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Respectable mediocrity: the everyday life of an ordinary American striver, 1876-1890.

During March of 1887, as he approached his thirty-first birthday and ten-year anniversary as a salaried employee with St. Paul, Minnesota's most prestigious dry goods firm, an Irish-American named Michael J. Boyle suffered under "a paralyzing attack of the blues." Although he had wended his way from a dry goods day laborer in the "feather-picking hell" of his firm's Carpet Department, through stock management jobs, and finally into a buyer and seller of ginghams, prints, and jeans, Boyle wondered if he could endure continued "poverty" and the "dreary humdrum of [his $1,500 per annum salaried] existence year after year." After several attempts to sort out his troubles, Boyle finally scribbled a diary entry that signaled a quintessentially American mid-life crisis-in-the-making. "It makes me sick at times when I look around me and see how I am being distanced by my friends and acquaintances in the race for wealth!" he cried. "Nearly every young man I know has made and is making a great deal of money in real estate and business." Former co-workers, "Harry and Loomis are doing splendidly," he reported, "and I believe they will clear upwards of ten thousand dollars a piece out of their first year in business." (1)

As he reflected upon his ten-year struggle on the "proverbial ladder of success," Boyle blamed neither the social circumstances that allowed some young men to outdistance others, nor the vagaries of the market and the changes industrialization had engendered in the United States. Instead, he observed that, in his "strife" for "better things," he had failed to adhere to the rules established for American success. Lamenting the fact that he had never acquired the arts of economy, industry, and willpower, and the investment acuity necessary for economic independence, Boyle confessed, "I am powerless because I am in debt and clearly my first duty is to get out of that condition. This is the harvest one reaps when one sows in extravagance and dissipation. Well," he declared, "I have brought it all on myself and I must bear it like a man!" (2)

Eventually, Boyle settled his debts, but he never attained the wealth and status that he had envisioned when he embarked upon his business "career." He was in good company, for many Americans encountered similar setbacks during the final quarter of the nineteenth century. Recent failure and gender studies reveal that, although many white men could hope to obtain some form of economic independence before the Civil War, by the 1870s more than 90% of all business start-ups failed, a trend that would continue into the twentieth century. As many observed their dreams of small-scale entrepreneurship fade into oblivion, rank-and-file Americans had to confront a harsh reality: the psychic costs of failure would increase unless they envisioned a new kind of success, a new respectability based upon their descent into the ranks of the "mediocre man." With self-made men dwindling in number and wage earners swelling the ranks of an increasingly incorporated America, a plethora of advice manuals emerged to help young men rationalize their new position. Indeed, during 1912 one self-made failure declared, "those of us who form this mighty majority occupy positions which are just as important to the progress and development of the world as the places held by the favored few who rule it." Furthermore, he suggested, "every man cannot be great, but most men, if they knew their limitations, could be greatly useful; and no man who is useful is a failure." Whether he read advice manuals or not, Boyle had reached the same conclusion twenty years earlier. (3)

Historians have produced a voluminous literature on economic elites and the working-class, and America's "managerial class" has received considerable attention over the past decade; however, fewer scholars have explored the rank-and-file office workers and economic strivers who bolstered American capitalist expansion by eschewing working-class politics despite their failure to achieve mobility through entrepreneurship, land ownership, or the emerging professions associated with the rise of big business. Although failure, the petite bourgeoisie, and white-collar work remain understudied subjects in American history, in part due to source limitations, they are essential to our understanding of American culture. Several innovative studies examining the social consequences of economic disappointment have appeared in recent years, suggesting that, as the processes of industrialization expanded across the nation, and debt and bankruptcy proceedings multiplied exponentially, many Americans adapted to new economic realities by searching for creative ways to lower their risks so they could continue to participate in the American economy. Neither joining unions, nor searching for economic and ideological alternatives to the economic success model that had guided the nation since infancy, many young men aspired to salaried employment, consumption, and education as ways to "get ahead," and to avoid the stain of emasculating failure in a society focused on material advancement as a measure of independence, success, and self-worth. (4)

Boyle's surviving diaries, spanning the years 1876 through 1890, provide a rare opportunity to explore the everyday experiences of one ordinary male striver who, along with the "mighty majority," adjusted to, rather than challenged, his descent into respectable mediocrity. He found the adjustment difficult, but in the years following his 1887 crisis, Boyle finally abandoned his youthful dreams. Realizing that he preferred consumption to saving and investment, he consigned the responsibility (and costs) associated with business ownership to his employers so that he could focus his energies on achieving a modicum of social respectability through salaried employment.

Entrepreneurial Dreams and the New Reality, 1856-1877

Socialized as an American go-getter, Michael J. Boyle learned to equate manhood with economic independence and social mobility. He considered himself a devout Catholic, and defended his beliefs on several occasions, but his diaries do not constitute the autobiographical reflections of a man seeking to reconcile his faith with the vicissitudes of capitalist culture. For the most part, he recorded his religious duties in much the same way he observed daily weather, noting the time he went to mass, the various parishes he frequented, and the religious holidays he observed. A life-long Democrat, he occasionally indulged himself in political commentary as well, but he tied his interests to the two-party system, criticized people with more radical views, and tended to make most of his observations during national campaigns. Much more interested in his own daily experiences--in business, and as a consumer and social climber--Boyle provided a detailed account of the changing landscape he inhabited. Like many young men of his generation, he grew up with railroads and celebrated their expansion to the Pacific Ocean. He also embraced the market economy, and marveled at the innovations that made life more convenient during the 1880s, particularly technologies such as electric lights and the telephone. As a result, his diaries construct a narrative centered on the odyssey of a 20-year-old entrepreneurial striver who matured into a 34-year-old man who accepted his lot in life as a corporate employee and consumer willing to forego the affluence some of his superiors had achieved. (5)

Born on April 19, 1856, in the bituminous coal district of Pennsylvania, Boyle connected his later experiences to the changing fortunes of his parents. His father Charles and mother Margaret had emigrated from Ireland to Allegheny City during the potato famine of the 1840s. With few skills at the ready, Charles Boyle soon found himself laboring in the coal mines, alongside Irish Catholics, as well as German-speaking people, northern European immigrants, and native-born Americans of various religious faiths. Like many men of his day, Charles hoped to ascend in America, preferably into small-scale entrepreneurship. Margaret worked in various domestic occupations, but she dreamed as well--about quitting work so she could enjoy the domestic pleasures of upwardly mobile women. Despite unending labor and long hours, however, the Boyles failed to realize their hopes in Pennsylvania. (6)

When the Panic of 1857 engulfed the nation in one of its periodic economic depressions, and they found themselves in desperate circumstances, the Boyles determined to quit Pennsylvania permanently so that they could find a better life for themselves and their infant son. Rapid economic expansion between 1850 and 1857 had pushed railroads as far west as Rock Island, Illinois, complete with immigrants anxious to make a new start in regions developing to the north and west of the Mississippi River port. As they gazed into America's future, the Boyles soon joined that movement, following the railroad to Rock Island, thence boarding steamboats headed north.

By the end of 1857, the Boyles had made their way to St. Paul, Minnesota Territory. The small town had suffered financial losses in the wake of the Panic, but as the territorial capital, St. Paul had emerged as the gateway to the New Northwest and had become a magnet for the chain migration of Catholics, and its strategic location along the eastern shore of the Mississippi River now promised to provide opportunities for men willing to participate in its conversion from a river-based trading hub into the nexus of Minnesota's bid for statehood, railroads, and economic expansion. Once the family moved to Minnesota, Charles Boyle labored along the docks of the Mississippi River, Margaret settled into the business of making a home, and young Michael enjoyed the attentions of St. Paul's Irish Catholic community.

During the 1860s, Civil War contracts and demands for the region's wheat and timber products stimulated economic recovery in Minnesota, and allowed Charles to work his way up to the position of a surveyor. As the region embarked upon a post-Civil War economic boom, expanding opportunities also recast the Boyle family from members of the working class into the ranks of the petite bourgeoisie. On commercial expansion, Charles opened his own surveying firm, and obtained lucrative contracts from the City of St. Paul, the Catholic parish, and the many railroad companies that had descended upon St. Paul. Business profits also allowed him to speculate in hinterland real estate, railroad stocks, and other enterprises on the hope of further returns. By 1870, the Boyles had achieved some of the middle-class respectability they had hoped to find in the developing northwest, and young Michael enjoyed the privileges of a parochial education. The family hobnobbed with St. Paul's Irish Catholic strivers, rented better housing in St. Paul, and expanded their family to include a daughter as well as another son. With future prospects looking rosy, Charles and Margaret also decided to send Michael to Cleveland, where he could obtain the kind of education that would prepare him for his own ascent within Minnesota's burgeoning capital of commerce, transportation, and politics. (7)

By the time he reached his teens, American capitalism had seduced Michael Boyle completely, and he eagerly anticipated his own brilliant career as an American entrepreneur. Witnessing his father's success as an independent contractor, the expanding prosperity of other self-made Minnesotans from various ethnic and religious backgrounds, and rising consumer choices, Michael considered his family part of an Irish-Catholic vanguard--whose members proclaimed themselves more interested in assimilation and the promise of American life than working-class politics. Enjoying a life of relative ease, he went to school by day, studied the Bible during winter evenings, and also made time for evening work on geometry and readings in the classic literature of the western world. In summers, he worked alongside his father to learn the family business. At social gatherings, he and his friends shared their dreams for the future. With St. Paul the center of regional politics, some young Catholics aspired to careers in law, journalism, and government. Some hoped to enter commerce through clerkships in banking, railroads, and the wholesaling district. Michael saw his future in the law or the emerging profession of civil engineering. Thus, when he departed for college during 1875, 19-year-old Boyle foresaw a very bright future indeed. (8)

Unfortunately, circumstances cut Michael's dreams short. Following the Panic of 1873, the United States collapsed into its first industrial depression. Between 1873 and 1877, Americans registered a record number of business bankruptcies, both large and small. Minnesotans, just entering large-scale railroad and industrial expansion, managed to stave off the worst, but railroad construction ceased throughout the region during the four-year period, and one business after another foundered, then failed. Charles Boyle remained solvent for three years, but by the spring of 1876, his company teetered on the brink of bankruptcy. Seeking to lower some of his costs, he sent for his son. Returning to St. Paul in the spring, Michael did not perceive the catastrophe that loomed, at least not at first. After all, his father seemed to have plenty of business within and beyond St. Paul, on jobs that kept Michael busy on surveying and street-grading projects. Working with his father by day throughout the spring and into the summer, Michael continued to pursue his business education from home in the evenings--studying bookkeeping, "geometrics," and German. By August, however, Charles Boyle realized his worst fears; his real estate speculations had ruined him, and in September his business failed.

Deeply in debt on money he had borrowed to fuel his speculative enterprises, and desperate to set things right with his creditors, Charles decided to return to Ireland to search for work. Leaving young Michael in charge of both the family as well as the many obligations owed to merchants and other creditors in St. Paul, Charles departed at the end of September. Michael's dreams of economic independence and small-scale entrepreneurship came to an abrupt end. He had to find a job so he could pay off his father's debts, support his mother and siblings, and wait for his father's return. (9)

Within months, 20-year-old Boyle descended from a life of high expectations into unemployment, and the depths of family debt and despair. Despite the burdens he had incurred, however, Michael "screwed up his courage"; he searched for work and resolved to redeem his family's financial position. He spent his mornings in St. Paul's commercial district, with his "principal business getting something to do." Making notations in the small, leather-bound diaries that survive from that year forward, Boyle reported that Irish-Catholic businessmen and family friends "received me very favorably, but gave me no definite hopes" of employment. Deeming these discouraging visits and his family's situation temporary, he then settled into afternoons and evenings "studying commercial Arithmetic" so he could make himself more marketable. Alas, St. Paul's market, already glutted with more experienced men searching for work, foiled Michael's plans. With prospects waning in town, and his father's desperate search for opportunities in Ireland failing, family troubles finally forced Michael to accept the one position he had hoped to avoid--an emasculating teaching post in a rural school twenty miles distant from St. Paul. (10)

Sharing a belief in the success ethos of his male counterparts throughout the nation, Michael argued that the bucolic life "disagreed" with his "health," and that teaching represented "women's work." Pining for the excitement of urban and commercial life, he feared that the position, with the "barrenness of incidents and the monotonous sameness of daily life," would ruin him. Still, it paid well ($41/month), indeed more than he could hope to command as a day laborer in St. Paul. Michael endured it for a time, considering it a "temporary expedient" that would "elevate that great [American] virtue of adaptability to circumstances." Within six months, however, he had had enough; he packed his bags and returned to St. Paul on April 28, 1877, determined to remain despite finding "the financial & business outlook decidedly bad." In the days that followed, he also vowed to jump on the first opportunity, no matter how "mean," so he could watch over his family members, deal with his father's creditors, and wait for the depression to lift. (11)

Finally, on May 15, 1877, as St. Paul's economy began to improve, an opportunity surfaced to enter business in St. Paul. While attending mass, Boyle received a note from a Protestant man partnered with a Jewish-German dry goods wholesaler named Maurice Auerbach. A cautious and prosperous entrepreneur, Auerbach had not risked his all on railroad stock and real estate speculation during the post-Civil War boom. Instead, he had plowed his profits into less risky ventures--dry goods and banking businesses focused on safeguarding St. Paul's commercial infrastructure for long-term expansion. Auerbach's partner invited Boyle to visit the firm that afternoon. "Going down" to the "dry goods concern" located at the center of St. Paul's commercial district, Boyle reported, "Culbertson offered me a situation in the Carpet Department, where he assured me I would have plenty of physical labor & small remuneration [wages that amounted to $15/month]. I concluded to accept, even for those bad terms and will start in tomorrow." Initially, he found "this beginning at the bottom rung of the ladder pretty trying on one who has led such an independent life as I have." Within months, however, as a member of the antecedent group of men who would create the twentieth century's "organization man," Boyle worked his way up from a day laborer into a loyal, salaried employee. Very soon, he also began to equate his own success with the fortunes of his prominent employer. More importantly, Boyle reassured himself, as a salaried man with a promising future, he had restored his manhood. (12)

The Salaried Plan as a "Temporary Expedient," 1877-1882

When Boyle embarked upon his "career" with "Auerbach, Finch, Culbertson, and Company" during the spring of 1877, he had not given up on his dreams of economic independence and social mobility. Despite a four-year depression and the Great Railroad strike that rocked the nation during the summer, his employers had both survived the Panic, as well as flourished on careful investments and continued demand for the products and services they provided. Emerging as one of the city's leading firms---complete with more than 200 employees in various divisions, from retail and wholesale divisions to a manufacturing department-Auerbach & Co. promised to provide plenty of opportunities for advancement in the days ahead. Fired by youthful optimism and the promise of a rebounding economy, Boyle planned to continue to study commercial subjects at home and on the job, ascend within the firm, pay off his father's debts, and then join the ranks of the self-employed. (13)

Following his first year as an employee, advancement at Auerbach & Co. materialized more quickly than Boyle had originally dared to hope, and seemed to confirm his optimism about future prospects. As investors re-energized the economy for railroad expansion to the Pacific Northwest, Minnesota entered into a third economic boom that transformed St. Paul into the banking, transportation, and wholesaling center for the region, and Minneapolis into the most important manufacturing center northwest of Chicago. (14)

On business expansion between 1877 and 1882, Auerbach rewarded those employees who assisted the firm through the transition, including young Boyle, who had persevered "no matter how mean and disagreeable" he had found his firs t few months of service. Considering the "menial jobs which fall to my lot as steps to future advancement," Boyle had endured various hardships as a day laborer, "picking hair from mattresses, a business which in point of meanness ranks second only to feather handling" and other "mean jobs" which he had performed as "well and patiently" as possible. By August 1877, the firm compensated his efforts by promoting Boyle to one of its stock departments. The promotion, however, came without a significant raise; and Boyle continued to receive a "pittance" of $25/month, a sum barely sufficient to cover family expenses. Boyle got "the blues" frequently over the next few months when reflecting on his family's "pecuniary condition," but as his first-year anniversary with the Auerbach concern arrived, he reported that "Salary excepted, I am satisfied with my progress, and I intend to ask Mr. Auerbach for a raise at the first opportunity." That opportunity soon surfaced. During June of 1878, Boyle's "moderate amount of cheek," which he now proclaimed, "indispensable to success," had netted him his first substantial raise--a sum that climbed from $180 in wages during his first year into a $500 annual salary. (15)

The salary increase, along with praise from his boss, gave Boyle a new sense of self-worth. "I have every reason to feel elation over my interview," he exclaimed. In addition, Boyle reported, "Among other things, Mr. Auerbach said to me, 'No young man ever came into this house who worked himself up in so short a time as you have done.' He also told me that he intended to raise my salary on July 1st even if I had not spoken to him. I was sincerely grateful, and I told him so." His gratitude toward the firm continued throughout the summer, particularly in the days that followed more praise, another promotion, and an additional raise. During July, Auerbach elevated Boyle to a position as non-supervising "head" of the flannel stock. Boasting of the accomplishment, Boyle declared, "W.A.C[ulbertson] wants me to be on the qui vive for trade this fall. He thinks I'll make a pretty good merchant, and says he'll take great pride in seeing me succeed." Three weeks later the firm increased his salary to $600 per annum. Rejoicing, Boyle trumpeted, "One thing is certain; the Firm will never regret giving me so handsome a raise." As he threw himself into his new position, Boyle gave Auerbach no cause for regret. Over the next several months, as he anticipated greater things to come, Boyle worked, on average, 14 hours a day, six or seven days a week, leaving his "life outside the store pretty much a blank." (16)

Boyle's expanding exertions on behalf of the firm allowed him to appease some of his father's creditors; however, economic independence continued to elude him during 1878. His lather, still searching for work and business opportunities in Ireland, had failed to find anything to do. Moreover, Michael soon learned that the family's debts were far deeper than he originally knew. By October, that reality meant the family could no longer afford to live in the rental property they occupied. Once removed to a smaller dwelling, Boyle sighed that the move "brings before me vividly how much we have lost during the last few years and how poor we are today." The vividness of his situation also coincided with other realizations: by gaining access to wider social circles through work, Michael began to covet the consumer items and social encounters many of his new business friends and associates enjoyed. Boyle could afford to "indulge" in the occasional poker match with "a quintette" of old Catholic friends, and the odd evening out with new friends from work, but he had insufficient funds to participate in the one pursuit he longed to undertake--joining "some of the boys" from the office on dates with the city's upwardly mobile set of eligible young women. "I do not believe in making weekly calls on ladies without taking them out to theaters, etc.," he announced, "and this last, my circumstances, will not allow me to do." (17)

When "some of the boys" received salary cuts from 20-25% with a temporary downturn in business during January 1879, and Boyle found no salary deduction in his own pay packet, he reassured himself that he still had a chance to realize his ambitions. Registering the manly virtues he required for future success--patience, industriousness, sobriety, thrift, and persistence--Boyle once again "screwed up" his "courage," began to "talk up schemes for securing a home" to avoid escalating rental prices, and consoled himself with the fact that "the firm have treated me very well indeed." Thus, he entered 1879 with a reinvigorated determination to set the family's financial house in order. His home-buying scheme failed, but by April, as his family settled into new rental accommodations, and he made a small dent in his father's enormous debt, Boyle remembered that "someone once said, 'Life is composed of two parts: the past--a dream, and the future, a wish,' and I believe that the majority of people, especially those unfortunate, look at it in that way." Furthermore, "I love to look forward to the unknown days to come, and plan out my career," he divulged, "and this musing keeps me greatly in keeping reconciled to my present lot." (18)

