The Lawn: A History of an American Obsession / Edition 1

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Overview

Lawns now blanket thirty million acres of the United States, but until the late nineteenth century few Americans had any desire for a front lawn, much less access to seeds for growing one. In her comprehensive history of this uniquely American obsession, Virginia Scott Jenkins traces the origin of the front lawn aesthetic, the development of the lawn-care industry, its environmental impact, and modern as well as historic alternatives to lawn mania.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Virginia Scott Jenkins shows that this uniquely American landscape form is not a native one: indigenous New World grasses were munched into extinction by the colonists’ Old World livestock, and the very concept of the lawn was borrowed from the romantic English parks of Capability Brown and from the French tapis vert. The gradual suburbanization and the shaming tactics of appearance-minded neighbors led America to become completely besotted with grass—and lawn care.”—New Yorker

“Jenkins makes a convincing argument that the military metaphors used by advertisers and lawn care experts alike were part of a male viewpoint that saw nature as something to be ‘controlled and mastered.’ This summer could be much more fun if readers ignore their own lawns and stick to Jenkins’s.”—Publishers Weekly
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In the 18th-century English landscape, a folly was an extravagant building or ruin. In the 20th-century American landscape, the folly had to be the lawn. Jenkins's account gets off to a slightly slow start as she follows the lawn from its earliest beginnings as a simplified version of English romantic parks in the 19th century to the smooth fairway aesthetic fostered by the U.S. Golf Association USGA in the early 20th. But from then on, The Lawn is a quirky, thoroughly enjoyable look at man vs. nature, man vs. woman, and man vs. the Joneses. Despite the millions spent by both the USDA U.S. Department of Agriculture and USGA to develop hardy disease- and pest-resistant turf for any climate, it did not obviate the need for tons of toxic herbicides and pesticides, gallons of water even in the arid Southwest and, as a 1952 article in Life said, the basics--``bamboo rake, grass shears, hand sprayer . . . wave sprinkler, a hoe, wheelbarrow, roller, iron rake, lawn mower and spade, an aerator, a weed knife.'' It was an arsenal, and Jenkins makes a convincing argument that the military metaphors used by advertisers and lawn-care experts alike were part of a male viewpoint that saw nature as something to be ``controlled and mastered.'' It wasn't long before that controlled lawn, once a sign of affluence, became the strictly enforced norm of good citizenship and general moral rectitude. This summer could be much more fun if readers ignore their own lawns and stick to Jenkins's. May
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781560984061
  • Publisher: Smithsonian Institution Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/1994
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 246
  • Product dimensions: 5.95 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

Virginia Scott Jenkins is a scholar in residence at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, St. Michaels, Maryland.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
Pt. 1 Americans Adopt the Front-Lawn Aesthetic
1 The Introduction of Lawns to America 9
2 Garden Clubs, Golf, and the USDA 35
3 Advertising the Front Lawn 63
Pt. 2 The Democratization of the Lawn
4 The Growth of the American Lawn-Care Industry 91
5 Men, Women, and Front Lawns 117
6 The War Between Man and Nature 133
7 The Age of High-Tech Horticulture 159
Conclusion 183
Notes 189
Index 239
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