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Toolbox Library, primary resources thematically organized with notes and discussion questionsOnline Seminars, professional development seminars for history and literature teachersThe Gilded and the Gritty: America, 1870-1912
The Gilded and the Gritty: America, 1870-1912
Topic: MemoryTopic: ProgressTopic: PeopleTopic: PowerTopic: Empire
Topic: Empire: Manifest Destiny and Beyond
Toolbox Overview: The Gilded and the Gritty: America, 1870-1912
Resource Menu: Empire
Text 1. Frederick Jackson Turner, The Significance of the Frontier in American History
Text 2. Stephen Crane, The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky
Text 3. The Future of the Red Man
Text 4. William F. Cody and John M. Burke, Buffalo Bill's Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World
Text 5. The New Frontier, Albert Beveridge and William Jennings Bryan
Text 6. Theodore Roosevelt, The Strenuous Life
Text 7. The White Man's Burden
Text 8. Mark Twain, To the Person Sitting in Darkness, The Dervish and the Offensive Stranger
Text 9. Aguinaldo's Case Against the United States
Text 10. Two Wars, Memorial Day, The Twelve-Inch Gun
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Reading Guide
Memorial Day, 1898
Memorial Day, 1898 (detail)
Two Wars
- Memorial Day, 1898, drawing, [Chicago] Inter Ocean, [May 1898]
- The Twelve-Inch Gun, watercolor by Rufus F. Zogbaum and poem by James Barnes, in Barnes, Ships and Sailors: Being a collection of songs of the sea as sung by the men who sail it, 1898

We began with Winslow Homer's Veteran in a New Field, a painting that expressed the desire of a war-weary nation, still largely rural and agricultural, to put bloodshed behind it. We conclude with an 1898 cartoon depicting two Civil War veterans, one Union, one Confederate, draped in an American flag and standing on a pedestal labeled "Loyalty," gazing toward the scene of the nation's newest war on the island of Cuba. How did the memory of the Civil War, just 33 years in the past, affect Americans' sense of nationhood and destiny as they entered a shared war on foreign soil?

Paired with this drawing are two pieces entitled "The Twelve-Inch Gun," created for a collection of naval songs published in 1898. The first is a poem in the voice of a battleship gun, announcing its fearsome power and warning men to use it with considered awe of the consequences. The second is a painting that expresses the desire of a robust nation, now urban and industrial, to project its power upon the world. Indeed, the painting could be titled What We're Fighting For. It is all here—respectability, gentility, and civilization, plus the firepower to back them up. An excellent collection to use with students. 3 pages.

Discussion questions
  1. What does the "Memorial Day, 1898" cartoon suggest about the way the nation remembered the Civil War by the end of the nineteenth century? Whose experience of the War has been erased in this memory?
  2. What is the U.S. fighting for in 1898? What ideals does it hold most dear, as reflected in these pieces?
  3. How do the differences between the paintings The Twelve-Inch Gun and Homer's Veteran in a New Field (in MEMORY) suggest differences between the America of 1865 and the America of 1898?
  4. What is suggested by the positioning of the figures in The Twelve-Inch Gun? in Memorial Day? What is the import of the pedestal in each work?
  5. How does the painting Twelve Inch Gun define womanhood?
  6. In the watercolor The Twelve-Inch Gun, what does the rose suggest? What does the artist's use of color suggest?
  7. In the poem "The Twelve-Inch Gun," how does the author convey the stalwart rigor of Roosevelt's "Strenuous Life" while echoing the warnings in Aguinaldo's "Case"?
  8. What emotions do the three pieces compel? How do they express confidence and ambivalence about America's expansion beyond its continent?
  9. Is America grown up?
  10. What authors in this toolbox would have championed these pieces? satirized them?
  11. As groups, how might women, white southerners, African Americans, Native Americans, and immigrants from Europe and Asia have responded to them?
  12. Overall, how do they reflect the changes in Americans' sense of identity, destiny, and power since the Civil War?

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Topic Framing Questions
  •  How was the West incorporated into the nation?
  •  How did Americans respond to the nation's changing role in world affairs at this time?
  •  How did issues and concerns at home shape American policies and actions abroad?
  •  How did America project its power beyond its own borders?

Toolbox: The Gilded and the Gritty: America, 1870-1912
Memory | Progress | People | Power | Empire

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