From School Library Journal
Grade 8 Up-This volume covers U.S. frontier culture from the Gold Rush to the close of the 19th century and discusses how myths and images of the Wild West have influenced 20th- and 21st-century popular culture. Arrangement is thematic; the first section presents overviews of "Everyday Life" and the "World of Youth" during the westward movement. Part two addresses advertising, architecture, fashion, food, leisure activities, literature, music, performing arts, travel, and the visual arts. Each chapter includes a generous helping of specific examples reflecting customs, fads, and trends of the times, from the popularity of tinned oysters as a delicacy to the excitement generated by the arrival of a new Montgomery Ward catalog. Supplementary content includes a time line of significant popular culture events from 1823 through 1889, a brief but intriguing list of representative product prices from the period ($1 for a pair of Levi's Jeans, 25 cents per night for a hotel room), thorough chapter notes, and useful suggestions for further reading. The black-and-white illustrations are less interesting than the text, as they are small and sparsely distributed. Nevertheless, this is a good starting point for students ready to move beyond encyclopedias and other general research tools.Starr E. Smith, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
This title helps inaugurate a new series, American Popular Culture through History, that will examine "the specific details of popular culture that reflect and inform the general undercurrents of the time." Westward Expansion
covers 1849 (the year of the first gold rush) until approximately 1890.
The volume begins with a time line of popular culture events during the period. The time line is followed by chapters arranged in two parts. Part 1 offers an overview of everyday life in general and the "world of youth" in particular. Part 2 examines 12 broad topics, among them "Advertising," "Food," "Travel," and "Visual Arts." Chapters in this section average 20 pages in length. A brief list of typical costs for products (a Conestoga wagon cost $1,500 in 1877) is followed by extensive chapter notes and further reading.
The author refers throughout the volume to the popular culture of today and the ways it has been shaped by the concept of the West. She discusses the enduring appeal of blue jeans in the chapter on "Fashion" and the western on television and in film in "Performing Arts."
This series joins several others that take a chronological approach to the study of American culture. Titles in Gale's American Eras and American Decades series cover many of the same topics but have a more accessible format and more visual appeal. However, the Gale titles cover politics, economics, religion, and more; and their greater range means that some aspects of popular culture are discussed in less detail than in Greenwood's volumes. For readers who are intrigued by the "Cost of Products" section in The 1910s, in particular, Grey House's Working Americans, 1880-1999 provides much more detail on personal finance, compiling decade-by-decade economic data to create profiles of representative but fictional families.
Greenwood's Daily Life through History series has become a staple resource in many high-school, public, and academic libraries. American Popular Culture through History is recommended for the same libraries and should be equally well received. RBB
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