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The Gay '90s

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Hey, that doesn't look like a Dodge Neon to me...

"A day in the Nineties when Grandma was a girl:
The horseless carriage was quite the show —
Grandpa cussed when the thing wouldn't go.
Those days were gay days when Grandma was a girl.
Come take a look in our picture book of the Gay Nineties."

No, not the "gay" you were thinking of, nor The '90s you were thinking of, for that matter.

This trope covers depictions of the 1890s, the realm of Oscar Wilde, William Jennings Bryan, Nikola Tesla, Arthur Conan Doyle and the Gibson Girl.

You see, back in the earlier half of The 20th Century, people became enamored with the 1890s. It was where what we now recognize as "decade nostalgia" was born, and The Gay Nineties became a popular setting for films of the 1930s, the 1940s and, to a lesser degree, the 1950s and 1960s, by which time it was seen as that innocent age before World Wars and atomic bombs. This is the earliest decade which historiography regards as a distinct time period; prior to this, history is generally divided into "ages" or "eras" which lasted for a generation, or for the reign of a monarch. Since this reckoning of time by decades was retroactive, it didn't catch on until The Roaring '20s and the Dirty Thirties, which is one reason why there is no widely-accepted term for either of the first two decades of the twentieth century - and thus why there wasn't for the first two decades of the twenty-first century, either.

During this era, you were generally fortunate as long as you lived in wealthier countries of the world, as it was a time of relative peace (see below). On the flip side, if you were born in this decade, you would most likely live long enough to see and probably be involved in the First World War, The Spanish Flu, The Great Depression, the rise of totalitarianism, wartime genocides, and the Second World War. Needless to say, if you weren't part of your country's majority ethnicity, and/or if you were female, your rights were not anywhere close to those of the men who were.

This was also the time of the last great gold rush in the Klondike region of the Yukon. Thousands of prospectors headed north to strike it rich, and while the American town of Skagway, Alaska may have been wild, the prospectors in Canada quickly learned that they were in a very different gold rush, with the North West Mounted Police under the command of Sam Steele keeping a firm hand on their behavior. As such, it was the most orderly of such affairs in history and the legend of the Mounties was born.

The automobile was just barely invented, so new that people couldn't agree on what to call it ("Horseless carriage" is the memetic old-timey name, but that only scratches the surface). Most people who lived in cities traveled around in horse-drawn hansom cabs, pedaled bicycles (built for two or otherwise, and often the kind with the enormous front wheel, called penny-farthings), and rode on trolleys, but most people still lived on the farm, and horse-drawn farm wagons were used as all-purpose transportation. In major cities, electric lights were replacing gas lamps and candles. Other technologies that would later be typical of the 20th century and beyond, such as planes, telephones, and films, were also being developed around this time. Ragtime was the hottest music.

According to nostalgic films set in this decade, back then everyone was a rich white person who wore Gorgeous Period Dresses, with every lady wearing Art Nouveau inspired dresses with Giant Poofy Sleeves and carrying a Parasol of Prettiness fashion tips , and they all liked to hang out in ritzy places located in major U.S. cities (for New York, this was Delmonico's restaurant at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel). In fact, the "everybody's rich" stereotype stems from a conflation of this period with "The Gilded Age" (1876-1896), as the Gay Nineties were also marked by economic depression and much labor agitation (see Panic of 1893 on The Other Wiki), not to mention the Spanish-American War. Even then, the term "Gilded Age" (as in, "coated in gold") was specifically meant to indicate that the good times were only a surface veneer, with serious problems lurking just beneath (as the Gay Nineties themselves later demonstrated). If you can find the graphic history book, The Good Old Days: They Were Terrible!, you can see a sobering look at the real grimy realities of the era. It was particularly grim if you weren't middle-class and white; racism was blatant and commonplace and not only had the backing of the law, with the Supreme Court ruling in Plessy vs. Ferguson that racial segregation was legal as long as it was "separate but equal" (a condition which no civil government took seriously), but was defended with pseudoscientific theories that lent a veneer of "scientific" legitimacy to pre-existing assumptions of the superiority of the white man. Mark Twain's entire career involved him angrily mocking colonialism, imperialism and American Exceptionalism.

