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Manners and Customs (Life in America: 100 Years Ago) Library Binding – May, 1996
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Barmeier divides his topic into five topics, some of which go well beyond the scope of what you would think of as constituting "Manners and Customs": (1) Work and Leisure looks at the big changes in America during the Industrial Revolution as women became office workers, and new technology and business practices drove innovations. This transformed not only the workplace, but leisure activities as well. (2) Clothing and Fashion covers a lot of ground, but these things changed repeatedly over the period of almost 50 years that this book covers, so this chapter can only touch on these aspects briefly. (3) Courtship and Marriage will probably be the most interesting chapter to young readers, talking about what these things meant to the middle-class during the Victorian era. However, the treatment is against very brief and there might be more space devoted to illustrations than text in this chapter. (4) Learning and Education is the most informative chapter, even though, again, the illustrations threaten to overwhelm the text (although there are some wonderful editorial cartoons including one that points out teachers make less than school janitors, who were well-paid political appointees). Barmeier talks about the key changes in the philosophy of education. (5) Politics is an unlikely topic for this particular volume, and the basic point being made here is that politicians had little respect for very good reasons.
There is some very interesting information about what life was like in America during this time frame and a lot of historic photographs and reproductions of various illustrations. But this book just scratches the surface on these topics, mainly because the idea of looking at life 100 years ago is really more like life 80 to 130 years ago. When you can talk about Victorians and Flappers in the same book, you are making it difficult to cover any one of these topics in a dozen pages. Still, "Manners and Customs" does get beyond what students (and teachers) will find in a standard American history textbook.