Part 6: From Biedermeier to the Threshold of the 20th Century (1814/15 until 1900)
The suburbs which accrued in the west were formally incorporated into Vienna during the 19th century so that the city could expand on the hillsides of the Vienna Woods. Down towards the river, however, imperial Vienna had less to offer. This part was full of storage depots, factories and railway lines.
Culture and lifestyle with a penchant for practical utility
Biedermeier could be described as culture and life-style with a penchant for practical utility, simplicity and intimacy coupled with a love of detail. Biedermeier thus found its means of expression in between resignation and recreation which, despite love of pleasure and homeliness, idyllic self-depiction and subsequent cliché, gave the first indications of a coming revolution. Authority was exercised outside the public sphere. External peace and inner suppression gave birth not only to Biedermeier but also to the second name for this epoch: “Vormärz” – a pointer to the subsequent revolution in March 1948.
The bourgeoisie was politically incapacitated but culturally vociferous. Because of a far-reaching censorship the cultivation and development of public opinion was severely hampered. Although Metternich’s influence on European politics was diminished he became the symbolic figure for reactionary policy in Austria and with the outbreak of the March Revolution in Vienna he was overthrown on 13 March 1848.
Growing importance of exile literature despite prohibitions
The censorship embraced just about everything. It related not only to the spoken and the printed word, such as various texts and business signboards, announcements and gravestones, but also to pictures and graphics, such as book illustrations and maps. The result was that more and more publications were undertaken outside Austria. Despite rigorous prohibitions this exile literature not only gained importance but it was also widely distributed.
The call for freedom of expression and press-freedom became one of the main tenets of the 1848 Revolution. A permanent result that remained was the emergence of municipal self-administration. The demolition of the inner fortifications (1857/58) – to be replaced on their Glacis fore fields by the Ringstrasse with all its magnificent buildings – once again made a lasting change to the outward appearance of the city and presented Vienna as a world metropolis.
The 1st Mountain Spring Pipeline for Vienna
On 24 October 1873 Bürgermeister Cajetan Freiherr von Felder opened the 1st “Hochquellen” pipeline. The provision of fresh drinking water for the population had long been a problem because of the constantly growing number of inhabitants. If one included the suburbs the population amounted in 1830 to 318,000. After the two city expansions of 1850 (inclusion of the city districts 3-9) and 1890 (integration of city districts 11-19) at the end of the century it reached 1.6 million.
Two years later there followed the regulation of the Danube as a means of protecting the city against the frequently recurring, fearful flooding. In the course of Danube regulation Vienna obtained two new bridges: the Floridsdorf bridge and the Reichsbrücke. At the end of the century gas and electricity works as well as the tramways and funeral department services were municipalized. The metropolitan railway (Stadtbahn), the 2nd “Hochquellen” pipeline and an old persons’ home were also built.
Victor Adler, an early social affairs reporter
On the other hand housing conditions for the working population remained appalling. 26% of the “living-room-and-kitchen” flats were occupied by between 6 and 10 persons with the rent accounting for about one-third of total income. Among the most skilled reporters of contemporary social circumstances was the doctor and social-democratic politician Viktor Adler. The Fundamental State Law of 1867 finally guaranteed complete equality before the law for all Jews in the monarchy. And this led to a tremendous inflow of Jewish immigrants. Whereas only 7,000 Jews had been living in Vienna in 1848, by 1913 this number had risen to 190,000 or 8.9% of the whole population. The long depression which followed the grave stock-market crash on 9 May 1873 increased the misery of all the small traders and craftsmen who, as always during bad times, looked for scapegoats - in this case the Jews.
Politicians – whether the German Nationalists under Schönerer or Lueger’s Christian Socialists who obtained a majority in 1895 in the municipal council - began to exploit this mood to their own advantage. The prevalent mood of anti-semitism laid the path for Adolf Hitler who developed into a fanatical anti-semite in Vienna between 1907 and 1912. It was precisely the Jews, however, who turned Vienna into a cultural world metropolis with the help of people like Gustav Mahler and Karl Kraus, or Sigmund Freud and Arnold Schönberg among many others.
“The Interpretation of Dreams” by Sigmund Freud
There was also a mood of solidarity in Vienna. In 1886 Viktor Adler founded the periodical “Gleichheit” (Equality). At the turn of 1888/89 the “Sozialdemokratische Partei” was launched at the Hainfeld party congress; and in 1889 the “Arbeiter-Zeitung” (Workers Newspaper). He called for the franchise and the right to form organisations, as well as the 8-hour working day. On 1 May 1890 the first official work-free day in Austria was introduced in the form of meetings and marches. The 19th century ended with the way opened towards equality for women. Without a doubt the best known protagonist of emancipation was the Viennese woman Rosa Mayreder, whose two publications – “Zur Kritik der Weiblichkeit” (2 Bde., 1905/22) and “Geschlecht und Kultur” (1923), both re-issued in 1982 – created a still valid sociology of the sexes. At the end of December 1899 Sigmund Freud’s “Die Traumdeutung” (Interpretation of Dreams) appeared, one of the most influential works in the 20th century. Significantly enough Freud dated his first edition “1900”.