Abroad, things were jumping internationally. In France, there was the Dreyfus Affair where Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish French Army officer, was made The Scapegoat of a trumped-up treason charge. The controversy tore apart France as conservatives and the Army stubbornly refused to have Dreyfus' case retried no matter how much evidence about his innocence piled up, citing the need to uphold the "honor of the army" (which apparently involved covering up and defending the lies enabling a blatant Miscarriage of Justice). Meanwhile, Britain found itself in its own version of The Vietnam War with The Second Boer War in Southern Africa. It proved a frustrating fight against a savvy, well armed, and determined foe that finally required the British rounding up the civilian population in concentration camps to break the will of the enemy. At the same time, King Leopold II of Belgium was making a mint with his Congo Free State, a massive swath of Equatorial Africa as his personal property which was exploited to the hilt with ruthless colonial brutality enforcing his will, causing a death toll estimated to be 10 million Africans. It would inspire the Joseph Conrad novel Heart of Darkness, in which there was a very good real-life reason why Kurtz's last words were, "The horror... the horror..." Also, a French aristocrat by the name of Pierre de Coubertin would revive the Olympic Games for the Gay Nineties, which would be hosted in Greece (the site of the original Olympics).

Meanwhile, Germany's international presence changed dramatically as Kaiser Wilhelm got rid of the master politician, Otto von Bismarck, and set his country onto a recklessly aggressive stance that Bismarck strove to avoid, such as directly challenging Britain. And the Ottoman Empire, already beginning to split at the seams and having never quite recovered from losing Greece earlier in the century (in fact, political satire of the day referred to the empire as "the sick man of Europe"), showed its first signs of turning its Christian minorities into scapegoats, with widespread massacres that sent the first big wave of Armenian refugees to America and elsewhere (the next, even bigger wave coming during World War One).

In Australia, the 1890s are among the most important eras of the country's history, politically, economically, and culturally. Australia's first art movement, the Heidelberg School, bloomed during this time. Bush Poetry also hit its stride here, most famously Banjo Paterson's Waltzing Matilda. The decade's also seen as the beginning of a new chapter domestically: Melbourne's Golden Age since the 1860s came to a very sudden end in 1893, and the city saw no growth both economic and population-wise for over a decade. In its place rose Sydney, which was recovering from nearly a century of constant plague, kickstarting a rivalry between the two cities that only seems to have gotten stronger since. Sports-wise, the Victorian Football League broke off from the Victorian Football Association in 1896, growing into one of the most followed and watched leagues in the nation, and today is slowly encroaching into what is traditionally Rugby League territory. The most important thing that happened, however, was the Federation movement. The distance between Britain and the colonies, the economic hardships they were facing, and the threat of Russian/French/Chinese invasion meant that if the colonies were to remain divided, they would remain weak and eventually end up being conquered. Spearheaded by men such as Sir Henry Parkes and Sir Edmund Barton, the Constitution was drawn up during this time, and New Zealand and Fiji were asked to join. They declined, though jokes about them being Australian states are still being made today. Western Australia tried to keep out of it but to no avail.

It should also be noted that the term "Gay Nineties" for this era, like the "Edwardian Era" that followed it, is primarily British. (In Britain it was also called "The Naughty Nineties", as it used to be seen as a comparatively permissive era.) In America there is also the aforementioned "Gilded Age" from the End of Radical Reconstruction until the entry into World War I, while in continental Europe you usually use the French la Belle Époque (roughly 1884 to 1914), the German "Wilhelmic Era" (Wilhelminische Ära, 1890 to 1914), or the French-Austrian Fin de siècle (also 1890 to 1914).

