Technology and Material Culture
Significant developments in technology during the late 19th and early 20th centuries saw the rise of a distinctive “machine culture” in the United States. Books and magazines reflected the pervasive presence of technology, assembly lines facilitated mass production and standardization, and a push for efficiency gave rise to Frederick Winslow Taylor’s Scientific Management. Trains, automobiles, telegraphs, and even cameras were all functioning faster and faster, taking American society along with them. A tangible machine aesthetic, one that included imagery, characteristics, and styles inspired by a mechanized world, was present in many literary works of the early 20th century. Modernist poets like Williams and Stevens had to craft a new poetic tradition in a society that typically valued efficiency and utility over artistic innovation.