attend   colleges   and   universities.
Affirmative action has  allowed  many  minority  members  to  achieve  new
prominence and success.

At the end of the 20th century,  the  policy  of  affirmative  action  was
criticized as unfair to those who were denied admission in order to  admit
those in designated group categories. Some considered  affirmative  action
policies a form of reverse  discrimination,  some  believed  that  special
policies were no longer necessary, and  others  believed  that  only  some
groups should qualify (such as African Americans because of  the  nations
long history of slavery and segregation). The issue  became  a  matter  of
serious discussion and is  one  of  the  most  highly  charged  topics  in
education  today.  In  the  1990s  three  statesTexas,  California,   and
Washingtoneliminated  affirmative  action  in  their   state   university
admissions policies.

Several other issues have become troubling to  higher  education.  Because
tuition costs have  risen  to  very  high  levels,  many  smaller  private
colleges  and  universities  are  struggling  to  attract  students.  Many
students and their parents choose state universities where costs are  much
lower. The decline in federal research funds  has  also  caused  financial
difficulties to many universities. Many well-educated students,  including
those with doctoral degrees, have found it  difficult  to  find  and  keep
permanent academic jobs, as schools seek to lower costs  by  hiring  part-
time and temporary faculty. As a result, despite its great  strengths  and
its history of great variety, the expense of American higher education may
mean serious changes in the future.

Education is fundamental to American culture in more ways  than  providing
literacy and job skills. Educational institutions are  the  setting  where
scholars interpret and pass on the meaning  of  the  American  experience.
They analyze what America is as a society  by  interpreting  the  nations
past and defining objectives for the future. That  information  eventually
forms the basis for what children  learn  from  teachers,  textbooks,  and
curricula.  Thus,  the  work  of  educational  institutions  is  far  more
important than even job training, although this  is  usually  foremost  in
peoples minds.

                              ARTS AND LETTERS

The arts, more than other features of culture,  provide  avenues  for  the
expression of imagination and personal  vision.  They  offer  a  range  of
emotional and intellectual pleasures  to  consumers  of  art  and  are  an
important way in which a culture represents itself. There has long been  a
Western tradition distinguishing those arts that appeal to the  multitude,
such  as  popular  music,  from   thosesuch   as   classical   orchestral
musicnormally available to the elite of learning and taste.  Popular  art
forms are usually seen as more representative American  products.  In  the
United States in the recent past, there has been a blending of popular and
elite art forms, as all the arts experienced a period of remarkable cross-
fertilization. Because popular art forms are so widely  distributed,  arts
of all kinds have prospered.

The arts in the United States express the  many  faces  and  the  enormous
creative range of the American people.  Especially  since  World  War  II,
American innovations and  the  immense  energy  displayed  in  literature,
dance, and music have made American cultural works world famous.  Arts  in
the United States have become internationally prominent in ways  that  are
unparalleled in history. American art forms during the second half of  the
20th century often defined the styles and qualities that the rest  of  the
world emulated.  At  the  end  of  the  20th  century,  American  art  was
considered equal in quality and vitality to art produced in  the  rest  of
the world.

Throughout the 20th century, American arts have grown to  incorporate  new
visions and voices. Much of this new artistic energy came in the  wake  of
Americas emergence as a superpower after World War II. But  it  was  also
due to the growth of New York City as an important center  for  publishing
and the arts, and the immigration of  artists  and  intellectuals  fleeing
fascism in Europe before and during the war. An outpouring of talent  also
followed the civil rights and protest movements of the 1960s, as  cultural
discrimination against blacks, women, and other groups diminished.

American arts flourish in many places and  receive  support  from  private
foundations, large  corporations,  local  governments,  federal  agencies,
museums, galleries, and individuals. What is considered worthy of  support
often depends on definitions of quality and of what constitutes art.  This
is a tricky subject when the popular arts  are  increasingly  incorporated
into the domain of the fine arts and new forms such as performance art and
conceptual art appear. As a result, defining  what  is  art  affects  what
students are taught about past traditions (for  example,  Native  American
tent paintings,  oral  traditions,  and  slave  narratives)  and  what  is
produced in the future. While some practitioners, such as studio  artists,
are more vulnerable to these definitions because they depend on  financial
support  to  exercise  their  talents,   others,   such   as   poets   and
photographers, are less immediately constrained.

Artists operate in a world where those who  theorize  and  critique  their
work  have  taken  on  an  increasingly  important  role.  Audiences   are
influenced  by  a  variety   of   intermediariescritics,   the   schools,
foundations that offer  grants,  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts,
gallery owners, publishers, and theater producers. In some areas, such  as
the performing arts, popular audiences may ultimately define  success.  In
other arts, such as painting and sculpture, success is far more  dependent
on critics and a few, often wealthy, art  collectors.  Writers  depend  on
publishers and on the public for their success.

Unlike their predecessors, who relied on formal criteria and  appealed  to
aesthetic judgments, critics at the end of the 20th  century  leaned  more
toward popular tastes, taking into account groups previously  ignored  and
valuing the merger of popular and elite forms. These critics often  relied
less on aesthetic judgments than on social  measures  and  were  eager  to
place  artistic  productions  in  the  context  of  the  time  and  social
conditions in which they were created. Whereas earlier  critics  attempted
to create an American tradition of high art, later critics used art  as  a
means to give power and approval to nonelite groups  who  were  previously
not considered worthy of including in the nations artistic heritage.

Not so long ago, culture and the arts were assumed to  be  an  unalterable
inheritancethe accumulated wisdom and highest forms of  achievement  that
were established in the past. In the 20th century generally, and certainly
since World War II, artists have been boldly destroying  older  traditions
in sculpture, painting,  dance,  music,  and  literature.  The  arts  have
changed rapidly, with one movement replacing another in quick succession.

                                 Visual Arts

The visual arts have  traditionally  included  forms  of  expression  that
appeal to the eyes through painted surfaces, and to  the  sense  of  space
through carved or molded materials. In the 19th century, photographs  were
added to the paintings, drawings, and sculpture that make  up  the  visual
arts. The visual arts were further augmented in the 20th  century  by  the
addition of other materials, such as found  objects.  These  changes  were
accompanied by a profound alteration in tastes,  as  earlier  emphasis  on
realistic representation of people, objects, and landscapes made way for a
greater range of imaginative forms.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, American art was considered
inferior to European art. Despite noted American painters such  as  Thomas
Eakins, Winslow Homer, Mary Cassatt, and John Marin, American visual  arts
barely had an international presence.

