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Media and the Making of Modern GermanyMass Communications, Society, and Politics from the Empire to the Third Reich$

Corey Ross

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199278213

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199278213.001.0001

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The Rise of the Mass Media: Modern Communications and Cultural Traditions in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries

The Rise of the Mass Media: Modern Communications and Cultural Traditions in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries

(p.11) 1 The Rise of the Mass Media: Modern Communications and Cultural Traditions in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries
Media and the Making of Modern Germany

Corey Ross (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter offers an overview of the rise of the commercial media in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and their complex inter-relationship with existing cultural traditions in Germany. After briefly surveying the social and economic pre-conditions underlying the growth of the new media, it analyses how they intermingled with existing cultural forms and practices, and how media producers sought to identify with perceived audiences. Though this process entailed a number of innovations, the need to build on older, ‘safe’ traditions drawn from the theatre or music hall profoundly shaped how the media and commercial entertainments were perceived by both producers and consumers alike. Arguing that the new media did not so much displace these traditions as reconfigure them, this section then briefly considers the threat this reconfiguration posed to cultural authority, and the various arguments of articulate critics that were advanced against it.

Keywords:   audiences, commercial culture, consumers, cultural authority, entertainment, innovation, media producers, tradition

A New Cultural Constellation: Producers, Consumers, and the Marketplace

However frivolous and trivial they may appear, the countless diversions, titillating scandals and gaudy spectacles conjured by the growing commercial culture industry in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries reflect some of the most profound historical changes of the modern era. The enormous expansion of new communications technologies and commercial entertainments was not only a direct outgrowth of industrialization and urbanization but was in many respects their primary cultural expression. In Germany as elsewhere, both of these processes accelerated markedly after the middle of the nineteenth century. Among their myriad social effects, one of the most fundamental changes was the gradual emergence of a new market for cultural consumption among the poorer wage‐earning classes, centred above all on the swelling industrial cities. Demand was such that by the turn of the century the new media and entertainments that served this market had become nothing less than a constituent part of urban life itself, and indeed began to influence cultural practices far beyond the big cities. In short, the age of ‘mass culture’ had dawned.1

This was, of course, a gradual, patchy, long‐term process in which it is difficult to discern any clear turning‐points. It was a phenomenon that stretched across much of Europe and North America, and the pace of cultural change varied considerably in different regions, with the heavily industrialized areas of Britain often acting as forerunners. For the German context, however, there are good reasons to regard the economic boom of the ‘Gründerzeit’ (c.1870–3, followed by a phase of depression) and the economic recovery from the mid‐1880s onwards (p.12) as something of a watershed. Although the buying and selling of amusements was in itself nothing new, the rapid demographic and technological upheavals of the period after 1870 dramatically changed the environment in which such cultural activities took place. Indeed, the connections between the growth of industrial cities and the rise of a commercialized, media‐based culture can hardly be overemphasized. Over the final third of the nineteenth century Germany's burgeoning industrial centres witnessed the emergence of a strikingly new form of ‘public’, one that was not composed of a network of educated private individuals, but rather a collective public of labouring masses that has commonly been called a ‘mass public’. Unlike the older, nature‐bound rhythms of village life, the disciplined and clearly demarcated work times of factory production meant that wage‐earners possessed regular and significant (though by today's standards austerely modest) periods of time away from their place of work. Such ‘unobligated’ time gradually increased for many Germans during these decades with the shortening of working hours, though of course other constraints such as commuting and family responsibilities placed additional limits on leisure opportunities.2 At the same time, the overall rise in real wages also widened the margins of disposable income on which the growing leisure industry fed. Between 1871 and 1913 average real weekly earnings in Germany increased by 35 per cent, and skilled workers in particular found a larger portion of their income left over after purchasing the necessities.3

If this increase of ‘disposable’ time and money formed the very bedrock of modern commercial culture, rising education levels and various trade reforms served as cornerstones. As early as 1830 nearly all Germans had basic reading and writing skills, and by the end of the century illiteracy was all but obliterated in the Reich, tallying a mere 0.05 per cent (compared to 1 per cent in the United Kingdom and 4 per cent in France). In this regard, German press barons and colportage publishers operated on especially fertile terrain. Crucially, however, this insipient mass market for reading material was only formally opened to commercial development in the 1860s through a series of liberal reforms that allowed so‐called ‘Berufsfremde’ (people from outside a particular trade) to establish new businesses. The removal of guild‐like restraints was essential to the growth of the entertainment industry in general, and to colportage and newspaper publishing in particular. Together, the rise in real wages and free time, high levels of literacy, the liberalization of trade, and rapid advances in communications marked the outer parameters of a fundamentally new cultural constellation in the latter stages of the nineteenth century.

This process was inevitably characterized by a mixture of continuity and change, and we must take care not to exaggerate the upheaval. After all, vast swathes of central Europe remained all but untouched by these developments. (p.13) Given the strong historiographic stress on Germany's headlong plunge into ‘modernity’, it is well worth remembering that in 1890 over half of all Germans still lived in small villages (under 2,000 inhabitants) and that around one‐third still made their living directly from agriculture. Many of these people were bound by the same basic work rhythms and cultural horizons as their grandparents, and for most of them the new cultural practices emerging in the cities were more or less unknown. At this time only 11 per cent of Germans lived in big urban settlements (of over 100,000 inhabitants) where the new forms of commercial culture were principally based—roughly an average proportion among central and western European countries, and a mere fraction of the urbanization rate in exceptional Britain.4 Even in the cities, it is all too easy to let the remarkably lively and experimental avant‐garde scene colour our views of popular culture in Wilhelmine Germany. In international comparison, Germany was by no means at the cutting edge of popular cultural innovation, and in many respects lagged well behind Britain, the United States, and parts of France. This question of Germany's ‘modernity’ or backwardness in the realm of the media and entertainments will be a recurring theme throughout the book, and challenges some of the assumptions that have shaped our understanding of early twentieth‐century cultural life.

Nevertheless, there was much that was new around the turn of the century. For one thing, the social context was changing rapidly. Urbanization in Germany proceeded at a breathtaking pace once it got going. In 1871 there were only eight cities with over 100,000 inhabitants; by 1910 the number had multiplied to forty‐eight.5 The explosive numerical growth of urban audiences entailed major qualitative changes too, for what was so unprecedented about the emerging cultural constellation was that its production was largely pitched to ordinary folk, not social elites. Despite frequent attempts on the part of entertainers to achieve elite recognition, it was primarily the common people who partook of the pleasures they peddled. Moreover, this cultural production was also specifically tailored for the ‘masses’ in the sense that it deliberately sought to satisfy their wishes and expectations on their own terms, not as secular or religious authorities wished them to be. The new entertainments were geared first and foremost towards pleasure, not education or spiritual enrichment. In order to entice the average man or woman in the street to part with hard‐earned money, they had to be. The underlying prerogative was sales, and in many respects the most novel and essential characteristic of this new cultural constellation was its increasingly commercial orientation. From the late nineteenth century onwards there emerged a vast new market of cultural artefacts sold for profit. Whether these took the shape of popular tabloids, musical recordings, or films, most were produced not as objects of artistic worth but as commodities whose value was measured by sales.

(p.14) Ever since the emergence of pulp fiction and popular newspapers, one of the most fundamental issues surrounding the rise of modern entertainments has been the nature of this new commercial market. Who, if anyone, controls it? What is the relationship between the producers and consumers of moving pictures, mass‐circulation newspapers, and popular music? To what extent do the usual laws of supply and demand apply? Or does the intangible nature of what is ultimately being sold—excitement, relaxation, distraction—lend the market for commercial entertainments its own unique dynamic? The arguments over these questions are as old as the phenomenon itself. For some observers the easy accessibility of new cultural ‘goods’ and the fact that they were bought and sold on an open market ultimately gave consumers the final say. As film producers and press barons continually claimed, the key to commercial success lay in ‘giving the public what it wants’. Any attempt to preach to audiences, to ignore their wishes, or impose unpopular views was doomed to fail; enterprises that transgressed this law rapidly went to the wall. Yet as other observers have argued, the predominance of private ownership in the entertainment industry and the seemingly ubiquitous dissemination of its output via modern communications technologies gave media magnates unprecedented power to manipulate audiences. Through selective information, tendentious portrayal, and aggressive advertising, proprietors exercised a form of control over the entertainment market that was all the more powerful for its concealment under the veil of consumer sovereignty.

Clearly, neither of these views does justice to the complex relationship between the creators and audiences of commercial culture. The evolution of culture is, after all, one of the most difficult subjects for scholars to analyse. One reason for the difficulty is that solid evidence is often hard to find, in particular for the consumer side of the equation. Which groups read particular newspapers, saw certain films, or listened to specific radio programmes are questions that, before the surveys of the mid‐twentieth century, demand a degree of speculation. This shortage of sources on the structure of demand is one of the main reasons why historians have tended to focus on either the producers of commercial culture or its regulation by the state, both of which have left more evidence to posterity. Yet an even more important reason is that the very nature of the question means that no amount of empirical material will in itself supply a conclusive answer. Supply and demand are ultimately difficult to disaggregate. As one observer remarked in 1932, they are ‘at least as intertwined in the realm of culture as in economic matters’.6 How, for example, should we interpret the unmistakeable conservative/national lurch of German film during 1931 and 1932? As a reflection of ascendant right‐wing forces within the film industry, or the shifting tastes of an increasingly radicalized and disaffected audience? Similar interpretive problems remain even if we confine our gaze to the supply side. What values, if any, did the new media promote, and was this deliberate? For instance, (p.15) did the sports craze of the 1920s and its celebration of individual achievement support or undermine the position of social elites, among them the newspaper owners who devoted more and more space to sports coverage? Did the expanding sports pages promote a culture of performance‐based individualism or rather suggest the need for a level playing‐field beyond the realm of sport as well? Did anyone—whether the readers in search of entertainment or the entrepreneurs in search of profit—particularly care?

As these few examples serve to show, any attempt to investigate the development of commercial culture, which groups drove the process, and whose interests it served requires some degree of conceptual consideration. For better or worse, there is certainly no shortage of concepts on the workings of the modern media. Several decades of sociological and cultural studies research has produced a wide range of different approaches, far too many to discuss in any detail here.7 Naturally, when taken alone none of these concepts can fully capture the intricacies and contingencies of developments as they unfolded. For the purposes of this study, which focuses not on the media themselves but on how they fitted into their wider social context, their development in Germany will be approached as a complex set of interactions between producers, consumers, and social institutions (state and non‐governmental) that together shaped the face of modern mass culture and politics.

Although the relations between these groups differed markedly from one medium to the next and changed significantly over time, it is useful to conceive of them in general terms as a dialogue between consumers and producers in which neither side is wholly dominant and in which their mutual interaction is so fundamental that it ultimately blurs the very distinction between the two.8 This is not to say that power was distributed equally; in many ways the forces of cultural production occupied a privileged position. Nevertheless, audiences placed real limits on their power by stubbornly registering their own preferences at the box‐office. Media entrepreneurs quickly discovered that the key to commercial success lay in anticipating audience wishes and shaping their fare accordingly. In this sense producers indeed ‘gave the public what it wanted’, or at least tried to. Over time this pressure to appeal to audiences became ever greater in the face of intense competition by rival firms and by the advent of new media. Yet for a variety of reasons this very same competition also encouraged the increasing concentration of media ownership—and the power that accompanied it—into fewer and fewer hands. Large firms like Ullstein publishers, Deutsche Grammophon, or the UFA film syndicate not only enjoyed the advantages of economies of scale, but could also more easily afford the latest and most efficient technologies in an industry characterized by constant and extraordinarily rapid innovation. In addition, by (p.16) spreading their risk more widely they were also better placed than their lesser rivals to survive the consequences of the occasional commercial flop, which could quickly prove lethal to small firms with few financial reserves. Over time, this process of concentration meant less competition, which in turn meant less plurality of views. In this sense the increasing concentration of media control from the late nineteenth century onwards undoubtedly brought with it a degree of power to set political agendas, influence tastes, and shape cultural values.

Yet no matter how concentrated patterns of media ownership might become, by its very nature commercial culture always needed to be geared to audience wishes and actively sold to them. Films, records, and newspapers are not basic necessities; one can forgo them without experiencing hunger, thirst, or cold. In most cases, the worst possible consequence of bypassing a newspaper stand is a boring commute home. Not even the most avid fan truly ‘needs’ to see a film or purchase a recording, and generally will not do so if it is inconvenient or places an unjustifiable strain on one's resources. Of course, the distinction between ‘needs’ and ‘desires’ is notoriously fuzzy and subjective, and one should certainly not underestimate the power of modern publicity to conflate the two. Yet it is nonetheless crucial to recognize that not even a media monopoly has a truly ‘captive’ audience.

The need to appeal to audiences was thus constantly on the minds of Germany's new entertainment entrepreneurs. In search of profitable custom they purveyed a vast range of cultural forms and practices, sometimes opting for iconoclastic ‘shock value’, sometimes consciously building on older cultural practices, and invariably publicizing their efforts to the best of their ability. As always, the box‐office served as the final judgement of success or failure. Unlike the traditional theatre or intellectual press, popularity was measured primarily in terms of sales, not critical acclaim. Audiences only bought what they liked, so observance of the ‘bottom line’ therefore functioned as an important conduit of audience feedback. In other words, through the selective opening of their wallets, audiences exerted a powerful influence on both the forms and content of commercial culture. Although media magnates were undoubtedly able to influence popular opinions and cultural preferences, they could only do so within the margins of profitability. Producers were no more able to dictate tastes than audiences were wholly impervious to what they were reading, viewing, and hearing. As D. L. LeMahieu has neatly put it for the British context, ‘the economic power of press lords, movie moguls, and their counterparts in other areas of commercial culture remained contingent upon the approval of the audience they sought to inform and amuse’.9

The key was, of course, to pitch to the so‐called average man or woman, to try to identify with one's intended audience. In order to become commercially successful, an editor or director needed to prioritize the consumer's wishes over his or her own and to approach the audience on its own terms. Given the above‐average education level and relatively privileged backgrounds of most creators of (p.17) commercial culture, these interests were frequently quite different from those of the ‘ordinary folk’ to whom they were trying to sell. In stark contrast to their counterparts in the classical theatre or the elite press, who considered themselves nothing less than guardians of taste and arbiters of enlightenment, commercial culture entrepreneurs quickly recognized that any form of snobbism or cultural arrogance was lethal. Hardboiled producers could privately hold their audiences in outright contempt, but under no circumstances could they afford to let such views cloud their professional judgement.

