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1900-1909: THE ERA OF OPTIMISM


A new era of change dawns


What a way to start a new century.

The United States and Fort Wayne in 1900 were busy places with endless possibilities.

Optimism abounded with prosperity, promise and new beginnings. There was great hope, a sense that anything was possible, and the excitement of new discoveries and ways of doing things that were amazing. The United States was busy becoming a world power even more huge.

But life was hard. In a typical home, there were no luxuries, running water, plumbing or electricity, just hard work. Change was coming, maybe too fast for some, with anxiety for those unwilling to adapt.

The U.S. population was around 76 million, according to the census. We were the richest country in the world, with already about 4,000 millionaires. But we still saw plenty of 5-and-10-cent stores. Anything seemed possible in this burgeoning era filled with inventions including the X-ray, the phonograph, the light bulb, the telephone, motion pictures and electric current.

As technology continued to grow and change the way we live, there was also a movement in some areas turning back to nature. With a true conservationist, Teddy Roosevelt, as president, five national parks were added in the United States. And the Audubon Society and Sierra Club formed as efforts were made to preserve some natural resources.

Here are some of the highlights of a busy decade, with local events marked with arrows:

1900

William McKinley is re-elected president.

Boxer Rebellion erupts in China.

Mine explosion in Utah kills 20, igniting labor movement to improve working conditions.

1901

President McKinley is shot by an assassin and dies days later. Vice President Theodore Roosevelt becomes president.

Major week-long horse-racing event held in October in Fort Wayne.

1902

Allen County Courthouse is dedicated.

The Fort Wayne Fair Association takes over old Driving Park.

1903

St. Paul's Lutheran Church destroyed by fire.

Iroquois Theater fire leaves 588 dead in Chicago.

The Wright brothers achieve the first successful flight of a heavier-than-air craft at Kitty Hawk, N.C.

1904

Ira Tarbell publishes the muckraking book, "History of Standard Oil."

Fort Wayne Bible College opens.

Fort Wayne Cubs win first of two-straight Central League baseball titles before leaving the league after 1906 season.

Lutheran Hospital opens.

Panama Canal Commission forms to govern the canal zone.

The Fort Wayne Public Library opens.

1905

Rebuilt St. Paul's Lutheran Church opens.

First Rotary Club is founded in Chicago.

Lincoln National Life Insurance Co. is founded in Fort Wayne.

Hurricane floods Galveston, Texas.

1906

San Francisco earthquake leaves 503 dead and $350 million in damage.

Pure Food and Drug Act and Meat Inspection Act passed.

1907

Immigration to the United States from Europe peaks. By 1910, 14.8 percent of the U.S. population is foreign-born.

Financial panic and depression hits the United States.

International Harvester produces its first motor-driven farm truck.

1908

Lakeside Park opens.

New Aveline Hotel in Fort Wayne burns.

Fort Wayne rejoins Central League with the Billikens.

Henry Ford introduces the Model T Ford.

1909

William Howard Taft becomes president.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is founded.

The first city tennis tournament is held.

Payne-Aldrich tariff provides comprehensive system of taxes on imports.

Robert Edwin Peary reaches the North Pole.


Sources: Cityscapes by Michael C. Hawfield; PBS special on the year 1900; The Lincoln Library of Essential Information, The Frontier Press Co., Columbus, Ohio, 35th edition, 1972.

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