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The structures of toy consumption: bourgeois domesticity and demand for toys in Nineteenth-Century Germany.

Consumption and consumerism are extraordinarily diverse phenomena defying easy definition. Scholars have generally focused on the individual consumer who enters the market to purchase items for him or herself. Writers as various as Werner Sombart, Wolfgang Haug, Rosalind Williams and Colin Campbell have associated consumption with the satisfaction of individual desires or fantasies. (1) Other scholars, such as Thorstein Veblen, Jean Baudrillard and Pierre Bourdieu, relate the consumption of material goods to the communication of personal status. (2) For all the many divisions between these scholars, they all begin with the premise that their exists an identity between shopper and consumer. Thus Peter Stearns may define a consumerist society as one which "involves large numbers of people staking a real portion of their personal identities and their quest for meaning--even their emotional satisfaction--on the search for and acquisition of goods." (3) Such assumptions leave aside the fascinating problem of gift- giving, one of the most important spurs to consumerist activity. What do shoppers think they are doing when they purchase objects for other people?

As Daniel Miller has pointed out, much shopping is done for the benefit of others. (4) The motivations of gift-givers are more complicated than theories based on the individual as both shopper and consumer will admit. When shopping is related to the complex inter-personal relationships that fashion gift-giving, we perceive that consumption is an exceedingly complex cultural activity. Consumption functions as a means of both reflecting and constructing social relations. Consequently, consumption serves as a means of not merely reflecting but also of negotiating the inherent conflicts and contradictions in any culture. Gift-giving transforms material goods into symbols that enable members of society to manage the demands of multiple ideals and values.

Toy consumers came to the marketplace with their own agendas, focused on buying toys for others. As we shall see, these agendas were critically influenced by the development of burgerliche ideals of domesticity during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The transformation of the structure and ideology of the family created fundamental ambivalences. In particular, the imperatives to allow the child to be a child and also to educate him to be a productive citizen-Burger could not be simultaneously satisfied. The incompatibility of these norms has been repeatedly observed by historians. J. H. Plumb's discussion of toys and the rise of new attitudes toward children in eighteenth century England explicitly confronts the development of such antinomies. Toy demand, he argued, was linked to the presumption of childhood as a period of privileged innocence. The creation and sustenance of such innocence, however, required quite draconian measures on the part of parents to isolate children from reality. Toys, in th is reading, passively reflect a certain vision of childhood innocence and have no direct connection to the disciplinary aspects of child-rearing. (5)

I suggest, however, that toy demand did not merely reflect one half of the dualistic vision of middle-class childhood sketched by Plumb and others. Toy demand was, instead, often an effort to ritually reestablish the emotional foundations of the family. Rather than simply reflecting particular values, toys were assigned specific cultural tasks. The provision of toys to children by parents was an effort to manage extraordinarily powerful discourses. In particular, note must be taken of the specific times and mechanisms through which toys entered the hands of children. The tensions within the cult of domesticity were redressed through reformed festivals, particularly Christmas, which gave families a brief opportunity to live the ideal and to reconcile contradictory values. The everyday labor required to produce and reproduce burgerliche norms of personal behavior could be partially laid aside and the affectionate bonds of the family reemphasized. In such circumstances, the immediate joy that a toy could genera te in a child made it a highly desirable gift. A child's happiness could be produced by toys with highly varied forms because the child's enjoyment was driven by what she did with it, not what it looked like. Consumers were, therefore, also able to use toys to symbolically reinforce burgerliche ideals. Without endangering the principal value of the toy, amusement, parents sought to emphasize certain orientations on life that defined the burgerliche worldview. They did so through the form the toy took, what it looked like.


One of the fundamental bases of the structural transformation and modernization of European life and society was the development of burgerliche domesticity. Concurrent with the rise of liberalism and the increasing spatial division of work and home, the middle classes across Europe restructured the family and its ideological underpinnings. The decline of the home as a productive entity (das ganze Haus), tied with middle class assertions of political equality, undermined the old paradigm of the household. During the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries, the burgerliche home was discursively cut off from wider society. The family was no longer the externally-oriented foundation of economic well-being, social status, or political rights; it was not a standisch institution. In its place rose an internally-oriented, privatized social organization devoted to the fostering of healthy individual subjectivities. Despite the fact that they had lost their public role, however, families remained, if anything, more important than the individual. The modern, autonomous individual was simply not conceivable without the family. As Thomas Nipperdey notes, such a valuation was astounding given that all other institutions of nineteenth century burgerliche society were securely based on the individual. (6) Only because the family was assumed to be the source of individuality could it be endowed with such extraordinary importance. (7)

