At Home in Nineteenth-Century America

A Documentary History

272 pages

37 halftones

January, 2015

ISBN: 9780814769140



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Amy G. Richter is Associate Professor of History at Clark University. She is the author of Home on the Rails: Women, the Railroad, and the Rise of Public Domesticity.

All books by Amy G. Richter

Few institutions were as central to nineteenth-century American culture as the home. Emerging in the 1820s as a sentimental space apart from the public world of commerce and politics, the Victorian home transcended its initial association with the private lives of the white, native-born bourgeoisie to cross lines of race, ethnicity, class, and region. Throughout the nineteenth century, home was celebrated as a moral force, domesticity moved freely into the worlds of politics and reform, and home and marketplace repeatedly remade each other. 
At Home in Nineteenth-Century America draws upon advice manuals, architectural designs, personal accounts, popular fiction, advertising images, and reform literature to revisit the variety of places Americans called home. Entering into middle-class suburban houses, slave cabins, working-class tenements, frontier dugouts, urban settlement houses, it explores the shifting interpretations and experiences of these spaces from within and without. Nineteenth-century homes and notions of domesticity seem simultaneously distant and familiar. This sense of surprise and recognition is ideal for the study of history, preparing us to view the past with curiosity and empathy, inspiring comparisons to the spaces we inhabit today—malls, movie theaters, city streets, and college campuses. Permitting us to listen closely to the nineteenth century’s sweeping conversation about home in its various guises, At Home in Nineteenth-Century America encourages us to hear our contemporary conversation about the significance and meaning of home anew while appreciating the lingering imprint of past ideals.  


  • "Wisely edited, At Home in Nineteenth-Century America is a treasure house of voices. Listen to them, and hear a compelling array of hopes and fears about one of the deepest of human needs—to have a home where the heart can be."

    —Catharine R. Stimpson, University Professor, New York University

  • "Amy Richter has put together a rich and wonderful set of documents that reveal the breadth and complexity of the nineteenth century conversation about the home in its practical and cultural dimensions. It reveals how central the home was in the changing meanings of gender, work, race, class, and ultimately the moral lifeand it clarifies this conversation. Her excellent introduction reveals the significance embedded in these documents. This terrific book is an invaluable resourceand it is a pleasure to read straight through."

    —Thomas Bender, University Professor, New York University

  • This is a marvelous collection! Drawing on recent scholarship in women’s history, cultural history, and material culture, Richter advances an original, imaginative, and remarkably expansive interpretation of nineteenth-century domestic life. At Home in Nineteenth-Century America rewards readers with a rich and varied selection of sources that represent a multiplicity of voices, experiences, and genres— all beautifully contextualized by Richter’s smart and accessible commentary. 

    —Wendy Gamber, Indiana University

  • “Editor and annotator Richter has done an admirable job selecting writings and graphics from a wide range of 19th-century sources and people….Richter masterfully provides a superb overview in only 232 text pages, targeted particularly for college students and general readers.”


  • “One might think that there is nothing more to add to the conversation on the nineteenth-century American home.  Amy G. Richter shows us just how wrong that assumption is.  She has compiled rich and varied primary documents that represent and give voice to a diverse group of historical actors and spans a wide range of genres and historical interpretations.”

    The Journal of American History

  • At Home in Nineteenth-Century America will appeal to readers of cultural history, material culture, and women’s history as well as scholars in history and the humanities, librarians, archivists, and students.”

    Journal of American Culture

  • “Historians and literary critics alike will find much to savor in At Home in Nineteenth Century America… The nineteenth-century home has never been more vexing, or more delightfully fraught, than it is in this fine collection.”

    Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies,