The Material Culture of New York City: The 19th Century


Fall 2009


2nd Floor Classroom


David Jaffee

This course will introduce students to the study of the material culture of New York City in the 19th century—its built environment, cultural landscape, and decorative arts industries. Students will examine the historical and cultural context of New York as a center of post-revolutionary manufacturing, as an arena of racial and ethnic traditions and conflicts in the mid-19th century, and as an emerging national capital of culture in the late 19th century. The course will be organized around a series of historical spaces: the artisan’s workshop and the early national port city; the 19th-century town house, tenement house, and apartment building; emerging factory spaces for the production of culture, such as the furniture and publishing industries; cultural spaces of consumption, such as Barnum’s American Museum and Brady’s Daguerreian Studio; the building of Central Park and the contest over urban public space; and late 19th-century spaces for display, such as the department store, the art museum, and the amusement park. The course will involve visits to several museum collections. Students will be asked to complete several short papers, create a class presentation, and contribute to a final collaborative digital exhibition project. 3 credits.