Lyon-Jenness- “Bergamot Balm and Verbenas”

This piece looks at the use of ornamental plants by residents of the mid-west as both social marker, but also as something with personal significance. LJ looks at three interconnected families (The Lawrence’s, Buell’s, and Copely’s) in the Violinia township in Michigan. Certain plants and ultimately the care of those plants had attained various symbolic meanings not only in the town but also nationally. Homeowners who took care of their gardens, shrubs, and trees were seen as well-meaning, educated, and overall as socially acceptable people. Various ornamentations also represented the wealth that some families had (or wanted others to perceive) by their choice of flower/trees/ grass/etc. Many were able to purchase seeds from out of state giving them a far greater variety to choose from which also showed the countries budding industrialism.

Tree’s were especially important during this period as they created a more appealing landscape during both summer and winter. The government of Michigan encouraged families to plant trees along roadsides (making it a law and then providing a tax break to families who lived along various rural roads) and during the countries centennial event. The growing or exchanging of plants was often seen as a community building as groups would come together to purchase and distribute seeds, but individuals would also create bonds through exchanges.

The plants allowed for families to have a distraction from farming. While farming was labor intensive and required for many’s survival, the tending of flowers/trees were not which allowed it to be more enjoyable and desired. Where men/boys would often have to do the labor that came along with the pruning and pruning of trees/shrubs, the men/boys would also aid with the tending of the garden beds (Women/girls would also at times aid with the leave raking and sod filling). Some women cared greatly for their plants and flowers, often moving their plants between the house and garden depending on the season while doing their best to assure the survival of strictly outdoor plants (like roses).

Heathcott, “Accidental Archive”

In Joseph Heathcott’s article, he describes early 20th century St. Louis, particularly through the lens of the middle class.  Heathcott describes this middle class as the “petit bourgeois,” or those with some capital that tended to have white collar jobs.  Heathcott describes his townhouse in St. Louis and an “accidental archive” found behind the wall of a laundry shoot, to describe the emerging middle class through material culture.  Heathcott describes the house itself as an artifact and shows how its layout allowed for the use of few servants, despite the house’s little space. He also mentions the house’s use of amenities, which limited the amount of domestic work done by the women in the household.  This townhouse is not located in the heart of St. Louis, which shows how the middle class had the opportunity to move slightly away from the city. Heathcott describes how the middle class had the opportunity for leisure activities (which many working-class families did not) by using artifacts such as newspapers, advertisements, and playing cards.  He also gives examples of how fashion and social activities differed among the middle class.  Heathcott presents the idea that this period was when the “petit bourgeois” were able to distinguish themselves from both the working class and elites, creating their own identity that would continue to build throughout the 20th century.

Joseph Heathcott, “Reading the Accidental Archive”

Heathcott’s article examines the case study of a middle-class family living in St. Louis. In his article, he studies the transformation of urban public culture by examining the artifacts left in the Aufderheide family’s home. Many artifacts of theirs had been collected during the early 20th century by means of the family’s laundry chute. Paper ephemera like bills, newspapers, tickets, letters, etc. had been collected through a small cavity in the chute for 15 years; this formed their “accidental archive”. Healthcott’s purpose is to relate their “accidental archive” to how urban public culture has changed (239). He states that the artifacts “reveal a household actively occupied in shaping a middle-class identity that engaged, but also distanced itself from, elite and working-class families through civic, commercial, and infrastructural connectivity (241). The architecture of the house also served as a context for the culture. Healthcott identifies that contexts such as material culture studies, architectural history, and urban history (240). St. Louis itself was booming during the 20th century, being the fourth most populous city in the U.S.; the city underwent development and expansion of urban architectural networks (243). The neighborhood around Tower Grove Park consisted of ethnically diverse families; however, there were no African Americans living there. This was because of racial covenants and real estate agreements in South St. Louis. Most of these families were German Americans or were European descendants (247). Heathcott refers to the house and the artifacts as a “dual archive” and state that they both “reveal a visual and material culture of images and things, an interpenetration of consumer goods, advertisements, billets, and receipts that connected the household to the wider world” (253). These depict that the Aufderheide family, like many others, strived to form a richly layered urban public culture; they connected themselves to the civic and commercial world (267). However, these families still faced the challenges of urban public society such as labor unrest, racial and ethnic panic of the world powers, and international trade worries (267).