The concrete forms and techniques they developed to woo audiences were many and varied, and will be discussed in greater detail below. For now it suffices to say that they did not, as a rule, evolve out of any grand scheme or clearly preconceived plan. For the most part they resulted from the gradual accumulation of experience at the box‐office, which over time afforded some insight into what formulas or recipes tended to ‘work’. Any such knowledge gained by producers came less from their own clairvoyance than from a relatively mundane process of trial and error. For every hit song, ‘must‐see’ movie, and successful tabloid there were several flops. The occasional botched idea was simply part of the entertainment business, even for entrepreneurs who possessed a knack for it. Not even August Scherl, the conservative newspaper tycoon of the Wilhelmine era, could keep his many other business failures from eventually undermining his powerful publishing empire in 1913.

Nonetheless, by the end of the nineteenth century there had emerged a number of basic characteristics that broadly shaped both the form and content of commercial culture. Most fundamental was the need to couch messages in a common idiom. Whether one dealt in colportage novels, popular newspapers, or hit tunes, it obviously made no commercial sense to exclude a large portion of the possible audience simply on the basis of education. Complex syntax and formal speech were not only unfamiliar to most people, they were also impersonal and even intimidating. This was crucial, for it did not take long for producers to recognize that maximizing one's audience was—paradoxically—best achieved through a personalized form of address. As a number of contemporaries observed, it seems that the rationality and anonymity of the modern industrial city generated a widespread desire for a sense of intimacy.10 ‘The first function which a newspaper supplies is that which formerly was performed by the village gossip,’ noted the Chicago sociologist Robert Ezra Park. ‘The motive, conscious or unconscious, of the press . . . is to reproduce, as far as possible, in the city the conditions of life in the village. In the village everyone knew everyone else. Everyone called everyone by his first name.’11 Popular literature constantly let readers in on others' secrets, as did the increasingly common personality portraits in popular (p.18) magazines. These were an integral part of the new cult of the ‘star’, which itself grew out of the same desire for intimacy and familiarity. By conveying personal information about an actress or athlete that was wholly irrelevant to his or her professional role, the practitioners of ‘stardom’ sought to forge a pseudo‐intimate link between the celebrity and the individual fan. The human‐interest story, which tended to focus on the triumphs and tragedies of private life, likewise spoke directly to the demand for intimacy, and at the same time vastly expanded the definition of what was newsworthy.

Indeed, the whole concept of newsworthiness was revolutionized by the rise of the mass media. One of the chief novelties of the popular press was the wide range of topics it carried. After all, maximizing its readership was the goal, and only by providing variety was it possible to offer something for everyone: the serial‐novel buff, the avid gardener, the homemaker, and the sports fan. As educated critics commonly pointed out, such breadth came very much at the expense of depth. But given the limited education and leisure opportunities of most people, who had neither the time nor inclination to inform themselves about the intricacies of political or cultural developments, this was more an asset than a liability. Providing a plethora of quick and varied impressions in easily digestible portions was the best way to awaken and maintain the viewer's interest.

Among the variety of topics on offer, the stories and themes that generated the greatest popular interest came not from the realms of the exotic and wholly implausible but from current affairs and ‘real life’—provided they were presented in an exciting way. Sheer make‐believe proved far less gripping than what might be called an ‘exaggeration of reality’.12 The primary building‐blocks of mass culture were, in other words, not wholly contrived sensations but rather a host of absurdities and overblown superlatives drawn from everyday life: stories and sensations that were anything but ‘normal’, but ones to which readers or spectators could relate, however indirectly, through their own lived experiences. New technological wonders, amazing physical feats, gruesome murders: reality was, then as now, sometimes stranger than fiction, and whenever this was the case (or could be presented as such) the very fact that it ‘really happened’ also made it more intriguing. As Vanessa Schwartz has argued for fin‐de‐siècle Paris, the transformation of ‘real life’ into such ‘spectacular realities’ was a key element in the making of modern commercial culture. Although most of Germany's cities were decidedly provincial in comparison to Paris, much the same applies to them.13

While many of the forms, techniques, and characteristics of commercial culture were self‐consciously—even audaciously—new, many also deliberately built on older traditions.14 Just as the pioneers of commercial culture found it profitable (p.19) to mine the seam between reality and fantasy, they also found it prudent to straddle the border between novelty and familiarity. For all the technological and marketing innovations they introduced, the mass media were also powerfully moulded by ingrained traditions and frames of reference that shaped audience expectations. As we will see below, it was not uncommon for popular newspapers to latch on to the trappings of the traditional intellectual press in order to cultivate an air of old‐fashioned dignity. Likewise, early film was strongly influenced by the forms of its vaudeville cradle long after it had developed the technology to transcend them. Although the critics of commercial culture often portrayed it as an alien intrusion, a modern‐day plague suddenly descended on civilization, it is worth emphasizing that the new media and entertainments developed very much within the broader web of social relations and cultural practices of the time. They were an integral part of the wider historical context in which they emerged.15 For this reason their impact on society and the ways in which people perceived them depended in no small measure on how they related to existing cultural practices, traditions, and values.

The shifting relationship between technological and cultural change is always a difficult issue.16 Technological innovations, themselves products of specific social and cultural circumstances, have often had enormous and sometimes unexpected cultural ramifications. In the case of the modern media, their impact has been so far‐reaching as to prompt some of the twentieth century's sharpest minds to ponder their implications for the very role of art and culture in the ‘age of mechanical reproduction’.17 That these changes could pose a threat to traditions has been recognized ever since they first became visible to contemporaries. The immense capability of the modern media to reshape or displace existing cultural practices is often highlighted in narratives about societal ‘modernization’, and as we will see below, there has certainly been no shortage of apocalyptic visions about the death of venerated customs at the hands of mass culture. Yet this is only one side of the story. Risk‐averse entertainment entrepreneurs were often keen to build on older, ‘safe’ traditions, precisely because they continued to shape audience expectations. Even the most novel ideas were often initially dressed in traditional garb, almost as a means of lubricating their insertion into popular consciousness. And quite apart from these marketing considerations, even the most stunning new sensations generally evolved out of hybrid cultural forms. Whether or not such developments undermined or shored up existing cultural traditions is generally a matter of interpretation. In any event, it is important (p.20) to recognize that the rise of the mass media was not merely a story of cultural destruction and displacement, but also of permeation and adaptation.18

To sum up, commercial culture was moulded by a variety of complex social and cultural interactions operating simultaneously on several planes: between producers and consumers, between innovation and tradition, between fantasy and reality. These multiple tensions, in conjunction with the perennially underlying profit motive, were what lent commercial culture its immense energy and creativity. They were the driving forces behind its continual growth from the late nineteenth century onwards. As the following sections of this book seek to show, the effects of mass communications and commercial culture were every bit as complex as the socio‐cultural interactions out of which they evolved, and were similarly marked by countervailing tensions: between emancipation and exploitation, between rejection and affirmation, between social integration and differentiation. But in order to make sense of these consequences, as well as contemporaries' responses to them, it is first necessary to look in more detail at the development of individual communications media over the crucial decades straddling 1900, the era of the so‐called ‘second industrial revolution’. For in many ways it was during this period that the basic structures of modern mass culture first developed in Germany (as elsewhere), structures that still visibly shape our culture today.

The Commercial Press

Printed material designed for wide distribution among ordinary folk was certainly not a novelty of the industrial age. Simple flyers and pictorial pamphlets had been around since the invention of the printing press centuries earlier, and played an important role in politics since the Reformation. By the latter half of the eighteenth century inexpensive books and calendars were reaching audiences far beyond the elite reading public. Itinerant colporteure made a living from peddling books, magazines and lexica to people who had no access to libraries or bookshops.19

Nevertheless, the breakthrough to a truly ‘mass’ press undoubtedly came during the nineteenth century as a result of two discrete developments: a string of technological innovations and the expansion of literacy. The introduction of the cylinder press in the 1810s, which replaced the twin flat plates used since Gutenberg's time with a roller over a flat type‐plate, was followed several decades later by the huge twin‐cylinder rotation presses fed by a continuous paper band. Whereas the average press in 1800 was capable of producing 125 four‐page (p.21) newspapers per hour, the first cylinder press of 1814 could produce almost 1,000 copies. By the mid‐1870s new rotation presses could churn out some 24,000 four‐sided copies per hour, and the more sophisticated versions of the latter 1890s close to 100,000. This roughly thousandfold increase in printing capacity over the course of the nineteenth century was capped off by the introduction of ‘linotype’ from around 1890, which made it possible to set up to 10,000 characters per hour, five times the rate of a skilled hand‐setter.20

This vastly increased supply of reading material is only conceivable within the context of a parallel increase in demand. Whereas the earliest productivity gains after 1800 primarily served a growing bourgeois readership, the dramatic rise in literacy over the nineteenth century amounted to a ‘second reader revolution’ among lower socio‐economic groups. By the turn of the century the masses had become part of the reading public, and moreover had money to spend on reading material. The Reich‐wide liberalization of the publishing industry in 1874 meant that a vast new market was waiting to be opened. There were clearly fortunes to be made if a publisher could produce a paper or magazine that the average person wanted to buy. The huge commercial success of a number of US publishers since the 1830s had already proven that it could be done, as did the stunning success of the weekly magazine Die Gartenlaube, Germany's leading ‘family paper’, founded in 1853 and boasting a circulation of around 382,000 by 1875.21 Tapping this market would require not only the development of new cultural genres attractive to the average reader, but also new commercial approaches designed to keep prices down. It was out of these twin imperatives that the mass commercial press emerged.

The popular newspapers of the 1880s and 1890s differed markedly from their predecessors in terms of form, content, and self‐understanding. Throughout the nineteenth century, and indeed well into the twentieth, perceptions of the press and the role of journalism in Germany differed markedly from those in Britain and the United States (and to a lesser extent in France). The emergence of the so‐called ‘Meinungspresse’ (political press) during the Napoleonic Wars shaped German publishing for more than a century. As Joseph Görres, founder of the Rheinischer Merkur, remarked in 1814, newspapers should be more than ‘just a meagre, inane, and feeble index of events’. In the absence of basic rights and freedoms it was a ‘servile (knechtisch) principle . . . that they should convey mere facts and refrain from making any judgements’.22 Over a century later, the editor of a leading liberal newspaper still proclaimed that ‘it would be false to assume that the primary purpose of the press is to provide information . . . What the (p.22) newspaper wishes to provide is views’.23 Newspapers were therefore ideally seen ‘not merely (as) a source of news information, but also an organ of instruction’.24 Accordingly, aspiring journalists in Germany were not drilled in an objective and distanced mode of reporting, but were encouraged to print their own opinions. They saw themselves as bearers of culture (Kulturträger), even popular educators, not mere reporters. German editors were unambiguously part of the educated elite; in the latter decades of the nineteenth century over three‐quarters possessed university degrees, half of them doctorates. ‘The German newspaper writer . . . prefers to regard himself as an intellectual (Gelehrter),’ remarked one journalist who had previously worked in England. ‘The dignity and importance of political scholarship are continually conveyed to us with dramatic earnestness, yet we search in vain for a fresh and colourful mode of presentation.’25 Catering to the interests and educational level of the masses was simply not their calling. Nor, for that matter, was it economically necessary, for the majority of editors actually earned their living from independent wealth or other activities.26 For most of the nineteenth century the majority of German newspapers pursued cultural and political, not commercial, aims. They were a central institutional pillar of the German ‘Bildungsbürgertum’, which itself constituted the bulk of their readership.

All of this began to change with the emergence of mass‐circulation dailies from the 1870s onwards. They not only challenged the idea that newspaper publishing was different from any other business, but were also explicitly geared towards popular appeal. Although the 1874 Press Law marked an important caesura by liberalizing the publishing business, in many ways the foundations of the commercial press were laid by the advertising reforms of 1850. From that year onwards advertising became increasingly important as a source of income for newspapers. As the proportion of advertising revenue grew, a circular momentum was set in motion. The wider the readership of a periodical, the greater was its advertising value, which thereby allowed it to charge more for its space. In turn, any additional advertising income enabled publishers to expand the readership yet further, either by enhancing the content or lowering the price. Any rise in circulation of course led to a further increase in the paper's advertising value, which set the cycle in motion once again. Whether one viewed this as a vicious or virtuous circle depended very much on one's aims, for the heavy reliance on sales and advertising revenue placed certain constraints on editorial freedom. The editor of a traditional ‘Intelligenzblatt’, or intellectually oriented paper, was loath to tie his hands by worrying about what the ‘man in the street’ might think. Newspapers, in this view, were sources of information and opinion, (p.23) and ideally should be free from all forms of censorship and self‐censorship. If, however, one conceived of a newspaper primarily as a business, such issues were of little concern. What mattered was winning over new readers, and the best means for achieving this was by offering attractive entertainment at the lowest possible price.

The first German publishers to adopt this approach wholeheartedly were Rudolf Mosse and August Scherl. It was no coincidence that Mosse, founder of the Berliner Tageblatt in 1871/2, started his career as an advertising man. In the economic boom of the early 1870s his advertising office needed a mass‐circulation daily as a vehicle for its expanding list of clients; the ‘BT’ was tailor‐made for this purpose. Although it eventually became one of the most respected broadsheets in Germany, the Berliner Tageblatt started as a commercial venture, not a political one.27 While this alone made it unlike other papers of the time, what further distinguished it was its aggressive marketing (including thousands of free trial copies) and its modest price of only RM 4.50 per quarter, around half the average newspaper subscription. Here was a recipe that clearly worked. Within half a decade the Berliner Tageblatt was already the most widely read paper in Germany, with a circulation of around 50,000.28

Characteristically, however, Mosse's lead in the Berlin newspaper market did not go unchallenged for long. In 1883 August Scherl founded the Berliner‐Lokal‐Anzeiger as a direct competitor. Like Mosse, Scherl too was a businessman, not a journalist. Indeed, among all of the big commercial publishers in Imperial Germany, he most clearly epitomized the hard‐nosed, profit‐oriented approach to the publishing business. First and foremost he was an entertainment entrepreneur, having previously worked as a colportage publisher before opening a gambling establishment, the first roller‐skating rink in Cologne, and a vaudeville theatre for his actress wife.29

Given this professional background, it is hardly surprising that Scherl found the bulk of German newspapers stodgy and boring. He therefore took to reading British and US dailies for their broader coverage and accessible style. It was while reading these papers at the Cafe Bauer in Berlin that Scherl first met Hugo von Kupffer, a young journalist who had previously worked for the New York Herald and shared his views about the dryness of the German press. Eventually the two teamed up to found the Berliner‐Lokal‐Anzeiger, which Kupffer edited for almost forty‐five years. The paper was launched with an enormous gratis distribution of some 200,000 copies, and was packed with local news and advertisements, the classic formula of the Generalanzeiger. It soon appeared daily with a circulation of 150,000 and a subscription price of only RM 3 per quarter, significantly less than the Berliner Tageblatt. Although Mosse's new Berliner Morgen‐Zeitung (founded in 1889) was in many ways a direct response to the challenge, (p.24) there were nonetheless noticeable differences between the competing papers. The Berliner‐Lokal‐Anzeiger did not slavishly imitate the Berliner Tageblatt or, for that matter, Leopold Ullstein's successful Berliner Zeitung. Scherl regarded the former as too serious and the latter as too politically oriented. From the outset Scherl wanted the Berliner‐Lokal‐Anzeiger to be more ‘popular’—to carry more entertainment, more human‐interest stories, and above all more advertisements.30 Interestingly, its large editorial board (numbering thirty‐four in 1899) was relatively heterogeneous in its social composition: around one‐third had not even been to university, and some even had previous criminal convictions unrelated to their journalistic activity.31 On the eve of the First World War 70 per cent of its revenue was derived from advertisements, only 30 per cent from sales.32 With this thoroughly commercial formula, the Berliner‐Lokal‐Anzeiger became Germany's most successful mass circulation daily before 1914.

As Scherl's move from Cologne to Berlin indicates, commercial publishers did not merely seek to open up new markets in their own locality, they actively went in search of opportunities. This approach was exemplified by publishers such as Wilhelm Girardet and above all August Huck, the so‐called ‘Generalanzeiger‐King’ of Imperial Germany, who owned or possessed a controlling interest in scores of provincial papers by the 1910s.33 Businessmen rather than journalists (Girardet was trained as a bookbinder and Huck owned a type foundry), they essentially applied Mosse's and Scherl's Berlin formula to other cities in the Reich, at least those in which the old‐established local papers had failed to open up a mass readership themselves. Whereas Leipzig, Dresden, and Hamburg presented fertile soil for such a venture, other cities—notably Munich and Cologne, where the long‐established Münchner Neueste Nachrichten and Kölnische Zeitung expanded their markets far beyond their traditional readerships—looked far riskier. The fate of Joseph La Ruelle's short‐lived General‐Anzeiger der Stadt Köln was a lesson in the importance of choosing the right place.34

No matter where a particular Generalanzeiger was founded, however, the basic idea was the same: to acquire the largest possible readership and the highest advertising rates at the lowest possible subscription price. But how, more concretely, did they try to appeal to a mass readership? The creation of a new reader–paper relationship was crucial, for another fundamental difference between the Generalanzeiger and the traditional press was that they could not rely on political affinity to forge this link. A truly mass readership could not be established on the basis of shared opinions between editor and readers. One possibility was to offer insurance coverage to subscribers, a ploy first devised in (p.25)

 							              The Rise of the Mass Media: Modern Communications and Cultural Traditions in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries

Fig. 1. The face of the ‘Generalanzeiger’: Mosse's Berliner Morgen‐Zeitung, 24 February 1891. bpk Berlin.

(p.26) England in the 1880s before spreading to the continent in the 1890s. By 1911 there were just under 300 ‘insurance newspapers’ in Germany, catering to the full range of political outlooks.35 But most of the large commercial dailies manufactured their reader–paper bond by anticipating readers’ interests and catering to the growing demand for entertainment without printing partisan views that could cause political offence.

This required substantial innovation in both form and content. As Rudolf Stöber has put it, the Generalanzeiger was characterized by three essential traits: topicality, universality, and publicity.36 Their topicality and ‘up to date’ image were based on the latest printing technologies and an emphasis on ‘hot off the press’ news. This spirit was epitomized by Ullstein's BZ am Mittag (founded 1904), which made speed and late‐breaking stories its signature image. Claiming to be the fastest newspaper on earth, it boasted a state‐of‐the‐art distribution system replete with an army of automobiles, the latest and fastest presses, even several airplanes that dropped bundles of copies at reception sites in other cities. Its crowning achievement came—legend has it—in early 1919, when the Republic's new president, Friedrich Ebert, who was due to give a 3 o'clock address to the constitutional assembly in Weimar, was approached shortly beforehand by a paperboy brandishing a copy of the BZ flown from Berlin that already contained the full text of the speech he was about to give.37

The ‘universality’ of the Generalanzeiger lay in the broad range of topics they covered, which translated into more items of correspondingly shorter length. As the first issue of Girardet's General‐Anzeiger für Leipzig und Umgebung (1886) explained: ‘In an effort to inform our readers about the most important and interesting events in all aspects of public life, we will constantly report the latest news of the day in concise form. The omission of longer expositions of the material puts us in a position, however, to offer more diversity.’38 In this way the Generalanzeiger were able to provide ‘something for everyone’ and to convey basic information without the risks of extended editorial comment and without placing many demands on the reader. The flip‐side of creating this common denominator was of course the lack of a distinctive political profile. Since an obvious party‐political line placed narrow limits on a newspaper's readership, big commercial dailies made a point of proclaiming their ‘unpartisan’ status. Although this usually translated into the adoption of a safe nationalist tone, there were also successful Generalanzeiger of unmistakeable left‐liberal coloration, such as the Generalanzeiger für Hamburg‐Altona and the Berliner Tageblatt.39 It was eventually regarded as axiomatic that ‘the best premise for the growth of the circulation figures of any newspaper is the absence of all narrow‐minded party (p.27) politics’.40 For the commercial press, the principle of universality meant not only breadth of coverage, but also, to quote again from the General‐Anzeiger für Leipzig, ‘a strictly neutral standpoint wholly independent of the influence of party doctrine’.41

By the turn of the century this diversity of news was increasingly supplemented by an emphasis on entertainment. In the major urban centres in particular, expanding leisure time and disposable income generated a huge demand for amusements which commercial publishers sought both to satisfy and further stimulate. The family magazines founded in the 1850s and 1860s, such as Die Gartenlaube or Daheim, had long made entertainment their raison d’être, filling their pages with novellas, poems, popular science articles, and sketches of faraway lands: ‘Far from all political wrangling and the clash of opinions, . . . we want to entertain you and inform you in an amusing manner’, promised Die Gartenlaube in its 1852/3 debut edition.42 Following their lead, a number of newspaper publishers had already made moves in this direction well before 1900. The Berliner Tageblatt, for instance, added a weekly ‘home and garden’ supplement in the 1880s (‘Haus, Hof und Garten’), followed by a new technical magazine (‘Technische Rundschau’) in the 1890s.43 At its launch in March 1894 the Düsseldorfer Neueste Nachrichten promised to bring ‘pleasurable entertainment, instruction, and relaxation to every household each evening through gripping novellas, thrilling stories, sketches and features, public announcements, problem columns, and much more’.44 Serialized novels (Fortsetzungsromane), already a mainstay of the colportage industry,45 grew increasingly common as well, and proved an exceptionally effective means of ‘binding’ readers to a particular newspaper. They were—unsurprisingly, given Scherl's colportage background—a cast‐iron component of the Berliner‐Lokal‐Anzeiger, which took the commercial exploitation of reader suspense to new heights by suddenly introducing a new character or plot just before the end of the subscription period in order to hook its readers into renewing.46 Yet arguably the primary trendsetter for a more entertaining format was Ullstein's Berliner Morgenpost, founded in 1898, whose distinctly modern and accessible visual format, along with its sizeable section of picture games and crossword puzzles, clearly struck a chord with Berliners. Within only two years of its launch it reported a daily circulation of around 250,000 copies.47

As the success of these examples demonstrates, newspapers and magazines were no longer just a source of information, but were an indispensable companion (p.28) for leisure time. The act of reading was, like the new urban pastime of window‐shopping, not merely a means to an end but was becoming an end in itself. For many people, the sheer enjoyment of reading was just as important as the acquisition of information. Browsing through local stories, advertisements, and advice columns represented in many ways a new form of virtual flånerie, and indeed one in which both men and women of all classes could easily take part.48

If this growing demand for entertainment influenced the content of commercial newspapers, it also shaped their form. As a means of enhancing the ‘publicity’ of their products, commercial publishers not only relied on straightforward language and playful commentary, but also experimented with more eye‐catching layouts. As the leading publishers' journal put it some years later, before the Generalanzeiger most papers had ‘a very calm appearance. The three columns of text on each page contained no more than absolutely necessary by way of article and section headlines, and there had to be something very unusual going on for a report to appear in bold typeface or spaced out on a page. This was all changed in one stroke with the emergence of the Generalanzeiger.’49 Although the shift hardly happened overnight, how these papers displayed their content was just as important as the content itself. Whereas the dense columns of print that characterized the political press demanded considerable time and energy to decipher, striking visual headlines or illustrations could convey basic information quickly and easily, without the reader necessarily having to ‘read’ very much in the traditional sense of the word. As publishers soon recognized, this ability to ‘browse’ headlines was potentially attractive to the bulk of readers who lacked the time or energy to plough through vast fields of text. The importance of catching the eye through the use of white space, bordering, and different script styles was particularly acute for newspapers geared towards street sales instead of subscriptions. Even more than the average Generalanzeiger, their success depended on their ability to attract sufficient interest to trigger a sale. Although pictorial illustrations were still rare before the First World War, it was nonetheless recognized that appealing to a wider audience required greater accessibility, and that greater accessibility required not only plain language but also new visual prompts.

Nowhere was this more clearly manifested than in the huge expansion of illustrated magazines around 1900. These magazines came in all forms, from clever satire to pioneering photojournalism to cheap titillation and soft porn. At the lower end of the scale, rags such as Satyr and Flirt specialized mainly in nudity and tales of sex scandal. Sharing the bottom rack were a range of crime‐reporter magazines inspired by London‐based forerunners: Reporter, Criminal‐Reporter, Neue Detektiv‐Zeitung.50 Moving up the scale, magazines such as Simplicissimus (p.29)

 							              The Rise of the Mass Media: Modern Communications and Cultural Traditions in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries

Fig. 2. Eye‐catching layout: Illustrirte Zeitung (Leipzig and Berlin), 7 October 1897. bpk Berlin.

(p.30) or Fliegende Blätter specialized in biting political and social satire. Yet as far as future developments were concerned, the most important illustrated magazines were the range of general‐interest periodicals founded in the 1880s and 1890s, weeklies such as the Münchner Illustrierte Zeitung, Leipziger Illustrierte Zeitung, Scherl's Die Woche, or Ullstein's Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung.51

By far the most successful of these was the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung (BIZ), founded in 1891. Equipped with a specialized staff, image archive, and picture production unit, the BIZ was Germany's first truly mass‐circulation weekly. As one of the first periodicals to offer subscription‐free sales and free delivery, it achieved print‐runs of around 1 million copies by 1914.52 Yet the chief pull of BIZ (and of Scherl's Die Woche, which perennially occupied second place) was the quality and quantity of its illustrations (though engravings continued to outnumber photographs before the First World War). For many observers it was the illustrated magazines rather than the mass dailies that embodied the spirit of the age. As Kurt Korff (Kurt Karfunkelstein), the long‐term editor of BIZ, remarked, the magazine's success rested not only on its own merits, but also on the general shift towards a more visual culture: ‘In a time in which living life “through the eyes” began to play a more central role, the demand for visual illustration had become so strong that one could hardly avoid using images themselves as conveyors of news. That meant a totally new relationship to the visual image.’ Pictures required little or no formal education, and they conveyed a message quickly and convincingly. Perhaps most important, they generated a sense of authenticity and ‘reality’. Seeing was believing, and photographs in particular gave a sense of ‘direct’ experience that the written word could not match: ‘Without illustrations the things that happened in the world were reproduced incompletely, and often seemed hard to believe—it was above all the image that conveyed the strongest and most lasting impression.’53 Pictures thus played a key role in the sensationalizing of ‘real life’, in the creation of ‘spectacular realities’.

Through the use of more illustrations, accessible layout, easily comprehensible language, and entertaining content, the commercial press in Germany both fulfilled and further expanded the popular demand for reading material. From 1862 to 1914 the number of newspapers more than trebled, from around 1,300 to 4,221. Although sales figures are somewhat unreliable (publishers often inflated them to maximize advertising revenue), it is nonetheless clear that circulation, too, grew rapidly over the same period. Whereas the average newspaper circulation in 1885 is estimated at 2,604, by 1906 it had more than doubled and by 1914 nearly quadrupled (see Table 1). Of course, these aggregate (p.31)

Table 1. Growth of the Press in Germany, 1885–1914


Number of newspapers

Number of municipalities with newspaper

Newspapers with circulation < 1,000

Newspapers with circulation > 20,000

Average circulation



















Source: Muser, Statistische Untersuchung, 10–15, 58–63.

Table 2. Number of Newspaper Editions Per Week, 1885–1914 (% Age of Titles)



























Source: Muser, Statistische Untersuchung, 43–7.

statistics mask immense variations between the many dwarf provincial papers and the popular dailies in the big cities. Yet the overall trend is unmistakeable: while only a tiny handful of papers in 1860 printed more than 10,000 copies, by the turn of the century there were twenty‐five with print‐runs over 35,000, several of them over 100,000. These larger newspapers were, moreover, appearing far more frequently. Whereas most newspapers in the 1880s appeared no more than three times per week, by 1914 42.3 per cent were published every day but Sunday, with a further 4.5 per cent adding a seventh edition. And some appeared far more often than that. By 1897 there were ninety‐one papers with over ten editions per week; topping the list was the Frankfurter Zeitung, with nineteen weekly editions (three per day Monday to Saturday, plus a Sunday edition).54

Again, the bulk of this growth came in the form of entertainment, local news, and advertisements. Whereas in 1800 over three‐quarters of newspaper space was devoted to politics, by 1900 the proportion had sunk to just over one‐third, with most of the change occurring after 1850.55 By the 1920s even the chief editor of the staunchly traditional Vossische Zeitung made no secret that ‘the only way of achieving higher circulation figures is to give the political contents the character of human‐interest material and to add supplements which, by (p.32) catering to the interests of every class of reader, will attract wide circles of the population’.56

It is, therefore, unsurprising that the publishers of old‐established papers perceived the commercial press as a huge threat. In 1894 the Association of German Newspaper Publishers (Verein Deutscher Zeitungsverleger) was founded for the express purpose of protecting them from what they dismissively called ‘Scherlism’. Their worries were thoroughly understandable, for the threat they faced was twofold: the rise of popular dailies challenged not only the economic viability of their publications, but also, more importantly, the very understanding of journalism that they embodied. In many contemporaries' eyes, the entire matter boiled down to a struggle between ‘Gesinnung’ and ‘Geschäft’, convictions and commercialism. Because journalism in Germany was conceived very much as a matter of the former and not the latter, the commercial press was decried for undermining journalistic traditions. Placing profit before principle was, for one thing, a renunciation of their educational mission. Instead of informing and edifying readers, commercial newspapers supposedly catered to their ignorant mindsets and ‘base instincts’, and in the process granted their views an unwarranted air of legitimacy.57 While their content represented a ‘dumbing down’ of intellectual standards, their eye‐catching format was also an affront to serious journalism, insofar as it prioritized appearance over substance. At one level such criticisms were an integral part of more widely held reservations about the rise of capitalism itself, reservations common among the educated middle class in Imperial Germany. Yet in the case of the press this scepticism was magnified because of the decidedly intellectual self‐understanding of journalism. As Jörg Requate has put it, commercial publishers ‘were scolded for doing precisely what other entrepreneurs were celebrated for: namely, opening up new markets through innovation’.58 For traditionalists, Germany's press landscape was a central battlefield in the wider struggle between culture and commerce.

