Sunday, January 30, 2011

Burgeoning Bourgeoisie

New York City, 
1841-1860


One of the underlying themes of   of American ephemera is the rise of the middle class. The overall standard of living began to improve during the industrial revolution, and continued to grow despite periodic obstacles like the great wars and economic downturns. Although it played out differently in various segments of the population, people generally lived better and better over time, as illustrated by a group of antebellum menus from New York City.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Doe-Birds

Boston, 
1849-1851

Tremont House - Boston (ca.1838)
Hotels are so ubiquitous that it is easy to forget that they were once a novel concept, invented in the United States in the early nineteenth century. The first hotels were large, impressive structures that boasted private bedrooms, grand public ballrooms, and elegant architecture. By the late 1830s there were hundreds of them across the country. Historian Andrew Sandoval-Strausz argues that the hotel was, in essence, “the physical manifestation of a distinctly American vision of mobility, civil society, democracy, and space.”1 In other words, hotels were an expression of American culture—not only as a safe and comfortable place for travelers, but also as an integral part of everyday urban life.