My decade is an interesting one. I decided to approach on the decade with an emphasis on Scott Joplin and rag-time.
In 1890-99 in Political and Social aspects:
• 1890-Sherman anti-trust law was passed
• Yosemite National Park was created by an Act of Congress
• 200 Sioux are killed by soldiers at Wounded Knee, SD
Published: Emily Dickinson – “Poems”; Howells, “A Hazard of new Fortunes”
• First International Copyright Law
• Populist Party formed in Cincinatti, OH
Sophia Alice Callahan:” Wynema: A Child of the Forest (first novel by a native American author)
1892: July Homestead (PA) steelworkers strike; after the strikers battle with Pinkerton detectives; Governor calls in the militia. The strikers call off their strike in November.
Death of Whitman
• Financial panic in 1893
• In Hawaii, Queen Lillukalani’s government is overthrown; Hawaii becomes a US protectorate despite President Cleveland’s opposition.
Twain: Pudd’nead Wilson
1896: First Use of X rays to Treat Breast Cancer
1898-Explosion and Sinking of the Battleship Main in the Havana Harbor
Henry James: “The Turn of the Screw”
But a very stirring phenomenon occurred in the south. In 1890, a LA state law required black and white railroad passengers traveling through the state to occupy separate cars. In hopes of over turning this and other segregation laws in court, a New Orleans Creole named Homer Adolph Plessy got himself arrested for refusing to leave a “white” first class car for which he bought a ticket. Convicted of breaking the law, he appealed to a higher court. In 1896, the US Supreme Court found in Plessy VS Ferguson (Ferguson was the judge who ruled against Plessy in the lower court) that “separate but equal facilities” were constitutional. That decision and the system of discrimination that grew from it-a set of laws and traditions collectively know as Jim Crow-would circumscribe the lives of black people in the American South, and in New Orleans for nearly 60 years.
It also affected New Orleans music. Because their ancestry included what a new state law defined as “a traceable amount” of “Negro blood”, Creoles new found themselves classified with other African Americans as second-class citizens, and Creole musicians who played for wealthy whites were suddenly displaced by white musicians and forced to compete for work with the less well-trained black musicians they had once scorned.
Meanwhile, during the same decade that saw Jim Crow’s grip steadily tighten on the South including New Orleans, African Americans added three fresh strains to the city’s already rich musical mix: ragtime, blues, and the sacred music of the Baptist Holiness church.
Ragtime was first heard in black neighborhoods in Midwestern cities. It was the outgrowth of the African American tradition of “ragging”-syncopating and rearranging every kind of music to create livelier, more danceable versions. Older people deplored ragtime; (Their rock and roll?); one critic called it “syncopation gone mad…an infectious disease.” But young people loved it, and it remained American’s most popular music for a quarter of a century. No city heard more of it than New Orleans.
LOTS of unrest lots of places in the 1890’s. Fast forward to 1897:
August: Scott Joplin publishes the “Maple Leaf rag
Philippine insurrection; Howells and Twain oppose US involvement The Anti-Imperialist League is formed in Feb.
So how does this feel to Scott Joplin and the Ragtime Jazz? Music reflects its time.
Joplin wrote the "Maple Leaf Rag" around 1897, in honor of the Maple Leaf Club, a black social club that existed briefly during the late 1890s in Sedalia, Missouri.
Sedalia, a town about half the size of Charleston, had at the time some 30 saloons. Joplin performed in the Maple Leaf saloon nightly and used the piano to work on his compositions during the day.