Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.

Confidence Men and Painted Women: A Study of Middle-class Culture in America, 1830-1870 (Yale Historical Publications, Miscellany) Reprint Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0300037883
ISBN-10: 0300037880
Why is ISBN important?
ISBN
This bar-code number lets you verify that you're getting exactly the right version or edition of a book. The 13-digit and 10-digit formats both work.
Scan an ISBN with your phone
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
Trade in your item
Get a $2.57
Gift Card.
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Buy used On clicking this link, a new layer will be open
$22.04 On clicking this link, a new layer will be open
Buy new On clicking this link, a new layer will be open
$28.80 On clicking this link, a new layer will be open
More Buying Choices
13 New from $20.50 17 Used from $14.50
Free Two-Day Shipping for College Students with Prime Student Free%20Two-Day%20Shipping%20for%20College%20Students%20with%20Amazon%20Student


White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg
White Trash
The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America | Learn more | See related books
$28.80 FREE Shipping. Usually ships within 1 to 4 weeks. Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.
click to open popover

Frequently Bought Together

  • Confidence Men and Painted Women: A Study of Middle-class Culture in America, 1830-1870 (Yale Historical Publications, Miscellany)
  • +
  • A New England Town : The First Hundred Years : Dedham, Massachusetts, 1636-1736 (Norton Essays in American History)
  • +
  • The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (Dover Thrift Editions)
Total price: $53.25
Buy the selected items together

Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Karen Halttunen draws a vivid picture of the social and cultural development of the upwardly mobile middle class, basing her study on a survey of the conduct manuals and fashion magazines of mid-nineteenth-century America.

About the Author

Karen Halttunen is Professor of History at the University of California at Davis.
NO_CONTENT_IN_FEATURE

The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Series: Yale Historical Publications, Miscellany
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; Reprint edition (September 10, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300037880
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300037883
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #106,587 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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.
Comment 8 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In Confidence Men and Painted Women Halttunen traces the transition of style and manners in a society in flux. The author argues that the emerging middle class in America became very self conscious in the antebellum 19th century. As a new group on the move, the American middle class became ambivalent about many of the changes in material culture in terms of fashion and human interaction. The problem of how to tell if the people with whom one was interacting actually belonged to the society they were claiming to be a part of was a constant source of anxiety for the emerging middle class.
Halttunen argues that to remedy this problem, the middle class created a strict code of behavior that was supposed to convey the legitimacy of the person and their place in society. The irony of this was that the more the rule defined what it meant to be a genuine person the easier the style could be imitated by imposers. Thus the book traces the in some ways comic efforts to differentiate what it means to be a true gentleman and lady while trying to stay one step ahead of those that would take on the appearance without the substance and in truth one could argue that there was very little substance to it to begin with! As I read this I could not help but picture a dog perpetually chasing its tail without any chance of ever catching it, something that Halttunen says that the middle class of the post war period acknowledged actually embraced focusing more of the show of courtesy than what was going on in the persons head.
This is about as interesting a book on fashion and manners that i ever expect to read. It sheds some light on the overblown writing and dressing styles of the period as well as raise interesting questions about the standards for human interaction and what it means to dress and act respectable.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback
"You can't judge a book by its cover" and "you never get a second chance to make a first impression." So which is it? A cultural history (the author explicitly says that this is not a social history), Karen Halttunen's "Confidence Men and Painted Women" might be considered as a study of the tension between those two pieces of proverbial wisdom in antebellum America. Chapters 1 and 2 describe the forces that gave rise to a social problem. What generated the specter of the "confidence man" and the "painted woman," people who preyed upon young men of the period? Halttunen points to the tremendous urbanization of the time. What has been dubbed by historian Charles Sellers "the Market Revolution" had a downside: the growing antebellum city led to anonymity and increasing social disorientation.

In Chapters 3 through 5, the heart of the book, Halttunen describes "the cultural effort to resolve the problem of hypocrisy with the sentimental ideal of sincerity" (xvi). Writers of conduct manuals waged a cultural battle on the fronts of genteel codes for women's dress, social etiquette, and mourning rituals. But in time the custodians of American culture came to realize that their plans could be, and were being subverted. Halttunen reiterates her conclusion as follows: "Those archetypal parlor hypocrites, the confidence man and the painted woman, were masters of the false art of etiquette: their artificial manners were assumed merely to dazzle and deceive an ingenuous audience. Sentimental critics of middle-class culture feared that etiquette, like fashion, was poisoning American society with hypocrisy" (92).
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse