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Service and Style: How the American Department Store Fashioned the Middle Class

Service and Style: How the American Department Store Fashioned the Middle Class Cover

ISBN13: 9780312326357
ISBN10: 0312326351
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

      Downtown department stores were once the heart and soul of America's pulsing Broadways and Main Streets. With names such as City of Paris, Penn Traffic, The Maze, Maison Blanche, or The Popular, they suggested spheres far beyond mundane shopping. Nicknames reflected the affection customers felt for their favorites, whether Woodie's, Wanny's, Stek's, O.T.'s, Herp's, or Bam's.

      The history of downtown department stores is as fascinating as their names and as diverse as their merchandise. Their stories encompass many themes: the rise of decorative design, new career paths for women, the growth of consumerism, and the technological ingenuity of escalators and pneumatic tubes. Just as the big stores made up their own small universes, their stories are microcosmic narratives of American culture and society.

      The big stores were much more than mere businesses. They were local institutions where shoppers could listen to concerts, see fashion shows and art exhibits, learn golf or bridge, pay electric bills, and plan vacations - all while their children played in the store's nursery under the eye of a uniformed nursemaid.

From Boston to San Diego and Miami to Seattle, department stores symbolized a city's spirit, wealth, and progressiveness. Situated at busy intersections, they occupied the largest and finest downtown buildings, and their massive corner clocks became popular meeting places. Their locations became the epicenters of commerce, the high point from which downtown property taxes were calculated. Spanning the late 19th century well into the 20th, their peak development mirrors the growth of cities and of industrial America when both were robust and flourishing.

      The time may be gone when children accompany their mothers downtown for a day of shopping and lunch in the tea room, when monogrammed trucks deliver purchases for free the very same day, and when the personality of a city or town can be read in its big stores. But they are far from forgotten and they still have power to influence how we shop today.

       Service and Style recreates the days of downtown department stores in their prime, from the 1890s through the 1960s. Exploring in detail the wide range of merchandise they sold, particularly style goods such as clothing and home furnishings, it examines how they displayed, promoted, and sometimes produced goods. It reveals how the stores grew, why they declined, and how they responded to and shaped the society around them.

Book News Annotation:

They were amazing places, palaces actually, and they offered all the wonders of the material world to a culture still in the early stages of consumerism. They taught millions of immigrants and their children how to be both American and middle class at home, at work, and on the streets, and they created an environment where everything was new, stylish, beautiful and desirable. They opened the eyes of children to the wonders of new technology and bestowed upon women their first high-paying jobs. Freelancer Whitaker brings back the look of the department store in its prime, roughly 1890 to 1960, describes various stellar examples and what they taught the new middle class to expect, their role in defining the ways of fashion and the means of affording it, and the impact of the downtown department store's main rival, namely suburban mall culture and chain stores.
Annotation ©2006 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Book News Annotation:

They were amazing places, palaces actually, and they offered all the wonders of the material world to a culture still in the early stages of consumerism. They taught millions of immigrants and their children how to be both American and middle class at home, at work, and on the streets, and they created an environment where everything was new, stylish, beautiful and desirable. They opened the eyes of children to the wonders of new technology and bestowed upon women their first high-paying jobs. Freelancer Whitaker brings back the look of the department store in its prime, roughly 1890 to 1960, describes various stellar examples and what they taught the new middle class to expect, their role in defining the ways of fashion and the means of affording it, and the impact of the downtown department store's main rival, namely suburban mall culture and chain stores. Annotation ©2006 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

About the Author

Jan Whitaker is a writer and freelance editor based in Amherst, Massachusetts.  She is the author of Tea at the Blue Lantern Inn: A Social History of the Tea Room Craze in America.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

meredithbritt, October 16, 2006 (view all comments by meredithbritt)
?Service and Style? provides everything you ever wanted to know about the history of the American department store and its influence on society. The book is rich with good writing that flows and a wealth of illustrations from photos to store ads to postcards. The writer obviously had fun with this book and researched her subject well. Whether as a coffee table piece or a serious reference manual, Jan Whitaker?s book serves the reader with style.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780312326357
Subtitle:
How the American Department Store Fashioned the Middle Class
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Author:
Whitaker, Jan
Subject:
History
Subject:
United States - 20th Century
Subject:
Middle class
Subject:
Industries - Retailing
Subject:
Middle class -- United States -- History.
Subject:
Department stores -- United States -- History.
Publication Date:
20060822
Binding:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Includes 100 bandw halftones and 30 band
Pages:
352
Dimensions:
9.26x7.90x1.26 in. 1.88 lbs.

Related Subjects

» History and Social Science » American Studies » Popular Culture

Service and Style: How the American Department Store Fashioned the Middle Class
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Product details 352 pages St. Martin's Press - English 9780312326357 Reviews:
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