Paperback / softback
March 24, 2020
9.00 Inches (US)
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$52.00 USD, £43.00 GBP
v2.1 Reference
Electronic book text
March 24, 2020
9.00 Inches (US)
6.00 Inches (US)
$52.00 USD, £43.00 GBP
v2.1 Reference

Imagining Consumers

Design and Innovation from Wedgwood to Corning

Winner of the Hagley Prize in Business History from The Hagley Museum and Library and the Business History ConferenceSelected by Choice Magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title

Originally published in 1999. Imagining Consumers tells for the first time the story of American consumer society from the perspective of mass-market manufacturers and retailers. It relates the trials and tribulations of china and glassware producers in their contest for the hearts of the working- and middle-class women who made up more than eighty percent of those buying mass-manufactured goods by the 1920s.

Based on extensive research in untapped corporate archives, Imagining Consumers supplies a fresh appraisal of the history of American business, culture, and consumerism. Case studies illuminate decision making in key firms—including the Homer Laughlin China Company, the Kohler Company, and Corning Glass Works—and consider the design and development of ubiquitous lines such as Fiesta tableware and Pyrex Ovenware.

About the Author

Regina Lee Blaszczyk, Ph.D., is Director of the Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Phildelphia.


"A truly fine work that takes business history into the broader field of cultural history... Imagining Consumers changes the narrative of consumer society in the United States. New studies will have to incorporate its conclusions."

- Vicki Howard - American Quarterly

"Imagining Consumers is an engagingly written, solidly researched, and copiously illustrated monograph on the marketing of home furnishings in the United States... It cogently makes the case for those who hail consumerism as a defining feature of the modern democratic creed."

- Richard R. John - Reviews in American History

"Deeply researched, informed by theory, and engagingly written."

- David E. Nye - Business History Review

"Imagining Consumersoffers a well-argued look at signal trials and successes of the consumer-goods segment of the American ceramics and glass industries between 1860 and 1940, as the men who created and ran its workshops and factories not only negotiated changing business conditions and new technologies, but also struggled to imagine the people who would choose their crockery, sanitary fixtures, and glassware... A fine piece of work."

- Katherine Grier - Enterprise and Society

"A fascinating account of the sales strategies of a group of American manufacturers of applied art products, in particular the Homer Laughlin China Company, the Kohler Company, and Corning Incorporated, in the years from 1880 through to 1960. Blaszczyk's study in informed by an intense body of material acquired from primary sources; it makes a significant, and very welcome, contribution to scholarship in this area."

- Penny Sparke - Technology and Culture

"An innovative study of an important dimension of the consumer revolution of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries... For its emphasis on small firms, on the importance of interactions between consumers and producers, and on the role that women shoppers played in shaping business practices, Imagining Consumers will be recognized as an important contribution to business and consumer history."

- Lawrence B. Glickman - Journal of American History

"A perceptive and dense history of china and glassware manufacturers and retailers... Blaszczyk makes a convincing case that those who study consumer culture can benefit from greater understanding of these links between manufacturers, consumers, and the many professionals who influence the place where those two meet: the product."

- Jennifer Scanlon - American Historical Review

"A must read for all who seek to understand the evolution of modern consumer society."

- Lisa Jacobson - Public Historian

"Blaszczyk's cultural and business history of the American crockery industry nicely describes how some firms imagined their consumers and how they reponded to those consumers' desires."

- Kerry Odell - Journal of Economic History

"Blaszczyk grounds her arguments on something not seen before: a cornucopia of archival research, painstakingly acquired from untapped company archives of key firms in the household furnishings business. Blaszczyk's conclusion is bold. 'Make no mistake,' she writes, 'supply did not create demand in home furnishings, but demand determined supply.' Imagining Consumers is a careful, fine-grained monograph whose claims are firmly tethered to its assembled evidence."

- Lendol Calder - EH.Net

"A remarkable and exemplary history of the US ceramics and glass industries, spanning the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries. Perhaps the main achievement of Imagining Consumers is its dogged investigation of how manufacturers engaged with consumers in order to produce more appealing goods."

- Nic Maffei - Ethics, Place and Environment


"Blaszczyk has written a fascinating account of negotiations between producers and consumers in the glass and ceramics industries, illustrating a symbiotic process by which manufacturers attempted to discover and keep up with the shifting demands of ordinary people. This study will transform our understanding of the history of design, marketing, and consumer culture."

- Jeffrey L. Meikle


9781421437248 : imagining-consumers-blaszczyk
Paperback / softback
408 Pages
$52.00 USD
9781421437255 : imagining-consumers-blaszczyk
Electronic book text
408 Pages
$52.00 USD

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