With the task of producing burgerliche individuals in mind, many parents began to enforce a physical separation of their children from the world outside. The inculcation of proper social values, after all, required control of the child's social environment. Consequently, burgerliche children were increasingly removed from a 'chaotic' street life that might offer alternative norms of social life. (8) Cut off from other playmates, these children were thrown back on their siblings and their own resources for diversion, at least until school brought them together with other, age- and class-appropriate children. This naturally created an expanding market for toys. As child psychologist Brian Sutton-Smith has pointed out, toys can exert a "solitarizing pressure" that serves to "emphasize ... individuation." (9) Thus, because burgerliche parents kept their children from uncontrollable socialization with peers of multiple class backgrounds, the need to occupy them at home created a functional niche for toys. Parents found in material objects a partial replacement for a sociability which, because it took place outside the confines of the burgerliche home, threatened to undermine the construction of their children's bourgeois identity. The irony of replacing playmates with playthings was rich. The burgerliche family separated itself from the larger society in the name of fostering a deeper emotional relationship among family members. As a result of this project of deepening human relationships, however, parents encouraged children to partially replace human contact with inanimate objects.

The ideal of middle class domesticity was far more deeply implicated in the growth of a toy market than merely in promoting a social space that toys very effectively filled. After all, children's books could have filled that social space as well. Toys were also the beneficiaries of the ambivalences of what GunillaFrederike Budde terms the "pedagogic double ideal" of bourgeois life: children were to be allowed to be children but simultaneously they were to be educated to be good middle-class citizens. (10) Those imperatives reflected the deeper tensions between the emotional bonds which united the burgerliche family and the long-term interests which framed middle-class views of childhood, education and even social progress. The fact that the bourgeois family was discursively grounded in affection raised the question: was it more 'loving' to ensure the child's immediate happiness or his long-term security? The ambivalences internal to the bourgeois cult of children can be seen clearly in Thomas Nipperdey's effo rt to describe the place of the middle-class child. "They [children] and their individuality are objects of loving devotion and attention of the parents, the mother as well as the father ... ]they are[ 'angels', innocent, particularly close to God, reminders of the opportunities which are now closed to parents. Love and care therefore determine the relation to children--an attitude that had become possible as parents were unburdened of work and had money and time to spend." Meanwhile, however, "child-rearing is built upon authority, it is serious and severe, expressions of feeling and trust between parents and children are very limited ... The highest goal is order." (11) Nipperdey believes that these traits in parent-child relationships were related, as they were. But he cannot, indeed does not really attempt to, fully reconcile great affection and the inability to express it. The tenderness that middle class parents devoted to their children was often expressed above all in an authoritarian training in the values and skills deemed necessary for bourgeois life.

The tension between short-term expressions of affection and the cultivation of virtues critical over the long term was a far greater dilemma for the nineteenth century bourgeoisie than for perhaps any social group previously. On the one hand, no other group had placed so much emphasis upon the emotional bases of human relationships. On the other hand, their assault on aristocratic caste society required the cultivation of new tools of social distinction, tools which required extensive training. As Richard Sennett has shown, the decline of social status based upon inherited rank and the rise of one based upon individual merit unleashed a race to bare one's (best) self in public, to demonstrate to all exactly who one really was (or who one really wanted to be) and thereby to substantiate claims to worldly success. (12) And as Norbert Elias has suggested, those personal characteristics that were to demonstrate individual merit were the product of a long and laborious process of conditioning. (13) Gunilla-Frederi ke Budde has similarly argued that the middle classes had a social-structural need to cultivate high cultural tastes to demonstrate their individual and class claims to leadership. This taste for cultivation was a reflection of their collective need to establish their own merit in a society consciously dissolving the inherited markers of social hierarchy. The development of this cultural taste, the 'classifying classifier', also required enormous and constant labor on the part of the parent and child. (15) A society based upon an ideology of individual merit, therefore, made demands upon its citizens that standische societies did not. Consequently, bourgeois parents felt compelled to balance the demands for the immediate happiness of their children against the long-term interests of education, discipline, and cultural sophistication. In fact, the 'balance' was often strongly in favor of serving the presumed long-term interests of the child even at the cost of sacrificing immediate happiness. The occasionally clashing imperatives derived from those ideals framed the discursive field in which toys took on meaning in middle-class consumption.

Having sketched the relevant outlines of the bourgeois domestic ideology, let us shift our attention to social practice in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. There are two fundamental tensions that must be addressed here. First is the degree to which middle-class families were or were not able to live up to their own domestic ideology. The second is the burden placed upon Christmas to revive the ideology and, briefly, reunite theory and practice in the burgerliche family.

The memoirs describing late nineteenth-century childhood are replete with images of cold, distant parents. In particular, many fathers appear to have cultivated extremely restrained, sometimes even emotionally detached, relationships with their children. The sexual division of labor kept fathers outside the home for much of the day and may have absorbed their attention even when they were home, while assigning the care of children to their wives. That sharp division of labor also convinced many fathers that an emotional attachment to children was a feminine quality unsuitable for men. (16) Many fathers were uncomfortable around their children; they retreated behind patriarchal authority, enforcing a strict discipline which seemed socially valuable (inculcating desirable virtues) and kept interaction between parent and child on as unemotional a level as possible.

Relations between female relatives and children, particularly female children, did not reflect a domestic idyll either. (17) The social reproduction of the middle class, which was the special province of mothers, required considerable work. In order to balance tasks ranging from overseeing homework, to imparting domestic skills, and inculcating proper values and manners, all the while maintaining a suitable household, mothers often had to exert a heavy handed pressure on their children.

It is also instructive to keep in mind that much of a child's life was work, whether that child was working class or middle class. The nature of work as well as the marginal time left over varied. Rather than working in the marketplace as many working-class children did, middle-class families divided their children by sex and either assigned them a great deal of household labor or demanded considerable school work. Thus it is not unusual to find in childhood memoirs a jealous recollection of the 'freedom' enjoyed by children of another class, i.e. working-class children envied the freedom from work and want of middle-class children, while middle-class children longed for the opportunity to play in the streets like working-class children. That both groups overestimated the freedom of the other in no way detracted from the power of their projected longings. And certainly that children across the social spectrum were kept busy cannot be allowed to obscure the fact that material deprivation and rigorous labor mad e working-class childhood more difficult. The essential point is that for all the stress laid upon naive, joyous childhoods and loving families, children were generally expected to labor in one manner or another.

The burgerliche family only loosely resembled the ideology which underpinned it. (18) The burdens of competitive labor markets, maintaining a respectable home, and raising the next generation of middle-class individuals tended to make the family a community of work and representation. Although only the paid, commodified labor of adult males was recognized as work, the other members of the family were likewise saddled with considerable obligatory activity, i.e. work. The aggregation of individual tasks often limited the opportunities for the expression of affection. Many working-class families also sought to live-up to the domestic ideal established by the middle classes. The difficulties encountered by burgerliche families were multiplied among workers, though certainly there were loving working-class families just as there were failed marriages in the middle class.

The failure of the family to live up to the ideal did not call the domestic ideology into question. The domestic ideal was far too important for that to happen. Domesticity, and the associated cult of respectability, stabilized social relations and individuals amidst extraordinary change. (19) They also served as claims of moral and social superiority to the working class and aristocracy. (20) Rather than questioned or discounted, the domestic ideology was instead annually reaffirmed at Christmas.


The history of Christmas throughout western Europe and North America in the nineteenth century was closely tied to the development of the middle-class domestic ideology. The old traditions of Christmas were everywhere reworked to transform the holiday from a public festival of social inversion to a family affair emphasizing children and an idealized vision of intimate domesticity. (21) Christmas was an opportunity to actualize the burgerliche ideology, to live in the ideal. The various traditions which surrounded nineteenth century Christmas emphasized the domesticity of the holiday. The decorating of the home, the family celebrations, and, of course, the gift-giving made clear that this was a festival of and for the family. The gift-giving traditions made this abundantly clear. Gifts were no longer for neighbors and the local needy. The traditional Christmas had been a much more communal festival than the modem version. Gifts, often of food and drink, were given to those who called at the family home, usuall y social inferiors. The household, meanwhile indulged in horseplay and feasting. During the nineteenth century, however, gifts ceased to be of food and were no longer offerings to the less fortunate of the community. The ties of obligation and affection which flowed from and were represented by gifts reflected the interiorization of the bourgeois family.

