Cosmopolitan Domesticity: Importing the American Dream, 1865–1920

Confronted by the globalizing developments of our time, historians of the United States have become increasingly aware that the self-centered, exceptionalist scholarship all too common in their field has provided an inadequate framework for understanding the historical roots of contemporary transnationalism. Just as significantly, historians of the United States—particularly cultural and social historians—have been waking up to the ways in which the nation-centered historiographical tradition has obscured the importance of empire in shaping U.S. history. Although Americanists, true to their exceptionalist heritage, have held themselves particularly accountable for nationally bounded histories, their internationalizing project has relevance for all historians who have framed their research projects in national terms, and indeed, historians with other geographical specialties have raised similar doubts about the historiographical dominance of the nation state.[1]

The efforts of U.S. and other historians to shed their provincialism for a more international perspective have coincided with another significant historiographical trend, this one among historians of international relations. Influenced by the methods, findings, and underlying assumptions of social and cultural history, international relations historians also have started to rethink their domain. Tired of being dismissed as the methodological troglodytes of the historical profession and conscious of cultural and social historians’ encroachments on their field, they have started to add new topics, including human migration, transnational non-governmental organizations, tourism, cultural expansion, borderlands contacts, and intellectual and imaginative engagement with other peoples and nations, to their traditional interest in diplomacy, war, and trade. Along with bringing a new cast of characters to center stage, this more expansive interpretation of the field has enlivened the foreign relations plot, making it, at times, indistinguishable from the narratives of social and cultural historians.[2]

What, then, are the implications of the reconfiguration and convergence of social, cultural, and international relations history? The greatest impact of this historiographical development can be seen in recent writings on imperialism and colonialism that analyze local experiences and struggles over power without losing sight of international economic, political, and military frameworks.[3] But imperialism and colonialism are not the only significant topics that stand to gain from the blurring of conceptual boundaries. The new historiographical currents have equal—though less realized—potential to illuminate one of the outgrowths of imperialism:

globalization. Though not an easy term to pin down, globalization can be understood broadly as the economic, cultural, technological, political, social, environmental, and other developments that have connected people, nations, and regions in distant parts of the world. All too often, the story of globalization is told as an almost contemporary tale, as a late twentieth-century event closely intertwined with Americanization.[4] Yet well before late twentieth-century commentators labeled and popularized the phenomenon, empires, commerce, and population flows had laid the groundwork for globalizing conjunctures. Indeed, European intellectuals had started to comment on world integration in the eighteenth century.[5] The converging efforts to internationalize formerly national histories and to broaden the scope of foreign relations history promise to add historical depth to the globalization issue by bringing greater scholarly attention to bear on international connections prior to World War II. Furthermore, the converging interests of foreign relations and other historians have the potential to lead to a fuller, more multi-dimensional investigation of the concept. To the issue of globalization, cultural and social historians are bringing their longstanding interest in geographical knowledge, cross-cultural contacts, and consumption, while international relations historians are bringing their traditional sensitivity to power politics, military conflict, and commercial expansion. And in the uncharted area where these fields are now blending, historians are telling new stories that mix the local and the global.[6]

One surprising yet fruitful place to look at the juncture between the local and the global is bourgeois American homes in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As Amy Kaplan has pointed out, women’s historians have highlighted the juxtaposition between the “domestic” (that is, having to do with the household) and the “public” but overlooked the opposition between the “domestic” and the “foreign.” Kaplan emphasizes how, in some contexts, the domestic and the foreign have stood in sharp contrast to each other.[7] But in other contexts, the line between them blurred. This was particularly true in the late nineteenth century, a time noteworthy for its cosmopolitan domesticity—that is, for bourgeois householders’ enthusiasm for imported goods and styles perceived to be foreign, in large part because of their very foreignness. The international linkages of the age lay the material and ideological groundwork for this trend. But cosmopolitan domesticity was more than a reflection of globalizing developments. Globalization narratives often emphasize capital and production, but as Arjun Appadurai has shown, consumption is just as crucial to the globalization story.[8] In stressing the centrality of consumption to globalization, Appadurai addresses not only the gaps in the globalization literature but also those in the literature of consumption. Scholars of consumption insist that material culture should be connected to social and political systems, but their sociopolitical analyses only infrequently cross national borders.[9] Beyond revealing how the international context profoundly shaped even the innermost sanctums of domestic space, considering consumption reveals how bourgeois American women, in their capacity as homemakers, participated in international relations.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, bourgeois Americans commonly regarded household interiors as expressions of the women who inhabited them. As the author of a 1913 decorating manual put it: “We are sure to judge a woman in whose house we find ourselves for the first time, by her surroundings. We judge her temperament, her habits, her inclinations, by the interior of her home.” [10] Motivated by that logic, American women with money to spend turned to their homes to define themselves. One such woman, more typical in her taste than her extraordinary wealth, was Bertha Honoré Palmer. Her Chicago mansion, built on landfill fronting Lake Michigan in 1882, had a Spanish music room, English dining room, Moorish ballroom, Flemish library, and French and Chinese drawing rooms. Upstairs, Bertha Palmer slept in a bedroom copied from a Cairo palace. [11] The so-called Castle, no longer standing, was a Gilded Age spectacle, but a curious one in light of the principle of self-revelation. Given the tendency to regard domestic interiors as an expression of their occupants, what explains Bertha Palmer’s efforts to stage the world in her household?

The story of Palmer’s mansion, rising from a former swamp, dripping with tapestries and heavy chandeliers, is in part a story about class. Acquiring the mellowed trappings of aristocracy was a means to compensate for the rawness of post–Civil War fortunes (the Palmers’ included), to distance one’s dwelling from the vulgar commercialism that had enabled it to be built in the first place. Bertha Palmer no doubt regarded ornate display as useful in establishing her social position and the display of European objects, situated in European theme rooms, particularly useful because of the assumed European superiority in design, craftsmanship, and value.[12] But Palmer’s story is about more than just class. As her heterogeneous ensemble of rooms suggests, it is also about nationality and the effort to transcend nationality through adventures in the international marketplace. And even though Bertha Palmer was very rich, her eclectic preferences were shared by a number of native-born, middle-class women.

Though millions of dollars away from Bertha Palmer’s unattainable luxuries, these women nonetheless exhibited a relatively modest version of Palmer’s far-reaching appetites. The housewife who draped a packing box with gaudy fabric in hopes of making an Oriental “cozy corner” was, as one decorating article pointed out, part of a trend that had at its extreme, the “sumptuous and elegant affair found in the mansions of the wealthy.”[13] No less significantly, she was part of a design trend that encompassed Europe and that purportedly looked to the Near and Far East for its original inspiration. Palmer and like-minded women undoubtedly wished to convey their economic standing through household displays, but their decision to do so through exhibiting imported objects and replicating distant styles illuminates something beyond local jostling. Through their households, these women strove to convey a cosmopolitan—meaning nationally unbounded—ethos, something that functioned in tandem with their class aspirations but that should not be conflated with them. Their cosmopolitanism implied an appreciation of other peoples’—particularly but not exclusively Europeans’—artistic production and cultural attainments, a valorization of ethnographic and other geographic knowledge, and varying degrees of identification with people outside the United States.[14] Less benignly, it also emerged from and promoted U.S. commercial expansion and empire.

Cosmopolitan domesticity, seemingly paradoxical by definition, was at odds with some core nineteenth-century ideas about households. Tract writers commonly presented the home as a haven from the outside world. As John F. W. Ware, author of an 1866 treatise on home life declared: “A home is an enclosure, a secret, separate place, a place shut in from, guarded against, the whole world outside.” Suburban homes in particular appeared as safe havens from the immigrants who swelled the cities and entered the most private sanctums of urban households in their capacities as servants. Besides shutting the wider world out, homes were expected to shut middle-class women in. Ware, in full accord with many of his contemporaries, went on to pronounce the home “the peculiar sphere of woman. With the world at large she has little to do. Her influence begins, centres, and ends in her home.”[15] Even those who found this vision of the home too restrictive, and instead argued that middle-class women should reach out from their homes to reform the wider society, joined with moralists such as Ware in presenting homes as fonts of local, national, and ethnic identity. This assumption has obscured the extent to which homes were not so sheltered after all, the extent to which they were firmly embedded in an international market economy.[16]

Interior decorators, then the pathbreaking members of a new profession that catered to the wealthy, took the lead in promoting the cosmopolitan decoration trends of the post–Civil War period. The most sought-after professional decorators had traveled as part of their education and stayed current with European fads. Recognizing the value of international sophistication, one New York City decorator, Virginia Brush, touted her preference for salons in the French method and libraries in the English style. She also advertised her facility in Japanese designs and her yearly travels in Europe, where she visited London, Paris, and Vienna, collecting the “newest of materials—the fashions that prevail in furniture.”[17] Familiarity with foreign trends helped decorators such as Brush promote both themselves and their craft.

Those who lacked the wherewithal to hire a decorator but not the wherewithal to decorate could still find plenty of professional advice. There was an explosion of writing about interior decoration in the postwar period, in keeping with the expansion of the popular press. The Decorator and Furnisher (aimed at both trade readers and householders) depicted exquisite interiors starting in 1882, The House Beautiful and House and Garden followed on its heels. Women’s magazines that did not specialize in decoration, including The Ladies’ Home Journal and Good Housekeeping, offered decorating advice on occasion, as did family magazines such as Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper and art magazines such as The Art Amateur, The Art Interchange, and Arts and Decoration. Daily newspapers addressed the subject, too, especially on their women’s pages, and publishers turned out handsome decorating treatises and straightforward handbooks. In contrast to decorating guides from the mid-nineteenth century, which tended to advocate the creation of distinctly American homes, those of the postwar period had wider outlooks. Purveyors of decorating advice reprinted stories from European design magazines, reported on products from around the world, and advocated foreign styles for American households.[18]

French and British design had the greatest following in the postwar period. Contemporaries regarded many of the rococo creations of the Victorian era as fundamentally French, and they snatched up empire and Louis XIV, XV, and XVI furniture, done in varying degrees of accuracy. The press paid considerable attention to French design, and imported French goods could be counted on to seem chic. “The French have the flavor and the delicate discrimination that, as a nation, young America still lacks,” wrote one Francophile in the Art Interchange.[19] British styles had an equally dedicated following, especially after the English art expert Charles L. Eastlake published his Hints on Household Taste in 1868. By 1881, the book had come out in its sixth American edition, and U.S. shops were stocked with furniture passed off as “Eastlake style.” Further testimony to the popularity of British styles can be seen in decorating magazines’ glowing descriptions of English country homes.[20]

Besides promoting French and British designs, decorating articles gave rave reviews to Italian, Dutch, German, Russian, Norwegian, and other European styles. Many of the “foreign” interiors they profiled were actually American, at least in terms of their location, for they had been produced in the United States as part of a mania for internationally inspired theme rooms.[21] Although design writers paid the most attention to European currents, not all the theme rooms they glowingly described followed European models. The interest evinced in other parts of the globe differentiates the post–Civil War period from earlier eras. This is not to overlook the China trade and interest in chinoiserie stretching back well before the eighteenth century, nor to overlook the scattered experimentation with other Oriental styles before the Civil War. But Chinese imports and chinoiserie of Western manufacture had been available to a comparatively narrow segment of the population, and other non-European design traditions failed to attract more than a modicum of interest.[22] In the last decades of the nineteenth century, by contrast, a wider section of the American public had access to non-European imports, and taste makers touted products and styles from a wider expanse of the globe. These included folk art and objects from the Americas, as seen in an “American Indian room” profiled in the Decorator and Furnisher that featured curios from Mexico and Guatemala. “Many women of fashion have developed of late a fad for odd Oriental, South American, and Mexican belongings,” noted the Atlanta Constitution in 1896. “Today no woman with a charming home considers it complete without some bits of Mexican ornament.”[23] Bourgeois consumers’ interest in seemingly traditional Central and South American objects intersected with their better-known enthusiasm for Native American rugs, pottery, and baskets.

