Help me find my lost 1860s social history book
April 25, 2012 11:20 AM   Subscribe

Bookfilter: Help me find a particular social history of America in the 1860s.

Google and past askmes don't seem to have the answer- can you please help me find a much beloved but sadly lost to the mists of time book? The book is basically a social history of life in America in the 1860s, including some of the 1870s. It has a ground-up approach, looking at the lives and beliefs of everyday people rather than focusing on particular historic events or prominent politicians. I particularly remember a chapter on how a home would be decorated and what some of furniture and art prints were popular- the author describes how you probably wouldn't be able to walk around a middle class living room without bumping into the furniture, as big chunky Chippendales and lots of them were the fashion of the day. I remember it having a single author, who had a strong narrative voice. The title is something along the lines of "1860s" or "1863," although given my failure to locate it online, I may be remembering it incorrectly. I think I got it from the NY Public library system initially? Other topics covered (I think) are the rise of spiritualism, typical childhoods, the difference between urban and country lifestyles, etc. Even if we don't find the exact right one I'm looking forward to seeing what comes up. Thanks!
posted by Concordia to Society & Culture (5 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
My girlfriend (who is ABD Ph.D in American History) is pretty certain you're describing Richard Bushmans' The Refinement of America, although that book seems to cover an earlier era than the 1860s.
posted by arco at 11:36 AM on April 25, 2012

If not Bushman, I wonder if it's Louise Stevenson's The Victorian Homefront: American Thought and Culture, 1860–1880. One of the key phrases to search for is "material culture."
posted by arco at 11:46 AM on April 25, 2012

Response by poster: That's it! Thanks very much, I never would have found it by myself. I am actually quite looking forward to reading the other two as well- the "material culture" tipoff will come in handy in future. Yay, so happy!
posted by Concordia at 3:55 PM on April 25, 2012

Used from $1.99! I may have to read this.
posted by languagehat at 5:21 PM on April 25, 2012

I'm assuming the OP's 'That's it' refers to the 'Everyday Life' book. It's a good book, full of info and pictures of, well, everyday life.

My only complaint is that somebody apparently told the author not to use the verbs 'said' or 'wrote.' So every comment he reports was made by someone who 'insisted' or 'argued' or 'lamented' or 'bemoaned' or 'claimed' or 'admitted' ... you get the picture. These authorial judgments are rarely supported by the context. See Elmore Leonard's rules for writing.

But that's a minor point. I value the social history more than the writing.
posted by LonnieK at 11:00 AM on April 26, 2012

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