As understandable as such fears were, they were also significantly overblown. The rise of mass dailies and illustrated magazines may have reconfigured the publishing industry and reinforced the ongoing changes to German reading culture, but they hardly sounded the death‐knell for Germany's political press. For one thing, the highly politicized party newspapers also experienced a significant upswing over the same period. The Social Democratic press rebounded with a vengeance after the lapse of the anti‐socialist laws in 1890, though it admittedly never nearly kept pace with the party's electoral success. From a total of twenty‐three papers in 1876, their number leapt to sixty in 1890, of which nineteen were dailies. Over the same period their combined circulation more than doubled (p.33) from around 100,000 to 260,000, expanding further to around 400,000 by 1900. Even more successful was the party's satirical magazine Wahrer Jacob, whose circulation of 380,000 in 1912 dwarfed all other Social Democratic publications. The Catholic Centre Party press likewise experienced rapid growth, especially after the repressive Kulturkampf of the 1870s. Its overall circulation was in fact significantly higher than that of the SPD, numbering over 600,000 by the 1880s and around 1 million by the turn of the century.59 Far from succumbing to the ‘apoliticism’ of the mass dailies, Germany's party‐political press was thriving. Insofar as the growth of the press represented a threat to traditional socio‐cultural hierarchies, it was arguably these SPD and Centre publications that posed the more direct challenge to the interests of educated elites—at least those of the Protestant majority—rather than the bulk of mass dailies, whose avoidance of political controversy in some ways functioned to conserve the status quo.

Moreover, the bulk of traditional newspapers not directly affiliated with a particular party also thrived into the First World War and beyond. As we will see in more detail below, the distinction drawn between the ‘political press’ and ‘commercial press’ was never as clear in practice as in theory. From the very beginning, there was considerable cross‐fertilization and overlap. By 1900 some of the traditional papers began adopting certain props from the popular press in order to enhance their appeal, though never too much to tarnish their solemn reputation. At the same time, many mass dailies sought to ennoble their image by deliberately adopting traditional‐sounding names, for instance, the Breslauer Generalanzeiger rechristening itself the Breslauer Neueste Nachrichten, or the Generalanzeiger für Halle transforming into the Hallische Nachrichten.60 New publishing innovations could be harnessed to bolster time‐honoured conventions, and borrowing from inherited customs could enhance the appeal of new cultural forms.

Most importantly, the exaggerated threat posed by the commercial press rested in large part on a misconception about its readers. The bulk of its growth came not from poaching older subscribers away from their ‘serious’ papers but rather from seeking out new readers who would never have bothered with the staid publications of the old‐established press in the first place. From this point of view, the contemporary jeremiads about the erosion of cultural standards by the commercial press could be turned on their head. For as far as the promotion of reading per se was concerned—a sacred activity among the German Bildungsbürgertum—the many innovations introduced by the mass‐circulation papers rendered a greater service than all of the well‐meaning workers’ libraries and popular‐education associations combined.

(p.34) Early Film

‘It is no coincidence that the development of the cinema and the development of the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung have run more or less parallel to each other,’ noted its editor Kurt Korff in the 1920s. ‘To the extent that life became more restless and individuals were less inclined to leaf through a magazine in calm contentment—to this same extent it was necessary to find a sharper and more striking form of visual depiction.’61 As many of his contemporaries observed, the growing emphasis on layout and illustration reflected not only the expansion of the reading public and the faster pace of urban life, but also the increasingly prominent role of motion pictures. For it was during the same period that the visual spectrum of the press was expanding that the cinema first developed into a new and remarkably successful form of entertainment.

Despite its popular image as a quintessentially modern form of communication, the roots of cinematic technology reached back many decades before its breakthrough in the 1890s. The first experiments with capturing movement in images were already carried out around the middle of the nineteenth century. Around the same time, the development of electrical lighting led to a number of innovations such as the panorama and diorama, in which spectators viewed brightly illuminated images painted on surrounding screens or on the walls of a darkened room. More closely related to subsequent cinematic technologies were the popular slide shows and ‘magic lantern’ displays, which first projected luminous images on to a blank screen. By the 1880s Étienne‐Jules Marey's ‘chronophotographic gun’ could conserve a series of photographic stills suitable for rapid, ‘moving’ reproduction, and other optical contraptions, such as Ottomar Anschütz's ‘tachyscope’, were capable of generating moving pictures by mounting photographs on spinning discs.62

Yet cinematic technology made its most rapid strides after the development of celluloid film. In the 1890s, as Thomas Edison was experimenting with his ‘kinetoscope’ and the Lumière brothers were developing their ‘cinématographe’, the German photographers Max and Emil Skladanowsky began using a new ‘film camera’ loaded with Kodak celluloid strips. In 1895 they unveiled their own ‘Bioscop’ projector, which in November of that year treated Berlin to the world's first public film screening at the Wintergarten theatre.63

(p.35) The new Bioscop act was an immediate hit. Composed of several brief vaudeville‐style numbers, it basically provided a short virtual reproduction of the live show that it capped off. What most fascinated the audience was thus not the content of the images so much as their technological novelty and uncanny sense of authenticity. In the words of the Berliner‐Lokal‐Anzeiger: ‘What plays itself out before our eyes is the fullness of life, depicted in stunning detail. Every scene is a vivid portrayal of nature, so precise down to the last detail that it appears to us as if we are viewing the real world itself.’64 After the successful Wintergarten premiere, moving pictures rapidly became a standard part of vaudeville programmes across Germany. By 1900 it was already reported that no big Varieté was without a film act.65 And over the following years the selection of films and projectors swelled rapidly.

Yet in spite of film's vaudeville roots, the bulk of the early cinema audience was not found in the big cities but rather in the countryside and small towns where most Germans still lived.66 Before the growth of film rental companies around 1905, cinema operators generally had to buy outright all of the films they showed, and therefore tried to exhibit them as many times as possible until they were literally worn out. In any given locality the Varieté theatres could only show a film for a few weeks at most, thus making it difficult to recoup the costs of purchase. Operators quickly recognized that changing localities on a regular basis was a more profitable means of maintaining audience interest in their films. Cinema was therefore an ideal new attraction for the itinerant entertainers who plied the annual circuit of local fairs and carnivals that punctuated the social calendar in Germany's small towns. For around RM 0.30 locals gained entrance to a tent or other portable structure where they were treated to a variety of short films showing acrobatic stunts, speeding locomotives, and the like, usually by means of a fairly primitive projector. Some of the more enterprising ‘Wanderkinos’ also sought audiences beyond the temporal confines of the yearly fairs, occasionally hiring auditoriums in hotels and inns.67 Despite their considerable aesthetic and technological shortcomings, these roving cinema shows formed the foundation of the German film industry for around a decade, and helped to popularize the medium far beyond the urban centres.

Whether screened at the vaudeville theatre or the fairground, the attraction of these films lay in their ability to capture the sense of events whose very essence was movement. Capitalizing on the ability to show viewers things they (p.36) could not see on stage, early filmmakers focused largely on current events and documentaries rather than narrative storytelling. Natural phenomena, in particular those involving movement, were intrinsically suited to the medium. Realistic images of a fire alarm or a steaming locomotive were a sensational novelty for audiences (though despite myths to the contrary, never so much as to cause panic at the sight of a train racing towards the camera).68 Even well before the development of celluloid film, Étienne‐Jules Marey was capturing the movement of birds in flight, and Eadweard Muybridge recorded galloping horses with his ‘Zoopraxiscope’.69 Filmmaking pioneers focused much of their attention on natural phenomena or news events involving movement (like the launching of a ship). ‘The cinematic portrayals of natural occurrences, such as waves breaking in the sea, flowing rivers and waterfalls, the thundering arrival of a locomotive or a team of horses cannot be surpassed in terms of clarity by any other means of depiction’, remarked an enthusiast in 1911.70

As this quote indicates, the subjects covered by early films included everything conceivable, from royal weddings to natural wonders to bullfighting.71 The key, however, was the screening of ‘Aktualitäten’, short depictions of current events or issues that tapped viewers' interest in the happenings of the wider world. The activities of the royal family were a regular feature on Germany's cinema screens. Oskar Messter began to make the first newsreels (his famous ‘Messter‐Woche’) in 1897 after successfully filming scenes of the centenary ceremonies of Kaiser Wilhelm I's birth. That same year one of the earliest ‘Messter‐Woche’ films showed the first moving close‐up of Wilhelm II in the dockyards of Stettin. Guido Seeber, renowned for his pioneering use of a moving camera, also made films about the Kaiser.72 Wilhelm was so enchanted by the results that he began to cancel events if the weather was not suitable for filming.73 Yet even more popular were short films dealing with sensational incidents of the type so beloved by the commercial press. Among the top hits of the 1908–9 season were ‘The Berlin Elevated‐Railway Catastrophe of 26 September 1908’, ‘The Earthquake in Messina’, ‘Zeppelin in Berlin’, and ‘The Spanish Judicial Murder of Francisco Ferrer’.74

In many ways these films made a virtue of necessity. The technical limitations of early cinematography, in particular the length of celluloid rolls and the film capacity of projectors, placed tight constraints on the aesthetic exploitation of (p.37) the medium. The vast bulk of films before 1910 were between 15 and 30 metres long, which corresponded to a playing time of around three to six minutes. Only few films exceeded this length, running to a maximum of around fifteen minutes. Despite the occasional production of short fantasies and humour sketches, it was difficult to develop a plot in this length of time. By contrast, the ‘optical reporting’ of current events lent itself ideally to the capabilities of the medium.

Yet it was not merely technological limitations that encouraged the pastiche programmes of early cinema. There were good reasons for screening a variety of shorts in rapid succession. Vaudeville theatres had proved the popularity and commercial success of this format, which entertainers and academics alike deemed uniquely suited to the hectic environment of Germany's burgeoning urban centres. As the sociologist Georg Simmel famously argued in 1903, in the big city the ‘swift and uninterrupted change of outer and inner stimuli’ led to an ‘intensification of nervous stimulation’. In his view, the new mode of perception in the modern metropolis was characterized above all by ‘the rapid crowding of changing images, the sharp discontinuity in the grasp of a single glance, and the unexpectedness of onrushing impressions’.75 As the writer Otto Julius Bierbaum had noted two years earlier, these changes inevitably affected people's leisure preferences: ‘The contemporary city‐dweller has vaudeville nerves; he seldom has the capacity of following great dramatic continuities, of tuning his senses to the same tone for three hours. He desires diversity—Varieté.’76 So successful were the vaudeville theatres around the turn of the century that it seemed only obvious for cinema operators to copy them. ‘One of the main reasons for the popularity of the cinematographic theatre resides in its many‐sidedness,’ noted the cinema reformer Ernst Schulze. ‘The Varietés have already made this their primary principle, because their owners know that people nowadays, namely the city‐dwellers exhausted by the monotony and stress of the workday, are very receptive to quick diversions.’77

Early film and Varieté were downright made for each other. In many ways vaudeville provided film with an ideal home by drawing in large crowds in search of precisely what early film could offer: a quick series of brief and rapidly changing impressions. Film programmes followed a quintessentially vaudeville rationale, namely to hook the audience with an opening number and keep it in suspense before building up to the main attraction. The standard formula, as described by the cinema journal Licht‐Bild‐Bühne, was as follows: ‘1. Musical piece. 2. Current affair. 3. Humour. 4. Drama. 5. Comedy.—Interval.—6. Nature film. 7. Comedy. 8. The big attraction. 9. Science/knowledge. 10. Off‐colour comedy.’78 At the same time, film also represented an ideal attraction (p.38) for Varieté. It not only enriched the programme with images and topics that could not be seen on stage, it also, unlike human performers, did not mind being the final act of the evening, and indeed helped transform the last slot from a kind of exit accompaniment into a real finale.79

It was around 1905 that the first permanent cinemas appeared.80 The buoyant market for films, the vast increase in their supply and—crucially—the establishment of distribution firms allowing owners to change their programme on a regular basis meant that there was big money to be made for operators who settled in a suitable place. It was remarkably easy to open a so‐called ‘Ladenkino’ (shop cinema) during these boom years. Despite the flammability of the celluloid films, there were no safety regulations; all one needed to do was set up a projector and screen in a vacant shop or pub. The result was a veritable explosion of moving‐picture houses in German cities. From the end of 1905 to the end of 1907 the number of permanent cinemas in Berlin grew from twenty‐one to 132, with continuing (if somewhat slower) growth over the following years.81 The bulk of these establishments were fairly primitive, and according to one contemporary account were chiefly distinguishable by the ‘better or worse quality of their ventilation’.82 Yet by 1908 the first purpose‐built cinemas and luxurious ‘cinema palaces’ also began to appear. Located in city centres or near traffic hubs, and equipped with lavish decoration, upholstered seats, and musical orchestras, they sought to attract a stratum of customers unlikely to visit the seedy Ladenkinos: ‘the difference in terms of furnishings and decor between a small neighbourhood cinema and one in, say, Berlin W(est) is absolutely enormous’, noted a contemporary survey.83 The first cinema chains also emerged in this period, starting in 1906 with Paul Davidson's ‘Union‐Theater’, which rapidly spread from Frankfurt am Main to other cities.

The growth of permanent cinemas was closely related to the emergence of feature‐length films. Inspired by trendsetters such as the 1910 Danish film Weiße Sklavinnen—at 600 metres (or up to around two hours) by far the longest production to date—filmmakers increasingly experimented with the narrative possibilities of the medium, mainly in the form of social dramas and sensational films about love, adventure, and criminality.84 There were, apart from the technological improvements that made it possible, two primary reasons for this shift. First of all, many filmmakers sought to legitimate their medium in the eyes of the cultural elite, to lay claim to a respectable artistic status hitherto denied them (on which more below). Although cinemas had for years tried to present themselves as ‘cinema‐theatre’, the inability to make longer narrative films rendered such claims unconvincing. The aim of feature (p.39)

 							              The Rise of the Mass Media: Modern Communications and Cultural Traditions in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries

Fig. 3. The early ‘Ladenkino’: staff at the entrance to the Nord‐Kino cinema in Berlin, c.1910. bpk Berlin.

(p.40) films was to be ‘abendfüllend’, or to take up the whole evening, which for the traditional theatre meant around two to three hours. It was hoped that by adopting this recognized aesthetic form the feature film would ‘generate just as much expectation and premiere‐fever, would mobilize precisely the same art critics as perhaps “Der Rosenkavalier”. Then film will become a theatre event, a literary and artistic work.’85 Underpinning this bid for elite recognition was, secondly, the desire to raise profits. Only when films could acquire the status of ‘valuable art’ could they demand the kind of prices theatre did. In this sense the narrative ‘cinema drama’ played the same role for film producers that the cinema palace played for exhibitors: the point of both was to tap a well‐heeled audience.

The success of the ‘cinema drama’, which by 1914 had become the most popular film genre, had a profound impact on nearly all aspects of cinema. For one thing, their length of an hour or more meant that they no longer fitted into vaudeville programmes, which further boosted the trend towards permanent cinemas. It also affected the average size of cinemas, for longer films meant less audience turnover, and lower turnover meant that maximizing audience size required a larger auditorium.86 It is no coincidence that the half‐decade before the First World War witnessed the construction of ever‐larger cinemas in Germany's major cities; by 1914 Berlin alone had three theatres with seating capacities over 1,000. Entertaining audiences for this length of time also required better plots and scriptwriters. Given that a large proportion of the spectators were women, many of these early ‘cinema dramas’—especially those starring the Swedish‐born actress Asta Nielsen—were deliberately geared towards women's concerns, often revolving around gender and social relationships and a woman's struggle for happiness.87 While the films themselves (and at least some of the cinemas) came to resemble certain aspects of the traditional theatre, so too did the audience. The fact that good seats in the finer ‘cinema palaces’ could cost around RM 5 (as much as a theatre visit) was taken as ‘evidence that the cinema has long ceased to be exclusively the theatre of the little man’. As a result, even the mode of reception in these venues became more genteel: ‘The visit becomes an official act that one undertakes exactly as one would a theatre visit. There is none of the casual coming and going as in the smaller local cinemas.’88

As we will see below, it was precisely with the emergence of drama and ‘artistic’ cinema that the German cultural elite became more interested in film, in both a positive and negative sense. But in the meantime the attempts by filmmakers to gain the sympathy of the educated classes by no means severed all of cinema's vaudeville and fairground roots. Although the bid for artistic (p.41) recognition was celebrated in some quarters, not everyone was happy about it. In fact, the advent of the long film met with considerable scepticism, even within the industry. The problem was not so much that longer films meant fewer showings and potentially less revenue (which was a concern), but rather that they represented a break from the previous variety format that had made the cinema such a success in the first place. In 1913 Kurt Tucholsky remarked that the tried‐and‐tested formula of rapid and brief impressions ‘seems to be the only form in which the cinema can be endured: three minutes, parody, grotesque, superhuman hand movements, a smiling mouth but no spoken word, joy, attempt, hope, happiness, fall, thump, defeat, live with it. Three minutes.’89 Audiences still craved variety, and programmes with up to ten numbers did not die out overnight. Indeed, some cinemas even sought a competitive advantage by retaining the Varieté format. In 1913 Berlin's plush Kammerlichtspiele actually banned the long drama from its programme on the grounds that ‘the experience with numerous, lavishly made dramatizations has prompted the Kammerlichtspiele to be one of the first movie theatres of the capital to return to the original aim of the cinema, which is primarily to satisfy the audience's desire for entertainment, its demand for knowledge and its curiosity’.90 The forms of early film were not determined solely by the technological capabilities of the medium. The Varieté traditions of pastiche and diversity shaped audience expectations and film production long after the technical barriers to feature‐length films were overcome. Mixed cinema programmes including dances, acrobatic numbers, and live sketches carried on well into the 1920s, especially in cities with a vibrant vaudeville scene.91 Ironically, it was only when film could finally claim to be ‘cinema theatre’ that it first began deliberately presenting itself as ‘cinema‐Varieté’.

Film, then, remained very much a popular phenomenon. In spite of the new artistic pretensions, for the most part it continued to function as the ‘theatre of the little man’, where the public wilfully insisted on seeing what it was used to and regarded aesthetic experiments with scepticism. Action, adventure, and romance were—then as now—the stock‐in‐trade of the film industry. They were, as the film journal Licht‐Bild‐Bühne put it, ‘what modern nerves need, what they avidly crave’.92 As such, it was almost inevitable that the cinema would attract criticism from an educated elite defined in large part by an appreciation of ‘art’ and ‘culture’. Although recent research has shown that the early cinema (p.42) audience was far less proletarian than many contemporaries assumed,93 it was nonetheless generally shunned by the German Bildungsbürgertum. The bulk of the audience was drawn from urban labourers and the lower‐middle classes, and was also disproportionately young.94 Once it became a profitable entertainment industry for the masses, film was suddenly perceived as a social and cultural ‘problem’. By around 1910 various professional groups such as teachers, clergy, doctors, and writers unleashed a flood of pamphlets and books expressing their concerns about the social and cultural ramifications of the cinema.

In many ways the resulting anti‐cinema discourse of the 1910s grafted directly on to the anti‐Varieté discourse of the 1890s.95 In both cases, their mixture of different genres and the compilation of numerous short features was itself an affront to elite cultural sensibilities. Deliberately conceived as entertaining diversion, the standard film programme flagrantly transgressed the categories and structures of traditional art forms. The sense of uniformity and linearity that characterized great musical or theatrical works met its antithesis in the hodgepodge of ‘cinema‐Varieté’. Worse still, this filmic trampling of aesthetic standards occurred by and large through visual means, thereby sidestepping the authority of the word. This is not to say that early film was wholly devoid of a verbal element: captions conveyed both dialogue and narrative skeleton, and some cinemas employed live announcers (Erklärer) until around 1910.96 But most films nonetheless relied on a new vocabulary of gestures and visual cues—cues to which the culturally initiated were unaccustomed. The sudden cutaways to a wholly different scene or different camera angle were often perceived by the art aficionado as profoundly disruptive. ‘I cannot imagine anything more artless and devoid of style than this constant jumping from picture to picture, this completely unjustified change of scale to which the eye is supposed to adjust so quickly,’ remarked a Dresden curator in 1913. ‘This continual change of perspective, of lighting, of tempo gradually drives the viewer into a condition of nervous agitation.’97

If the forms of early cinema did not accord with elite notions of culture, its content was deemed no better. As critics often argued, the very nature of film as a visual medium made it intrinsically sensationalist. Relying so heavily on images and gestures to convey meanings carried an inbuilt tendency towards exaggeration and lurid thrills. Critics feared that this propensity, in combination with film's unique sense of authenticity, would erode viewers' sense of reality. The many ‘sensation films’ in circulation were therefore a particular target of (p.43) scorn, especially those dealing with sexual or criminal themes. While erotic titles such as Sinful Love, Burning Love, and Queen of the Night posed a clear danger to moral values, the often sympathetic portrayals of daring and resourceful criminals threatened to undermine respect for the law.98 Government officials in Württemberg, for instance, worried that:

when people constantly see scenes of criminality and suicides, acts of viciousness, gross sensuality, and the many other unethical things that recur with sickening regularity in our so‐called ‘criminal and sexual films’, then their sense of what is ethically reprehensible is gradually blunted. This danger exists especially for children and adolescents, whose ethical perceptions are still in the formative stage, and also for adults whose characters are insufficiently developed or whose mental faculties are weak.99

Cinema was thus the last place in which such themes should be aired, packed as they were with youth, women, and manual labourers—precisely the groups deemed most susceptible to such moral corruption and most in need of patriarchal guidance. The fact that the masses partook of such damaging fare under cover of darkness, and therefore free from supervision, only heightened suspicions about its detrimental effects.

Early cinema thus challenged traditional bourgeois values on a multitude of levels. As Peter Jelavich has emphasized, the nature of cinema in many ways presented a nightmare scenario in the eyes of cultivated patricians. In dark and crowded rooms, an audience drawn mainly from the lower social strata gawked at frivolous sensation films with subversive sexual or criminal themes, or gave itself over to social dramas featuring independent and strong‐willed women, and all of this without the primacy of the word, without a clear plot or message, and—given the highly improvised nature of early film production, in which actors and actresses often exercised as much creative influence as directors—without even unambiguous artistic origins.100 To make matters worse, film also posed a danger to bourgeois institutions. The ever‐growing popularity of the cinema threatened to undermine not just the morally dubious Tingel‐Tangels (the German equivalent to music halls) and fairgrounds frequented by the urban masses, but also the ‘legitimate’ theatre. For it was precisely when the cinema tried to re‐create itself in the image of the stage that it attracted the ire of the theatre world. Critics also worried whether the cinema might overtake the schoolroom in terms of social influence, and thus undo all the good work of Germany's prized education system.

Yet, as we will see below, the problem was not so much with film per se as with the specific ways in which it was manifested: as a largely unregulated commercial enterprise whose primary social function was ‘mere entertainment’. Nearly all contemporary observers—whether supporters or opponents, regular (p.44) movie‐goers or abstainers, progressives or traditionalists—agreed that film was an immensely powerful new form of mass communication. More than newspapers, magazines, or books, film was seen as an ideal vehicle for conveying messages and values to a mass public that often lacked the education or inclination to absorb large amounts of information through reading. It was not only decidedly user‐friendly, but its unique ability to show the ‘genuine article’ lent it a degree of credibility and persuasiveness that—though potentially dangerous if left to the machinations of commercial entrepreneurs—made a more indelible imprint on the thoughts and opinions of an audience than any other medium. It was, in short, regarded as an ideal means of popular education, and the aim was to harness it for this purpose. Whether social reform was the only justification for its existence, whether it was legitimate at all to convey ‘mere entertainment’, how film should be shaped for more edifying purposes—these were all questions that had to be grappled with.

Conserving Sound: Phonograph and Gramophone

If the years around 1900 saw a significant shift towards a more visually oriented culture, the concurrent changes in the ‘landscape of sound’ were hardly less important.101 Admittedly, the medium of recorded sound was far less widespread than the cinema or press at the turn of the century. But even so, its gradual emergence marked a major milestone in the development of a media‐based commercial culture. It is perhaps the relatively slow development of recorded music that explains the lack of attention historians have paid to it. For all the recent interest in mass communications, the history of recorded sound in Germany has remained relatively uncharted territory. For the early years in particular, little has been written about the spread of the phonograph and its relationship to broader patterns of social and cultural change.102 The following section will offer a brief overview of these issues, focusing first on the growth of the recording industry in Germany before considering the popular reception of recorded sound and its effects on existing cultural traditions.

Like the cinema, phonographic technology underwent a lengthy process of evolution prior to its breakthrough as a popular form of entertainment. When Edison first presented his ‘phonograph’ to the world in 1877, a mechanical device capable of reproducing sounds conserved on etched metal cylinders, it (p.45) was conceived primarily as a means of business communication. Once it became clear, however, that the business world was uninterested in the contraption, other entrepreneurs began to focus on its potential for popular entertainment. At the same time, a number of engineers experimented with different techniques and materials in an attempt to improve sound fidelity and lower costs. Most notable was the German‐American inventor Emil Berliner, whose ‘gramophone’, unveiled in 1887, introduced the flat shellac discs that eventually came to prevail.

It was around 1900 that the German recording industry made its breakthrough. After Berliner founded his ‘Berliner Grammophone Company’ in Philadelphia in 1887, he soon established production facilities in Europe, first of all in his hometown Hanover. Other firms soon followed, and over the first decade of the twentieth century the production of records swelled in Germany from around 2.5 million in 1902 to 18 million by 1907. Despite such impressive growth, however, the recording industry proved highly prone to fluctuations in the wider economy. Records production declined precipitously during the First World War, and only rebounded to pre‐war levels during the latter half of the 1920s, reaching a peak of some 30 million records in 1929, around half of them for export.103

Though an unusually volatile industry in the early twentieth century, recorded sound was becoming big business. In 1907 the German record and gramophone industry already numbered 181 enterprises employing around 4,600 people (not including the various supply firms closely related to the industry). At the industry's inter‐war peak around 1930, it was estimated that some 40,000 manual labourers and 7,000 white‐collar workers were directly or indirectly employed in the record industry, making it approximately the same size as the shoe industry.104 Most of the firms were concentrated in Leipzig, Dresden, Hamburg, and above all Berlin, which by the early 1920s was home to no fewer than seventy firms.105 This geographic concentration was based not only on the cheap labour and large local public afforded by the large cities, but also on the high concentration of actors and singers (again, particularly in Berlin) on whom the recording industry relied.

By the mid‐1920s the medium of recorded sound was an integral part of Germany's cultural landscape.106 During the economic upswing after 1924 it became both more affordable and more widespread, especially among the middle classes. At the same time, it catered to an ever more complex palette of tastes, ranging from popular dance music to the classics. Yet from early on many educated elites regarded it with concern. Although this did not (p.46)

 							              The Rise of the Mass Media: Modern Communications and Cultural Traditions in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries

Fig. 4. Young Berlin couple pondering the purchase of a gramophone, late 1920s. bpk Berlin.

keep the gramophone out of many a bildungbürgerlich household—Thomas Mann himself was an avid listener—to many it represented at best a dubious compromise with mechanization and cultural commercialization, and at worst another threat to genuine Kultur. This sense of elite ambivalence was eloquently (p.47) expressed by the journalist Paul Schlesinger, who, though clearly delighted with his new gramophone in 1924, nonetheless found it difficult to accept its social and cultural implications: ‘A particular conception of what constitutes a respectable way of life lasts for only a limited number of decades—then one has had enough of it and buys a gramophone. One has his convictions, and has championed them for years; then he goes and blissfully does the opposite. None of what one has ever thought or said against the talking machine is retracted. It was a noble and splendid fight, and the defeat was literally a noisy one.’107 Purchasing a gramophone is portrayed here as a betrayal of one's values, and there is a certain pang of conscience about finally succumbing to the medium of recorded music, which he likens to a ‘sweet poison’, an addictive drug at once dangerous and irresistible.

