Seeing America

1898 – 1945

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videos + essays

Over the next two years, Seeing America will grow to include 100 videos, 18 essays, quizzes, discussion questions and lesson plans.

Embodying the forces of nature: the North Wind Mask
Embodying the forces of nature: the North Wind Mask

The Yup’ik peoples, in one of the world’s coldest climates, made these ceremonial masks during the long winters.

Painting the Great Migration
Painting the Great Migration

Lawrence carefully documents the migration of African Americans from the agricultural South to the industrial North.

Looking down from the upper deck: immigration and class in <em>The Steerage</em>
Looking down from the upper deck: immigration and class in The Steerage

Though this photograph could be seen as a searing social commentary, its maker preferred to view it as fine art.

As contested as the nation: understanding <em>American Gothic</em>
As contested as the nation: understanding American Gothic

Though often thought of as a simple image of American values, this painting resists easy interpretation.

Heavyweights: illicit boxing and racial tensions in New York City
Heavyweights: illicit boxing and racial tensions in New York City

The violence and physicality of this boxing match reflect contemporary racial tensions in pre-WWI New York.

Visions of the future, the 1939 New York World’s Fair
Visions of the future, the 1939 New York World’s Fair

The idea of “progress” was essential to the 1939 World’s Fair, and this glass chair was upending tradition.

The modern home: Russel Wright and the best-selling dinnerware of all time
The modern home: Russel Wright and the best-selling dinnerware of all time

Pour a little out for the proletariat: the Robin Hood of earthenware pitchers brought modern design to the people.

Skyscrapers, cars, and American ambition: The Chrysler Building
Skyscrapers, cars, and American ambition: The Chrysler Building

The Art Deco style of this skyscraper was urbane and luxurious—a swansong of glamor as the Great Depression hit.

Prejudice, politics, and the trial of Sacco and Vanzetti
Prejudice, politics, and the trial of Sacco and Vanzetti

Shahn makes an not-so-subtle comparison between Christ and two Italians executed for a crime they didn’t commit.

Valor and horror: remembering the Civil War,<em> The Ulysses S. Grant Memorial</em>
Valor and horror: remembering the Civil War, The Ulysses S. Grant Memorial

This monument to a great leader completes the heroic narrative on the Washington Mall.

Norman Rockwell, <em>Rosie the Riveter</em>
Norman Rockwell, Rosie the Riveter

Representing women who entered the workforce during WWII, Rosie is strong, determined, and eating a ham sandwich.

When department stores were new: women in the American city
When department stores were new: women in the American city

A new, modern culture of shopping and ready-made clothes were part of women’s new urban mobility.