More common than Latin American ornaments were Oriental ones, especially during the Orientalist craze that swept the nation from the 1870s to the turn of the century. This caught Bertha Palmer, with her Moorish ballroom and Egyptian bedroom, in its wake, but it was not for everyone. Harriet Prescott Spofford made that clear in her 1877 book on home decoration. Oriental designs would always seem fantastic in American homes, she claimed, and were best suited for “the very young and gay, and for those cosmopolitan people who are able to feel at home anywhere.”[24] Despite—or what seems more likely, because—of its cosmopolitan associations, Oriental design attracted a following among fashionable householders. Domestic Orientalism generally entailed fanciful creations passed off as Moorish, Turkish, Chinese, Japanese, or a combination thereof.[25]

Although some home furnishers favored a particular style, the popularity of theme rooms did not necessarily mean loyalty to a particular nation. To the contrary, wealthy homeowners such as Bertha Palmer often mixed and matched their theme rooms. The passion for multiple theme rooms among the very rich posed a considerable challenge to the middle-class housewives who tried to keep up with the latest notions. They could struggle to produce a theme room or two but only with great difficulty, and an entire ensemble of them lay far beyond their grasp. Design writers came to the rescue. Besides profiling rooms done in a specific national style, they touted the virtues of rooms that mixed goods and styles from around the globe. Women who could not afford separate theme rooms could stuff the entire world into their parlors, confident that this was au courant. Late nineteenth-century design writings favorably profiled dwellings that mixed German tankards with French chairs and Persian embroideries and Moorish grille work with Swiss clocks. “All nations are represented,” enthused a Good Housekeeping article on a Philadelphia dining room. That such mixing was not limited to the fabulously wealthy can be seen in a profile of a small city apartment that combined Turkish brass, Japanese tables, a Chinese cabinet, carved gourds from Central America, a Mexican fan, a Breton vase, a Bohemian chalice, and posters from Paris and London.[26]

Householders who mixed goods from around the globe had grounds to regard their interiors as daringly artistic, for profiles of avant-garde studios often highlighted their mismatched contents. An expatriate American painter in Rome lived up to the stereotype of the cosmopolitan artist: the walls of his studio were “covered with many and many a thing of beauty, every part of the earth from Norway to Japan having contributed something.”[27] Across the Atlantic, Mabel Dodge Luhan demonstrated a comparable catholicism in her tastes. After keeping a palazzo in Florence, she became a prominent member of the Greenwich Village avant-garde. But at the end of World War I, she left New York for the Southwest. In Taos, she built a house that mixed French sofas and Mexican chairs, Navajo rugs and Italian tables, Buddhas and Virgins. The striking mix identified her as a woman not beholden to narrow conventions, as a woman open to the artistry of the world. Artistic studios may have resembled department stores—the paramount monuments of the marketplace—in their eclectic display, but rather than striking observers as quintessentially commercial, they tended to be interpreted as protests against conventionality, as expressions of a sometimes shocking open-mindedness, ease, sensuality, individuality, and even decadence, values that could threaten class solidarity and authority.[28]

An eclectic mixture was easier to pull off than a series of theme rooms, but it still took money to gather the Buddhas and the Virgins. The housewife who found even an eclectic ensemble beyond her grasp might have been tempted to toss the decorating advice aside and give up in despair. But there was hope even for the housewife with a modest discretionary income. Individual items, including small decorative pieces—ceramics, fans, pillows—could give a humdrum household a hint of glamour. Or so said the decorators. In writing about the items that could redeem an otherwise unremarkable interior, these decorators made a point of identifying origins, and many of the products they advocated were foreign. Agnes Bailey Ormsbee, author of The House Comfortable, provided the kind of purchasing advice typical of late nineteenth-century domestic writing. She counseled her discriminating readers to buy Irish and French damask, Scottish linen, English porcelain, Japanese china (she warned against the imitations from New Jersey), Turkish towels, Indian fabrics, Chinese rattan, and Turkistani, Daghestani, Smyrnese, and other Oriental rugs.[29] Shopping columns and decoration essays devoted so much attention to provenance that it seems likely that a large part of middle-class consumers’ awareness of the wider world was associated with the goods they purchased for their households. By paying so much attention to provenance, decoration experts did more than broaden their readers’ imaginative horizons, they heightened the appeal of products manufactured outside the United States.

Merchants, too, were quick to trumpet foreign provenance, seeing it as an enticement to purchase. “The Cairo rug which has only lately been imported to any extent, is coarse and heavy, but it conveys an unmistakable sense of the orient,” counseled a shopping guide that assumed readers would want a “sense of the orient” to emanate from their floors.[30] Likewise, a catalog company that sold Mexican handicrafts assumed that consumers appreciated foreignness, for it maintained that its “zerapes” had “a distinctly foreign air.”[31] By drawing attention to the “large number of Wanamaker buyers who crossed the ocean looking for goods to stock,” John Wanamaker’s catalogs also reflected the assumption that American buyers appreciated imports.[32] Even goods manufactured in the United States—such as a suite of bedroom furniture advertised as made of Cuban mahogany, following English ideas, with Egyptian cloth—lured consumers with the cachet of cosmopolitanism.[33] Though manufactured domestically, the bedroom suite brought to mind connections with distant parts of the world.

As decorators’ and advertisers’ emphasis on foreign provenance suggests, foreignness seemed desirable to fashionable Americans in the late nineteenth century—so desirable that design writers stressed the virtues of authentically foreign appearance. The aim was not just to acquire an abundance of beautiful and costly products but to collect artifacts that expressed genuine foreign taste. Almost as important as design authenticity (or, at the least, the assumption of authenticity) was seemingly authentic display. Hence one decorating manual counseled readers to place their Oriental rugs about “in true Eastern style.”[34] The point went well beyond taking advantage of foreign productive capacities to entail crafting a house that was not really domestic, in the national sense, at all. Imports had so much cachet that decorating magazines reported on high-end retailers who duped purchasers as to the provenance of their goods, “representing them as from England, France, almost any country excepting our own.”[35] In an age of machine-made products, many imports seemed appealingly handmade. But if consumers only wanted handmade items, they could have surrounded themselves with cross stitch and Shaker boxes. That many chose, instead, to cast their lot with international commerce owes much to the rise of foreignness itself as a decorating objective.

The amount of attention paid to the wider world in writings on domestic decoration was more than just a freak of fashion. It was a reflection of the nation’s position in a globalizing world. The late nineteenth century was not only the heyday of the European empires, it also was a period of growing U.S. engagement overseas, as manifested most notably through its commercial expansion, commitment to empire, and missionary impulses. This engagement resulted in expanding geographic knowledge conveyed to the middle-class public through paintings, photographs, museums, missionary exhibits, immigrant enclaves, manufacturing displays, ethnographic and travel writings, and less obvious sources, including the household and decoration magazines mentioned earlier. World’s fairs showcased foreign goods to such an extent that a visitor to the 1876 Philadelphia exposition reported feeling that he had “landed in some large Chinese bazaar.” (The Chinese exhibit was just one of many foreign displays at the Centennial Exposition and later fairs.)[36]

Overseas travel also played an important role in disseminating decorating knowledge. Tourists saw novelties in hotels and homes alike, and their sightseeing expeditions took them to upscale manufacturing establishments where they perused domestic wares. Decorating articles assumed that travel would inevitably lead to greater variety in domestic furnishings. “Travel broadens the mind and makes it more hospitable to new ideas,” claimed one article, “hence the furnishing accessories of foreign countries, with their unexpected designs and colorings, become more and more appreciated.”[37] Although foreign travel as an end in itself remained a hallmark of wealth, ever greater numbers of Americans ventured abroad. Along with pleasure-seeking tourists, the missionaries, professionals, businessmen, servicemen, and other government agents who made overseas trips brought back furniture and smaller decorative items.[38] Globe-trotting travelers provided firsthand reports of foreign interiors, often published in newspapers and magazines, thus exposing an even wider circle of Americans to disparate styles. The more that Americans ventured beyond their borders, the more they learned of the world, and the more they coveted what they saw.

The interest in foreign wares went hand in hand with availability. The mass market took off in the post–Civil War period. Although domestic manufacturers supplied the majority of household products, an unprecedented number of imports entered the country. Ocean shipping had fallen by more than half during the Civil War, but after the war it rebounded. In the postwar period, middle-class and wealthy American consumers could buy goods ranging from Argentine lamp shade covers to Zulu baskets in shops, from catalogs, and in the new department stores that were gaining a prominent role in American retailing.[39]

Consumers uncertain of where to find novelty wares could turn to the decorators who had fostered their desire for such things in the first place. The Ladies’ Home Journal, for example, counseled readers to find their Turkish curtains at “Vantines [an Oriental import store with branches in New York and Chicago and a catalog trade] and stores of that kind.”[40] The intrepid urban purchaser, acting on the advice of decorating experts, might visit Chinatown for the best selection of Oriental shops or the East Side of New York City to pick up household goods from cash-strapped immigrants who peddled family heirlooms on the street. World’s fairs did more than expose tourists to design trends, they also offered shopping opportunities. The closing days of expositions offered bonanzas to bargain seekers, who snatched up samples that had once been on display. Outside of large cities, shoppers had fewer choices, but they nonetheless had access to a wide variety of imported and foreign-seeming household products. According to the testimonial letters in a catalog of a New Mexico firm that sold Mexican and American Indian handicrafts, buyers came from over twenty different states, including ones as far away as Alaska, New Hampshire, Alabama, and Wisconsin. Besides obtaining curios from catalogs, rural and small-town buyers could turn to the thousands of pack peddlers—Syrian immigrants prominent among them—who crisscrossed the country, hawking exotic bric-a-brac as well as practical supplies.[41]

A woman shopper who offered advice in The House Beautiful attested to the boggling assortment of available wares: “The chief thought in the mind of the woman who goes out to buy curtains and draperies . . . must be one of thankfulness that she lives in this particular age of the world, for never before were there so many interesting things from which to choose.” She went on to mention Japanese, Persian, Scottish, and Madagascan fabrics. Shifting her attention to dishes and cutlery, she continued in awe: “From the four corners of the earth come marching long processions of tableware.” The mistress of the house could “make of her dining-table, spread with appropriate wares, a part of a Dutch room, or a Spanish room, or a German room, or a Japanese or a Chinese room.” Or, if she wanted merely “a bit of bizarre flavor that seems always to add just the necessary tang to bungalow furnishing, she can pick and choose from the offerings of half the nations of the earth.”[42] Such articles implied that middle-class and wealthy Americans were in a position to take full advantage of the world’s marketplaces.

