Buffalo Bill in Bologna: The Americanization of the World, 1869-1922 / Edition 1

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Overview

When it comes to the production and distribution of mass culture, no country in modern times has come close to rivaling the success of America. From blue jeans in central Europe to Elvis Presley's face on a Republic of Chad postage stamp, the reach of American mass culture extends into every corner of the globe. Most believe this is a twentieth-century phenomenon, but here Robert W. Rydell and Rob Kroes prove that its roots are far deeper.

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.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Review of Books - Russell Baker
"In Buffalo Bill in Bologna, Robert W. Rydell and Rob Kroes are interested in the worldwide triumph of mass American culture, or, as their subtitle has it, 'The Americanization of the World, 1869-1922.' With its several triumphant European tours, Cody's Wild West, as he called the show, was pivotal in this history. The book tells a great deal . . . about Cody's origins and the mechanics of his show."
American Historical Review - Neil Harris
"The book illuminates its subject brilliantly. . . . The lively, absorbing, and unusually insightful text wears its learning gracefully and, perhaps unexpectedly, alludes to older notions of American exceptionalism in explaining the national talent for cultural entrepreneurship."
History - Stephen F. Mills
"Students of mass culture who have enjoyed Rydell's previous concerns with world fairs willnot be disappointed by this collaboration with Dutch historian Kroes. Any study of Americanization nust indeed aim to go beyond familiar concerns with our recent reception of American culture, and must go beyond merely English-speaking countries."
International History Review - Joy S. Kasson
"The book demonstrates decisively that American popular culture had a significant international presence well before the First World War and that its ideological meanings were always mediated by the ways in which it was apprehended, resisted, and appropriated by global audiences. . . . A deft and suggestive contribution to the emerging field of global cultural studies."
Communication Review - Tanner Mirriees
"Rydell and Kroes's work demonstrates how popular entertainment is not innocent and how consumer pleasure can be functional to the governmental agendas of the state and capital. Commodity culture is political, not only becuase people actively identify with it in different ways, but also because it is where the cultural technologies of imperial power flourish."
Choice
"This elegant synthesis of scholarship on US mass culture from the Civil War through the 1920s sheds new historical and interpretive light on the modern period."
New York Review of Books

"In Buffalo Bill in Bologna, Robert W. Rydell and Rob Kroes are interested in the worldwide triumph of mass American culture, or, as their subtitle has it, 'The Americanization of the World, 1869-1922.' With its several triumphant European tours, Cody's Wild West, as he called the show, was pivotal in this history. The book tells a great deal . . . about Cody's origins and the mechanics of his show."--Russell Baker, New York Review of Books

— Russell Baker

American Historical Review

"The book illuminates its subject brilliantly. . . . The lively, absorbing, and unusually insightful text wears its learning gracefully and, perhaps unexpectedly, alludes to older notions of American exceptionalism in explaining the national talent for cultural entrepreneurship."

— Neil Harris

History

"Students of mass culture who have enjoyed Rydell's previous concerns with world fairs willnot be disappointed by this collaboration with Dutch historian Kroes. Any study of Americanization nust indeed aim to go beyond familiar concerns with our recent reception of American culture, and must go beyond merely English-speaking countries."

— Stephen F. Mills

International History Review

"The book demonstrates decisively that American popular culture had a significant international presence well before the First World War and that its ideological meanings were always mediated by the ways in which it was apprehended, resisted, and appropriated by global audiences. . . . A deft and suggestive contribution to the emerging field of global cultural studies."

— Joy S. Kasson

Communication Review

"Rydell and Kroes's work demonstrates how popular entertainment is not innocent and how consumer pleasure can be functional to the governmental agendas of the state and capital. Commodity culture is political, not only becuase people actively identify with it in different ways, but also because it is where the cultural technologies of imperial power flourish."

— Tanner Mirriees

Choice

"This elegant synthesis of scholarship on US mass culture from the Civil War through the 1920s sheds new historical and interpretive light on the modern period."

Library Journal
Everything has a history, sometimes more extensive than at first glance. Rydell (history, Montana State Univ.; All the World's a Fair) and Kroes (American studies, Univ. of Amsterdam, Netherlands) 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, but it may exasperate post-Marxist scholars who disagree with the assessment that American mass culture is largely a struggle between dominant and subordinate groups, however nuanced it is by the saving grace of personal choice. Nevertheless, this is a gratifying entry into the marketplace of ideas. Recommended in particular for academic libraries.-Frederick J. Augustyn Jr., Library of Congress Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226732428
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 7/15/2005
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 232
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert W. Rydell is professor of history at Montana State University-Bozeman. He is the author of six books, including All the World's a Fair and World of Fairs, both published by the University of Chicago Press. Rob Kroes is professor of American studies at the University of Amsterdam. He is the author of eleven books, including, most recently, If You've Seen One, You've Seen the Mall and Us and Them: Questions of Citizenship in a Globalized World.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations Acknowledgments Introduction
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 Conclusion Bibliographical Essay Notes Index
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