Films actually made in the 1890s were about thirty seconds long with little to no plot (people were still amazed that pictures could move). You can watch some of them here.note 

Art in this decade had shifted from the traditional, realistic, and impressionist movements to the innovative, modernizing, and expressionist movements. Art Nouveau had its full blossoming glory after the style spread in Europe, and the works of Vincent van Gogh after his death, Paul Gauguin, Alphonse Mucha, and others went into full display.

Historically, the 1890s was one of the more iconic periods of American history, leaving an impression every bit as indelible as The '50s still does today. As a result, long after the actual decade had faded from memory (sometimes quite long after it faded), many of its tropes and stereotypes remained common fodder for depictions in the popular arts. This wasn't usually done without at least a bit of irony (usually only in satirical or Cloudcuckoolander works), but writers and artists returned to the Gay Nineties well so often that its conventions became even more stereotypical.

Prominent Examples Include:

  • Art Nouveau with its fluid, naturalistic, and colorful forms.
  • Civic leaders (mayors, for the most part) sporting huge guts and sideburns and wearing top hats and tuxedos.
  • Aristocrats and the wealthy sporting monocles and acting in even more outdated fashion than the other anachronistic characters (and being accompanied by overdressed maids and butlers).
  • Police officers still dressed like the "Bobbies" of the nineteenth century.
  • Political campaigners decked out in wide-striped suits and boater hats (although to be sure, this continues to be Truth in Television).
  • Women still attired in white High-Class Gloves (whether wrist length or opera length), fancy hats, and carrying parasols to protect their delicate skin from the sun.
  • Little boys pairing suit coats with short pants (think Richie Rich or Angus Young of AC/DC).
  • Little girls with either pigtails or bows in their hair, or pigtails with bows; ringlets (again with bows) for fancy occasions.
  • "Ethnic" whites (that is, anyone not at least 50 percent or more Anglo-Saxon) still speaking in their "just-off-the-boat" accents.
  • Non-whites (the Chinese in particular, not so much black people) barely able to speak English at all.
  • Circus performers (strong men, in particular) with elaborate handlebar mustaches.
  • Penny-farthings (those bicycles with the giant front wheel) and early safety bicycles being ridden along streets and country lanes.
  • "Horseless carriages" that people shake their heads and tsk at, claiming It Will Never Catch On.
  • A lady and her suitor on an Old-Fashioned Rowboat Date.
  • A brass band playing at a bandstand in a park or in the town square. Barbershop quartets work too.
  • Strident Dry Crusaders, who are invariably female and middle-aged or older.

With the 2017 death of Emma Morano, who was the last known living person born before 1900, there is officially no one left to be nostalgic about this decade. This is a Forgotten Trope and the fact that the name "Gay Nineties" was never changed should give you an idea how long it's been dead. Of course, they still make films set in the 1890s, but the nostalgic version from the '30s and '40s is pretty much gone. In fact, some modern-day Hollywood writers seem to think any year not starting with "19" or "20" means "completely pre-Industrial Revolution." For example, see the entry on The Village farther down this page. However, today's general unfamiliarity with the period works set in the 1880s or 1900s may make their setting indistinguishable from the stereotypical Gay Nineties.

As was suggested earlier, The '50s and later The '80s eventually replaced the 1890s as the nostalgic period of choice, with the result that those decade's tropes largely replaced the ones mentioned above (resulting in Still the '50s or the '80s, perhaps)?

However, kooky Gay Nineties stuff still pops up occasionally, most often in works directed at preteen children, or in surreal comedy series such as The Simpsons or Family Guy. Also, the rise in popularity of Steampunk may represent a new, updated reflection of the nostalgia for the nostalgia.

Speaking of, Steampunk is when this crosses paths with science fiction, and Gaslamp Fantasy is when this crosses paths with fantasy. Ironically, in real life, the Gay Nineties were the period where the world began to move beyond traditional steampunk/gaslamp fantasy aesthetics because of new technologies and movements such as Art Nouveau.

