Music, Theatre, and Film Trends in American History

By lilyria
  • Minstrel Shows

    Minstrel Shows
    This is a blackface minstrel show from 1950 - the actual 'blackface' portion starts around 1:44Minstrel Shows, which date back to the 1600s, became frequent and popular around 1841. Blackface performers took to the stage even in high class establishments such as the Park Theatre - they were a socially acceptable form of comedy.
  • Traveling Theater

    Traveling Theater
    The advancement of the American railroads after the Civil War allowed for the easy transportation of production companies, their actors, and large sets, which in turn led to the establishment of permanent theaters in small towns.
  • Theaters at Urban Cultural Centers

    Theaters at Urban Cultural Centers
    The population boom in cities caused by industrialization was followed by the creation of various urban cultural centers. Theater was a prominent form of entertainment sponsored by these establishments. Business leaders such as Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller donated money to the creation of these theaters.
  • Electric Lighting

    Electric Lighting
    The invention and spread of electric lighting allowed for more complex set designs and lighting effects.
  • Henry Renno Heyl demonstrates use of the Phasmatrope

    Henry Renno Heyl demonstrates use of the Phasmatrope
    the first demonstration of the Phasmatrope by Henry Renno Heyl in Philadelphia, showed a rapid succession of still photographs of dancers, giving the illusion of motion
  • Thomas Edison exhibits incandescent lightbulb

    Thomas Edison exhibits incandescent lightbulb
    Thomas Alva Edison's first public exhibition of an efficient incandescent light bulb was in 1879; this product was later used for film projectors
  • "The Greatest Show on Earth"

    "The Greatest Show on Earth"
    Phineas T. Barnum and James A. Bailey joined to create the first major circus in America, dubbed "The Greatest Show on Earth." Now, they are Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus.
  • Vaudeville

    Vaudeville Show of the 20th centuryVaudeville Shows were acts filled with blackface, music, course jokes, and acrobatics. They had been popular before, but became popular again in the 1880s and 1890s.
  • Development of Motion Picture Camera

    Development of Motion Picture Camera
    In 1888, the world's earliest film, Roundhay Garden Scene, was shot by Louis Le Prince.
  • Post-Civil War Minstrel Shows

    Post-Civil War Minstrel Shows
    By this time, minstrel shows in the south were being performed by black singers and dancers as well as the blackfaced whites who performed in the north during the antebellum period. One example is Madam Sissiretta Jones.
  • The Town Band

    The Town Band
    Stars and Stripes ForeverThe town band was used as entertainment for functions within communities, playing waltzes and two-steps for local dances and concerts. The most famous bandleader was John Philip Sousa, who toured America with the US Marine Band from 1880 to 1892. He wrote “Stars and Stripes Forever” in 1896.
  • Music as an Industry

    Music as an Industry
    After the BallAs popular music in America began to emerge, so did the demand for piano sheet music, which became an industry in the 1890s. The first million seller song was “After the Ball” by Charles K. Harris.
  • African American Influence on Music-Ragtime

    African American Influence on Music-Ragtime
    Maple Leaf RagRagtime began to rise in popularity during this time period, which was mostly on the piano, though it was transposed to other instruments over time.
  • Dickson's Sound Experiments

    Dickson's Sound Experiments
    Dickson Experimental Sound Film (1894) Dickson became the first person to experiment with sound in film, even though films were primarily visual into the 20th century.
  • The W.N. Selig Company established

    The W.N. Selig Company established
    the Selig Polyscope Company (originally called The W.N. Selig Company), was founded in Chicago by "Colonel" William Selig. Initially, the company specialized in slapstick comedies, "jungle" films, historical subjects, serials, travel films, and the early westerns starring actors such as Tom Mix.
  • Symphony Hall built in Boston

    Symphony Hall built in Boston
    Symphony Hall is a concert hall in Boston, Mass. Designed by McKim, Mead, and White, it was built for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and has been noted as "one of the top three concert halls in the world...and by far the best in the US." In addition, it featured an electrically keyed organ by George Hutchings when it was first created, although the Hutchings Organs fell out of fashion in the 1940's and the massive instrument was replaced in 1949.
  • Famous Filmmakers of the early 1900s

    Famous Filmmakers of the early 1900s
    Jerome Kern produced over fifty shows, including The Great White Way, Fascinating Flora, The Orchid, and The Earl and the Girl
    Irving Berlin produced The Boys and Betty, The Girl and the Whiz, The Jolly Bachelors, Ziegfeld Follies.
  • Institute of Musical Art (Juilliard School) Founded