American art began to flourish during the Great Depression of the 1930s as
New Deal government programs provided support to artists along with  other
sectors of the population. Artists connected with each other and developed
a  sense  of  common  purpose  through  programs  of  the   Public   Works
Administration, such as the Federal  Art  Project,  as  well  as  programs
sponsored by the Treasury Department. Most  of  the  art  of  the  period,
including painting, photography, and mural work, focused on the plight  of
the American people during the depression, and most artists  painted  real
people in difficult circumstances. Artists such as Thomas Hart Benton  and
Ben Shahn  expressed  the  suffering  of  ordinary  people  through  their
representations of struggling farmers and workers. While artists  such  as
Benton and Grant Wood focused on rural life, many painters  of  the  1930s
and 1940s depicted the multicultural life  of  the  American  city.  Jacob
Lawrence, for  example,  re-created  the  history  and  lives  of  African
Americans. Other artists, such as Andrew Wyeth and Edward Hopper, tried to
use human figures to describe emotional  states  such  as  loneliness  and

                           Abstract Expressionism

Shortly after World  War  II,  American  art  began  to  garner  worldwide
attention and admiration. This change was due to the innovative fervor  of
abstract expressionism in the 1950s and to subsequent modern art movements
and artists. The abstract expressionists of  the  mid-20th  century  broke
from  the  realist  and  figurative  tradition  set  in  the  1930s.  They
emphasized their connection to international artistic visions rather  than
the particularities of people and place, and most abstract  expressionists
did not paint  human  figures  (although  artist  Willem  de  Kooning  did
portrayals of women). Color, shape, and movement dominated the canvases of
abstract expressionists. Some artists broke with the Western art tradition
by adopting innovative painting stylesduring the  1950s  Jackson  Pollock
"painted" by dripping paint on canvases without the use of brushes,  while
the paintings of Mark Rothko often consisted of  large  patches  of  color
that seem to vibrate.

Abstract expressionists felt alienated from their surrounding culture  and
used art to challenge societys conventions. The work of each  artist  was
quite individual and distinctive, but all the artists identified with  the
radicalism of artistic creativity. The artists  were  eager  to  challenge
conventions and limits on expression in order to redefine  the  nature  of
art. Their radicalism came from liberating themselves from  the  confining
artistic traditions of the past.

The most notable activity took place in New York City, which became one of
the worlds most important art centers during the second half of the  20th
century.  The  radical  fervor   and   inventiveness   of   the   abstract
expressionists, their frequent association with each  other  in  New  York
Citys Greenwich Village, and the support of a group of gallery owners and
dealers turned them into an artistic movement. Also known as the New  York
School, the participants included Barnett Newman, Robert Motherwell, Franz
Kline, and Arshile Gorky, in addition to Rothko and Pollock.

The members of the New York School came from diverse backgrounds  such  as
the American Midwest and  Northwest,  Armenia,  and  Russia,  bringing  an
international flavor to the group and its artistic visions. They hoped  to
appeal to art audiences everywhere, regardless of culture, and  they  felt
connected to the  radical  innovations  introduced  earlier  in  the  20th
century by European artists such as Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp. Some
of the artistsHans Hofmann, Gorky, Rothko, and de Kooningwere  not  born
in the United States, but all the artists saw themselves  as  part  of  an
international creative movement and an aesthetic rebellion.

As artists felt released from the boundaries and conventions of  the  past
and  free  to  emphasize  expressiveness  and  innovation,  the   abstract
expressionists gave way  to  other  innovative  styles  in  American  art.
Beginning  in  the  1930s  Joseph  Cornell  created  hundreds   of   boxed
assemblages, usually from found objects, with each based on a single theme
to create a mood of contemplation and sometimes  of  reverence.  Cornell's
boxes exemplify the modern fascination with individual  vision,  art  that
breaks down boundaries between forms such as painting and  sculpture,  and
the use of everyday objects toward a  new  end.  Other  artists,  such  as
Robert Rauschenberg, combined disparate objects to create large,  collage-
like sculptures known as combines in the 1950s. Jasper Johns,  a  painter,
sculptor, and  printmaker,  recreated  countless  familiar  objects,  most
memorably the American flag.

The  most  prominent  American   artistic   style   to   follow   abstract
expressionism was the pop art movement that began in the  1950s.  Pop  art
attempted to connect traditional art and popular culture by  using  images
from mass culture. To shake viewers  out  of  their  preconceived  notions
about art, sculptor Claes Oldenburg used everyday objects such as  pillows
and beds to create witty, soft sculptures. Roy Lichtenstein  took  this  a
step further by  elevating  the  techniques  of  commercial  art,  notably
cartooning, into fine art worthy of galleries and museums.  Lichtenstein's
large, blown-up cartoons fill the surface  of  his  canvases  with  grainy
black dots and question the existence of a distinct  realm  of  high  art.
These artists tried to make their audiences  see  ordinary  objects  in  a
refreshing new way, thereby breaking down the  conventions  that  formerly
defined what was worthy of artistic representation.

Probably the best-known pop artist, and a leader in the movement, was Andy
Warhol, whose images of a Campbells soup can and of the  actress  Marilyn
Monroe explicitly eroded the boundaries between the  art  world  and  mass
culture. Warhol also cultivated his status as a celebrity.  He  worked  in
film as a director and producer  to  break  down  the  boundaries  between
traditional and popular art. Unlike  the  abstract  expressionists,  whose
conceptual  works  were  often  difficult  to  understand,  Andy  Warhol's
pictures, and his own face, were instantly recognizable.

Conceptual  art,  as  it  came  to  be  known  in  the  1960s,  like   its
predecessors, sought to break free of traditional  artistic  associations.
In conceptual art, as practiced by Sol LeWitt and Joseph  Kosuth,  concept
takes precedent over actual object, by  stimulating  thought  rather  than
following an art tradition based on conventional standards of  beauty  and

Modern artists changed the meaning of traditional visual arts and  brought
a new imaginative dimension to ordinary  experience.  Art  was  no  longer
viewed as separate and distinct, housed in museums as part of a historical
inheritance, but as  a  continuous  creative  process.  This  emphasis  on
constant change, as well as on  the  ordinary  and  mundane,  reflected  a
distinctly American democratizing perspective. Viewing  art  in  this  way
removed the emphasis from technique and  polished  performance,  and  many
modern artworks and experiences became more about  expressing  ideas  than
about perfecting finished products.


Photography is probably the most democratic modern art form because it can
be, and is, practiced by most Americans. Since 1888, when  George  Eastman
developed  the  Kodak  camera  that  allowed  anyone  to  take   pictures,
photography has struggled to be recognized as a  fine  art  form.  In  the
early part  of  the  20th  century,  photographer,  editor,  and  artistic
impresario Alfred Stieglitz established 291, a gallery in New  York  City,
with fellow  photographer  Edward  Steichen,  to  showcase  the  works  of
photographers and painters. They also published a magazine  called  Camera
Work to increase awareness about photographic art. In the  United  States,
photographic art had to  compete  with  the  widely  available  commercial
photography in news and fashion magazines. By the 1950s the  tradition  of
photojournalism, which presented news stories primarily with  photographs,
had produced many outstanding works. In 1955 Steichen, who was director of
photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, called  attention  to
this work in an exhibition called The Family of Man.

Throughout the 20th century, most professional photographers earned  their
living as portraitists or photojournalists, not as  artists.  One  of  the
most important exceptions was Ansel Adams, who took  majestic  photographs
of the Western American landscape. Adams used his art to stimulate  social
awareness and to support the conservation cause of  the  Sierra  Club.  He
helped found the photography department at the Museum  of  Modern  Art  in
1940, and six years later helped establish the photography  department  at
the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco (now the San Francisco
Art Institute). He also held  annual  photography  workshops  at  Yosemite
National Park from 1955 to 1981 and wrote a series of influential books on
photographic technique.

Adams's elegant landscape photography was  only  one  small  stream  in  a
growing current of interest in photography as an art form.  Early  in  the
20th  century,  teacher-turned-photographer  Lewis  Hine   established   a
documentary tradition in photography by capturing actual  people,  places,
and events. Hine photographed  urban  conditions  and  workers,  including
child laborers. Along with their artistic  value,  the  photographs  often
implicitly called for social reform. In the 1930s and 1940s, photographers
joined  with  other  depression-era  artists  supported  by  the   federal
government to create a photographic record of rural America. Walker Evans,
Dorothea Lange, and Arthur Rothstein, among others, produced memorable and
widely reproduced portraits of rural poverty and American distress  during
the Great Depression and during the dust storms of the period.

In 1959, after  touring  the  United  States  for  two  years,  Swiss-born
photographer Robert Frank published The Americans, one of the landmarks of
documentary photography. His  photographs  of  everyday  life  in  America
introduced viewers to a depressing,  and  often  depressed,  America  that
existed in the midst of prosperity and world power.

Photographers continued to search for new  photographic  viewpoints.  This
search was perhaps most disturbingly embodied in the work of Diane  Arbus.
Her photos of mental patients and  her  surreal  depictions  of  Americans
altered the viewers relationship  to  the  photograph.  Arbus  emphasized
artistic alienation and forced viewers to stare at images that often  made
them uncomfortable, thus changing the meaning of the ordinary reality that
photographs are meant to capture.

American photography continues to  flourish.  The  many  variants  of  art
photography and socially  conscious  documentary  photography  are  widely
available in galleries, books, and magazines.

A host of other visual arts thrive, although they are far  less  connected
to traditional fine arts than photography. Decorative  arts  include,  but
are not limited to, art glass, furniture, jewelry, pottery, metalwork, and
quilts. Often exhibited in craft galleries and studios,  these  decorative
arts rely  on  ideals  of  beauty  in  shape  and  color  as  well  as  an
appreciation of  well-executed  crafts.  Some  of  these  forms  are  also
developed commercially. The  decorative  arts  provide  a  wide  range  of
opportunity for creative expression and have become a means for  Americans
to actively participate in art and to purchase art for their homes that is
more affordable than works produced by many contemporary fine artists.


American literature since World War II is much more diverse in its  voices
than ever before. It has also expanded its view  of  the  past  as  people
rediscovered important  sources  from  non-European  traditions,  such  as
Native  American  folktales  and  slave  narratives.  Rediscovering  these
traditions expanded the range of American literary history.

American Jewish writing from the 1940s to the 1960s was the first  serious
outpouring of an American literature  that  contained  many  voices.  Some
Jewish writers had begun to be heard as  literary  critics  and  novelists
before World War II, part of a general broadening of  American  literature
during the first half of the 20th century. After the war, talented  Jewish
writers appeared in such numbers and became so influential that they stood
out as a special phenomenon. They represented at once  a  subgroup  within
literature and the new voice of American literature.

Several Jewish  American  novelists,  including  Herman  Wouk  and  Norman
Mailer, wrote important books about the war  without  any  special  ethnic
resonance. But writers such as novelists Saul Bellow, Bernard Malamud, and
Philip Roth, and storytellers Grace Paley and  Cynthia  Ozick  wrote  most
memorably from within the Jewish tradition. Using  their  Jewish  identity
and history as background, these authors  asked  how  moral  behavior  was
possible in modern America and how the individual  could  survive  in  the
contemporary world. Saul Bellow most conspicuously posed these  questions,
framing them even before the war was over in his earliest novel,  Dangling
Man (1944). He continued to ask them in various ways through a  series  of
novels paralleling the life cycle, including The Adventures of Augie March
(1953), Herzog (1964), and Mr. Sammlers Planet (1970). One novel  in  the
series earned a Pulitzer Prize (Humboldt's Gift, 1975). Bellow was awarded
the Nobel Prize for literature in  1976.  Like  Bellow,  Philip  Roth  and
Bernard Malamud struggled with identity  and  selfhood  as  well  as  with
morality and fate. However, Roth often resisted  being  categorized  as  a
Jewish  writer.  Playwright  Arthur  Miller  rarely  invoked  his   Jewish
heritage, but his plays contained similar existential themes.

Isaac Bashevis Singer was also part of  this  postwar  group  of  American
Jewish writers. His novels conjure up his lost roots and  life  in  prewar
Poland and the ghostly, religiously inspired fantasies of Jewish existence
in Eastern Europe before World War II. Written in Yiddish  and  much  less
overtly American, Singers writings were always  about  his  own  specific
past and that of his people. Singer's re-creation of an earlier  world  as
well as his stories of adjusting to the United  States  won  him  a  Nobel
Prize in literature in 1978.

Since at least the time of the Harlem Renaissance in the  1920s,  American
writers of African descent, such as Richard Wright, sought to express  the
separate experiences of their people while demanding to be  recognized  as
fully American. The difficulty of that pursuit  was  most  completely  and
brilliantly realized in the haunting novel Invisible Man (1952)  by  Ralph
Ellison. African American writers since then have contended with the  same
challenge of giving voice to their experiences as a marginalized and often
despised part of America.