Reconciling himself to his present lot became more difficult as the winter lull ended and the economy boomed during the spring and summer. Business was brisk. His co-workers, unencumbered by family obligations, began to consume with abandon. The "ladies" came out to attend more public festivities. Now aged 23, Boyle feared that life would pass him by while he waited for his father to take responsibility for the family's fiscal obligations. Long denied instant gratification, Michael thus took his first "vacation" since the summer of 1876. Joining a co-worker on a beautiful May day, Boyle left the office at 1 p.m., hired a horse and carriage, drove the 5-mile road to White Bear Lake, and fished. The small indulgence worked magic "beyond description." It also increased Michael's appetite for more consumption. (19)

Anticipating another salary increase in July, Boyle had his hair "clipped with the 'Lawn mower,' "purchased a second-hand Prince Albert coat and vest, played poker with his friends from work, and joined "the boys" at the city's fashionable restaurants. Unfortunately, the hoped-for windfall did not appear in the July payroll, and spender Boyle felt the pinch. (20)

"I need money so badly that I intend asking for a raise," Boyle decided, yet "after [Auerbach's] liberal conduct a year ago," he "hesitated." When Boyle finally broached the topic in August, Auerbach informed him that he had no intention of raising salaries until January 1880. Disappointed, but anxious to please his employer, Boyle resolved to limit his spending and "be content." Just two weeks later, however, business expansion prompted Auerbach to hire several experienced salesmen from Chicago, as well as an associate's son, complete with salaries well beyond what Boyle had hoped to gain for himself. Wondering about the prudence of his strategy, Boyle became agitated to such an extent that he conspired with several of his co-workers to undermine the new competitors. Announcing that "a certain number of boys from each Department have entered into an alliance, offensive and defensive, to secure trade for ourselves and keep as much as possible from the new men," Boyle hoped that the plan would "show the Firm that it is to their interest to promote their old employees rather than place new ones over them." Auerbach and his partners took these moves into account, and promoted some workers while they also hired men from Chicago and elsewhere who promised to increase sales, and employed associates' sons who promised to enhance business and social relations. Some of "the boys" quit the firm when new hires undercut their own advancement. Others left as more lucrative opportunities arose, taking jobs as tellers in banks, moving into similar positions within other firms, joining the railroad, and receiving credit to start businesses of their own. But many remained, including Boyle. Eventually, he not only applauded the promotion of those who had "worked from the ranks to a good position," but also welcomed "new associates" rather than trying to sabotage them. (21)

Such loyalty had its reward, and Auerbach repaid it by offering Boyle a loan to help settle some of his father's debts so the young man could spend some of his income. But loyalty also had a price. As a forerunner to company-town strategies, the loan bound Boyle to the firm in ways not apparent to him at first. Initially, he read it as a sign of success--the firm had made an investment in his future. Increasingly, that sense of security heightened Boyle's desire to emulate the business talk and consumption patterns of the successful corporate entrepreneurs and salesmen in his midst, who soon included more sons, relatives, and friends of St. Paul's established middle-class elite, all sent to Auerbach's wholesaling and banking houses to hone their business skills. Embracing these new men, and the social connections they might provide, Boyle had to chastise himself more than once for being "a little too negligent of late about keeping the stock in good shape. I have a strong temptation to stand around and talk business, politics, and literature with the different men. I must and shall overcome it," he vowed. For the most part, his ambition to succeed kept his temptation to socialize in check. But he had also learned to equate his exertions on behalf of the firm with a desire for more disposable income so that he could take his rightful place among Auerbach's salaried elite. Expressing this view as he wended his way into 1880, Boyle declared "the different members of the Firm have more than once expressed their satisfaction at my services and I would like to see them come to the front with the ducats." Moreover, when he ascertained that the firm had made a great deal of money during 1879, he hoped that "they will evince a disposition to divide some of it with the boys" like himself who had helped to make the Auerbach concern such an enormous success. He also had a figure in mind: $800 as his a new annual salary. (22)

During January 1880, after receiving another disappointing letter from his "absent parent" in Dublin, Auerbach & Co. increased Boyle's salary beyond his "most sanguine expectations." Declaring his raise to $900 annually "without precedent in the House," Boyle began to engage in a little speculation about his future, this time not as a youthful enthusiast bent upon working his way into a business of his own, but rather as a man determined to rise through the ranks as a salaried employee. Boyle recognized he no longer "read and studied half enough," but he rationalized the deficiency by noting that his increased salary had also increased his responsibilities. Auerbach had offered him the chance to supervise subordinate workers, something Boyle had longed to do when daydreaming about business ownership. The reality of the task taught him an important lesson, however; the minute he began to manage his department, he discovered that he "disliked to be placed in a position of command over my associates and it would have pleased me well if Mr. Auerbach had entrusted this matter to someone else." He admitted that he had formerly looked down on men "engaged in the Dry goods business" when "surveying and Civil Engineering was my hobby." Moreover, he knew that "the former life was a pleasant and independent one, and if Father had not lost everything and left town I might be at it today." But he also decided that the "bitter and the sweet are strangely blended in human life, and what is, is best." As such, despite finding the "practice of working day and night most irksome," he promised to "persevere patiently and thankfully in the strife for better things." Those better things now represented more consumption and more time for social encounters. The "seemingly very pleasant times that certain young men at the store have at parties, etc., seized" Boyle "with a desire to go out more, to increase my acquaintance, to enjoy more society than I do." Alas, he confessed, "even if I should succeed in getting into the circle I would like, I have not the means to afford these pleasures." Still, he reasoned, "when I get to be worth $1,200 or $1,500 a year, I can go more frequently to see the young ladies," and join co-workers in subscribing to organizations with "social privileges" currently "too steep for my purse." He therefore labored with renewed vigor, putting "in such industrious days" that it reminded him of "old times," when he had pushed his way from daily wages into his first salaried position. With his eye on further promotions and increased financial returns, he worked overtime, and "in accordance with my principle of never refusing to do work outside my line," made himself available in the hopes of getting posted "as much as possible in all the different branches of the business." (23)

As he connected his new ambitions as an organizational man to his father's continuing failed attempts to gain employment or find business opportunities in Ireland, Boyle also reaffirmed his faith in the promise of American capitalism. "Father announces his intentions of returning home in the fall if not successful in getting into business there before that time. A Sensible Resolution!" he cried, for "America is the country for a man to rebuild his shattered fortunes." Indeed, despite inflation, high rents, and his growing desire to consume his way into larger social circles, Michael had made sizeable gains in his real-wage status during his tenure as stock manager. As a result, he cleared off more of his father's debts, and gratefully acknowledged the ways in which Auerbach and other middle-class acquaintances had made that possible. "We have every reason to feel grateful to father's creditors for their behavior towards us during the last 4 or 5 years," he claimed. "His debts are not few nor some of the amounts small, but without exception every person he owed has treated us with a consideration which I did not believe to be a characteristic of human kind when money matters are concerned ... the milk of human kindness is not altogether absorbed by the strife for wealth and the cares of business," he decided. (24)

If he had any doubts before, Boyle now resolved that his future resided with Auerbach & Co., and the sort of kindness such respectable middle-class people possessed. Ironically, although much of the milk of human kindness had flowed from the Catholic community and his Jewish employer during the Boyles' lean years, Michael began to distance himself from his old Irish friends. Moreover, with Auerbach marrying a Protestant woman, thereby connecting the firm's objectives with one of St. Paul's most prominent families, Auerbach began to offer more sons of elite Protestants positions within the firm. These new hires also made it easy for Boyle to push himself more deeply into the Protestant "set" associated with his employer and co-workers.

With more of his father's debts cleared away during 1881, 25-year-old Boyle pursued his own consumer desires with greater zeal. He also began to talk less about business, and more about women as well as how best to plan his climb into the social circles identified with St. Paul's established Protestant elite. Noting that "there are half a dozen girls in town, whom I hear a good deal about" through Protestant friends and associates at the firm, he still worried about the "poverty that deters me from asking for the pleasure, etc." After careful consideration, however, he decided to seek greater entrance into that society anyway. He joined various social clubs and attended more events "to meet some of the people I want to know." He indulged in the luxury of a daily newspaper, complete with society pages. On prospects of being head of ginghams and prints, and a general salesman shortly, Boyle also reported that "things look promising for me at the store and consequently I feel encouraged to stop at no exertion to advance the interests of the concern. (25)

When he received the hoped-for $1,500 salary in 1881, and his social prospects looked brighter, Boyle boasted, "I have climbed several rungs on the figurative ladder; my present position is one of the best in the house." His exaggerations and loyalty wavered from time to time. For example, when Auerbach "desired to call my attention to the time I got to store in the morning," Boyle admitted he had "been taking it rather easily this winter and no mistake." But when he learned that Auerbach threatened to charge employees for lost time, Boyle groused, "I wonder what he would say if I presented a bill for extra services and night work during the last four years!" He contemplated leaving the firm, but inevitably he remained. Sometimes his decision to do so centered on further promotions, the promise of a coveted purchasing trip to New York, or other perks he hoped to garner from the firm. More often than not, however, his loyalty resulted from the fact that Boyle shared a common trait among late nineteenth-century strivers; his growing social ambitions (and expanding consumer debt) outweighed his desire to leave the security of his job. For example, at the end of 1881, he reported, "During the last three months I have spent fifty dollars on such foolishness as shaking dice for drinks, and playing pool and billiards with the boys. Looking back at it, I realize clearly that in my circumstances this has been criminal extravagancy." He lamented, "I do not like to see so many older & more experienced men coming into the firm," but Boyle's "circumstances" prompted him to claim that their arrival "serves to strengthen my resolution of sticking to the management of stock and nerves me to greater exertions upon the matter of selling goods." All these resolves--some kept, some broken--benefited the reorganized firm of Auerbach, Finch, and Van Slyke as well, for in his "exertions" to better his social standing, Boyle continued to work many extra hours as his badge of professional dedication. (26)

