American Studies Home Site Map Gallery of Prints Writing Across the Curriculum Currier & Ives Introduction Currier & Ives Opening

NOSTALGIA
A desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one's life, to one's home, to one's family and friends–to a more perfect time. The print below and to the left, "Life Seasons: The Age of Youth" demonstrates this concept.

Below and to the right is a print that illustrates a different, but related concept–sentiment: refined or tender emotion; the appeal to the tender emotions in literature, art, or music. This print is captioned with the words: "My child! My child! They're saved! They're saved!" A nostalgic print might use sentiment, but its chief characteristic is picturing an ideal time.
Click to enlarge.
A couple strolls through a golden field.
A woman and baby fall in the water.

Overview | Nostalgia | Currier & Ives | The End of an Age

Overview
Approximately 610,000 soldiers died during the Civil War, and its financial costs, estimated at $20 billion, were more than six times the gross national product. (1) Many of the freed slaves–as many as a million–took to the open road and were forced to beg or steal for food. Many drifted into contraband camps where food was also scarce and diseases rampant. (2)

The tumultuous period of Reconstruction (1865-1877) left the nation recovering economically but facing challenges of urbanization, industrialization, and immigration that had begun before the war. By the mid-1870s technological change was a fever sweeping the country, with inventions such as the telephone and electricity altering how people perceived the world. The tensions of living in a society that was changing so quickly and so radically gave rise to a quest for social stability, driven by a new middle class that sought control through bureaucracy. (3)

The community as Americans had known it before the Civil War was a community in crisis after it. As Robert Wiebe noted in The Search for Order, 1877-1920:

In a manner that eludes precise explanation, countless citizens in towns and cities across the land sensed that something fundamental was happening in their lives, something they had not willed and did not want, and they responded by striking out at whatever enemies their view of the world allowed them to see. They fought, in other words, to preserve the society that had given their lives meaning. But it had already slipped beyond their grasp (44).

Overview | Nostalgia | Currier & Ives | The End of an Age

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American Studies Home Site Map Gallery of Prints Writing Across the Curriculum Currier & Ives Introduction Currier & Ives Opening

Site created by Marcy McDonald, American Studies, UVA. Last modified: May 16, 2005. E-mail: asgrp@virginia.edu

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