Several African American novelists in recent  decades  have  struggled  to
represent the wounded manner in which African Americans have  participated
in American life. In the 1950s and 1960s,  James  Baldwin  discovered  how
much he was part of the United States after a period of self-imposed exile
in Paris, and he wrote about his dark  and  hurt  world  in  vigorous  and
accusatory  prose.  The  subject  has  also  been  at  the  heart  of   an
extraordinary rediscovery of the African American past  in  the  plays  of
Lorraine Hansberry and the fiction of Alice Walker, Charles  Johnson,  and
Toni Morrison. Probably more than any American writer before her, Morrison
has grappled with the legacy that slavery inflicted upon African Americans
and with what it means  to  live  with  a  separate  consciousness  within
American culture. In 1993  Morrison  became  the  first  African  American
writer to be awarded a Nobel Prize in literature.

Writers from other groups, including Mexican Americans, Native  Americans,
Chinese Americans, Korean Americans, and Filipino Americans, also grappled
with their separate experiences within American culture.  Among  them,  N.
Scott Momaday, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Louise  Erdrich  have  dealt  with
issues of poverty, life on reservations, and mixed ancestry  among  Native
Americans.  Rudolfo  Anaya  and  Sandra  Cisneros  have  dealt  with   the
experiences of Mexican Americans, and Amy Tan  and  Maxine  Hong  Kingston
have explored Chinese American family life.

Even before World War II, writers from the  American  South  reflected  on
what it meant to have a separate identity  within  American  culture.  The
legacy of slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction left the South with a
sense of a lost civilization, embodied in popular literature such as  Gone
With the Wind (1936) by Margaret Mitchell, and with questions about how  a
Southern experience could frame a literary legacy. Southern literature  in
the 20th century draws deeply on distinct speech rhythms, undercurrents of
sin, and painful reflections on evil as  part  of  a  distinctly  Southern
tradition. William Faulkner most fully expressed these issues in a  series
of brilliant and difficult novels set in a fictional  Mississippi  county.
These novels, most of them published in the 1930s, include The  Sound  and
the Fury (1929), Light in August (1932), and Absalom, Absalom (1936).  For
his contribution, Faulkner received the Nobel Prize in literature in 1949.
More recent Southern writers, such as Carson McCullers, Flannery O'Connor,
Walker Percy,  James  Dickey,  and  playwright  Tennessee  Williams,  have
continued this tradition of Southern literature.

In  addition  to  expressing  the  minority  consciousness   of   Southern
regionalism, Faulkner's novels also reflected the  artistic  modernism  of
20th-century  literature,  in  which  reality   gave   way   to   frequent
interruptions of fantasy and the writing is characterized  by  streams  of
consciousness rather than by precise sequences  in  time.  Other  American
writers, such as Thomas Pynchon, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., and  E.  L.  Doctorow
also experimented with different novel  forms  and  tried  to  make  their
writing styles reflect the peculiarities of consciousness in the chaos  of
the modern world. Doctorow, for example, in his novel  Ragtime  juxtaposed
real  historical  events  and  people  with  those  he  made  up.  Pynchon
questioned the very existence of reality in The Crying of  Lot  49  (1966)
and Gravitys Rainbow (1973).

Aside from Faulkner, perhaps the greatest modernist  novelist  writing  in
the United States was migr Vladimir Nabokov. Nabokov first wrote in  his
native Russian, and then in French, before settling in the  United  States
and writing in English. Nabokov saw no  limits  to  the  possibilities  of
artistic imagination, and he believed the artist's ability  to  manipulate
language could be expressed through any subject. In  a  series  of  novels
written in the United States, Nabokov demonstrated that he  could  develop
any situation, even the most alien and forbidden, to that  end.  This  was
demonstrated in Lolita (1955), a novel about sexual obsession that  caused
a sensation and was first banned as obscene.

Despite its obvious achievements, modernism in the United States  had  its
most profound effect on other forms of literature,  especially  in  poetry
and in a new kind of personal journalism that gradually erased  the  sharp
distinctions between news reporting, personal  reminiscence,  and  fiction

                             20th-Century Poetry

Modern themes and  styles  of  poetry  have  been  part  of  the  American
repertoire since the early part of the 20th  century,  especially  in  the
work  of  T.  S.  Eliot  and  Ezra  Pound.  Their  works  were  difficult,
emotionally  restrained,  full  of  non-American  allusions,   and   often
inaccessible. After World War II, new poetic voices  developed  that  were
more exuberant and much more American in  inspiration  and  language.  The
poets who wrote after the war often drew upon the work of  William  Carlos
Williams and returned to the legacy of Walt Whitman, which was  democratic
in identification and free-form in style.  These  poets  provided  postwar
poetry with a uniquely American voice.

The Beatnik, or Beat, poets of the 1950s notoriously followed in Whitmans
tradition. They adopted a radical ethic that included drugs, sex, art, and
the freedom of the road. Jack Kerouac captured this vision in On the  Road
(1957), a quintessential book about Kerouacs adventures wandering  across
the United States. The most  significant  poet  in  the  group  was  Allen
Ginsberg, whose sexually explicit poem Howl (1956) became the subject of a
court battle after it was initially banned  as  obscene.  The  Beat  poets
spanned the country, but adopted San Francisco as their  special  outpost.
The city  continued  to  serve  as  an  important  arena  for  poetry  and
unconventional ideas, especially at the City Lights Bookstore co-owned  by
writer and publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Other modernist poets included
Gwendolyn Brooks, who retreated from the conventional forms of  her  early
poetry to write about anger  and  protest  among  African  Americans,  and
Adrienne Rich, who wrote poetry focused  on  women's  rights,  needs,  and

Because it is open to  expressive  forms  and  innovative  speech,  modern
poetry is able to convey the deep personal anguish experienced by  several
of the most prominent poets of  the  postwar  period,  among  them  Robert
Lowell, Sylvia Plath, Theodore Roethke, Anne Sexton,  and  John  Berryman.
Sometimes  called  confessional  poets,  they  used  poetry   to   express
nightmarish images of self-destruction. As in  painting,  removing  limits
and  conventions  on  form  permitted  an  almost  infinite  capacity  for
conveying mood, feeling, pain, and inspiration. This personal poetry  also
brought American poetry closer to  the  European  modernist  tradition  of
emotional anguish and madness. Robert Frost, probably the most famous  and
beloved of modern American poets, wrote evocative and deeply  felt  poetry
that conveyed some of these same qualities within a  conventional  pattern
of meter and rhyme.

