Men’s culture, style and recreation as consumer culture, 1880-1930

Consuming brotherhood: men’s culture, style and recreation as consumer culture, 1880-1930

Mark A. Swiencicki

In her exploration of the historical relationship between American men and cosmetics, Kathy Peiss outlines how the late-nineteenth and early twentieth-century discourse of heterosexual masculinity denied and covered up men’s cosmetics use by defining men’s numerous grooming products as toiletries rather than cosmetics or beauty products. This denial of the feminine “other” lurking within men was so sustained and successful that it became a “self-evident statement” of twentieth-century culture that “real men” do not use cosmetics.(1)

A parallel, self-evident statement of American culture and research would be that pre-Depression, American men were not major consumers since most buying and shopping were done by women. While such an idea is nearly ubiquitous in American popular culture, sociology, and women’s history, my examination of the leisure activities of white American men between 1890 and 1930 suggests that such men were indeed a very large and important consuming constituency. Moreover, the advertisements in numerous men’s and general interest magazines of the period show that such men were highly courted by early twentieth-century advertisers. However, most of this consumption and consumerism has been shielded from view since the terms “consumer” and “consumer goods” have been constructed in such a profoundly gendered fashion. Thus after documenting the degree to which pre-Depression men were: 1) engaged in consumption and consumer activity, and 2) explicitly courted by magazine advertising, I will examine how and why such information has been overlooked by most scholars of gendered consumption and advertising.

The Elision of the Male Consumer. Over the past decade, a rich literature on the relationship between gender, shopping, and consumer culture has emerged within U.S. cultural history, women’s history, and historical sociology.2 Although such scholars have done a remarkable job of investigating the impact of consumerism on women and femininity, American men’s experiences with consumption and consumerism have been left virtually unexplored. In fact, the consensus among the above disciplines holds that until the Great Depression: 1) American women were the “primary” consumers (i.e., purchasers); 2) most consumption (i.e., utilizing goods) occurred within, or on behalf of the home and family; and 3) male consumption was a marginal activity at best.

The characteristic focus on women, shopping, department stores, and domestic consumption overlooks male consumption and consumerism for a number of reasons. First, the emphasis on the acquisition of goods rather than on their ultimate consumption has overemphasized women’s role in the consumption process. Since women have historically done most of the family’s shopping they are seen as “consumers” of articles they never use themselves. Women’s control of the home did lead to a control over the purchasing of domestic goods, but this did not translate into a control over the larger process of consumption itself. Second, because consumer items are usually conceptualized as those articles acquired in retail outlets and used in the home, most scholars overlook the extensive consumer activity that pre-Depression men engaged in outside of the home. Third, because the analysis of gendered consumerism virtually never looks at spending on consumer services, it misses one of the most important types of male consumer activity. Finally, scholars’ lack of attention to male consumption reflects and perpetuates the myth that women consumed and men produced. By portraying consumption and consumerism as largely alien to pre-1930s American men, the literature unwittingly reinforces the stereotype of consumption as “feminine.”

Because the history and scope of male consumerism have been so dramatically understudied and undertheorized, new research into gendered consumption needs to address the following questions: 1) how much did pre-Depression American men consume; and 2) to what extent did their consumption of goods and services transform them into consumers (i.e., active seekers of goods and services)?

To address the first question, I examine the 1890 U.S. Census of Manufacturers to estimate the value of each sex’s personal consumption of individual and recreational goods. My analysis suggests that the monetary value of men’s consumption may have been about twice as large as women’s. To address the second question, I focus on how men of 1880-1930 spent their leisure time outside of the house and the nature of the goods consumed there. I find that men actively incorporated lavish consumption and consumerism into their daily lives via banquets, drinking parties, fraternities, well-equipped men’s clubs and sporting activities, and by visiting male-only brothels, saloons, dime museums, pool halls, variety theaters and minstrelsy shows. Finally, I theorize how scholars came to view consumption as “feminine,” and why the evidence of past male consumption that has been uncovered by labor and men’s historians has not been integrated into the standard literature on the intersection of gender and consumerism.

Because the terms shopping, consumption, and consumerism are conflated so often, a few conceptual definitions would be useful here.(3) I define “consumption,” “consume” and “consuming” as the mere use of manufactured goods or services, whereas a “consumer” is one who acquires such goods or services by exchanging money. Accordingly, consumers need not be shoppers since many goods and services can be acquired for money without visiting retail outlets (i.e., haircuts, shaves, fraternal dinners and paraphernalia, tickets to professional sporting events and theaters, drinks, men’s club and gym facilities, etc.). Finally, “consumerism” will refer to the social process whereby individuals exchange money for the goods and services that they use or buy. Armed with such definitions, it becomes possible to assess more critically the degree to which pre-Depression white men were involved in consumption and consumer activity.


Most of the literature which explicitly focuses on the interaction of gender and consumption in pre-1930’s America can be divided into two camps: that which studies gendered consumption vs. that which focuses on gendered consumer activity. A major difference between the two is that while the consumption research comments on male (and female) consumption, the consumer research largely focuses on women’s involvement with shopping, department stores, the control of the home, and the process by which women were structurally and ideologically transformed into consumers.

In the consumption research tradition would be scholars such as Horowitz, Cross, Breazeale and Ehrenreich, who either explicitly or implicitly characterize pre-Depression consumption as a principally “feminine” or “domestic” activity. For example, Horowitz describes the housewife as society’s “proxy consumer,” and asserts that industrialization transformed the home “from the center of production to the center of consumption” (emphasis added).(4) Similarly, Cross argues that “[male] consumption was inevitably more passive, and . . . bound more closely to the wage earning experience” (i.e., buying rounds of drinks), and that the basis for a “consumerist freedom” lay in the “division between male providers and female domestic consumers.”(5)

Two rare feminist studies of American masculinity and consumption also characterize consumption as an historically “feminine” activity, to be contrasted with what they depict as a “new” male consumerism. Kenon Breazeale’s analysis of Esquire magazine’s 1933 campaign to portray masculine consumption as both glamorous and manly unequivocally declares that “Esquire’s editorial staff sought to constitute consumption as a new arena for masculine privilege” (emphasis added). Likewise, Barbara Ehrenreich’s examination of 1950’s masculinity and consumption asserts that “[n]ew products for men, like toiletries and sports clothes, appeared in the fifties” (emphasis added), yet such goods have been widely enjoyed by middle-class American men since at least the late 1880s.(6) Admittedly, the above two studies concern themselves more with the changing discourse on masculine consumption than with male consumption itself. Nevertheless, their description of male consumption as a “new” activity or “arena for masculine privilege” implicitly characterizes consumption as a predominantly “feminine” prerogative or activity until well into the twentieth century. Consequently, they too indirectly reinforce the dichotomy of productive males and consuming females.(7)

This notion of a division between productive males and consuming females is also reinforced by those feminist scholars within the gendered consumerism research tradition who have most closely examined the gendered dimensions of shopping and consumerism. For instance, Bowlby’s study of consumerism and femininity calls it an “empirical fact” that “women at the time of Marx and increasingly over the next 50 years were the principal consumers.” Similarly, Abelson’s remarkable history of Victorian shoplifting declares that “[a]lthough men were certainly not excluded from consumption choices and often were active participants, women were the primary consumers.” Finally, Damon-Moore feminizes and domesticates consumption by defining “consuming” as “choosing and buying commercial products and using them in the home . . . [which] in turn, rested on the capacity of adults, particularly male adults, to earn money.”(8)

This conceptualization of consumption as shopping, buying things, and then using them at home is problematic since it largely limits our understanding of the consumption process to knowledge about how retail goods were acquired and used in the home – thus overlooking most non-domestic consumption, and nearly all spending on consumer services. This domestication of consumption is profoundly gendered. Became late-Victorian and early twentieth-century men spent so much time and money outside of their homes, it is important to examine their non-domestic consumption of consumer goods and services. It is also important to include services since recent economic research shows that early twentieth-century consumer spending on “consumer services . . . form[ed] a consistently rising share of all consumer spending after 1900 . . . [and] surpasse[d] even the proportional weight of perishables before 1920.”(9) And, because entertainment, amusements, and recreational services comprised an important part of the consumer service revolution, the examination of men’s involvement with consumer services and non-domestic consumer goods promises a more accurate picture of the relationship between men and consumerism than has been achieved to date.

The Contributions of Labor, Men’s, and Urban History. Some scholars have described the consuming activities of pre-1930s American men, but their findings have not been integrated into the consumption literature. Numerous labor and men’s historians have noticed the link between men’s culture and consumption, and various turn-of-the-century budgetary studies of working-class families discuss working men’s consumption. However, these findings have not been connected to the gender and consumption literature for a number of reasons.

First, their findings have been framed as part of a discussion about class rather than gender. American labor historians such as Kingsdale, Rosenzweig, and Roediger have perceptively examined how and why late-Victorian working-class men spent their time and money in male-only places such as saloons, union halls, and minstrelsy shows, but they tend to view working-class male recreation and sociability as more of a class issue than a highly gendered class issue.(10) Consequently, their work is rarely cited by the gender and consumption scholars.

Second, the relatively new field of men’s history has also begun to document the link between late nineteenth-century men’s culture and consumption, but its practitioners do not address their findings to the pre-existing literature on gender and consumption either. For example, Rotundo describes some of the surprising consumption that occurred in late-Victorian men’s clubs, body building, sports, and fraternal organizations, and Carnes’ and Clawson’s books on fraternal organizations reveal the lavish, theatrical consumption that accompanied most fraternal rituals and interaction. Kimmel’s history of American manhood links turn-of-the-century masculinity to the consumption of health food, sporting goods and adventure fiction.(11) But since the above scholars do not specifically focus on the issue of consumption itself, few of their findings have made their way into the gendered consumption literature.

A useful but untapped source of information on pre-Depression male consumption and consumerism in America would be the various social histories of urban entertainment and public amusements. Scholars such as Erenberg, Nasaw, Chauncey and Gilfoyle do a remarkable job of describing life in the late nineteenth-century male-only districts where men spent money on brothels, saloons, dime museums, concert saloons, variety shows, minstrel shows, billiards and gambling.(12) Chauncey’s 1994 book on the emergence of gay culture in New York City is doubly insightful in that it also reveals the degree to which gay male life revolved around the City’s commercial entertainment. However, because male consumption and consumerism are theoretically regarded as not significant, the rich evidence uncovered by labor, men’s, gay and urban historians goes unnoticed. Finally, although these historians tend to study men’s commodified activities to understand particular subcultures (i.e., gay, bachelor, working class, or urban, etc.) rather than to understand the gendered nature of consumption, their important findings do suggest the need to rethink the relationship between masculinity and consumption and consumerism.

Modern Masculinities and Consumerism. Although modern male consumerism is generally overlooked, a few scholars have examined how various recent masculinities were constructed around consumerism. For example, Ehrenreich’s 1983 book insightfully examines how American masculinity became increasingly orientated around hedonistic consumerism from the 1950s on. Barthel’s 1988 book describes how the (middle-class) “new” man which appeared in the United States in the 1980s was largely concerned with hedonistic style and consumer goods. Similarly, Mort’s 1996 book on male shopping and style in Britain traces how these activities became increasingly important to many British men between the 195 Os and the 1980s.(13) However, because neither of these scholars connects this consumerism to the long history of male consumerism, their work tends to be ahistorical. Thus this paper aims to historicize such male consumerism by demonstrating that the present-day male love of style, recreation, and consumer goods goes back more than a century.


Surprisingly, the firm consensus among scholars that pre-1930’s male consumption was marginal has been held without the benefit of much empirical evidence. The only empirical evidence cited to my knowledge is the turn-of-the-century marketing industry’s estimates that women comprised between 75-90 percent of the consumer market at various points between 1896 and 1932.(14) However, these estimates are problematic precisely because they refer to those who marketers believed were purchasing goods rather than to those who were ultimately consuming them. For the study of consumption itself, the question of who acquired the goods may be irrelevant.

Furthermore, many of the commodities and services that men consumed such as lodge paraphernalia, uniforms, work-out gear, haircuts, shaves, and theater and saloon spending were not included in what the marketers of the day thought of as “consumer goods” since these expenditures did not ideologically conform to their idea of what consumer goods were (i.e., retail goods purchased by women). The terms “consumption” and “consumerism” are socially constructed concepts; much as the term housework came to refer to the work women do rather than to all non-market household work. What men consumed was almost by definition not “consumption” since it was understood that women were the “consumers.”(15)

To estimate each sex’s consumption of personal and recreational commodities I analyze the 1890 Census of Manufactures to determine the approximate monetary value of the goods consumed by each sex. The Census of Manufactures was chosen because this is the only document which provides a reliable aggregate level accounting of the physical commodities consumed by each sex. Although the Census reflects gross domestic product rather than actual consumption, we know that virtually all of these commodities were consumed by Americans because the U.S. exported few personal or recreational consumer goods in 1890. Moreover, since imports comprised only 6-8 percent of the market in 1890, the Census provides a good approximation of goods consumption in general.(16)

The year 1890 was chosen because it marks a point when the majority of clothing and commodities began to be purchased in the market rather than made at home.(17) Moreover, between 1870 and 1890 enormous increases in the consumption of recreational goods such as toys, games, athletic goods, and fancy articles had already occurred.(18) Most importantly, though, 1890 is a critical base year: much later and we would get into a period that many regard as a pivotal cultural shift in gender and consumption (the early 20th century); much earlier and too much of the economic output would have been produced at home. Finally, the 1890 Census predates the crushing depression which followed the Panic of 1893.

Methods and Data. To date there are evidently no statistics or estimates of the ratio of male to female consumption of non-work commodities. While such estimates could be fairly accurately acquired today through consumer spending surveys, this method is obviously not applicable to the 1890s. However, because men’s and women’s styles of dressing, recreating, and socializing were so dramatically different from each other during the 1890s, a number of experimental and inferential methods can be used to estimate the probable consumption ratio between the sexes.

The 1890 Census data lend themselves to the reliable estimation of sex-consumption ratios for clothing since they specify most clothing as male or female. Thus, in cases such as “furnishing goods, men’s” or “clothing, women’s,” I attributed 100 percent of the consumption of these goods to the specified sex. For those clothing goods which could be utilized by either sex, such as woolen, worsted and cotton goods, I used the more detailed commodity breakdowns and descriptions to estimate ratios. For example, the Census of Manufactures (COM) subdivides woolen and worsted goods into the sex-specific categories of “men’s wear,” “women’s wear,” “shawls,” and “jeans.”(19)

For goods not identified by the Census as belonging to a particular sex (i.e., watches, shoes, hats, cosmetics, furs, sporting goods, tobacco and alcohol), I used the historical literature and the newspaper and magazine advertisements of the day to: 1) decide whether each sex consumed such a good, and 2) estimate the percentage of the good each sex would have probably consumed (see Appendix #15-17). Historical studies of Victorian fashion, jewelry, music, sports, fitness, and leisure were used to estimate each sexes’ consumption of various goods, and since magazine and newspaper advertisements provide additional information as to who uses each good, I consulted them also before arriving at my final estimates. However, because advertisements can shape social practice as well as reflect it, consumption ratios were never assessed solely on the basis of the ads, but only in conjunction with the historical literature on each particular item (see Appendix #8, 16, 17, 19 for examples). Thus the reader is advised to consult the Appendix for a full documentation of: 1) how and why the sex ratio of each commodity is calculated as it is, 2) which goods are included in Table 1, and 3) where the data on each good come from.

Table 1 includes only the ready-made commodities utilized by males and females in the direct satisfaction of their own expressive and recreational needs and desires. Expressive goods are items such as clothing, jewelry, body-building equipment, or cosmetics which would allow individuals to define or embellish their presentation of self. Recreational goods are commodities which would normally be consumed during periods of relaxation when one is not engaging in domestic, industrial, or commercial labor. Included here are items such as alcohol, tobacco, sporting goods, and musical instruments. Specifically excluded are goods that mix leisure with work, such as sewing equipment and newspapers. Commodities used to produce goods or services for others (i.e., work tools, hardware, cooking/laundry utensils, baby supplies, curtains, furniture, etc.) are also excluded from this study since they primarily constitute implements of industrial or domestic labor. Consequently, the value of goods consumed in the industrial workplace or business office was not coded as “male” consumption, just as the goods women used to care for their families cannot be viewed as “female” consumption. Thus, by concentrating on the consumption of individuals (rather than that of workers, parents or wives), this analysis controls for the proxy consumption that women undertook for their families by excluding consumption not undertaken for one’s own use.

What is most striking about Table 1 is that the value of men’s clothing (category #1) is nearly 2.5 times larger than that of women’s clothing (category #5). In other words, 71 percent of all ready-made clothing was consumed by males in 1890 – probably because they had to dress for both work and their extensive social lives.(20) These figures are especially reliable since clothing was one of the few items that both the manufacturers and the Census Bureau specifically divided into male and female product. Moreover, because the figures for women’s clothing include the thriving dressmaking industry that fell between ready-made and home-made dresses (i.e., millinery goods/custom work – see Appendix, #5), they represent a good portion of the total clothing worn by women, as well.

Although such figures do not reflect the dresses made by middle-class women at home, such dresses cannot be counted as consumer goods precisely because they were produced at home rather than purchased in the market. In this case, women were producers rather than consumers. However, the raw materials purchased to make such dresses were consumer goods. Because working-class women generally relied on ready-made clothing by 1890 (see endnote 5), women as a group probably made no more than about one third of their clothing at home (worth $91.3 million if store bought). Thus, assuming that the raw materials for the homemade third of women’s clothing cost about 40 percent of what the finished products would cost, women would have only spent about $36.5 million on materials such as thread, silk, buttons and fabric. This means that even after this sum is added to net female consumption, women’s total consumption would only rise by 1.4 percentage points (32.8%-34.2%). In 1890 the market clearly reserved most of its clothing resources and commodities for men rather than for women.


Since men bought most of their clothes off the rack, and the value of clothing comprises such a large proportion of the commodities in Table 1 (37%), overall statistics might exaggerate men’s place in the commercial nexus. However, even after excluding all men’s and women’s clothing from the analysis (categories #1 & 5), men still consumed about 65 percent of the value of all commodities (as opposed to 67 percent when clothing is included). Thus, since the ratio of male-to-female consumption in both cases is virtually identical, this suggests that late-Victorian men probably did consume about twice the value of personal/recreational commodities as women (see Table 1). Moreover, even if these estimates somehow missed a third of all female consumption, the adjusted female portion would still comprise only 44 percent of all consumption. Consequently, any talk about late-Victorian consumption being “principally” or even largely feminine would not appear to be empirically sustainable. In fact, considering that the above estimates do not even reflect men’s substantial expenditures on non-retail goods and consumer services such as fraternal paraphernalia, entertainment costs, barber shops, and tickets to professional sporting events, the size and value of late-Victorian male consumption seems clearly dominant compared with that of women.(21)

Although the list of commodities analyzed does not shed much light on the qualitative aspects of male consumption, a few observations are in order here. While a number of male consumption activities such as smoking and drinking are intuitively obvious, others may surprise the modern reader. For instance, the amount of opulent and stylish fur that late-Victorian men wore (see Appendix, #11) contradicts most current assumptions about Victorian male asceticism. More striking is the fact that men openly used so many cosmetics. According to historian Fenja Gunn, “Victorian m[e]n could blatantly use cosmetics devices . . . [while] women of the day had to disguise any attempts at self-improvement.”(22) Indeed, the historical record shows that late-Victorian men used everything from shaving soaps, aftershave lotions, pomade oils, and hair dyes, to cosmetics for training one’s mustache. And if the contemporary advertisements reflect social practice, then late-Victorian men also consumed skin beautifiers, hair restorers, and cosmetic vaporizers.(23) In effect, the “[n]ew products for men, like toiletries and sports clothes” which Barbara Ehrenreich attributed to the 1950s were already in use by the late-Victorian era (see below, discussion of sports clothing). At any rate, the above analysis clearly suggests that late-Victorian white men were hardly the stridently ascetic beings that separate spheres historians presumed them to be.

Historical budget studies provide further evidence that late-Victorian male consumption was enormous (compared with that of women). For example, Louise More’s 1907 study of the spending habits of 200 working-class families in New York City from 1903-5 indicates that the lion’s share of most families’ disposable income went to husbands. Using More’s figures, it would appear that about 11 percent of the average working family’s disposable income went to the husband’s drinking, while another 16 percent was reserved for his personal spending money.(24) Thus working-class men appear to have spent about 27 percent of their family’s disposable income on drinking and socializing alone, and even more if one includes the money spent on lodge and benefit society dues ($5-$120 per family annually).(25) In light of the striking disparity between men’s and women’s personal spending money, then, one can only conclude that non-rural, late-Victorian white men must have been a major consuming constituency.

At this point, some readers might ask why it matters who ultimately consumed most goods if they were purchased by women. Women’s consumerism is an important way in which women exercised agency in a highly constraining gender order.(26) Nonetheless, the next several sections of this paper show that preDepression white men consumed many commodities that were not purchased by women, and that many, if not most, of their homo-social leisure activities and organizations revolved around consumption itself, since consumerism was an important social activity for men.


New Sports, New Equipment, New Clothes. The literature on sports and masculinity has largely viewed late-Victorian sports as a vehicle for mediating the crisis of masculinity which occurred among white-collar workers by promoting competition, militarism, character development, and a “strenuous” masculinity.(27) Current scholars point out that late-Victorian gender reactionaries such as Henry James and Ernest Thompson Seton (founder of the Boy Scouts of America) promoted sports and fitness as an antidote to the “damnable feminization” and “over-civilization” besetting America’s newly sedentary middle classes.(28) While most reactionaries were primarily opposed to what they saw as the growing “effeminacy” of middle-and upper middle-class American men, some implicitly linked the problem to consumer society itself by stating that athletics substituted “hardiness for effeminacy, and dexterity for luxurious indolence.”(29)

Although it seems undeniable that late-Victorian sports helped white-collar men who no longer owned property or directly ran factories to rejuvenate their flagging sense of masculinity, the capacity of sports to promote consumption and consumer activity has received less attention from historians and sociologists of sport. Exclusive sports like golf, yachting, and tennis have been linked with the conspicuous consumption of the rich, and the indulgent lifestyle of the sporting underworld has been noted, but no one has focused on the ability of sports to promote wide scale, comprehensive consumption among ordinary middle-class men.(30) Thus, in the following section I argue that since so many late-Victorian sports entailed expensive equipment, showy uniforms, fashionable fitness wear, sneakers, and playing and spectator fees, they appear to have promoted festive middle-class male consumption as much as they reinforced an apparently compromised white-collar masculinity.

Body building is a perfect example of the capacity of athletics to promote consumerism. As the muscular ideal for men became increasingly prevalent in the late-nineteenth century, “countless men and boys from good families began exercising as never before . . . [amidst] images of bulging muscles and naked virility.”(31) One study of magazine articles revealed that the most frequently emphasized traits of heroes in the 1890s were their impressive size and strength.(32) What is most notable about such a pursuit, though, is the degree to which its practice depended upon consumer goods. According to Harvey Green’s history of health, fitness and sport in America, at least ten different pieces of work-out equipment were available to the body builder by the 1890s. Enthusiasts would often purchase equipment such as gymnastic crowns, indian clubs, parlor gymnasiums, parlor rowers, health lifts, dumbbells, rings, weight machines, pulleys, and trapezes, or join expensive urban gymnasiums.(33) Of course, middle-class boys and men who merely owned sneakers, shorts and a T-shirt could simply work out at the local YMCA for a fee, but this still constituted a form of consumer activity.(34) Therefore, since body building required access to so much commodified equipment, its practitioners were transformed defacto into consumers.

Numerous other sports and athletic recreations of the period required a similarly high level of consumption as well. Enthusiasts of tennis, golf, croquet, badminton, and ping pong not only had to purchase expensive rackets, balls, or accoutrements, but also had to pay to use the tennis courts and golf courses since there were no public sports facilities at the time. Moreover, the norms of respectability required bourgeois devotees of the above sports to purchase special workout clothes or uniforms.(35) Indeed, an article published in 1901 by the influential physical educator Dudley A. Sargent complained that fashion accounted for the rise and fall of many sports, rather than the other way around.(36)

Baseball is another example of a typically “male” activity which promoted middle-class consumption.(37) In general, late nineteenth-century sports participation was a “pay-to-play” proposition. While working-class men sometimes played baseball in vacant sandlots, baseball diamonds for more organized games had to be rented by the game or purchased by wealthy baseball enthusiasts. And as baseball developed into a spectator sport in the second half of the nineteenth century, admission was charged at professional games. Therefore, the baseball fan of 1890 would have to pay fifty cents to see a National League game, a fee which excluded most working men.(38) Besides admission, many fans also gambled and purchased the liquor that was sold at many stadiums after 1881, and from the late 1880s on, fans could buy ten-cent guide books introducing them to Spalding’s growing line of sporting goods products.(39) Thus, in view of the fact that baseball’s spectators were largely middle-class and male, one could say that baseball was not just a sport but was also an outlet for middle-class male consumption.(40)

Perhaps the clearest example of the ability of sports to promote conspicuous male consumption are the exclusive athletic clubs in late nineteenth-century urban areas. In the New York City area alone, membership in the leading clubs numbered in the thousands, and there were many more such clubs in cities such as Boston, New Orleans, and San Francisco.(41) The best clubs in New York had most of the following: running tracks, gymnasiums, swimming pools, club rooms, dining rooms, bowling alleys, billiard parlors, rifle ranges, Russian and Turkish baths, sleeping rooms, ballrooms, theaters, and the latest in exercise equipment.(42) However, the clubs in Boston, New Orleans, and San Francisco “rivaled the New York clubs in terms of facilities and membership” and sometimes “sponsored exotic and extravagant shows” such as the detailed reconstruction of Greek and Roman games.(43)

For the late-Victorian middle and upper classes, then, engaging in sports and athletics meant engaging in consumption. In fact, since participating in many sports and fitness activities entailed multiple levels of consumption (i.e., equipment, sports clothing, sneakers, tickets, and rental or club fees), such activities transformed their participants into not merely consumers, but comprehensive consumers at that. And, while many non-working-class women did engage in sporting and fitness activities, their involvement (and subsequent consumption) was limited by the variety of sports and the amount of free time that was available to them.(44) Early sports, then, both facilitated and stimulated festive middle- and upper-class male consumption and consumer activity.

Spare no Amenities: Fraternities and Bachelor Club Consumption. Because late-Victorian society was so patriarchal, the canon of respectable bourgeois manliness demanded both property and marriage. Normally, this meant that young middle-class men would leave home for a time to study and then begin their professional lives in the commercial or urban areas of the country. Cut off from their families and most young women, such men often formed informal mutual support systems such as clubs, fraternities, literary and secret societies, and lodges.(45) According to historian Anthony Rotundo’s study of Victorian male youth culture, such homosocial organizations “grew up like weeds throughout the nineteenth century . . . [and] flourished in any place with a concentration of young men – cities, towns, colleges.”(46)

These clubs and organizations centered their social activities around domestic and leisure consumption. For example, such organizations rarely got together without enjoying a meal, and many held “elaborate banquets,” frequent drinking parties, and purchased libraries for the use of group members.(47) Other organizations, such as the Naomi Bachelor Club of Stockton, California, and the Owl’s Club of Tucson, Arizona, were noted for their lavish amenities and furnishings. For example, the Naomi Bachelor Club contained a hat rack, crystal tumblers, fancy colored shelf papers, “dainty bits of Dresden china,” a piano, camera, and ice distilled water on draught.(48) And the Owl’s Club, a bachelor home/club set up in Tucson in 1886 by a group of Easterners who sought “comfortable living quarters, and fine food,” “decorat[ed] their quarters with paintings, fine furnishings . . . beautiful ornaments . . . [and] hired a housekeeper, and a Chinese cook” to serve “elegant, multi-course meals.” Moreover, “any visitor to the Owl’s Club provided an excuse for an elegant dinner party . . . [consisting of] several courses of oysters and other delicacies . . . pints of wine . . . dessert and champagne.”(49)

Even groups organized around the lofty goal of studying art and literature, such as the many intellectual clubs of late-Victorian Boston and New York, surrounded themselves with the amenities of bourgeois life. For example, St. Botolph’s Club, a “poor man’s club” for intellectuals founded in 1879 in Boston, served “wine, liquors and cigars and whatever [wa]s necessary to eat or drink in social Clubs” and featured an art gallery, a Chickering grand piano, public utilities, and baseball matches with other clubs. And the Club of Odd Volumes, a Boston intellectual club founded in 1887, had an outing “[i]n their very first year of existence” in which they:

were met by a horse-drawn barge . . . inspected the library and collection of art [of the Hollingsworth estate in Mattapan] and were regaled with a supper consisting . . . of “bivalves, deliciously cooked, salads palatable and creams most delicate, while crystal sparkled occasionally from a quiet corner with its tempting contents.”(50)

Fraternal lodges and secret societies comprised one of the most important bases for male socializing in late nineteenth-century America.(51) According to the Cyclopedia of Fraternities, 40 percent of all males over 20 years of age held membership in at least one secret society in 1896.(52) While fraternal lodges are not usually associated with rampant consumerism, the rituals and entertainment of many fraternities were so dependent upon lavish consumption that they acted as another important stimulant to middle-class male consumption.

In her path-breaking study of freemasonry in the United States, Lynn Dumenil studied the case history of Live Oak (masonic) Lodge No. 61 in Oakland, California.(53) Dumenil’s study is of more than local importance since fraternal orders universally subscribed to the masonic practice of initiations and symbolic dramas.(54) To begin with, in order to join Live Oak Lodge between 1880 and 1920, a man would have to pay annual dues of between $6-12, an initiation fee of between $50-100, and considerably more for the additional degrees of membership. Initiations and ceremonial rituals were quite ornate, and routinely required such goods as top hats, jewels, special seats, lambskin aprons, horses, glittering swords, drill corps uniforms, sashes, plumes, knight’s dress, double-barred crosses, white gloves, embroidered banners, and numerous medals and regalia.(55) In fact, the demand for lodge regalia was so extensive that numerous companies existed in the late nineteenth century to meet such a demand.(56)

Such festive consumption was hardly limited to the freemasons, since the Improved Order of Red Men (one of the largest fraternal orders of the late-nineteenth century) made extensive use of bows and arrows, knives, tomahawks, ropes, tents, shepherd’s robes, sandals and gongs during their ceremonies.(57) Moreover, many lodges served alcoholic beverages, and/or customary “sumptuous dinners,” while others adjourned to nearby taverns and restaurants after meeting.(58) Indeed, an 1897 article in the North American Review estimated that the average lodge member spent $50 a year on dues and insurance, and $200 over the course of his life on initiation fees, uniforms, ritualistic paraphernalia, banquets, travel, and gifts for retiring officers.(59) However, since the “secrets” of the fraternal order were protected by a “pledge more binding in its nature than perhaps any known to man,” such consumption evaded the moral scrutiny and condemnation of a patriarchal society that vociferously condemned the “extravagant” spending of its women.(60)

In sum, although most of the above late nineteenth-century men’s organizations certainly amounted to more than mere excuses for consuming goods together, such groups did provide middle- and upper middle-class Victorian men with excellent opportunities to consume and spend outside of the purview of women. Such lavish consumption was organized and carried out without the services of women shoppers (although women probably cooked or cleaned at many of these clubs). Thinking of women as society’s “proxy consumer” elides the enormous consumer activity that middle-class white men engaged in directly.


For at least the past century, the American working class appears to have taken considerable pleasure and pride in the flamboyant and ostentatious display of goods. Working-class families generally rejected the simple furniture styles of the middle class for plush Victorian furniture, and working women in turn-of-the-century New York took great pains to adorn their apartments with cheap lace curtains, bric-a-brac, gaudily colored religious prints, portraits, and advertising posters.(61) Moreover, when it came to fashion, numerous European visitors to the U.S. reported that the American workers of the 1890s preferred stylish and flamboyant dress rather than the quality and durability prized by British workers.(62) As the next section will show, the working-class taste for showy consumption was not limited to women, but was shared by urban working men, and to a lesser extent, African American men.

B’hoys, Bloods, Mashers and Dudes: A Stylish New Working Class. During the second half of the nineteenth century three major developments occurred which transformed the way gender was performed by working-class people: 1) young people began to receive their own pay checks, 2) fashion became mass-produced and readily available, and 3) dazzling commercial entertainment areas sprouted up in the major urban areas. Young working women began to militantly assert their own brand of class and gender pride by boldly rejecting middle-class styles of femininity in favor of gaudy colors, outrageous accessories, and (relatively) low skirts and dresses which accentuated their hips and thighs.(63) By the 1890s this style became common in the urban areas, as “rowdy” and “factory girls” rebelliously appropriated the cultural style of the prostitute (i.e, cosmetics, sleeveless dresses, gaudy colors) for their own use.(64)

Meanwhile, young working men also used fashion to express their new personas. For example, in mid nineteenth-century New York City, B’hoys, or dandified street toughs, began to prowl the Bowery in search of women, fights, commercial entertainment and alcohol.(65) According to the Knickerbocker socialite Abram Dayton, “[t]hese ‘B’hoys’ . . . were the most consummate dandies of the day,” and paraded about with lavishly greased, long front locks, black, straight, broad-brimmed hats, turned-down shirt collars, black frock-coats with skirts below the knee, embroidered shirts, tight pantaloons, ever present cigars, and “a profusion of jewelry as varied and costly as the b’hoy could procure.”(66) Similarly, urban street gangs such as New York’s largely Irish “Dead Rabbits” also “promenad[ed] in distinctive dress . . . [during] their leisure hours,” and Walt Whitman described the manual workers seated in the pit of a Broadway theater as “well dress’d . . . young and middle-aged men.”(67)

By the 1880s, then, a flamboyantly consumerist working-class strand of masculinity emerged as large numbers of working (and lower middle-class) men began adopting behavior that had previously been confined to the old sporting crowd and theatrical world of gamblers, libertines and dandies. Such men adopted a sexually assertive style, and according to contemporary observers “hover[ed] everywhere, from the marketplace to the meetinghouse, and from the promenade to the theater.”(68) Some described the masher as a “barber-and-tailor-shop decoration,” and the novelist Theodore Dreiser noted that the masher prized “[g]ood clothes . . . without which he was nothing,” and had a “keen desire for the feminine . . . [and] an insatiable love of variable pleasure.”(69) Furthermore, such working-class male dandy-ism was not limited to white men, since the New York Tribune reported in 1895 that on African Broadway:

[there is a] daily promenade of gayly dressed girls and sprig young colored men. . . . The favorite dress of the young men “in style” is a glossy silk hat, patent leathers, a black suit with a sack coat of remarkable shortness, and a figured waistcoat. Paste diamonds are de riguer.

Most importantly, though, these African American men were not part of New York’s black elite, who lived on 53rd Street and dressed like bourgeois whites, but rather had “only a dollar or two standing between them and starvation most of the time.”(70)

This is not to say that all working-class men dressed like the masher, B’Hoy, or stylish African American. Working-class dandies, or “dudes,” seem to have primarily inhabited the major urban areas, and appear to have been a relatively youthful lot. However, since the masher’s presence has been described as ubiquitous in the large cities, we can infer that the stylish, working-class young man was hardly a rare sight in the 1890s.(71) Thus, became a significant number of late-Victorian working-class men expressed their masculinity through stylish clothing, fashion, jewelry, and smart hairstyles, it would appear that the working-class taste for ostentatious consumption was not limited to women and girls. This no doubt helps explain the high proportion of male expenditure on clothing and personal goods seen in the census figures.

