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Confidence Men and Painted Women: A Study of Middle-class Culture in America, 1830-1870 (Yale Historical Publications) Paperback – September 10, 1986

ISBN-13: 978-0300037883 ISBN-10: 0300037880

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Confidence Men and Painted Women: A Study of Middle-class Culture in America, 1830-1870 (Yale Historical Publications) + A New England Town : The First Hundred Years : Dedham, Massachusetts, 1636-1736 (Norton Essays in American History) + The Art of Democracy 2nd Edition: A Concise History of Popular Culture in the United States
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Product Details

  • Series: Yale Historical Publications
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (September 10, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300037880
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300037883
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #421,870 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By William M. Knoblauch on February 29, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In Confidence Men and Painted Women, USC historian Karen Halttunen examines the social norms of middle class Americans from the years 1830-1870. She shows that for much of the nineteenth century, Americans viewed hypocrisy as a direct threat to the democratic process. They considered insincerity a "symbolic expression of moral and political decay in America." The possibility of upward or downward social mobility prompted this identity crisis for many middle class Americans. In their desire to appear sincere, urban Americans looked to identify themselves in opposition to confidence men and painted women. Confidence men were familiar figures in 19th century literature; these outwardly friendly men often corrupted young city newcomers. Painted women resided in parlor rooms; their use of makeup disguised the proof of insincere lifestyle. Both figures represented insincerity in domestic and social spheres. There was a fine line between proper attire and the insincere looks of fashion.

Both men and women strove for sincerity in their appearance. In doing so, there arose an inherent contradiction to the ideals of 19th century behavior manuals: namely, that by focusing on the correct attire and etiquette to appear sincere renders the participant insincere. The rest of Halttunen's book looks at society's recognition of this contradiction, the practice of sincere outward appearances in parlor rooms, on the street, and even at funerals. She concludes that ultimately public appearance reconciled with personal insincerity. In short, by the Gilded Age, Americans had not only made peace with the division between ostensible outward appearance and supposed internal sincerity, but had learned to accept this contradiction as a social norm.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful By cwbookworm on January 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
Author Karen Halttunen does an excellent job in her study of 19th Century Middle Class Culture in America. CONFIDENCE MEN AND PAINTED WOMEN is a must for both scholars and living historians alike. Halttunen's work vividly details the social and cultural development of 19th Century Middle Class America, their etiquette, values and mores. Taken from etiquette books, manuals and magazines of the era, Halttunen's study covers the sentimental culture of fashion, etiquette, hypocrisy of the time and even mourning the dead. She focuses on the time period of 1830-1870. Halttunen has really done her homework on this topic, and she gives new insight to a bygone era.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Vicky Oliver on September 12, 2009
Format: Paperback
I thoroughly enjoyed this account of American middle class culture between 1830-1870. Well-researched, well written, and fun to read, I thought it was a great lesson in American civilization, and I also appreciated all of the references to popular culture during that time. The author begins the book with an arresting premise and follows through beautifully. A must read for anyone interested in broadening their base of historical knowledge.

Vicky Oliver
Author, Bad Bosses, Crazy Coworkers & Other Office Idiots
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