The Encyclopedia Britannica traces the historical background of local color literature to post-Civil War times. Following in the footsteps of the pre-war "sectional humorists," local colorists were interested in realistically depicting life in different sections of the United States in order to promote understanding and unification.

The stories as a rule were only partially realistic, however, since the authors tended... to winnow out less glamorous aspects of life, or to develop their stories with sentiment or humor. Touched by romance though they were, these fictional works were transitional to realism, for they did portray common folk sympathetically; they did concern themselves with dialects and mores... (

The local color writing that the Encyclopedia Britannica discusses is, for the most part, literature in the common sense of the term. Fiction writers like Sarah Orne Jewett, Bret Harte, O. Henry, and Mark Twain have been identified within this tradition. By the 1930s, the local color style had spread beyond the bounds of novels and short stories into less formal territory like the "hometown material" section of local newspapers. Local color writing had always been premised on an informal approach and rejection of high-culture concerns. Now it entered mass media.



Juliet Gorman, May 2001