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From Goodwill to GrungeA History of Secondhand Styles and Alternative Economies$
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Jennifer Le Zotte

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781469631905

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469631905.001.0001

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Thrift Stores and the Gilded Age Shopper

Thrift Stores and the Gilded Age Shopper

(p.17) Chapter One Thrift Stores and the Gilded Age Shopper
From Goodwill to Grunge

Jennifer Le Zotte

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter enunciates the social, moral, and hygienic anxieties plaguing popular perceptions of secondhand trade at the end of the nineteenth century and the steps taken to placate such concerns. As firsthand production of everyday goods increased in availability and decreased in cost, more still-viable discarded goods made secondhand economies attractive to a broader range of entrepreneurs. Protestant-run salvage businesses, known as "thrift stores" by the 1920s, used contemporary marketing tools to advertise Christianized, sanitized, and Americanized venues for secondhand products. The links between charity and profit created a new breed of business, which I call “philanthropic capitalism,” and established some of the earliest, still-existing American chain businesses. Meanwhile, style’s role in society shifted without diminishing; it grew in general economic, personal aesthetic, and political expressive value while declining as a clear indication of luxury and exclusivity. From the start, clientele included voluntary secondhand shoppers who used secondhand venues to expand their sartorial options.

Keywords:   Salvage businesses, Thrift stores, Philanthropic capitalism, Chain businesses, Salvation Army, Goodwill Industries, Secondhand shoppers

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