The assumption that American shoppers could buy whatever they wanted exaggerated the strength of all but the fattest pocketbooks. Nevertheless, the abundance of the U.S. marketplace did represent financial power. Only the rich could fill their houses with imported decorative items, and the United States, in aggregate, was rich. After a long history of trade deficits that extended back past the origins of the republic, the United States became a net exporter in 1874. Protected by high tariffs, U.S. industry established a significantly greater overseas presence in this period. Yet imports continued to rise as well, and, as part of this development, ever more household goods entered the United States. According to U.S. government trade figures, U.S. imports of wool carpets rose from under $900,000 in 1865 to over $2.7 million in 1900 and $13.6 million in 1920. As for earthen, stone, and china ware, the United States imported roughly $2 million worth in 1865, $8.6 million in 1900, and $11.6 million in 1920. And these are just two of the categories of imported goods: baskets, cutlery, brass, silver, laces, glassware, towels, linens, clocks, and other domestic items also entered the United States.[43]

The nation’s relative wealth put U.S. buyers in a position of power in the international marketplace. News of low foreign wages, as little as three cents a day for a Chinese laborer, might have worried American manufacturers and workers, but they provided grounds for American consumers to see themselves as privileged. That international exchanges were not always regarded as equal can be inferred from the words used to describe them. Contemporaries referred to foreign goods as “plunder” and “trophies of travel.”[44] Even accounts that presented American consumption in more benign terms, as a charitable transfer of wealth to needy foreign workers, conveyed a sense of unequal power relations between U.S. consumers and foreign producers.[45] Guided by such accounts, shoppers could understand their forays into the marketplace as an act of national mastery, as an assertion of American as well as class privilege.

The United States might seem particularly privileged, but shoppers could also regard their purchases as a manifestation of something larger: civilizational and racial privilege. Imperial rule played a crucial role in bringing non-European goods to Western attention. It also brought the manufacture of numerous products under Western, especially British, control, thus making them more readily available. In 1877, decorator Harriet Prescott Spofford acknowledged the imperial connections that brought foreign products to American households. She claimed that American consumers could obtain finer goods than ever before, due to “our better acquaintance with the Eastern countries, the farther depth to which we have penetrated them.”[46] If the exotic objects that filled American households could speak, the rooms would reverberate with stories of empire.

Some of these stories—especially those on compelled labor—should have made conscientious decorators blanch. A Decorator and Furnisher article on Oriental rugs noted that in Mirzapur, India, “the [British] Government has, by engaging as many of its convicts in the jail as soon as it could find space for at carpet weaving, set the fashion for the whole neighborhood.” Convicts reportedly made carpets in Bangalore and Vellore, too, including ones on order for Americans. Yet rather than condemn such prison labor, those who reported on it were more likely to cast it as an efficient means of enforcing discipline.[47] The acceptance of coercive labor practices—indeed, the tendency to regard them as evidence of superior British managerial skills rather than as shocking evidence of exploitation—underscores the idea of consumption as marching hand in hand with Western imperial rule.

But before we conclude that consumers regarded the marketplace as more coercive than consensual, it is important to note that a number of essays on provenance romanticized the conditions of manufacture. “Here are no sweat-shop methods!” exclaimed a catalog of Mexican handicrafts that touted the pleasant home-based manufacturing conditions of its workers.[48] Shoppers could actually watch ostensibly contented Irish lace makers, Persian rug weavers, and other foreign craftspeople ply their trades at worlds’ fairs and manufacturing exhibits.[49] The result of such rosy accounts and appealing displays of manufacture was to make the U.S. position within the world marketplace seem benign. By ignoring conflict and obscuring unsavory working conditions, such accounts made the inequitable distribution of international power seem unexceptionable. They thus helped forestall critiques of imperialism based on evidence of exploitation. The abundance of goods in the American marketplace resulted from varying degrees of coercion as well as consent. And in buying the Baghdad curtains, the Turkish rugs, and the Indian brasswork, American shoppers positioned themselves with the grasping Western powers. This can be most clearly seen in the appeal of Oriental rooms during the 1870s and 1880s.

Decorators touted Oriental and especially Turkish schemes as particularly suitable for men’s smoking rooms and bachelor’s apartments. The apartment of a New York banker illuminates why. An awestruck reporter admiringly compared its Turkish room to the harem of the Pasha. Its walls were bedecked in tapestries “representing Eastern dancing girls in the most luxurious attitudes.” Beside the door stood a life-size nude statue of an odalisque.[50] It was a sensuous room in which men could enjoy eroticized Eastern women. Like other Turkish rooms, it gratified male fantasies through conveying the luxuriousness and ease associated with the harem. Yet exotic reveries were not the only escapes offered by Turkish dens. The men who retreated to their confines also surrounded themselves with the thrill of violence: many such rooms had weapons prominently displayed on the walls.[51]

It was no coincidence that Turkish and other Orientalist rooms became popular in the apogee of European imperialism. Oriental smoking rooms were a cultural manifestation of imperial politics. They resulted from Western knowledge of Eastern conventions (however jumbled and perverted) and Westerners’ ability to obtain Eastern products. More specifically, they provided the Western bachelor with access, if only in his imagination, to the prohibited harem. If in its inaccessibility, the harem symbolized the limits of Western men’s power to fully grasp the Orient, its duplication suggested that nothing was beyond Western men’s reach. The weapons might convey masculinity, but as far as Oriental men were concerned, it was a cowed masculinity, for these daggers, swords, and spears had been unable to prevent the European seizure of power. The most potent masculinity inhered in their current possessors—the men who could hang them on their walls along with college banners and hunting trophies.

Although high-end Oriental rooms were often pitched as luxurious places for male pleasure, there were also low-cost orientalist niches, commonly referred to as “cozy corners,” which, decorators insisted, middle-class women could make for their own enjoyment. These typically consisted of an upholstered divan, a profusion of cushions, a rug, a Turkish coffee table, some Orientalist touches such as screens, fans, lanterns, and pottery, and lush draperies to frame the entire ensemble. The Ladies’ Home Journal described one that could be made for ten dollars. And there were even cheaper versions. One decorator counseled the cost-conscious to stuff their pillows with milkweed if possible, new-mown hay and pine shavings if necessary.[52]

Some featured cozy corners were so outlandish that they might have struck a cynic as a decorator’s joke, but many readers did not regard them in that light. It is difficult to gauge the exact extent of their appeal, but they did spring up across the country. One New York apartment clustered tropical plants and Eastern textiles around a corner divan. A Chicago householder added a large parasol, spears, and fans to the basic arrangement. Artistic decorators from Texas to Colorado and Montana came up with their own variations. Cozy corners did more than provide a feminine counterpoint to male smoking dens—their popularity helped make exotic interiors seem particularly feminine.[53] What, then, explains their popularity? Did all these householders regard their niches as shrines to national and imperial privilege?

However much they might seem that way in retrospect, it is important to note that contemporaries generally did not portray them in that light. Julia Cowles, the writer who envisioned hay-filled pillows bedecking rural divans, attributed their sudden popularity to the seemingly benign phenomenon of geographic awareness: “only within the last decade have we become sufficiently well acquainted with these same neighbors to feel at liberty to borrow from them.”[54] Ignoring how it was that American women had managed to become acquainted with their Eastern “neighbors” and what forms this acquaintance took, Cowles tried to remove cozy corners from international relations and relocate them in the realm of the sentimental. But there was nonetheless something to her claims of feeling well acquainted. The American women who constructed Oriental cozy corners had, in all likelihood, been exposed to information on Oriental products and their manufacture and, beyond that, to ethnographic writing on the harem, whether in missionary bulletins, daily newspapers, or women’s magazines. That exposure only intensifies the mystery of the cozy corners’ appeal, however, for evangelical and secular ethnological literature presented Oriental harems as virtual prisons, as symbols of women’s degradation in male-dominated societies. A decorating article that praised the “exquisite workmanship” of the embroidery pinned to the wall of an Iranian harem but then went on to mention opium smoking, a sickly looking baby, child marriage, superstition, jealousy between wives, and the sheltered women’s utter ignorance of the world captures the tension between the admiration for Eastern products and the abhorrence of the East.[55] If U.S. men were likely to regard the harem as a symbol of unattainable pleasures, a bastion of resistance to Western imperial surveillance and control, U.S. women were more likely to see it as a symbol of oppression.

The female bondage associated with the harem complicates the theory that imperial assertiveness, or, for the naïve, mere acquaintance, motivated Moorish and other exotic niches. Given the tendency to regard the harem as a locus of male pleasure at the cost of female oppression, why did Euro-American women tolerate any hint of the Orient in their parlors? One possibility is that they disregarded the vast majority of harem writings and latched onto the idea of the harem as a protective space for women. Another is that they draped Turkish fabrics in their doorways to manifest a sense of sympathetic identification with oppressed harem denizens. In either case, their efforts to add Oriental touches to their households can be interpreted as an expression of their own dissatisfactions, whether with male-dominated social spaces or their own domestic captivity. Despite admonitions to be thankful for their privileges, these women may have felt that they still had all too much in common with women of the East. Even confident, capable, socially powerful women such as Bertha Palmer had reason to identify with women of the harem: Palmer’s husband reportedly locked her in her room from time to time.[56]

But just because the harem served as a symbol of women’s oppression, it does not follow that its reconstruction in Western households necessarily did, too. For U.S. women as well as men, domestic Orientalism bespoke an affinity with Western imperial rule. Orientalist niches represented European as well as Oriental design, for imperial endeavors had given rise to an Orientalist craze in Britain and on the continent. Maude Andrews, author of a series of travel articles published in the Atlanta Constitution in 1896, was struck by a Turkish room in London: “sumptuous, restful, exquisite—nothing in it, I assure you, like the cozy oriental corners we see copied out of newspapers and fashion books.”[57] She may have disdained cozy corners as low-brow, but even these had European connections—the 1892 Exhibition of Rooms at London’s Crystal Palace had one on display. Constructing a cozy corner meant more than mimicking the wealthy within the United States: like the rich who hired decorators to compose lavish Oriental retreats, the middle-class American women who draped their corners in fabric and piled cushions on the divan demonstrated a sense of European sophistication through their exhibitions of Oriental exoticism. Rather than aiming to produce an unmediated Eastern decor, many of the householders who experimented with Orientalism strove to produce a colonial decor, one that emerged from the crucible of empire and was as much European as Oriental. Just as the spreading reach of Western ships had contributed to the rage for chinoiserie in the eighteenth century, a sense of affinity with Western imperialism contributed to the Orientalism of the nineteenth. Like the public exhibitions that broadcast messages about Western imperial power, fin-de-siècle households made manifest the benefits of U.S. commercial expansion in a Western-dominated political economy.[58]

