William H. Krell’s Mississippi Rag is generally considered
the first piece of ragtime music that was published.
Ragtime, which had been evolving from African American
music for many years, became wildly popular and the period
from 1897-1917 would be coined the “Ragtime” era. Scott
Joplin and Charles Lamb were considered the masters of
ragtime. Coalhouse Walker, a fictional character, was
probably modeled on them.
Hungarian, Jewish Immigrant Erich Weiss, calling himself
Houdini, is encouraged during performances in New York City
to focus on his handcuff and other escape tricks making him
a national sensation.
During the next 24 years, more than 22 million immigrants
come through Ellis Island seeking new lives in America.
New Rochelle, a posh suburb of New York becomes home to some
of New York’s richest families.
While attending the Pan American Exposition, President
McKinley is shot by anarchist, Leon Czolgosz. When he died
eight days later, Theodore Roosevelt became president.
Booker T. Washington’s, Up From Slavery becomes a bestseller
and has a major impact on the nation, especially the African
American community. Washington, founder of the prestigious
Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, becomes the most famous and
influential black man in America. He is invited to the White
House as the guest of President Theodore Roosevelt – a visit
that many whites complained about bitterly.
To house his growing art collection, J.P. Morgan, creator of
U.S. Steel, financer of inventor Thomas Edison and the
richest man in the world, commissions a magnificent private
library to be constructed next to his home in New York City.
The library will hold such treasures as an original
Admiral Perry and his first officer, an African American
named Robert Henson, led the first expedition to reach the
North Pole, sailing from New York.
“Odeon” from the Greek word for theatre and “nickel” for the
price of admission. Like the fictional Tateh in Ragtime,
many of the early movie pioneers, stars and moguls had once
been port immigrants: Louis B. Mayer from Russia, Sam
Goldwyn from Poland and Charlie Chaplin from Great Britain.
Many of the early films of the silent era actually did
feature vaudeville stars such as Evelyn Nesbitt and Harry
Gorgeous, Flora Dora Chorus Girl Evelyn Nesbit (one of the
original Gibson Girl Models) appears on Broadway at age 16.
She catches the eye of eminent Architect Stanford White,
designer of Madison Square Garden. White allegedly seduces
Evelyn and makes her pose for him, scantily clad on a red
velvet swing. Later, she marries rich and volatile
millionaire Harry K. Thaw. When he learns of Stanford
White’s alliances with his new wife he becomes so infuriated
that he shoots White in the rooftop restaurant of Madison
Square Garden. Thaw is tried, but after Evelyn’s pleadings
from the stand (for which she reportedly was paid a million
dollars), Thaw is found not guilty by reason of insanity.
When details of this sordid case are revealed in court,
Evelyn becomes famous, one of America’s first “bad girl”
celebrities (the Anna Nicole Smith or Paris Hilton of her
day). Evelyn cashes in on her fame by appearing scantily
clad in a bawdy vaudeville act and becomes known as the
“Girl on the Velvet Swing.” She also has a brief career as a
silent movie actress.
From 1909 –1927, Henry Ford produces more than 15 million
Model T’s transforming personal transportation, the assembly
line and America. The first Model T cost $825 and was
available in a number of colors. Starting in 1913, model T’s
were produced only in black, probably to speed up Ford’s
legendary production line.
One of the most significant struggles in the history of
workers rights -- When state law reduces the workweek from
56 hours to 54 hours, Textile Mill Owners respond by
speeding up their looms. Workers strike, protesting the
hours and also the meager $6 a week wages. Led primarily by
women and involved hundreds of immigrant workers (Strike
literature had to be printed in 25 languages.) The National
was called out, joined by thugs disguised as workers that
the owners had hired. Violence broke out, but in the end,
workers win salary concessions but even more importantly;
the American Labor Movement gained a foothold in defining
the American Dream.
Radical and social Anarchist Emma Goldman organizes a rally
in support of the Lawrence Textile Mill Strikers. A Russian
immigrant who had worked in textile mills herself was a
leading labor advocate during the Ragtime Era. She also
promoted feminist causes such as birth control and women’s
right to vote. Her radical anarchist philosophy alienated
her from many. The government considered her dangerous and
subversive. She was jailed numerous times and deported back
to Russia in 1919.
Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb student, shoots and kills
Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian
throne in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia. Bosnia had
recently been annexed by the Austro-Hungarians. This is the
duke that Little Boy in Ragtime has premonitions about,
leading him to tell his mother and others to “warn the
The Lusitania, the fastest British ship afloat, is torpedoed
by a German U-boat off the coast of Ireland. Probably
because she was secretly carrying ammunitions to the British
war effort. The ship exploded and only 18 minutes later
slipped beneath the waves causing 1,924 passengers to
perish. The sinking of the The Lusitania was instrumental in
leading the United States into World War 1.
With the U.S. entry into World War I, the “idyllic” era of
ragtime comes to an end as the world fights “the war to end
all wars.” When the war ends, ragtime is replaced by jazz,
its upstart musical cousin. As the jazz age begins, the age
of ragtime becomes a faded, but