Reading the Accidental Archive

This was an interesting read about material culture and how it influences history. Sometimes there are not written records but these artifacts can piece history together. The author writes about a home in Saint Louis that his wife and him lived in. This home was inhabited by a family who lived there in the early 20th century and left some items behind. The goal of the article for the author was to connect the artifacts left behind to a larger picture of urban public culture. There are many items that we can learn from the artifacts about St. Louis but also a larger culture. People who study material culture try to triangulate sources to put pieces together. The author has looked at many sources for this study from city records, fire records and marriage records. The author discusses the embedded artifacts of how an artifact contains and artifact. Saint Louis at the time was one of the 4th most populous city in America. The city had filled up with many immigrants from Russia, Poland and other Eastern Europe countries. Many moved into tight housing. Education and schools were very big in Saint Louis and in the neighborhoods. The area around the Tower Grove Park had diverse families but no African American families. Until the 1960s the neighbor was mostly white. These families had deep tries to the city and the institutions in there. There was a diverse working class. The people in Tower Grove had to provide many of manual labor needed for the city. The houses in Tower Grove reflected the time of how of the excitement and the nerves of an emerging middle class. An example of an artifact is a Christmas package. It was listed of clothing item because most of it was made in the home. There were some ads in the article as one. One that said the mask ball was to be postponed. This is a shift to having time for relaxation and not just for the upper class. The Aufderheide represented this in their house. A big thing for the family and others was that food should not be wasted. The German people in Saint Louis left a huge culture impact at the time.

Reading the Accidental Archive

Joseph Heathcott’s article examines the home of a middle-class family named, the Aufderheide, in early twentieth century St. Louis, Missouri. Heathcott explores the artifacts left behind by the Aufderheide family in order to understand their family history but as well as the relationship between the artifacts and architectural history of the historical home. It is very interesting how what most people consider trash is an archive of history from this family. I find it fascinating how ticket stubs, newspaper pieces, receipts, and pieces of letters were saved over the years by falling out of pant pockets and landing on the cavity of the laundry chute. Heathcott states that the significance of these artifacts is how the connection between the households’ identity and St. Louis address broader themes of class, gender, and ethnic relations during the early twentieth century in St. Louis. The artifacts also bring up social, economic, and political transformations during that period of time. These “accidental archives” show how this home was considered modern and the Aufderheide were a middle-class German family. However, it is interesting how Heathcott discovered that the Aufderheide and many of their neighboring German families were under scrutiny for being “radical” Germans. Furthermore, Heathcotts discovery shows how one family’s belongings can be interpreted to represent the history of St. Louis as well as how their role shaped urban culture at that time.

Heathcott: Accidental Archive

This particular reading was by far one of my favorites so far. It was fascinating to read how a bunch of old trash could reveal such amazing details about the lives of the Aufderheide family. Just by sorting through all the trash, we were able to discover they were a German immigrant family. Mr. Aufderheide went to pharmacy school and then after graduating from that went on to get another degree and proceeded to open his own store. From uncovering receipts, news papers, and other household items, public records, etc, we know the family purchased their home and at the time it was a modern home for a middle-class family. It was state of the art, minus heating which they relied on a stove to warm the home. We know what kind of architecture influenced the building of the home, the demographics of the neighborhood that it was in, the stores and businesses that were near by. From the ticket stubs and programs, we know the the family enjoyed going to shows. They were financially stable, paying $116 on clothing. They even could afford to purchase and own a car. By going over public records, we knew that the family evolved during the backlash on German immigrants. Years before they claimed they did claim they had hailed from Germany, but a few years later they claimed Missouri was their homeland. I guess the saying applies to this when they say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

“Reading the Accidental Archival” Blog Post

I know I tend to say this every time I write a blog post, but I enjoyed this reading this article because it was fascinating. (Judging from the fact that all of these readings are “interesting” or “fascinating” to me, you would assume that I don’t get out much…) This article discussed the author studying urban life within the “petite bourgeois” of St. Louis in the twentieth century through artifacts found in, what the author calls, an “accidental archive.” This “accidental archive” to this author are the papers and objects that fell out of the pockets of clothes from the Aufderheide family when going through the laundry chute of the author’s former house (Heathcott, 239). The reason this house is an “accidental” archive is because of the nature of the objects stored in the house, along with how they were stored in the house. These objects do not necessarily all connect together (shopping lists, needles, Christmas gift labels, filling station adverts), and they were not properly stored to withstand the weathering of the years gone by. However, these artifacts are still useful when studying the petite bourgeois of St. Louis during the early twentieth century.

The article goes on at length to discuss how architecture can provide certain information about the past as well. More specifically, architecture can provide the “most consistent mediation between the private sphere of individuals and families and the broader public realm” (Heathcott, 249). Where the house was built, how the house was built, and the location of other types of neighborhoods can also provide certain insight to some social aspects of this petite bourgeois class that was growing during this time period. Despite how interesting this type of information may be, the author points out that architecture, street improvement, and planning did not necessarily determine how the people who resided in those houses would behave. Because of this, turning to the specific artifacts found in this “accidental archive” can help get a better glimpse into the daily life of a member of that particular class, the Aufderheider family.

Certain artifacts found included laundry order tickets, pieces of shopping lists, envelopes addressed to the family, train tickets, sewing needles, and so on. While these items may not seem so important to someone outside of the historical field, to those studying this particular time period, these items are seemingly priceless. For example, the train ticket and Pierce Oil Corporation filling station advertisement found suggests some movements that the family may have had in the city and elsewhere (Heathcott, 255-256). The Broadway Laundry Co. order ticket suggests that the family eventually sent some clothes out to be cleaned, instead of washed within their own home (Heathcott, 254-255). This could suggest either that the family simply wanted to take advantage of the nearby service for particular articles of clothing, or even that the family had the extra money to spend on having some of their clothes cleaned elsewhere.

