Journals Higher Education



Published: 10 October 1996

288 Pages | 35 halftones

5-5/16 x 8 inches

ISBN: 9780195111286

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Bookseller Code (06)

Chasing Dirt

The American Pursuit of Cleanliness

Suellen Hoy

Americans in the early nineteenth century were, as one foreign traveler bluntly put it, "filthy, bordering on the beastly," perfectly at home in dirty, bug-infested, malodorous surroundings. Yet gradually all this changed, and today, Americans are known worldwide for their obsession with cleanliness: for their sophisticated plumbing, daily bathing, shiny hair and teeth, and spotless clothes. InChasing Dirt, Suellen Hoy examines with grace and wit history of this remarkable transformation from "dreadfully dirty" to "cleaner than clean," ranging from the pre-Civil War era to the 1950s, when America's obsession with cleanliness reached its peak.
Hoy offers a fascinating narrative, filled with vivid portraits of the men, and especially the women, who helped America come clean. Indeed, we see how cleanliness gradually shifted from a way to prevent disease to a way to assimilate, to become American. And as the book enters the modern era, we learn how advertising for soaps, mouthwashes, toothpastes, and deodorants in mass-ciculation magazines showed working men and women how to cleanse themselves and become part of the increasingly sweatless, odorless, and successful middle class.
Chasing Dirt adds a new dimension to our understanding of our national culture, and along the way, it provides colorful and often amusing insight into what makes Americans the way we are today.