Tagged with children’s history

Smith, Jacob. (2010) “The Books that Sing”


ARGUMENT Scholars generally consider children to be secondary “bit players” within consumer culture until the advent of television (Schor 2005).  Smith’s case study of children’s phonographs in the 1890-1930 period demonstrates that phonograph producers were “quick to recognize the importance of the child audience” (93). SUMMARY Children were approached indirectly (through parents/mothers) and directly in … Continue reading

Garvey, Ellen Gruber. (1996) The Adman in the Parlor

Garvey, Ellen Gruber. (1996) The Adman in the Parlor


ARGUMENT In the 1880s, advertising became a part of daily life and it socialized women and children (mostly girls) into adopting the new consumer culture. SUMMARY In The Adman in the Parlour, Garvey (1996) examines socio-cultural changes in the late nineteenth century to better understand the origins of women’s consumer culture. While most historians point … Continue reading

Formanek-Brunell, Miriam. (1992) “Sugar and Spite: The Politics of Doll Play in Nineteenth Century America”


ARGUMENT The author challenges the popular understanding that dolls limited girls’ development and restricted them to domestic and maternal responsibilities. Her studies of girls’ diaries, magazines, advice manuals and other primary sources finds that girls appropriated dolls and used them for purposes other than practicing their mothering skills. SUMMARY In the earlier part of the … Continue reading

Nasaw, David. (1992) Children and Commerical Culture: Moving Pictures in the Early 20th Century


ARGUMENT A study of Nickelodeon movies in the early 20th century demonstrates that children had independence, agency and collective buying power as early as 1910. SUMMARY Nasaw argues that although reformers and child protectors campaigned to keep children out of the Nickelodeon theatres, children continued to swarm to the theatres in search of cheap excitement … Continue reading

Jacobson, Lisa. (2004) Raising Consumers

Jacobson, Lisa. (2004) Raising Consumers


ARGUMENT   SUMMARY Jacobson  finds that children were often depicted in early twentieth century ads as precocious shoppers with distinctive preferences and a voice to express them. In line with Cross’ and Kline’s assertions about the changing nature of childhood, Jacobson adds that changes in family life, such as a decline in the number of … Continue reading

Zelizer, Vivian, A. (1985) Pricing the Priceless Child

Zelizer, Vivian, A. (1985) Pricing the Priceless Child


ARGUMENT – Sociologist Vivian A. Zelizer argues that as nineteenth century children came to be valued less for their contribution to the family economy, they were appreciated more for their sentimental and emotional value. SUMMARY She concludes that notions of the “economically useless but emotionally priceless child” began to emerge in the 1870s and culminated … Continue reading

Cross, Gary. (2010) “Valves of Adult Desire: The Regulation and Incitement of Children’s Consumption.”


ARGUMENT Cross points out the confusion that results when parents want to control children’s consumption and desire for goods (close down the valve of consumption) but at the same time parents enjoy giving gifts and pleasing their children with consumer goods (opening up the valve of consumption.) SUMMARY Advertisers did not frequently target children or … Continue reading