A History of American Consumption: Threads of Meaning, Gender, and Resistance, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

A History of American Consumption

Threads of Meaning, Gender, and Resistance, 1st Edition

By Terrence H. Witkowski


298 pages | 106 B/W Illus.

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Paperback: 9780367874414
pub: 2019-12-12
Hardback: 9781138936911
pub: 2017-09-19
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pub: 2017-09-14
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The United States has been near the forefront of global consumption trends since the 1700s, and for the past century and more, Americans have been the world’s foremost consuming people. Informed and inspired by the literature from consumer culture theory, as well as drawing from numerous studies in social and cultural history, A History of American Consumption tells the story of the American consumer experience from the colonial era to the present, in three cultural threads.

These threads recount the assignment of meaning to possessions and consumption, the gendered ideology and allocation of consumption roles, and resistance through anti-consumption thought and action. Brief but scholarly, this book provides a thought provoking, introduction to the topic of American consumption history informed by research in consumer culture theory.

By examining and explaining the core phenomenon of product consumption and its meaning in the changing lives of Americans over time, it provides a valuable contribution to the literature on the subjects of consumption and its causes and consequences. Readable and insightful, it will be of interest to scholars and advanced students in consumer behaviour, advertising, and marketing and business history.


This book is essential reading for anyone wishing to gain a comprehensive grasp of how pluralistic forms of American consumer culture were born, flourished, dissipated, and in some cases, were reinvigorated. Starting before the birth of the nation, Terry Witkowski offers a palatable and penetrating look at seven broadly defined eras of consumer culture history. His choice to compare the developments of consumer culture across three threads – the meaning consumers attribute to goods and services, gender-role discourses as they pertain to household and macro-marketing phenomena, and resistance to consumerism—make for a compelling and coherent narrative. Chockablock with compelling images, this book is sure to remain a vital reference.   

Cele C. Otnes, Investors in Business Education Prof. of Marketing, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA.

A History of American Consumption provides a much-needed overview of how consumption came to occupy such a central place in the consumer culture of the US. Richly illustrated and meticulously researched, this book makes an important contribution to the growing area of historical research in marketing.

Jonathan Schroeder, William A. Kern Professor of Communications, Rochester Institute of Technology, USA.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction 2. Consumer Culture Theory in Consumption History 3. Colonial and Early Federal Consumption 4. Consumption in the 19th Century to 1865 5. Consumption in the Gilded Age 6. Consumption in the Early 20th Century 7. Consumption during the Great Depression and World War II 8. Consumption from 1945 to 1980 9. Consumption since 1980 10. Conclusion

About the Author

Terrence H. Witkowski is Professor of Marketing and Director of the International Business Program at California State University, USA. Educated at Northwestern University, UCLA, and UC Berkeley, he has published over 120 scholarly works.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in the History of Marketing

It is increasingly acknowledged that an awareness of marketing history and the history of marketing thought is relevant for all levels of marketing teaching and scholarship. Marketing history includes, but is not limited to, the histories of advertising, retailing, channels of distribution, product design and branding, pricing strategies, and consumption behaviour – all studied from the perspective of companies, industries, or even whole economies. The history of marketing thought examines marketing ideas, concepts, theories, and schools of marketing thought including the lives and times of marketing thinkers.

This series aims to be the central location for the publication of historical studies of marketing theory, thought and practice, and welcomes contributions from scholars from all disciplines that seek to explore some facet of marketing and consumer practice in a rigorous and scholarly fashion. It will also consider historical contributions that are conceptually and theoretically well-conceived, that engage with marketing theory and practice, in any time period, in any country.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Advertising & Promotion
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Consumer Behavior
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Corporate & Business History
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Communication Studies