The odd practice of shifting the responsibility for gifts from the actual gift-giver to an anonymous, fictional figure deserves closer attention. The Weihnachtsmann, Santa Claus, served two purposes. First, he displaced the usual disciplinary figure in the household, the father. Scholars often argue that he was able to exert a greater disciplinary influence than the father. The imminent prospect of reward for good behavior or punishment for bad (not entirely our of the question) did exert a tremendous, if short-term, disciplining influence on children. (22) Curiously overlooked is that when patriarchal authority was shifted from the father to the Weihnachtsmann, the father gained an opportunity to engage his children more directly without calling patriarchal authority into question. The children disciplined themselves in anticipation of the Weihnachtsmann, allowing the father to relax the self-imposed burden of oversight. This temporary opportunity to engage children more directly also solidified patriarchal authority for the rest of the year by reemphasizing that that authority was exercised in the name of love and in the interests of the children. Another critical function of the Weihnachtsmann was to obscure the origins of gifts in the marketplace. The gifts were not commodities, and therefore did not have an immediate monetary value, when they were produced and distributed by the magical saint of Christmas. Parental love could bear no price tag. (23)

Christmas became an ideal holiday that separated the family from the demands of the normal social world, both in the form of labor and in the form of consumer commodities (through the intercession of the Weihnachtsmann). This separation, in addition to the relaxation of the disciplinary demands on the part of parents, allowed a far greater level of emotional bonding than was usually the case. In this way, the domestic ideology was able to survive the gap between theory and reality during the rest of the year. More precisely, Christmas redressed the balance between immediate expressions of affection and the securing of long-term socialization interests.

The cultural task of Christmas explains a great deal about the nineteenth century toy market. Christmas dominated the market, accounting for the majority of sales. This predominance was rooted in the efforts of parents, particularly fathers, to ritually reintegrate the family as a community rooted in and legitimized by mutual affection. Christmas became a moment when expressions of spontaneous joy and love were accepted, even sought after. For parents, then, giving toys became a means of providing for the immediate happiness of their children.

In the particular milieu created by Christmas, the frivolity of toys could compete with other potential gifts, above all children's books. Books remained highly popular Christmas gifts. They could be enjoyed by children and they fostered a critical skill for adult life: reading. Given the emphasis that bourgeois families placed on education and culture, Bildung generally, one would expect books to have been widely favored over toys by parents. The particular significance of Christmas in redressing the balance between short and long term, however, meant that toys gained a critical advantage. The toy could secure a greater, more immediate reaction from the child than a book because it appealed directly to leisure, freedom, and play. The toy was capable of producing immediate happiness, giving the impression to parent and child alike that the gift-giver sought to attend to the child's desires as well as her needs. Parents could finally look to the immediate pleasure of their children, not focus exclusively on th e goal of a well-brought up Burger.

The child was addressed as a desiring being. Happiness and pleasure became the goal of the Christmas gift. Pleasure was to be derived from the satisfaction of some longing on the part of the child. Underlining the centrality of desire, rather than merely the act of gift-giving, novelist Hans Fallada observed of his own Berlin childhood, "the useful was unimportant, underwear we had to have anyway, underwear was not Christmas, but toy soldiers were!" (24) The exchange of gifts was not, in itself, sufficient. Solidarity was not created simply through social obligations incurred in the exchange of gifts. The child's gift had to, if possible, reflect an acknowledgement and fulfillment of that child's desires. Marcel Mauss argued that a good gift "never completely detaches from those carrying out the exchange", meaning that the gift-giver gave something deeply representative of him- or herself. (25) In mass-consumption societies, where the commercialized gift could have nothing to do with the giver, merely an ano nymous and fleeting moment of purchase, the polarities in gift-giving changed. The gift should refer not to the giver but the recipient. It had to show an understanding of the recipient's wants and seek to satisfy them. Only in defining a desire and satisfying it could the toy-gift serve its purpose, to renew the emotional bonds between family members. That acknowledgement of the child's individuality also powered the toy industry's drive for novelty and variety in its products.

The incentives which favored toys in general during Christmas time also tended to favor particular types of toys. Toys that could produce an immediate effect, which could bring immediate pleasure, enjoyed a structural advantage over those which perhaps took time to discover or understand. This calculus of enjoyment reflected a subtle revision of use-value. In analyzing toy consumption, we cannot simply disregard use-value as some suggest. (26) But neither can we simply look at what a toy does and deem the market explained. The purpose for which customers purchased toys was not to play with them. The goal was to renew emotional links. This renewal was predicated upon satisfying a child's desire. That in turn was achieved by giving the child something with which the child would play. The functional use-value was twice removed from the purchase.

