Buffalo Bill in Bologna
The Americanization of the World, 1869-1922
Buffalo Bill in Bologna reveals that the process of globalizing American mass culture began as early as the mid-nineteenth century. In fact, by the end of World War I, the United States already boasted an advanced network of culture industries that served to promote American values. Rydell and Kroes narrate how the circuses, amusement parks, vaudeville, mail-order catalogs, dime novels, and movies developed after the Civil War—tools central to hastening the reconstruction of the country—actually doubled as agents of American cultural diplomacy abroad. As symbols of America's version of the "good life," cultural products became a primary means for people around the world, especially in Europe, to reimagine both America and themselves in the context of America's growing global sphere of influence. Paying special attention to the role of the world's fairs, the exporting of Buffalo Bill's Wild West show to Europe, the release of The Birth of a Nation, and Woodrow Wilson's creation of the Committee on Public Information, Rydell and Kroes offer an absorbing tour through America's cultural expansion at the turn of the century. Buffalo Bill in Bologna is thus a tour de force that recasts what has been popularly understood about this period of American and global history.
1. American Mass Culture Takes Form
2. Harbingers of Mass Culture: World's Fairs
3. The Expanding Frontiers of American Mass Culture
4. "The Americanization of the World"?
5. The Triumph of American Mass Culture
6. Debating American Mass Culture in the United States and Europe
“Everything has a history, sometimes more extensive than at first glance. Rydell and Kroes indicate that the export of American cultural forms was not a 20th-century innovation but commenced shortly after the Civil War. This interdisciplinary work moves from the transcontinental railroad’s epochal completion in 1869, which produced a continuous market, to the patenting of ambient music transmission in 1922. The authors astutely distinguish between more uniform and marketed mass culture (their focus) and popular culture, which they define as more spontaneous and more diverse by region, class, and ethnicity. Tools of American cultural diplomacy, mass cultural vehicles such as circuses, amusement parks, and comic strips were not just incidental but transformative, allegedly helping first to unite a war-torn country by forging a national identity and then to make the world safe for free enterprise. This slim yet substantive volume will intrigue and enlighten the casual reader. . . . This is a gratifying entry into the marketplace of ideas.”
Popular Culture Association: Ray and Pat Browne Award