Fraternal Lodges, Cellar Clubs, Saloons, Burlesque. While masher fashion may have had less appeal for older or married working-class men, such men could satisfy their taste for spectacle and extravagant consumption by joining a fraternal order. Since working-class men made up 25 percent of the masonic lodges, and up to 50 percent of many non-masonic fraternal orders in 1891, we can assume that they comprised between 30-35 percent of the 6,000,000 fraternity members in 1896.(72) In other words, nearly two million working-class men may have taken part in the rituals and ceremonies of the fraternal order in 1896 alone.(73)

Besides spending money on initiation and the three to four required levels of rank, working-class lodge members also had to purchase the uniforms and regalia that corresponded with each rank.(74) Furthermore, many of the more working-class lodges created special elaborately costumed Uniformed Ranks to march in public parades as drill corps. Such drill teams and parade units were typically outfitted with helmets, gauntlets, epaulets, chevrons, ribbons, ornaments, and swords, rifles, or axes, and the official Pythian Manual of 1887 specified that drill corps officers must wear:

black silk folding chapeau trimmed with two black ostrich plumes . . . a gold chapeau tassel on each peak . . . a black silk rosette . . . surmounted by a strap with gold embroidery . . . a silver bullion lily . . . a gold emblematic button . . . [and] black silk ribbon sashing . . . showing the gilt ornament on the right side.(75)

The Knights of Pythias were hardly unique, since orders such as the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Foresters, and the Knights of Columbus established showy public drill teams of their own which “offered men who were attracted by elaborate regalia . . . an opportunity to indulge their fantasies to the limit.”(76)

It would seem that a major difference between the middle- and working-class fraternal orders was their willingness to display fancy costumes and consumer styles in public. While the middle-class masonic orders discretely conducted private dress-up and dinner parties, working-class lodges preferred to publicly display their ornate drill uniforms and paraphernalia, and by implication, their consumer prowess itself. Such flamboyant displays suggest that working-class men linked the public display of consumption with class and gender pride.

Besides lodges, working-class men spent their free time on an assortment of other commodified recreational activities. For example, working-class saloon goers not only bought one another drinks in the saloons; they also spent money there on lunch, billiards, prostitutes, and sports betting.(77) Billiard games alone cost a nickel a game per player.(78) Moreover, working men in urban areas often hung out at special billiard halls and attended bawdy burlesque and minstrel shows.(79) Even young working men without money had commodified amusements since most Catholic temperance societies provided free non-drinking alternatives to the saloon. Indeed, their “well-appointed clubrooms [had] . . . newspapers, domino sets, gymnasiums, card tables, libraries, and even pool tables.” And these clubs usually offered concerts, minstrel shows, excursions, coffee parties, and sports teams, while some even had paramilitary auxiliaries with elaborate uniforms and drilling routines.(80) In effect, temperance societies subsidized working men’s recreational consumption. Regardless of who paid the bill for their recreational commodities, working-class men in the urban areas engaged in recreational consumption.

Young, single, working-class men who were not involved in lodges or temperance halls often created their own organizations to meet their social and recreational needs. In the 1890s young men’s clubs appeared “in greater numbers than ever before.” According to Herbert Asbury, these clubs arose largely due to the “patronage of the political associations,” and were a “feature of life in the congested tenement districts.”(81) It is unclear how many of these clubs existed in the 1890s, but in the 1920s the New York area had about 500 such clubs, and in 1934 between six to ten thousand youths in the East Side of Manhattan alone were connected to cellar clubs.(82)

Typically, these clubs were set up in basements, the upper floors of storefronts, in halls, the back rooms of saloons, or wherever the rent was cheapest.(83) Organized as pleasure, athletic, or cellar clubs, they provided young men who lived in extremely crowded tenements with a private place to be with their friends or to entertain women. Although few of these social clubs attained the affluence of the average middle-class men’s club, the young working men who ran them labored to make them as attractive and domestic as possible. For example, such clubs were painted and often equipped with sofas, fake fireplaces, colored light bulbs, and showers. Many of the better off clubs had individual mail boxes, dishes, silverware, ice boxes, pianos, heavy brocade drapes, large mirrors, and libraries, while some featured laundry facilities.(84) Moreover, club members did not merely eat in their clubs, but occasionally threw stag or drinking parties, and rented strip teasers or prostitutes as entertainment.(85) Thus, like the middle-class bachelors and university students referred to earlier, young working men created social clubs which simultaneously provided the comforts of home and allowed them to engage in commodified recreation.


Male-Only Entertainment. Because working- and middle-class men so rarely socialized together in the late nineteenth century, their consumption patterns have been discussed in separate sections. However, one popular urban pastime did successfully draw men of both classes: the male-only entertainment and amusement industry. Male-only entertainment consisted of establishments such as concert saloons, cheap variety theaters, gambling halls, brothels, peep shows, dime museums, and the “red light” districts found in “[e]very major metropolitan and even some good-sized towns.”(86) Most importantly, though, all were off limits to most women, and most attracted both working- and middle-class men.

Concert saloons and cheap variety theaters were barrooms or taverns which offered free or cheap entertainment in adjacent back rooms, halls, or theaters. Generally located near mining camps, urban areas, and in red light districts, such establishments combined singing, dancing, drinking, gambling, and risque “girly” entertainment with prostitution.(87) The entertainment consisted of local performers singing and dancing, acrobats, scantily clad female vocalists, absurd farces, and variety, burlesque, and minstrel shows.(88) However, since the only women normally present were waitresses, performers, or prostitutes, such establishments have been described by historians and contemporary observers as drawing exclusively male audiences.(89)

Another point historians agree upon is that these concert saloons and variety theaters were not exclusively working class in clientele, but usually drew roughly equal numbers of working- and middle-class men. Nasaw attributes this to the fact that such shows were neither cheap, located near most working-class neighborhoods, nor conducted in the native languages of most immigrants. Others point out that many of the patrons were out of town middle-aged men.(90) Finally, numerous contemporary observers have remarked on how such places drew men from such diverse backgrounds as roughs, laborers, mechanics, salesmen, accountants, judges, politicians and businessmen.(91) Thus, while some of these places did cater to “a more thoroughly upper-class or working-class clientele,” most provided a rare venue for men of different social classes to congregate and spend money together.(92)

Besides the thousands of concert saloons and variety theaters which existed in the late nineteenth-century urban areas, men seeking commodified, homosocial thrills could also go to the peep shows, dime museums, gambling halls, or the red light districts found in most urban areas. At a peep show, or a dime museum, men would pay a dime to view such oddities as freaks, scantily clad women, or female genitalia preserved in glass containers.(93) And because “[v]ariety, burlesque, minstrelsy, and the saloon shaded down to the whorehouse and dance halls of the red-light districts,” most of the above establishments were conveniently located in the same area of the city.(94) Thus such areas can best be characterized as male entertainment districts.

Because such male entertainment districts were usually seen as places of vice by respectable society, many middle-class men who were particularly concerned with their respectability avoided such places. However, they too could publicly recreate at exclusively male clubs since “in the nineteenth century, every hotel and major restaurant . . . had its own luxuriously appointed men’s cafe.”(95) As women’s historians have noted, the downtown areas of most cities had traditionally been the location for men’s clubs and cafes.(96) In fact, some towns, such as Nashville, Tennessee, even had a downtown men’s quarter which featured sport, gambling and liquor places, seven men’s furnishing/clothing stores, three tobacco shops, a number of barber shops, and the Nashville Athletic Club which contained Russian and Turkish baths and choice exercise equipment. Due to the presence of so many gambling and amusement facilities, several loan offices were even located there to provide cash to men who needed more money. Finally, the quarter was fairly upscale, since it was populated mostly by white collar workers and professionals who worked nearby, and was only ruined by the state-wide prohibition legislation of 1909.(97) Male consumption of such services thus provided an important form of male-only consumer activity that studies of consumerism that assume women are the “typical” consumer necessarily overlook.

Men’s Fiction. Although the above examination of men’s consumption largely focuses on public, or group, forms of male consumption, late-Victorian men obviously engaged in commodified amusements at home as well. Studies of nineteenth-century American reading habits indicate that working- and middle-class boys and young men made up a large share of the huge market for lowbrow adventure and dime novel fiction.(98) The primary consumers of such literature were usually boys and young men.(99) Thus an 1879 Atlantic article suggested that while all sorts of working people came into the bookstores for dime novels, “the most ardent class of patron . . . are boys.”(100) Alternatively, William Wallace Cook’s editor disputed this point and advised him not to make the hero too juvenile since, “[t]he stories in the Ten Cent Library are not read by boys alone but usually by young men.”(101)

Whereas working-class boys and men usually read stories dealing with the lives of mechanics and factory life,(102) middle-class boys and men preferred stories which dealt with outdoors adventure or individual self improvement. For example, western novels and wilderness adventure such as Jack London’s Call of the Wild were very popular among young men, as were books about manly heroes such as Paul Bunyan, John Henry, Davey Crockett and Daniel Boone.(103) More mature men could enjoy the hundreds of rags-to-riches books about social mobility by authors such as Horatio Alger. And although women also read a large share of the lowbrow press, such as romance and working women’s novels, it is important to acknowledge men’s reading since most recent scholarly attention has focused on women’s reading.(104)

Men’s Consumption as a Distinct Process of Distribution. It would appear that the recognition of late-Victorian and early twentieth-century male consumption and consumerism may have been obstructed by the manner in which men consumed many goods. Unlike women, who purchased most goods directly from grocers, dry goods, and department stores, men could obtain many of their consumer goods through non-retail outlets such as saloons (drinks, tobacco, billiards), lodges (uniforms, rings, paraphernalia), clubs (books, fancy amenities, trips), athletic clubs and associations (uniforms, equipment, supplies), barbershops (shaves, haircuts), and dime theaters and minstrel shows (tickets and liquor).

This is not to say that men did not do a fair amount of shopping, for even the large department stores devoted quite a few sections to men’s products. For example, as early as 1894 Macy’s department store (in New York City) offered a wide selection of men’s and boy’s clothing and hats, lawn mowers, chest weights, a cigar department, and a “complete” line of fishing tackle and accessories. Men’s products were so lucrative that in the middle of the crushing 1896 depression Macy’s opened up a six story annex “devoted principally to merchandise of special interest to men and boys: clothing, furnishings, and shoes . . . harness[es] and ‘horse goods,’ sporting goods, and bicycles.”(105)

It is important to note, however, that extensive men’s shopping at department stores between 1890 and 1930 generally only happened when the stores located their men’s sections close to an exit.(106) As a trouble-shooting study of a department store in 1920 found, “men preferred to shop quickly and objected to walking through the main aisles which would bring them into the areas filled with women.”(107) Other industry observers noted that men preferred shopping in specialty stores rather than in department stores.(108) Thus, pre-Depression men appeared to be willing to shop as long as they could do so under gender-segregated conditions.

Because men often acquired consumer goods in a different manner from women (i.e., as services or at specialty stores), a large degree of their consumption escaped the public scrutiny of turn-of-the-century marketers, critics and gender reactionaries. And while working-class saloon going and gambling were criticized by middle-class reformers and religious figures,(109) to the extent that male consumption avoided being excessively identified with the working class it generally escaped public comment or criticism.

In sum, the above examination of men’s leisure activities, modes of expression, and homo-social culture suggests that many, if not most, of the leisure activities and social organizations of pre-Depression, non-rural, American white men revolved around the consumption of goods. One might even say that such men were engaged in group, or “organizational” consumption (i.e., as clubs, lodges, athletic teams, etc.). At any rate, it is hard to imagine many men’s leisure activities that did not involve substantial amounts of consumption. Thus, the remaining question is: if pre-Depression men were such a major consuming constituency, why have consumption and consumerism been characterized as so decidedly feminine?

The Social Construction of the Concepts “Consumerism” and “Consumer Goods.” Victoria de Grazia’s 1996 essay on the changing meanings of the term consumption suggests an approach.(110) In the pre-industrial era, consumption had originally meant “to waste,” “to devour,” or “to use up.” As knowledge about the national wealth became increasingly necessary, though, political arithmeticians began to distinguish between the manufacturing and the use of goods via the antonymic concepts of “production” and “consumption.” However, because during the industrial revolution all human activity came to be evaluated in terms of its economic productivity, the labor market became the ideal-typical site of production, whereas the home became “the” site for consumption. And because consumption was never conceptualized as a discrete problem (as production was), the household became “in theory a mere receptacle for commodities.”(111) Therefore, since women were left with the job of shopping and caring for the family, it became increasingly common to view women as “consumers.”

While the nineteenth-century division of labor and its nascent breadwinner ideology did encourage people to associate men with productive wage labor, and women with domestic consumption, these two forces alone do not appear entirely responsible for the turn-of-the-century tendency to define women as “consumers” and “consumption” as a thoroughly feminine activity. Such a development seems to be more the product of a national, public discourse of heterosexual masculinity and its corollary campaign by early-twentieth century marketers and consumption promoters to convince the public that consumption was a woman’s true vocation, and that consumers, in turn, were women.

As Kathy Peiss found in her study of makeup and gender, the century-old discourse of heterosexual masculinity strenuously denied the male use of cosmetics by calling men’s grooming products toiletries rather than cosmetics. Consequently, toiletries and cosmetics developed as separate industries, with the former being sold by barbershops, soap makers and razor manufacturers, and the latter by beauty shops, perfumeries and pharmaceutical companies.(112) A very similar process took place with consumer goods, in which whatever commodities that women purchased and controlled were considered to be “consumer goods,” whereas whatever goods or services that men purchased generally fell under the category of “expenditures” rather than consumer goods. For example, the turn-of-the-century studies of working-class family budgets typically refer to the things that men spent money on, such as tobacco, alcohol, clubs, and lodge dues and paraphernalia, as “expenditures” or “sundries” rather than as consumer goods. Thus Horowitz reproduces 1875/1918 budget studies which list working-class husbands’ expenditures on tobacco, liquor, carfare, lodges, clubs, and societies, but creates no indexed category for “men as consumers” nor specifically discusses the subject of male consumption.(113) On the other hand, the category “women-as-consumers” is indexed on ten separate pages, and women’s consumption is discussed throughout the book.

Similarly, because sports and athletics have been so heavily promoted by the discourse of heterosexual masculinity, the commodities that men used while engaging in these activities (i.e., balls, uniforms, running shoes, gyms, rackets and golf clubs) have generally been viewed as props in the rituals of militaristic training rather than as products which transform their participants into consumers (surely they are both). An ideological thread running from the cult of strenuous masculinity to the recent sociology of sports points to sports as primarily a training ground for hegemonic and/or militaristic masculinity (see endnote 27).

Nor have the male commercial entertainment and red-light districts often been viewed as sites or forms of consumer culture. Such activities have long been viewed by moralists and scholars as components of an underworld, vice-laden, or “bachelor” subculture (see above section on labor, men’s, and urban history). Yet if such commercial entertainment and services are not a part of consumer culture, than what is consumer culture after all? Like the toiletries vs. cosmetics dichotomy, then, the gendered view of consumerism magically transforms the leisure activities of most pre-Depression American men into something other than consumer activity.

Gender and the Advertising Subject of 1895-1930. According to the accepted wisdom on gender and advertising, the target of advertisers in the early twentieth century was almost always female. Marchand’s study of American advertising between 1920 and 1940 suggests that “the overwhelmingly male advertising elite [perceived] that it was engaged primarily in talking to masses of women,” and Bowlby describes early advertising as a “seduction of women by men, in which women would be addressed as yielding objects to the powerful male subject forming . . . their desires.”(114) According to Damon-Moore, the marketing establishment had grown so attached to the compelling idea of the female consumer that they refused to advertise in any magazine that primarily attempted to appeal to men as consumers.(115) Although these three studies do marshal up considerable evidence to support their arguments, all are methodologically flawed in that nearly all the ads they cite are taken from either women’s or general interest magazines, thereby overlooking the important data found in early men’s magazines.

For example, Marchand draws 28% of his sample of advertisements from women’s magazines, 55% from general interest or literary magazines read by both sexes, 8% from the business periodical Fortune, and the remaining 9% from advertising journals which relied heavily on women’s magazine advertisements for much of their revenue (i.e., Printer’s Ink).(116) Excluded from his study are the numerous sports and recreation magazines which were targeted to consuming males. In effect, his sampling methodology is a priori disposed to support the argument that women were overwhelmingly the main target of advertisers. Moreover, because the male-targeted ads that Marchand does reprint are mostly for expensive commodities such as automobiles and life insurance, the reader is left with the impression that men were rarely portrayed as consumers of smaller ticket items by magazine advertisers.

To demonstrate that pre-Depression men were commonly appealed to as consumers in their own right, the following section examines the advertisements in magazines such as Outing, Forest & Stream, and Field & Stream in the period between 1895 and 1925. I show that such ads were explicitly targeted to male consumers, and then discuss why such advertisements have not received much scholarly attention.

Although the above magazines printed ads which were directed toward men as early as 1895, it is not until around 1905 that such ads became both copious and explicitly designed to appeal to men.(117) For instance, the March 18, 1905 issue of Forest & Stream carried an ad for “Club Cocktails” which showed two men enjoying cocktails together at a restaurant table, and another ad for “Pond’s Extract” which claimed to be strong enough for a man’s pain (pp. vi, vii).

The April 1906 issue of Outing Magazine featured more than twenty-seven ads which were obviously intended for men, such as racing tires, tobacco, beer, and camping, fishing, and hunting supplies, and most of the ads were explicitly targeted to men. For example, one “Postum Coffee” ad featured a man hanging from a coffee cup and recommended itself to “those who appreciate strength and health” (p. 129), while a “Gillette Razor Blade” ad described itself as made of a “steel of neolithic hardness” (p. 135). Another ad praised “President Suspenders” for allowing men the freedom to move about without worrying about losing their pants (p. 142), and an ad for “Deviled Ham” described itself as ideal “for the hungry (male) camper and fisherman” (p. 161). Numerous ads for underwear, men’s hosiery, and coat shirts showed happy men wearing their products (pp. 157, 180, 187), while tire ads often showed excited men “racing” down a hill in a sports car (p. 143). Two more memorable ads, though, were one for “Makaroff Cigarets,” which was marketed “To Men Who Are Accustomed To Cutting Coupons” (p. 165), and another for “Grapenuts Cereal” which featured a close up of a huge, muscular, male bicep (p. 199).

By 1916, Field & Stream magazine had at least 30 pages of advertisements per monthly issue which sold everything from hunting, fishing and camping equipment to foods, tobacco, beer, razor blades, clothing, phonographs, cameras, boats and automobiles. Many of these ads were quite gendered, as in the case of the June 1916 inside cover-page ad for “Fatima Cigarettes,” which were allegedly chosen by “men who win success by clear thinking,” and a May 1916 ad for a fishing book which declared that “Every Red-Blooded Man Should Read this Book” (p. 103). More remarkable, though, was a July 1916 “Gillette Razor Blade” ad which urged men to shave their underarms on a regular basis for hygiene and comfort (p. 323), and a “Piper Chewing Tobacco” ad which offered overtaxed (male) brainworkers “poise and soothing, helpful comfort” (June 1916, p. 223). Such ads carried over into the 1920s, where one could see ads for hairdressing lotions, stomach-shrinking girdles for the man who found his “waistline too big,” and numerous ads for “Justrite” and “Coleman” camp stoves which portrayed men cooking breakfast for their families and fellow male campers.(118)

Male-targeted ads were hardly limited to men’s magazines, though, since general interest magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post (SEP) could have a surprisingly large number of its ads targeted to male consumers. Thus the July 7, 1906 SEP contained twenty ads explicitly targeted to men, five ads explicitly targeted to women, while the remainder of the ads made neither a pictorial nor editorial reference to either sex.(119) As for the July 4, 1925 issue, 39% of all ads were targeted to men, 16% were targeted to women, and the rest (42%) referred to neither sex. In other words, male consumers were targeted between 2.5 to 5 times more heavily than were female consumers. Therefore, if these issues are even moderately representative of the rest of the 1900-1930 issues, then it would appear that the ads in the SEP may have targeted male consumers more than they did female consumers.

Although the above study of advertising is not extensive enough to allow for sweeping generalizations about the degree to which each sex was targeted by advertisers, it does uncover enough evidence to suggest that early twentieth-century advertisers were not addressing a primarily female audience. Thus an important question becomes why have so many scholars missed such data and gone on to describe the advertising (and consuming) audience as “feminine”?

In the case of scholars such as Marchand and Bowlby, one can only assume that the notion of the pre-Depression consumer as feminine had become so entrenched ideologically that little need was felt to fully examine men’s role as consumers. After all, a mountain of evidence in the form of early twentieth-century marketing journals, magazine articles, and recent women’s history collectively testified to the “fact” that women were society’s main consumers until some point in the mid-twentieth century. Consequently, the remaining problem is to trace the process whereby women were ideologically transformed into society’s consumers.

The Campaign to Transform Women into “the Consumers.” The publicizing of the idea that consuming was women’s work, and that consumers were, in turn, women, can be traced back to three groups of people who made money by selling goods to early twentieth-century women: advertisers, marketers, and women’s magazine editors. When marketers noticed that a majority of department store and dry goods shoppers were female they attempted to capitalize on this observation by: 1) trying to convince certain manufacturers and retailers that appealing to women was the surest way to sell their goods, and 2) developing a gendered advertising which portrayed consumers as women and played upon their duties as the family’s purchasing agent.

In order to attract clients and business, marketers of the goods that women often bought (i.e., clothing, foodstuffs, detergents, makeup, etc.) began running articles and advertisements in trade journals and general interest magazines which claimed that the best way to sell goods was by marketing them directly to women. Between 1900 and 1910 numerous articles appeared in the Saturday Evening Post which noted how much women purchased and offered advice on how to boost sales by manipulating women into buying.(120) The Emerson B. Knight market research firm ran an ad in Printer’s Ink which boldly claimed that “[t]he proper study of mankind is man . . . but the proper study of markets is women.”(121) Christine Frederick even published a full-length book in 1929 on the subject for the industry entitled Selling Mrs. Consumer.(122)

While many advertisers and marketers sought to convince the public that shopping and consumption were women’s work, women’s magazine editors and publishers directed a similar campaign toward the marketing industry. Since women’s magazines could best boost profits by increasing advertising revenue, they aggressively sought to sell their space by running ads of their own which extolled the power of the female consumer in marketing journals such as Printer’s Ink (PI). In the 1920s and 30s, hundreds of women’s magazine advertisements appeared in PI which claimed that women purchased most goods in America and that such magazines reached the largest number of consumers in America. For example, one advertisement for the Farmer’s Wife magazine claimed that American farm women “actually buy or influence a majority of the food, clothing and household equipment in America,” and an ad for a consortium of Canadian women’s magazines claimed that their magazines “reach an average of 1 in 4 of all homes in Canada.”(123)

Sometimes, these ads would specifically appeal to the ego of male advertisers and marketers. For instance, Redbook magazine ran a series of provocative 1933 ads in which they superimposed the shadow of a man over a nude women in a bathtub accompanied by the following text, “the influence of the male in determining the purchases of the female is conceivable even in personal matters of beauty culture.” McCall’s even ran a 1937 ad in Advertising Age stating that “categorically . . . man is always the producer . . . woman, the consumer.”(124) Because so much of the 1920s and early 1930s advertising space in marketing journals was paid for by women’s magazines, then, advertisers and marketers were constantly “reminded” of the enormity and importance of the female consumer.

