The American Bourgeoisie: Distinction and Identity in the Nineteenth Century

Overview

What precisely constitutes an American bourgeoisie? Scholars have grappled with the question for a long time. Economic positions?the ownership of capital, for instance?most obviously define this group but cannot explain the emergence of shared identities or the capacity for collective action: after all, economic interests frequently drove capital-rich Americans apart as they competed for markets or governmental favors. Engaging fundamental questions about American society in the nineteenth century, this book ...

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The American Bourgeoisie: Distinction and Identity in the Nineteenth Century

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Overview

What precisely constitutes an American bourgeoisie? Scholars have grappled with the question for a long time. Economic positions—the ownership of capital, for instance—most obviously define this group but cannot explain the emergence of shared identities or the capacity for collective action: after all, economic interests frequently drove capital-rich Americans apart as they competed for markets or governmental favors. Engaging fundamental questions about American society in the nineteenth century, this book argues that one of the most important factors in the self-definition of the bourgeoisie was its articulation of a shared culture.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
 “The American Bourgeoisie, with its richly nuanced case studies—ranging from food to geneology; education to music—gives a new cultural dimension to our understanding of class formation in the late nineteenth century. This book tells the story of how social, expressive, and institutional practices transformed raw economic resources into class identities that largely trumped occupational, ethnic, regional, and political loyalties. It reveals class formation to be fluid and contingent upon social, material, and ritual enactments evolving in tandem with shifts in capital. With its distinguished roster of contributors, this volume offers a vital new resource for cultural and social history, material culture, art history, and literary studies.”—Angela Miller, Professor of Art History and Archaeology, Washington University

“After three decades of intensive research on the European bourgeoisie, here comes the much-needed American counterpart. As in the European case, culture has gained center stage as a field of social demarcation and identification.”—Ute Frevert, Director, Max Planck Institute for Human Development

“As these lively and perceptive essays demonstrate, nineteenth-century Americans of wealth devoted enormous energy to developing manners and building cultural institutions that distinguished them from common people in an ostensibly democratic society. How wealthy men and women dined, traveled, displayed art, decorated their houses, identified their ancestors, and established museums, concert halls, and alumni associations all spoke to an aspiration to refine capital and establish the legitimacy of the power associated with it. These essays bring the process of class formation alive with satisfying attention to its material and cultural dimensions.”—Elizabeth Blackmar, Professor of History, Columbia University

“This is a wide-ranging collection of essays on aspects of elite American culture in the nineteenth century. One of its distinguishing features is the genuinely interdisciplinary character of its contributors. The cumulative picture they draw of the ways in which these economic elites drew closer together as the century wore on, the institutions of exclusion and self-definition they constructed, and the lasting patronage of the high arts on which they fashioned a part of their claims to worth and status is broad and coherent. For those interested in the origins of the cultural institutions that this group was so prolific in founding, in particular, this is a valuable collection.”—Daniel T. Rodgers, Henry Charles Lea Professor of History, Princeton University

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Sven Beckert is Laird Bell Professor of History at Harvard University. He is the author of The Monied Metropolis: New York City and the Consolidation of the American Bourgeoisie. Currently he is writing a global history of cotton.
 
Julia B. Rosenbaum is an Assistant Professor of Art History at Bard College, and has been a Visiting Research Fellow at The University of East Anglia in England. She is the author of Visions of Belonging: New England Art and the Making of American Identity.

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Table of Contents

List of Images vii

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction Sven Beckert Julia Rosenbaum 1

Part I Habits and Manners

1 Goodbye to the Marketplace: Food and Exclusivity in Nineteenth-Century New York Anne Mendelson 11

2 "Natural Distinction": The American Bourgeois Search for Distinctive Signs in Europe Maureen E. Montgomery 27

3 Henry James and the American Evolution of the Snob Alide Cagidemetrio 45

4 Patina and Persistence: Miniature Patronage and Production in Antebellum Philadelphia Anne Verplanck 63

5 The "Blending and Confusion" of Expensiveness and Beauty: Bourgeois Interiors Katherine C. Grie 87

Part II Networks and Institutions

6 Bourgeois Institution Builders: New York in the Nineteenth Century Sven Beckert 103

7 The Steady Supporters of Order: American Mechanics' Institute Fairs as Icons of Bourgeois Culture Ethan Robey 119

8 A Noble Pursuit?: Bourgeois America's Uses of Lineage Francesca Morgan 135

9 Elite Women and Class Formation Mary Rech Rockwell 153

10 Rediscovering the Bourgeoisie: Higher Education and Governing-Class Formation in the United States, 1870-1914 Peter Dobkin Hall 167

Part III The Public Sphere

11 Ordering the Social Sphere: Public Art and Boston's Bourgeoisie Julia B. Rosenbaum 193

12 The Problem of Chicago Paul DiMaggio 209

13 Bourgeois Appropriation of Music: Challenging Ethnicity, Class, and Gender Michael Broyles 233

14 The Birth of the American Art Museum Alan Wallach 247

15 The Manufactured Patron: Staging Bourgeois Identity through Art Consumption in Postbellum America John Ott 257

List of Contributors 277

Index 279

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