Imagining Consumers: Design and Innovation from Wedgwood to Corning

Imagining Consumers: Design and Innovation from Wedgwood to Corning

by Regina Lee Blaszczyk

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Imagining Consumers: Design and Innovation from Wedgwood to Corning by Regina Lee Blaszczyk

Imagining Consumers is the first book to tell the story of American consumer society from the perspective of mass-market manufacturers and retailers. It relates the trials and tribulations of china and glassware producers in their contest for the hearts of working- and middle-class women, who made up more than 80 percent of those buying mass-manufactured goods by the 1920s. Following a model pioneered by Josiah Wedgwood during Great Britain's eighteenth-century industrial revolution, successful American manufacturers closely collaborated with retailers to sort out consumer priorities and tailored their products accordingly. These firms cast aside elitist notions of good taste to generate the stylistic variety that suited the nation's diverse working population, which frequented chain stores such as F. W. Woolworth & Company. In contrast, companies that tried to stimulate desire, reshape taste, and encourage profligate spending by using the tools of persuasion mass advertising, extravagant styling, and installment selling found their efforts thwarted by consumers, who refused to buy products that they did not really want.

Based on extensive research in untapped corporate archives, Imagining Consumers sheds new light on the history of American business, culture, and consumerism. Case studies illuminate the actions of decision makers in key firms, including the Homer Laughlin China Company, the Kohler Company, and Corning Glass Works, and consider the design and development of ubiquitous lines such as Fiesta tableware and Pyrex Ovenware.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780801869143
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date: 06/28/2002
Series: Studies in Industry and Society Series , #16
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 408
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.08(d)

About the Author

Regina Lee Blaszczyk, Ph.D., is Director of the Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Phildelphia.

Table of Contents

1Cinderella Stories14
2China Mania52
3Beauty for a Dime89
5Better Products for Better Homes168
6Pyrex Pioneers208
7Easier Living?249
List of Abbreviations277
Essay on Sources345

What People are Saying About This

Jeffrey L. Meikle

From Jeffrey L. Meikle, University of Texas at Austin

Blaszczyk has written a fascinating account of negotiations between producers and consumers in the glass and ceramics industries, illustrating a symbiotic process by which manufacturers attempted to discover and keep up with the shifting demands of ordinary people. This study will transform our understanding of the history of design, marketing, and consumer culture.

Roland Marchand

From Roland Marchand, late Professor of History, University of California at Davis

Imagining Consumers embodies a depth of archival research, an exquisite detail and clarity in explication, and an astuteness in analysis that should make it a classic in its field. I know of no other study of an industry or groups of industries that so incisively links the stories of technology, business management and consumer relations so thoroughly and effectively.

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