Consumer Movements and Critics of Consumer Culture

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Agnew, Paul G.  “The Movement for Standards in Consumer Goods.”  Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 173 (May 1934): 60-69.

Angevine, Erma.  History of the National Consumer’s League, 1899-1979.  Washington DC: National Consumer’s League, 1979.

Angevine, Erma.  Roots of the Consumer Movement: A Chronicle of Consumer History in the Twentieth Century.  Washington DC: National Consumer’s League, 1979.

Babson, Roger Ward, and Clarence Nelson Stone. Consumer Protection: How it Can Be Secured. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1938. 

Baker, Laura E. “Public Sites Versus Public Sights: The Progressive Response to Outdoor Advertising and the Commercialization of Public Space.” American Quarterly 59:4 (2007): 1187-1213.

Baker, Samm S.  The Permissible Lie: The Inside Truth About Advertising.  Cleveland: World Publishing, 1968.

Barton, Michael.  “The American Jeremiad: Critics of Accumulation and Display,” in Simon J. Bronner, ed., Consuming Visions: Accumulation and Display of Goods in America 1880-1920. New York: Norton, 1989.

    Describes how a Bible-based moral sentiment generated a critique of the growing culture of accumulation and display in the decades around the turn of the 19th century.  This critique was widespread among both religious figures and leftist orators and writers.  Barton focuses more attention on the apologists for conspicuous wealth, like Russell Conwell, and adherents to Social Darwinist beliefs who proclaimed that wealth was a sign of God’s favor or higher evolutionary development.  Many of these figures also emerged from a religious background, suggesting that there in nothing inherently anti-consumerist in the American religious tradition.

Beem, Eugene.  “Consumer Rating and Testing Agencies in the United States.”  PhD dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1951.

Blake, Peter.  God’s Own Junkyard.  The Planned Deterioration of America’s Landscape.  New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1964.

Bluestone, Daniel.  “The Pushcart Evil,” in The Landscape of Modernity: New York City, 1900-1940, David Ward and Olivier Zunz, eds. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992.    

Boorstin, Daniel.  The Image, or What Happened to the American Dream. New York: Atheneum, 1962.

Brobeck, Stephen, Robert N. Meyer, and Robert O. Herman, eds.  The Encyclopedia of the Consumer Movement.  Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 1997.

Cain, Ellen.  “We Used to Be Shoppers- Now We are Pickets!” The League of Women Shoppers, the Picket Line, and Identity Formation, 1935-1949.”  Journal of Women’s History 31:3 (Fall 2019): 35-65. 

Campbell, Persia.  Consumer Representation in the New Deal.  New York: Columbia University Press, 1940.

Chapman, Clowry.  How Advertisements Defeat Their Own Ends.  New York: Prentice-Hall, 1931.

Chase, Stuart.  The Tragedy of Waste.  New York: Macmillan, 1925.

Chase, Stuart, and F. J. Schlink.  Your Money’s Worth.  New York: Macmillan, 1927.

Cherington, Paul Terry. The Consumer Looks at Advertising. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1928. 

Clark, Blake.  The Advertising Smoke Screen.  New York: Harper & Brothers, 1944.

Coit, Emily Jean. “The Trial of Abundance: Consumption and Morality in the Anglo-American Novel, 1871–1907.”  PhD dissertation, Yale University, 2009.

Creighton, Lucy Black.  Pretenders to the Throne: The Consumer Movement in the United States.  Lexington, Mass.: Heath and Co., 1976.

Dameron, Kenneth.  “The Consumer Movement.”  Harvard Business Review 17:3 (Spring 1939): 271-289.

Dameron, Kenneth.  “Advertising and the Consumer Movement.”  Journal of Marketing 5:3 (January 1941): 234-247.

Denham, Bryan.  “Magazine Journalism in the Golden Age of Muckraking: Patent-Medicine Exposures Before and After the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906.”  Journalism and Communication Monographs 22:2 (Summer 2020): 100-159. 

Frank, Dana.  Purchasing Power: Consumer Organizing, Gender, and the Seattle Labor Movement, 1919-1929.  New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

Fullerton, Ronald A.  “A Virtual Social H-Bomb: The Late 1950s Controversy Over Subliminal Advertising.” Journal of Historical Research in Marketing 2:2 (2010): 166-173.

Furlough, Ellen, and Carl Strikewerda.  Consumers Against Capitalism?  Consumer Cooperation in Europe and North America, 1840-1990.  Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1997.

Gaer, Joseph.  Consumers All: The Problem of Consumer Protection.  New York: Harcourt Brace, 1940.

Gelston, Steven W., and Peggy A. Pascoe.  A Guide to Documents of the Consumer Movement: A National Catalog of Source Material.  Mount Vernon, NY: Consumers Union Foundation, 1980.

