The year 1900 marked the beginning of a time of prosperity in the United States. People had just begun to appreciate the true value of automobiles, and almost every aristocrat had one. There was a patriotic spirit in the air, and many an aspiring writer praised the country's economical state in their work. Life for the upper classes was good, filled with soirees, ballets, and such entertainment. The rich also enjoyed the privilege of going to the movies, something not everyone could boast of. They had little to worry about except fashions, which were leaning more and more toward the shocking knee-length skirt and blouse for women and a primitive form of our tie instead of the stickpin cravat for men. But while the rich had both time and money for frivolities, the middle and lower classes could often not afford to waste their time on such whimsical nonsense.
The middle class lived in tenements, small apartments for lease, rent, or sale. Often, however, the lower-middle class could not afford to buy such lodgings, so they had to settle for paying rent. Of course, tenements varied: good lodgings were available to the higher-middle class, while the lower-middles and the poor had to settle for worse and the worst, for at that time, the government was under no obligation to build decent housing for its people, nor did it have health standards. Numerous times tenements were so small and shabby that people spent all day outside so as not to have to go home to such filth. Each floor of tenements in a building was arranged in such a way that the apartments were built around an air hole. This was supposed to let breathable air and sunshine into as many as fourteen tenements. However, only four got these benefits. And many times, the poor did things like sell their personal property (i.e., pocket watches, combs, or books) in order to continue paying rent, or, if women, cut their hair and sell it to make wigs for the unfortunate rich who happened to be bald. Still, despite this, the early twentieth century was prosperous, as people were just beginning to discover the profits gained by investing. The rich were becoming richer, as were the poor. Also, America was just beginning to discover the value of mass production and mass purchase. New inventions as well as the increase in population made it possible for stores to make more profit. And although things like electricity and telephones were not available to everyone, the relative number of beggars on the street was small. America was fast becoming a tolerable place to live for the economically less fortunate, a fact known by many foreigners, especially Europeans, who left their countries to seek prosperity in this fast-growing land.
Immigrant numbers continued to rise, as always. They would come by steamboats, schooners, anyhow they could. That, and the alarming rate of American reproduction, succeeded in raising the U.S. population by quite a bit. Immigrants could get jobs as dishwashers in a restaurant, laundrymen or women, etc. However, even the poorest of Americans was often richer than these foreigners. What's the more, they were subjected to a lot of prejudice because of their background. Still they came by the thousands each year, and even though their pay was not great, they valued the American System, its Government, its freedom, and the opportunity that allowed them to rise from their stations through hard work, something that had not been formerly offered to them as an option.
For blacks, the 1900s were pure hell, especially in the south. There was a lot of prejudice against these people, and most had to suffer beatings, unfair food and clothing prices, and constant put-downs by the white. Black men were being lynched almost every week for matters as small as looking at a white woman, and black women were always being raped or taken advantage of in other ways by white men. And if these people ever complained, they were not only not heeded, but also actually beaten.
The newspaper business was quite prosperous during these times. Paperboys, kids often not older than ten, would roam the streets selling newspapers. To catch a customer's eye, paperboys could do tricks, dress up (if they could afford it), or simply scream out the headlines, which, oftentimes were made up by the editor. Though the big cities never lacked crime, most newspapers were not given permission to cover them, and some were just too lazy to. So they made up brutal murders, or told about real-life ones committed in the past. These were called yellow cover newspapers because they gave the same cheap thrill stories that could be found in yellow bound fictitious books.
Music was very popular during that time also. A new machine had just been invented, one that could play round discs instead of cylindrical ones. Classic music was all the rage, as were blues and ragtime (jazz would not become popular until the next decade). Dance clubs were popular also, but few could afford them. Many forms of entertainment came out that decade, but they would not be available to the average person until about thirty or forty years later. There was a public school system, but it did not play a very significant role, for there was no obligation to attend, and many chose not to. However, the number of literate men and women, mostly men, rose because this era evoked a spirit of curiosity, and there was opportunity for those who did choose to apply themselves. Indeed, many an assiduous scholar entered politics, business, or invested and became rich.
All in all, America in the 1900s had the symptoms of a fast-rising country, one which would not be long to replace Great Britain as the most revered country in the Western Hemisphere.