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Chapter 18: The Age of the City
DQ #5: Discuss the causes and consequences of the rise of mass consumption in American society during “the Gilded Age.”
Causes for the Rise of Mass Consumption A. Increasing Economical Prosperity ◦ Rising incomes for all social classes; most apparent in salaries of clerks, “white collar” workers, doctors, & lawyersgrowing affluence in middle class ◦ Working-class saw smaller changes, but there was still some increase ◦ Very little rise in income for female, African American, or Mexican workforces and Southern industries ◦ Mostly boosts in the family income- women and children both worked, or families did other things (ex. boarders, laundry services) to supplement income ◦ Increase in incomemore money to spend B. Manufacturing Surpluses and Innovations ◦ Development of affordable products & creation of merchandising techniquesbroad availability of consumer goods in market ◦ ready-made clothesspurred by invention of sewing machinetime-efficient, productive manufacturing ◦ Refrigerated railroad carspreserved perishables for longer periods of time; food capable of withstanding decay during long traveling distances ◦ Artificial frozen iceallowed food to continue been preserved at individual homes C. Altered Marketing Ways ◦ “chain stores”- network of grocery and supplies stores ◦ Able to sell goods at lower prices than local, independent stores ◦ Rural areas relied on mail-order catalogs for latest trend and info ◦ Department stores (D.S.)- allowed people to buy everything at one location ◦ D.S.- change shopping into a glamorous activityrestaurants insidehired women to be sale clerks II. Effects/ Consequences due to Mass Consumption A. Fashion as a widespread luxury ◦ Middle class & workingafford to be concern about personal style ◦ Mail order catalogs allowed rural residents to know about recent fashion and technologyno longer isolated B. Food Eating Habits ◦ Canned food, preservation methods of perishable foodallowed food to be eaten later ◦ Could now be shipped for long periods of timemore variety of food available ◦ Longer life spans; healthier diets C. Rising Influence of Women ◦ Women- majority of the consumers ◦ Employment opportunities: sale clerks and waitresses at department stores ◦ Role of consumerstance for active participation in public lifeconsumer protection movements political role ◦ National Consumer League-found under Florence Kelley- used power of women as consumers to force retailers & manufacturers to improve working conditions and wages CONCLUSION: With increasing income and cheap and manufactured goods deposited in the newly developed department stores, the quality of life for average Americans became exceedingly luxurious. Economical and geographical limitations of the past no longer chained people from buying accessible goods and keeping up with the latest fashion and trend; people near cities had the money to purchase large amount of clothing and other products, while those who lived near the rural communities could order easily from mail-order catalogs distributed by leading department stores. Still, African Americans and other ethnic workforces were shut from sharing the prosperity of the Gilded Age due to their petty income. Women, however, raised both economically and politically, uniting and forming important consumer protection movements and taking on jobs as sale clerks and waitresses that were previously nonexistent for women. Many middle class women were increasingly interested in fashion and were quick adaptors to the newly available food diversity and preservation methods. Overall, the Gilded Age was a time of great cultural and technological development among all aspects of society. I.