To the extent that Orientalist cozy corners did evoke an unmediated East to their creators, they still did not necessarily imply a sense of identification with sequestered women. If Western women regarded the harem as a locus of oppression for its denizens, they saw it as a tourist destination for themselves. The ability to travel, if only imaginatively through their household interiors, marked them as privileged. Like the wealthy bachelors in their Turkish smoking rooms, middle-class women could appreciate the power dynamics implicit in their cozy corners. Though members of the subordinate sex at home, they could claim affiliation with a dominant nation (and for white women, with a dominant race) in an international context. Those who read about white women in the Orient read stories about empowerment: memsahibs reported on a level of authority and luxury unavailable to them in the metropole. In the context of empire, middle-class Western women could become upper-class. Indeed, American women were often told to regard consumption as a sign of national strength, to thank their lucky stars that they had been born into a country where women were “spenders,” not “earners.”[59] In buying foreign goods and creating foreign interiors, American women no less than American men accepted, sometimes knowingly, sometimes tacitly, the relations of power that brought these products to their doorsteps. Middle-class American women might never be as rich as Bertha Palmer, but they nonetheless had something in common: they could demonstrate national and civilizational standing in their household acquisitions. As fellow citizens in a wealthy nation, as fellow wielders of the dollar, they, too, were privileged in the international marketplace. And what was the point of the nation, the point of empire, if not to preserve that privilege? Cosmopolitan interiors produced as well as reflected international relations, in the sense that wide-ranging tastes added impetus to commercial expansion and empire.[60]

The commercial power of the United States and its association with empire in the years after the Civil War make it tempting to interpret the appeal of foreign goods and styles strictly as an expression of national and Western power. It seems reasonable to conclude that the nation as a whole (or at least the middle and upper-class Americans who purchased the bulk of household imports) was doing something akin to Bertha Palmer: demonstrating status through consumption. However, more provincial Americans refused to see the incorporation of foreign objects into American households in this light. The eagerness with which late nineteenth-century shoppers filled their households with imported objects troubled the economic nationalists who supported high tariffs. Nor did the passion for foreign products make sense to cultural nationalists, foremost among them the colonial revivalists, who thought that American women should surround themselves with American objects to better foster patriotism and good citizenship in their children.[61]

The penchant for the foreign also countered the nationalistic programs of those who wanted to spread a more narrow-minded vision of American domesticity. This group includes the missionaries who shipped household goods to China, the American colonizers in the Philippines who likewise strove to reproduce the conditions of home, and the reformers who attempted to “Americanize” Native Americans and immigrants by persuading them to embrace appropriately national domestic influences.[62] The expectation that middle-class American women would contribute to Christianizing, civilizing, and Americanizing projects by modeling and enforcing domesticity complicates the idea of cosmopolitan consumption as a quintessentially imperialist practice. Cosmopolitan interiors could be just as imperialistic as nationalistic ones, but in different ways—the former were more appropriative and the latter more homogenizing. In contrast to more explicitly nationalist and culturally bounded interiors, cosmopolitan interiors evinced relatively greater receptivity to difference. Unlike economic and cultural nationalists and their “Americanizing” allies, cosmopolitan consumers positioned themselves as enthusiastic contributors to and beneficiaries of the globalizing developments of their day.

Cosmopolitan interiors seem strange enough in light of domestic ideology, but they seem stranger still in the light of late nineteenth-century Americans’ (at least white, native-born Americans’) reputation for provincialism beyond the confines of their households. Historians have characterized the 1870s as a decade in which native-born Americans had faith in assimilation, but rising xenophobia in the 1880s and 1890s led to calls for immigration restriction. In keeping with this anti-immigrant backlash, nativistic “purity” campaigns took off in the late nineteenth century. Purity reformers often blamed foreigners and immigrants for indecency and obscenity. Their obsession with purity stemmed, in part, from unease. In the last decades of the century, railroads, concentrated capital, and industrial production knit small island communities into a tighter national network.[63] National integration challenged the face-to-face security of small-town life, as did another phenomenon: the rise of cities. Even though the United States was still a predominantly rural and small-town nation at the turn of the century, big cities were catching up, on the verge of matching the hinterlands in population in the 1920 census. The narrative of national consolidation and urbanization is a familiar one to historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, but it is only part of a larger story, less familiar to cultural historians. This was also a period in which the nation became increasingly incorporated into the world. Just as the big city came to be seen with some ambivalence—as a site of corruption and danger as well as culture and pleasure—the wider world seemed simultaneously threatening and exciting, a place of risk and of opportunity, degenerate and yet novel.

If foreign interiors seem incongruous in the domestic refuges of a people with a strong provincial streak, the non-European motifs seem doubly incongruous given what we know about racial and ethnic assumptions of the time. This was a period of rampant white supremacist ideas and practices, of lynchings, the disfranchisement of African-American voters, and the entrenchment of Jim Crow. The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act prohibited practically all Chinese from immigrating to the United States, and in the 1907 Gentlemen’s Agreement, President Theodore Roosevelt arranged with Japan to limit working-class immigrants from that country. Chinese Americans and Japanese Americans faced hostility and discrimination; they were ineligible for naturalized citizenship and in many cases isolated from European Americans in Chinatowns and Japantowns. Immigration from the Middle East was not a pressing political issue during the late nineteenth century, but white Americans still tended to disparage this part of the world. In the 1880s, the Ottoman Empire was the largest foreign mission site for the United States. Rather than resenting European aggression against the sultan’s dominions, Americans increasingly saw Turks as oppressors of subject Christian minorities.[64] Yet all the while, middle-class housewives were sewing cushions for sensuous Oriental niches. Keeping in mind that Oriental touches were only part of a broader enthusiasm for foreign design, why did foreignness have such cachet in the late nineteenth century? If the leading logic of domesticity was national, racial, and civilizational self-assertion, why did householders not stick to American goods and what they regarded as specifically “American” interiors? What kind of self did the homemakers who embraced what they saw as foreign objects and motifs strive to convey?

It is difficult to determine what household imports meant to consumers because shopping, at once so commonplace and so ephemeral, did not result in routine record keeping of what attracted buyers to their purchases. Nor did most householders keep notes on why they decorated as they did or what effect they were trying to achieve. The intentions and resonances of household interiors no doubt varied as much as the individuals who crafted them. But even without the help of voluminous shopping and decorating diaries, descriptions of interiors can help us deduce much about their logic and meaning. And even if we assume a multiplicity of motives behind them, we can still draw conclusions about the range of possibilities. If the eager acquisition of foreign products can be interpreted as an expression of imperialist sensibilities, or at least a toleration of imperial practices, it also can be interpreted in very different terms, as a form of cultural insecurity and receptivity to outside influences. This was especially true for the rooms done after European tastes, but it was likewise true for Orientalist touches. Rather than seeing themselves as the stalwart defenders of local manufacture, or as the guardians of local or national decorative traditions, and rather than being bent on imposing U.S. culture on the wider world, the American women who sought foreign objects for their households demonstrated an eagerness to be at the receiving end of cultural transmission. Their decorating efforts can be read as an effort to transcend the nation, in an effort to claim the cultural capital that they believed their nation lacked.[65] Although cosmopolitan U.S. consumers assumed that Europe had the greatest hoard of cultural capital, they regarded such capital as potentially global in its origins and range of circulation.

That consumers looked to their household goods as links to the wider world can be inferred from writings on home furnishings. A House Beautiful contributor who counseled setting the dining room table with items from around the world characterized the arrangement as a kind of geography lesson: “Each item upon a table thus spread from so many different sources has its own story to tell of the country whence it comes, the way it was made, and the uses to which it would have been put in the homes of peasant or artisan had it not journeyed to America instead.”[66] Another decorating account maintained that the attraction of outlandish belongings was the “change they impart to the mind . . . The effect is somewhat similar to that of travel, in which the strangest things have the greatest charm.”[67] Through purchasing foreign goods, consumers could attain the outlook of globetrotters, something that implied a certain open-mindedness along with wealth, cultivation, and an adventuresome spirit. As for those who actually had traveled, stuffing their households with foreign goods was a way to reify their rambling. The knickknack acquired in a foreign bazaar served as evidence that one had the means to travel and, even more important, the inclination to do so.

Paradoxically, fashionable Americans’ receptivity to foreign influences had a nationalistic dimension—at least in writings that suggested Americans were exceptionally cosmopolitan. But this was countered by writings that indicated that other nations and peoples mixed household goods and styles. The Art Amateur, for example, reported on a French writer who advocated mixing “the most incongruous objects—a cabinet of the Italian Renaissance, surmounted by a trophy of Oriental arms and a group of grimacing Japanese masks; a Spanish console leaning against a portière of point d’Hongrie; a Persian carpet on the floor.”[68] Although Europeans’ eclectic preferences received particular attention in the U.S. press, hybridity meant being more than just European, it meant being modern. House and Garden, for example, published an article on Japanese houses with Occidental rooms for the reception of Westerners. Although it suggested that it would be better to create a composite style, “in which the practical features of European furniture are combined with Japanese design characteristics,” it applauded the effort to bridge East and West within the profiled dwellings.[69] Such articles made it clear that international mixing characterized the age, not just the nation.

That cosmopolitan interiors were a mark of the time seemed clear to those who contrasted late nineteenth-century interiors to ones from earlier periods. One decorating pamphlet claimed that the interiors of “our forefathers” were relatively simple, both from poverty and “from the fact that they were not a much traveling people, and their curiosity about other lands and their inhabitants was not very great.” To be modern meant to be comparatively cosmopolitan: “We, on the contrary, take a very great interest in other peoples and in other countries . . . In our houses we give our love of adventure free play, and like to be reminded at every turn, of the fact that America, big as is her territory, is but a small part of the world.”[70] Interpreting the enthusiasm for foreign goods and tastes only in nationalistic terms means missing out on the international yearnings expressed in these interiors. Just as the national marketplace unified late nineteenth-century American consumers, the international marketplace led them to imagine still wider connections. To cosmopolitan consumers, globalization did not threaten cultural loss so much as promise cultural gain, in a very literal, materialist sense.

As beneficiaries of Western imperial power, U.S. consumers had plenty of reasons—some of them visible on their mantlepieces and corner tables—to regard rising international commerce favorably. Like their nationalistic contemporaries who called for greater self-assertion, cosmopolitan decorators appreciated national economic and political power. Where these two groups differed was in their receptivity to difference. In contrast to those who adhered to a smug sense of cultural superiority, cosmopolitan decorators approached the wider world with less chauvinism. The story of Major Kyttyle illustrates this point. In a reminiscence about the major, a House and Garden writer recalled that, when the retired officer first moved into town, the neighbors regarded him with curiosity and suspicion. Who was he? How would he fit into small-town life? His social prospects looked grim when he unpacked his strange Persian and Indian antiques. But the story ended happily for the mysterious major, who found that some of his neighbors were “persons of culture . . . appreciative of art.” It also ended happily for the narrator, who developed a lifelong love of the “curious and beautiful things of the Orient.”[71] The lesson for the reader? In an age of greater international linkages (to be sure, ones dominated by the Western imperial powers, as the major’s military title suggests), to be truly cultured was to have far-reaching, rather than insular, tastes. Collecting and displaying imported objects provided a way to demonstrate a broad outlook, wide experience, and engagement with the world.

There is a certain irony in expressing one’s individuality through exotic goods admittedly dissociated from the self, but the point was to express a fluid individuality, notable for its receptivity to wider currents and outside influences. This was the sensibility Bertha Palmer aimed to convey. The daughter of one retailer who sold imported goods and the wife of another, Palmer derived her financial status in part from transatlantic commerce. She spoke fluent French and belonged to a group called the Tuesday Art and Travel Club. She rambled in Europe and North Africa, making friends with European aristocrats, authors, actors, and artists. She collected T’ang figures and impressionist paintings. In the early 1890s, as chair of the Board of Lady Managers of the World’s Columbian Exposition, she aimed to make the women’s building the most cosmopolitan of all the fair exhibits. Palmer refused to be constrained by national boundaries.[72]

Writings on decor encouraged international allegiances among women less traveled than Palmer. Good Housekeeping, for example, ran an article on Provençal pottery that highlighted its worldwide following: Italy, Egypt, Spain, and the South American republics imported the most, but the pottery was shipped to “all ports of the seven seas”—to San Francisco, St. Petersburg, Hong Kong, and New Orleans. Devotees had supposedly “formed a cult—whether they be on Broadway, Piccadilly or the Nevsky Prospekt.”[73] Casserole owners could regard themselves as members of a community of like-minded consumers that spanned the globe.

This is not to say that the imagined community of consumption was truly global. The appreciation of foreign handiwork helped counter negative stereotypes of other peoples, but not everybody had a casserole and not everybody exported them. Significantly, the household goods made by Africans living south of the Sahara and other groups assumed to be at the very bottom of the racial hierarchy were not widely available in the United States. In fact, according to disdainful ethnographic writings, one sign of lowly status was a lack of attractive domestic accoutrements.[74] The failure to produce consumer wares thought to be worth procuring on the world market stigmatized groups as evolutionary failures, as outsiders to the globalizing world of commerce. Furthermore, given that practical-minded Americans tended to regard artistic handiwork as only a minor attainment—indeed, as a form of manual labor—even the production of coveted objects did not overthrow derogatory ethnic and racial stereotypes altogether.

As the exclusionary cast to the circle of consumption suggests, there were considerable limits to domestic cosmopolitanism. It did not imply a belief in the essential equality of all human beings or a profound understanding of other nations and cultures. Nor did it necessarily imply a willingness to open the nation’s borders to immigrants. The art experts who lamented the vitiation of “authentic” styles outside of Europe promoted the idea that cosmopolitanism should be a testament to Western knowledge, openness, and modernity. Those who mixed and matched imported objects fabricated the exotic. Those who sought imported items that had been crafted to suit their tastes or who arranged them so that they felt familiar domesticated the wider world, denying its difference and asserting their own appropriative power. And even those who strove for authenticity asserted the power of knowledge, something seen as a necessary base for commercial supremacy and political authority.[75] The cosmopolitanism of consumption, premised on unequal economic and political relations between people of various countries, was a cosmopolitanism in which American consumers only superficially engaged with distant producers. In some cases, they only imagined doing so. And they remained a privileged, purchasing class. Cosmopolitan domesticity made gestures toward universalism, but it was closely intertwined with the hierarchies of its day.

Nevertheless, its complicity with empire, indeed, its contingency on empire, does not mean that the cosmopolitan ethos should be interpreted only as an assertion of U.S. power. The enthusiasm for European goods and models makes late nineteenth-century Americans seem especially colonized in a cultural sense—at least one French writer regarded the export of French goods as a means to “civilize barbarous peoples”—but the passion for products and fashions of even wider provenance also represents a sense of cultural dependence.[76] Like upper-class Latin Americans who regarded European goods as a means of proving their civilizational standing, cosmopolitan consumers in the United States asserted their class and national status through acknowledging foreign superiority in matters of taste. Seen in the most penetrating light, cosmopolitan domesticity comes across as a phenomenon that benefited from and promoted empire. But the appreciation of other peoples’ cultural production can also be seen in a more benign light—as a necessary (though not sufficient) precondition for international understanding.[77] Fin-de-siècle cosmopolitanism expressed a sense of national, racial, financial, and civilizational empowerment, but in acknowledging this and other shortcomings, it is important not to overlook the relative receptiveness of the cosmopolitan ethos, something that stands out in greater clarity when we consider that some contemporaries saw it as a threat to national self-assertion.

The Americans who objected to exotic interiors did so not only because of their aesthetic qualities but also because they regarded them as too heterogeneous to be appropriate for the United States. They echoed the British and French cultural critics who maintained that taste should be national, by which they meant that it should be shared by everyone in the nation and should indicate specifically national sensibilities.[78] Calls for households decorated in a particularly American way were in keeping with calls to purge domestic servants (generally understood to be African American or foreign-born) from American (understood, in this context, to mean middle-class, native-born, and white) households. They also were consistent with efforts to persuade immigrant women to adopt a more “American” aesthetic in their decor. Amelia Muir Baldwin, a Boston-born interior decorator and needle tapestry designer who, as an older woman taught Americanization courses to immigrants, called for racially and culturally appropriate interiors in a 1916 essay. “In our own houses we are certainly happier if we have a background which expresses something of ourselves, racially and individually . . . [A] Turkish harem, however well done from a decorative point of view, is ill adapted to the uses and ideals of domestic life in this country.” She went on to object to the French style as “foreign to our genius.”[79] The unapologetic imitation revealed in eclectic interiors struck critics as an embarrassment for a rising power. “It is humiliating, and a national disgrace that rich Americans should build palaces and spend millions of dollars in adornment that is exclusively foreign, both in idea and execution,” editorialized the Decorator and Furnisher in 1895.[80] Implying that households should convey local and national sensibilities through their design and the objects they displayed, critics bewailed the modern drawing room for being, as one put it, “a mass of heterogeneous articles imported from all lands, instead of being an organic design.”[81] Seeing eclectic interiors less as a sign of imperializing sensibilities than as imperialized ones, more parochial purveyors of decorating advice called for a distinctive national style, by which they often meant the colonial revival.

After originating in the 1870s, colonial revival became the most popular U.S. style by World War I. Its simple lines and relatively sparse interiors represented not only a rejection of excessive ornament and clutter but also a rejection of international influences. Colonial-style furniture stood for ethnic purity in an age of immigration, for national boundary setting and assertion in an age of international connections. It also stood for masculine vigor, at least in contrast to the opulent eclecticism of the Gilded Age, which struck twentieth-century critics as overly feminine.[82] Along with the colonial revival, the mission style and Arts and Crafts movement gained popularity as reactions to cosmopolitanism. The mission style can be seen as a southwestern version of the colonial revival. For their part, Arts and Crafts devotees favored styles that had evolved from local traditions and products made from local materials. They saw the movement as particularly Anglo-Saxon. The irony of these nationalistic and racially inflected styles was, of course, their mixed antecedents. Both fans and critics of the colonial revival acknowledged that its origins were really more English than American and that it also contained Oriental influences: the British East India Company had introduced lacquerware, porcelain, and Chinese rugs to England in the sixteenth century, and Chinese design heavily influenced Chippendale furniture. As for the mission style, it stemmed from Spanish taste and traditions, which in turn had Moorish antecedents. The British origins of the Arts and Crafts movement likewise deserve mention. But contemporaries persisted in viewing these movements as American. And that explains much of their appeal: they were part of a protest against the cosmopolitan ethos. Home economists joined in this protest by pronouncing hygienic American households, stripped of the bric-a-brac, ornate furniture, and lush draperies that had characterized most cosmopolitan interiors, as models to the world.[83]

This is not to say that nationalistic styles gained absolute domination over American decoration in the early twentieth century. After shipping disruptions during World War I, foreign items again flooded American shops in the 1920s. In 1922, Edward Stratton Holloway, author of The Practical Book of Furnishing the Small House and Apartment, described American decoration, at its best, as “Liberal, International-Inter period, or catholic.” He went on to note: “America is an extremely cosmopolitan nation and many of its people are widely traveled, so that International-Inter period decoration is eminently suited to its needs and desires.”[84] But writings on decor paid a decreasing amount of attention to foreign origins. Novelty had run its course. The unprecedented access to the world’s marketplaces of the late nineteenth century had become mere routine in the twentieth. Imported goods became increasingly domesticated in the sense that many lost their exotic connotations and cachet. Attributes became ever more important than origins in marketing. When Bertha Palmer died in 1918, leaving her porcelains and other “articles of virtu” to her sons, they became mother’s heirlooms, family pieces that evoked bygone days in Chicago as much as in China.[85]

Regardless of its success, the turn-of-the-century opposition to cosmopolitan domesticity provides the context necessary to understand the relative inclusiveness of eclectic interiors. In contrast to their critics, who advocated greater national self-assertion in domestic decoration, cosmopolitan consumers regarded their homes as loci of interaction with the wider world, as manifestations of open-mindedness and cultural receptivity. For those who embraced the cosmopolitan ethos, homes were not so much bunkers as entrepôts. Though premised on a commercial and imperial nexus that favored the United States, these interiors also represented a desire to transcend the nation. Eclectic decorative endeavors suggest that late nineteenth-century middle-class American culture can be characterized by more than just narrow-mindedness, insularity, and cultural aloofness, it also encompassed a search for novelty and difference, a deeply ingrained consciousness of the wider world, and a sense of cultural dependence. Cosmopolitan households, no less than nationalistic ones, can be seen as ideologically consistent with U.S. commercial expansion. Yet they also testify to a U.S. position in the global economy more complex than the self-assertion usually thought to characterize the nation in this period. They reveal the coexistence of imperializing impulses and a deferential mentality, especially vis-à-vis Europe.[86] They show the implications of globalizing developments for household consumption and the significance of household consumption for globalization. Rather than serving exclusively to separate bourgeois Americans from the wider world, domesticity provided a locus of material and imaginative international interaction. In the late nineteenth century, cosmopolitan consumers imported the American dream.

Kristin Hoganson is an assistant professor of history at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Her publications include Fighting for American Manhood: How Gender Politics Provoked the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars (1998) and “‘As Badly Off as the Filipinos’: U.S. Women’s Suffragists and the Imperial Issue at the Turn of the Twentieth Century,” Journal of Women’s History 13 (Summer 2001). Her current research, of which this article is part, investigates the global dimensions to U.S. domesticity from roughly 1865 to 1920. The larger project covers the U.S. following of the Paris-based fashion system, food as a form of popular geography, the fictive travel movement, and Americanization efforts during World War I.


I would like to thank Elizabeth Abrams, Steven Biel, Mary Blanchard, Catherine Corman, Jim Cullen, Charles Gammie, Hildegard Hoeller, T. J. Jackson Lears, Jill Lepore, Martha McNamara, Mary Renda, Laura Saltz, Alan Wallach, the American Historical Review editors and readers, and audiences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Montana, Ohio State, Smith, and Yale for their insightful comments. I am indebted to Harvard University and the Winterthur Museum and Library for research support and Eleanor Thompson for her reference expertise. Thomas Bender and the La Pietra initiative deserve special thanks for expanding my conceptual horizons.
1 Ian Tyrrell, “American Exceptionalism in an Age of International History,” AHR 96 (October 1991): 1031–72; Amy Kaplan, “‘Left Alone with America’: The Absence of Empire in the Study of American Culture,” Cultures of United States Imperialism, Amy Kaplan and Donald E. Pease, eds. (Durham, N.C., 1993), 3–21; Jane C. Desmond and Virginia R. Domínguez, “Resituating American Studies in a Critical Internationalism,” American Quarterly 48 (September 1996): 475–90; Gesa Mackenthun, “Adding Empire to the Study of American Culture,” Journal of American Studies 30 (August 1996): 263–69; John Carlos Rowe, “Post-Nationalism, Globalism, and the New American Studies,” Cultural Critique 40 (Fall 1998): 11–28; the special issue of the Journal of American History 86 (December 1999); Thomas Bender, The La Pietra Report: A Report to the Profession (Bloomington, Ind., 2000); Akira Iriye, “The Internationalizing of History,” AHR 94 (February 1989): 1–10. The December 1999 issue of the Journal of American History (vol. 86) contains examples of recent scholarship on the internationalizing impulse.
2 On the defensiveness of diplomatic historians, see Michael J. Hogan, “State of the Art: An Introduction,” America in the World: The Historiography of American Foreign Relations since 1941 (Cambridge, 1995), 1–19, 12. Diplomatic historians’ receptiveness to new approaches can be seen in recent issues of Diplomatic History, including “Roundtable: Cultural Transfer or Cultural Imperialism?” Diplomatic History 24 (Summer 2000): 465–528; “The American Century: A Roundtable,” Diplomatic History 23 (Summer 1999): 391–537; “Symposium: Imperial Discourses: Power and Perception,” Diplomatic History 22 (Fall 1998): 533–615. See also Emily Rosenberg, “Turning to Culture,” in Close Encounters of Empire: Writing the Cultural History of U.S.-Latin American Relations, Gilbert M. Joseph, Catherine C. LeGrand, and Ricardo Salvatore, eds. (Durham, N.C., 1998), 497–514; Akira Iriye, Cultural Internationalism and World Order (Baltimore, 1997); Reinhold Wagnleitner, Coca-Colonization and the Cold War: The Cultural Mission of the United States in Austria after the Second World War (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1994).
3 A few examples of this scholarship involving the United States include Kaplan and Pease, Cultures of United States Imperialism; Joseph, et al., Close Encounters of Empire; Paul Kramer, “Making Concessions: Race and Empire Revisited at the Philippine Exposition, St. Louis, 1901–1905,” Radical History Review 73 (Winter 1999): 74–114; Mary A. Renda, Taking Haiti: Military Occupation and the Culture of U.S. Imperialism, 1915–1940 (Chapel Hill, N.C., 2001). The non-U.S. literature on imperialism and colonialism is much vaster.
4 See Richard F. Kuisel, Seducing the French: The Dilemma of Americanization (Berkeley, Calif., 1993); Richard Pells, Not Like Us: How Europeans Have Loved, Hated, and Transformed American Culture since World War II (New York, 1997); Rob Kroes, If You’ve Seen One, You’ve Seen the Mall: Europeans and Mass Culture (Urbana, Ill., 1996); Jessica E. E. Gienow-Hecht, “Shame on US? Academics, Cultural Transfer, and the Cold War: A Critical Review,” Diplomatic History 24 (Summer 2000): 465–94. On recent manifestations of globalization, see Fredric Jameson and Masao Miyoshi, eds., The Cultures of Globalization (Durham, N.C., 1998); Mike Featherstone, Scott Lash, and Roland Robertson, eds., Global Modernities (London, 1995).
5 On eighteenth-century European intellectuals, see Emma Rothschild, “Globalization and the Return of History,” Foreign Policy 115 (Summer 1999): 106–16. For a periodization of globalization stretching back to the fifteenth century, see Roland Robertson, “Mapping the Global Condition: Globalization as the Central Concept,” Global Culture: Nationalism, Globalization and Modernity, Mike Featherstone, ed. (London, 1990), 15–30. See also Kevin H. O’Rourke and Jeffrey G. Williamson, Globalization and History: The Evolution of a Nineteenth-Century Atlantic Economy (Cambridge, Mass., 1999); David Held and Anthony McGrew, eds., The Global Transformations Reader: An Introduction to the Globalization Debate (Cambridge, 2000).
6 See, for example, Catherine C. LeGrand, “Living in Macondo: Economy and Culture in a United Fruit Company Banana Enclave in Colombia,” in Joseph, Close Encounters of Empire, 333–68; Donald R. Wright, The World and a Very Small Place in Africa (New York, 1997).
7 Amy Kaplan, “Manifest Domesticity,” American Literature 70 (September 1998): 581–606.
8 Arjun Appadurai, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (Minneapolis, 1996).
9 On considering consumers as agents of transatlantic economic developments, see T. H. Breen, “The Meanings of Things: Interpreting the Consumer Economy in the Eighteenth Century,” in Consumption and the World of Goods, John Brewer and Roy Porter, eds. (New York, 1993), 249–60, 250; on the need for a more international understanding of consumption, see Craig Clunas, “Modernity Global and Local: Consumption and the Rise of the West,” AHR 104 (December 1999): 1497–1511.
10 Elsie de Wolfe, The House in Good Taste (New York, 1913), 18–21.
11 Ishbel Ross, Silhouette in Diamonds: The Life of Mrs. Potter Palmer (New York, 1975), 1, 32, 53–56.
12 On household consumption and class relations, see Whitney Walton, France at the Crystal Palace: Bourgeois Taste and Artisan Manufacture in the Nineteenth Century (Berkeley, Calif., 1992); Stuart M. Blumin, The Emergence of the Middle Class: Social Experience in the American City, 1760–1900 (Cambridge, 1989), chap. 5. On the importance of tradition—if only invented—in nineteenth-century Western decoration, see Witold Rybczynski, Home: A Short History of an Idea (New York, 1986), 9, 102, 175. On the assumed superiority of European furnishings, see Jane C. Nylander, Our Own Snug Fireside: Images of the New England Home, 1760–1860 (New Haven, Conn., 1993), 54, 57; Peter Thornton, Authentic Decor: The Domestic Interior, 1620–1920 (New York, 1984), 88, 140.
13 “The Cosey Corner,” Decorator and Furnisher 27 (March 1896): 182.
14 The literature on cosmopolitanism is expanding rapidly. Some recent works include Pheng Chea and Bruce Robbins, eds., Cosmopolitics: Thinking and Feeling beyond the Nation (Minneapolis, 1998); Thomas Peyser, Utopia and Cosmopolis: Globalization in the Era of American Literary Realism (Durham, N.C., 1998); Karen O’Brien, Narratives of Enlightenment: Cosmopolitan History from Voltaire to Gibbon (Cambridge, 1997); Ned C. Landsman, From Colonials to Provincials: American Thought and Culture, 1680–1760 (New York, 1997), 62; David A. Hollinger, Postethnic America: Beyond Multiculturalism (New York, 1995); Robert M. Crunden, American Salons: Encounters with European Modernism, 1885–1917 (New York, 1993), 33–61; Ulf Hannerz, “Cosmopolitans and Locals in World Culture,” Global Culture: Nationalism, Globalization and Modernity, Mike Featherstone, ed. (London, 1990), 237–51. On the historical significance of cultural fusion, see Robert J. C. Young, Colonial Desire: Hybridity in Theory, Culture, and Race (London, 1995), 5.
15 John F. W. Ware, Home Life: What It Is, and What it Needs (Boston, 1866), 23, 85. Margaret Marsh, Suburban Lives (New Brunswick, N.J., 1990), 147; Maxine Van de Wetering, “The Popular Concept of ‘Home’ in Nineteenth-Century America,” Journal of American Studies 18 (April 1984): 5–28.
16 On women’s influence, see Katherine C. Grier, Culture and Comfort: Parlor Making and Middle-Class Identity, 1850–1930 (Washington, D.C., 1997), 4; Kathryn Kish Sklar, Catharine Beecher: A Study in American Domesticity (New Haven, Conn., 1973), 137, 158. On the association between the consumption of domestically produced goods and national standing, see Leora Auslander, “The Gendering of Consumer Practices in Nineteenth-Century France,” in The Sex of Things: Gender and Consumption in Historical Perspective, Victoria de Grazia, ed., with Ellen Furlough (Berkeley, Calif., 1996). On commercial incursions into Victorian homes, see Lori Anne Loeb, Consuming Angels: Advertising and Victorian Women (New York, 1994), 129; on cosmopolitan interiors, see Richard Guy Wilson, “Cultural Conditions,” in The American Renaissance, 1876–1917 (New York, 1979), 28–32; Lisa Jardine, Worldly Goods: A New History of the Renaissance (London, 1996); W. Hamish Fraser, The Coming of the Mass Market, 1850–1914 (Hamden, Conn., 1981), x.
17 Mrs. Oliver Bell Bunce, “Virginia Brush, The Able Decorator,” Decorator and Furnisher 28 (September 1896): 168–69. On the desirability of foreign travel, see Alice and Bettina Jackson, The Study of Interior Decoration (New York, 1928), 450. On interior decorating, see William Seale, The Tasteful Interlude: American Interiors through the Camera’s Eye, 1860–1917, 2d edn. (Nashville, Tenn., 1981), 22.
18 On earlier nationalism, see Gwendolyn Wright, Moralism and the Model Home: Domestic Architecture and Cultural Conflict in Chicago, 1873–1913 (Chicago, 1980), 11. On the importance of printed media in disseminating fashions, see Daniel L. Purdy, The Tyranny of Elegance: Consumer Cosmopolitanism in the Era of Goethe (Baltimore, 1998), ix; Stuart Ewen and Elizabeth Ewen, Channels of Desire: Mass Images and the Shaping of American Consciousness (Minneapolis, 1992), 124.
19 F.O.H., “The French Note,” Art Interchange 23 (July 6, 1889): 3. On French influence, see Seale, Tasteful Interlude, 201.
20 Charles L. Eastlake, Hints on Household Taste, John Gloag, intro. (New York, 1964), vi–ix; “Eastlake and His Ideas,” Art Amateur 2 (May 1880): 126–27; Edwin L. Lutyens, “Berrydown Court,” House and Garden 6 (October 1904): 157.
21 “An Italian Renaissance Dining-Room,” Decorator and Furnisher 29 (December 1896): 69; Jonathan A. Rawson, Jr., “A Consistent Dutch Dining-Room,” Country Life in America 22 (October 1, 1912): 48. On German influences, see Margaret Greenleaf, “Decorating and Furnishing the Bedroom,” in A Book of Distinctive Interiors, William A. Vollmer, ed. (New York, 1912), 68–86; on a Russian room, see Decorator and Furnisher 30 (June 1897): 87; on a Norwegian room, see Elizabeth Walling, “The House of Mrs. Ole Bull,” Decorator and Furnisher 28 (May 1896): 43–44.
22 Ellen Paul Denker, After the Chinese Taste: China’s Influence in America, 1730–1930 (Salem, Mass., 1985); Christina H. Nelson, Directly from China: Export Goods for the American Market, 1784–1930 (Salem, 1985); Hugh Honour, Chinoiserie: The Vision of Cathay (London, 1961); Oliver Impey, Chinoiserie: The Impact of Oriental Styles on Western Art and Decoration (New York, 1977).
23 Laura B. Starr, “An Indian Room,” Decorator and Furnisher 14 (May 1889): 38; “The Closing Days of the Exposition,” Atlanta Constitution, January 5, 1896.
24 Harriet Prescott Spofford, Art Decoration Applied to Furniture (New York, 1877), 162.
25 On Orientalism in U.S. decoration, see note 22 above; Clay Lancaster, The Japanese Influence in America (New York, 1963), esp. 51–52, 62; William Hosley, The Japan Idea: Art and Life in Victorian America (Hartford, Conn., 1990); Julia Meech and Gabriel Weisberg, Japonisme Comes to America: The Japanese Impact on the Graphic Arts, 1876–1925 (New York, 1990); Jane Converse Brown, “‘Fine Arts and Fine People’: The Japanese Taste in the American Home, 1876–1916,” in Making the American Home: Middle-Class Women and Domestic Material Culture, 1840–1940, Marilyn Ferris Motz and Pat Browne, eds. (Bowling Green, Ohio, 1988), 121–39; Margaret Greenleaf, “Chinese Spirit in Furnishing,” House Beautiful 36 (June 1914): 32; William R. Bradshaw, “The Villa Zorayda at St. Augustine, Florida,” Decorator and Furnisher 17 (March 1891): 209–12; “An Oriental Apartment,” Art Amateur 19 (August 1888): 65–67; Harry W. Desmond and Herbert Croly, Stately Homes in America: From Colonial Times to the Present Day (New York, 1903), plates after 102, 294, 506; The Opulent Interiors of the Gilded Age: All 203 Photographs from “Artistic Houses,” with new text by Arnold Lewis, James Turner, and Steven McQuillin (New York, 1987), 43, 53, 84, 97, 101.
26 Harriet Monroe, “A Successful House,” House Beautiful 6 (November 1899): 266–75, 271–74; “A Typical American Interior,” Decorator and Furnisher 20 (July 1892): 140–43; Hester M. Poole, “Elegance, Taste and Art in the Home,” Good Housekeeping 3 (May 15, 1886): 1–5, 3; Helen M. Chamberlin, “A Small City Apartment,” House Beautiful 4 (June 1898): 18–21.
27 “A Roman Studio,” Decorator and Furnisher 5 (December 1884): 87.
28 Lois Palken Rudnick, Utopian Vistas: The Mabel Dodge Luhan House and the American Counterculture (Albuquerque, N.Mex., 1996), 39–41; Sarah Burns, “The Price of Beauty: Art, Commerce, and the Late Nineteenth-Century Studio Interior,” in American Iconology: New Approaches to Nineteenth-Century Art and Literature, David C. Miller, ed. (New Haven, Conn., 1993), 209–38, 210–12. Many outlandish interiors emerged from the aesthetic movement. See Mary Warner Blanchard, Oscar Wilde’s America: Counterculture in the Gilded Age (New Haven, 1998), 107, 118. On Bohemians’ “ambivalence toward their own social identities,” see Jerrol Seigel, Bohemian Paris: Culture, Politics, and the Boundaries of Bourgeois Life, 1830–1930 (New York, 1986), 11.
29 Agnes Bailey Ormsbee, The House Comfortable (New York, 1892).
30 Hester M. Poole, “Household Decoration,” The Home-Maker 2 (July 1889): 288.
31 Francis E. Lester Co., Catalogue (Mesilla Park, N.Mex., 1904), 17.
32 Wanamaker’s Catalog (Philadelphia, 1908), inside cover.
33 Frank T. Robinson, “Bedroom Furniture,” Decorator and Furnisher 5 (December 1884): 90.
34 Spofford, Art Decoration, 162; on rugs, see Henry T. Williams and Mrs. C. S. Jones, Beautiful Homes (New York, 1878), 9.
35 Decorator and Furnisher 7 (December 1885): 69.
36 John M. MacKenzie finds that Victorians and Edwardians were “massively eclectic” because “theirs was the first age in which almost all the cultures of the world had been made available”; Orientalism: History, Theory and the Arts (Manchester, 1995), xii. On museums, see Virginia Robie, “Spanish and Moorish Furniture,” House Beautiful 27 (March 1910): 89–90, 112; William Leach, Land of Desire: Merchants, Power, and the Rise of a New American Culture (New York, 1993), 169–70, 172. On missionary exhibits, see “Many Industries,” New York Tribune, February 11, 1900; on manufacturing displays, see “Come and See,” New York Times, September 8, 1912; on writing, see Edward S. Morse, Japanese Homes and Their Surroundings (1886; rpt. edn., New York, 1961). On landing in a bazaar, see James D. McCabe, The Illustrated History of the Centennial Exhibition (Philadelphia, 1876), 449.
37 “A Visit to the Sevres Porcelain Manufactory,” Hearth and Home 4 (December 7, 1872): 900; on broadening the mind, see “Interiors in the Oriental Style,” Decorator and Furnisher 27 (January 1896): 103.
38 On travelers’ possessions, see Mary Rutherfurd Jay, “A Bungalow in Japanese Spirit,” House Beautiful 32 (July 1912): 72–73; Lillie Hamilton French, Homes and Their Decoration (New York, 1903), 191; on diplomats’ goods, see Hester M. Poole, “House Decoration Rich and Rare,” Good Housekeeping 1 (September 19, 1885): 2.
39 Thomas C. Cochran and William Miller, The Age of Enterprise: A Social History of Industrial America (New York, 1942), 111. On domestic pottery, see Regina Lee Blaszczyk, Imagining Consumers: Design and Innovation from Wedgwood to Corning (Baltimore, 2000), 118. “Imported Argentine Lampshade Covers,” Chicago Tribune, August 1, 1920. On baskets, see “The Shopping Guide,” House Beautiful 28 (August 1910): v; also see in general Robert Hendrickson, The Grand Emporiums: The Illustrated History of America’s Great Department Stores (New York, 1979).
40 A. R. Ramsey, “Interior Decoration,” Ladies’ Home Journal 5 (October 1888): 9. On Vantine’s and other importers of Oriental goods, see Mari Yoshihara, “Women’s Asia: American Women and the Gendering of American Orientalism, 1870s–World War II” (PhD dissertation, Brown University, 1997), 71–81, 87; Hosley, Japan Idea, 43; on the Vantine’s inventory, see Entrance to Vantine’s, The House of the Orient (New York, n.d.), 5–11, 76–77. On Vantine’s Chicago branch, see “Vantine’s,” Chicago Tribune, June 2, 1908.
41 On Chinatown, see “The Shopping Guide,” House Beautiful 31 (January 1912): vii; “Gathered Here and There,” New York Tribune, December 20, 1908. On bargains, see Mary Alden Hopkins, House Beautiful 46 (December 1919): 388–89. “Closing Days of the Exposition,” Atlanta Constitution, January 5, 1896; Francis E. Lester Co., Catalogue; see also Wanamaker’s Catalog (Philadelphia, 1908), 8; on peddlers, see Alixa Naff, Becoming American: The Early Arab Immigrant Experience (Carbondale, Ill., 1985), 130, 170, 172, 173, 180.
42 Florence Finch Kelly, “Bungalow Furnishings and Fitments,” House Beautiful 36 (June 1914): 24–28, 27.
43 U.S. imports rose from $354 million in 1860 to $1.9 billion in 1914. In the same period, exports rose from $316 million to $2.4 billion. Stuart Weems Bruchey, Enterprise: The Dynamic Economy of a Free People (Cambridge, Mass., 1990), 296–300; Mira Wilkins, History of Foreign Investment in the United States to 1914 (Cambridge, Mass., 1989), 142; Department of the Treasury, The Commerce and Navigation of the United States (Washington, D.C., 1865), 243, 350–51; (1900), 69, 77; (1920), 40–41, 101. I do not provide a total figure for household imports because the treasury reports do not, in many cases, distinguish between goods imported for industrial and household use. Furthermore, their categories of analysis—including “household and personal effects, and wearing apparel in use, etc. of persons arriving from foreign countries”—can be very broad.
44 John Kimberly Mumford, chapter on Oriental rugs, Book of Home Building and Decoration, Henry Collins Brown and Clara Brown Lyman, eds. (Garden City, N.Y., 1912), 63. On plunder, see Laura B. Starr, “An Indian Room,” Decorator and Furnisher 14 (May 1889): 38; on trophies, see Hester M. Poole, “The City Residence of Geo. W. Childs, Esq.,” Decorator and Furnisher 14 (June 1889): 69.
45 Mrs. S. A. Brock-Putnam, “Mexican Drawn Work,” Decorator and Furnisher 26 (August 1895): 178.
46 Spofford, Art Decoration, 161. See also John E. Wills, Jr., “European Consumption and Asian Production in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries,” in Brewer and Porter, Consumption and the World of Goods, 133–47.
47 W. L. D. O’Grady, “Oriental Rugs and Carpets,” Decorator and Furnisher 3 (December 1883): 95. See also “Rugs of Antique Make,” New York Tribune, February 5, 1900; J. H. Elder Duncan, The House Beautiful and Useful (New York, 1911), 194.
48 Francis E. Lester Co., Catalogue, 3.
49 “Come and See,” New York Times, September 8, 1912.
50 Frank Chaffee, “Bachelor Bits,” The Home-Maker 1 (February 1899): 354; William R. Bradshaw, “Mr. George A. Kessler’s Bachelor Apartments,” Decorator and Furnisher 25 (March 1895): 207. On the banker’s apartment, see “A Typical American Interior,” Decorator and Furnisher 20 (July 1892): 140–43.
51 Decorator and Furnisher 30 (May 1897): 37; Seale, Tasteful Interlude, 233.
52 William Martin Johnson, Inside of One Hundred Homes (Philadelphia, 1897), 44; Carrie May Ashton, “Home Workshop: Cosey Corners,” Decorator and Furnisher 19 (October 1891): 29; Charlotte Robinson, “A Moorish Recess,” Decorator and Furnisher 20 (August 1892): 189–90; Edgar de N. Mayhew and Minor Myers, Jr., A Documentary History of American Interiors: From the Colonial Era to 1915 (New York, 1980), 252; Beverly Gordon, “Cozy, Charming, and Artistic: Stitching Together the American Home,” in The Arts and the American Home, 1890–1930, Jessica H. Foy and Karal Ann Marling, eds. (Knoxville, Tenn., 1994), 124–48, 127; Joseph T. Butler, “The Decorative Arts,” in The Arts in America: The Nineteenth Century, Wendell D. Garrett, Paul F. Norton, Alan Gowans, and Joseph T. Butler (New York, 1969), 285–384, 323; Karen Halttunen, “From Parlor to Living Room: Domestic Space, Interior Decoration, and the Culture of Personality,” in Consuming Visions: Accumulation and Display of Goods in America, 1880–1920, Simon J. Bronner, ed. (New York, 1989), 157–90, 164. “Cozy Corners for Parlors,” Ladies’ Home Journal 7 (July 1890): ii; on milkweed, see Julia Darrow Cowles, Artistic Home Furnishing for People of Moderate Means (New York, 1898), 155, 161, 163.
