Read an Excerpt
As the new century was born, the nineteen-year-old Pablo Picasso, recently arrived in Paris from Spain, was given his first exhibition in the city whose art world he would come to lead. Arguably, other artists produced greater works that year, including Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Edvard Munch, Claude Monet, Pierre Renoir, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, and Auguste Rodin. They were all older and already celebrated, and Picasso's paintings of that year show the distinct influence of Lautrec. But beginning with the "Blue Period" paintings of 1901 and 1902, Picasso would rise to a level of fame and wealth unequaled by any other artist of the twentieth century.
The 1900 election for president of the United States was a repeat of the 1896 election that pitted the Republican William McKinley against William Jennings Bryan. Bryan was one of the most important politicians ever to be defeated for the presidency. Although a religious fundamentalist, he was also in favor of women having the vote and the idea of the income tax. He advocated the adoption of "free silver" as an economic system rather than adherence to the gold standard. But McKinley was a widely loved man (despite the fact that his ill wife was one of the most disliked of all First Ladies), and at a time of great prosperity, he beatBryan by a slightly larger margin than four years earlier, 292 electoral votes to 155.
In the first year of the new century, the Eastman Kodak Company introduced a camera that was cheap enough and simple enough to be used by anyone. In fact, advertisements specifically targeted youngsters: "Any school-boy or girl can make good pictures with one of the Eastman Kodak Co.'s Brownie Cameras." There were other small box cameras on the market by then, such as the Bullet, which cost $6, and the Buck-Eye, which cost $10. But the Brownie retailed for only $1, and a six-exposure film cartridge that could be loaded in daylight cost only 15 cents. A new market was tapped with the Brownie, marking the beginning of a century-long love affair with "family snapshots."
In the wake of the Spanish-American War (1898), the United States Congress declared Hawaii and Puerto Rico to be U.S. territories in separate bills on April 12 and April 30, 1900. Hawaii would become a key U.S. military base in the Pacific, whose importance led to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, which brought the United States into World War II. Hawaii would also eventually become the fiftieth state as well as one of the most popular resort destinations for Americans. Puerto Ricans were granted U.S. citizenship in 1917, resulting in a considerable change in the demographics of the eastern United States.
In 1900, the English archeologist Arthur Evans discovered the remains of a previously unknown Bronze Age culture at Knossos on Crete. He named the culture Minoan after King Minos of Greek legend. It would eventually be revealed that the Minoans had flourished from 3000 to 1500 B.C., when the power center shifted to the Greek mainland, eventually giving rise to the Golden Age of Athens. Evans was knighted for his discovery, which added to our understanding of the complexity of Mediterranean history.
The first of L. Frank Baum's fourteen Oz books was an immediate success when it appeared in 1900. Within three years, a musical version was playing on Broadway, and the show toured the country for years thereafter. Baum made several silent movies based on various Oz characters. The Wizard of Oz, the 1939 MGM movie musical starring Judy Garland, went on to become one of the most beloved American film classics. Baum's books are still hugely popular nearly a century later, and they are still dogged by surprising controversy. Almost every year throughout the century, somewhere in America, individuals or religious organizations have tried to remove the Oz books from public and school libraries on the grounds that they feature numerous examples of "witchcraft," incidents deemed corrupting to young souls. That the most popular of all American stories for children should still be able to arouse controversy after nearly one hundred years in print says a great deal about the resilience of the urge to censor even in the freest of societies.
The Art Nouveau movement had reached its apex in 1900, to the degree that Hector Guimard was commissioned to design entrances to the Paris Metro, or subway system, then being built. His enchanting wrought-iron designs were an essential part of the charm of Paris to generations of visitors and inhabitants, giving one the feeling of descending into some magical world rather than one of the world's first mass-transit systems. Art historians point out that no other movement in modern art met with such rapid public acceptance. The subway entrances of Hector Guimard were the ultimate example of this acceptance, integrating this mode of artistic expression into the daily lives of the humblest Parisian workers.The 365 Most Important Events of the 20th Century. Copyright © by Paul Baldwin. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.