Wednesday, October 20, 2010

American Artists of the Victorian Period

Drifting on the Lagoon
by Ralph Wormsley Curtis - American 1854-1922

Men of Progress
by Christian Schussele 1824-1879 (Pennsylvania)

"Described in 1862 as a painting of \"the most distinguished inventors of this country, whose improvements . . . have changed the aspect of modern society, and caused the present age to be designated as an age of progress.\" The nineteen men in the painting were brought together only in the artist\'s imagination. They are (left to right): William Thomas Green Morton, James Bogardus, Samuel Colt, Cyrus Hall McCormick, Joseph Saxton, Charles Goodyear, Peter Cooper, Jordan Lawrence Mott, Joseph Henry, Eliphalet Nott, John Ericsson, Frederick Sickels, Samuel Finley Breese Morse, Henry Burden, Richard March Hoe, Erastus Bigelow, Isaiah Jennings, Thomas Blanchard, and Elias Howe. In the background appears a portrait of Benjamin Franklin, the patron saint of American science and invention. "

The inventors and scientists represented in this painting were responsible for the surge in automation during  the Victorian era. Victorians were on the move, looking for easier and faster ways of transportation, production, creation, communication, art, architecture, landscaping, music, oration and much more. We have with us today the result of these inventions, which include the computer, the sewing machine, cars, transit systems, airplanes, modern plumbing (the flushing toilet, called a water closet, was invented in the 1600's and improved on in the Victorian era), running water (which existed long before this but was modernized in the 19th century), electric heat and lights, and countless other things. You can view a list of their inventions here.  There is always a tendency in any era to think that the generations that lived before were primitive or ignorant, but the list of inventions of the Victorian period shows that there were many people of that time were brilliant and industrious, and their inventions are responsible for the many conveniences and comforts we now enjoy.

A Broadway Milk Maid
by Francis David Millet, American 1846-1912

A lot of things about the 19th century people can be observed in their art, among them the way leisure time was spent, how they travelled, how they worked, what they wore, and what their interests were.


Anonymous said...


This era brought us Braille, Moon (the only surviving linear raised print for vision impaired readers, developed by Dr. William Moon)), the typewriter, the phonograph, the telephone, the Braille writer (Hall Braille Writer, patented in either 1891 or 1892), comprable machines in europe from the 1880's), an explosion of education for persons with little or no sight, following on from the work begun in paris, 1784, Liverpool 1790, and London by 1800), the photograph, moving pictures, and the birth of radio in the closing years of the 19th century (used chiefly for millitary and merchant navy ship to shore communications). the first electric motor was invented in the 1850's by Toestler, a genius far ahead of his time. It is upon the shoulders of these giants that we stand. Additionally, it was the (and on into the Edwardian era within the first 14 years of the 20th century) last great age of composers such as Vaughan Williams, Rimsky Korsakov and their like, artists, photographers and theologians. They shaped luminaries such as C. S. Lewis in our own era, who lived in a time where the memories of the Victorian and Edwardian were still vivid in peoples' minds via grandparents (in person) and great grandparents (in letters, diaries and other family correspondance).

Never let the so called 'establishment' fool you with their lies about this era. yes, it had its significant problems, but in comparison, our era isn't doing too well either. In spite of said problems, faith and family formed the pillar of society able to withstand the blast...and gave rise to such great minds who sought to find inventive solutions to improve life.

Lydia said...

Sarah in Australia,

The Victorians inherited a lot of problems from the previous colonial era and they sought solutions. I do not know why the so called progressives diss the era so badly, when they actually created what is now known as welfare, for orphan children, and government pensions for war widows. They developed improved sanitation in cities and improved housing for the. Originally, women's groups were formed for the purpose of getting rid of drinking in order to save the family, due to the many homes disturbed and broken by drinking.

Anonymous said...


Exactly! The foundations laid during the 18th century by men such as John Wesley (died, 1791) and his brother james set the scene for the various groups espousing temperance and moderation for the good of the people. In this era, the likes of William Wilberforce worked, abolishing the commodification of human beings in the form of slavery, Wesley's heirs strove wwithin the working classes to curtail the effects of drunkenness upon health and family, leading to the 'sobering of Britain', and a people adept in their knowledge of the Scriptures. annisthetic procedures were developed, as were x-ray, and an understanding of the infection cycle by century-s end.

I draw considerable hope that the Victorians were so able to rebuild the ethical and moral landscape after the excesses and imoderation of the earlier Georgian and Regency eras. If they could do it then, there is hope that our own children and grandchildren will be able to do it in ours. I have a young friend, Gen-Y, who is a part of an emerging culture known as 'straight-edge', who reject drugs, alcohol, the distructive habits of a peer-group-bound culture, intimate relations before marriage, believe in civility and dress with more dignity than the majority. (in spite of their musical tastes...). this group emerged around 20 years ago as a reaction to the 'greed is good' elements of the late 80's and 90's, and have survived, flourishing. Originally a secular movement, it has been taken up by sober-minded young Christians in not insignificant numbers. Couple this with the latest stats (See LAF and the Australian survey), and you will see a pattern emerging of individuals who do not believe the so called 'liberating' ideology of the liberal establishment, decrying the types of behaviour ixhibited by your trollish hecklers.

God wil out, as this young generation will shine out when their peers lose credence.

Anonymous said...

My daughters and I have had a conversation a few times about the reason that century (give or take a few years) was so saturated with inventive minds. One of my daughters concluded that they simply had less free time available for entertainment. They seemed to be always engaged in the business of producing. While there has always been producing and consuming, our generation seems to be more interested in the consuming side of the equation.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for adding the Aspiring Homemaker to your links. I am enjoying this a lot!

Anonymous said...

Oh, that top picture almost seems like it is moving!

Lydia said...

I agree. I felt a little sea sick myself. The word "nausea" must have originated with sea voyages: nautical discomfort or something.

Brett Stevens said...

What I call "The Progressive Fallacy" is that we are moving forward through equality and technology, and that the fundamental conditions of human life have changed as a result.

This way of thinking requires that we demonize the past in as many ways possible. That is in part to hide the idea that humans have not changed at all, and so we face the same struggle for bravery, honesty, grace and wisdom in our lives.

That freaks people out a bit ;)

Lydia said...

You have to have some hatred of the past history or be able to despise the Victorians before you can really swallow communism, socialism or feminism. You have to think that life was terrible back in those days and that these new political plans will prevent us from going back and suffering those days agaon. Re-invented history of the Victorians is descreibed, tongue-in-cheek, here: