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the franklin journal: steam dance culture in the victorian media

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The reaction

The social impact of the Steam-Powered Drum Machine was dramatic. A report in the Manchester Guardian of 13th July 1880 demonstrates the strong reaction of the contemporary media to this new musical phenomenon:
An intimidating throng of work-house dossers ammassed outside Bootle's dockyards, offering for sale an hazarr's purse [sic] of narcotics to the assembly. ...[there followed] a sickening bacchanal, such a sinful wash of degradation as was never seen in a Bosch triptych!

...Society gentlemen and ladies tore off their clothing and ran unashamedly naked through a heaving swarm of lunatics, while innocents as young as nine suckled on great bulbs of cocaine. More sooner than later, these unfortunates may find themselves bound and prostrate in Bootle Sanatorium, for the protection of the public and for the dignity of their family.
The accuracy of the article is doubtful it is, for instance, utterly at odds with Quincey-Morris and Richkin's own reports of similar events.

We learn from Franklin's letters that Richkin kept a scrapbook recording examples of what he considered the bizarre response of a repressive society to this new techno culture. Richkin writes:
[Such writing is] nothing but sensationalist journalism designed to stamp fear into dull society homes. In moments of melancholy I gaze on this pathetic distortion of the truth and derive from it a not inconsiderable measure of amusement!
Whether or not Richkin was right about the media's alarmist approach, history tells us that it failed: during the 1880s, the popularity of "steam dance" soirées exploded, and Franklin found himself compelled to take part.

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