Throughout 1881, Boyle also altered his definitions of independence, success, failure, and manhood as he reflected upon the "pluck" that had placed him in better positions within the firm. As he "sat on the porch" and "aired" some of his plans "for the far-off future" with his old friend Tom O'Brien (who had recently passed the bar and now planned to build a home on Summit Avenue, the finest middle-class boulevard in St. Paul), Boyle stated, "as far as wealth goes, I do not expect to ever possess more than a moderate competency, but I will get it if strict attention to business can secure it." Approaching his annual salary negotiations for 1882, he further declared, "If I succeed in making satisfactory salary relations with Mr. Auerbach, I shall be more than ever in love with my position at the store. I am on friendly and intimate terms with nearly every man in the house whose friendship is worth having and my duties are of the pleasantest kind." Despite ups and downs, by the next year he also maintained, "I don't think it is possible for anyone who works on a salary to lead an easier, pleasanter, or more independent life than I do." (27)

The exceptions to this general "good feeling" centered on salary negotiations, when the firm's partners reviewed their profits and decided whether to "retrench" or expand. When he failed to receive the promised pay increase for 1882 by February, Boyle complained, "Had a talk with Alfred Scheffer on the subject of salaries. He tells me that very few raises have been made and that most of these date from March 1st. Defrauding (it practically amounts to that) employees of part of their wages for two months is a flagrant act of meanness and injustice for a first-class firm to resort to. Mr. Auerbach is too much a creature of moods to have charge of salaries, and the sooner this part of the management is transferred to Mr. Winslow the better it will be for the reputation of the firm and the pockets of the boys." Moreover, he steamed, "After five years of steady service, I have reached a position where I can make money for them, and I intend to get as much compensation for my time and expenses as I possibly can." Indeed, in his fury, Boyle asserted himself, and by March, more than a "moderate amount of cheek" paid off again. The firm announced Boyle's formal promotion to the ranks of general salesman at a salary of $1,800 per annum. With the economic boom at its peak, he not only "multiplied" his salary "by ten" over what he had commanded in 1877, but also won the promise of $2,000 in 1883. Regardless, Boyle's earlier diatribe foreshadowed a reality he would have to face in the days to come--owner Auerbach, "creature of moods" or not, controlled Michael's purse strings. When Boyle asked for time off in June, Auerbach told him he must wait until July, on the promise of a purchasing trip to New York. In the meantime, Boyle also asked for another loan to tide him over. Reporting that Auerbach "has kindly promised to advance me all the money I may want," Boyle cried, "Verily! All things considered, I have every reason to be grateful to the 'Little man,' and I am." Again, gratitude had its rewards and costs. Auerbach owned Boyle's loyalty, and they both knew it. Boyle would soon have to solve this affront to his sense of manhood if he hoped to continue to reconcile his "easy, pleasant, and independent life" with the realities of his position as a salaried, managed worker. (28)

Redefining Independence and Manhood as a Bachelor, 1882-87

On August 1, 1882, circumstances redefined Boyle's future, not only as a worker, but also as a consumer and bachelor. Over time, it became apparent that his father would never return to St. Paul. During June, his mother had finally decided to join Charles Boyle in Ireland, taking Michael's younger siblings with her. Although he continued to send money abroad, and to deal with his father's creditors until he had paid off the last of them in 1884, Michael soon discovered a new kind of independence. Auerbach had kept his promise about sending Boyle to New York on his first buying trip. Departing St. Paul in July, with family members in tow, Michael wended his way from Minnesota, through Chicago, and on to New York. After seeing his family members board a steamer for England, he spent four weeks in New York, feeling "perfectly at home" inside the busy wholesaling district there. The sights, sounds, "bristle and activity" of Manhattan thrilled him, but as he made his way back to Minnesota, he declared, "it did me good to see the old town again as I rounded the bend" to St. Paul. It "seemed odd to be coming into St. Paul with no home to go to"; however, "warmly received by the boys at the store and by the Firm too for that matter," he soon found a place to live. Along with one of his co-workers, Cal Weatherby, as well as "Mr. Rittenhouse [a teller] of the First National Bank, and Mr. Hilleys [a clerk] of the Northern Pacific Land Office," Boyle became a boarder. (29)

Within no time, "working to spend" became an all-consuming passion for bachelor Boyle. At age 26, truly single for the first time in his adult life, he entered the world of male consumption and tested the limits of respectable manhood. Joining his "fellow boarders, all first rate fellows with whom I expect to pass a very pleasant" time, as well as other bachelor co-workers, he frequented billiard halls more often. He dined on "froglegs on toast and Champagne" at St. Paul's fanciest restaurant. He joined the "Boat Club" and other organizations, for their "social features" and "an opportunity of meeting some of the people" he wanted "to know." He engaged in all-night poker games in boardinghouse rooms throughout the city. The novelties of late-night, friendly debates on religion and politics, "shop" and "girl" talk, attracted him as well. From Cal Weatherby, Charles Rittenhouse, and other bachelors, he also received lessons in the etiquette required for leaps into larger social circles--how to "call" on women, how to dance with them, what to give them, and what to wear when escorting them to the theater, and eventually, the opera. Although he "seriously" thought "of writing to Mr. Van Slyke [the New York partner] and asking him for the position of assistant buyer in the New York office," he realized that "inclination" as well as debt now bound him to St. Paul. Moreover, with new friends and rosy social prospects, he decided that "I should like above all things to fight my way to an independent position here." That "independence" now equaled more than business success. It implied freedom from family constraints, and he intended to enjoy it by acquiring a better salary so he could spend money on himself and "the ladies." (30)

Through some of his new boarding-house friends, who had their eye on temporary enjoyments while searching for a "respectable" wife, Boyle started to think about the "need" to save for the future; however, he consistently side-stepped this concern as his consumer tastes mounted. For example, when his boarder friend, Rittenhouse, quit his job "to start a bank" of his own, offering Boyle "some stock" and the possibility of a future partnership, spender Boyle declined the investment opportunity. In part, debt had placed him in no position to do so, and Boyle deemed it "unfortunate that I have not some money at my disposal," for "I have many opportunities of making small investments which would pay handsomely, had I means to go into them." But he really had little interest in saving. Instead, he resolved to "bide" his time, noting "if life and health are mine, with God's help I will amass a due share of worldly goods in the next ten years." With that in mind, he proposed "to make myself as valuable to the Firm as I know how. Duty and gratitude for past favors are all powerful motives with me." When feeling puffed up about his indispensability at Auerbach & Co., he mused, "A year is a long time to look ahead, but if I remain longer than that with the House, it shall be at a good sound advance over my present salary. Lindekes [Auerbach's biggest competitor] are, I think, anxious to get me." Of course, neither Lindekes nor anyone else offered him a better deal (including the means to buy himself out of the debts he had incurred with his employer). (31)

Eventually, at the prompting of Rittenhouse, Boyle reported that "I did something today worthy of especial mention--I deposited with Rit at the People's Bank $100. This is the very first attempt I have ever made to save money. I expect to feel very important over having a bank account." Over time, however, he revealed that he had not opened the account to save his money, but to place it in a convenient depository so he could spend it. As some of his boarding-house friends began to settle into the routine of business, marriage brokering, and leaps into middle-class respectability, some of them noted that bachelor Boyle had become a "terrier (to use the latest slang phrase), for going out of evening, giving it lately, and no mistake." Moreover, as the months went by in this "idealic way, paying dose attention to business during business hours and passing evenings in the company of the right kind of people," Boyle spent his way into a frenzy to keep up with some of his more affluent friends. As a result, he quickly found himself straddling the ambiguous worlds of middle-class respectability, consumer debt, and the subculture that defined the American bachelor, complete with the spending habits that ultimately transformed male consumption patterns in the twentieth century. (32)

By September of 1883, in the wake of city-wide celebrations commemorating the completion of the Northern Pacific transcontinental railroad line from St. Paul to the Pacific Northwest, the freedoms of bachelorhood had completely transformed Boyle. During 1880, he had admired both men as well as women for their intellect and conversational abilities, including many of the people he had hobnobbed with in the Catholic community. He had also admired older friends such as Tom O'Brien, for the ways in which he had risen the ranks, achieving material wealth "without sacrificing his religious convictions." Now, Boyle studied less, attended mass more infrequently, moved to more expensive boarding houses closer to Summit Avenue, esteemed men with social connections, and admired women for their looks, social graces on the dance floor, and the status he might achieve by marrying one of them. In the wake of the transcontinental celebration, he also "invested" in Northern Pacific stock, and other "flyers" rather than propping up his savings account. He would soon regret these "investments," for the Northern Pacific Railroad failed once again during the next in a series of stock market crashes. (33)

Wandering into new social circles, and further debt, in order to meet the "beauty and elite" of St. Paul-Minneapolis' predominantly Protestant clique, Boyle "gradually" realized his "designs of going into [that alternative] society to a moderate extent." Moderation soon slipped into abandon, however; as he fell "into a free and easy style of living, never stopping to reckon the costs when a gust of amusement" presented itself, Boyle spent less and less time with Tom O'Brien and other old friends, and more and more time with affluent colleagues tied to the city's established Protestant families. After he made his first appearance at a social gathering containing this "culture, wealth, youth, and beauty of the town," Boyle exclaimed, "I enjoy it with the zest of a man who has delayed making the experiment until he is' pretty well advanced in years." As it turned out, his advanced age surfaced as an important distinction. (34)

Relieved from the probing eyes of his mother at a relatively "advanced" age, Boyle depended upon his successful boarding-house colleagues and sons of the firm's partners such as "Sherm" Finch and "Charlie" Van Slyke to show him the finer points of what bachelor "boys" with deep pockets liked to do for entertainment. Those included calling on the diverse collection of young women respectably placed within St. Paul's established Protestant community, but they also involved male-only rituals such as high-stakes poker, fine sherry and champagne, and nibbling on frogs legs at midnight. By the end of the year, one "gala" spree for Boyle included "five nights of opera in full dress with a different young lady every night," while others involved several nights "losing big" at poker or spending more on wine and food than Boyle's "purse allowed." He confessed, "I ought not to have gone to a card party during Holy Week, but I accepted the invitation without thinking, and hated afterwards to decline." His increased consumption also caused him to admit, "I can say truthfully that I have no ills that money wouldn't heal. I do wish I had a higher appreciation of the value of a $5 note." Alas, in his "zest" for experimentation with drink, food, gambling, and women, Boyle blurred the lines between respectable and "deviant" behavior in ways that began to startle some of his new hosts and many of the people who had nurtured him since childhood. (35)