The ambivalence of the cultural mission of Christmas was heightened by another ironic twist in the domestication of Christmas. At the same time that Christmas was being interiorized and domesticated, it was becoming an increasingly commercial holiday. The two phenomena were not unrelated. Stephan Nissenbaum offers an explanation for the American experience which is sufficiently rooted in the structural changes of the economy and family to credibly explain the same transformation throughout the West. Nissenbaum argues that when the head of household offered presents largely to social inferiors who appeared at the door, it made sense to offer practical items from the home's own store. When, however, Christmas began to interiorize, when gifts began flowing not outside the home from adult to adult but rather inside the home from family member to family member, especially from parent to child, practical gifts from the household became quite unattractive. Something new needed to be introduced from outside the home . Such a tradition, of course, linked up nicely with the growing wealth of middle-class families and the expanding commercial marketplace. (27) The domestication of the bourgeois family was therefore deeply entangled in the commercialization of Christmas, the great sin against the family holiday that has been much lamented ever since. This linkage also brought desire into the most potent of Christian holidays and into the center of the widely recognized festival of children. The dualism of love and desire which runs through much of commercial capitalism was perhaps nowhere better demonstrated than in the structural transformation of Christmas. (28)

By the later years of the nineteenth century, the commercialism of Christmas was well-established. The relation between love and desire was particularly striking in the toy market. Toys were directly linked to the irrational wants of children. Over the course of the nineteenth century, children became accepted as desiring subjects during the Christmas period. The Berliner Tageblatt, for example, recognized that parents took elaborate measures to increase the tension and, therefore, the expectations of children. The longings of the children were deliberately increased because many adults saw the principal joy of Christmas gift rituals in the wanting and hoping. But could the gifts live up to the expectations that parents cultivated, wondered the Tageblatt? Would not the "poetry" of the holiday ebb and ultimately fail entirely under the burden of this annual rite of disappointment? (29) Desire was partially spiritualized by parents: it was made into a constituent part of the family festival. In fact, the 'poetr y' of Christmas was in the satisfaction of the desires of others. The critical problem was not, in the view of the Tageblatt, desire per se, but rather the continual failure to match expectation with reality. In another article, the Tageblatt worried that the Christmas wish list would stoke too high the flames of desire. Children could put any and everything on the list, thus giving themselves grounds for disappointment later, Nonetheless, desire was accepted as a fundamental part of Christmas; it needed merely to be limited, corralled by financial reality. (30)

Desire had become the central issue of Christmas. If children did not desire things, parents could not please them with gifts of things. The peculiar relation between desire and toy consumers should be obvious here. 'Happy faces' were linked time and again to 'Christmas gifts', but they were other people's faces. Desire was to be stoked in others so that it could be satisfied in a gift ritual which solidified the emotional bonds of the family. The family journal Daheim, too, made expectations and longing a central part of the "family festival, whose principals are the children." For Daheim, one of children's greatest joys was to linger in the vicinity of the locked door to the room where the Christmas tree guarded the sundry gifts. "Perhaps through the keyhole is to be spied a glimpse of all the wonderful things hidden on the other side, a branch of the tree or a colorful something, that could be perceived on a doll, rocking horse or the fulfillment of some other wish.' (31) Anticipation made the gift more th an a physical thing. The gift became the fulfillment of a desire, the satisfaction of a longing crafted and intensified by the parents. The happiness of the parents was emphasized by a poem featured on the front cover of an 1899 issue of Die Gartenlaube. The poem narrates a parent's survey of the chaos of Christmas day as the children brandish their new toys, but concludes: "Dear Cod, how happy am I!/ Even the little one under the table! sings happily on nigh! 'Weihnachtsmann, Weihnochtsmann/ O you are a very good man!" (32)

