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Turning the Tables: American Restaurant Culture and the Rise of the Middle Class, 1880-1920

Haley, Andrew Peter (2005) Turning the Tables: American Restaurant Culture and the Rise of the Middle Class, 1880-1920. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation examines changes in restaurant dining during the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era as a means of understanding the growing influence of the middle-class consumer. It is about class, consumption and culture; it is also about food and identity.In the mid-nineteenth century, restaurants served French food prepared by European chefs to elite Americans with aristocratic pretensions. "Turning the Tables" explores the subsequent transformation of aristocratic restaurants into public spaces where the middle classes could feel comfortable dining. Digging deeply into the changes restaurants underwent at the turn of the century, I argue that the struggles over restaurant culture—the battles over the French-language menu, the scientific eating movement, the celebration of cosmopolitan cuisines, the growing acceptance of unescorted women diners, the failed attempts to eliminate tipping—offer evidence that the urban middle class would play a central role in the construction of twentieth-century American culture.Economic development in the late nineteenth century created the necessary conditions for the growth of a professional and managerial class, but it was consumption that shaped these urbanites into a coherent class. Lacking the cultural capital necessary to emulate the elite, the middle class distanced themselves from an aristocratic culture they deemed too French and came to patronize restaurants—some featuring ethnic cuisine—that reflected their own cosmopolitan values. Ultimately, this patronage created a middle-class culture that challenged traditional notions of public dining. Taking issue with cultural theorists who argue that class hierarchies are unassailable, I contend that the collective purchasing power of the middle class effected a cultural coup that changed future generations understanding of national identity, gender and ethnicity.The emergence of a middle-class consuming public had far-reaching ramifications. Not only did the middle classes demonstrate their agency in choosing to patronize restaurants that catered to their tastes, but they also established an institutional basis for asserting their cultural influence. In the nineteenth century, the middle classes imitated the rich; in the twentieth century, the middle classes became the nation's cultural arbiters.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Haley, Andrew Peteraphst7@pitt.eduAPHST7
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee CoChairGabaccia,
Committee CoChairBaker,
Committee MemberVenarde, Brucebvenarde@pitt.eduBVENARDE
Committee MemberStabile, Carol
Committee MemberOestreicher, Richarddick@pitt.eduDICK
Date: 4 October 2005
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 26 May 2005
Approval Date: 4 October 2005
Submission Date: 21 July 2005
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: chefs; chop houses; culinary; cultural capital; ethnic restaurants; hotels; restaurateurs; smoking; waiters
Other ID:, etd-07212005-122032
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:52
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:46


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