The articles and editorials in women’s magazines also played an important role in linking femininity with consumerism. The Ladies’ Home Journal (LHJ) was the first periodical in the United States to explicitly discuss, represent, and editorialize about gender roles to a large, national audience.(125) In fact, Edward Bok’s monthly editorial page (from 1890 on) consisted of a vigorous, condescending campaign to define women’s roles for them. Not surprisingly, one of his longest and most emphatic editorials deals with the relationship between gender and shopping. As Bok declares, while for women:

shopping . . . is a sort of regular diet . . . a man takes shopping only in one way just as he does house-hunting or hiring a servant. And ira man is at all reasonable, one shopping tour is about all he wants in a lifetime.(126)

Thus, the LHJ officially declares that shoppers are women, and that shopping is a decidedly unmasculine activity. More importantly, though, by consistently portraying the shoppers in its advertisements as women, and by carrying numerous articles on women’s work as consumers, the LHJ worked hard to advance the “twin notions that women were the primary consumers for their families and in the culture at large, and that women were primarily consumers.”(127)

In sum, a sort of joint-partnership existed between the trade journals which marketed women’s goods (i.e., Dry Goods Economist, Printer’s Ink) and the publishers of women’s magazines to promote the idea that the best way to sell goods was by appealing to female shoppers. Consequently, future research needs to be done on why the publishers of men’s magazines did not attempt to sell themselves to the marketing journals before the 1930s in the way that women’s magazines had always done so. For example, the first men’s magazine to market its consuming audience to Printer’s Ink was Esquire, which ran two remarkable ads in 1933 which announced to the marketing world that “Esquire Has Made a Study of Men” and has “Sort[ed] Out Those Men Who Spend.”(128) It is interesting to note that if pre-1930s men’s magazines had sold their audiences to marketing journals as women’s magazines had been doing since the late 1890s, then consumerism would probably not have been defined as a primarily feminine enterprise.(129)


The evidence presented in this paper suggests that American men consumed about twice as many recreational and leisure goods as women and spent about 30 percent of the family’s disposable income in doing so. It also suggests that male consumption and consumerism were neither marginal nor dependent upon women. Non-rural, late-Victorian, white men appear to have spent considerable free time consuming numerous goods and services. It would be inaccurate, though, to think of either men or women as the “primary” consumers. Rather, it makes more sense to think of men as the primary consumers of certain goods and services (i.e., commercialized leisure, entertainment, and recreation) and women as the “primary” consumers of domestic and family goods. Unfortunately, the latter category has received the bulk of scholarly attention.

While it is clear that pre-Depression white men were major consumers, little is known about their actual attitudes and feelings about shopping and consumerism. An examination of the diaries, memoirs, and letters of pre-Depression men would probably reveal when men began to think of themselves as “consumers.” Such research would also help determine whether there were so few turn-of-the-century male kleptomaniacs merely because men spent less time in department stores or because they felt ambiguous about shopping in the first place?(130) Finally, a more extensive content analysis of early twentieth-century advertisements would help reveal the degree to which marketers courted each sex. This would provide additional evidence of the degree to which pre-Depression men participated in consumer culture.

This article takes issue with the way historians and sociologists have viewed late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century consumption and shows how studies that view consumption and consumerism as women’s work inevitably obscure the actual extent of pre-Depression male consumption. This is not simply a matter for historians, though, as a good deal of the current sociological research on contemporary consumption and consumerism in the United States still views consumerism as a feminine activity. The fact that only minor attention is paid to contemporary male consumers suggests that sociologists still associate consumerism with women. And because no one has produced any figures which indicate that women actually do outspend or outconsume today’s men, the disinterest in current male consumerism reinforces the notion that consumption and consumerism are basically feminine activities. Until the male consumer becomes an object of widespread study, consumerism and consumption will remain associated with women and femininity, and the ideology of separate spheres will continue to distort history and sociology’s view of women, men, and consumerism.


Note: Since nearly all commodity value data come from either the 1890 Abstract of the Eleventh Census or the 1890 Report on Manufacturing Industries in the United States, to save space I abbreviate the former as AEC and the latter as RMI.(131)

1. All men’s clothing, furnishings & tailored goods: consists of “clothing, men’s” (AEC, p. 146); “furnishing goods, men’s” (AEC, p. 148; i.e., neckties, shirts, underwear, and linen bosoms, etc.;(132) “shirts and pants” (RMI, p. 51; AEC, p. 155); and “jeans, kerseys, and linseys” (RMI, p. 46), which the RMI described as men’s pants (p. 51).

2. Liquor & Alcohol: consists of “liquors, distilled,” “liquors, malt,” and “liquors, vinous” (AEC, p. 151). Since the U.S. Census indicated that 5.05 males/1.02 females died from alcoholism in 1890, I attributed 80% of all alcohol consumption to males.(133)

3. Boots & shoes: includes all finished boots and shoes, whether “factory product,” “rubber,” or from “custom work and repairing” (AEC, p. 144). Each sex was attributed a 50% consumption rate since the ratio of male to female shoe production in 1899 (the earliest date available) was virtually equal.(134)

4. Tobacco & pipes: includes “pipes, tobacco” (AEC, p. 154), “tobacco, chewing, smoking, and snuff,” and “tobacco, cigars and cigarettes” (p. 156). According to various historians, a small number of New York society women began to smoke in public places in 1907, but working-class women did not experiment with smoking until the 1910s.(135) Consequently I attributed only 5% of tobacco consumption to women, a figure designed to catch “closet” female smoking.

5. All women’s clothing, millinery & custom work: consists of “clothing women’s, dressmaking,” “clothing women’s, factory product” (AEC, p. 146), “millinery and lace goods,” “millinery, custom work” (p. 152), “woven shawls of wool or worsted,” and “knit shawls” (RMI, p. 46). According to Nystrom, millinery garments were “generally sold and worn by women,” and according to Boehn, the use of lace was discontinued by men after the French revolution.(136)

6. Hosiery & knit goods: (AEC, p. 149). Each sex was allotted 50% consumption since knit goods include everything from men’s vests, trousers, union suits, and sports jerseys to lady’s vests, combinations, bonnets, scarves and gloves, while hosiery refers to all “knitted coverings for the legs,” including “men’s hose and half-hose, ladies hose, children’s socks, golf hose, elastic sockings, opera hose, etc.”(137)

7. Hats/caps/gloves/mittens: includes “hats and caps, not including wool hats” (AEC, p. 149), “wool hats” (RMI, p. 46), and “gloves and mittens” (AEC, p. 149). Both sexes were given an equal consumption rate since both “[h]ats and gloves were crucial to a ‘respectable’ appearance for both men and women,” as period pictures clearly indicate.(138)

8. Musical instruments/materials: contains “musical instruments and materials,” “musical instruments, organs and materials,” and “musical instruments, pianos and materials” (AEC, p. 152). As music was an important part of a Victorian bourgeois woman’s education and because Victorian advertisements for pianos commonly portrayed women at the keyboard or accompanying others on violin, musical commodities can not be viewed as particularly masculine or feminine.(139) Thus I attributed equal consumption to both sexes.

9. Jewelry: (AEC, p. 150). According to Boehn, “Victorian . . . fashion deprived the male sex of the right to wear jewelry, other than watch-chain, tie-pin and ring, but at the same time heaped the woman with jewels.” Consequently, since women also consumed watch-chains, I estimated that males probably consumed no more than 15% of the value of all jewelry.(140)

10. Unisex woolen, worsted & silk goods: includes flannels, cardigan jackets, and fancy knit goods/wristers from RMI (p. 46) as well as “tie silks and scarfs” and “handkerchiefs” (p. 213). This category was deemed unisex since: 1) both sexes carried handkerchiefs in the 19th century;(141) 2) flannels consisted of everything from children s garments, to uniforms and “summer wear of every description” (RMI, p. 52); and 3) silk ties/neckpieces/scarfs were worn by both sexes.(142)

11. Fur goods: (AEC, p. 148). According to Gorsline’s pictorial history of American costume, in the late nineteenth century fur coats, hats and trimmings were worn by everyone from frontiersmen and cowboys to urbane ladies and gentlemen.(143) Moreover, since Gorsline’s illustrations show a relatively even amount of males and females wearing fur goods I attributed equal consumption to each sex.

12. Umbrellas and canes: (AEC, p. 157). According to Boehn, since by the close of the eighteenth century “umbrellas and sunshades . . . had come to be regarded as essential parts of the wardrobe of both sexes,” and the cane became “indispensable” to both men and women of fashion, I attributed equal consumption to both sexes.(144)

13. Corsets: (AEC, p. 146). According to Nystrom, “not a few men began to wear corsets . . . in America” in the 1840s.(145) However, since late-Victorian men prized muscular physiques, I would estimate that no more than 5% of corsets were probably worn by males in 1890.

14. Watches: (AEC, p. 157). Since watches were given to ladies for centuries in Europe and de Vries’ book of Victorian advertisements shows ads for ladies watches I gave each sex equal consumption rates.(146)

15. Perfumery & cosmetics: (AEC, p. 153). The historical record and contemporary advertisements suggest that Victorian men commonly used hair dyes, mustache trainers, shaving soaps, aftershave lotions, skin beautifier and pomade oils.(147) However, since the number of female perfume/cosmetics ads appeared about twice as large as the male ads, I attributed only 30% of all perfume/cosmetic consumption to males.

16. Billiard tables & materials: (AEC, p. 143). In the nineteenth century billiards were largely located in such homosocial areas as working-class saloons, billiard rooms where the sporting crowd smoked, drank and gambled, and in some exclusive men’s clubs. Thus, although billiard tables did appear in some private residences, even if 25% of all households possessed them and half of the females in these households played billiards, females could not have accounted for more than about 6% of billiard consumption (0.25 x 0.5 x 0.5 = 0.0625). Moreover, due to the game’s unsavory association with gambling and vice females appear to have made little use of billiards, so 1 attributed 95% of billiard consumption to males.(148)

17. Sporting goods: (AEC, p. 155). As Green points out, “[i]n the 1890s [female] athletic activities expanded beyond tennis, badminton and croquet to include basketball . . . golf, swimming, cycling, and some track and field . . . [and] rowing and canoeing.”(149) Moreover, since de Vries’ book contains more than eighteen ads featuring women engaged in skating, bicycling, table tennis, ping pong and hunting and working out in parlor gymnasiums, one can not say that Victorian sporting goods were consumed by males but rather by the middle and affluent classes.(150) However, since males had considerably more free time to engage in sports I attributed 60% of such consumption to males.

18. Pocket books: (AEC, p. 154). Since I could find no historical mention or advertisements of Victorian males with pocketbooks I allotted women 100% of pocket book consumption.

Note: “fancy articles, not otherwise specified” (AEC, p. 147) were omitted from this study since they consisted largely of domestic goods such as brushes, fans, mirrors, silverware, cutlery, ornaments, and fancy goods of metal, ivory, wood and leather.(151) Nor were cotton goods included since according to the itemization given in RMI (p. 179) very little of the cotton ended up in finished clothing or ready-to-wear apparel.

Department of Sociology Storrs, CT 06269


Special thanks to Myra Marx Ferree, Susan Porter Benson, and Peter Laipson, whose considerable insight and suggestions enriched this paper. Direct all correspondence to Mark Swiencicki, University of Connecticut, Department of Sociology, U-68, Storrs, CT 06269.

1. Kathy Peiss, “Of Makeup and Men: The Gendering of Cosmetics,” paper presented at “The Material Culture of Gender Conference” (Winterthur Museum, November 1989), p. 2.

2. Books dealing with the history of gendered consumption include Elaine S. Abelson, When Ladies Go A-Thieving: Middle-Class Shoplifters in the Victorian Department Store (New York, 1989); Susan Porter Benson, Counter Cultures: Saleswomen, Managers and Customers in American Department Stores (Chicago, 1986); Rachel Bowlby, Just Looking: Consumer Culture in Dreiser, Gissing and Zola (New York, 1985); Gary Cross, Time and Money: The Making of Consumer Culture (New York, 1993); Barbara Ehrenreich, The Hearts of Men (Garden City, 1983); Stuart Ewen and Elizabeth Ewen, Channels of Desire: Mass Images and the Shaping of American Consciousness (Minneapolis, 1992); Daniel Horowitz, The Morality of Spending: Attitudes toward the Consumer in America, 1875-1940 (Baltimore, 1985); Roland Marchand, Advertising the American Dream: Making Way for Modernity, 1920-1940 (Berkeley, 1985); Jackson Lears, Fables of Abundance: A Cultural History of Advertising in America (New York, 1994); while articles include Kenon Breazeale, “In Spite of Women: Esquire Magazine and the Construction of the Male Consumer,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 20 (1994): 1-22; and Rudi Laermans, “Learning to Consume: Early Department Stores and the Shaping of the Modern Consumer Culture (1860-1914),” Theory, Culture & Society 10 (1993): 79-102.

