During the period from 1890 to 1920, Madison, Wisconsin underwent significant changes, both socially and economically. This time frame includes the end of the Gilded Age, the Progressive Era, and World War I, all of which had distinct impacts on the city.
In the late 19th century, Madison was growing as a center for education and government. The University of Wisconsin-Madison was becoming a major educational institution, and the city was solidifying its role as the state capital. The university was a significant factor in Madison's cultural and intellectual life and became a hub for the Progressive movement. Notable figures like Robert M. La Follette, a UW-Madison alumnus, championed Progressive ideas that influenced both state and national politics.
Madison's economy during this period was diverse but was largely centered around government-related activities, education, and manufacturing. The city was not a heavy industrial center like Milwaukee but had a stable economic base that provided for steady growth. Industries included dairying, brewing, and the manufacturing of farm implements, among other things.
World War I brought about changes in Madison as well, as the city contributed to the war effort like many other American cities. The university saw a drop in enrollment but also engaged in research beneficial to the war effort. Meanwhile, the city saw increased activity in manufacturing aimed at supporting the war.
Socially, the period was marked by reform efforts and an active civic life. Many citizens were involved in social and political organizations, and the city had a vibrant cultural scene, including music, theater, and lectures, often connected to the university.
The end of this period marks the beginning of the Roaring Twenties, a time of social and cultural change nationwide, and Madison was no exception. By 1920, Madison was well on its way to becoming the city it is today: a vibrant capital city deeply intertwined with the life and activities of a major American university.
This photograph encapsulates a key era in Wisconsin history and is a must-have for anyone interested in the complex tapestry of our nation's past.