Desire, as the Tageblatt indicated, could not be allowed simply to run wild. Desire and fulfillment may have been a central dynamic of the Christmas rituals, but those desires had to be kept under some control. The Berliner Tageblatt had worried that expectations could be whipped up to too high a pitch, bringing disillusionment and even 'blase-ness' (Blasiertheit) in its train. Daheim appeared to have less concern. In its 1912 poem, The Wish List, a gendered division of desire permitted a male child to demand every sort of miniature artifact of the modem world: "theater-books--air ship-airplane-I steam engine-toy car-/ maps". All together young Robert had written fourteen things on his list, but he also had already written and discarded three other lists. His desires were unstable, potentially limitless. His little sister, however, knew better. She knew that father did not have enough money for all those items, and restricted her wish list to a few. Mausi (as she was called) wanted a new doll, the first time in three years she had asked for a "new child". There were a few other things which she hoped for, including a sewing machine, a washboard, and roller skates. "Now she has only to think for her brother." (33) Desire may have fueled Christmas joy, but it had also to be held in check. And it was above all the girls who had to exercise that discipline. They were to limit their own wishes in number and to keep them centered on the home. In that way, desire could be harnessed without fear of its potentially destructive effects. Daheim also presented two models for preventing children from becoming bored or disappointed with their gifts. The female model was to limit desire, to want only a few things. The other was rather more implicit. One can present an ever new constellation of toys to young Robert and his playmates, so that his desires can never be fully sated, leaving him always partially satisfied and pushing him toward a constant engagement with the outside world in the form of the search for ever new playth ings.

Of course, burgerliche parents could not easily abandon their attachment to rearing proper middle-class citizens. They may have sought to cultivate a domesticated desire for toys, but they had other values that they hoped to satisfy simultaneously. Parents preferred to include educational benefits in the toys which they gave, if it was at all possible. Children received toys as gifts in large part because parents wanted to reemphasize that they were interested in the present as well as future happiness of their children. But lest they be accused of fostering dissolute values or encouraging a slackening of discipline, the toys were reinscribed as educational. The first function of the toy was still to be enjoyable. The toy was (usually) secondarily to be educational. Its educational attributes were partly honest efforts to continue the pedagogical mission of the parents, partly reassurance for parents that they were not undoing the careful developmental program to which they adhered for the rest of the year. T oys largely existed in this uneasy discursive field defined by desire and education. They had, as much as was possible, to satisfy both.

Reconciling desirability and educational benefits was nor a given. Toys taken to be educational were not always extraordinarily eye-catching. They might well provide much greater benefit, even more enjoyment, over the long term. The cultural function of Christmas, however, did not stress the long-term. The long-term was the concern of the rest of the year. Christmas was about the immediate thrill, about making a child happy on that day. The goal was to please children so that come Christmas Day they might say with the young Hans Fallada, "you are all so good to me, and I am usually so rude" (34) and the (patriarchal) family foundations were thereby renewed.

Most toys were calculated to engage the world. Topicality was a remarkably effective means of bringing education and pleasure together. The pleasure was in what the game or toy did. The education was in that to which the toy referred. Parents assured themselves that they were educating their children for the world in which they would live by purchasing toys that resembled that world. The relation to knowledge was rather like that which Walter Benjamin explored in his treatment of the newspaper. Devoid of context or explanation, portraits of discrete events/things competed for attention with no concern for their interrelation. Knowledge was extracted from reality and distilled into independent bits of information or images, whether they be newspaper stories about strikes in South Africa or toy airplanes. Facts replaced truth.

The oversimplified relation between topicality and education hid the real education on offer. Toys were used as means of socially reproducing the Burgertum. The images presented to children in their toys were reified burgerliche ideals and values. Children were not so much being educated as conditioned. They were being trained to accept the norms of burgerliche life as natural and unchallengeable. These norms influenced the specific forms that toys took rather than determining the aggregate demand. They structured microdemand rather than creating macrodemand.

The equation of education and verisimilitude made all the world into possible themes for toys, and eased the demands placed upon toy makers. Toys did not have to provoke thought or imagination. Instead they were called upon to provoke wonder while resembling some small portion of the world. The demand for toys which provoked thought and/or fantasy might well have been much greater had the toy not been freighted with such cultural importance, had not the immediate production of joy been at the center of the gift-giving ritual.

The demand for toys in nineteenth century Germany was structured by the "pedagogic double ideal" built into middle-class notions of childhood and child-rearing. Toys were not merely expressions of one of those ideals. They were actively sought out as gifts as a means of reuniting those two ideals. Toy consumption was a tool to construct and maintain the domestic ideal.


