Originally published in 2006. For many Americans at the turn of the twentieth century and into the 1920s, the city of New York conjured dark images of crime, poverty, and the desperation of crowded immigrants. In How New York Became American, 1890–1924, Art M. Blake explores how advertising professionals and savvy business leaders "reinvented" the city, creating a brand image of New York that capitalized on the trend toward pleasure travel. Blake examines the ways in which these early boosters built on the attention drawn to the city and its exotic populations to craft an image of New York City as America writ urban—a place where the arts flourished, diverse peoples lived together boisterously but peacefully, and where one could enjoy a visit.
Drawing on a wide range of textual and visual primary sources, Blake guides the reader through New York's many civic identities, from the first generation of New York skyscrapers and their role in "Americanizing" the city to the promotion of Midtown as the city's definitive public face. His study ranges from the late 1890s into the early twentieth century, when the United States suddenly emerged as an imperial power, and the nation's industry, commerce, and culture stood poised to challenge Europe's global dominance. New York, the nation's largest city, became the de facto capital of American culture. Social reformers and tourism boosters, keen to see America's cities rival those of France or Britain, jockeyed for financial and popular support.
Blake weaves a compelling story of a city's struggle for metropolitan and national status and its place in the national imagination.
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