    Institute of Musical Art (Juilliard School) Founded
    New York's Institute of Musical Art was founded in 1905 because the United States did not have a prominant school of music and too many students were going to Europe to study music. The school's location was changed in 1910, and later its name. (See "Juilliard School Established")
  • Nickelodeon

    Nickelodeon (Nickel-theater) opens for the first time in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, Here, people would pay a nickel to watch very short moving-picture shows. This was developed by Jewish immigrants who found employment in the US Film Industry; the first Nickelodeon shown was The Great Train Robbery, shown by Harry Davis.
  • Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show

    Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show
    William F. (Buffalo Bill) Cody gained popularity by displaying ‘domesticated’ cowboys and Indians to urban audiences, who were eager to see live buffalo and the famous Annie Oakley.
  • Ziegfeld Follies

    Ziegfeld Follies
    The Ziegfeld Follies were a series of elaborate theatrical productions on Broadway launched in 1907 by Florenz Ziegfeld, who was inspired by the Folies Bergère of Paris. Later, in 1932, they became a radio program called the Ziegfeld Follies of the Air and were produced by turn of the century producing titans Klaw & Erlanger.
  • National Board of Review of Motion Pictures

    National Board of Review of Motion Pictures
    In New York City, the first organization of film censorship was formed with the support of New York Mayor, George B McClellan, who believed that film degraded the morals of society.
  • Motion Picture Patents Company

    Motion Picture Patents Company
    In 1908 a group of nine independent film companies came together to legally pool their resources as a single cooperative group - they were led by the Edison Film Manufacturing Company but were known collectively as the Motion Picture Patents Company (MPPC). From 1909 on, admission fees were raised, censorship was limited, and independent filmmakers were targetted and denied stocks. In an attempt to freeze out competition, this company was made to pool patents on video equipment and new technolog
  • Hollywood 'discovered'

    Hollywood 'discovered'
    In 1910 director D.W. Griffith was sent by the Biograph Company to the west coast with his acting troupe to an area south of a small town that was friendly to the actors. There, Griffith filmed the first movie ever shot in Hollywood called "In Old California," a melodrama about California in the 1800s. This caused other filmmakers to flock to the tow in order to avoid the high fees of Thomas Edison's patented movie-making process. Griffith later became the greatest American pioneer in film.
  • First Film Industry Publicity Stunt

    First Film Industry Publicity Stunt
    Carl Laemmle and the IMP generated a massive publicity campaign for Florence Lawrence, a child actress, by "reacting" to a false story about how she had been killed in a NYC streetcar accident. When enough sympathy had been produced from the presumably self-fabricated story, he revealed the "cowardly…silly lie" in a promotional ad n Moving Picture World - This was the first major movie-industry publicity stunt to receive widespread press coverage
  • Ballroom Dancing

    Ballroom Dancing
    1910 marked a rise in popularity of ballroom dancing in America.
  • William Christopher Handy popularizes the Blues

    William Christopher Handy popularizes the Blues
    Band leader WC Handy published "Memphis Blues" in 1912, giving the blues its contemporary form based on rural black folk music and earning his title as the 'Father of the Blues'
  • Oliver Twist: First US full length Feature Film shown in its entirety

    Oliver Twist: First US full length Feature Film shown in its entirety
    H. A. Spanuth's five-reel production of Oliver Twist, at roughly an hour long, became the first full length film shown in the United States in its entirety
  • Cleveland Playhouse

    Cleveland Playhouse
    Founded in 1915, the Cleveland Playhouse is the country's first resident professional theatre and also the oldest regional theatre.
  • Charles Albert Tindley publishes "New Songs of Paradise"

    Charles Albert Tindley publishes "New Songs of Paradise"
    Charles Tindley was born to a slave father and free mother, thus he was a free man. Raised among slaves and self-educated, Tindley later earned a doctorate and became a pastor at the same church where he had worked as a janiter. In 1916, he released a collection of purposely informal hymns, "New Songs of Paradise," and became the first hymn writer to have his work copyrighted.
  • Supreme Court Orders MPPC to Disband

    Supreme Court Orders MPPC to Disband
    An anti-trust case was brought before the Supreme Court by William Fox in 1913; in 1917 the MPPC was ordered to pay $20 million in damages and formally disbanded in 1918.
  • "Over There" Popularized during WWI

    "Over There" Popularized during WWI
    During WWI, Goerge M. Cohan wrote this song shortly after the US declared war on Germany. "Over There" was especially popular during the wave of patriotism and support for the war that swept the public the year it was composed, but regained some of its popularity later during WWII.
  • Harlem Renaissance