As Schlesinger's comments suggest, elite aversion to the gramophone arose on a number of levels. First of all, as a primary reflection of the wider mechanization of music, it was seen to pose a threat to the bourgeois ideal of the cultivated lay musician. The practice of making music at home (Hausmusik) was second only to reading in the bourgeois hierarchy of cultural virtues. By eroding the idea that one must play music in order to appreciate it, the gramophone was perceived by many as ‘the death of living music, especially music in the home’.108 At the same time, it was held in either grave suspicion or outright contempt by the bulk of professional musicians, for whom ‘the word mechanization currently carries the same horror as the word machine did for many workmen one hundred years ago’.109 Simply put, the ability to conserve sound over time rendered the act of performance less important. Similar complaints were voiced by the musical‐instrument industry, which had long been in decline and tended to blame this on the rise of recorded sound.110

But even more alarming to cultural conservatives was the central role of recorded sound in the ‘internationalization’ of music, and in particular the popularization of American jazz. Enthusiastically embraced by much of the avant‐garde and grudgingly accepted by many liberal‐minded listeners, jazz was contemptuously rejected by conservatives of all shades, who regarded it as little more than primitive ‘negro‐music’ and therefore quintessentially un‐German.111 The fact that jazz was associated with urban living by both supporters and opponents alike did nothing to reduce its polarizing impact. Whereas supporters celebrated its rhythmic affinity with modern life, for opponents it was one of the more egregious outgrowths of ‘asphalt culture’. As if the ability of records to (p.48) transport jazz across the Atlantic were not bad enough, the efforts of German recording companies to stimulate interest in the genre seemed nothing less than an act of treason against the German cultural heritage.

Given the conservative perception of America as a land of soulless commodification, shallowness, and ‘massification’, the very ‘Americanness’ of jazz also resonated with another strand of criticism: the commercial nature of the recording industry. Although the threat of commercialization applied to the entire spectrum of popular culture, it was, given the strong sense of national pride in the German musical legacy, of particular concern with regard to recorded sound.112 Recording firms were naturally more interested in selling music for profit than in shoring up cultural traditions. There was, after all, big money to be made by hits such as Yes, We Have No Bananas, which by 1929 had sold 3 million copies. Quite obviously, sales for even the most popular symphonies, like Beethoven's Ninth, paled in comparison. As a result, ‘hit’ music soon came to dominate the industry by the 1920s, accounting for around 75 per cent of all recordings by 1929.113

The problem in the eyes of cultural conservatives was not so much that such hit songs were popular. Even the most hidebound traditionalist agreed that popular ‘hits’ in some form had been around for centuries. The issue was rather where this popularity originated, and it was the commercial nature of the modern ‘hit’ that caused offence. For one thing, it trampled the idea that a ‘successful’ piece of music should possess some degree of enduring cultural value. The goal of achieving timelessness was simply not the aim of hit tunes, which consciously opted for the immediate reward of momentary appeal. During the runaway inflation of the early 1920s the notoriety of such timely hits as We're Boozing Away Granny's Little House and Who Rolled the Cheese to the Station testified to the commercial success of this approach.114 Moreover, unlike the folkloric origins of many traditional songs, the ‘popularity’ of the modern hit was seen primarily as a reflection of its consumption, not production. As the critic Herbert Connor put it, whereas popular songs had previously emerged from ‘the people’, in the mechanized and commodified twentieth century they had become the ‘product of a deliberate calculation’. Their texts and melodies were not derived from oral or musical tradition, but were written by publishers and composers in such a way as to maximize royalties. Thus, despite the common suggestion that modern dance hits somehow compensated for the stress of the modern workplace,115 it was incorrect to ascribe this ‘mass production of aural trash’ to the current Zeitgeist since it actually originated from purely commercial (p.49) considerations: ‘It was first in the modern metropolis, which has forfeited all communal ties, that the musical hit, by its very nature a product of the people, has become an object of cheap entertainment.’116 As the primary vehicle of such ‘aural trash’, as a central conduit for the ‘Americanization’ of popular music, as an allegedly remorseless destroyer of live performance, the gramophone was in many eyes guilty by association.

Yet for all the venerated cultural traditions potentially threatened by the rise of recorded sound, its effects were in practice much more ambivalent than such Cassandra‐calls suggest. Overall, the relationship between recording technology and cultural traditions in Germany followed a pattern not at all dissimilar from that in Britain, where, as D. L. LeMahieu has shown, recorded sound did not so much destroy musical traditions as reconfigure them, often in unpredictable ways.117 There were three primary aspects to this, relating to the transcendence of time, the transcendence of space, and the general mechanization of music.

First, there can be little doubt that the ability of recorded sound to transcend time relativized the act of musical performance. Professional musicians and concert‐hall regulars were quite right to fear the impact it would have on the long‐term viability of individual orchestras, especially in view of the dwindling subsidies available after the First World War. At the same time, it was also understandable that musicologists should feel uneasy about the ability of recording technology to transform music from a social activity into a consumer good that could be deployed by individuals at almost any time. However, in the years before the dominance of studio recordings the vast bulk of records were in fact based on live performances. It was fairly common to purchase recordings of performances that one attended oneself, almost as a memento of the occasion.118 Even after the large firms established special recording studios, their recording sessions were regularly open—and advertised—to the public.119 The line between recording and live performance was therefore not so clear as one might assume.

The implications of sound conservation differed quite substantially for individual musical genres. It is telling that sound conservation was by no means regarded by tradition‐minded musicologists as singularly negative. As early as 1900 commentators recognized how beneficial it would be if recordings of Beethoven conducted by Hans von Bülow were available, or recordings of Parsifal made during Wagner's lifetime.120 Beyond the classical canon, however, the effects looked somewhat different. As LeMahieu has pointed out, although recording technology in one sense immortalized a popular tune, the ability to replay it as often as one wished actually tended to shorten the life‐span of a ‘hit’ by (p.50) diminishing the intervals between hearing it. No longer having to wait very long to hear a beloved melody, the public quickly had enough of it. It appears that this trend accelerated markedly during the 1920s with the rapid expansion of radio and gramophone use. Whereas midday radio programmes in the mid‐1920s often featured ‘the hits of the season’ (including songs from over the past year or two), by the end of 1929 the Berlin broadcaster was playing only ‘the newest hits of the month’ on its midday programme.121 Thus the increasingly rapid turnover of hit songs was not just an industry ploy for stimulating demand, but was also rooted in the very usage of recorded sound within the wider cultural context.

Secondly, although the ability of recorded sound to transcend space made the music scene in one sense much more international, it also served to ‘nationalize’ popular tastes and to reaffirm the boundaries of national culture. This was clearly manifested in August 1914, as recording firms and popular composers quickly made the shift from foreign dance music to ‘war production’ in order to satisfy the exploding demand for patriotic songs. Among the most popular hits of the era were Walter Kollo's Immer feste druff!, Paul Lincke's Fürs Vaterland, and Bogumil Zepler's Das deutsche Schwert.122 The ‘nationalization’ of tastes was also in evidence during the Ruhr crisis of 1923, which witnessed a huge surge in demand (and supply) for Rheinlieder.123 The Wall Street crash in 1929 likewise triggered a noticeable shift, as German Lieder, military marches, and waltzes increasingly supplanted jazz‐inspired ‘hits’, which themselves became more distinctly German around 1930: titles such as Das Schützenfest, Alt‐Heidelberg, and Einmal am Rhein give a sense of the trend.124 One should not, however, overemphasize this shift, for despite the polarizing disputes over jazz, it is important to note that waltzes and Volkslieder had always been the popular favourites in Germany in any event, and this in spite of (or rather because of) their complete lack of international appeal.125 Moreover, much of what counted as ‘jazz’ in Germany had little to do with the genuine American article. As a German dance journal explained in 1925: ‘What is nowadays played as jazz has nothing to do with negro music. It is, in reality, nothing more than syncopated music, and sometimes nothing more than a somewhat rhythmically wilful manner of playing the percussion instruments.’126

Thirdly, although recorded sound undoubtedly constituted a quantum leap in the mechanization of music, it also served to boost live performance by stimulating the demand for hit songs and promoting the wider dance craze that (p.51) swept Germany after the First World War.127 Records could very successfully popularize tunes, but before the advent of electrical recording they were ill‐suited to performing them in public due to the inability to achieve the necessary volume levels.128 Because the phonograph served to heighten demand without being able to satisfy it in a public setting, the overall effect was to boost live music. Although these technological obstacles were largely overcome in the second half of the 1920s with the advent of electrical recording and the mains plug‐in set (which first introduced electrical amplification as we know it today), the cost‐saving potential of these devices could hardly outweigh the appeal of a live band. There was, as the record companies argued, no reason to assume that the gramophone would kill off live music any more than previous mechanical inventions had done, whether the medieval Glockenspiel, the orchestrion, the organ, or the mechanical piano.129 At the end of the 1920s there were still armies of musicians and singers employed in Germany's dance halls: 21,000 in Berlin, 19,000 in Hamburg, 15,850 in Hanover, 11,000 in Leipzig, and 10,800 in Dresden.130

Much the same can be said for the impact of the gramophone on music‐making in the home. For all the complaints about its supposed displacement by records, it seems that Hausmusik was becoming more, not less, popular after the First World War.131 It was widely acknowledged by all but the most irretrievable pessimists that the desire to hear music (whether recorded or otherwise) or to play it oneself were quite different urges.132 Indeed, records arguably aided the revival of Hausmusik after the First World War in the form of special accompaniment (‘Spiel mit’) recordings of duets and quartets minus one instrument.133 And apart from the sheer quantity of music played in the home, many music critics also welcomed the qualitative improvements of recorded sound. In 1905 the composer Engelbert Humperdinck expressed the hope that ‘mechanized’ Hausmusik would supersede the ‘vain bungling’ prevalent in most households: ‘The great painting masterpieces are not there to be copied but to be viewed; could it not be the same with musical works?’134 As for lay musicians, many found it difficult ‘to master an instrument to the point where one's own playing can even remotely fulfil his own musical standards. One is eventually happy that the gramophone (p.52) dispenses with the necessity of having to listen to oneself plonking away.’135 As another critic pointedly remarked: ‘the phonograph has rendered greater services to Hausmusik than all of the piano lessons in the world.’136

However hyperbolic such assertions may have been, they nonetheless demonstrate an important point. The relationship between the gramophone and musical traditions was—and was perceived by many contemporaries as—not merely one of destruction and displacement, but of recasting and transfiguration, in some respects even rejuvenation.

Cultural Authority and the Entertainment Market

Despite widespread contemporary fears about the effects of the new media, closer inspection shows that their impact on cultural traditions, patterns of social distinction, and popular tastes was rarely straightforward, and depended crucially on the precise nature of their technology, the changing composition of their audiences, their variegated uses, and the wider social and cultural context in which they were embedded—factors which the following chapters will consider in detail.

Yet there can be no doubt that the growth of commercial culture represented a serious threat to certain traditions. Above all, it questioned the social position of the Bildungsbürgertum as the principal arbiters and consumers of culture. At the most fundamental level, commercial entertainments and mass media undermined the authority of cultural elites by making the marketplace their most important measure of success. Cultural value was no longer determined solely by aesthetic standards, but also by sales. By deliberately catering to the tastes of a mass audience, commercial entertainments effectively took the judgement of artistic merit out of the hands of a cultural oligarchy and put it to a popular referendum. At the same time that the marketplace usurped this authority ‘from below’, the increasingly international scope of commercial culture also challenged it ‘from without’. The mounting cross‐border traffic of music, films, and the values they embodied threw into question many older assumptions about the boundaries of ‘national’ culture, and along with them the role of an educated elite as custodians of a distinct national heritage.

Given what was at stake, these developments naturally elicited a strong response. The fundamental challenge they posed to the cultural hegemony of the (p.53) educated elite prompted heated debates among a wide range of different groups. As we will see in the next two chapters, the concrete responses to the challenge of commercial culture varied widely, and were by no means confined to outright rejection and the ‘politics of cultural despair’.137 Yet it is nonetheless fair to say that mass communications and commercial culture were generally viewed with scepticism among the bulk of the Bildungsbürgertum, and were regarded by many as a social and cultural ‘problem’ that required urgent solutions.

Although similar developments could be observed across much of the industrialized world, these debates were particularly vehement in Germany, for two closely related reasons: the changing self‐understanding of the German educated elite, and the unique importance of culture in bourgeois conceptions of German nationhood. The fact that the rise of the new media and commercial culture coincided with a broader sense of crisis among the Bildungsbürgertum strongly coloured perceptions. Over the course of the nineteenth century the German educated elite had grown accustomed to exerting a remarkable degree of cultural and political influence. The traditional process of elite formation among the German bourgeoisie revolved largely around the Humboldtian tradition of humanistic education in Gymnasium and university. At the top of the social hierarchy stood academic occupations such as professors, lawyers, and physicians, whose social prestige derived primarily from their educational qualifications rather than material wealth. During the latter part of the nineteenth century rapid industrialization in Germany gradually undermined their position as a non‐economic middle class. The rise of a new industrial and technical elite threatened to displace the values of Bildung (education) by the power of Besitz (material possessions), and at the same time the expansion of higher education threatened to dilute academic standards.138

In response, Germany's non‐economic elites tended to defend the status symbol of humanistic education by drawing a clearer distinction between Bildung and Ausbildung, or education as self‐cultivation (and a virtue in itself) as opposed to the acquisition of practical knowledge.139 In this context an appreciation of art and culture for their own sake represented an ideal weapon for asserting social superiority. This weapon was all the more potent for being able to draw on older Romantic conceptions of art as a kind of window to the divine, the creation of inspired genius that demanded a quasi‐religious form of veneration (along with the requisite education) to be fully appreciated. The resulting dichotomization between ‘serious’ art and that which merely sought to ‘entertain’ was thus not new to the Wilhelmine era, but it was accentuated by the rapid social changes under way. It was also related to the increasingly strident nationalist claims to (p.54) German exceptionalism from the 1890s, to the supposed profundity of German Kultur over the superficial mannerliness of Western Zivilisation. The nationalist jingoism of the Wilhelmine period posited a unique appreciation of culture as a distinguishing characteristic of the national soul.140 This, too, rested on older ideas about the centrality of culture to the definition of German nationhood. Although the sense of sharing a distinct cultural heritage has of course played a key role in the construction of national identities across the globe, it was particularly acute in Germany, where the idea of a Kulturnation was long celebrated as a surrogate to actual political unification prior to 1870, especially among the educated elite. A deep reverence for ‘culture’ was thus an indispensable badge of both national and social distinction. The intense veneration of art by the Bildungsbürgertum therefore reflected art's role as both ‘a medium of national cultural integration and as a confirmation of their own cultural hegemony’.141 By the turn of the century much of Germany's educated elite had begun to perceive itself more specifically as a cultural elite whose duty was quite literally to act as guardians or ‘bearers’ of German national culture against the alleged soullessness and sterile rationality of modern industrial society.142

