Service and Style: How the American Department Store Fashioned the Middle Class

Service and Style How the American Department Store Fashioned the Middle Class Downtown department stores were once the heart and soul of America s pulsing Broadways and Main Streets With names such as City of Paris Penn Traffic The Maze Maison Blanche or The Popular they s

  • Title: Service and Style: How the American Department Store Fashioned the Middle Class
  • Author: JanWhitaker
  • ISBN: 9780312326357
  • Page: 274
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Downtown department stores were once the heart and soul of America s pulsing Broadways and Main Streets With names such as City of Paris, Penn Traffic, The Maze, Maison Blanche, or The Popular, they suggested spheres far beyond mundane shopping Nicknames reflected the affection customers felt for their favorites, whether Woodie s, Wanny s, Stek s, O.T s, Herp s, o Downtown department stores were once the heart and soul of America s pulsing Broadways and Main Streets With names such as City of Paris, Penn Traffic, The Maze, Maison Blanche, or The Popular, they suggested spheres far beyond mundane shopping Nicknames reflected the affection customers felt for their favorites, whether Woodie s, Wanny s, Stek s, O.T s, Herp s, or Bam s The history of downtown department stores is as fascinating as their names and as diverse as their merchandise Their stories encompass many themes the rise of decorative design, new career paths for women, the growth of consumerism, and the technological ingenuity of escalators and pneumatic tubes Just as the big stores made up their own small universes, their stories are microcosmic narratives of American culture and society The big stores were much than mere businesses They were local institutions where shoppers could listen to concerts, see fashion shows and art exhibits, learn golf or bridge, pay electric bills, and plan vacations all while their children played in the store s nursery under the eye of a uniformed nursemaid.From Boston to San Diego and Miami to Seattle, department stores symbolized a city s spirit, wealth, and progressiveness Situated at busy intersections, they occupied the largest and finest downtown buildings, and their massive corner clocks became popular meeting places Their locations became the epicenters of commerce, the high point from which downtown property taxes were calculated Spanning the late 19th century well into the 20th, their peak development mirrors the growth of cities and of industrial America when both were robust and flourishing The time may be gone when children accompany their mothers downtown for a day of shopping and lunch in the tea room, when monogrammed trucks deliver purchases for free the very same day, and when the personality of a city or town can be read in its big stores But they are far from forgotten and they still have power to influence how we shop today Service and Style recreates the days of downtown department stores in their prime, from the 1890s through the 1960s Exploring in detail the wide range of merchandise they sold, particularly style goods such as clothing and home furnishings, it examines how they displayed, promoted, and sometimes produced goods It reveals how the stores grew, why they declined, and how they responded to and shaped the society around them.

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    1 thought on “Service and Style: How the American Department Store Fashioned the Middle Class”

    1. I spent my semester researching a historic department store in Baltimore, and I used this book. Perhaps a bit heavy on the nostalgia, but Whitaker is correct in pointing out that department stores were considered to be a threat to small dry goods dealers, and were viewed much as some view Walmart today. Because of this book, I wasn't surprised to find that the Maryland legislature repeatedly brought forward an "anti-department store bill," starting in the 1890s.I don't know whether it was a nati [...]

    2. Jan Whitaker has cornered the market on documenting retail history. This was a really fascinating look at the history of the department store. Lighting and air conditioning played a big part in its early success and its view of how "the other half" lived was available for everybody to see and buy.

    3. Coincidentally, this book found me as Masterpiece Theatre is between two series set in department stores: Mr. Selfridge and The Paradise. Both are relatively mediocre series, but that's beside the point. This book is great background and detail on the development of department stores, back when they were way more than department stores as I know them. I can't say I'm nostalgic for them, as the author seems, but I do miss companies investing money in really attractive architecture. Tar-jay, eat y [...]

    4. I love the history of retailing. I just finished "Look to Lazarus", the sole purpose of which was to indulge baby boomer nostalgia: oh we loooved our department store downtown, things were so much better thenBy page 12 of this book I am disabused of the notion that department stores were universally adored. In the late 19th century people slammed them just the way we do malls and chain stores now. they were said to be putting small merchants out of business, mistreating employees, selling shoddy [...]

    5. If you want to know how things used to be before the malls and big box stores then read this book. The author breaks it all down socially, economically and historically. She really sums it up in the end: yes, we have come full circle. If you are into the retro world, you'll appreciate this book.

    6. Interesting read on how an American business segment adapted to the current needs of their customers, and at the same time "taught" their customers what was "proper" about shopping. Too much detail for the casual reader, but easy to skim.

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