Another tradition of modern poetry moved toward  playful  engagement  with
language and the creative process.  This  tradition  was  most  completely
embodied in the brilliant poetry of Wallace Stevens, whose work dealt with
the role of creative imagination. This tradition was  later  developed  in
the seemingly simple and prosaic  poetry  of  John  Ashbery,  who  created
unconventional works that were sometimes records of  their  own  creation.
Thus, poetry after World War  II,  like  the  visual  arts,  expanded  the
possibilities of emotional expression and reflected  an  emphasis  on  the
creative process. The idea of exploration and pleasure through  unexpected
associations and new ways of  viewing  reality  connected  poetry  to  the
modernism of the visual arts.


Modernist sensibilities were also evident in the emergence of a  new  form
of journalism. Journalism traditionally tried to be factual and  objective
in presentation.  By  the  mid-1970s,  however,  some  of  America's  most
creative writers were using contemporary events to create a  new  form  of
personal  reporting.  This  new  approach  stretched  the  boundaries   of
journalism and brought it closer  to  fiction  because  the  writers  were
deeply engaged and sometimes personally involved in events.  Writers  such
as Norman Mailer, Truman  Capote,  and  Joan  Didion  created  a  literary
journalism that infused real events with their own passion. In  Armies  of
the Night (1968), the record of his involvement  in  the  peace  movement,
Mailer helped to define this new kind of writing. Capote's In  Cold  Blood
(1966), the retelling of the senseless killing of  a  Kansas  family,  and
Mailers story of a murderer's  fate  in  The  Executioner's  Song  (1979)
brought this hyperrealism to chilling consummation.  No  less  vivid  were
Didion's series of essays on California culture in the late 1960s and  her
reporting of the sensational trial of football star O. J. Simpson in 1995.

                               Performing Arts

As in other cultural spheres, the performing arts in the United States  in
the 20th century increasingly blended traditional and popular  art  forms.
The classical performing artsmusic, opera, dance, and theaterwere not  a
widespread feature of American culture in  the  first  half  of  the  20th
century. These arts were generally imported from or strongly influenced by
Europe and were mainly appreciated  by  the  wealthy  and  well  educated.
Traditional art usually referred to classical forms in ballet  and  opera,
orchestral or chamber music, and serious drama. The  distinctions  between
traditional music and popular music were firmly drawn in most areas.

During the 20th century, the American performing arts began to incorporate
wider groups of people. The  African  American  community  produced  great
musicians who became widely known  around  the  country.  Jazz  and  blues
singers such as Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and  Billie
Holiday spread their sounds to black and white audiences. In the 1930s and
1940s, the swing music of Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey,  and  Glenn  Miller
adapted jazz to make a unique American music that was popular  around  the
country.  The  American  performing  arts  also  blended  Latin   American
influences beginning in the 20th century. Between  1900  and  1940,  Latin
American dances, such as the tango from Argentina and the rumba from Cuba,
were introduced into the United States. In the 1940s a fusion of Latin and
jazz elements was stimulated first by the Afro-Cuban mambo and later on by
the Brazilian bossa nova.

Throughout the 20th century, dynamic classical institutions in the  United
States attracted international talent.  Noted  Russian-born  choreographer
George Balanchine established the short-lived American Ballet  Company  in
the 1930s; later he founded the company that in the 1940s would become the
New York City Ballet. The American Ballet Theatre, also established during
the 1940s, brought in non-American dancers as  well.  By  the  1970s  this
company  had   attracted   Soviet   defector   Mikhail   Baryshnikov,   an
internationally acclaimed dancer who  served  as  the  companys  artistic
director during the 1980s.

In classical music, influential  Russian  composer  Igor  Stravinsky,  who
composed symphonies using innovative musical styles, moved to  the  United
States in 1939. German-born pianist, composer, and conductor Andr Previn,
who started out as a jazz pianist in the  1940s,  went  on  to  conduct  a
number of distinguished  American  symphony  orchestras.  Another  Soviet,
cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, became conductor of the  National  Symphony
Orchestra in Washington, D.C., in 1977.

Some of the most innovative artists in the first half of the 20th  century
successfully incorporated new forms into classical  traditions.  Composers
George Gershwin and Aaron Copland, and dancer Isadora Duncan were  notable
examples. Gershwin combined jazz and spiritual  music  with  classical  in
popular works such as Rhapsody in Blue (1924) and the opera Porgy and Bess
(1935). Copland developed a unique style that was influenced by  jazz  and
American folk music. Early in the century, Duncan  redefined  dance  along
more expressive and free-form lines.

Some artists in music and dance, such as composer John Cage and dancer and
choreographer Merce Cunningham, were even more  experimental.  During  the
1930s Cage worked with electronically produced sounds and sounds made with
everyday objects such as pots and pans. He even invented  a  new  kind  of
piano. During the late 1930s, avant-garde choreographer  Cunningham  began
to collaborate with Cage on a number of projects.

Perhaps the greatest, and certainly the most popular, American  innovation
was the Broadway musical, which also became a movie staple.  Beginning  in
the 1920s, the  Broadway  musical  combined  music,  dance,  and  dramatic
performance in ways that surpassed the older vaudeville shows and  musical
revues but without being as complex as European grand opera. By the 1960s,
this American musical tradition was  well  established  and  had  produced
extraordinary works by important musicians and lyricists  such  as  George
and Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin,  Cole  Porter,  Richard  Rodgers,  Lorenz
Hart, Jerome Kern, and Oscar Hammerstein II. These productions required an
immense effort to coordinate music, drama, and dance. Because of this, the
musical became the incubator of an American modern  dance  tradition  that
produced some of America's  greatest  choreographers,  among  them  Jerome
Robbins, Gene Kelly, and Bob Fosse.

In the 1940s and 1950s the American musical tradition was so dynamic  that
it attracted outstanding classically trained  musicians  such  as  Leonard
Bernstein. Bernstein composed the music for West Side  Story,  an  updated
version of Romeo and Juliet set in New York that became an instant classic
in 1957. The following year,  Bernstein  became  the  first  American-born
conductor to lead a major American orchestra, the New  York  Philharmonic.
He was an international sensation who traveled the world as an  ambassador
of the American style of conducting. He brought the art of classical music
to  the  public,  especially  through  his  "Young   People's   Concerts,"
television shows that were seen around the world. Bernstein used the  many
facets of the musical tradition as a force for change in the  music  world
and as a way of bringing attention to American innovation.

