The rise of the motion picture industry is a case study in American Pluralism. The four founders of the United Artists studio represented radically different origins of cultural leadership. Mary Pickford, America's Sweetheart, came from Toronto, Canada. Douglas Fairbanks, her husband, was a native of Denver, the son of a Jewish immigrant. Charlie Chaplin, also part-Jewish, was raised in poverty in London, England. D.W. Griffith came from a poor family in Kentucky.

One of the ways in which the increasingly multicultural society reflected itself was through the medium of motion pictures. A movie such as The Great Train Robbery did little itself to show pluralism, but the audience watching it first in nickleodeons and then in movie palaces drew from the vast spectrum of American society.
Fox Theater, Detroit

In the Great Lakes region, the architect Frank Lloyd Wright rebelled against the pluralism of late Victorian building styles. A quintessential Americanizer, Wright built what he called prairie houses, which he felt reflected the spiritual strivings of Americans.

Even American popular music focussed upon the increasing pluralism of the society. The Russian-born composer Irving Berlin celebrated the joys of life in Michigan. Other composers wandered the globe, from Ireland to India, for inspiration.

Listen to I Want To Go Back To Michigan

© David Bailey, David Halsted and Michigan State University. May be reproduced for non-profit or educational purposes (though we'd like to know about it); all other uses require permission of the authors.