Thursday, September 22, 2011

Consumption and the 1880-1890

From the 1880's to the 1890's the U.S. saw a change in its consumptive ethos. The population broke up into more distinct social and economic classes dependent on what kind of goods they consumed. This photograph (below) of the first settlers to Winter Park demonstrates the new elevated level of consumption by the upper and middle class members of society.


The bicycle also represents how leisure activities such as biking, rowing etc became more common for these financially stable people. The consumption of such objects as bicycles, boats, summer homes also show how the wealthier classes of the population can now afford to have "time off" thanks to the new industrial system. Also, the clothing sported by the people in the photograph suggest that they are better off than the "average Joe" because they are so well dressed. These people, as the first settlers of Winter Park, founded the cities consumptive environment. These wealthy northerners were accustomed to a level of luxury in their daily lives that they recreated easily in Winter Park by consuming high quality goods, buying and demanding large houses, and participating in recreational activities.

This consumptive experience created a much more noticeable wealth gap between the people who provided the luxuries that the vacationers and "snow birds" consumed. This consumptive experience and wealth gap reflects the overall basic consumptive state of the US between the 1880's and the 1890's because of a rising tide of consumerism. The lower classes worked to support themselves and provide the basic necessities they required to survive. The middle class workers made enough money to live securely, have time off, and buy a lot of their luxuries on credit. The wealth upper class had more access to better quality goods, leisure activities, and help in their homes.

The group of people in the photograph embody the new level of casual consumerism that swept the U.S. since industrialism became the major direction of the economy. Wealthy and middle class people can now afford a standard of living that was previously seen as "extravagant" such as having an excess of well made clothes. And the goods in America were not suddenly becoming wildly cheaper overnight, but the wages were becoming more stable, the goods were being made more accessible to more people, and were being produced cheaper. Also goods were becoming accessible in ranging qualities with respectively ranging prices, so that the the goods and the standard of living was overall increasing just in varying ranges of quality for the ranging social classes.

This image represents the new consumptive ethos of the United States because of its move towards more distinct social classes, goods becoming more accessible to the different classes, and the recreational atmosphere created in Winter Park by these wealthier people. All these aspects present in Winter Park were becoming more present all over the country as the poor toiled to make the goods for the higher classes to consume; keeping the population locked within their social classes with the only means to improve, education.

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