Boyle's new bachelor friends had practiced the social arts since boyhood, knowing that no matter the "dissipation" they engaged in, their fathers would rescue them in time to run the family (or someone else's) business. Michael, burdened first with family debt, then his own, had neither family coffers and connections nor personal savings to fall back on. As 1883 slipped into 1884, he admitted, "I have reached the age of eight and twenty, and am not worth a dollar over and above my income, which I manage to spend with great regularity." Still, he observed, "I have life, almost perfect health, a good situation, and were it not for my family, I would not have a care in the world." That soon changed. (36)

In an effort to keep up with each and every one of his new friends--all of whom, without exception, disappeared from the bachelor scene once they reached a proper matrimonial understanding with one of the eligible "beauty and elite" of the town--Boyle spent himself into dizzying debt. In addition, he had to contend with the fact that his more affluent friends had conquered most of the women of his own age he had hoped to pursue. But beginning the struggle for wealth and a well-placed marriage well behind his boarding-house friends did not deter Boyle; that is, until circumstances forced him to confront how much he had obliterated the lines between middle-class respectability and his own demeanor in the "race" for an extravagant social life and marriage partners.

At the peak of a consumer high in the summer of 1884, despite the stock market crash that had prompted another "retrenchment" at Auerbach & Co., Boyle's go-getter style finally resulted in his first moral hangover. After a less-than-lovely encounter with champagne following a vigorous rowing match at the "Boat Club," Boyle went to a barge party, where he noticed "that the ladies perceived something to be wrong with me." His boarding-house colleagues often drank and gambled into the night, but rarely in mixed company and public places. Moreover, if they tarnished their character, most had fathers anxious to bail them out. Initially, Boyle comforted himself "by the boys telling me that while it was patent I had been drinking from my looks and voice, still I did nothing to which exception might be taken, even though my speech was thick and I had not perfect control of my knees." Later in the day, however, the social faux pas hit him with full force. "This experience will be an everlasting warning to me what fools we mortals are to risk the reputation of years by underlying in an orgy of a few hours duration," he cried. But in some circles, Boyle's indiscretions had already decided the matter. One month later, when he went down to "Stone's after supper, and asked Miss Ella to go with me to the chapel lecture," he "fancied that Mrs. $. did not take to me kindly." Determined "to win her good opinion," he promised to reform his consumption habits. (37)

Unfortunately for Boyle, his resolution to consume more prudently coincided with another national recession. On November 11, 1884, Auerbach "took occasion to tell me how very badly the year was turning out in business," Boyle reported, "and concluded by conveying the unpleasant news that he would have to reduce nay salary next year." Co-worker Loomis received the same bad news. Fearing the worst, a salary cut of some 10-15 percent, they drowned their sorrow in drink, "considerably more than was good for us." Further social recklessness aside, it turned out that Boyle and Loomis had miscalculated on the salary front. Called into Auerbach's office in January 1885, Boyle learned that his salary had been reduced 25 percent, from $2,000 in 1884 to $1,500 for 1885. "I said nothing," Boyle fumed, "except that I though t there should be a little more proportion between the increasing and decreasing ratios in the matter of salaries." Later, he snarled, "Maurice Auerbach! How that man is hated! I wouldn't be in his shoes for ten times his wealth," and moreover, "loyalty to the concern is about destroyed in the house." But no amount of "cheek" could change the situation. Boyle, indebted to the firm, had to remain with it. (38)

With little left to lose, or so it seemed, Boyle simply went through the motions at work and focused more of his attention on rebuilding his social reputation. Never unpopular among the "smart set," Boyle triumphed within the circle he had entered. Elected captain of St. Paul's Boat Club, he threw himself into the business of arranging a "Bachelor hop" during office hours so that he could pursue one of the young women he had "taken a decided fancy to" during the spring. The daughter of a prominent St. Paul iron dealer, Leila Deane had emerged as one of the most eligible young women in St. Paul. Boyle asked her to accompany him to the Hop he had organized, but she declined. Indeed, the event was a social hit, with more than 225 of the "beauty and elite" of the town in attendance, but Boyle "went alone, not because I wanted to but because I had no other alternative." Deane, and other young women, "had made previous engagements" to attend with some of Boyle's younger, more successful friends. As a social "organization man," Boyle had succeeded; however, as a consumer of eligible women he had failed. Choosing to connect his disappointment to his position at Auerbach & Co., he decided to make a "business change when the opportunity presents itself," As he suffered under a "severe attack of the blues" that foreshadowed his later crisis, Boyle roared, "I am 29 years old and I haven't saved a dollar and am only receiving $1,500 a year." For the first time since 1880, he also began to wonder if he had not missed his calling. "I think I could have achieved greater success either as a lawyer or a civil engineer," he moaned, "but I was a creature of circumstances when I entered the Dry goods business and a creature of circumstances I have remained since. Well, I propose to make the best of my lot, keep a stiff upper lip, and look at the brighter side of life." After all, "real men," he reasoned, were "not easily discouraged." (39)

In the days that followed his new resolve to "look at the brighter side of life," Boyle searched for ways to make extra money, attended mass more regularly, and "lounged around the rooms reading the morning papers until" he saw Leila Deane emerge from the House of Hope Church or her Summit Avenue residence. Determined to win her over, Boyle decided that nothing stood in his way but business opportunities. When one old friend suggested that the Deanes might disapprove of Boyle's advances on religious grounds, he argued, "Before I got into the social arena I used to hear it said that there was still latent among non-Catholics a good deal of prejudice and intolerance against the Church and its members, but I have failed to discover it. My friends," including young Leila, "belong to all shades of belief, and many of them have no belief at all except the vague generality that there is a God," he declared. Indeed, Leila and others had welcomed him into their social circle; and Boyle had emerged as a very popular man among them. He merely needed a chance to change his economic "circumstances," once and for all, Boyle announced. (40)

Over the next several months, as business prospects expanded and the recession lifted, Boyle's position at the firm improved somewhat, as did his mood. He cleared off his father's debts in 1884, and managed to make a dent in his own despite the fact that he owed money to various friends around town and still held a loan with the firm that matched his yearly income. Circumstances had not furnished him "the means of leaving" Auerbach & Co. "at the first opportunity," but after adhering to "strict economy" throughout the first half of the year, he requested a week's vacation in July to avoid another attack of "the blues." When Auerbach granted it, Boyle forgot his past resolves. Seeking to impress some of the young women enjoying a respite at Lake Minnetonka's Lafayette Hotel, he took out a room at the prestigious villa empire-builder James J. Hill had constructed as a get-away for his wealthy business associates. Neither on business for Auerbach, nor invited with another St. Paul family, Boyle splurged on the resort so he could dance with, or at least sneak a glimpse of, Leila Deane and other "beauties" who had "captivated" his interest. Reporting on the activities he had enjoyed throughout his week of high living, Boyle groaned, "as I reviewed the troop of youngsters, most of whom I might with perfect propriety, have handled on my knee not as many years ago, I felt like a fossil, but," cheering up, "my company was charming, it was the first party of the season, and I soon gave myself up to the enjoyment of the festive scene." Indeed, while the women he pursued remained between 18 and 22, Boyle had aged; and the marriage market had a calculus Boyle chose to ignore during his week of festivities. When he returned to St. Paul, however, he had to confront his demons again. (41)

As he recorded the ways in which each of his friends had made the "sassiety" pages by announcing yet another excellent match between the right sort of people, Boyle realized he had made a fool of himself. With "responsibility too great to live only for the present as I have done," Boyle once again promised to "brace up." He vowed to "attend to religious duties, give up society, practice strict economy, and restrict my line of conduct" until he got his financial house in order. Then, he hoped, a respectable young woman like Leila Deane might take his advances more seriously, no matter the age difference. (42)

Boyle failed to keep a regular diary during 1886, but several entries suggest that he kept some resolutions, while he broke others. By 1887, money matters continued to bother him, "what with the purchase of wedding presents," ordering "lilacs from Chicago" for Deane because "she likes them and must have them," and buying "various other incidentals." He also had to wait "for a favorable opportunity of tackling Mr. Auerbach for a higher salary," but at least he had managed to pay some of his bills to friends and the firm. He had also "made new friends during the last year," but "some of the old ones," particularly married men such as O'Brien, Rittenhouse, and other colleagues, were "not so dear as they used to be." Unfortunately for Boyle, his troubles had not ended. Even though he had changed his spending habits, moved away from boarding houses near St. Paul's fashionable Summit Avenue, and began to economize so he could pay off his considerable debt, the fates conspired against him in ways that aggravated his March 1887 crisis. In an attempt to "get square with the world," Boyle tried "to make some money on the outside" by borrowing three hundred dollars to invest in a hoped-for boom along a railroad line. Unable "to get in on the ground floor," circumstances "blasted" his "hopes of doing a little profitable speculating in that neck of the woods." Making matters worse, he spent the loan on Leila and other young women, hiring carriages to take them to the opera, and buying expensive corsages and other trinkets for them. Ironically, however, the crisis paved the way, for Boyle's final adjustment to his "lot in life" as a "creature of circumstance. (43)