53 On New York and Chicago corners, see Johnson, Inside of One Hundred Homes, 44, 54; on a Houston corner, see Dorothy Knox Howe Houghton, Barrie M. Scardino, Sadie Gwin Blackburn, and Katherine S. Howe, Houston’s Forgotten Heritage: Landscape, Houses, Interiors, 1824–1914 (Houston, Tex., 1991), 212; on Denver and Montana corners, see Seale, Tasteful Interlude, 173, 210; on femininity, see Burns, “Price of Beauty,” 227.
54 Cowles, Artistic Home Furnishing, 155.
55 Joan Jacobs Brumberg, “Zenanas and Girlless Villages: The Ethnology of American Evangelical Women, 1870–1910,” Journal of American History 69 (September 1982): 347–71; Mervat Hatem, “Through Each Other’s Eyes: Egyptian, Levantine-Egyptian, and European Women’s Images of Themselves and of Each Other (1862–1920),” Women’s Studies International Forum 12, no. 2 (1989): 183–98; Reina Lewis and, to a lesser extent, Janaki Nair, find that Western women depicted the harem more positively, but I have found this to be rare in U.S. newspapers and magazines; Lewis, Gendering Orientalism: Race, Femininity and Representation (New York, 1996), 152; Nair, “Uncovering the Zenana: Visions of Indian Womanhood in Englishwomen’s Writings, 1813–1940,” Journal of Women’s History 2 (Spring 1990): 8–34; on the Iranian harem, see Fannie S. Benjamin, “Home Life in Iran,” The Home-Maker 4 (June 1890): 199–202.
56 Ross, Silhouette in Diamonds, 41.
57 Maude Andrews, “Maude Andrews in London,” Atlanta Constitution, July 12, 1896.
58 “The Exhibition of Rooms at the Crystal Palace, London,” Decorator and Furnisher 20 (June 1892): 97; on public expositions, see Tony Bennett, “The Exhibitionary Complex,” in Culture/Power/History: A Reader in Contemporary Social Theory, Nicholas B. Dirks, Geoff Eley, and Sherry B. Ortner, eds. (Princeton, 1994), 123–54.
59 Rosemary Marangoly George, “Homes in the Empire, Empires in the Home,” Cultural Critique (Winter 1993–94): 95–127, 97; Nair, “Uncovering the Zenana,” 10; “What She Does in India,” New York Tribune, June 14, 1896; on the privilege enjoyed even by missionaries, see Harold R. Isaacs, Scratches on Our Minds: American Images of China and India (New York, 1957), 153; on poor whites in European colonies, see Ann Laura Stoler, “Rethinking Colonial Categories: European Communities and the Boundaries of Rule,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 31 (January 1989): 134–61; on spenders, see Laura Jean Libbey, “Praying for a Husband,” Atlanta Constitution, November 17, 1912.
60 On abundance appearing contingent on empire, see Robert W. Rydell, “The Culture of Imperial Abundance: World’s Fairs in the Making of of American Culture,” in Bronner, Consuming Visions, 191–216, 192.
61 Dana Frank, Buy American: The Untold Story of Economic Nationalism (Boston, 1999), chap. 2; Helen Kinne and Anna M. Cooley, Shelter and Clothing (New York, 1915), 1, 5.
62 Jane Hunter, The Gospel of Gentility: American Woman Missionaries in Turn-of-the-Century China (New Haven, Conn., 1984), 129; Vicente L. Rafael, “Colonial Domesticity: White Women and United States Rule in the Philippines,” American Literature 67 (December 1995): 639–66; William B. Rhoads, “The Colonial Revival and the Americanization of Immigrants,” in The Colonial Revival in America, Alan Axelrod, ed. (New York, 1985), 341–61, 361; Nayan Shah, “Cleansing Motherhood: Hygiene and the Culture of Domesticity in San Francisco’s Chinatown, 1875–1900,” in Gender, Sexuality and Colonial Modernities, Antoinette Burton, ed. (London, 1999), 19–34, 25; Laura Wexler, Tender Violence: Domestic Visions in an Age of U.S. Imperialism (Chapel Hill, N.C., 2000), 107.
63 John Higham, Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860–1925 (1955; rpt. edn., New York, 1970), 20, 39, 43, 64, 98; Nicola Beisel, Imperiled Innocents: Anthony Comstock and Family Reproduction in Victorian America (Princeton, N.J., 1997), 105; Alison M. Parker, Purifying America: Women, Cultural Reform and Pro-Censorship Activism, 1873–1933 (Urbana, Ill., 1997), 115, 129; Robert H. Wiebe, The Search for Order, 1877–1920 (New York, 1967), xiii, 2, 44, 11, 24–25, 47; Alan Trachtenberg, The Incorporation of America: Culture and Society in the Gilded Age (New York, 1982), 22–23, 59.
64 Ronald Takaki, Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans (New York, 1989), chaps. 5–6; Roger Daniels, The Politics of Prejudice: The Anti-Japanese Movement in California and the Struggle for Japanese Exclusion (Gloucester, 1966), 11, 15, 44, 68; Naff, Becoming American, 2, 111–12; James A. Field, Jr., America and the Mediterranean World, 1776–1882 (Princeton, N.J., 1969), 307, 339, 347, 445.
65 On cultural capital, see Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, Richard Nice, trans. (Cambridge, Mass., 1984).
66 Florence Finch Kelly, “Bungalow Furnishings and Fitments,” House Beautiful 36 (June 1914): 24–28, 27–28.
67 “An Interior in the Turkish Style,” Decorator and Furnisher 25 (October 1894): 16.
68 “French Home Interiors,” Art Amateur 18 (March 1888): 88.
69 Eugene Clute, “Japanese Homes of Today,” House and Garden 35 (June 1919): 39.
70 “The Housekeeper’s Quest: Where to Find Pretty Things” (New York, 1885), 6.
71 Gardner Teall, “Collecting Antiques of Persia and India,” House and Garden 36 (July 1919): 18–19.
72 Potter Family Collections (Sarasota, Fla., 1963), 7, 8; Aline B. Saarinen, The Proud Possessors: The Lives, Times and Tastes of Some Adventurous American Art Collectors (New York, 1958), 16, 20; Mrs. Potter Palmer, Addresses and Reports (Chicago, 1894), 116.
73 Isabel Floyd-Jones, “The Potters of Golfe-Juan and Vallauris,” Good Housekeeping 50 (March 1910): 347–51.
74 W. P. Pond, “A Zulu Woman’s Mansion,” Ladies’ Home Journal 8 (March 1891): 9.
75 Laura B. Starr, “Cairene Furniture,” Decorator and Furnisher 26 (May 1895): 48; John Kimberly Mumford, “Glimpses of Modern Persia,” House and Garden 2 (August 1902): 361–73. On regarding the Orient as a site of “unchanging racial or cultural essences,” see Timothy Mitchell, “Orientalism and the Exhibitionary Order,” in Colonialism and Culture, Nicholas B. Dirks, ed. (Ann Arbor, Mich., 1992), 289–318, 289; on the inequalities of what she terms “interculturism,” see Rustom Bharucha, Theatre and the World: Performance and the Politics of Culture (New York, 1990), 1; on commercial supremacy, see Timothy Mitchell, Colonising Egypt (Cambridge, 1988), 166.
76 Leora Auslander, Taste and Power: Furnishing Modern France (Berkeley, Calif., 1996), 224.
77 Jeffrey D. Needell, A Tropical Belle Epoque: Elite Culture and Society in Turn-of-the-Century Rio de Janeiro (New York, 1987), 154, 176; Benjamin Orlove, ed., The Allure of the Foreign: Imported Goods in Postcolonial Latin America (Ann Arbor, Mich., 1997); on the potential of commerce to promote international sympathy, see Akira Iriye, ed., “Introduction,” Mutual Images: Essays in American-Japanese Relations (Cambridge, Mass., 1975), 1–23.
78 Auslander, Taste and Power, 141, 378; Nicholas Cooper, The Opulent Eye: Late Victorian and Edwardian Taste in Interior Design (London, 1976), 9, 17; Mrs. M. G. Van Rensselaer, “The Development of American Homes,” in Household Art, Candace Wheeler, ed. (New York, 1893), 35–55, 37.
79 On eliminating maids, see Mary Pattison, Principles of Domestic Engineering (New York, 1915), 1. On servants, see David M. Katzman, Seven Days a Week: Women and Domestic Service in Industrializing America (Urbana, Ill., 1981), 27, 72, 78; Lizabeth A. Cohen, “Embellishing a Life of Labor: An Interpretation of the Material Culture of American Working-Class Homes, 1885–1915,” Labor Migration in the Atlantic Economies: The European and North American Working Classes during in the Period of Industrialization (Westport, Conn., 1985), 321–52, 346. Amelia Muir Baldwin, “Interior Decoration, A Form of Expression,” box 1, folder 15, Papers of Amelia Muir Baldwin, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
80 Decorator and Furnisher 27 (October 1895): 3.
81 Decorator and Furnisher 19 (March 1892): 203.
82 Seale, Tasteful Interlude, 23; Kenneth L. Ames, Death in the Dining Room and Other Tales of Victorian Culture (Philadelphia, 1992), 237; Ames, “Introduction,” Axelrod, Colonial Revival in America, 1–14, 10. David Eric Brody sees both Orientalist and colonial revival interiors as conducive to imperialism: the former for instilling colonial fantasies, the latter for manifesting American patriotism. Brody, “Fantasy Realized: The Philippines, Orientalism, and Imperialism in Turn-of-the-Century American Visual Culture” (PhD dissertation, Boston University, 1997), 1, 48; on gender, see Burns, “Price of Beauty,” 236–37.
83 Elizabeth Cumming and Wendy Kaplan, The Arts and Crafts Movement (London, 1991), 107; Seale, Tasteful Interlude, 25; Ralph Prescott Heard, “The Chinese Influence in Home Furnishings,” House Beautiful 41 (May 1917): 357–59, 414; Eileen Boris, Art and Labor: Ruskin, Morris, and the Craftsman Ideal in America (Philadelphia, 1986), chap. 2. On home economists, see Christine Frederick, Household Engineering: Scientific Management in the Home (Chicago, 1921), 99.
84 Edward Stratton Holloway, The Practical Book of Furnishing the Small House and Apartment (Philadelphia, 1922), 35, 36.
85 Probate record of Bertha H. Palmer’s will, May 21, 1918, Bertha H. Palmer Collection, folder 1, Chicago Historical Society.
86 Emily S. Rosenberg, Spreading the American Dream: American Economic and Cultural Expansion, 1890–1945 (New York, 1982); on postcoloniality, see Mackenthun, “Adding Empire to the Study of American Culture,” 264–66; C. Richard King, ed., Postcolonial America (Urbana, Ill., 2000).Drawing room of the Palmer residence, Chicago, circa 1882–1885. Photographer, Frederick O. Bemm, photograph number G1985.0524.102. Courtesy of the Chicago Historical Society.: The Chinese Court at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Historical Register of the Columbia Exposition (New York, 1876). Courtesy of the Rare Book and Special Collections Library, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.A New York cozy corner, from William Martin Johnson, Inside of One Hundred Homes (Philadelphia, 1897), 44. Courtesy of the Winterthur Library, Printed Book and Periodical Collection, Winterthur, Delaware.