The History of Art Education Time Line 1870-1879
Decades of art education history in contexts of schooling and artworlds

  • Massachusetts legislature passes act authorizing teaching of drawing in public schools.
  • The Massachusetts Drawing Act, prepared by John White, made the provision of free drawing classes for women, men and children mandatory in all communities with populations over 10,000. As a result of this act, twenty-three cities provided these classes for their communities. Despite funds not being included in this act, this gave people the opportunity to take part in art. [Susan Tremblay, Spring 2002]
  • The Massachusetts Drawing Act of 1870 made it mandatory for state schools to incorporate art as one of the required subjects taught in the classroom. This act helped to produce draftsmen, who in turn would aid the economy. [Jaimeson Daley, Spring 2002]
  • Art Museums in America by George Fisk Comfort is published, describing his vision for art museums and their educational functions.
  • Boston Museum of Fine Arts is chartered in February; New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art is chartered April 13; Corcoran Gallery of Art is incorporated on May 14 in Washington, DC.
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art is founded by a group of Americans, including businessmen, financiers, and artists. The purpose of the museum is to bring art and art education to the American people. The museum's painting collection began right away with three private European collections consisting of 174 paintings, although it isn't until the 20th century that the museum is considered one of the world's great art centers. [Kristen Brady, Spring 2002]
  • 15th Amendment is ratified forbidding denial of right to vote on account of race, color, or previous servitude (but women are still disenfranchised).
  • Women enter University of Michigan for the first time since it was founded in Ann Arbor in 1817; by the end of the 1870s there will be 154 coed colleges in the U.S. up from 24 at the end of the Civil War.
  • Massachussetts legislature created the first statewide program for industrial drawing in both public schools and evening adult classes. Walter Smith, who later became the director of the new State Normal School,was brought from England to become the new supervisor of drawing in city schools and the first state supervisor of drawing, bringing with him a background in industrial drawing. This type of drawing, concerned with lines, geometric forms,and simple, commom objects, was ridiculed by some as driving art education away from contemporary movements in American Art. Some also argued that industrial drawing did nothing to prepare students for an understanding of the world of or heritage of art. Advocates of industrial drawing saw it as a way to prepare workers for reading constructive drawings and to develop skill in accurate representation. [Suzanne Wittman, Fall 2002]
  • Walter Smith moves from England to Massachusetts to supervise drawing instruction for the state and in Boston's public schools.
  • Boston Public School Art League begins work of providing casts and two-dimensional reproductions to city schools.
  • Edward Mitchell Bannister, the first African-American artist to earn recognition as an American regionalist painter, became one of the founding members of the Providence Art Club. The PAC was a basis of what is now the Rhode Island School of Design. By some, RISD is considered to be the "Harvard" of art schools in this country. [Jaimeson Daley, Spring 2002]
  • Indian Appropriation Act passed by Congress on March 3 makes Indians wards of federal government.
  • P.T. Barnum's Circus opens and grosses $400,000 in its first season; in 1872 it will become the first circus to travel the country by train and two years later it will be playing to 20,000 people per day. Today, Barnum's circus continues to be a part of popular culture as the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus.
  • October 8-9, Great Chicago Fire destroys 3.5 square miles of the city. Many U.S. cities suffer extensive losses from fires during the 19th century; replacing buildings destroyed by fire gives architects the opportunity to develop new styles.
  • Art Education, Scholastic and Industrial by Walter Smith is published by J. R. Osgood and Co., Boston. This book will be a reference for many groups and institutions that want to develop art education programs.
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art opens in New York City. It would move to its current site in Central Park in 1880. [Eva Tarbuk, Spring 2002]
  • British art critic John Ruskin establishes his Drawing School at Oxford University.
  • In Rochester, New York, Susan B. Anthony and other women's rights advocates are arrested for trying to vote on November 5 in presidential election.
  • H.H. Richardson introduces Romanesque architecture in Boston's Trinity Church.
  • Olana, the home built for the painter Frederic E. Church on the Hudson River, is completed in a style derived from Islamic precedents.
  • U.S. Bureau of Education conducts a survey "'in order to ascertain what opportunities are afforded for art-training and what public art collections are at present existing in this country'" (quoted in Efland & Soucy, 1991, p. 502).
  • Syracuse University, founded in 1870, establishes a College of Fine Arts with George Fisk Comfort as Dean. This is the second U.S. college, after Yale, to grant degrees in fine arts.
  • Louis Prang, who will become Walter Smith's publisher, wins a medal for artistic excellence in chromolithography at Vienna exposition.
  • Financial panic strikes in Europe and spreads to U.S. September 19 is another Black Friday with falling prices; the stock exchange is closed for ten days. By the end of the year about 5,000 businesses have failed and millions of Americans are depending on soup kitchens and other charities.
  • St. Nicholas Magazine for children begins publication under editorship of Mary Mapes Dodge who wrote the popular novel for young people Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates published in 1865.
  • The Gilded Age by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner exposes political and business corruption in the United States since the Civil War.
  • The Grange, a voluntary organization for the educational and social needs of farmers founded in 1867, reaches its peak membership of 750,000. Voluntary associations, such as the Grange, provide educational opportunities for Americans aspiring to better their lives.
