Accompanying the rise of consumerism in cities was an increase in free time for nearly all working classes. This time would be spent in various ways, but a new market for entertaining activities rose because of the pursuit of enjoyment of leisure by working class members.
Leisure Time in the City

Parks and Theaters for the Middle Class

New York was of America's largest city at the turn of the 20th century, and the large middle-class population would often frequent the amusement park Coney Island and take leisurely strolls in the sprawling midtown Manhattan expanse of Central Park. People would often
Irving Berlin
Irving Berlin
visit movie theaters, one of the largest attractions in cities. Evidence that the era was still plagued by racism was the popularity of the film The Birth of a Nation, which pictured slaves and blacks in general as a major dividing factor of the nation. The first "talkie," film with sound, was not released until 1927. Music, theater, and performing arts in general were popular diversions for people. Opera, vaudeville, and comedies were popular forms of entertainment, with Irving Berlin, George Cohan, and Abbot and Costello (they became popular a bit later) being well-known playwrights and actors. The "minstrel shows," where white performers would often darken their faces to look African-American and make fun of presumed slave culture and customs, were also a popular (but also incredibly racist) theater diversion.

The Habits of the Proliteriat

For the working class of the factories and general industry, leisure time was a relatively new concept, and their use of the free time was spent wandering the streets and frequenting saloons (basically bars). Saloons were thought of as breeding ground for scum and prostitution. Political operations were often
4th of July Celebration in 1900: Los Gatos, CA
4th of July Celebration in 1900: Los Gatos, CA
conducted within saloons, and the Anti-Saloon League was a major force that acted against the bars and played a role in establishing the 18th Constitutional Amendment, Prohibition. The Fourth of July, one of the only full days the working class had off of work, was also a major occasion, where groups like the Hibernians of Worcester, MA put on large parties.

Spectator Sports Spectator sports were another popular form of leisure, where they satisfied competitive urges as well as allowing people to relax. Baseball, which gained popularity during the Civil War, became one of the first sports to feature professional teams. Two competing leagues, the National League and the American Association (today's National and American League in Major League Baseball). The National League, to this day, is sometimes called the "Senior Circuit" because it was formed earlier than the American League. Teams formed across the eastern part of the country, such as the Cincinnati Red Stockings
The 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings
The 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings
the Boston Pilgrims (today's Red Sox). Football was a popular diversion at the collegiate level, with New England schools such as Harvard and Yale competing. The form of football played during that time period was helmet-less, and therefore incredibly dangerous. Over 15 players were killed as a result of injuries such as concussions. When President Teddy Roosevelt called for a national meeting on the subject of collegiate organized sports, the NCAA as we know it today was formed. Boxing, horse racing, and basketball were also popular activities.

Gambling in Sports

The corruption of government and industry during the turn of the 20th century ended up sometimes spilling over into the sporting sector. Betting on sports was already very popular in horse racing and such, but some bettors went so far to win money as to sabotage their own team, as the 1919 Chicago White Sox did during the World Series, dubbing them the "Black Sox."

Women in Sports

Though the most popular spectator sports were male domains (baseball and football in particular), were the domain of men. Golf, croquet, tennis, cycling and swimming were popular sports for women, and some colleges even established intercollegiate teams for women to compete on, quite a drastic step given that women weren't even able to vote until 1920.

Works Cited

"The Birth of a Nation (1915) - Synopsis." The Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Web. 23 Feb. 2010. <>.
"Georgia Saloon" New Georgia Encyclopedia. Web. 23 Feb. 2010. <>.
"History of the first talking movie." Essortment Articles: Free Online Articles on Health, Science, Education & More.. Web. 22 Feb. 2010. <>.
"Welcome to The Anti-Saloon League Website..." Westerville Public Library. Web. 22 Feb. 2010. <>.
"Yale Football." Index. Web. 24 Feb. 2010. <>