Consumers' Imperium: The Global Production of American Domesticity, 1865-1920
Histories of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era tend to characterize the United States as an expansionist nation bent on Americanizing the world without being transformed itself. In Consumers' Imperium, Kristin Hoganson reveals the other half of the story, demonstrating that the years between the Civil War and World War I were marked by heightened consumption of imports and strenuous efforts to appear cosmopolitan.
Hoganson finds evidence of international connections in quintessentially domestic places--American households. She shows that well-to-do white women in this era expressed intense interest in other cultures through imported household objects, fashion, cooking, entertaining, armchair travel clubs, and the immigrant gifts movement. From curtains to clothing, from around-the-world parties to arts and crafts of the homelands exhibits, Hoganson presents a new perspective on the United States in the world by shifting attention from exports to imports, from production to consumption, and from men to women. She makes it clear that globalization did not just happen beyond America's shores, as a result of American military might and industrial power, but that it happened at home, thanks to imports, immigrants, geographical knowledge, and consumer preferences. Here is an international history that begins at home.
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Page 5 - Jenson the grocer says to Ezra Stowbody the banker is the new law for London, Prague, and the unprofitable isles of the sea; whatsoever Ezra does not know and sanction, that thing is heresy, worthless for knowing and wicked to consider.
Page 5 - But a village in a country which is taking pains to become altogether standardized and pure, which aspires to succeed Victorian England as the chief mediocrity of the world, is no longer merely provincial, no longer downy and restful in its leaf-shadowed ignorance.
Page 5 - The town is, in our tale, called "Gopher Prairie, Minnesota." But its Main Street is the continuation of Main Streets everywhere. The story would be the same in Ohio or Montana, in Kansas or Kentucky or Illinois, and not very differently would it be told Up York State or in the Carolina hills.
Page 6 - China and tacks advertisements of cigarettes over arches for centuries dedicated to the sayings of Confucius. Such a society functions admirably in the large production of cheap automobiles, dollar watches, and safety razors. But it is not satisfied until the entire world also admits that the end and joyous purpose of living is to ride in flivvers, to make advertising-pictures of dollar watches, and in the twilight to sit talking not of love and courage but of the convenience of safety razors.
Page 2 - Williams" soap and a Yankee safety razor, pulls on his Boston boots over his socks from North Carolina, fastens his Connecticut braces, slips his Waltham or Waterbury watch in his pocket, and sits down to breakfast. There he congratulates his wife on the way her Illinois straight-front corset sets off her Massachusetts blouse, and he tackles his breakfast, where he eats bread made from prairie flour (possibly doctored...