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History Post-confederation (1867-)

Domestic Goods

by (author) Joy Parr

Publisher
University of Toronto Press
Initial publish date
Dec 1999
Category
Post-Confederation (1867-), Social History, 20th Century, Economic History
  • Paperback / softback

    ISBN
    9780802079473
    Publish Date
    Sep 1999
    List Price
    $40.95
  • eBook

    ISBN
    9781487598112
    Publish Date
    Dec 1999
    List Price
    $42.95
  • Hardback

    ISBN
    9780802040978
    Publish Date
    Sep 1999
    List Price
    $74.00

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Description

Visions of life in the 1950s often spring from the United States: supermarkets, freeways, huge gleaming cars, bright new appliances, automated households. Historian Joy Parr looks beyond the generalizations about the indulgence of this era to find a specifically Canadian consumer culture. Focusing on the records left by consumer groups and manufacturers, and relying on interviews and letters from many Canadian women who had set up household in the decade after the war, she reveals exactly how and why Canadian homemakers distinguished themselves from the consumer frenzy of their southern neighbours.

Domestic Goods focuses primarily on the design, production, promotion, and consumption of furniture and appliances. For Parr, such a focus demands an analysis of the intertwining of the political, economic, and aesthetic. Parr examines how the shortage of appliances in the early postwar years was a direct result of government reconstruction policy, and how the international style of 'high modernism' reflected the postwar dream of free trade. But while manufacturers devised new plans for the consumer, depression-era frugality and a conscious setting of priorities within the family led potential customers to evade and rework what was offered them, eventually influencing the kinds of goods created.

This book addresses questions such as, who designed furniture and appliances, and how were these designs arrived at? What was the role of consumer groups in influencing manufacturers and government policy? Why did women prefer their old wringer washers for over a decade after the automatic washer was brought in? In finding the answers the author celebrates and ultimately suggests reclaiming a particularly Canadian way of consuming.

About the author

Joy Parr is a Farley Endowed Professor of History at Simon Fraser University. She is the author of The Gender of Breadwinners, winner of the 1990 Macdonald Prize for the best work in Canadian history.

Joy Parr's profile page

Other titles by Joy Parr