Jan Whitaker's Consumer Society


1 Behemoth to Dinosaur

2 Lower, Upper, Middle

3 Women's Wear

4 Bricks and Mortar

5 Window-Shopping

6 Razzle-Dazzle

7 Floorwalkers, Fashionists, and Founders

8 The Goods

9 At Your Service

10 Children's Wonderland

11 Fashioning the Teen Market

12 Everything for the Home


References, Index

More reviews ...

"Now, with Federated Department Stores Inc. gathering the majority of the nation's department stores ... under a single marketing umbrella -- Macy's -- Jan Whitaker's exhaustive book couldn't be more timely."
Steve Giegerich, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"... a highly readable book filled with fascinating facts and wonderful evocative pictures. ... this book will bring back memories." Marietta Pritchard, Daily Hampshire Gazette

"... her book is intriguing, thorough and well stocked with high-quality goods... Arthur Salm, San Diego Union Tribune

"... an attractive and informative look at the kind of retailing that united the nation long before TV and radio networks or the Internet." Keith Runyon, The Courier Journal

"Whitaker ... has written a remarkable book that examines in detail the American downtown department store and how it helped shape the culture of our country." Larry Cox, Southern Maryland Newspapers Online

Service and Style: How the American Department Store Fashioned the Middle Class

Named one of the best business books of 2006 by Library Journal (March 15, 2007)

"lively pop history ... richly detailed account" Publishers Weekly

"Whitaker's book is both inventive and entertaining ..." Christina Larson, Washington Monthly (read review)

The big stores were much more than mere businesses. They were local institutions where shoppers could listen to concerts, see fashion shows and art exhibits, learn golf or bridge, pay electric bills, and plan vacations -- while their children played in the store’s nursery under the eye of a uniformed nursemaid.

From Boston to San Diego and Miami to Seattle, department stores symbolized a city’s spirit, wealth, and progressiveness. Situated at busy intersections, they occupied the largest and finest downtown buildings, and their massive corner clocks became popular meeting places. At the epicenter of retailing, their locations were the high point from which downtown property taxes were calculated. Spanning the late 19th century well into the 20th, their peak development mirrors the growth of cities and of industrial America when both were robust and flourishing.

The time may be gone when children accompany their mothers downtown for a day of shopping and lunch in the tea room, when monogrammed trucks deliver purchases for free the very same day, and when the personality of a city or town can be read in its big stores, but they are far from forgotten and they still have power to influence how we shop today.

SERVICE AND STYLE recreates the days of downtown department stores in their prime, from the 1890s through the 1960s. It explores in detail the wide range of merchandise they sold, particularly style goods such as clothing and home furnishings. It examines how they displayed, promoted, and sometimes produced goods. It reveals how the stores grew, why they declined, and how they responded to and shaped the society around them.

From Schuster's, Milwaukee

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).