Slate.com’s Jody Rosen has written a piece about Eva Tanguay, a forgotten vaudevillian who was one of the most famous singers of the early twentieth century. In her self-presentation and marketing, Tanguay rivaled Lady Gaga. Eva was ubiquitous. Rosen writes: “If you read the press and popular literature of the first quarter of the 20th century, Tanguay is inescapable. Edward Bernays, the celebrated ‘father of public relations,’ called Tanguay ‘our first symbol of emergence from the Victorian age.’ The journalist and playwright George Ade dubbed Theodore Roosevelt ‘the Eva Tanguay of politics.’ One of her hits was titled ‘They’ll Remember Me a Hundred Years From Now.’ To Tanguay’s contemporaries, it must have seemed less like a boast than a foregone conclusion.”
Yet, Rosen points out, Tanguay is now the opposite of a household name (what would that be? a library name?)
Which of our present-day recording artists will find themselves lost in the sands of time in a hundred years? Does the fact that these days everybody and their mother can record a record using an iMac and distribute it over the Internet mean that music will be more or less easy to preserve?
Environmental/climatic determinism is the belief that “the environment affects all aspects of social and economic development,” a way to generalize about a population of people. In 1911, Ellen C. Semple argued that mapping climatic change in humidity and isotherms meant the prediction of the destiny of societies. Her scientific explanation jived with the expansionist mood of many Americans. Environmental determinism provided a justification for the subjugated America’s desired territories during the 1980s and 1990s as “morally inferior,” camouflaging conquest in the name of responsibility to uphold the best interest of the natives. For example, the climactic activity (humidity, air pressure, temperature, etc.) corresponded to the “low” civilization level in Philippines as indicated on the map below.
Logically, the dangers of the tropical climate did make it harder to work and survive. The US used the Philippines’ classification as “uncivilized” land as a green light to conquest and annexation. Real problems emerged following the settlement of American soils in 1890. Civilizing territories enabled America to flex as a great nation and boosted patriotism. With the dust settled, politicians and captains of industry sought new ways to revive the lost narrative of American superiority.
The era of US imperialism (late 19th- early 20th century) meant violent territorial acquisition of lands beyond the border, sometimes necessary to liberate countries from the tyrannical Spanish crown. Expanding the American empire involved various sadistic acts as described in Mark Twain’s commentary on the Philippine war: “we have pacified some thousands of the islanders and buried them; destroyed their fields; burned their villages, and turned their widows and orphans out-of-doors; furnished heartbreak by exile to some dozens of disagreeable patriots; subjugated the remaining ten millions.” These acts, justified by environmental determinism (among other things), promised a narrative of continued triumph, moral superiority, and trade expansion. However, debate continued to circulate in America about the necessity of annexing the Philippines.
Fast-forwarding to present day, the theory of environmental determinism is becoming increasingly outdated with the global growing middle class and rise of education. Posted by Tiffany Persaud
John Held illustrated this Life Magazine cartoon “Insatiable Neckers.” Along with Norman Rockwell, he was perhaps the most well-known “drawer” in the 1920s.