The proposed amendments to the Cannabis for Private Purposes bill that seeks to further decriminalise cannabis usage and legalise South…
Thomas C. Hubka
University of Minnesota Press, December 2020
Paperback | 8 x 10 inches | 288 pages | 148 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-0816693016 | $40.00
At the turn of the nineteenth century, the average American family still lived by kerosene light, ate in the kitchen, and used an outhouse. By 1940, electric lights, dining rooms, and bathrooms were the norm as the traditional working-class home was fast becoming modern—a fact largely missing from the story of domestic innovation and improvement in twentieth-century America, where such benefits seem to count primarily among the upper classes and the post–World War II denizens of suburbia. Examining the physical evidence of America’s working-class houses, Thomas C. Hubka revises our understanding of how widespread domestic improvement transformed the lives of Americans in the modern era. His work, focused on the broad central portion of the housing population, recalibrates longstanding ideas about the nature and development of the “middle class” and its new measure of improvement, “standards of living.”
In How the Working-Class Home Became Modern, 1900–1940, Hubka analyzes a period when millions of average Americans saw accelerated improvement in their housing and domestic conditions. These improvements were intertwined with the acquisition of entirely new mechanical conveniences, new types of rooms and patterns of domestic life, and such innovations—from public utilities and kitchen appliances to remodeled and multi-unit housing—are at the center of the story Hubka tells. It is a narrative, amply illustrated and finely detailed, that traces changes in household hygiene, sociability, and privacy practices that launched large portions of the working classes into the middle class—and that, in Hubka’s telling, reconfigures and enriches the standard account of the domestic transformation of the American home.
Thomas C. Hubka is professor emeritus of architecture at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee and author of Big House, Little House, Back House, Barn: The Connected Farm Buildings of New England; Resplendent Synagogue: Architecture and Worship in an Eighteenth-Century Polish Community; and Houses without Names: Architectural Nomenclature and the Classification of America’s Common Houses.
How the Working Class Became Modern is clearly a history, and a very nuanced one at that, but one aspect of it that departs from other histories — residential or otherwise — is the abundance of original drawings. Done by the author with Erik Larson, the drawings in the book range from bubble diagrams and charts to elevations and floor plans. The skilled use of lineweights makes them all easy to read and beautiful on the page. Of course, they are not eye candy; they are aligned with the author’s desire to trace the changes in middle-class housing a century ago, changes best seen in the enlargement of floor plans and the arrangement of their rooms. Architects, historians, housing advocates, and other people interested in the houses most Americans live in should find much to like in How the Working Class Became Modern.
* Syndicated content from A Daily Dose of Architecture Books.