Nor is this trope exclusively American. If anything, the British seem to make a fetish out of it even more. (This may be because the mid-1890s represented the high point of the British Empire before the Boer War took the gloss off and the Great War began its decline, and where Queen Victoria celebrated sixty years of her reign.) And in France, well, this era is known as la Belle Époque — "the Beautiful Era" — for a reason.

If a story set during the Gay Nineties takes place in the western part of the United States or Canada, the Twilight of the Old West trope often comes into play.

See Also: Regency England, Victorian Britain, The Gilded Age, The Edwardian Era, The Roaring '20s, The Great Depression, The '40s and The '50s, and also Two Decades Behind. Also see Steampunk, which is usually set in a fantastical sci-fi version of this period.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Marvel had a Spider-Woman supervillain, Turner D. Century, whose schtick was nostalgia for this era. Which was rather ironic because Turner was a fairly young guy who never actually experienced the 1890s. His mentor Morgan MacNeil Hardy was the elderly fellow who had convinced him the end of the 19th century was a virtual paradise, devoid of moral corruption, racial impurity, etc. The catch was that Hardy had no memory of his own life prior to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. He had no memory of the 19th century while seeing the early 20th century through rose-colored glasses.
  • The Gay Nineties Nightmare!, from Plastic Man #2 (August 1944), features a town stuck in the Gay Nineties.
  • One Golden Age Batman story (written in the 1940s) featured Batman and Robin visiting an island where all modern technology was banned and the population lived like it was The Gay Nineties. Modern crooks arrive and find the place easy pickings until stopped by the Dynamic Duo. The story ends with Batman persuading the island's leader that it is time to join the twentieth century.
  • Archie Comics did a few stories that featured Archie and the gang living in The Gay Nineties. This seems to have been a fetish of one particular writer; Al Hartley. Check it out here.
    • Hartley was also responsible for the Spire Christian Comics Archie issues. Make of that what you will.
    • Possibly a Take That! to Hartley's story: An Archie Comics from the eighties has Betty pining for The Gay Nineties and falling asleep, only to learn in her dream that it wasn't such a great time after all. When she awakes, she's happy to live in modern times.
  • The Disney Mouse and Duck Comics used to be (and, occasionally, still are) extremely guilty of abusing this trope, often to the point where it stopped being funny or charming and crossed the line into annoying. In fact, some of their characters (Scrooge McDuck comes to mind!) never got over it.
  • The Abrafaxe came to 1895 in the Orient Express arc (Mosaik No. 283-299) took that train to journey from Victorian London to Mesopotamia, where they see the beginnings of the building of the Bagdad Railroad. Later they returned to the era for an international race around the world in the year 1898 (No. 344-357).

  • There were two films (one 1933, the other 1942) titled The Gay Nineties.
  • A good chunk of Citizen Kane takes place in the 1890s, when Kane is at his height as a media mogul.
  • Four of Mae West's films: She Done Him Wrong (1933), Belle of the Nineties (1934), Klondike Annie (1936), and Every Day's a Holiday (1937).
  • Abbott and Costello's The Naughty Nineties (1945), which includes the best-recorded rendition of their famous "Who's on First?" routine.
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is set in 1899.
  • Orson Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons (1942).
  • Vincent Price's House of Wax (1953)
  • Charlie Chaplin's The Gold Rush (1925)
  • Other films set in this period:
    • The Florodora Girl (1930)
    • Steamboat Round the Bend (1935)
    • The Strawberry Blonde (1941)
    • My Gal Sal (1942)
    • Gentleman Jim (1942)
  • The Village (2004) is supposedly set in 1897. It features a completely pre-industrial farming community where everyone dresses like it's 1797 and no one has heard of electricity, automobiles, or anything else that has happened in the past century. (Its rendition is closer to the America of The Crucible than that of Citizen Kane.) It might seem that the filmmakers were not even familiar with Hollywood's idea of what the 1890s looked like. One could argue that this is justified because it is not really 1897, but a "recreation" staged by the village elders. But since the elders supposedly did do the research, one can only conclude that the filmmakers decided there wasn't really any difference between a century ago and two centuries ago. Or that the village elders were more concerned with maintaining a certain way of life than any historical accuracy.
  • Moulin Rouge (1952) (1952) and Moulin Rouge! (2001). In addition, the can-can and modern striptease were first seen in the titular cabaret during the 1890s.
  • Gigi (1958) is set at the "turn of the century," but the feeling of the book, play, and film is definitely Gay Nineties.
  • Though it's set in 1904, Meet Me in St. Louis has a very Gay Nineties look and feel.
  • Newsies (1992), centering around New York City's 1899 newsboys strike.
  • The Hope and Crosby film Road to Utopia was set in the '90s gold rush in the Yukon.
  • For All Time, starring Mark Harmon and Mary McDonnell, and based off The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "A Stop At Willoughby" mentioned below.
  • Return to Oz (1985) takes place near the end of 1899.
  • Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) is explicitly stated to be set in 1897 - which is, appropriately, the year in which the famous horror novel was first published. The prologue, however, takes place during the late medieval period.
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is set in the late 1890s and is about the end of the Old West. It features a long sequence where Butch, Sundance, and Sundance's girlfriend Etta Place go to New York's Coney Island and travel by boat to Bolivia, all done in still photographs.
  • Hello, Dolly! starring Barbra Streisand, set in 1890.
  • Gay Purr-ee is set in Paris during the 1890s, with one scene in Alaska where the male protagonist unintentionally strikes gold.
  • This is Adrianna's preferred decade in Midnight in Paris, and toward the end of the film, she and Gil even get to travel there, with Adrianna deciding to stay.
  • The second half of I Shot Jesse James takes place in 1892, showing how Robert Ford's life went after killing Jesse James and his attempt to prospect for silver in Creede, Colorado.
  • The Black Hand is one of the few modern gangster films set at the turn of the century.
  • Colette does a fine job of evoking an elegant Parisian version of 1890s style, segueing into the new century, complete with steam trains, Art Nouveau decoration on fashionable gentlemen’s walls, horse-drawn carriages, and period bicycles. The transition into the new century is marked by details such as new fashions, new hairstyles, and hand-written manuscripts being replaced by typewriters.
  • A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy takes place in 1900.
  • The 1999 movie version of A Midsummer Night's Dream (the one with Kevin Kline, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Stanley Tucci) is moved from the play's original Classical Greek setting to something more resembling 1890s Italy, with bicycles as a major motif throughout the movie.
  • Halloweentown balances the potential scariness of its Monster Mash inhabitants with a the cute, cheerful aesthetic of a small American town circa 1890. It has a cute little ice cream parlour, and guys swanning around in three-piece suits.
  • The Getting of Wisdom takes place in an exclusive all-girls' boarding school in Melbourne during the 1890s.
  • Murders in the Rue Morgue (1971) is set in the closing years of the 1890s.

