Consumers' Imperium

Consumers' Imperium: The Global Production of American Domesticity, 1865-1920

Kristin L. Hoganson
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 416
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  • Book Info
    Consumers' Imperium
    Book Description:

    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. InConsumers' 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.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0419-0
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Beyond Main Street: Imperial Nightmares and Gopher Prairie Yearnings
    (pp. 1-12)

    A decade before his icy death aboard theTitanic, the English journalist W. T. Stead grappled with destiny in a book titledThe Americanisation of the World. As the title suggests, Stead painted a picture of growing U.S. assertion. He covered topics ranging from the expanding population of the United States to its support for overseas missionaries, commercial power, and military prowess (demonstrated in its 1898 war against Spain). Even the mighty British Empire could not withstand the onslaught—the U.S. heiresses who had triumphed in the aristocratic marriage market were just the tip of a far larger iceberg. Stead...

  5. 1 Cosmopolitan Domesticity, Imperial Accessories: Importing the American Dream
    (pp. 13-56)

    In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, middleclass Americans commonly regarded household interiors as expressions of the women who inhabited them. As the author of a 1913 decorating manual put it, “We are sure to judge a woman in whose house we find ourselves for the first time, by her surroundings. We judge her temperament, her habits, her inclinations, by the interior of her home.”¹ Motivated by that logic, American women with money to spend turned to their homes to define themselves.

    One such woman, more typical in her taste than her extraordinary wealth, was Bertha Honoré Palmer. After...

  6. 2 The Fashionable World: Imagined Communities of Dress
    (pp. 57-104)

    Xenophobic nationalists in the Gilded Age had plenty to worry about besides Turkish carpets and Bohemian glass. Among other things, they fretted over the wave of marriages between wealthy U.S. women and European noblemen. As one opponent wrote in a heated letter to theChicago Tribune: “It is distressing as well as disgusting to see our beautiful, pure, and accomplished girls thus stoop and throw themselves away on such wretched scum as this bartering, conscienceless, and immoral class comprises. . . . The forte of this class is hauteur, pomp, exclusiveness, and pleasure-seeking.” The critic dismissed the would-be husbands, with...

  7. 3 Entertaining Difference: Popular Geography in Various Guises
    (pp. 105-152)

    In 1796 Amelia Simmons published the first American cookbook in Hartford, Connecticut. Its title,American Cookery, made national claims for New England cooking. Just as boldly, it put forth the idea that the young nation had its own cuisine. Her instructions for roasting beef, mutton, veal, and lamb and baking chicken and tongue did little to distinguish her recipes from European cookery, but her directions for “pompkin” pie, “cramberries,” and “Indian pudding” did underscore theAmericanin her title.¹

    Simmons’s nationalistic pretensions were echoed in nineteenth-century cookbooks featuring recipes for New England chowder, Maryland cold slaw, Boston brown bread, Philadelphia...

  8. 4 Girdling the Globe: The Fictive Travel Movement and the Rise of the Tourist Mentality
    (pp. 153-208)

    In November 1889 a young reporter employed by theNew York Worldset forth on a dash around the globe, intent on matching the feats of the fictional Phileas Fogg, the main character in Jules Verne’sAround the World in Eighty Days. Writing under the by-line Nellie Bly, she sent back thrilling dispatches chronicling her race against the clock. In the suspenseful stretches between cables, theWorldran sensationalized reports of the dangerous conditions she would encounter. It offered roundtrip passage to England and spending money to the person who could come closest in guessing the time of her return....

  9. 5 Immigrant Gifts, American Appropriations: Progressive Era Pluralism as Imperialist Nostalgia
    (pp. 209-250)

    In 1916 Chicago celebrated the Fourth of July with its usual orgy of patriotism. Bands played stirring tunes, marchers belted out nationalistic anthems, and the huge crowd gathered in the Coliseum rose to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Representatives from various immigrant groups made three-minute speeches attesting to their loyalty. Six thousand “Americans of foreign birth” pledged their allegiance to their adopted nation. Celebrants forswore ties to all other countries and pledged to make the United States their “first and only object of devotion.”¹ Such effusions of nationalism—and Chicagoans were not alone in waving the Stars and Stripes—grew even...

  10. Conclusion: The Global Production of American Domesticity
    (pp. 251-256)

    Looking back to the years between the Civil War and World War I, no one can deny the ascendant military and political power of the United States or the impressive volume and dollar value of its exports. William Stead was certainly on to something when he predicted the Americanization of the world. But his view of the United States as an expansive colossus tells us as much (if not more) about his own concerns and politics as it does about the United States in global context. Yes, U.S. manufactures took the world by storm, challenging the commercial supremacy of Britain...

  11. Appendix of Travel Clubs
    (pp. 257-278)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 279-340)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 341-388)
  14. Index
    (pp. 389-402)