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.
Reginal Lee Blaszczyk, Visiting Scholar in the Departmentof the History and Sociology of Science at the University ofPennsylvania, received a B.A. from Marlboro College, an M.A. fromGeorge Washington University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the HagleyProgram at the University of Delaware. A specialist in the historyof capitalism and consumer culture, Blaszczyk has publishednumerous books, articles, and reviews. Her first book, ImaginingConsumers: Design and Innovation from Wedgwood to Corning(2000), received the Hagley Prize for the Best Book in BusinessHistory for 2001, and her co-edited reader, Major Problems inAmerican Business History; Documents and Essays (2006), iswidely used in courses on American capitalism. Partners inInnovation: Science Education and the Science Workforce(edited; 2005) considers the skills needed to compete in the globalbusiness environment, while Producing Fashion: Commerce, Culture, and Consumers (edited; 2008) suggests new approachesto the history of fashion, business, and consumer culture.
Blaszczyk has received fellowships from HarvardUniversity's Charles Warren Center for Studies n AmericanHistory, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the SmithsonianInstitution, and the Chemical Heritage Foundation. She has taughtat Boston University, Rutgers University-Camden, the University ofDelaware, and the University of Pennsylvania, and spent elevenyears as a cultural history curator at the Smithsonian NationalMuseum of American History. In 2008, she received the Harold F.Williamson Prize in Business History for mid-career achievementfrom the Business History Conference, the largest internationalassociation of business historians.