In many respects the rise of commercial entertainments embodied the most regrettable ills of this society. As mere commodities devoid of intrinsic value, they were a primary symbol of the new technological civilization and its ‘cultural decadence’. Although elite criticisms of commercial culture were many and varied, it is useful to conceive of them as the product of four distinct sets of concerns that were closely interrelated in practice: aesthetic, social‐pedagogic, medical, and economic.143

For the initiated, the vast bulk of cultural artefacts peddled by the mass media were simply worthless. As we have already seen, intellectuals by and large judged popular culture according to the artistic criteria of literature, painting, theatre, and classical music. In these terms, the stuff in the popular press and cinemas could never be educational or uplifting; it was simply rubbish. During the decade or so after 1900 the concept of Schund, loosely translatable as ‘trash’, came to replace the label ‘kitsch’ as the operative term of derision. Though it may seem trivial, the shift in terminology is in fact quite revealing. Whereas ‘kitsch’ was used to disparage a work of poor artistic quality, ‘trash’ implied a more fundamental form of rejection, a denial that the object in question had anything to do with artistic quality at all.144 Even the thousands of cheap oil paintings on pub walls and the deliberate provocations of the avant‐garde were still—however tasteless and whatever traditions they set out to trample—comprehensible within the categories and conceptual vocabulary of conventional aesthetics. The fact that (p.55) the artefacts of commercial culture largely resisted such categorization, or rather were not concerned with it in the first place, caused even greater offence to aesthetic sensibilities. Unlike ‘great art’—or, for that matter, attempts that fell well short of it—it did not seek the veneration of the viewer but rather his or her participation. Any claims that it made to cultural value were not based on its intrinsic merits, but on its ability to entertain. The aim of the season's new dance hit was to give pleasure, not to inspire awe. The whole point of popular film was, as the critic Béla Balázs approvingly put it, to ‘abolish the distance between the spectators and an art‐world closed off unto itself’.145 In this sense, the aesthetic problem presented by commercial culture went well beyond that of kitsch. It not only met with the disapproval of the distinguished panel of judges, it also ignored their laws and even refused to recognize the legitimacy of their court.

This was all the more galling to an educated elite that saw the spiritual guidance and betterment of ‘the people’ as its natural calling. As Fritz Ringer pointed out long ago in his study of the German academic elite, the sense of cultural malaise that plagued many fin‐de‐siècle mandarins did not diminish their claims to the moral and spiritual leadership of the nation. Their decidedly patriarchal inclinations, which if anything intensified as they came under threat, meant that they ‘were never content to cultivate their own gardens. They thought of themselves as a priestly caste, and they meant to legislate ultimate values to a peasant population.’146 Although Ringer was referring here specifically to academic luminaries with their own particular gripes about the erosion of spiritual values in a technological age, much the same could be said of the Wilhelmine educated elite more generally, and certainly of their perceptions of commercial culture. The fact that the mass media did little to improve popular aesthetic sensibilities was bad enough. What made them even worse was that they actually threatened to undermine the elite's ability to shape popular tastes. ‘Edification’ and ‘entertainment’ were, in this view, a zero‐sum equation: every hour of leisure time spent watching sensation films or reading local crime stories was one less hour available for self‐improvement. Worse still, their continuous portrayals of sensuality, unbridled passion, crime and violence could hardly contrast more starkly with the values of self‐control, moderation and reason that bourgeois social reformers sought to inculcate. In this sense, concerns about the content of commercial culture reflected the vague but very real fin‐de‐siècle fears of an irrational rabble governed not by reason and intellect but by instincts and impulses.

Admittedly, emotions and passions were the stock‐in‐trade of commercial entertainments. They deliberately appealed to the senses, they promised immediate pleasure, and they frequently titillated audiences with action and eroticism. As critics commonly argued, this was a major factor behind the ever‐multiplying (p.56) signs of spiritual ‘brutalization’ (Verrohung) among the masses. From this socio‐medical point of view, the careless unleashing of emotion and fantasy was nothing short of a public health hazard. Too much excitement and nervous stimulation was, so the argument went, detrimental to the physical and psychological well‐being of the nation, and that of youth in particular. And the danger this posed to psychological health was not confined to nervous excitement alone: watching or reading too many implausible action adventures or contrived love tales could, it was feared, erode one's very sense of reality. Although concerns about the overexposure of young people to sexually explicit material was a standard element of the decades‐old moral crusade against obscene literature,147 the rise of the cinema added a new sense of urgency to such criticisms. This was not only because of its unprecedented vividness, but also due to the simple fact that it took place in darkened rooms where, as the physician and writer Alfred Döblin put it, ‘couples squeeze into corners and are lost in the reverie of each other's obscene fingers’.148 Even in the relatively ‘respectable’ cinemas where one was unlikely to encounter such behaviour, the overexertion of the eyes due to the flickering images on the screen was still deemed a significant health hazard.

In many ways this socio‐medical line of criticism likened commercial entertainments to a narcotic. They were a temptation that, once sampled, could become addictive. Pathological terms such as ‘reading frenzy’ (Lesewut) and ‘cinema addiction’ (Kinosucht) clearly expressed this analogy. Users, it was feared, could ‘succumb’ to the alluring pleasures pushed by the commercial media and thereby forfeit their own self‐control. In an age marked by an increasingly biological conception of the nation—and a correspondingly Darwinian conception of international relations—this presented a danger not only to individuals but to society as whole, to the very ‘strength of the nation’ (Volkskraft).149 Obsessive concerns about population growth and the rising interest in eugenics ensured that the expansion of the commercial media would also be judged according to its effects on ‘national health’. Needless to say, most such judgements were harsh. Instead of encouraging self‐improvement and a sense of civic duty (as the Bildungsroman, for example, deliberately set out to do), the shallow, sensual appeal of commercial entertainments pandered to sloth and self‐indulgence. From the utilitarian perspective of racial hygiene, their invitation to unbridled fantasy and hedonistic pleasure was at best useless, and most likely harmful by diverting the nation's creative energies into the fruitless channels of instant gratification. Worse still, if too much erotic stimulation encouraged excessive (p.57) masturbation or a blasé attitude towards sex, it could even dampen the natural urge to procreate. As Robert Gaupp argued in his ‘medical and psychological’ study of the cinema, failure to tackle such problems would leave little choice ‘but to demand that the state eliminates a poison that undermines the health of our younger generation’.150

For many critics, the idea that all of this was driven by the pursuit of profit was the final straw. The imperative of the ‘bottom line’ was the root cause of the unrepentant indifference shown towards aesthetic standards, social well‐being and moral values. Of course, in some respects this criticism was not so wide of the mark, for giving free rein to the market left little room for scruples. Seemingly unencumbered by the constraints of traditional morality, press lords and movie moguls were constantly decried as ‘ignominious wheeler‐dealers’ who ‘fill their pockets by appealing to the base instincts of the masses’.151 At one level this strand of criticism was part and parcel of the conservative anti‐capitalism so prevalent among the German Bildungsbürgertum, a set of reservations and prejudices rooted in the prioritization of Kultur and Bildung over practical knowledge and material wealth. Yet in many ways these criticisms of the mass media were also of special significance, since they had to do with the realm of culture itself. If riches made from speculation were filthy mammon, then profits drawn from the manipulation of the nation's cultural life were the filthiest of all. Fighting such debasement was therefore not just any old battle in the war between culture and commerce. If anything, it was less a struggle between culture and commerce than against their increasing overlap, and especially against the perceived corruption of the cultural realm by the cynical practices of capitalist profit‐seeking.

On this point in particular—though not only on this point—there was little disagreement between conservative anti‐capitalists and their socialist counterparts.152 For all their ideological differences, most political and cultural elites from across the spectrum had few doubts that the new media and commercial entertainments represented a threat to the spiritual health of the ‘masses’. How elites attempted to deal with these issues is the subject of the next section. (p.58)


(1) ‘Mass culture’ is used here in the sense of ‘popular commercialized culture’, without pejorative connotation.

(2) L. Abrams, Workers' Culture in Imperial Germany (London, 1992), 22–7.

(3) G. Bry, Wages in Germany, 1871–1945 (Princeton, 1960), 71.

(4) J. Quataert, ‘Demographic and Social Change’, in R. Chickering (ed.), Imperial Germany (Westport, Conn., 1996), 106–7.

(5) Ibid. 105.

(6) E. Jolowicz, Der Rundfunk (Berlin, 1932), 20.

(7) For a recent introduction, see Berger (ed.), Making.

(8) M. de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life (Berkeley, 1984); J. Fiske, Understanding Popular Culture (London, 1991).

(9) D. L. LeMahieu, A Culture for Democracy (Oxford, 1988), 19.

(10) R. Sennett, The Fall of Public Man (London, 1986), 259–68.

(11) R. Park, ‘The City’ (1925), and ‘The Natural History of the Newspaper’ (1925), in R. Park, E. Burgess, and R. McKenzie, The City (Chicago, 1967), 39, 84.

(12) ‘Überhöhung der Wirklichkeit’: R. Schenda, Volk ohne Buch (Frankfurt a. M., 1970), 484.

(13) V. Schwartz, Spectacular Realities (Berkeley, 1998). For Berlin, see P. Fritzsche, Reading Berlin 1900 (Cambridge, Mass., 1996).

(14) My understanding of these issues owes much to LeMahieu, Culture, 56–99.

(15) K. C. Führer and C. Ross, ‘Mass Media, Culture and Society in Twentieth‐century Germany’, in K. C. Führer and C. Ross (eds.), Mass Media, Culture and Society in Twentieth‐century Germany (Basingstoke, 2006), 1–22.

(16) Brief yet insightful are J. Agar, ‘Medium Meets Message’, JCH 40 (2005), 793–803; P. Burke and A. Briggs, A Social History of the Media (Cambridge, 2005), 1–12.

(17) W. Benjamin, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ (1936), in W. Benjamin, Illuminations (London, 1973), 211–44.

(18) For similar developments in Britain, LeMahieu, Culture, 56–9.

(19) R. Schenda, Die Lesestoffe der kleinen Leute (Munich, 1976), 28–9; H. J. Galle, Groschenhefte (Frankfurt a. M. and Berlin, 1988).

(20) Figures from H. Heenemann, Die Auflagenhöhen der deutschen Zeitungen, Diss., Leipzig (1930), 132.

(21) R. Stöber, Deutsche Pressegeschichte, 2nd edn. (Konstanz, 2005), 267.

(22) Quoted from K. Dussel, Deutsche Tagespresse im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert (Münster, 2004), 25–6.

(23) M. Eksteins, The Limits of Reason (Oxford, 1975), 73.

(24) G. Bernhard, ‘Die Deutsche Presse’, in Der Verlag Ullstein zum Welt‐Reklame‐Kongress Berlin 1929 (Berlin, 1929), 59.

(25) J. Requate, Journalismus als Beruf (Göttingen, 1995), 143, quote 155.

(26) Ibid. 209–12.

(27) E. Kraus, Die Familie Mosse (Munich, 1999), 179–80.

(28) Dussel, Tagespresse, 86–7.

(29) H. Erman, August Scherl (Berlin, 1954), 35–6.

(30) Erman, August Scherl, 55–6, 66–7, 73.

(31) Requate, Journalismus, 154.

(32) R. Stöber, ‘Der “Berliner Lokal‐Anzeiger” und sein Blattmacher Hugo von Kupffer’, Publizistik, 39 (1994), 314–30; id., Pressegeschichte, 258.

(33) See H.‐W. Wolter, Generalanzeiger (Bochum, 1981).

(34) J. Requate, ‘Zwischen Profit und Politik’, in D. Ziegler (ed.), Großbürger und Unternehmer (Göttingen, 2000), 170–2.

(35) G. Reuveni, Reading Germany (Oxford, 2006), 117–22.

(36) Stöber, Pressegeschichte, 259.

(37) G. Kauder, ‘Bezett—Bezett am Mittag!’, in Verlag Ullstein, 50 Jahre Ullstein, 1877–1927 (Berlin, 1927), 200.

(38) Repr. in Wolter, Generalanzeiger, 320.

(39) Ibid. 276–8.

(40) Bernhard, ‘Deutsche Presse’, 68.

(41) Wolter, Generalanzeiger, 320.

(42) Quoted in Stöber, Pressegeschichte, 268.

(43) Kraus, Mosse, 183.

(44) Repr. in Wolter, Generalanzeiger, 325.

(45) M. Storim, ‘Einer, der besser ist, als sein Ruf”, in W. Kaschuba and K. Maase (eds.), Schund und Schönheit (Cologne, 2001), 252–82.

(46) Erman, Scherl, 110–11.

(47) Figures from A. Bernstein, ‘Wie die “Berliner Morgenpost” wurde’, in 50 Jahre Ullstein, 149–50, 186.

(48) G. Reuveni, ‘Lesen und Konsum’, AfS 41 (2001), 114–15; Kraus, Mosse, 283.

(49) ‘Das Gesicht der Zeitung’, ZV 20 (25 July 1919), 1242–3.

(50) H. Gebhardt, ‘Halb kriminalistisch, halb erotisch’, in Kaschuba and Maase (eds.), Schund, 184–217.

(51) See generally H. Knoch, ‘Living Pictures’, in Führer and Ross (eds.), Media, 217–22; C. Zimmermann and M. Schmeling (eds.), Die Zeitschrift (Bielefeld, 2006); S. Schlingmann, ‘Die Woche’ (Hamburg, 2007).

(52) K. Korff, ‘Die “Berliner Illustrierte” ’, in 50 Jahre Ullstein, 283.

(53) Ibid. 290.

(54) Figures from Muser, Statistische, 43–7; R. Stöber, Die erfolgverführte Nation (Stuttgart, 1998), 84.

(55) G. Meier, Zwischen Milieu und Markt (Paderborn, 1999), 53.

(56) Bernhard, ‘Deutsche Presse’, 68.

(57) Stereotypical: W. Hammer, Die Generalanzeiger‐Presse kritisch beurteilt als ein Herd der Korruption, (Leipzig, 1911), 8–11.

(58) Requate, ‘Zwischen Profit’, 167.

