In the decades after the Civil War, a lot of things were changing in the (re-)United States. The late 19th century and early 20th saw a huge increase in the country’s population (nearly 200 percentbetween 1860 and 1910) mostly due to immigration, and that population was becoming ever more urban as people moved to cities to seek their fortunes—including women, more of whom were getting college educations and jobs outside the home. Cars and planes were introduced to the public; telephones and telegraphs proliferated. Modern society was full of new wonders—or, seen differently, new things to be anxious about.
In his 1871 book Wear and Tear, or Hints for the Overworked, the physician S. Weir Mitchell fretted: “Have we lived too fast?”
As you may have guessed from the book’s title, he answered that with a capital-Y Yes. He glorified earlier settlers who “lived sturdily by their own hands,” and who didn’t have “the thousand intricate problems … which perplex those who struggle to-day in our teeming city hives.”
[For more of this story, written by Julie Beck, go to http://www.theatlantic.com/hea...-and-culture/473253/]