How did people living on the early American frontier discover and
then become a part of the market economy? How do their purchases
and their choices revise our understanding of the market revolution
and the emerging consumer ethos? Ann Smart Martin provides answers
to these questions by examining the texture of trade on the edge of
the upper Shenandoah Valley between 1760 and 1810.
Reconstructing the world of one country merchant, John Hook,
Martin reveals how the acquisition of consumer goods created and
validated a set of ideas about taste, fashion, and lifestyle in a
particular place at a particular time. Her analysis of Hook's
account ledger illuminates the everyday wants, transactions, and
tensions recorded within and brings some of Hook's customers to
life: a planter looking for just the right clock, a farmer in
search of nails, a young woman and her friends out shopping on
their own, and a slave woman choosing a looking glass.
This innovative approach melds fascinating narratives with
sophisticated analysis of material culture to distill large
abstract social and economic systems into intimate triangulations
among merchants, customers, and objects. Martin finds that objects
not only reflect culture, they are the means to create it.
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