In many ways, Bernstein embodied a transformation of American  music  that
began in the 1960s. The changes that took place during the 1960s and 1970s
resulted from a significant increase in funding for  the  arts  and  their
increased availability to larger audiences. New York  City,  the  American
center for art performances, experienced  an  artistic  explosion  in  the
1960s and 1970s. Experimental off-Broadway  theaters  opened,  new  ballet
companies were established that often emphasized modern forms  or  blended
modern  with  classical  (Martha  Graham  was  an   especially   important
influence), and  an  experimental  music  scene  developed  that  included
composers such as Philip Glass and performance groups such as the Guarneri
String Quartet. Dramatic innovation also  continued  to  expand  with  the
works of playwrights such as Edward Albee, Tony Kushner, and David Mamet.

As the variety of performances expanded,  so  did  the  serious  crossover
between traditional and popular music  forms.  Throughout  the  1960s  and
1970s, an expanded repertoire of traditional arts was  being  conveyed  to
new audiences. Popular music and jazz could be heard  in  formal  settings
such as Carnegie Hall, which had once been restricted to classical  music,
while the Brooklyn Academy of Music became a venue for experimental music,
exotic and ethnic dance  presentations,  and  traditional  productions  of
grand opera. Innovative producer Joseph Papp had been staging  Shakespeare
in Central Park since the  1950s.  Boston  conductor  Arthur  Fiedler  was
playing a mixed repertoire of classical and  popular  favorites  to  large
audiences, often outdoors, with the Boston Pops  Orchestra.  By  the  mid-
1970s the United  States  had  several  world-class  symphony  orchestras,
including those in Chicago; New York; Cleveland, Ohio;  and  Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania. Even grand opera was affected. Once a specialized taste that
often required extensive knowledge, opera in the United  States  increased
in popularity as the roster of  respected  institutions  grew  to  include
companies in Seattle,  Washington;  Houston,  Texas;  and  Santa  Fe,  New
Mexico. American composers such as  John  Adams  and  Philip  Glass  began
composing modern operas in a new minimalist style  during  the  1970s  and

The crossover in tastes also influenced  the  Broadway  musical,  probably
America's most durable music form.  Starting  in  the  1960s,  rock  music
became an ingredient in musical productions such as Hair  (1967).  By  the
1990s, it had become an even stronger presence in musicals such  as  Bring
in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk (1996), which used  African  American  music
and dance traditions, and Rent  (1996)  a  modern,  rock  version  of  the
classic opera La Bohme. This updating of the musical opened  the  theater
to new ethnic audiences who had not previously attended Broadway shows, as
well as to young audiences who had been raised on rock music.

Performances of all kinds have become more available across  the  country.
This is due to both the sheer increase in the number of performance groups
as well as to advances in transportation. In the last quarter of the  20th
century, the number of major American symphonies doubled,  the  number  of
resident theaters increased fourfold, and the number  of  dance  companies
increased tenfold. At the same time, planes made it easier for artists  to
travel.  Artists  and  companies  regularly  tour,  and  they  expand  the
audiences  for  individual  artists  such  as  performance  artist  Laurie
Anderson and opera singer Jessye Norman, for musical groups  such  as  the
Juilliard Quartet, and for dance troupes such as the Alvin Ailey  American
Dance Theater. Full-scale theater productions and musicals first presented
on Broadway now reach cities across the country. The United States, once a
provincial outpost with a limited European tradition in  performance,  has
become a flourishing center for the performing arts.

                            Libraries and Museums

Libraries, museums, and other collections  of  historical  artifacts  have
been a primary means of organizing and preserving Americas legacy. In the
20th century, these institutions became an important vehicle for educating
the public about the past and for providing knowledge about the society of
which all Americans are a part.


Private book collections go back to the early European settlement  of  the
New World, beginning with the founding of the Harvard  University  library
in 1638. Colleges and  universities  acquire  books  because  they  are  a
necessary component of higher education. University libraries have many of
the most significant  and  extensive  book  collections.  In  addition  to
Harvards library, the libraries at Yale University, Columbia  University,
the  University  of  Illinois  at  Urbana-Champaign  in  Urbana,  and  the
University of California in Berkeley and Los Angeles are  among  the  most
prominent, both in  scope  and  in  number  of  holdings.  Many  of  these
libraries also contain  important  collections  of  journals,  newspapers,
pamphlets, and government documents, as well as private  papers,  letters,
pictures, and photographs. These libraries are  essential  for  preserving
Americas  history  and  for  maintaining  the  records  of   individuals,
families, institutions, and other groups.

Books in early America were scarce and expensive. Although some  Americans
owned books, Benjamin Franklin made a much wider range of books and  other
printed materials available to many more people when he created the  first
generally recognized public library in 1731. Although  Franklins  Library
Company of Philadelphia loaned  books  only  to  paying  subscribers,  the
library became the first one in the nation  to  make  books  available  to
people who did not own them. During the colonial  period  Franklins  idea
was adopted by cities such as  Boston,  Massachusetts;  Providence,  Rhode
Island; and Charleston, South Carolina.

These libraries set the precedent for the free public libraries that began
to spread through the United States in the 1830s.  Public  libraries  were
seen as a way to encourage  literacy  among  the  citizens  of  the  young
republic as well as a means to provide education in conjunction  with  the
public schools that were being set up at the same  time.  In  1848  Boston
founded the first major public library in the nation.  By  the  late  19th
century, libraries were considered so essential to the nation's well-being
that industrialist Andrew Carnegie donated part of his enormous fortune to
the construction of library  buildings.  Because  Carnegie  believed  that
libraries  were  a  public  obligation,  he  expected  the  books  to   be
contributed through public expenditure. Since the  19th  century,  locally
funded public libraries have become part of the American landscape,  often
occupying some of the most imposing public buildings in cities such as New
York,  Los  Angeles,  Detroit,  and  Philadelphia.  The  belief  that  the
knowledge and enjoyment that books provide should  be  accessible  to  all
Americans also resulted in bookmobiles that serve in inner cities  and  in
rural counties.

In addition to the numerous public libraries and  university  collections,
the United States boasts two major libraries with worldwide  stature:  the
Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., and the New York Public  Library.
In 1800 Congress passed legislation  founding  the  Library  of  Congress,
which was initially established to serve  the  needs  of  the  members  of
Congress. Since then, this extraordinary collection has become one of  the
world's great libraries and a depository for every work copyrighted in the
United States. Housed in three monumental buildings named after Presidents
John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, the library  is  open  to
the public and maintains major collections of papers, photographs,  films,
maps, and music in addition to more than 17 million books.

The New York Public Library was  founded  in  1895.  The  spectacular  and
enormous building that today houses the library in the heart of  the  city
opened in 1911 with more than a million volumes. The library is guarded by
a famous set of lion statues, features a world-famous  reading  room,  and
contains more than 40 million catalogued  items.  Although  partly  funded
through public dollars, the library also actively seeks funds from private
sources for its operations.