Gilmartin, Jeanine.  “An Historical Analysis of the Growth of the National Consumers Movement.” PhD dissertation, Georgetown University, 1969.

Glickman, Lawrence B.  “The Strike in the Temple of Consumption: Consumer Activism and Twentieth Century Culture.”  Journal of American History 88 (June 2001): 99-128.

Glickman, Lawrence B.  Buying Power: A History of Consumer Activism in America.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009.

Goodwin, Lorine S. The Pure Food, Drink, and Drug Crusaders, 1879-1914.  Jefferson: McFarland, 2006.

Hamilton, James L.  “The Demand for Cigarettes: Advertising, the Health Scare, and the Cigarette Advertising Ban.” Review of Economics and Statistics 54:4 (November 1972): 401-411. 

Harding, T. Swann. The Popular Practice of Fraud. New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1935. 

Havig, Alan.  “Frederic Wakeman’s The Hucksters and the Postwar Debate over Commercial Radio.” Journal of Broadcasting 28:2 (Spring 1984): 198-

Hirshon, Nicholas.  “A ‘Great Power’ Defended and Denounced: An Examination of Twentieth-Century Advertising and Advertising Criticism in the United States.”  Journalism History 46:3 (2020): 265-283. 

Horowitz, Daniel.  The Morality of Spending: Attitudes Toward the Consumer Society in America, 1875-1940.  Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985.

Horowitz, Daniel.  The Anxieties of Affluence: Critiques of American Consumer Culture, 1939-1979.  Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2004.

Horowitz, Daniel.  Consuming Pleasures: Intellectuals and Popular Culture in the Postwar World.  Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012.

Jacobson, Dorothy H.  Our Interests as Consumers.  New York: Harper and Bros., 1941.

Kallet, Arthur, and F. J. Schlink.  100,000,000 Guinea Pigs: Dangers in Everyday Foods, Drugs, and Cosmetics.  New York: Vanguard Press, 1932.

Katz, Norman.  “Consumers’ Union: The Management and the Magazine.”  PhD dissertation, Rutgers University, 1977.

McKellar, Susie.  “Seals of Approval’: Consumer Representation in 1930s America.”  Journal of Design History 15:1 (2002): 1-13.

Malherek, Joseph.  “From the Ringstrasse to Madison Avenue: Commercial Market Research and the Viennese Origins of the Mass-Culture Debate, 1941-61.”  Canadian Review of American Studies 47:2 (Summer 2017): 261-287.

Mayer, Robert N.  The Consumer Movement: Guardians of the Marketplace.  Boston: Twayne, 1989.

Manchee, Fred.  The Huckster’s Revenge: The Truth About Life on Madison Avenue.  New York: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1959.

Matthews, J.B.  Guinea Pigs No More.  New York: Covici Friede, 1936.

Morell, Peter.  Poisons, Potions, and Profits: The Antidote to Radio Advertising.  New York: Knight Publishers, 1937.

Nathan, Maud.  The Story of an Epoch-making Movement.  Garden City: Doubleday, Page, 1926.  (National Consumers’ League)

Newman, Kathleen M.  “Critical Mass: Advertising, Audiences, and Consumer Activism in the Age of Radio.” Ph.D. dissertation, Yale University, 1998.

Newman, Kathleen M.  Radio Active: Advertising and Consumer Activism, 1935-1947.  Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004.

Packard, Vance.  The Hidden Persuaders. New York: David McKay, 1957.

Petschuk, Michael.  Revolt Against Regulation: The Rise and Pause of the Consumer Movement.  Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982.

Plotkin, Sidney.  “Misdirected Effort: Thorstein Veblen’s Critique of Advertising.” Journal of Historical Research in Marketing 6:4 (2014): 501-522.

Pope, Daniel,  “His Master’s Voice: James Rorty and the Critique of Advertising.”  The Maryland Historian 19:1 (1988): 5-16.

Pope, Daniel.  “Advertising as a Consumer Issue: An Historical View.” Journal of Social Issues 47: 1 (1991): 41-56.

Radtke, Terry. “Shopping in the Machine Age: Chain Stores, Consumerism, and the Politics of Business Reform” in The Quest for Social Justice, Alan D. Corre, ed. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1992.

Ratner, Lorman A., Paula T. Kaufman, and Dwight L. Teeter Jr. Paradoxes of Prosperity: Wealth-Seeking Versus Christian Values in Pre-Civil War America. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2009.

Renouard, Joe. “The Predicaments of Plenty: Interwar Intellectuals and American Consumerism.” Journal of American Culture 30:1 (2007): 54-67. 

