Increased immigration and congested cities were causes of concern in early twentieth-century America. The need to Americanize new arrivals was seen as a pressing concern and, in response, new programmes to educate citizens were proposed by city planners, sociologists, social workers, artists, and academics. This paper looks at the different types of performances used in these educational programmes. Through film, dance, and drama this “melting-pot media” taught citizens what was expected of them and what it meant to be American. Drawing on materials from the Harvard Film Archive and Schlesinger Library, the paper uses activities in and around Boston as case studies and includes amateur films, pageants, and the play-writing workshops of George Pierce Baker.
Michael McCluskey is a Lecturer in the CAS Writing Program at Boston University. He was previously lecturer in English and Film Studies at the University of York and, from 2013-2016, was a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at University College London. He is co-editor with Kristin Bluemel of ‘Rural Modernity in Britain’ (Edinburgh University Press, 2018) and co-editor with Luke Seaber of ‘Aviation in Interwar British Literature and Culture’ (forthcoming Palgrave Macmillan). He is currently working on a monograph on 1930s British documentary.