Institutions such as these  libraries  are  fundamental  to  the  work  of
scholars, who rely on the great breadth of library  collections.  Scholars
also rely on many specialized library collections throughout the  country.
These collections vary greatly in the nature of their holdings  and  their
affiliations. The Schmulowitz Collection of  Wit  and  Humor  at  the  San
Francisco  Public  Library  contains  more  than  20,000  volumes  in   35
languages. The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture  in  Harlem,
part of the New  York  Public  Library,  specializes  in  the  history  of
Africans around the world. The Schlesinger Library on the History of Women
in  America,  located  at  Radcliffe  Institute  for  Advanced  Study   in
Massachusetts, houses the papers of prominent American women such as Susan
B.  Anthony  and  Amelia  Earhart.  The  Bancroft  Collection  of  Western
Americana  and  Latin  Americana  is  connected  with  the  University  of
California at Berkeley. The Huntington Library in San Marino,  California,
was established  by  American  railroad  executive  Henry  Huntington  and
contains a collection of rare  and  ancient  books  and  manuscripts.  The
Newberry  Library  in  Chicago,  one  of  the  most  prestigious  research
libraries in the nation, contains  numerous  collections  of  rare  books,
maps, and manuscripts.

Scholars of American history and culture also use the vast  repository  of
the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C.,  and
its local branches. As the repository and publisher of federal  documents,
the National Archives contain an extraordinary array of printed  material,
ranging  from  presidential  papers  and  historical  maps   to   original
government  documents  such  as  the  Declaration  of  Independence,   the
Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. It houses hundreds  of  millions  of
books, journals, photos, and other government  papers  that  document  the
life of the American people and its  government.  The  library  system  is
deeply entrenched in the cultural life of the American  people,  who  have
from their earliest days  insisted  on  the  importance  of  literacy  and
education, not just for the elite but for all Americans.


The variety of  print  resources  available  in  libraries  is  enormously
augmented by the collections housed  in  museums.  Although  people  often
think of museums as places to view art, in  fact  museums  house  a  great
variety of collections, from rocks to baseball memorabilia.  In  the  20th
century, the number of museums exploded. And by the late 20th century,  as
institutions  became  increasingly  aware  of  their  important  role   as
interpreters of culture, they attempted to bring their collections to  the
general public. Major universities have historically also gathered various
kinds of collections in museums, sometimes as a result of gifts. The  Yale
University Art Gallery, for example, contains an important  collection  of
American arts, including  paintings,  silver,  and  furniture,  while  the
Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology at the University  of  California  at
Berkeley  specializes  in  archaeological  objects  and  Native   American

The earliest museums in the United States grew out of private collections,
and throughout the 19th century they reflected the tastes and interests of
a small group. Often these groups included individuals  who  cultivated  a
taste for the arts and for  natural  history,  so  that  art  museums  and
natural history museums often  grew  up  side  by  side.  American  artist
Charles Willson Peale  established  the  first  museum  of  this  kind  in
Philadelphia in the late 18th century.

The largest and most varied collection in the United States  is  contained
in the separate branches of the  Smithsonian  Institution  in  Washington,
D.C. The Smithsonian, founded in 1846 as a research institution, developed
its first museums in the 1880s. It now encompasses 16 museums  devoted  to
various aspects of American history, as well as to artifacts  of  everyday
life and technology, aeronautics and space, gems and geology, and  natural

The serious public display of art began when the  Metropolitan  Museum  of
Art in New York City, founded in 1870, moved to its  present  location  in
Central Park in 1880. At its installation, the keynote  speaker  announced
that the museums goal was  education,  connecting  the  museum  to  other
institutions with a public mission. The civic leaders, industrialists, and
artists who supported the Metropolitan Museum, and their counterparts  who
established the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Art Institute of Chicago,
and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, were  also  collectors  of  fine  art.
Their collections featured mainly works  by  European  masters,  but  also
Asian and American art. They often bequeathed their collections  to  these
museums, thus shaping the museums policies and holdings. Their  taste  in
art helped define and develop  the  great  collections  of  art  in  major
metropolitan centers such as New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and  Boston.
In several museums, such as the Metropolitan and the National  Gallery  of
Art in Washington, D.C., collectors created  institutions  whose  holdings
challenged the cultural treasures of the great museums of Europe.


Museums continued to be largely elite institutions through the first  half
of the 20th century,  supported  by  wealthy  patrons  eager  to  preserve
collections and to assert their own  definitions  of  culture  and  taste.
Audiences for most art  museums  remained  an  educated  minority  of  the
population through the end of the 19th century and into the 20th  century.
By the second decade of the 20th century, the tastes of this elite  became
more varied. In many cases, women within the families of the original  art
patrons (such as Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney,  Abby  Aldrich  Rockefeller,
and Peggy Guggenheim) encouraged  the  more  avant-garde  artists  of  the
modern period. Women founded new institutions to showcase modern art, such
as the Museum of Modern Art (established by three women in 1929)  and  the
Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Although these  museums  still
catered  to  small,  educated,  cosmopolitan  groups,  they  expanded  the
definition of refined taste to include more nontraditional art. They  also
encouraged others to become patrons for new artists, such as the  abstract
expressionists in the mid-20th century, and helped  establish  the  United
States as a significant place for art and innovation after World War II.

Although individual patronage remained  the  most  significant  source  of
funding for the arts throughout  the  20th  century,  private  foundations
began to support various arts institutions by the middle of  the  century.
Among these, the Carnegie Corporation of  New  York  and  the  Rockefeller
Foundation were especially important in the 1920s and 1930s, and the  Ford
Foundation in the 1960s. The federal  government  also  became  an  active
sponsor of the arts during the 20th century. Its involvement had important
consequences for expanding museums and for creating a larger audience.

The federal government first began supporting the arts  during  the  Great
Depression of the 1930s through New Deal agencies, which provided monetary
assistance to artists, musicians, photographers,  actors,  and  directors.
The Work Projects  Administration  also  helped  museums  to  survive  the
depression by providing jobs to restorers, cataloguers, clerical  workers,
carpenters, and guards. At the same time, innovative arrangements  between
wealthy individuals and  the  government  created  a  new  kind  of  joint
patronage for museums. In the most notable of these,  American  financier,
industrialist, and statesman Andrew W. Mellon donated  his  extensive  art
collection and a gallery to the federal government in 1937 to serve as the
nucleus for the National Gallery of Art. The federal  government  provides
funds for the maintenance and operation of  the  National  Gallery,  while
private donations from foundations and corporations pay for  additions  to
the collection as well as for educational and research programs.