With the arrival of his anniversary in dry goods during May, Boyle reflected, "Ten years ago today in the Carpet department I began my business career with Auerbach, Finch, Culbertson, and Co. From some points of view it seems to me but a little while since that bright May morning of my initiation, but from others the times seems long indeed. I have crowded a vast amount of work and pleasure into this decade, but I have not developed that spirit of acquisitiveness which is calculated to bring ease and comfort to my declining years." Regardless, he had made his decisions, focused on the "pleasure" he had "crowded" into the decade, and concluded, "I rejoice that I have not the overweening love for the root of evil that I see displayed around me." Several months later, as he pondered another disappointing salary negotiation, Boyle declared, "My sense of obligation to Mr. Auerbach will cause me to do my routine duties well this fall, but if he does not make a satisfactory arrangement with me on salary matters, I do not think I shall do many works of supererogation." Boyle hoped for a $2,500 annual salary, but when the dreaded "interview" took place in September, Auerbach offered him $2,000 for 1888. In addition, the firm increased Boyle's responsibilities in stock management. Still, Auerbach had credited Boyle's account with a $200 loan. No longer so anxious to "get ahead," Boyle agreed to the terms, conceding that "the ordinary man has to struggle continuously in this world if he wants to get on, and I am willing to struggle." He had resigned himself to the fact that the vast majority of independent men had to do so, going through their daily "business mechanically so they could save their energies for other pleasures. (44)

From Failure to Respectable Mediocrity: Re-Imagining the "Self-Made" Man

Boyle's "zest" for the independent life of a bachelor collided with his business ambitions, ultimately exposing that he never really wanted to expend the sort of effort required to achieve economic independence and entrepreneurial success. He also dreamed of acquiring social status, but as he continued to pursue Leila Deane during 1888 and 1889, he finally learned that he could not spend his way into her life. By September 1889, debt-free and resolved to save money for the future, Boyle proposed marriage for the first time in his life. When Deane turned him down, declaring family objections to his financial status and religious differences, Boyle knew he could try to resolve the former, but could never marry someone who could not, or would not, convert to the faith he considered it his "duty" to observe. When he entered into salary negotiations at the end of the year, Boyle put up no resistance when he received less than he hoped to secure. "Today George R. [Finch] spoke to me about arrangements for the coming year," he sighed. "I told him that I did not feel satisfied and thought I ought to get $2,500 a year and 5% of Dept. D. Profits, but at the same time I told him I intended to stay even if the concern didn't feel that they could give me more money. The fact of the matter is, my love affair has left me supremely indifferent--about business prospects, parties, etc." He acknowledged that "this is not the way to feel and I will get over it in time." Surviving evidence from later years reveals that he did, at least in part.

When measured strictly against the calculus of nineteenth- and twentieth-century manhood, Boyle failed. He never achieved the economic independence he craved in his youth. Once a salaried employee, he climbed few ranks, ascending neither into important managerial positions, nor into a partnership with the firm. He never owned a home of his own, nor did he win the girl he desired most. Regardless, at the end of his life, he did not regard himself or his life a failure. In one of the final diary notations he made as he neared the end of his life, Boyle recorded, "Providence last year. Fairly good health and contentment with limited means." (45)

The Minnesota Historical Society contains remnants of Boyle's life, from 1890 through his death in 1941, that suggest he had adjusted to respectable mediocrity long before he settled into his life of "contentment with limited means." During May 1890, while on a business trip in New York, Boyle met a colleague at Delmonico's. "Later we went to a high-browed gambling resort, where we remained until morning at the roulette table," he reported. "We both lost a good deal more money than we could afford and drank more brandy and soda than was good for us." Two days later, he declared that the extravagance "was the worst in my life," and Boyle worried that the experience "might have mined both of us." But Boyle survived the evening, and continued to indulge his penchant for consumption. (46)

During his 14-year journey--as he matured from a youthful enthusiast and entrepreneurial dreamer into a 34-year-old man "reconciled" to his "lot" as white-collar worker--Boyle never lost his faith in American capitalism. Indeed, in his unending attempts to master the "great virtue of adaptability to circumstances," he displayed many of the attributes common to lower-middle-class Americans, including the assumption that he remained the master of his own destiny. Moreover, as a "dry goods man" linked to the success of his affluent employers, Boyle achieved social recognition for his place on the "white" side of the "collar line." Neither an entrepreneurial failure like his father, nor an impoverished European or blue-collar worker destined to toil with his hands, Boyle could point to "real" success because he had re-imagined himself as part of a new generation of "self-made" American men--complete with the professional" and "status" consciousness that allowed Boyle and other members of his cohort to maintain their faith in American mobility and individual success. By "looking on the bright side," keeping a "stiff upper lip," and bearing his responsibilities "like a man" in the wake of the "extravagance and dissipation" he deemed within his control, Boyle not only climbed a few "rungs on the figurative ladder." He also transcended his "circumstances." He understood his limitations, deemed himself a "useful" and important member of his firm, and attained a modicum of the respectability he craved through salaried employment. In the years following his last reported salary negotiation, Boyle also displayed his continuing enthusiasm for market expansion by joining several business organizations to promote St. Paul's economic development. Moreover, his tenure with St. Paul's most prestigious dry goods firm endured for 50 years, broken only by two short-term leaves to work for insurance firms. These positions continued to provide him with many of the trappings of middle-class mobility and personal success--including business and pleasure trips to Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, and other points east and west. (47)

As a consumer, Boyle also developed new ideas about "self-control," "immediate gratification," and "self-fulfillment" that helped him to reconcile himself to his "lot" as a managed worker. Joining an expanding group of lower-middle-class strivers unable (or unwilling) to start businesses of their own during the final quarter of the nineteenth century, Boyle found satisfaction through consumption rather than work. Mastering what T.J. Jackson Lears has described as the "trade-off between routinized labor and zestful consumption," Boyle participated in the patterns of male socialization--working harder and harder to spend more and more--that ultimately defined American consumer culture during the twentieth century. He did not, however, consume to amass material goods. Instead, Boyle belonged to the vanguard of ordinary workers who abandoned Victorian notions of self-control so they could give themselves up "to the enjoyment of the festive scene." As an active agent in that transformation, Boyle ultimately embraced his relatively "easy, pleasant, and independent" life as a bachelor and salaried worker. Once freed from family constraints, he indulged his appetite for pleasure and leisure consumption--shaking dice for drinks, gambling "with the boys," eating at fancy restaurants, taking vacations, arranging social gatherings such as the "Bachelor Hop," and buying gifts for the "ladies" and his friends. (48)

As a bachelor, Boyle also continued to enjoy the company of women, and St. Paul's 1895 city directory even reveals that he boarded with Carrie Van Slyke and Julia Weatherby, widows of co-workers who had outdistanced him in the race for wealth, status, and these particular women. From 1890 forward, he appeared in city directories among the members of various social dubs as well, sometimes as an elected officer. He also sustained important friendships throughout the period, recalling them fondly during his declining years. He never entered the heights of St. Paul's elite circles, but he met, and continued to visit with, family members of the city's "respectable set." During the last 15 years of his life, he also held a number of positions in local and county governments, usually in clerical positions for one of the dry goods firm's former partners. Diary notations during the 1930s reveal that Boyle continued to value this work for the paycheck that allowed him to consume the "small pleasures" made available by technological "wonders" and expanding consumer choices. Making weekly visits to the St. Paul Hotel, he listened to radio football broadcasts, visited with the few old friends who had not passed away, and talked business and politics. Despite the Great Depression, he had his health, his enduring faith in Catholicism and the promise of the United States, and enough money to live on, thanks in no small measure to his long-term connection with Auerbach & Co. (49)

Boyle's diaries suggest that we need to know much more about the complexities of salaried life, and the spending (rather than investment) mentality that energized ordinary Americans during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. His diaries also call for caution about making too many generalizations, however; for, indeed, his autobiographical narrative only reflects the views of one particular striver who failed to ascend the "figurative ladder" of American entrepreneurial success. But many rank-and-file Americans, whether similar to or different from Boyle, participated in the market during the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, by seeking entrance into the salaried professions and fueling demands for more affordable goods over time--and the credit networks to acquire those goods--as the United States incorporated more people and products into urban life. In addition, Boyle's experiences resonate with recent studies in failure, manhood, and the consumption patterns of the American bachelor. By examining hundreds of success manuals produced during the Gilded Age, Judy Hilkey has argued that alternative economic visions foundered in the United States because so many failed men helped to bolster an American faith in upward mobility by redefining the Dream--through salaried and professional work, home ownership, education, and consumption. Through a new ideology of manhood based upon willpower and looking on the bright side, all American men could succeed. Joining the vast majority of men seeking alternative definitions of "manly success" rather than structural change, Boyle redefined himself as a consumer and bachelor. (50)

Boyle's everyday narrative also confirms that faith in American "progress" ranged widely throughout the nation, as well as crossed ethnic and religious boundaries. As he neared his death, Boyle could look back upon a life marked more by success than failure because he had reconstructed their meanings in ways that reflected both national trends as well as his own personal needs. There can be no doubt that the forces of global industrialization transformed people's lives, and perhaps Boyle could never hope to achieve more than respectable mediocrity in an increasingly incorporated America. But, in a society determined to adhere to the calculus of the market economy, he fashioned a life that allowed him to pass from this world in relative peace and contentment, despite the constraints he faced in the rapidly changing and often unsettling environment that ultimately stimulated new definitions of self-worth. Americans had alternatives to choose from at the turn of the twentieth century, including those centered on revolutionary change. Perhaps, like Boyle, some of them just wanted to spend, enjoying the limited choices the American landscape provided. For better or ill, Americans have consistently defined themselves as strivers, eschewing other social goods for more wealth creation. With more research on "failed" Americans, in other regional, ethnic, racial, and gendered enclaves over time, perhaps we will better understand why the "mighty majority" of Americans--both native-born as well as immigrants--have remained largely impervious to capitalist culture's alternatives.


Many thanks to all who helped Michael J. Boyle make it. Hampton Smith introduced me to the diary collection. The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Minnesota Historical Society, PSC-CUNY Research Foundation, and Giles Whiting Foundation provided generous support for research and writing. Bonnie Anderson, Renate Bridenthal, Angel Kwolek-Folland, Peter N. Steams, and anonymous readers offered constructive criticism and editorial advice. Numerous colleagues and friends-particularly Cynthia Bouton, Ted Burrows, Phil Gallagher, Harold Livesay, Debbie Miller, Glenn Porter, Tom Predhome, and Gunja Sen Gupta--championed the project and made valuable suggestions, and Carol Sturz shepherded the manuscript through the process.