Overall, I enjoyed this article and found it to be very interesting.


Sarah E Jones

Blog post 12 – Reading the Accidental Archive: Architecture, Ephemera, and Landscape as Evidence of an Urban Public Culture by Joseph Heathcott

In this article, Joseph Heathcott gives the narrative of the life of the Aufderheide family through the artifacts that they behind. Heathcott also discusses the artifacts in detail (such as notes and newspaper fragments) and tie them all together to tell the overall narrative of the “urban public culture” (Heathcott 239) in St. Louis during the late 19th to early 20th century. He also points out the important shifts that had occurred in the history of St. Louis that in turn affected change to the specific culture of the urban society. Heathcott also includes the important changes within the history of the city’s architecture (such as relating the history of Aufderheide family’s house that he and wife moved into) in this narrative. He discusses the demographics of St. Louis such as the German Americans and their impact to St. Louis both politically and educationally. Heathcott further discusses German Americans who lived in this city (such as the Aufderheide family) and in other parts of the US that helped shape the country as a whole. One example of a German American’s contribution to St. Louis is Henry Schaumberg, who was an architect that built this house (the Aufderheide family’s house) as well as constructing other homes as part of a “building boom that followed the 1904 World’s Fair” (Heathcott 249). He then discusses this house’s history further in relating it to specific members of the Aufderheide family and their daily life as well as relating to how it contributed to the rise of a lower middle class in urban society. Heathcott then refers near the end to the historian, Audrey Olson. Olson pointed out how that during World War I, German Americans such as in St. Louis were deeply impacted to the point where their influence in society was excluded from St. Louis’s culture. This article overall is interesting to how Heathcott analyzes the artifacts that were left behind by the Aufderheide family and relate to the overall history of St. Louis and the type of culture in urban society that shaped the US as a whole during this time.

Heathcott- Accidental Archives

After finding several fragmented archives between a laundry shoot and bar, Joseph Heathcott (the homeowner), discusses the history of not only his home but also the neighborhood and city in his work. The fragments, left by the Aufderheide family, gave a peek into the middle-class life of German-American families during the first quarter of the twentieth century. Heathcott notes the influence of the German population on the city of St. Louis but primarily the neighborhood of Tower Grove, as they shared some of their liberal views they were able to introduce several public elementary and high schools in addition to a school for deaf children.
In discussing the middle-class neighborhood, he does not forget to mention the tenement housing in the north of town where many of the recent immigrants and African Americans reside. Heathcott does note the architecture of the house, indicating that many of the middle-class homes had an additional room and staircase for those who lived in the house and provided domestic aid. He also notes the use of some artisan goods on the outside of the home such as stain glass and metalwork, while noting the extensive amount of mass-produced material for the interior. Mass produced products not only made up the house, but they also filled the house regarding clothes and gadgets (most of them produced by immigrants in factories). Many of the residents on the street rented out a room or the house to couples or older people, which provided an additional source of income for many of the white-collar workers. One thing that interested me was upon the initial house purchase the name on the deed was the wife (Agnes) as opposed to the husband (W.D.), which slightly confused me due not only to the national gender norms of the time but also of the German-American culture.
These white-collar, middle-class families were able to spend more time and money on mass-produced goods and leisure activities during this time. It was easier to purchase clothing, and therefore styles began to change faster than before, and advertisements pushed the changing fashion season.
The final few pages of the work look at the change among German-Americans during the First World War. Many changed claimed their parents were from the US (as opposed to say Germany or Austria. This removal of a homeland or name change may have erased/voided the history of some families? Some families would be hesitant to claim German heritage and therefore forgo traditions which then became lost of that family.). Overall, many Germany-Americans during this time began to focus more on American patriotism rather than on German heritage.

Alisha Gaines “Empathy in the Age of Trump”- EC

“Empathy in the Age of Trump” was an incredibly interesting talk given by Alisha Gaines. She began the talk by discussing how the election of Trump led to many white Americans wanting to state that they were not racists, essentially that they were not like the other part of the white population that had voted for Trump. Where people were trying to show their allyship, it was instead turning race and empathy into a commodity (and instead of being an ally, people should rather focus on becoming collaborators/co-conspirators). Gaines then discussed empathetic racial impersonation and noted some major instances of this throughout the last century. Ray Sprigle, John Howard Griffin, and Grace Halsell were all racial impersonators who wished to show what life was like as an African American man/woman to the white population at the time. Grace Halsell stuck out to me because she does this more than once and impersonates a Navajo woman (Bessie Yellowhair) and an undocumented immigrant (while of course being a US citizen the entire time). The final person discussed is Rachel Dolezal, who identified as a black woman for some years and was put in the spotlight in 2017 when she claimed she was transracial. Gaines noted that transracial identifying was a one-way street, as white people would experience racism but other groups wouldn’t be able to experience the privileges that came along with being white.
The talk was super interesting, and in the end, it felt like the hour had passed too quickly!