Government assistance during the Great Depression set a precedent for  the
federal government to start  funding  the  arts  during  the  1960s,  when
Congress appropriated money for the National Endowment for the Arts  (NEA)
as part of the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities. The NEA
provides  grants  to  individuals  and  nonprofit  organizations  for  the
cultivation of the arts, although grants to institutions  require  private
matching funds. The need for matching funds increased  private  and  state
support of all kinds, including large donations from  newer  arts  patrons
such as the Lila Wallace-Reader's  Digest  Fund  and  the  Pew  Charitable
Trusts. Large corporations  such  as  the  DuPont  Company,  International
Business Machines  Corporation  (IBM),  and  the  Exxon  Corporation  also
donated to the arts.


The increased importance placed on art throughout the 20th century  helped
fuel a major expansion in museums.  By  the  late  1960s  and  1970s,  art
museums were becoming aware of their potential for popular  education  and
pleasure. Audiences for museums increased as museums received more funding
and became more willing to appeal to the  public  with  blockbuster  shows
that traveled  across  the  country.  One  such  show,  The  Treasures  of
Tutankhamun, which featured ancient Egyptian artifacts, toured the country
from 1976 to 1979. Art museums increasingly sought attractions that  would
appeal to  a  wider  audience,  while  at  the  same  time  expanding  the
definition of  art.  This  effort  resulted  in  museums  exhibiting  even
motorcycles as art, as did the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 1998.

Museums also began to expand the kinds of art and cultural traditions they
exhibited. By the 1990s, more  and  more  museums  displayed  natural  and
cultural artifacts and historical  objects  from  non-European  societies.
These included objects ranging from jade carvings, baskets,  and  ceramics
to  calligraphy,  masks,  and  furniture.  Egyptian  artifacts  had   been
conspicuous in the holdings of New  York's  Metropolitan  Museum  and  the
Brooklyn Museum since the early 20th century. The opening in 1989  of  two
Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., the National  Museum  of  African
Art and the National Museum of the American Indian, indicated an awareness
of a much broader definition of the American cultural heritage. The  Asian
Art Museum of San Francisco and the Freer Gallery at  the  Smithsonian  in
Washington, D.C., maintain collections of Asian art and cultural  objects.
The 1987 opening of the Arthur  M.  Sackler  Gallery,  a  new  Smithsonian
museum dedicated to Asian and Near Eastern arts, confirmed the  importance
of this tradition.

Collectors  and  museums  did  not  neglect  the  long-venerated   Western
tradition, as was clear from the personal collection of ancient Roman  and
Greek art owned by American oil executive and  financier  J.  Paul  Getty.
Opened to the public in 1953, the museum named after him  was  located  in
Malibu, California, but grew so large that  in  1997  the  J.  Paul  Getty
Museum expanded into a new Getty Center, a complex of six buildings in Los
Angeles. By the end of the 20th century, Western art was but one among  an
array of brilliant cultural legacies that  together  celebrate  the  human
experience and the creativity of the American past.

                           Memorials and Monuments

The need to memorialize the  past  has  a  long  tradition  and  is  often
associated with wars, heroes, and battles. In the United States, monuments
exist throughout the country, from the Revolutionary site of  Bunker  Hill
to the many Civil War battlefields. The nations capital features a  large
number of monuments to generals, war heroes,  and  leaders.  Probably  the
greatest of all these is Arlington National Cemetery  in  Virginia,  where
there are thousands of graves of veterans of American wars, including  the
Tomb of the Unknowns and the gravesite of President John  F.  Kennedy.  In
addition to these traditional monuments to history, millions of people are
drawn to the polished black wall that is the  Vietnam  Veterans  Memorial,
located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The memorial is  a  stark
reminder of the losses suffered  in  a  war  in  which  more  than  58,000
Americans died and of a time of turmoil in the nation.

No less important than monuments to war  heroes  are  memorials  to  other
victims of war. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which  opened
in 1993 in Washington, D.C., is dedicated to documenting the extermination
of millions of Jews and others by  the  Nazis  during  World  War  II.  It
contains photographs, films, oral histories, and artifacts as  well  as  a
research institute, and has become an enormous tourist attraction.  It  is
one example of a new  public  consciousness  about  museums  as  important
sources of information and places in which to come to terms with important
and painful historical events. Less  elaborate  Holocaust  memorials  have
been established in cities across the country,  including  New  York,  San
Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Monuments to national heroes are an important part  of  American  culture.
These range from the memorials to  Presidents  George  Washington,  Thomas
Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln on the National Mall in  Washington,  D.C.,
to the larger-than-life  faces  of  Washington,  Jefferson,  Lincoln,  and
Theodore Roosevelt carved  into  Mount  Rushmore  in  South  Dakota.  Some
national memorials also include monuments to ordinary  citizens,  such  as
the laborers, farmers, women, and African Americans who are  part  of  the
new Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Americans also commemorate popular culture with museums and monuments such
as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio,  and  the
Baseball  Hall  of  Fame  and  Museum  in  Cooperstown,  New  York.  These
collections of popular culture are as much a part of American heritage  as
are fine arts museums and statues of national heroes. As a result of  this
wide variety of institutions and monuments, more  people  know  about  the
breadth of Americas past and  its  many  cultural  influences.  This  new
awareness has even influenced the presentation  of  artifacts  in  natural
history museums. Where these once emphasized the differences  among  human
beings and their customs by presenting  them  as  discrete  and  unrelated
cultures, todays museums and monuments  emphasize  the  flow  of  culture
among people.

The expansion in types of museums and the increased attention to  audience
is due in part to new groups participating in the arts and in  discussions
about culture. In the early 20th century, many museums were  supported  by
wealthy elites. Todays museums seek to attract a wider  range  of  people
including students from inner  cities,  families  from  the  suburbs,  and
Americans of all backgrounds. The diverse American population is eager  to
have its many pasts and  talents  enshrined.  The  funding  now  available
through foundations and federal and state governments provides assistance.
This development has not been without resistance. In the 1980s  and  1990s
people challenged the role of the federal government in sponsoring certain
controversial art and culture forms, posing threats to  the  existence  of
the National Endowment for the Arts and the  National  Endowment  for  the
Humanities. Nevertheless, even these controversies have made  clearer  how
much art and cultural  institutions  express  who  we  are  as  a  people.
Americans possess many different views  and  pasts,  and  they  constantly
change what they create, how they communicate, and  what  they  appreciate
about their past.