(1.) March 23 1887, Volume 12, Michael J. Boyle Papers, Manuscript Collections, Minnesota Historical Society[MHS],St. Paul, Minnesota. On the race for wealth language that became a staple in the American lexicon from the Civil War forward, see Gabor S. Borritt, Lincoln and the Economics of the American Dream (Urbana, IL, 1978, 1994). Declaring the nation's prosperity as synonymous with the experiment in democracy, in 1854 Lincoln declared "We made the experiment ... We propose to give all a chance ... The fruit is before us. Look at it--think of it. Look at it, in its aggregate grandeur, of extent of country, and numbers of population--of ship, and steamboat, and rail. (qtd. in Borritt, 159).

(2.) March 25, 1887, Boyle Papers, MHS.

(3.) Maurice Switzer, Letters from a Self-Made Failure (New York, 1912), x-xi. The classic study of the self-made man is Irvin, G. Wyllie, The Self-Made Man in America (New York, 1954), while Alan Trachtenbergs important synthesis, The Incorporation of America: Culture and Society in the Gilded Age (New York, 1982), continues to influence the debate on the r se of the United States business civilization." On changing definitions of success (and failure) in American life, see Edward Chase Kirkland, Dream and Thought in the Business Community, 1860-1900 (Chicago, 1964); John G. Cawelti, Apostles of the Self-Made Man: Changing Concepts of Success in America (Chicago, 1965); Rex Burns, Success in America: The Yeoman Dream and the Industrial Revolution (Amherst, MA, 1976); Martha Banta, Failure and Success in America: A Literary Debate (Princeton, 1978); Olivier Zunz, Making America Corporate, 1870-1920 (Chicago, 1990); Judy Hilkey, Character is Capital: Success Manuals and Manhood in Gilded Age America (Chapel Hill, NC, 1997); Michael Kimmel, Manhood in America: A Cultural History (New York, 1997), particularly 1-188; and Scott A. Sandage, "The Gaze of Success: Failed Men and the Sentimental Marketplace, 1873-1893," in Mary Chapman and Glenn Hendler, eds., Sentimental Men: Masculinity and the Politics of Affect in American Culture (Berkeley, CA, 1999), 181-204. The scholarship on male success and the hegemony of the middle-class standard, while quite extensive, focuses largely on the period's advice books, periodicals such as Success, and popular literature (including dime-store novels of Horatio Alger and others). Moreover, much. recent work centers on the advice given to failed and would-be entrepreneurs, along with strivers anxious to reach the heights of the new corporate hierarchy. In his recent examination of more than 500 "begging" letters to John D. Rockefeller between 1873 and 1893, however, Sandage links the debilitating realities of industrial depression and impersonal market forces to the ways in which nineteenth-century Americans attempted to reconceptualize both failure as well as manhood. He argues that, in requesting financial assistance from wealthy and famous people--whether they knew them or not--beggars prostrated themselves before Rockefeller and other industrial magnates to receive redemption for their entrepreneurial shortcomings. Through the use of sentimental letters aimed at blurring the distinctions between charity and business, Sandage's beggars sought assistance not because they hoped to obliterate industrial capitalism, but rather because they wanted to stay in it. As a result, Sandage suggests that "even as they despised the popular mythology of success that stigmatized them, beggars upheld that creed by pointing out their tenacity and unshakable optimism," (188). In doing so, they reimagined themselves, not as failures, but as people who had credibility as strivers even if they had temporary credit problems. They invited surveillance from Rockefeller and others as a testimony to their honesty, integrity, and courage.

(4.) See, in particular, Edward J. Balleisen, Navigating Failure: Bankruptcy and Commercial Society in Antebellum America (Chapel Hill, NC, 2001). Building upon the work of Judy Hilkey and others (contained in Navigating Failure s extensive bibliography), Balleisen argues that everyday narratives about failure matter as much to our understanding of American capitalism's evolution as accounts of entrepreneurial success and working-class struggles.

The new scholarship on gender confirms Balleisen's findings. Even with increased salaries and changing rules for attaining respectability (and even riches), nineteenth-and early twentieth-century Americans continued to equate masculinity with success and femininity with failure. For example, in her important book on nineteenth-century success manuals (op.cit.), Hilkey argues that Gilded Age authors created a new ideological model of manhood on which failed men could build new successes. The success manual genre emphasized character over wealth, in part because the most devastating consequences of economic disappointment and collapse centered on the fact that Americans had long juxtaposed business success with manhood and failure with dependency, emasculation, and the subordinate culture of womanhood. As a result, success manual authors had to provide failed men with a far broader definition of what constituted a self-made man. The virtues (and responsibilities) of middle-class male willpower included the ability to achieve something, no matter one's station in life, for true men accepted unequal endowments of wealth, talent, skill, and productivity; productivity, whether on the job or through leisure activities; optimism and loyalty; self-control, self-restraint, self-motivation; industriousness, perseverance, vigilance, and decisiveness; and, above all, frugality and sobriety, always investing in their human capital rather than squandering their hard-earned money on "unnecessary" trinkets, baubles, intoxicants, and speculative ventures outside the acceptable limits of the marketplace. In these ways, manhood could mean something more than mere wealth, which "represented a kind of success that focused narrowly on 'getting ahead.'" (152) Moreover, Hilkey concludes that success manual authors "laid the ideological foundation for a new model of manhood that paradoxically lacked both the fierce individualism of the entrepreneurial model of manhood and the militancy and solidarity of labor's notion of manhood." (154). On the feminine attributes of temptress and scapegoat for failure, see 158. Hilkey borrows the qualities of domesticity, piety, purity, and submissiveness as ideal female attributes from Barbara Welters seminal article, The Cult of True Womanhood, 1820-1860, American Quarterly 18 (Summer 1966):151-74.

In addition, see Peter G. Filene, Him/Her/Self: Gender Identities in Modern America (New York, 1974); E. Anthony Rotundo, American Manhood: Transformation in Masculinity from the Revolution to the Present (New York, 1993); Angel Kwolek-Folland, Engendering Business: Men and Women in the Corporate Office, 1870-1930, particularly Chapter 3 (Baltimore, 1993); and Toby L. Ditz, "Shipwrecked; or Masculinity Imperiled: Mercantile Representations of Failure and the Gendered Self in Eighteenth-Century Philadelphia," Journal of American History 81 (June 1994):51-81.

(5.) Boyle defended Catholicism as a religious faith, and attended mass regularly; however, he rarely reflected upon his ethnicity as a significant factor in life. The one exception to this surfaced during his mid- life crisis, when his Catholicism thwarted his plans to marry into an elite, Protestant family. For example, during 1878, as he embarked upon his career as a salaried employee in St. Pauls business district, and entered into friendships with men of various backgrounds, Boyle simply reported that "There was a strong religious controversy at the store today, in which I acted as champion of Catholicity and managed to hold my own. At one time the doctrines of the Church were assailed by a Jew, an Atheist, and a Protestant--a strange trio, whose only point of religious unity is hatred of the Catholic Church." (January 28, 1878, Volume 03, Boyle Papers, MHS). Over the next 14 years, he tended to view these debates as good-natured points of difference. Moreover, as he began to focus on business, consumption, and male friendships more than family life, Boyle also distanced himself from the Catholic community that had nurtured him, preferring, instead, the company of young men who could introduce him into St. Paul's social circles, which were dominated by the city's Protestant elite.

(6.) United States Bureau of the Census, Schedules of the Minnesota Census of 1857 (Washington, D.C., 1857), Microform Collections; John A. Farnsworth, Early History of St. Paul (St. Paul, 1868), 1-15, MHS; A.T. Andreas) An Illustrated Historical Atlas of the State of Minnesota (Chicago, 1874), MHS; and Amelia Ullman, St. Paul Forty Years Ago, Mrs. Joseph (Amelia) Ullman Papers, MHS, ft. For an introduction to the literature on American entrepreneurship, and the problems associated with failure in the wake of rapid technological change, economic expansion, and success, see Harold C. Livesay, ed., Entrepreneurship and the Growth of Firms (Cambridge, MA, 1995).

(7.) Miscellaneous papers, Folder 01, and 1876 diary entries, Volume 01, Boyle Papers, MHS. For various linkages created between Minnesota's emerging elites and more established capital, railroad, and business networks in Wisconsin, Chicago, and New York during the Civil War period, see business advertisements and directors/executives listed in Minnesota Gazetteer and Business Directory, for 1865, Containing a List of Cities, Villages, and Post Offices in the State; a List of Business Firms; State and County Organizations; a Classified Business Directory, Arranged Alphabetically in Towns; Also Advertisements of Leading Business Houses Throughout the State; with Much Other useful Information (St. Paul, 1865), 102-5, 140-2, 105-2, and 229-332, MHS, ft. See also statistical tables and narratives in United States Secretary of the Interior, Ninth Census of the United States, Volume III, The Statistics of the Wealth arm Industry of the United States (Washington, DC, 1872), 101, 39-40, 388-9, 588-633, 683-4, 760-78, 802-3, and 808-9, comparing Minnesota's wealth, manufacturing, and influence between 1860 and 1870, James J. Hill Reference Library [hereafter JJHRL), St. Paul. On the context for Michael's experiences in St. Paul, see Jocelyn Wills, Big Dreams, Slim Means, and City-Building Schemes: Minnesota's Twin Cities and the New Northwest, 1849-1883 (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, forthcoming).

(8.) Folder 01, and August and September, 1876 diary entries, Volume 01, Boyle Papers, MHS, ff.

(9.) For discussions of post-Civil War economic expansion, the Panic of 1873, and the four-year depression on regional and national levels, see Henry George, Progress and Poverty: An Inquiry Into the Cause of Industrial Depressions, and of Increase of Want with Increase of Wealth, The Remedy (New York, 1879); and Walter Licht, Industrializing America: The Nineteenth Century (Baltimore, 1995), including his bibliographical essay.

