Jan Whitaker's Consumer Society

Photo: Ellen Augarten

I've always been fascinated by commerce.

As a child I dreamt about my neighborhood, its movie theater, clothing stores, taverns, and coffee shops. I loved the show window in the mom & pop grocery store where trays of jelly doughnuts and cheese cakes appeared each morning.

I grew up in St. Louis ...

and everywere I lived -- the city, Maplewood, Clayton, Webster Groves -- I was near a neighborhood shopping area. I walked or biked to the stores often. As a child I saved my allowance to buy doll house furniture from the Ben Franklin dimestore. In Webster, there was a fresh fruit and vegetable stand with fabulous Arkansas and Missouri tomatoes.

When I was 13 I finally earned the right to go downtown with a friend. We rode the bus and went to the three big department stores, Famous-Barr, Vandervoort's, and Stix, Baer & Fuller. Each store took up a full block and, like true rubes, we got lost when we came out a different door than we entered.

Now I live in Massachusetts.

I'm still within 20 minutes walking distance of downtown. Even though I live in a small town, I enjoy a shopping area that is lively and interesting. There are plenty of restaurants, food stores, bakeries, theaters, and still an independent bookstore or two.

Exploring American -- and world -- consumerism

If you are interested in the history of department stores, tea rooms, and restaurants, you may enjoy looking at my website and some of the historic images I've collected.

And ... should you wish to buy a book or magazine, please consult the Quick Links at the bottom right of each page. Also, clicking on the covers will take you to Amazon.com.

For more information on Service and Style or Tea at the Blue Lantern Inn, click on their titles to the right.

My "wish book" that I'd love to do next

Selected Works

Department Store History Books
A round-the-world tour of major department stores from their 19th-century origins to their continual reinventions in the 21st. Emphasizing the well known stores of France and less well known examples in Germany.
An examination of the buildings, people, merchandise, show windows, parades, and hoopla that made the big-city American department store so memorable.
Tea Room History Book
From Greenwich Village and the New England roadside of the 1920s to the Gypsy tea rooms of the Depression, running small tea rooms provided a new occupation for women.
Essay in Magazine
Gastronomica article on the country's first fast food eateries which got their start in the 1880s.
Essay in Book
Explores women's impact on the 20th century restaurant industry (UMass Press).