3. For instance, Weinbaum and Bridges refer to consumption as “purchasing goods and services for household members”; Batya Weinbaum and Amy Bridges, “The Other Side of the Paycheck: Monopoly Capital and the Structure of Consumption,” in Zillah R. Eisenstein ed., Capitalist Patriarchy and the Case for Socialist Feminism (New York, 1979), pp. 190-205, 193.

4. Horowitz, The Morality of Spending, pp. 70, 79, xxiii.

5. Cross, Time and Money, pp. 167-8.

6. Breazeale, “In Spite of Women,” p. 1; Ehrenreich, The Hearts of Men, p. 49.

7. Although numerous women’s historians have exposed the inaccuracy of the producer/consumer dichotomy by showing how economically productive domestic labor was during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (i.e., Laura Thatcher Ulrich, Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England, 1650-1750 [New York, 1982]; Julie Matthaei, An Economic History of Women in America: Women’s Work, the Sexual Division of Labor, and the Development of Capitalism [New York, 1982]), such a dichotomy still permeates the literature on gendered consumption.

8. Bowlby, Just Looking, 27; Abelson, When Ladies Go A-Thieving, p. 28; Helen Damon-Moore, Magazines for the Millions: Gender and Commerce in the Ladies Home Journal and the Saturday Evening Post 1880-1910 (Albany, 1994), p. 4.

9. Eric Lampard, “Introductory Essay,” in William R. Taylor, ed., Inventing Times square: Commerce and Culture at the Crossroads of the World (New York, 1991), pp. 16-35.

10. Jon Kingsdale, “The ‘Poor Man’s Club’: Social Functions of the Urban Working-Class Saloon,” in Elizabeth Pleck and Joseph Pleck eds., The American Man (Englewood Cliffs, 1980), pp. 255-83; David Roediger, The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class (New York, 1991); Roy Rosenzweig, Eight Hours for What We Will: Workers and Leisure in an Industrial City, 1870-1920 (New York, 1983).

11. Anthony E. Rotundo, American Manhood: Transformations in Masculinity from the Revolution to the Modern Era (New York 1993); Mark Carnes, Secret Rituals and Manhood in Victorian America (New Haven 1989); Mary Ann Clawson, Constructing Brotherhood: Class, Gender, and Fraternalism (Princeton 1989); Michael S. Kimmel, Manhood in America: A Cultural History (New York, 1996).

12. Lewis A. Erenberg, Steppin’ Out: New York Nightlife and the Transformation of American Culture, 1890-1930 (Westport, 1981); David Nasaw, Going Out: The Rise and Fall of Public Amusements (New York, 1993); George Chauncey, Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World 1890-1940 (New York, 1994); Timothy J. Gilfoyle, City of Eros: New York City, Prostitution, and the Commercialization of Sex, 1790-1920 (New York, 1992).

13. Ehrenrich, The Hearts of Men; Diane Barthel, Putting on Appearances: Gender and Advertising (Philadelphia, 1988); Frank Mort, Cultures of Consumption: Masculinities and Social Space in Late Twentieth-Century Britain (London, 1996).

14. See Marchand, Advertising the American Dream, p. 66; Abelson, When Ladies Go A-Thieving, p. 223 n.77; Damon-Moore, Magazines for the Millions, p. 178.

15. Thus the perceived invariance of women doing “housework” across time and cultures; caring for chickens or hauling wood was “housework” if women did it, chopping wood was not if men did it.

16. For the data on 1890 imports and exports see William Howard Shaw, Value of Commodity Output since 1869 (New York, 1947).

17. The home manufacture of men’s garments virtually ceased by 1879 (Claudia B. Kidwell and Margaret C. Christman, Suiting Everyone: The Democratization of Clothing in America [Washington, 1974], p. 111), and the industrial poor relied almost totally on ready-made clothing (Ewen and Ewen, Channels of Desire, pp. 118, 123). Only middle-class women continued making some clothing until the end of the century (Abelson, When Ladies Go A-Thieving, p. 39; Lois Banner, American Beauty [New York, 1983], p. 32).

18. U.S. Bureau of the Census, A Compendium of the Ninth Census (New York, 1976; first published 1870), pp. 800-11; U.S. Bureau of the Census, Abstract of the Eleventh Census (Washington, 1890), pp. 143-57.

19. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Abstract of the Eleventh Census, pp. 148, 146. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Report on Manufacturing Industries in the United States at the Eleventh Census vol. VI: 3 (Washington, D.C., 1890), p. 46.

20. From here on, all statements about male or female consumption will refer to the monetary value of the goods consumed rather than to their numerical value.

21. See Kathy Peiss, Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of-the-Century New York (Philadelphia, 1986); and Matthaei, An Economic History of Women.

22. Fenja Gunn, The Artificial Face: A History of Cosmetics (New York, 1973), p. 136.

23. On men’s cosmetics use, see Gunn, The Artificial Face, p. 136; and Leonard de. Vries, Victorian Advertisements, text by James Laver (Philadelphia, comp. 1968), pp. 40, 41-65, 105.

24. These figures were calculated as follows: 1) More lists drinking within the home as consuming 14.1% of the average family’s sundries; Louise Bolard More, Wage Earners’ Budgets: A Study of Standards and Cost of Living in New York City (New York, 1971, first published in 1907), p. 96. Assuming husbands drank about four-fifths of the home’s alcohol (see Appendix, #2), they would have consumed about 11.3% of the family s total sundries (i.e., 4/5 x 14.1% = 11.3%), especially since drink consumption was reported as zero in most families in which the husband was dead or absent (pp. 96-7). 2) More reports that “spending money” was basically reserved for husbands and children (p. 99), with husbands receiving $4641.96 and children only $861.50 (pp. 100-1). Therefore, about 15.7% of the family’s sundries would have gone to the husband for his personal spending money (i.e., .84 x 18.7% = 15.7%).

25. More, Wage Earner’s Budgets, p. 43.

26. See Matthaei, An Economic History of Women; and Susan Levine, “Worker’s Wives: Gender, Class and Consumerism in the 1920s United States,” Gender & History 3 (1991): 45-64.

27. See Gerald Franklin Roberts, “The Strenuous Life: The Cult of Manliness in the Era of Theodore Roosevelt,” unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Michigan State University, 1970; Melvin Adelman, A Sporting Time: New York City and the Rise of Modern Athletics, 1820-70 (Chicago, 1986); Elliot J. Gorn, The Manly Art: Bare-Knuckle Prize Fighting in America (Ithaca, 1986); Todd Crosset, “Masculinity, Sexuality, and the Development of Early Modern Sport,” in Michael A. Messner and Donald F. Sabo eds., Sport, Men, and the Gender Order: Critical Feminist Perspectives (Champaign, 1990), pp. 45-54; Steven A. Reiss, City Games: The Evolution of American Urban Society and the Rise of Sports (Urbana, 1989); Michael S. Kimmel, “Baseball and the Reconstitution of American Masculinity, 1880-1920,” in Messner and Sabo eds., Sport, Men, and the Gender Order, pp. 55-66; Kimmel, Manhood in America.

28. Gorn, The Manly Art, p. 192; Kimmel, “Baseball and the Reconstitution,” p. 58; J. P. Hantover, “The Boy Scouts and the Validation of Masculinity,” in Pleck and Pleck eds., The American Man, p. 293; Riess, City Games, p. 61; Adelman, A Sporting Time, pp. 283-84.

29. Adelman, A Sporting Time, p. 284; Kimmel, “Baseball and the Reconstitution,” p. 58.

30. On the conspicuous consumption of elite sports see Donald J. Mrozek, Sport and the American Mentality, 1880-1910 (Knoxville, 1983); for the indulgent sporting underworld lifestyle see Gorn, The Manly Art. And although Kimmel’s 1996 chapter on masculinity as recreation acknowledges considerable late-Victorian men’s consumption via sports and fitness activities, he views such consumption as the therapeutic ingesting of the “symbols and props of a pre-crisis masculinity rather than something men might also do for the sheer joy of consumption itself; Kimmel, Manhood in America, pp. 118-27, 155.

31. Harvey Green, Fit for America: Health, Fitness, Sport, and American Society (New York, 1986), p. 187; Rotundo, American Manhood, pp. 223-24.

32. Theodore P. Greene, America’s Heroes: The Changing Models of Success in American Magazines (New York, 1970), pp. 127-31, 258-62.

33. Green, Fit for America, pp. 190-202; David I. Macleod, Building Character in the American Boy: The Boy Scouts, YMCA, and their Forerunners, 1870-1920 (Madison, 1983), p. 75.

34. Macleod, Building Character, p. 75.

35. Roberta J. Park, “Healthy, Moral, and Strong: Educational Views of Exercise and Athletics in Nineteenth-Century America,” in Kathryn Grover ed., Fitness in American Culture: Images of Health, Sport, and the Body, 1830-1940 (Amherst, 1990), pp. 124-50; Green, Fit for America, pp. 186-94; John Durant and Otto Bettmann, Pictorial History of American Sports: From Colonial Times to the Present (New York, 1952), pp. 61-100.

36. Dudley Allen Sargent, “Ideals in Physical Education,” Mind and Body 8 (1901): 221-26, 223.

37. By typically “male” activity I mean not “male-only” activities, but any activity in which males typically engaged or were associated with.

38. On baseball diamond costs see Ted Vincent, The Rise and Fall of American Sport: Mudville’s Revenge (Lincoln, 1994), p. 65; and Benjamin G. Rader, American Sports: From the Age of Folk Games to the Age of Spectators (Englewood Cliffs, 1983), p. 110. For admission fees see Vincent, The Rise and Fall, p. 122; and Mrozek, Sport and the American Mentality, p. 110.

39. For liquor consumption see Rader, American Sports, p. 111; and for sports paraphernalia see Stephen Hardy, “‘Adopted by All the Leading Clubs’: Sporting Goods and the Shaping of Leisure, 1800-1900,” in Richard Butsch ed., For Fun and Profit: The Transformation of Leisure into Consumption (Philadelphia, 1990), 71-104, 82.

40. For spectator class status see Rotundo, American Manhood, p. 239; and Vincent, The Rise and Fall, p. 122.

41. Vincent, The Rise and Fall, pp. 67-68.

42. Vincent, The Rise and Fall, p. 68; Rader, American Sports, pp. 56-57.

43. Rader, American Sports, pp. 57-58.

44. See Mrozek, Sport and the American Mentality, 112-17; Green, Fit for America, 225-26; Margaret Marsh, Suburban Men and Domestic Masculinity, 1870-1915,” in Mark C. Carnes and Clyde Griffen eds., Meanings for Manhood: Constructions of Masculinity in Victorian America (Chicago, 1990), pp. 111-27, 124-25.

45. Rotundo, American Manhood, p. 61-62.

46. Rotundo, American Manhood, p. 63.

47. Rotundo, American Manhood, pp. 64-68, 143.

48. Louis Sullivan, From Female to Male: The Life of Jack Bee Garland (Boston, 1990), pp. 38-42.

49. Dawn Moore Santiago, “The Owls Club of Tucson,” Journal of Arizona History 33 (1992): 241-68, 241-43, 261.

50. Alexander W. Williams, A Social History of the Greater Boston Clubs (Barre, 1970), pp. 31-3, 44.

51. Mary Ann Clawson, “Fraternal Orders and Class Formation in the Nineteenth-Century United States,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 27 (1985): 672-95. Carnes, Secret Rituals and Manhood.

52. Albert C. Stevens, comp. and ed., The Cyclopaedia of Fraternities (Detroit, 1966, first published 1907), p. xvi.

53. Lynn Dumenil, Freemasonry and American Culture 1880-1930 (Princeton, 1984).

54. Clifford Putney, “Service Over Secrecy: How Lodge-Style Fraternalism Yielded Popularity to Men’s Service Clubs,” Journal of Popular Culture 27 (1993): 179-90, 180.

55. Dumenil, Freemasonry and American Culture, pp. 13, 15-23, 114.

56. Putney, “Service over Secrecy,” p. 181.

57. Carnes, Secret Rituals and Manhood, pp. 41-9.

58. Dumenil, Freemasonry and American Culture, p. 24.

59. Carnes, Secret Rituals and Manhood, p. 4. Annual expenditures on working-class lodges appear to have been somewhat lower, since the 200 families in More’s budget study spent only $5-$26 per year on lodges; More, Wage Earner’s Budgets, p. 43.

60. W. S. Harwood, “Secret Societies in America,” North American Review 164 (1897): 617-23, 617. A notable exception to the discrete nature of middle-class fraternal consumption would be the Shriners, who were notorious for their lavish parades, red fezes, and exaggerated titles – see Clawson, “Fraternal Orders and Class,” p. 232.

61. Margaret F. Byington, Homestead: The Households of a Mill Town (Pittsburgh, 1974; first published 1910), pp. 84-86; Lizbeth A. Cohen, “Embellishing a Life of Labor: An Interpretation of the Material Culture of American Working-Class Homes, 1885-1915,” Journal of American Culture 3 (1980): 752-75; Peiss, Cheap Amusements, pp. 24-25.

62. Peter R. Shergold, Working-Class Life: The “American Standard” in Comparative Perspective (Pittsburgh, 1982), pp. 204-6.

63. Banner, American Beauty, pp. 74-75; Christine Stansell, City of Women: Sex and Class in New York 1789-1860 (Chicago, 1986), p. 94.

64. Banner, American Beauty, p. 75; Peiss, Cheap Amusements, pp. 63-65.

65. Stansell, City of Women, pp. 90-91; Roediger, The Wages of Whiteness, p. 99.

66. Abram C. Dayton, The Last Days of Knickerbocker Life in New York (New York, 1897), pp. 217-18.

67. Gorn, The Manly Art, p. 134; Whitman cited by Nasaw, Going Out, p. 10.

68. Cited by Banner, American Beauty, p. 239.

69. John L. Jennings, Theatrical and Circus Life (St. Louis, 1882), p. 55; Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie: An Authoritative Text, Backgrounds, and Sources of Criticism, Donald Pizer ed. (New York, 1970; first published 1900), p. 3.

70. Cited by Jervis Anderson, “That was New York: Harlem,” Part I, “The Journey Uptown,” New Yorker 29 (June 1981): 38-69, 44, 43-44, 58.

71. Banner, American Beauty, p. 239.

72. Dumenil, Freemasonry and American Culture, p. 12-13; Clawson, Constructing Brotherhood, pp. 95, 97; Stevens, The Cyclopaedia of Fraternities, p. v.

73. One might wonder how so many working-class men could afford to join lodges, but since lodges offered many working people their only opportunity to obtain sickness and death benefits, lodge membership was often more of a necessity than a luxury; Clawson, “Fraternal Orders and Class,” 673.

74. Clawson, Constructing Brotherhood, p. 181; Stevens, The Cyclopaedia of Fraternities, p. 264.

75. Clawson, Constructing Brotherhood, 235; Jno Van Valkenberg, The Knights of Pythias Complete Manual and Textbook (Canton, 1887), p. 113.

76. Clawson, Constructing Brotherhood, p. 235; Christopher J. Kauffman, Faith and Fraternalism: The History of the Knights of Columbus 1882-1992 (New York, 1982), pp. 56, 80; Clawson, Constructing Brotherhood, p. 234.

77. On non-alcoholic saloon spending, see Kingsdale, “The ‘Poor Man’s Club,'” pp. 261-62, 267; Rosenzweig, Eight Hours for What We Will, pp. 53-56; Gorn, The Manly Art, pp. 99, 133; and Chauncey, Gay New York, p. 42.

78. Riess, City Games, p. 73.

79. Peiss, Cheap Thrills, pp. 141-42; Gorn, The Manly Art, pp. 133-34; Roediger, The Wages of Whiteness, pp. 120-21.

80. Rosenzweig, Eight Hours for What We Will, p. 106.

81. Herbert Asbury, The Gangs of New York; An Informal History of the Underworld (New York, 1927), p. 269.

82. John Mariano, The Second Generation of Italians in New York City (Boston, 1921), p. 140; Suzanne Wasserman, “Cafes, Clubs, Corners and Candy Stores: Youth Leisure-Culture in New York City’s Lower East Side during the 1930s,” Journal of American Culture 14 (1991): 43-48, 46.

83. Asbury, The Gangs of New York, pp. 269-70; Wasserman, “Cafes, Clubs, Corners,” p. 46.

84. Wasserman, “Cafes, Clubs, Corners,” p. 47; Randy D. McBee, “‘He Likes Women More Than He Likes Drink and That is Quite Unusual’: Working-Class Male Culture, Social Clubs, and the Dilemma of Heterosociality in the United States, 1890s-1930s,” unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Missouri, 1996, p. 4, 11.

85. Frederic Milton Thrasher, The Gang; A Study of 1,313 Gangs in Chicago (Chicago, 1927), pp. 234-35; McBee, “He Likes Women,” pp. 17, 19.

86. Erenberg, Steppin’ Out, p. 21.

87. Nasaw, Going Out, p. 13; Erenberg, Steppin’ Out, pp. 18-21.

88. Robert W. Synder, The Voice of the City: Vaudeville and Popular Culture in New York (New York, 1989), p. 8; Nasaw, Going Out, p. 14.

89. Erenberg, Steppin’ Out, p. 18; Synder, The Voice of the City, p. 12; Nasaw, Going Out, p. 13.

90. Nasaw, Going Out p. 14; Synder, The Voice of the City, p. 10.

91. Synder, The Voice of the City, p. 10; Nasaw, Going Out, p. 14.

92. Synder, The Voice of the City, p. 10.

93. On the proliferation and particulars of such establishments, see Nasaw, Going Out, pp. 13, 18.

94. Erenberg, Steppin’ Out, p. 18.

95. Erenberg, Steppin Out, p. 18.

96. Laermans, “Learning to Consume,” p. 89.

97. See Philip Thomason, “The Men’s Quarter of Downtown Nashville,” Tennessee Historical Quarterly 41 (1982): 48-66.

98. Henry Nash Smith, Democracy and the Novel: Popular Resistance to Classic American Writers (Oxford, 1978).

99. Michael Denning, Dime Novels and Working-Class Culture in America (New York, 1987), pp. 29-30.

100. W. H. Bishop, “Story-Paper Literature,” Atlantic Monthly 44 (1879): 383-393, 384.

101. William Wallace Cook [John Milton Edwards, pseud.], The Fiction Factory (Ridgewood, 1912), p. 35.

102. Denning, Dime Novels, chps. 5-6.

103. Kimmel, Manhood in America, pp. 120, 141-3.

104. See Denning, Dime Novels, pp. 171-203, and the chapters on women’s novels.

105. Ralph M. Hower, The History of Macy’s of New York, 1859-1919; Chapters in the Evolution of a Department Store (Cambridge, MA, 1943), pp. 161, 235, 285.

106. Robert W. Twyman, The History of Marshall Field & Co. (Philadelphia, 1954), p. 121.

107. National Clothier 6 (September 1920), p. 90.

108. Dameron, Men’s Wear Merchandising, pp. 38, 131.

109. See Horowitz, The Morality of Spending, p. xviii; Rosenzweig, Eight Hours, pp. 9495; Victorian de Grazia, “Changing Consumption Regimes” & “Establishing the Modern Consumer Household,” in Victoria de Grazia (with Ellen Furlough) ed., The Sex of Things: Gender and Consumption in Historical Perspective (Berkeley, 1996), pp. 11-24, 151-61, 155.

110. de Grazia, “Changing Consumption Regimes,” pp. 11-24.

111. de Grazia, “Changing Consumption Regimes,” p. 16.

112. Kathy Peiss, “Of Makeup and Men,” pp. 1-6.

113. Horowitz, The Morality of Spending, 15, 55, 178.

114. Marchand, Advertising the American Dream, p. 66; Bowlby, Just Looking, p. 20.

115. Damon-Moore, Magazines for the Millions, pp. 116-17.

116. I separate Marchand’s magazines into “women’s,” “general interest,” and “business” magazines based upon the periodical segmentation which appears in the back of each Printer’s Ink of the period.

117. For example, the January 12, 1895 Forest & Stream carried a tobacco ad with the copy, “Yale Mixture: The Gentlemen’s Smoke.”

118. Field & Stream, May 1925, pp. 130, 101, 69.

119. Ads were only counted as targeted to a particular sex when accompanied by a drawing or photo of one particular sex, or if the copy specifically mentioned that the product was for men or women. All other goods were recorded as “gender-neutral” commodities (i.e., stoves, tools, foodstuffs, etc.). The first July issues of 1906 & 1925 were sampled to avoid the bias of self selection.

120. Helen Damon-Moore, Magazines for the Millions, p. 178.

121. Printer’s Ink, November 7 1929, p. 133.

122. Christine Frederick, Selling Mrs. Consumer (New York, 1929).

123. Printer’s Ink (January 19, 1922): 60; Printer’s Ink (January 19, 1922): 94.

124. Printer’s Ink (November 2, 1933): 42; Advertising Age (July 12, 1937): 14-15.

125. Damon-Moore, Magazines for the Millions, pp. 81, 106.

126. Ladies Home Journal (editorial by Edward Bok) vol. 9 (1892): 12.

127. Damon-Moore, Magazines for the Millions, p. 98.

128. Printer’s Ink (September 7): 5; (August 24): 5.

129. Here many scholars might point out that the concept of a “men’s magazine” did not arise until Esquire came along; yet this does not explain why magazines like Field & Stream did not promote its audience more aggressively.

130. On the low male rate of kleptomania, see Abelman, When Ladies Go A-Thieving.

131. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Abstract of the Eleventh Census; U.S. Bureau of the Census, Report on Manufacturing Industries in the United States at the Eleventh Census.

132. Ralph Merle Hower, History of Macy’s of New York, 1858-1919 (Cambridge, 1943), p. 99.

133. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Report on Vital and Social Statistics in the United States at the Eleventh Census: 1890 vol. IV: IB (Washington, D.C., 1890), p. 698.

134. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the United States: Colonial Times to 1970, pt. 2. (Washington, D.C., 1976), p. 693.

135. See Banner, American Beauty, p. 192; Peiss, Cheap Amusements, p. 108.

136. Paul H. Nystrom, The Economics of Fashion (New York, 1928), p. 99; Max Von Boehn, Ornaments; Lace, Fans, Gloves, Walking-Sticks, Parasols, Jewelry, and Trinkets, translated by Das Beiwer der Mode (New York, 1970), p. 11.

137. John Chamberlain and James Henry Quilter, Knitted Fabrics (London, n.d.), pp. 80, 104-118, 62.

138. Valerie Steele, Fashion and Eroticism: Ideals of Feminine Beauty from the Victorian Era to the Jazz Age (New York, 1985), p. 73.

139. See Edgar R. Jones, Those Were the Good Old Days: A Happy Look at American Advertising, 1880-1930 (New York, 1959), pp. 36, 50; de Vries, Victorian Advertisements, p. 122.

140. Boehn, Ornaments, p. 270.

141. Max Von Boehn, Modes and Manners of the Nineteenth Century, vol. 2. (New York, 1971), pp. 96-77.

142. Douglas W. Gorsline, What People Wore: A Visual History of Dress from Ancient Times to Twentieth-Century America (New York, 1952), pp. 196-202.

143. Gorsline, What People Wore, pp. 195-226.

144. Boehn, Ornaments, p. 136, 114-15.

145. Nystrom, The Economics of Fashion, p. 314.

146. Boehn, Ornaments, p. 238; de Vries, Victorian Advertisements, pp. 76, 87.

147. Gunn, The Artificial Face, p. 137; de Vries 1968, Victorian Advertisements, pp. 40-65, 105; Jones, Those Were the Good Old Days, pp. 35-66; Harper’s Bazaar 23 (Feb 1, 1890): 96.

148. On the gendering of billiards, see Rader, American Sports, pp. 24-37.

149. Green, Fit for America, pp. 225-26.

150. de Vries, Victorian Advertisements, pp. 95-131, 11-32.

151. Hower, History of Macy’s, pp. 438, 463.

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