When we look at Beatlemania or the way teenage girls lost it over Elvis, we tend to think that mania was invented along with rock and roll. But pop phenomenons didn’t start with pop. Here are several historical figures who were bigger than the Beatles.
By the time she was 30, Jenny Lind was the most famous opera singer in Europe. She had such tremendous range and vocal clarity that when she sang for Queen Victoria the monarch threw flowers at her feet. Lind – dubbed the Swedish Nightingale- signed a contract with master promoter P.T. Barnum for a North American tour.
Barnum made sure that Lind was a household name before she stepped off the boat in 1850.
As Jenny Lind Mania swept the country, people named bridges, roads, buildings and other edifices after her. As well as beds, bonnets and pies. Look around your own city. There may be some street or bridge named after her.
Or google “Jenny Lind Bed.” It’s a thing. Not unlike a Beetles haircut.
Imagine being so popular that fan fever actually becomes codified as a malady that people try to treat? This is what happened to the mania surrounding composer Franz Liszt.
Liszt was a talented musician, mastering several instruments and composing his own music by age 11.
In 1839, he began an extensive tour of Europe. Around Christmas 1841, devotees serenaded Liszt with his own music. This is generally thought of as the beginning of Lisztomania.
People who know about Beatlemania will find this familliar:
Lisztomania was defined as a “histerical” reaction to Liszt and his concerts. Fans claimed that his concerts brought about spiritual extacy. Fans swarmed Liszt in the streets, and collected his cast off handkerchiefs and gloves, locks of his hair, even his discarded coffee grounds or cigar stubs.
But unlike Beatlemania – which was just seen as a fad – people actually thought you could catch Lisztomania like a cold.
The Marquis de Lafayette
The 1820s was a lot like the 2000 oughts: veterans were dying off, and citizens had a great respect and nostalgia for the wartime, and the veterans who served. In the oughts, veterans of WWII became The Greatest Generation. In the 1820’s nostalgia transformed into mania when The Marquis de Lafayette toured the United States.
The for a short time, the visit united a country barreling down the road toward Civil war.
During the visit, fans of the last surviving French Revolutionary War general named cities like Fayetteville North Carolina after him. Ladies wore gloves and carried fans with his image on them. He received several honorary degrees, and numerous statues and parks dedicated in his honor.
And just like monuments dedicated to Jenny Lind, There is probably one near you.