  • Some novels written during the time period have also become classics, keeping the setting fresh for its next rediscovery, notably HG Wells' The War of the Worlds (1898), Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat (1889), Theodor Fontane's Effi Briest (1896) and Der Stechlin (1897), and some of Mark Twain's later work such as A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889).
  • Mare seemingly takes place in the late 1890s or the early 1900s in Norway.
  • To Say Nothing of the Dog is set in 1898. The protagonists even run across Jerome K. Jerome and his companions (to say nothing of the dog) while they do more or less the same thing.
  • Whilst Jeeves and Wooster is set in The Roaring '20s (or perhaps more accurately, Genteel Interbellum Setting), one story revolves around Sir Watkins Basset's Compromising Memoirs (and the multitude of parties who desire the destruction thereof) of the various things he and other prominent personages did during The Gay Nineties. By the sound of it, he could give Bertie a run for his money any day of the week.
    • In the Blandings Castle series, the manuscript of Galahad Threepwood's Reminiscences is the McGuffin for two entire books. And Bertie Wooster's Uncle Willoughby wrote and published a similar book, again dealing with his disgraceful exploits in The Gay Nineties.
  • Jack Finney's Time and Again (1970) is set in 1882, which is technically outside the time period, but it seems to fit the idea of The Gay Nineties almost perfectly anyway.
  • Many of the Sherlock Holmes stories are set in (as well as written in) this period.
    Here, though the world explode, these two survive,
    And it is always eighteen ninety-five.
  • The Magician's Nephew is set roughly in this time period, and was influenced by Lewis's own childhood. The time frame may be a little off (Lewis was born in 1898), but the nostalgia is clearly there:
    In those days Mr. Sherlock Holmes was still living in Baker Street and the Bastables were looking for treasure in the Lewisham Road. In those days, if you were a boy you had to wear a stiff Eton collar every day, and schools were usually nastier than now. But meals were nicer; and as for sweets, I won't tell you how cheap and good they were, because it would only make your mouth water in vain.
  • Much of Mc Teague is set in this time period.
  • Siden, sammet, trasa, lump by Solveig Olsson-Hultgren takes place in 1899. It shows the time period mostly from a working-class perspective, where even the children have to help out with making money for the family.
  • Nights at the Circus is set during the dying months of 1899.

    Live Action TV 
  • Anne with an E has a minor Setting Update from the Anne Of Green Gables books on which it is based and is set in the mid-to-late 1890s.
  • The BBC Costume Drama Lark Rise to Candleford is set in rural Oxfordshire in the mid-1890s — rather a long way from the centers of '90s gaiety, of course.
  • Portlandia 's reprise of The Dream of the 90s is Alive in Portland is all about hipster nostalgia for the 1890s.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959):
    • The episode "Once Upon a Time", starring Buster Keaton (then pretty old), involves a man from the 1890s time-traveling to the 1960s with a mechanical helmet of sorts. He then meets a man determined to steal the helmet from him because he wants to go back to the 1890s when things were simpler. The whole episode is pretty much a nostalgia trip on the 1890s, until the end that is. The scenes that take place in the 1890s are also shot like a silent movie.
    • Another episode, "A Stop at Willoughby", features an advertising executive who is stressed out by his life and dreams about getting off a train at a quaint town from the 1890s that he keeps seeing in hallucinations.
  • The opening for Cheers starts off showcasing the Gay Nineties and then gradually goes through the decades — and in one episode, Rebecca discovers that the bar, which opened in 1889, will soon have its 100 year anniversary. She plans a big centennial celebration, inviting the mayor, a barbershop quartet, and a 106-year-old man who lived in the neighborhood when the bar opened. She ends up being the only one dressed in period costume, the mayor has Cliff arrested because he made too many phone calls to him, the barbershop quartet annoys the customers, especially Sam (who goes to a salon), the old man is a Dirty Old Man, and Lilith goes into labor.
  • The cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation visits this time period in the two-part episode "Time's Arrow."
  • The first five seasons of Canadian detective series Murdoch Mysteries are set in this time period; series 5 was set in 1899 and concluded with the arrival of 1900.
  • The BBC docu-series Victorian Farm and Victorian Pharmacy cover the late Victorian era of the 1880s and 1890s.
  • Dracula (2013) is set in 1896.
  • In the I Love Lucy episode "Lucy's Show Biz Swan Song", Ricky puts on a "Gay Nineties revue" at his club. The characters sing "By the Light of the Silvery Moon" and "Sweet Adeline" in full period costume.
  • Penny Dreadful begins in the year 1891 and focuses on a band of Victorian Public Domain Characters fighting the forces of darkness.
  • Oktoberfest 1900, a fictional story around the eponymous event during the era in which it became bigger in both size and fame. It is set in 1900, which means it still displays costumes and mindsets of the past decade while welcoming the new century.