    Harlem Renaissance
    In the 1920's to 30's, a cultural movement of African Americans gained fame and became known as the Harlem Renaissance. It was essentially an explosion of black culture and pride in their ancestry, shunning conservative music, arts, literature, and intellect, and popularizing jazz and the like. It featured people such as Langston Hughes and Louis Armstrong
  • KDKA

    KDKA of Pittsburgh became the first voice-carrying radio station when it announced Warren G. Harding’s landslide victory in the presidential election.
  • Duke Ellington Orchestra

    A jazz musician, Duke Ellington, moved to New York in 1922 and formed the Washingtonians, which, after numerous name changes became known as 'Duke Ellington and his Orchestra.' The Orchestra is widely considered the greatest of all jazz bands and gained nationwide recognition through weekly radio broadcasts from The Cotton Club in NYC.
  • Cotton Club in Harlem

    Cotton Club in Harlem
    In 1923, the Cotton Club in Harlem opened, daringly presenting all-black performances to white-only audiences. Entertainers included Lena Horne, the Nicholas Brothers and Cab Calloway.
  • Rin Tin Tin

    Rin Tin Tin
    NOTE - Don't bother learning this for the AP exam. It's not important and the knowledge will impress no one. But it's funny =) In 1923, a German Shepherd named Rin Tin Tin became film's first canine star. He was found in France by an American soldier two months before the end of WWI, and his name was taken from the toy that children gave soldiers for good luck. Able to do flips and other tricks, 'Rinty' was noticed performing at a dog show by producer Charles Jones.
  • Alice in Wonderland

    Alice in Wonderland
    In 1924, Walt Disney produced his first cartoon movie, Alice in Wonderland - obviously based off of Lewis Carrol's book of the same name
  • Juilliard School Established

    Juilliard School Established
    In 1920, the Juilliard Foundation was created, named after the textile merchant Augustus D. Juilliard, who donated a substantial amount to the development of music in America. The foundation purchased the Vanderbilt guest house in 1924 to create the Juillard Graduate School, which joined with the Insitute of Musical Art two years later. The schools were collectively named the Juilliard School of Music.
  • Show Boat is the First hugely popular musical comedy

    Show Boat is the First hugely popular musical comedy
    Based on the novel by Edna Ferber, with music by Jerome Kern and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein, 'Show Boat' became the first widely successful musical comedy in America. It was first produced at the Ziegfeld Theatre on December 27, 1927, with Norma Terris as "Magnolia", Howard Marsh as "Gaylord" and Helen Morgan as "Julie".
  • Academy Awards

    Academy Awards
    The Academy Awards were handed out for the first time in1928. Wings, a film about WWI fighter pilots, won Best Picture.
  • Code of Decency

    Code of Decency
    As head of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, William Hays established a code of decency that outlined what is acceptable in films.
  • "Star-Spangled Banner" becomes the National Anthem

    "Star-Spangled Banner" becomes the National Anthem
    In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued an executive order making the "Star-Spangled Banner" the national anthem. This action was adopted by Congress in 1931.
  • Radio City Music Hall and the Rockettes

    Radio City Music Hall and the Rockettes
    On December 27, 1932, Radio City Music Hall - now known as the 'Showplace of the Nation," opened, with a music show featuring the now famous Rockettes. For a time, it was the leading tourist destination in NYC. It was funded by John D Rockefeller Jr at the height of the Great Depression and, for four decades, acted as a stage for gala shows. Later, it began featuring popular music artists.
  • George Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess "

    George Gershwin's  "Porgy and Bess "
    In the fall of 1935, George Gershwin created an American folk opera,' "Porgy and Bess." It was based on DuBose Heyward's novel "Porgy" and his subsequent play "Porgy and Bess." At the time, it propelled a critical debate on 'blackness and Americaness' into the national consciousness while many were struggling economically due to the Depression.
  • Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

    Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
    In 1938, Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was released during a run of lackluster films from the major studios, and quickly became the highest-grossing film released to that point. Embarrassingly for many major studios, it was an independently produced animated film that did not feature any studio-employed stars.
  • Gone With the Wind

    The big-screen adaptation of Gone with the Wind premiered in 1929, going on to gross $192 million, making it one of the most profitable films of all time. At the time it was also one of the longest, clocking in at 231 minutes.
  • Oklahoma!

    Rodgers & Hammerstein's Oklahoma! opened and changed American musical theater by combining entertainment and serious subjects
  • Oklahoma!

    Oklahoma!, the first musical written by c composer Richard Rodgers and librettist Oscar Hammerstein II, epitomized the development of the "book musical", a musical play where the songs and dances are fully integrated into a well-made story with serious dramatic goals that is able to evoke genuine emotions other than laughter. In addition, Oklahoma! features musical themes, or motifs, that recur throughout the work to connect the music and story more closely than any musical ever had before.
  • NYC Ballet

    NYC Ballet
    George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein established New York City Ballet in 1946, and the company went on to become the first ballet company in the United States to have two permanent venue engagements.
  • Hollywood Ten

    Hollywood Ten
    The Hollywood Ten, a group of writers, producers and directors called as witnesses in the House Committee's Investigation of Un-American Activities, are jailed for contempt of Congress when they refuse to disclose if they were or were not Communists. This was the first systematic Hollywood blacklist instituted by the US government
  • A Streetcar Named Desire

    A Streetcar Named Desire
    Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire is widely considered a landmark play, dealing with a culture clash between two iconic characters, Blanche DuBois, a fading relic of the Old South, and Stanley Kowalski, a rising member of the industrial, urban working class. It opened at Broadway's Ethel Barrymore Theatre, with Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski and Jessica Tandy as Blanche DuBois, and won the 1948 Pulitzer Prize.
  • Guys and Dolls

    Guys and Dolls
    Broadway classic Guys and Dolls debuted at the 46th Street Theatre and became an instant hit. The show ran for three years and became one of the Great White Way's longest-running shows, with 1,200 performances.
  • First major off-broadway success

    First major off-broadway success
    In 1952, Geraldine Page played the lead role in a revival directed by José Quintero at the newly founded Circle in the Square Theatre in downtown New York. Her legendary performance is credited with the beginning of the Off-Broadway movement, putting both Page and Quintero on the map and vindicating the play itself.
  • CinemaScope

    To counteract the threat of television, Hollywood developed wide-screen processes such as CinemaScope, an anamorphic lens series created by the president of 20th Century-Fox in 1953. It was used from 1953 to 1967 for shooting wide screen movies, marking the beginning of the modern anamorphic format in both principal photography and movie projection.
  • Gentlemen prefer blondes

    Gentlemen prefer blondes
    Marilyn Monroe attained her first mainstream success in her portrayal of Lorelei Lee, a gold-digging showgirl, which required her to act, sing, and dance in Gentlemen prefer Blondes. This movie featured her iconic rendition of "Diamonds are a Girl's best Friend."
  • Elvis Presley debuts

    Elvis Presley debuts
    Elvis Presley is regarded as one of the most important figures of 20th-century popular culture. He was active from 1954 to 1977, omitting the two years between 1958-1960 when he was conscripted for military service. He is the best-selling solo artist in the history of popular music, nominated for 14 competitive Grammys, winning three, received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award at age 36, and inducted into four music halls of fame.
  • Rebel Without a Cause

    Rebel Without a Cause
    Rebel Without a Cause is a 1955 American drama film about emotionally confused suburban, middle-class teenagers. Directed by Nicholas Ray, it was a groundbreaking attempt to portray the moral decay of American youth, critique parental style, and explore the differences and conflicts between generations. Also noted is the acting of James Dean, who died a month before the movie's release
  • West Side Story

    West Side Story
    West Side Story is an American musical with a script by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and choreography by Jerome Robbins. The musical is an adaptation of William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet. It proved to be a turning point in American threatre because of its exploration of social issues including urban teenage development and race. The production received a Tony Award nomination for Best Musical in 1957 and won one for Robbins' choreography
  • First Grammy Award

    First Grammy Award
    The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences presents the first Grammy Award on may 4, 1959, to honor musical accomplishments by performers for the year 1958. The annual awards ceremony features performances by prominent artists, and some of the awards of more popular interest are presented in a widely viewed televised ceremony. It is the music equivalent to the Emmy Awards for television, and the Academy Awards for film.
  • Sound of Music

    Sound of Music
    The Sound of Music, a musical loosely based on the 1956 german movie about the von Trapp family, starred Mary Martin and Theodore Bikel and opened on November 16, 1959. In 1965 it was adapted as a film musical starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, which won five Academy Awards. It was the final musical written by Rodgers and Hammerstein; Hammerstein died of cancer nine months after the Broadway premiere.
  • Motown Record Company

    Motown Record Company
    Berry Gordy, Jr., founds Motown record company in 1959, a branch of its parent company, Universal Music Studios. In the 1960s Motown stars include the Supremes, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye. Motown and its soul-based subsidiaries were the most successful proponents of what came to be known as The Motown Sound, a style of soul music with a distinct pop influence.
  • Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho

    Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho
    Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho terrified audiences and became one of the 1960's most successful films, as well as one of the most memorable psychological thrillers.
  • Patsy Cline

    Patsy Cline
    Although she had been singing since 1955, country singer Patsy Cline became a mainstream pop music hit during the Nashville Sound era of the early 1960s. Since her death in 1963 at age 30 in a private airplane crash at the height of her career, she has been considered one of the most influential, successful, and acclaimed female vocalists of the 20th century.
  • Breakfast At Tiffany's

    Breakfast At Tiffany's
    Two stars gained much praise in the 1961 film Breakfast At Tiffany's. Audrey Hepburn's portrayal of Holly Golightly as the naïve, eccentric woman is generally considered to be the actress' most memorable and identifiable role. Henry Mancini won two Oscars and four Grammy Awards for the score, which included the hit "Moon River" and helped composer Henry Mancini and lyricist Johnny Mercer win an Oscar for Best Song.
  • West Side story adapted

    West Side story adapted
    West Side Story was adapted for the big screen in 1961, and will go on to win Oscars for Best Picture, Supporting Actor (George Chakiris), Supporting Actress (Rita Moreno), and Directing (Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins).
  • Judson Dance Theater

    Judson Dance Theater
    Judson Dance Theater was an informal group of dancers considered the founders of Postmodern dance. The first dance concert in the US was held at New York's Judson Memorial Church, marking the beginning of the Judson Movement and postmodern dance. Judson dancers included Meredith Monk, Trisha Brown and Lucinda Childs, who introduced the use of a performance space instead of a stage.
  • British Invasion

    British Invasion
    The arrival of the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 marked the beginning of "The British Invasion" The Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand" became a sensation in 1964, igniting the "invasion" of American music, a term used to describe the large number of rock and roll, beat, rock and pop performers from the United Kingdom
  • New Hollywood

    New Hollywood
    New Hollywood or post-classical Hollywood, sometimes referred to as the "American New Wave", refers to the time from roughly the mid-1960s to the early 1980s when a new generation of young filmmakers came to prominence in America, influencing the types of films produced, their production and marketing, and impacted the way major studios approached filmmaking. This period, set off by the 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde, has been referred to as the "Hollywood Renaissance"
  • Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical

    Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical
    Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical is a musical with by James Rado, Gerome Ragni, and Galt MacDermot. A product of the hippie counter-culture and sexual revolution of the 1960s, several of its songs became anthems of the anti-Vietnam War peace movement. musical broke new ground in musical theatre by defining the genre of "rock musical", using a racially integrated cast, and inviting the audience onstage for a "Be-In" finale, aside from its depictions of controversial topics
  • Motion Picture Rating System

    Motion Picture Rating System
    The motion picture rating system debued in 1968 with G, PG, R and X. While is voluntary, most movie theater chains now will not show unrated domestic films and most major studios have agreed to submit all titles for rating prior to theatrical release. It provided parents and cinemas with greater roles in dictating what forms of entertainment children and teens were exposed to.
  • Midnight Cowboy

    Midnight Cowboy
    In 1969, Midnight Cowboy won the Best Picture Oscar, the first and only time an X-rated movie received the honor, as a commentary on the sordid conditions experienced by urban Americans.
  • Woodstock Music and Art Fair

    Woodstock Music and Art Fair
    The Woodstock Music and Art Fair, featuring such artists as Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, and Joan Baez, was attended by hundreds of thousands of fans in 1969. It is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most pivotal moments in popular music history, but led to much controversy due to the Bethel, New York, residents' discontent at having countless drunk, drugged hippies gathered in their town. Approximately 80 lawsuits were filed against the organizers of the event.
  • First globally broadcast concert

    First globally broadcast concert
    In 1973, Elvis Presley staged the first concert broadcast globally via satellite, Aloha from Hawaii, seen by approximately 1.5 billion viewers
  • Radio City Music Hall becomes a national landmark

    Radio City Music Hall becomes a national landmark
    The interior of Radio City Music Hall, the cornerstone of John D Rockefeller Jr.'s Rockefeller Center, was declared a national landmark in 1978.
  • William Kennedy Laurie Dickson develops Kinetoscope

    William Kennedy Laurie Dickson develops Kinetoscope
    First described in conceptual terms by U.S. inventor Thomas Edison in 1888, the Kinetoscope, which could project moving images was largely developed by his employee William Kennedy Laurie Dickson between 1889 and 1893 at the Edison Lab. The Kinetoscope became the standard for all cinematography before the video was invented.