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Turns of the Centuries Exhibit > Family Life 1880-1920 > Getting Things
This theme in other eras: 1680-1720 | 1780-1820 | 1880-1920

(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.

Getting Things : The New Consumer


The growing availability of consumer goods amazed observers in 1800. One hundred years later, new and improved technologies made even more items available than ever before. Mass production and cheaper freight lowered manufacturing costs. As producers passed these reduced costs to consumers, more Americans purchased what were luxuries only a few decades before.

Stores carried a bewildering array of goods. Urban shoppers crowded into new department stores such as J.C. Penney and/or Macy's and or one of the over 1,700 Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company's A&P chain stores. For some, so many choices and the role of consumer was too much of a good thing. Almost overnight, physicians began observing and diagnosing a new illness among middle class and wealthy women: kleptomania.

Seasonal availability and limited preservation techniques had limited American diets in the early 1800s. By the 1890s, refrigerated railroad cars transported fresh meat, milk and other perishable products in large quantities over great distances. Over 2,000 ice plants made and delivered ice to cool iceboxes in private homes. Americans became accustomed to eating fresh fruits and vegetables from all over the country for much of the year. The development by 1880 of machinery for mass-producing tin cans made canned foods available year-round.

The new range of choices and business practices appeared even in rural towns. This photograph of the E.C. Brown store in Bernardston, Massachusetts, resembles country stores of a century before; the physical layout is similar and it was family owned and operated. Yet, the range and type of goods in the picture reflect the new availability of mass-produced foods, ready-made clothing and other items unavailable a century earlier. In addition, storekeepers like the Browns expected more and more to settle their accounts with their customers in cash rather than exchanging goods and services.


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E. C. Brown Store

photographer   Unidentified
date   1912
location   Bernardston, Massachusetts
process/materials   paper print
item type   Photograph/Photograph - Postcard
accession #   #1997.08.01.0008

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See Also...

Geo. N. Kidder and Company, Main Floor

F. W. Harness "Jeweler"

The Famous Wellworth Pharmacy

E. C. Brown Store

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