(10.) September 18-19, 1876, Volume 01, Boyle Papers, MHS.

(11.) December 31, 1876, Volume 01, and March 14 and 18, 1877, Volume 02, Boyle Papers, MHS.

(12.) May 15 and 18, 1877, Volume 02, Boyle Papers, MHS.

(13.) St. Paul City Directory for 1875 (St. Paul, 1875), 21-7, MHS; and United States Bureau of the Census, Census of the State of Minnesota, by Counties, Towns, Cities, and Wards, as Enumerated by Authority of the United States Bureau of the Census, 10th Census, June 1, 1880 (St. Paul, 1881), MHS.

(14.) Classified Business Directory and Guide Book of St. Paul and Minneapolis (St. Paul, 1881), MHS; American Society of Civil Engineers, Fifteenth Annual Convention (St. Paul, 1883), MHS; and Wills, op.cit.

(15.) May 31, June 30, August 8, October 1, and November 30, 1877, Volume 02, and May 16, and June 5 and 6, 1878, Volume 03, Boyle Papers, MHS.

(16.) July 1, 9, and 27, 1878, Volume 03, Boyle Papers, MHS.

(17.) September 20, October 25, and November 8, 1878, Volume 03, Boyle Papers, MHS.

(18.) January 8, March 19, April 15, and June 21, 1879, Volume 04, Boyle Papers, MHS. Boyle s list of virtues parallel those found in the success manuals described in secondary sources cited above, particularly Judy Hilkey's Character is Capital. Boyle's experiences differ from other failure cases, however; rather than seeking to absolve himself from debts he himself had incurred, his father's debts had guaranteed that young Michael had to start the "race for wealth" with liabilities unaccounted for in previous studies.

(19.) May 24, 1879, Volume 04, Boyle Papers, MHS.

(20.) June 21, 1879, Volume 04, Boyle Papers, MHS. Boyle's behavior resonates with the men studied in Howard Chudacoff, The Age of the Bachelor: Creating an American Subculture (Princeton, N J, 1999). Chudacoff argues that bachelors, while straddling the worlds of respectability and what Americans considered deviant behavior, transformed masculine consumption between 1880 and 1930.

(21.) July 4, August 13 and 14, and December 27, 1879, Volume 04, Boyle Papers, MHS.

(22.) October 1 and December 30, 1879, Volume 04, and January 7 and 17, 1880, Volume 05, Boyle Papers, MHS.

(23.) February 3 and 13, March 13, April 1 and 26, May 14 and 28, July 29 and 31, August 14, and October 7, 1880, Volume 05, Boyle Papers, MHS.

(24.) July 19, 1881, Volume 06, Boyle Papers, MHS, ft. For other displays of gratitude for favors received, see January 22, February 2, and April 4, 1880, Volume 05; May 13, 1882, Volume 07; and October 16-28, 1884, Volume 08. American lower-middle-class strivers remained relatively optimistic about social mobility when measured against their European counterparts. See, for example, Jurgen Kocka, White Collar Workers in America, 1890-1940: A Social-Political History in International Perspective (London, 1980), 13-6, 26--33,260-6.

(25.) July 7, 1881, Volume 06, Boyle Papers, MHS.

(26.) February 25, March 28, May 3, August 20, and December 3, 1881, Volume 06, May 16 and October 3, 1882, Volume 07, and September 17, 1883, Volume 08, Boyle Papers, MHS. See also American Traveller's Journal 2:1 (1881):7-8, MHS; and Henry Wenzell, October 24, 1882, Box 01, Folder 02, Henry B. Wenzell and Family Papers, MHS.

(27.) May 31, 1881, Volume 06, February 7, 1882, Volume 07, and May 23, 1883, Volume 08, Boyle Papers, MHS.

(28.) February 24-5, March 2, and May 13 and 16, 1882, Volume 07, Boyle Papers, MHS. Once the firm reorganized, Boyle s salary negotiation encounters took place during December and January, but he also revisited them as he neared anniversaries with the firm on May 16 of each year. When everyone received a salary cut (Boyle's amounting to a 25% reduction) in the wake of the stock market crash, Boyle complained bitterly between November 26, 1884 and January 28, 1885, as well. For comparative purposes, see Anthony Di Renzo, ed., If I Were Boss: The Early Business Stories of Sinclair Lewis (Carbondale, IL, 1997); and Hilkey, op.cit.

(29.) July 5 and August 1, 1882, Volume 07, Boyle Papers, MHS.

(30.) April 15, August 14 and 26, and September 19, 1882, Volume 07, Boyle Papers, MHS. On the subculture of the American bachelor, and comparisons with other single men during the period, see Chudacoff, op.cit.

(31.) January 6 and March 1, 3, and 16, 1883, Volume 08, Boyle Papers, MHS.

(32.) September 18, October 10, and December 21, 26, and 27, 1882, Volume 07, Boyle Papers, MHS.

(33.) J.H. Hanson, compiler, Grand Opening of the Northern Pacific Railway: Celebration at St. Paul, Minnesota, The Eastern Terminus, September 3, 1883 (St. Paul, 1883), September 27, 1883, Volume 08, Boyle Papers, MHS. On other speculative adventures, see March 28, 1887, Volume 11, Boyle Papers, MHS. During the building of the "Soo," railroad, Boyle reported, Louis Hays heads to Sault Ste. Marie, for an expected boom there. He may get a chances to invest small sums for his friends, and I am going to make a desperate effort to borrow two or three hundred dollars and take a flyer in a pool with Ca] and Harry Weatherby [two co-worker, bachelor friends] if occasion offers. To get square with the world, I must try to make some money on the outside. My mind was occupied today trying to decide what was the best way of rasing the wind. Of course, Hays, unable to get in the "ground floor" at Sank Ste. Marie, dashed Boyle's hopes for quick investment returns. This last-ditch attempt to avoid financial ruin followed Boyley's crisis cited initially.

(34.) September 17 and 27, and October 15, 1883, Volume 08, Boyle Papers, MHS.

(35.) December 8 and 14, 1883, Volume 08, and February 6, 1884, Volume 09, Boyle Papers, MHS. On middle-class respectability and categories of manhood and womanhood in the Victorian era, see Welter, op.cit.; Filene, op.cit.; Mary P. Ryan, Womanhood in America (New York, 1975); Carrol Smith-Rosenburg, Disorderly Conduct: Visions of Gender in Victorian America (New York, 1975); Stuart M. Blumin, The Emergence of the Middle Class: Social Experience in the American City, 1760-1900 (Cambridge, UK, 1989); Peter N. Steams, Battleground of Desire: the Struggle for Self-Control in Modern America (New York, 1999), 55-130; and Chudacoff, op.cit.

(36.) April 19, 1884, Volume 09, Boyle Papers, MHS.

(37.) July 5-7 and August 3, 1884, Volume 09, Boyle Papers, MHS.

(38.) November 11, 1884, Volume 09, and January 6, 8, and 20, 1885, Volume 10, Boyle Papers, MHS.

(39.) March 6 and 7, April 10, 18, 27, and 28, 1885, Volume 10, Boyle Papers, MHS.

(40.) April 29, and May 10-1 I, 1885, Volume 10, Boyle Papers, MHS.

(41.) May 18, June 4, July 18, and 1885, Volume 10, Boyle Papers, MHS.

(42.) September 23, 1885, Volume 10, Boyle Papers, MHS. In addition, see January 8, 1887, Volume 11.

(43.) March 9 and 28, April 4, and May 12, 1887, Volume 11, Boyle Papers, MHS.

(44.) May 16, July 22, August 16, September 5 and 9, October 22, and November 14, 1887, Volume 11, Boyle Papers, MHS.

(45.) January 1, 1936, Volume 18, Boyle Papers, MHS.

(46.) May 8 and 10, 1890, Volume 12, Boyle Papers, MHS.

(47.) On the social meaning of the "collar-line," lower-middle-class assumptions about responsibility for one's own fortunes, and white-collar professional and status consciousness in the United States, see comparisons between American, German, English, and French white-collar workers in Kocka, particularly 13-6, 26-33, 79-92, 127-33, and 260-6. Kocka argues that the emphasis on individual achievement thwarted collective representation among Americas lower-middle-class. See also St. Paul City Directory, 1890-91 (St. Paul, 1890), MHS; St. Paul City Directory, 1895 (St. Paul, 1895), MHS; St. Paul City Directory, 1903 (St. Paul, 1903), MHS; St. Paul City Directory, 1910 (St. Paul, 1910), MHS; St. Paul City Directory, 1920 (St. Paul, 1920), MHS; 1930-1939, Volumes 13-18, Boyle Papers, MHS, ff.

(48.) T.J. Jackson Lears, qtd. in From Salvation to Self-Realization: Advertising and the Therapeutic Roots of Consumer Culture, 1880-1930," Richard White Fox and T.J. Jackson Lears, eds., The Culture of Consumption: Critical Essays in American History, 1880-1980 (New York, 1983), xii, 3. In addition, on gratification through consumption rather than work, see, in particular, Lears, Fables of Abundance: A Cultural History of Advertising in America (New York, 1994), 115,227-8; and Stearns, op.cit., 119-23.

(49.) January 1, 1936, Volume 18, Boyle Papers, MHS.

(50.) Hilkey, 154. For an introduction to recent studies on consumer culture, see Regina Lee Blaszczyk, Imagining Consumers: Manufacturers and Makers in Ceramics and Glass, 1865-1965," Ph.D. diss., University of Delaware, 1995; the collection of essays contained in Lawrence B. Glickman, ed., Consumer Society in American History: A Reader (Ithaca, NY, 1999); and Lears, op.cit. On the "investment mentality" that defines entrepreneurship, see Harold C. Livesay, Entrepreneurial Dominance in Businesses Large and Small, Past and Present." Business History Review 63 (Spring 1989):1-15.

By Jocelyn Wills

Brooklyn College, CUNY

Department of History

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Brooklyn, NY 11210-2887
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