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Historical Americana is an umbrella aesthetic based on the history of the United States pre-WWI, from the start of the colonies in the 16-17th century to the 1890s. There are multiple periods, each with different philosophies, artistic values, and notable people, which are described in the index. While these eras are distinct, contemporary Americans view these time periods as generally "historical," with it being hard to relate to these peoples. They are made into heroes, inspirations, and points of interest, especially the Founding Fathers of the nation.

The aesthetic is used to connect modern Americans with the people of the past in a desire to create national culture, connect with American values, and interest people in American history. Values do change throughout history, but there are motifs that are consistent in telling "the American story." There is a constant struggle in establishing democracy, with historical periods generally characterized as different battles, such as creating it in the Revolutionary era and maintaining the Constitution in the Civil War era. Americans take great pride in their democratic history and the aesthetic functions as an artistic way to present that narrative and assert that there are no kings or great authorities like with France's Rococo.

Another motif is the simultaneous fear and romanticization of nature. Forests, mountains, and rivers feature prominently in American art and it evokes adventure, mystery, and the supernatural in Romantic period literature and the journey of Louis and Clark. Later, n Manifest Destiny, nature also came to symbolize opportunity, destiny, and the heroism of the American people.

Index of Periods[]

Historical Americana Today[]

Historical Americana williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg, a living history museum that teaches people what life was like in the 18th century.

Today, looking at historical objects, locations, and even re-enactments is an activity that many Americans (especially East Coast Americans) have experienced in their lives. The public school system utilizes the aesthetic to encourage more patriotism and interest in history in American children by arranging field trips, assigning art and research projects, and showing media set in the time period. In many states, this is a required part of the curriculum and many students enjoy these special events.

It is also not uncommon for towns and cities of historical interest to have events centered around Historical Americana. Historical societies, tourism and recreation officials, and local museums would hold a festival on the anniversary of the notable event and have re-enactors, parades, and general festivities such as food stalls and street fairs. Historians may hold talks and local politicians may give speeches to unite the community.


Civil Religion[]

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This page is under construction



  • 1776 (1969)
  • Hamilton (2015)


  • The Patriot (2000)
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1949)
    • Disney's animated short, retelling Washington Irving's famous 1820s story of the same name.

TV Shows[]

  • Over the Garden Wall (2014)
    • This animated series takes a lot of inspiration from the works of Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe, and other Romantic period writers, as well as American folk art. It also shows how historical eras often blend together in the American imagination.
  • Sleepy Hollow (2013-2017)
  • TURN: Washington's Spies (2014-2017)
  • John Adams (2008)


  • The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. by Washington Irving (1819-20)
  • Leatherstocking Tales by James Fenimore Cooper (1823-41)
  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850)
  • Walden by Henry David Thoreau (1854)
  • Little Women (1868-1869) by Louisa May Alcott
  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) by Mark Twain
  • Dear America and My Name Is America books set pre-1900
  • American Girl (Felicity, Caroline, Cécile and Marie-Grace, Kirsten, and Addy books)


  • Oh Shenandoah (19th century)
  • Hard Times Come Again No More (1854) by Stephen C. Foster
  • Wayfaring Stranger (published 1858)
  • Battle Hymn of the Republic (1862) by Julia Ward Hower