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Trade Catalogues and the American Home

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Explore domestic life, leisure and material culture of nineteenth- and twentieth-century America.

‘‘Trade catalogues and trade cards enable students and scholars interested in consumer culture and the history of marketing to research the social and cultural histories of style, race, class, gender, and imperialism.’’

Daniel Horowitz 
Mary Huggins Gamble Foundation Chair and Professor Emeritus of American History, Smith College

Trace the history of business, the development of advertising, the rise and popularity of mail order shopping and department stores as well as changes in design, improvements in technology and the impact on domestic life with Trade Catalogues and the American Home.

Students and scholars can now explore the shaping of the United States in a century that witnessed the closing of the frontier, the mapping of states, domestic and international conflict, Reconstruction, the Great Depression – and the resulting cultural and societal changes including the role of women and material culture. The wide range of industries and documents covered in this resource allows researchers to explore: race, gender, class, changing social attitudes towards consumerism, the rise of the American Dream, and the response of American business to conflict.

The trade catalogues, cards and marketing ephemera provide opportunities for interdisciplinary research across a variety of themes from gender, domesticity and morality to class, health, race and sexuality. They provide evidence about the evolution of distribution and communication systems linking manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, and consumers across the emerging United States and globally. 

KEY THEMES INCLUDE:

  • Product Design
  • Architecture and Interior Design
  • Business, Economics and Retail History
  • Fashion and Beauty trends
  • Gender and Domesticity
  • Women’s History and Women as Consumers
  • Development of Domestic Technologies and Labour-saving Devices
    Transportation
  • Domestic Life and Leisure
  • Food and Drink
  • Health and Sanitation