Victorian America: Transformations in Everyday Life

ISBN: 0065023692
ISBN 13: 9780065023695
By: Thomas J. Schlereth

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19th Century American History Currently Reading History Non Fiction Nonfiction Read This Next Research To Read Victorian

About this book

A valuable and compelling portrait of the daily life of Americans during the Victorian era--the fourth volume in the Everyday Life in America series

Reader's Thoughts


Read this book. Read it now. This tome is history at its finest. It also explains why many things are now the way they are. Those who enjoy studying the 19th century will get sucked in. I had a hard time putting this book down. So read this book now.

Kathy Petersen

Schlereth begins with Philadelphia's Centennial Exposition of 1876 and finishes with the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in 1915 to describe in a detailed overview the enormous changes of life and culture in America. It's excellent reading, whether the reader finds American history as a profession, an avocation, or just a passing interest.

Rachel Swindler

Read this for my history class and found it really interesting as a in-depth overview of Victorian America, how they worked, played, lived and died. This book showed me that, while many things like technology have changed, the concerns and debates of Victorian America is very similar to the present day. We're still debating immigration. We're still debating how great a role government should play in individual lives. Even though that wasn't the intent of this book, it is what I walked away with and this book was interesting and in-depth enough for me to see this. I would recommend this for anyone who has an deeper interest in U.S. history and society, but this isn't a pick-up-for-fun book. It would probably only appeal as a non-school book to those who are interested in that sort of thing already.

Kay Davis

Thomas Schlereth's Victorian America is a comprehensive book on social life and cultural history in America from 1876 to 1915. The book covers topics such as where Americans worked, what they did during their time off, the types of housing they shared, the types of goods they produced and sold, and how they communicated. The book centers around three cultural events that defined Victorian America: the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, the 1893 Chicago World's Columbian Exposition, and the 1915 San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exposition. Each event was significant for its presentation of art, architecture, scientific discoveries, and technological inventions that improved the lives of Victorian Americans. For example, Schlereth reports that "Americans attending expositions at Philadelphia and San Francisco witnessed changes along a diverse cultural spectrum. In 1876 they favored soda water, patent medicines, and took multicourse meals; by 1915 they preferred white flour, cold-cereal breakfasts, and fast-food lunches. In the Centennial's Machinery Hall, individual leather makers crafted horse saddles, completing one every two days; at the Panama-Pacific Exposition, industrial laborers working on an assembly line built a new Ford every hour. Queen Anne houses yielded to California bungalows as the nation's residential ideal. Perhaps most significant of these changes was a transformed middle-class culture, expanded by increasing bureaucratization, fueled by consumer abundance, promulgated by communications technology, and motivated to hold power without property and to maintain hegemony with education and expertise." The book has many statistics and a list of sources on American cultural history at the turn of the century.

Rachel Rogers

Used as a reference for many years and read cover to cover in 2004. Very useful book. Dry and factual in parts and very interesting in others.

Steve Wiggins

A surprisingly engaging history of what the Victorian Era looked like in the United States. This is a book that keeps recurring in my thoughts as i read unrelated material. A good synthesis of information. See more at: Sects and Violence in the Ancient World.


Pretty much my most valued resource for everyday life in late nineteenth century and early twentieth in the States.

Rachel Pollock

I read this as background period research for a writing project i'm working on. A really good overview of random elements of daily life, that answers questions like "at what point did indoor flush toilets become common" and the like. It shows its age in some out-of-date word usages now considered offensive/impolite ("Orientals" instead of "Asians" when talking about immigrant groups, etc), but the factual info in terms of demographics and social trends is useful and imparted in a readable fashion. It was what i hoped it would be as a reference.


978.8 Sch


about every 10 pages of reading this book I exclaim "holy shit!" It is both wonderfully informative and wonderfully written.


Read this one for a class. It was a bit of an info dump, and my head reeled a bit. But overall I liked it. Didn't read the last few chapters, but only due to a packed reading schedule.


Picked this one up a few months ago. My colleague at Roanoke College teaches a course in this topic and actually uses this as her text book. The text is very readable and not too "scholarly" in style. The photographs were not reproduced well. Very interesting and an good intro for anyone interested in this time period. Bibliography at the end useful for exploring further.

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