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Doing the TownThe Rise of Urban Tourism in the United States, 1850-1915$
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Catherine Cocks

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780520227460

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520227460.001.0001

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“The Noble Spectacle”: Historical Walking Tours and Ethnic Slumming, 1890S–1915

“The Noble Spectacle”: Historical Walking Tours and Ethnic Slumming, 1890S–1915

(p.174) Six “The Noble Spectacle”: Historical Walking Tours and Ethnic Slumming, 1890S–1915
Doing the Town

Catherine Cocks

University of California Press

This chapter discusses the consolidation of a canonical narrative of the American past and the fostering of a distinctively American culture in the present that required defining which people and events were truly American. Choosing the appropriate ancestors and casting ethnic minorities as picturesque peasants, popular writers participated in the process, reshaping the way that Americans imagined and moved through their cities and, more broadly, their nation. The members of ethnic minorities found opportunities in the commodification of their cultures that often gave them ways to make a living and to retain some aspects of their own heritage. Occasionally the racialized notions of culture that supported slumming also offered a prominent, symbolic place in the local and national communities. Such were the ambiguous consequences of replacing the dream of “the tangible republic” with that of “the noble spectacle.”

Keywords:   American culture, American past, American, heritage, tangible republic, noble spectacle

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