    Tabletop Games 
  • In the Paris portion of The Yellow King, players take on the roles of American art students learning their craft, soaking in the sights and delights of the City of Lights in 1895 and investigating weird mysteries as The King in Yellow begins to overwrite the city with the supernatural reality of Carcosa.

  • Mae West's 1928 play Diamond Lil (the basis for She Done Him Wrong) may be the Trope Maker.
  • The 1929 musical Sweet Adeline was billed as "A Musical Romance of the Gay Nineties."
  • The 1953 musical Can-Can, set in the artists' quarter of Gay Paree during la Belle Époque.
  • The 1964 musical Hello, Dolly!, which was based on Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker.
  • While Waiting for Godot isn't itself set in this period, Vladimir does make reference to it in the original script saying that him and Estragon should have considered something "A million years ago, in the 90's". Later editions of the script have changed this line to say "When the world was young" to avoid constraining it to any specific point in time.

    Theme Parks 
  • Main Street, U.S.A. at the Disney Theme Parks is modeled on Walt Disney's childhood hometown of Marceline, Missouri. Though Disney lived there in the early 20th century, the aesthetic of Main Street is very reminiscent of the Gay Nineties, complete with ice cream parlor, horse drawn and horseless carriages, and a barbershop quartet. The New Orleans Square section of Disneyland also has this feel, mixed - naturally - with The Big Easy.

    Video Games 
  • Fallen London is set in this decade as of 2012, since the game calendar moves in real time, just 122 years behind us; when the game originally opened it was set in the late 1880s. It does have quite a few features of the trope.
  • BioShock Infinite: despite the main game taking place in 1912, Columbia was founded in the Gay Nineties, and it shows. There's even a singing troupe called "The Bee Sharps"note  whose tagline is "Columbia's Gayest Quartet". The game also deconstructs the concept, as it features some of the less pleasant parts of the Gay Nineties, like blatant racism and ruthless robber barons running Company Towns that keep people in crushing poverty.
  • The main story of Red Dead Redemption II takes place in 1899 (the Playable Epilogue in 1907) and is a very lavish, mostly accurate re-creation of the era. Especially the Hub City of Saint Denis which is a stand-in for New Orleans. You can find early cars in the richer parts of the city and rich ladies in their art nouveau clothes. You can run into a parody of an impressionist painter in the city as well. There's even a Tesla stand-in who lets you play with a radio-controlled boat.
  • The Yukon Trail has you as a prospector looking for gold in the Yukon in 1897, just before the Gold Rush.

  • Though minus. is set in the Present Day, it still borrows quite a bit of Gay Nineties aesthetic, notably in crowd scenes, where the background extras are often gussied up in top hats and dinner jackets (for the men) and frilly hats and long dresses (for the women). Additionally, some of the April Fool's strips are set in an Alternate Universe which appears to be stuck in this decade. Per Word of God, the webcomic was inspired by the newspaper comics of the early twentieth century.
  • Simple arithmetic shows that Girl Genius is set in the 1890s.note  However, there is so much Alternate History and Gaslamp Fantasy that it looks little like the 1890s of our world save for the general aesthetic.