(59) Figures from Dussel, Tagespresse, 99, 101.

(60) Requate, ‘Zwischen Profit’, 172; see also S. Matysiak, ‘Zwischen Traditionsbildung und Traditionsverweigerung’, Jahrbuch für Kommunikationsgeschichte, 7 (2005), 122–46.

(61) Korff, ‘Berliner Illustrierte’, 290.

(62) K. Bartels, ‘Proto‐kinematographische Effekte der Laterna magica in Literatur und Theater des achtzehnten Jahrhunderts’, in H. Segeberg (ed.), Die Mobilisierung des Sehens (Munich, 1996), 113–47.

(63) R. Fielding (ed.), A Technological History of Motion Pictures and Television (Berkeley, 1967). Anschütz was actually the first to show moving Tachyscope images to a paying audience in spring of 1895, though the first use of film for public entertainment is nonetheless attributed to Skladanowsky: S. Hake, German National Cinema (London, 2002), 10.

(64) Berliner‐Lokal‐Anzeiger, 24 Apr. 1896, quoted from J. Toeplitz, Geschichte des Films, vol. 1 (Berlin, 1992), 20.

(65) C. Müller, Frühe deutsche Kinematographie (Stuttgart, 1994), 20; id., ‘Anfänge der Filmgeschichte’, in Segeberg (ed.), Mobilisierung, 314–15.

(66) Generally, M. Kullmann Die Entwicklung des deutschen Lichtspieltheaters, Diss., Nuremberg (1935), 33–5; G. Stark, ‘Cinema, Society, and the State’, in G. Stark and B. K. Lackner (eds.), Essays on Culture and Society in Modern Germany (College Station, Tex., 1982), 122–3.

(67) See Toeplitz, Geschichte, 36–43; Müller, Frühe, 11–12; D. H. Warstat, Frühes Kino der Kleinstadt (Berlin, 1982), 18, 27–9.

(68) Toeplitz, Geschichte, 18–19; Müller, ‘Anfänge’, 299.

(69) Fielding (ed.), Technological, 2–3, 7.

(70) H. Lehmann, Die Kinematographie, (Leipzig, 1911), quoted in W. Jacobsen, ‘Frühgeschichte des deutschen Films’, in W. Jacobsen, A. Kaes, and H. H. Prinzler (eds.), Geschichte des deutschen Films (Stuttgart, 1993), 24.

(71) Generally, Jacobsen, ‘Frühgeschichte’, 16–18; Toeplitz, Geschichte, 22–35.

(72) M. Loiperdinger, ‘Der frühe Kino der Kaiserzeit’, in U. Jung (ed.), Der deutsche Film (Trier, 1993), 21–50.

(73) Jefferies, Imperial, 226.

(74) Müller, Frühe, 109. On the early development of non‐narrative films, U. Jung and M. Loiperdinger (eds.), Geschichte des dokumentarischen Films in Deutschland, vol. 1 (Stuttgart, 2005).

(75) G. Simmel, ‘Die Großstädte und das Geistesleben’ (1903), trans. in K. H. Wolff, The Sociology of Georg Simmel (Glencoe, 1950), 410.

(76) Quoted from P. Jelavich, Berlin Cabaret, (Cambridge, Mass., 1993), 24.

(77) Quoted from Müller, Frühe, 11.

(78) Toeplitz, Geschichte, 39.

(79) Müller, Frühe, 20.

(80) Only a tiny handful came earlier: A. Jason, Der Film in Ziffern und Zahlen (1895–1925) (Berlin, 1925), 20–1.

(81) Ibid. 21, 31.

(82) E. Altenloh, Zur Soziologie des Kino (Jena, 1914), 51.

(83) Ibid. 19.

(84) Toeplitz, Geschichte, 70.

(85) Licht‐Bild‐Bühne (LBB) (22 Apr. 1911), from C. Müller, ‘Variationen des Kinoprogramms’, in C. Müller and H. Segeberg (eds), Die Modellierung des Kinofilms (Munich, 1998), 70.

(86) Müller, ‘Variationen’, 71.

(87) See generally H. Schlüpmann, Unheimlichkeit des Blicks (Basel, 1990); also Altenloh, Soziologie, 58.

(88) Quotes from Altenloh, Soziologie, 19–20.

(89) P. Panter (K. Tucholsky), ‘Moritz und Max’, Die Schaubühne 9 (27 Nov. 1913), repr. in J. Schweinitz (ed.), Prolog vor dem Film (Leipzig, 1992), 390–1.

(90) ‘Reform im Kino’, Der Kunstwart (Nov. 1913), quoted from Müller, Frühe, 227, italics in original.

(91) ‘Kino‐Varietés’, Reichsfilmblatt (RFB) (29 Nov. 1924), 41; also Landesarchiv Berlin (LAB), A Pr. Br. Rep. 030, Tit. 74, Nr. 1357.

(92) ‘Die Karriere des Kinematographen’, LBB (10 Dec. 1910), quoted from A. Kaes (ed.), Kino‐Debatte (Tübingen, 1978), 7–8.

(93) See esp. C. Müller, ‘Der frühe Film, das frühe Kino und seine Gegner und Befürworter’, in Kaschuba and Maase (eds.), Schund, 62–91; P. Jelavich, ‘Darf ich mich hier amüsieren’, in M. Hettling and S.‐L. Hoffmann (eds.), Der bürgerliche Wertehimmel (Göttingen, 2000), 283–303; K. Maase, ‘Massenkunst und Volkserziehung’, AfS 41 (2001), 39–77.

(94) Altenloh, Soziologie, 92.

(95) Jelavich, ‘Darf ich’, 286–7.

(96) Kullmann, Entwicklung, 35.

(97) Berliner Tageblatt (16 Mar. 1913), quoted from Jelavich, ‘Darf ich’, 293.

(98) Titles from Stark, ‘Cinema’, 130; see also J. Goergen, ‘Der pikante Film’, in T. Elsaesser and M. Wedel (eds.), Kino der Kaiserzeit, (Munich, 2002), 45–61.

(99) Quoted from Stark, ‘Cinema’, 132.

(100) Jelavich, ‘Darf ich’, 296.

(101) See L. Tournès, ‘The Landscape of Sound in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries’, Contemporary European History, 13 (2004), 493–504.

(102) See C. Ross, ‘Entertainment, Technology and Tradition’, in Führer and Ross (eds.), Media, 25–43; S. Fetthauer, Deutsche Grammophon (Hamburg, 2000); far narrower is R. May, ‘Die Schallplatte als “Kult”‐mittel’, MkF 15 (1992), 182–225.

(103) Figures from K. Blaukopf, Massenmedium Schallplatte (Wiesbaden, 1977), 26.

(104) W. Leubuscher, ‘Normalisierung in der Sprechmaschinenindustrie’, PZ 31 (15 Mar. 1930), 448. For earlier figures: R. Krebs, Die phonographische Industrie in Deutschland unter besonderer Berücksichtigung ihres Exports, Diss., Greifswald (1925), 40; G. Braune, Der Einfluß von Schallplatte und Rundfunk auf die deutsche Musikinstrumentenindustrie (Berlin, 1934), 32.

(105) Figures from Krebs, ‘Industrie’, 32.

(106) The following section is drawn from Ross, ‘Entertainment’, with the permission of Palgrave Macmillan.

(107) Sling [P. Schlesinger], ‘Die Tonkneipe’ (Dec. 1924), repr. in Sling, Die Nase der Sphinx (Berlin, 1987), 182–3.

(108) Quote from ‘Rundfunk, Schallplatte und individuelle Musik’, PZ 34 (25 Feb. 1933), 87. See also ‘Schallplatte und Hausmusik’, PZ 34 (25 Mar. 1933), 156; G. Reuveni, ‘The “Crisis of the Book” and German Society after the First World War’, GH 20 (2002), 438–61.

(109) F. Warschauer, ‘Musik im Rundfunk’, Musikblätter des Anbruch, 8 (Oct.–Nov. 1926), 374.

(110) PZ 30 (15 June 1929), 918; see also G. Braune, Einfluß, 111–16.

(111) M. Kater, Different Drummers (New York, 1992), esp. 3–28.

(112) Generally, P. Potter, Most German of the Arts (New Haven, 1998).

(113) Figures from H. Schröder, Tanz‐ und Unterhaltungsmusik in Deutschland 1918–1933 (Bonn, 1990), 317; P. Wicke, Von Mozart zu Madonna (Leipzig, 1998), 98.

(114) ‘Wir versaufen unsrer Oma ihr klein Häuschen’; ‘Wer hat denn den Käse zum Bahnhof gerollt’: W. Haas, Das Jahrhundert der Schallplatte (Bielefeld, 1977), 138.

(115) e.g. H. Stumme, ‘Von der Psychologie des Schlagers’, Die Stimme seines Herrn (Die Stimme), 13 (June 1928), 103–4; J. Damanski, ‘Über Unterhaltungsmusik’, Die Stimme, 13 (Aug. 1928), 143.

(116) H. Connor, ‘Haben Schlager künstlerischen Wert?’, Die Musik, 24 (July 1932), 750–1.

(117) LeMahieu, Culture, 88–98, on which the following paragraphs also draw.

(118) Wicke, Mozart, 99.

(119) ‘Künstler—Schallplatte—Publikum’, PZ 36 (Dec. 1935), 512.

(120) ‘Die Phonographie im Dienste der Musikpädagogik und Musikwissenschaft’, PZ 1 (Oct. 1900), 33–5.

(121) L. Stoffels, ‘Rundfunk und die Kultur der Gegenwart’, in J.‐F. Leonhard (ed.), Programmgeschichte des Hörfunks in der Weimarer Republik, vol. 2 (Munich, 1997), 988.

(122) See ‘Die Geschäftsstöckung’, PZ 15 (Aug. 1914), 621; F. Ritzel, ‘Hätte der Kaiser Jazz getanzt’, in S. Schutte (ed.), Ich will aber gerade vom Leben singen (Reinbek, 1987), 278.

(123) PZ 24 (June 1923), 532.

(124) Ritzel, ‘Hätte’, 290.

(125) See L. Koch, ‘Schallplattenindustrie, Staat und Volksbildung’, Die Musik, 22 (Apr. 1930), 516; also W. Mühl‐Benninghaus, Das Ringen um den Tonfilm (Düsseldorf, 1999), 274.

(126) C. Schär, Der Schlager und seine Tänze im Deutschland der 20er Jahre (Zurich, 1991), 41, n. 21. See also Kater, Different, 3–28.

(127) Schär, Schlager, 43–9; Wicke, Mozart, 86–8.

(128) ‘Die Sprechmaschine als Tanzmusik’, PZ 6 (Jan. 1905), 23.

(129) K. Sonnemann, ‘Der erste deutsche Schallplattentag’, PZ 31 (15 Dec. 1930), 1730.

(130) Schär, Schlager, 49.

(131) Potter, Most, 6, 42–4.

(132) See Braune, Einfluß, 111–16.

(133) See esp. ‘Neue Abnehmerkreise für Schallplatten’, PZ 34 (June 1933), 281; also ‘Die Schallplatte als Förderin der Hausmusik’, Die Stimme, 19 (Nov. 1934), 136–7; PZ 39 (Jan. 1938), 13; ‘Hausmusik und Schallplatte’, Die Stimme, 20 (Nov. 1935), 117–18. Record retailers were surprised to find that the campaign ‘Foster German Hausmusik’ boosted rather than hindered record sales in the early 1930s: PZ 35 (Jan. 1934), 4; ‘Zum Tag der Hausmusik’, PZ 35 (Nov. 1934), 543–4; ‘Die Lehren des Tages der Hausmusik’, PZ 36 (Dec. 1935), 484–6.

(134) E. Humperdinck, ‘Die Zukunft der mechanischen Musik’ (repr. from Kunstwart), PZ 6 (Oct. 1905), 876.

(135) E. Ackerknecht, Bildungspflege und Schallplatte (Stettin, 1930), 2–3; also Jolowicz, Rundfunk, 13; E. Hanisch, ‘Wie steht der Dorfbewohner zur Musik?’, Musik und Gesellschaft, 1 (July 1930), 82–3.

(136) H. H. Stuckenschmidt, ‘Erziehung durch Sprechapparate’, Musikblätter des Anbruch, 8 (Oct.–Nov. 1926), 370.

(137) F. Stern, The Politics of Cultural Despair (Berkeley, 1961). For a corrective focused on mainstream reformers, K. Repp, Reformers, Critics and the Paths of German Modernity (Cambridge, Mass., 2000).

(138) F. Ringer, The Decline of the German Mandarins (Cambridge, Mass., 1969), 44–6.

(139) See W. H. Bruford, The German Tradition of Self‐Cultivation (Cambridge, 1975).

(140) Generally, H. Glaser, Bildungsbürgertum und Nationalismus (Munich, 1993).

(141) Bollenbeck, Tradition, 165.

(142) See generally G. Bollenbeck, Bildung und Kultur (Frankfurt a. M., 1994); K. Vondung (ed.), Das wilhelminische Bildungsbürgertum (Göttingen, 1975).

(143) This categorization partly follows Bollenbeck, Tradition, 166–71.

(144) Ibid. 161.

(145) B. Balázs, Der Geist des Films (Halle, 1930), quoted from Kaes (ed.), Kino‐Debatte, 34.

(146) Ringer, Decline, 268.

(147) See P. Major, ‘Trash and Smut’, in Führer and Ross (eds.), Media, 234–50; G. Wilkending, ‘Die Kommerzialisierung der Jugendliteratur und die Jugendschruiftenbewegung um 1900’, in Kaschuba and Maase (eds.), Schund, 218–51; D. S. Linton, ‘Who Has the Youth, Has the Future’ (Cambridge, 1991).

(148) A. Döblin, ‘Das Theater der kleinen Leute’ (1909), in Kaes (ed.), Kino‐Debatte, 38.

(149) K. Maase, ‘Krisenbewußtsein und Reformorientierung’, in Kaschuba and Maase (eds.), Schund, 308–9.

(150) R. Gaupp, ‘Der Kinematograph vom medizinischen und psychologischen Standpunkt’, in K. Brunner and R. Gaupp, Der Kinematograph als Volksunterhaltungsmittel (Munich, 1912), 12.

(151) K. Brunner, Der Kinematograph von heute—eine Volksgefahr (Berlin, 1913), 3.

(152) On the Left's difficulties with popular culture, G. Eley, ‘Cultural Socialism, the Public Sphere, and the Mass Form’, in D. Barclay and E. Weitz (eds.), Between Reform and Revolution (New York, 1998), 315–40.