Reid, Margaret G. Consumers and the Market. New York: F.S. Crofts & Co., 1939.

Riesman, David, et al.  The Lonely Crowd: A Study in the Changing American Character.  New Haven: Yale University Press, 1950.

Robbins, Mark W. “Awakening the ‘Forgotten Folk’: Middle Class Consumer Activism in Post–World War I America.”  PhD dissertation, Brown University, 2009.

Rorty, James. Our Master’s Voice, Advertising.  New York: John Day, 1934.

Samson, Peter.  “The Emergence of a Consumer Interest in America.”  Ph.D. dissertation, University of Chicago, 1980.

Samuelson, Robert J.  The Good Life and its Discontents: The American Dream in the Age of Entitlement, 1945-1995.  New York: Random House, 1995.

Schragger, Richard C. “The Anti-Chain Store Movement, Localist Ideology, and the Remnants of the Progressive Constitution, 1920-­1940.” Iowa Law Review 90 (March 2005): 1011-­94.

Scroop, Daniel. “The Anti–Chain Store Movement and the Politics of Consumption.” American Quarterly 60 (December 2008): 925–949.

Sklar, Katherine Kish.  “Two Political Cultures in the Progressive Era: The National Consumers’ League and the American Association for Labor Legislation” in U.S. History as Women’s History: New Feminist Essays, Linda Kerber, et. al. eds.  Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995.

    Although not directly related to advertising history, this essay discusses the formation of the National Consumers’ League, one of the mechanisms for resistance to the exploitation of consumers during the Progressive Era.  The NCL, begun in 1898 and operated mostly by women, was active in monitoring the production of consumer goods and seeking to ensure that these products were safe, manufactured responsibly, and lived up to the claims of the producers.  The organization’s White Label campaign certified that items met minimum standards.  This group was one of a handful of similar organizations that believed in providing information to consumers to cut down on fraudulent advertising, exaggerated manufacturer’s claims, and unsafe and unfair working conditions. 

Siepmann, Charles.  Radio’s Second Chance.  Boston: Little, Brown, 1946. 

Silber, Norman I.  Test and Protest: The Influence of the the Consumer Union.  New York: Holmes and Meier, 1983.

Sorenson, Helen Laura, and Institute for Consumer Education, Stephens College. The Consumer Movement, What it is and What it Means. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1941.

Smith, Mark.  “Robert Lynd and Consumerism in the 1930s.”  Journal of the History of Sociology 2 (Fall 1979): 99-119.

Spencer, Andrew.  “Voluntary Exploitation and Forced Assimilation: John Steinbeck’s Critique of American Advertising in The Grapes of Wrath.” Journal of American Culture 40:4 (December 2017): 313-324.

Stole, Inger L. “Selling Advertising: The U.S. Advertising Industry and Its Public Relations Activities, 1932-1945.” Ph.D. dissertation.  University of Wisconsin- Madison, 1998.

Stole, Inger L.  Advertising on Trial: Consumer Activism and Corporate PR in the 1930s.  Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2006.

Stole, Inger L., and Rebecca Livesay.  “Consumer Activism, Commercialism, and Curriculum Choices: Advertising in Schools in the 1930s.”  Journal of American Culture 30 (March 2007): 68–80.

Storrs, Landon R.Y.  Civilizing Capitalism: The National Consumers’ League, Women’s Activism, and Labor Standards in the New Deal Era.  Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000.

Storrs, Landon.  “Left-Feminism, the Consumer Movement, and Red Scare Politics in the United States, 1935–1960.”  Journal of Women’s History 18 (Fall 2006): 40–67.

Strach, Lauren, and Malcolm Russell.  “The Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval: From Innovative Consumer Protection to Popular Badge of Quality.” Essays in Economic and Business History 20 (2002): 151–66.

Strauss, Lori.A.  “The Anti-Advertising Bias in Twentieth Century Literature.”  Journal of American Culture 16:1 (Spring 1993): 81-85.

Twarog, Emily E. LB.  Politics of the Pantry: Housewives, Food, and Consumer Protest in Twentieth-Century America.  New York: Oxford University Press, 2017

Veblen, Thorstein.  The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study in the Evolution of Institutions.  New York: Macmillan, 1899.  (many reprints available)

Wakeman, Frederic.  The Hucksters.  New York: Rinehart & Co., 1946.

Wiedenhoft, Wendy Ann.  “The Politics of Consumption: A Comparative Study of the ALF and the National Consumers’ League During the Progressive Era.  PhD dissertation, University of Maryland, 2002.

Wolfe, Alice R.  “Women, Consumerism, and the National Consumers’ League in the Progressive Era, 1900-1923.”  Labor History 16:3 (Summer 1975): 387-392.

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