Sunday, January 30, 2011

Burgeoning Bourgeoisie

New York City, 

The Astor House on Broadway (1851)

The rise of the American middle class is reflected by the country's ephemera. Beginning with the industrial revolution, the overall improvement in the standard of living grew differently for various segments of the population. Nevertheless, despite obstacles like the great wars and economic downturns, people continue to live better and better over time, as shown by a chronology of antebellum menus from New York.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Doe-Birds


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.