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From Main to High: Consumers, Class, and the Spatial Reorientation of an Industrial City

Abstract
Consumer culture’s spatial dynamics have rarely been examined. This study will use a methodology of “triangulation” – a term borrowed from Geographer Richard J. Dennis – to explore the characteristics of consumer culture among the working classes in a single industrial, planned city (Holyoke, Massachusetts). Each facet of the tripartite method – literary, cliometric, and geographical sources – will be used to conclude that consumer capitalism fundamentally changed the spatial character of Holyoke’s working class communities. A time period roughly from 1880 to 1940 has been selected because novels about Holyoke in this period help augment an understanding of the city’s consumer landscape. The study examines two writers who grew up in Holyoke: Jacques Ducharme and Mary Doyle Curran. It also centers on two streets, High Street and Main Street, which served as the commercial centers for very distinct types of communities. The study draws from oral histories, sociological data, place-based analysis, advertisements, material culture, census records, newspaper accounts, and corporate records from manufacturers and the city’s largest department store.
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2013-01-01
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