High-Class Moving Pictures
Lyman H. Howe and the Forgotten Era of Traveling Exhibition, 1880-1920
Charles Musser & Carol Nelson


The entrepreneur of phonograph concerts and motion-picture programs Lyman H. Howe was the leading traveling exhibitor of his time and the exemplar of an important but until now little examined aspect of American popular culture. This work, with its numerous and lively illustrations, uses his career to explore the world of itinerant showmen, who exhibited all motion pictures seen outside large cities during the 1890s and early 1900s. They frequently built cultural alliances with genteel city dwellers or conservative churchgoers and in later years favored "high-class" topics appealing to audiences uncomfortable with the plebeian nickelodeons. Bridging the fields of American studies and film history, the book reveals the remarkable sophistication with which exhibitors created their elaborate, evening-length programs to convey powerful ideological messages. Whether depicting the Spanish-American War, the 1900 Paris Exposition, or British colonialism in action, Howe's "cinema of reassurance" had many parallels with the music of John Philip Sousa.

First published in 1991.

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