Commerce of Taste

Commerce of Taste: Church Architecture in Canada, 1867-1914

BARRY MAGRILL
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 240
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt12f47k
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    Commerce of Taste
    Book Description:

    In the late-nineteenth century the circulation of pattern books featuring medieval church architecture in England facilitated an unprecedented spread of Gothic revival churches in Canada. Engaging several themes around the spread of print culture, religion, and settlement, A Commerce of Taste details the business of church building. Drawing upon formal architectural analysis and cultural theory, Barry Magrill shows how pattern books offer a unique way of studying the relationships between taste, ideology, privilege, social change, and economics. Taste was a concept used to legitimize British - and to an extent Anglican - privilege, while other denominations resisted their aesthetic edicts. Pattern books eventually lost control of the exclusivity associated with taste as advances in printing technology and transatlantic shipping brought more books into the marketplace and readerships expanded beyond the professional classes. By the early twentieth century taste had become diluted, the architect had lost his heroic status, and architectural distinctions among denominations were less apparent. Drawing together the history of church building and the broader patterns of Canadian social and historical development, A Commerce of Taste presents an alternative perspective on the spread of religious monuments in Canada by looking squarely at pattern books as sources of social conflict around the issue of taste.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8700-7
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-x)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-xii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  4. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. xv-2)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 3-10)

    While writing this book about nineteenth-century religious architecture, economy, and taste during the global economic meltdown of 2008, I could not help but make connections to the troubled world during the lesser-known and little studied Depression of 1873–96. Some important connections in the social structure between religion and an emerging commercialism have been obscured to our generation by the devastation of the 1929 stockmarket crash and the subsequent Depression. But, like for the unfortunates caught in the 1873 Depression, unable to see ahead to changing fortunes, persistence in routine and faith provide rewards. Church-building characterized each of these traits,...

  6. 1 THE RISE OF COMMERCIAL SOCIETY IN PRE-CONFEDERATION CANADA
    (pp. 11-47)

    Lithographs of churches displayed in pattern books, with spires reaching skyward against an idyllic forested scene, expressed a locus of religious values that became associated with the development of commercial society. Church-building projects in emerging towns and cities scattered across the Canadas that took English country churches as their models represented an imagined return to a romantic pastoral life rendered obsolete by modern economy (fig. 1.1). The strength of such imaginings brought similarly attired churches into existence in emerging Canadian railway towns like Fort George, British Columbia (fig. 1.2). Below the surface of the way things looked, the organization of...

  7. 2 ECONOMY AND RELIGION FROM THE MARITIMES TO UPPER CANADA
    (pp. 48-66)

    Our scheme is to establish a government that will seek to turn the tide of European emigration into this northern half of the American continent – that will strive to develop its great natural resources – and that will endeavour to maintain liberty, and justice, and Christianity throughout the land … I go heartily for the union, because it will throw down the barriers of trade and give us control of a market of four millions of people.¹

    George Brown was a member of the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada and an elder statesman of Reform politics when, on 8 February 1865,...

  8. 3 SELLING ECCLESIOLOGY AS IDENTITY IN THE DOMINION OF CANADA
    (pp. 67-82)

    The newly appointed Anglican bishop of Newfoundland, Edward Feild, arrived in the port of St John’s, Newfoundland, in 1846 to find his flock outnumbered by Roman Catholics more than four to one. Feild quickly discovered that his church was in a “crisis” of demographics visibly expressed in architecture.¹ A massive Roman Catholic basilica built in the neo-Classical tradition of round-headed arches and Greek style columns surveyed the town from the highest geographical point. When Feild beheld the Roman Catholic cathedral compared to what he termed a “wooden shed” of a church he inherited from his predecessor, Bishop Spencer, immediate plans...

  9. 4 PROPERTY OWNERSHIP AND CHURCH-BUILDING: THE FINANCIAL STRUCTURE OF CHURCHES IN ONTARIO
    (pp. 83-106)

    The connection between property ownership and church-building provides an avenue for studying the assertion of religion in the spectrum of Canadian economy, politics, and social systems. The Anglican Church in the Dominion attempted to use the mechanics of property ownership to leverage its privilege and prestige. Whenever possible, agents acting for the established Church tried to procure land for free or at reduced cost. When purchasing land, building committees employed a fixed-rate mortgage amortized over many years with the intention of discharging it through donations accumulated over the years. Finding the money to construct the church building was a different...

  10. 5 THE SPREAD OF EMPIRE IN WESTERN CANADA: RAILWAY, RELIGION, AND CHURCH-BUILDING
    (pp. 107-127)

    Post-Confederation settlement, ventures into independent business, and organized religion were characterized by rapid expansion, as though growth ensured survival. In this respect, immigration patterns and new railway lines seemed intimately intertwined. People migrated west for opportunity that developed in growing towns located along rail lines, receiving a wide variety of their goods by steam train. These items included staple goods, books, and specialized supplies for church-building: floor tiles, stained glass, and heating units. Even vestments and church plate were more easily and cheaply shipped great distances by rail than shorter routes by horse and cart.

    Mobilizing the flow of people...

  11. 6 AN UNFINISHED BUSINESS OF WESTERN EXPANSION
    (pp. 128-165)

    The westward expansion of settlement to its terminus in British Columbia after the 1880s was an economic enterprise in the guise of a nationalist program. Settlement expansion would have been an ephemeral government strategy without miners, loggers, railway workers, merchants, and financiers searching for profit. The combination of physical labour and investment capital aided the rapid development and exploitation of natural resources. The rumour of immeasurable wealth in the Cariboo gold fields attracted men of fortune, just as trade with Asia was an equally enticing draw for migrants. Trading partners in California and along the Pacific Rim during the 1880s...

  12. 7 THE INFLUENCE OF US ARTISTIC, CULTURAL, AND ECONOMIC CAPITAL
    (pp. 166-172)

    The US publishing business eventually influenced the importation of pattern books to Canada. Overland rail and waterway transport made it possible for NewYork and Philadelphia publishers to ship directly to markets in Toronto, Winnipeg, and even Vancouver. The mergers and buyouts among Canadian booksellers in the 1880s resulted from the perceived threats of US book distribution.¹ John Sebastian Helmcken (1824–1920), speaker of the British Columbia Legislature and an Anglican (later a reformed Episcopalian after a schism with Bishop Hills in Victoria) expressed the threat, remarking on the probability that “not only this colony, but the whole Dominion of Canada,...

  13. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 173-176)

    The commercial orientation of the social fabric was a significant factor in settlement expansion. Its characterization in the spread of religious enterprise was exemplified in the distribution and use of church pattern books. Architects and church-building committees used the pattern books differently, though each participated in a “commerce of taste” that marketed the transience of fashion as the enduring qualities of taste. The social and economic claims associated with taste invigorated free choice, competition, and variety while also maintaining the exclusivity and privilege held by dominant groups. Through the variety of designs promoted in the pattern books, architects inadvertently empowered...

  14. APPENDIX: BIOGRAPHIES OF PATTERN BOOK AUTHORS
    (pp. 177-182)
  15. NOTES
    (pp. 183-194)
  16. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 195-212)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 213-216)