Domestic Goods: The Material, the Moral and the Economic in the Postwar Years
Visions of life in the fifties often spring from America: supermarkets, freeways, huge gleaming cars, pink washer dryers, automated households. For the first time historian Joy Parr searches behind the generalizations about the prodigality of this era to look for a specifically Canadian consumer life. Focusing on the records left by consumers and manufacturers, and relying on interviews and letters from many Canadian women who married in the decade after the war, she reveals exactly how and why Canadian homemakers distinguished themselves from the consumer frenzy of their southern neighbours. Domestic Goods is primarily concerned with furniture and appliances. For Parr, the problems of design, production and consumption demand an analysis of the intertwining of the political, economic and aesthetic. The international style of high modernism reflected the postwar dream of free trade. The desire for economic self-sufficiency influenced the creation of the tools Canadians would have in their homes. But while manufacturers devised new plans for the consumer, depression-era frugality, a conscious modesty, and their shared aspirations for a welfare state led those potential customers to evade and rework what was offered them, eventually influencing the kinds of goods created. This book addresses questions such as, Why were there advocado-coloured refrigerators? Why were stoves moved below waist level after the war? Why did women use their old hand wringers for over a decade after the automatic washer was brought in? In finding the answers the author celebrates and ultimately suggests reclaiming a particularly Canadian way of consuming.