American Consumer Society, 1865 - 2005 From Hearth to HDTV

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2008-12-16
  • Publisher: Wiley

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This startlingly original and highly readable volume adds a new richness and depth to an element of U.S. history that is all too often taken for granted. Regina Lee Blaszczyk examines the emergence of consumerism in the Victorian era, and, in tracing its evolution over the next 140 years, shows how the emergence of a mass market was followed by its fragmentation. Niche marketing focused on successive waves of new consumers as each made its presence known: Irish immigrants, urban African Americans, teenagers, computer geeks, and soccer moms, to name but a few. Blaszczyk demonstrates that middle-class consumerism is an intrinsic part of American identity, but exactly how consumerism reflected that identity changed over time. Initially driven to imitate those who had already achieved success, Americans eventually began to use their purchases to express themselves. This led to a fundamental change in American culture one in which the American reverence for things was replaced by a passion for experiences. New Millennium families no longer treasured exquisite china or dress in fine clothes, but they ll spare no expense on being able to make phone calls, retrieve emails, watch ESPN, or visit websites at any place, any time. Victorian mothers just would not understand.

Author Biography

Regina Lee Blaszczyk, Visiting Scholar in the Department of the History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania, received a B.A. from Marlboro College, an M.A. from George Washington University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the Hagley Program at the University of Delaware. A specialist in the history of capitalism and consumer culture, Blaszczyk has published numerous books, articles, and reviews. Her first book, Imagining Consumers: Design and Innovation from Wedgwood to Corning (2000), received the Hagley Prize for the Best Book in Business History for 2001, and her co-edited reader, Major Problems in American Business History: Documents and Essays (2006), is widely used in courses on American capitalism. Partners in Innovation: Science Education and the Science Workforce (edited; 2005) considers the skills needed to compete in the global business environment, while Producing Fashion: Commerce, Culture, and Consumers (edited; 2008) suggests new approaches to the history of fashion, business, and consumer culture.

Table of Contents

Forewordp. vii
Introductionp. 1
Shopping for a Perfect Selfp. 1
The Passion for Possessionsp. 2
Dissonant Voicesp. 3
Treasures and Throwawaysp. 4
From Knickknacks to Kickin' Backp. 5
p. 7
Victorian America, 1865-1900p. 8
Victorians, Hierarchy, and Progressp. 8
Early European Antecedentsp. 10
Opportunities for Displayp. 11
1876 Centennial Exposition, the Industrial Cornucopiap. 14
The Allure of Citiesp. 16
The Rise of the New Middle Classp. 18
Labor's Consumerist Turnp. 20
Buying American or Pursuing Empire?p. 22
Advertising Abundancep. 23
Home, Sweet Homep. 28
Separate Spheresp. 29
Dreams of Home Ownershipp. 31
Womanly Creativity and the Art Crazep. 35
The Victorian Parlorp. 38
"Making Do"p. 40
Toward Modern Simplicity: The Bungalow and the Living Roomp. 43
Martha Stewart Revisitedp. 49
Dress Codesp. 51
Fashion and Social Identityp. 53
Ready-to-Wear and the Democratization of Clothingp. 54
The Clothes Make the Man: Dark Suits and White Collarsp. 56
Corsets and the Hourglass Shapep. 60
The Art of Dressmakingp. 61
The Easter Paradep. 64
Stepping Out with the Gibson Girl and Arrow Manp. 67
Why Fashion Matteredp. 70
New Ways to Shopp. 73
Dry-Goods Emporiumsp. 74
Department Stores as "Palaces of Consumption"p. 76
John Wanamaker's Luxury Department Storep. 77
Five-and-Tensp. 79
Window Shoppingp. 82
Mail-Order Catalogsp. 84
Old-Fashioned Retailersp. 90
Tiffany Tastes and a Woolworth's Pocketbookp. 91
p. 93
Modern America, 1900-1945p. 94
The New Tempop. 95
From the Standard of Living to the American Dreamp. 99
Middletown, U.S.A.: Average Americap. 101
The Modern Identity Kitp. 102
Resetting the Stage, Hollywood Stylep. 104
Down and Outp. 107
Purchasing Power and the New Dealp. 110
Patriotic Consumers at Warp. 112
Mr. Advertiser Meets Mrs. Consumerp. 116
National Magazines, National Brandsp. 116
Ladies' Home Journal, the Bible of the American Homep. 118
Selling Soap, or Selling Sex?p. 120
The Colonel's Lady and Judy O'Gradyp. 123
Images of the Good Lifep. 125
Discovering Boys and Girlsp. 128
The Power of Marketingp. 130
Advertising Overloadp. 132
Forging the American Wayp. 133
Sensing a Wider Worldp. 137
Bicycles, Cameras, and the Great Outdoorsp. 137
Giving a Human Face to Electricityp. 139
The Phonograph in the Parlorp. 140
Radio, the Electronic Hearthp. 145
The Jazz Age Radio Crazep. 148
The Electric Twentiesp. 152
The Golden Age of Radiop. 154
Creating Unity amid Diversityp. 156
Designing the Auto Agep. 159
Automobility and the Pursuit of Pleasurep. 160
"The Proper Thing for a Man of Wealth":
Motor Racing and Car Collectingp. 162
Ford's Model T, The Car for the Common Manp. 164
GM and the "Car for Every Purse and Purpose"p. 168
Design Warsp. 170
Buy Now, Pay Laterp. 172
The Paradox of the Auto Boomp. 174
Streamlining the Great Depressionp. 175
Imagining the Futurep. 176
p. 179
Boomer America, 1945-2005p. 180
Populuxe Push-Button Technologyp. 182
Keeping Away from the Jonesesp. 185
Plastics Triumphantp. 187
Fallout of Affluencep. 188
Rediscovering Diversityp. 190
The Global Village of Goodsp. 192
Brands as Experiencep. 194
The New Mainstreamp. 195
Destination Suburbiap. 198
America Moves from City to Suburbp. 199
"We Got a Piece of the American Dream": Levittown, New Yorkp. 201
Blue-Collar Aesthetics, Appliances, and Automobilesp. 204
Mall Culturep. 206
Making Ends Meetp. 210
Edge Cities and Big-Box Retailersp. 211
Casual Stylep. 215
The Mamie Lookp. 215
Rebels, Teens, and Beatniksp. 217
Youth Quakep. 219
The Me Generationp. 223
Celebrity Style, Yuppie Tastesp. 226
Polo Meets Hip-Hopp. 228
Electronics "R" Usp. 232
Information Snackingp. 232
The Year of Consumer Electronics: 1948p. 233
TV in the Fiftiesp. 234
Radio, Records, and High-Fidelityp. 238
Tape It!p. 244
Video Games: New Devices and Desiresp. 247
Personal Computers before the Internetp. 249
Connecting to the Internetp. 251
Cable Televisionp. 255
Everything is Digitalp. 258
Hardware to Software, Hearth to HDTVp. 262
Conclusionp. 264
Who We Arep. 264
Seven Big Themesp. 265
Bibliographical Essayp. 276
Acknowledgmentsp. 305
Indexp. 309
Photographs followp. 92
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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