  • About this time, Louis Prang publishes the first American Christmas cards, an indication of the rise of popular culture, desire for images, growth of holiday symbolism, commercialization and secularization of a religious holiday. Critic E. L. Godkin writing in The Nation opposes chromos.
  • Charles Elliot Norton is teaching fine arts at Harvard. During the 1874-75 academic year, Vassar requires history of art for all first-semester seniors.
  • An art education association is established at Massachusetts Normal Art School and lasts until about 1877.
  • Corcoran Gallery of Art opens in Washington, D.C.
  • The Chautauqua movement for informal education starts with a summer training program for Sunday School teachers on Lake Chautauqua, New York. By 1877 more than 100,000 people will be signed up for correspondence courses; by 1885 the Chautauqua Press will list 93 titles and there will be more than 30 different Chautauquas in more than 30 states.
  • The Salon des Independents in Paris shows the first Impressionist canvases including Monet's Impression: Sunrise.
  • Louis Prang begins publishing Walter Smith's art education textbooks
  • Syracuse Social Art Club is founded by Mary Dana Hicks who serves as first president of this women's club devoted to the art education of its members.
  • The Art Students' League of New York was established by Lemuel Wilmarth after the National Academy of Design had closed its art school. Unlike the Academy, where one had to be elected to a relatively small and elite group of artists, the Art Students' League offered membership to any candidate with acceptable moral character and the means to pay his due. It has been a major force in the course of events which caused the art capital of the world to move from Europe to New York City. It also has intimately involved with almost every significant art movement in this country. [Emily Chiang, Spring 2002]
  • Wellesley College is opened and includes fine art in its curriculum.
  • Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone. Thomas Alva Edison perfects a duplicating process that uses a wax stencil and about 1880 will license it to A. B. Dick who will begin selling a mimeograph machine in 1887.
  • U.S. Congress passes a Civil Rights act guaranteeing blacks equal rights in public places and banning their exclusion from jury duty; Tennessee passes first "Jim Crow" law prejudicial to African Americans.
  • The Centennial Exposition is held in Philadelphia, a world's fair in celebration of the 100th anniversary of independence from Britain. Drawings done in Massachusetts schools under Walter Smith's supervision are exhibited, as are drawings done in other cities.
  • The Philadelphia Museum of Art is founded.
  • The University of the Arts, located in Philadelphia, was originally founded in the year 1876. Many institutions emerged in response to the interest in art and art education that was stimulated by the country's Centennial Exposition, which celebrated the anniversary of the founding of the United States. This institution was among the first to contribute to the formation of an American tradition in arts education. The current school is a combination of The Philadelphia College of Art and Philadelphia College of Performing Arts, meaning that the university not only offers the visual arts, but incorporates the performing arts like acting, singing and dancing as well. This combination offers students a variety of choices within the art field, ranging from design, media arts, fine arts, and crafts to museum and art education. [Michele Marmero, Fall 2002]
  • Mount Holyoke opens college art gallery.
  • Manual of Design by Richard Redgrave is published by Chapman & Hall, London.
  • Bell gets patent on the telephone and demonstrates it at the Centennial Exposition; Edison improves the telephone to make it more practical.
  • June 25, Battle of Little Big Horn is fought.
  • Melvil Dewey, Amherst College librarian, develops Dewey Decimal System of classifying library collections.
  • Robert's Rules of Order by US Army officer Henry Martyn Robert establishes authoritative rules for democratic procedure in any self-governing organization.
  • Art Education Applied to Industry by G. W. Nichols is published by Harper and Brothers, New York.
  • Ellen Gates Starr, enrolled at Rockford Seminary, meets Jane Addams. The two friends will co-found Hull House, the Chicago settlement based on British precedents.
  • Smith College offers lectures on history and principles of fine arts to all students.
  • February, T. C. Horsfall's letter on importance of art for the lower classes published in Manchester Guardian. Horsfall's letter will be praised by Ruskin in July and Horsfall's work will provide one model for art exhibitions at Hull House.
  • Disputed election of 1876 is settled and Rutherford B. Hayes becomes President on March 2. Economic depression continues in the U.S. Strikes in response to railroad wage cuts result in violence; first "low-rent" housing project is opened in Brooklyn, NY.
  • Anti-Chinese riots in San Francisco mark growing intolerance toward people of color. Nez Perce and Apache Indians are relocated by U.S. government.
  • Telephone exchange established in Lowell, MA, as telephone service begins to spread. Thomas Alva Edison demonstrates first phonograph on November 29.
  • About this time, Mary Dana Hicks moves from Syracuse to Boston to work at the Prang Educational Company.
  • Between 1878-1900, Louis Prang opens branch offices for The Prang Educational Company in New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, London, Berlin, and Melbourne.

    The logo for the Prang Educational Company was the anthemion, seen at left. This floral ornament was often used as an antefix, to conceal the ends of roof tiles on ancient Greek buildings. Walter Smith named the collection of research papers produced by the student art education club at the Massachusetts Normal Art School The Antefix Papers
  • October 15, the Edison Electric Light Company is founded.
  • James Mason Hoppin becomes Fine Arts professor at Yale.
  • Art in the House by J. Van Falke (Charles Callahan Perkins, ed. & trans.) is published by L. Prang, Boston.
  • Edison demonstrates the first practical incandescent light bulb. The growth of electirc lighting will have an impact on interest in color theory.