    Western Animation 
  • Walt Disney (born 1901) was absolutely in love with this period. One of his films set during this period is the animated feature Lady and the Tramp. See above under Theme Parks for probably the ultimate expression of his love for this setting.
  • Warner Bros. loved this setting as well.One Froggy Evening (1955) featured a ragtime-singing frog from The Gay Nineties transposed into the cartoon's contemporary era. There was also a feature-length cartoon/musical, Gay Purr-ee (1962), featuring cats and set in France. The Alaska Gold Rush is a minor plot point.
  • A Hanna-Barbera cartoon series, These Are The Days (1974-5), took place in this period.
  • Family Guy features Phineas and Barnaby, two sideshow strongmen who travel via penny-farthing and perform calisthenics to the new musical craze called "Jazz." Peter also at one time tells Chris about his great-grandfather Turn-Of-The-Century-Take-On-All-Comers Griffin whom we see in a boxing ring with a kangaroo.
    Peter's Great-grandfather: All right, put 'em up! Put 'em up! Are you having a bully day? I'm having a bully day. Is everyone having a bully day?
    Man in the crowd 1: Bully!
    Man in the crowd 2: Bully!
    Man in the crowd 3: Yes, Bully!
    Peter's Great-grandfather: Oh, thank God we live in this time!
    • Let's not forget those two vaudevillian performers who show up every now and then.
      • And were killed, only to return in a later episode as ghosts.
  • The Simpsons featured a flashback to The Gay Nineties with Mr. Burns taking a walk with his grandfather who was explaining to him the fine points of capitalism.
    • Like his grandson, he also ran an "atom-smashing" business. This involved smashing metal ingots with sledgehammers. At one point, a worker is found with six "atoms" in his pocket. Things don't end well.
      Mr. Burns: Oh, how I wished we had listened to that young man instead of bricking him up in the abandoned coke oven.
    • In "Helter Shelter", the Simpsons go on the reality show "1895 Challenge" where they have to live like it's 1895. It takes some adjustment:
      Bart: Mutt and Jeff comics are not funny! They're gay, I get it!note 
  • The Great Mouse Detective takes place in the year 1897.
  • The Kim Possible episode "Rewriting History" details the exploits of Kim's great-great-aunt Miriam 'Mim' Possible during this period.
  • Planet 51 is a movie set on an alien planet that's very reminiscent of The '50s, but there's an alien boy who's dressed in an outfit reminiscent of Little Lord Fauntleroy outfit without pants.

  • The pen-and-ink illustrations of Charles Dana Gibson (elaborate cartoons, really) are indelibly associated with this period and The Edwardian Era, not least by virtue of the famous "Gibson Girl" with her elaborate rolled-up hairdo and her Gorgeous Period Dress. What's not as well known today is that Gibson was active as an artist for nearly half a century, from the 1880s through the end of the 1920s, ending as editor-in-chief of Life magazine (just before it switched to its better-known photojournalism format), and that he was fundamentally a social satirist, whose wit could be downright lacerating on occasion (one of his favorite targets during the 1890s, for example, was the mania among some wealthy Americans for marrying their daughters off to titled Europeans).
  • Illustrator John Held Jr., when not creating the iconic imagery of The Roaring '20s (he's currently the Trope Illustrator for that page), did woodcut-style art riffing on "the dear dead days" of the 1890s.
  • Hark! A Vagrant frequently dipped its toes into this territory, presumably because the outfits are fun to draw and the stodgy attitudes of the time are easy targets. A good example is the "velocipedestrienne" comic, about the supposedly shocking behaviour of young female bicyclists of the 1880s and '90s

    Real Life 
  • There was still a supper club in Boston called "The Gay Nineties" as of at least 1950.
  • Both Baskin-Robbins and Wendy's signage and store decor originally invoked this trope (Wendy's counters were covered for many years with reproductions of 19th-century advertisements); it's almost completely gone now (except for the Wendy's mascot).
  • It was pretty much a stock trope for ice cream parlors of a certain era. Up until at least the 1980s, Swensen’s tried to evoke a Gay Nineties feel through the use of style and decor. The old Farrell's Ice Cream Parlours also reveled in this trope— and it looks like the revival will use it too (along with some patriotic red-white-and-blue).
  • Las Vegas's Casino Royale is themed around this trope.
  • A nightclub in Minneapolis plays with this; it's called "The Gay 90's," and is, in fact, the best-known Gay Bar in the Twin Cities area, specializing in drag shows.
  • A living history museum on the Florida State Fair Grounds called Cracker Country presents life in 1898 rural Florida, with historic buildings transported from around the state.

Alternative Title(s): Gay Nineties, La Belle Epoque, The Gay90s