(1.) Werner Sombart, Luxury and Capitalism (Ann Arbor, 1913/1967); Wolfgang Haug, Critique of Commodity Aesthetics: Appearance, Sexuality and Advertising in Capitalist Society (Minneapolis, 1986); Rosalind H. Williams, Dream Worlds: Mass Consumption in Late-Nineteenth Century France (Berkeley, 1982); Colin Campbell, The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Modern Capitalism (New York, 1987).

(2.) Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class (New York, 1967); Jean Baudrillard, The System of Objects (New York, 1996); Jean Baudrillard, For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign (St. Louis, 1981); Pierre Bourdieau, Distinction. A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (Cambridge, 1984).

(3.) Peter N. Stearns, "Stages of Consumerism: Recent Work on the Issues of Periodization," Journal of Modern History, March 1997, p. 105.

(4.) Daniel Miller, A Theory of Shopping (Ithaca, 1998).

(5.) Neil McKendrick, John Brewer and J. H. Plumb, The Birth of a Consumer Society. The Commercialization of Eighteenth-Century England (Bloomington, 1982).

(6.) Thomas Nipperdey, Deutsche Geschichte, 1866-1918, Band I. (Munich, 1992), p. 43.

(7.) For the development of the German burgerliche family ideolo , see Gunilla-Frederike Budde, Auf dem Weg ins Burgerleben. Kindheit und Erziehung in deutschen und englischen Burgerfamilien, 1840-1914 (Gottingen, 1994); Heidi Rosenbaum, Formen der Familie (Frankfurt am Main, 1982); Ingeborg Weber-Kellermann, Die deutsche Familie. Versuch einer Sozialgeschichte (Frankfurt am Main, 1974); Marion Kaplan, The Making of the Jewish Middle Class (New York, 1991); Karin Hausen, "Family and Role Division: The Polarisation of Sexual Stereoty es in the Nineteenth Century-An Aspect of the Dissociation of Work and Family Life, The German Family. Es says on the Social History of the Family in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Germany. ed. Richard Evans, W.R. Lee (New Jersey, 1981); Nipperdey, Deutsche Geschichte, 1800-1866, pp. 114-130.

(8.) Margarette Flecken, Arbeiterkinder im 19. Jahrhundert. Eine sozialgeschichtliche Untersuchungihrer Lebenswelt (Weinheim/Basel, 1981), p. 157; and Ingeborg Weber-Keller mann, Die Kind erstube (Frankfurt am Main, 1991), pp. 15-36. For the family as generative source of Burger see Budde, Auf dem Weg, p. 12; and Kaplan, Making of the Jewish Middle Class, pp. 4-5, 120. A fascinating account of how the American middle class began to see the streets as a moral danger and to enforce a physical separation between their own children and those from lower social classes can be found in Stephen Nissenbaum, The Battle for Christmas (New York, 1997) pp. 90-131.

(9.) Brian Sutton-Smith, Toys as Culture (New York/London, 1986), pp. 27-28.

(10.) Budde, Aufdem Weg, p. 78.

(11.) Nipperdey, Deutsche Geschichte, 1866-19 18, Band 1, pp. 55-56.

(12.) Richard Sennett, The Fall of Public Man (New York/London, 1976).

(13.) Norbert Elias, The Civilizing Process (Oxford, 1994).

(14.) Budde, Auf dem Weg, pp. 19, 146-148.

(15.) On taste as a 'classifying classifier' and product of considerable cultural labor, see Pierre Bourdieau, Distinction. A Social Critique of the judgement of Taste (Cambridge, 1984).

(16.) Rosenbaum, Formen der Familie, p. 359; Budde, Auf dem Weg, p. 85.

(17.) Rosenbaum, Formen der Familie, p. 359.

(18.) For alternative approaches to the gap between domestic ideals and domestic realities, see Roddy Reid, Families in Jeopardy; Sharon Marcus, Apartment Stories. City and Home in Nineteenth-Century Paris and London (Berkeley, 1999).

(19.) George Mosse, Nationalism and Sexuality: Respectability and Abnormal Sexuality in Modern Europe (New York, 1985); Peter Gay, Education of the Senses (New York, 1984).

(20.) Budde, Auf dem Weg, p. 12.

(21.) On the transformation of Christmas in the United States, see Nissenbaum, The Battle for Christmas. In the United States and Great Britain, see J. M. Golby and A. W. Purdue, The Making of Modern Christmas (Athens, GA 1986); and the essays by Daniel Miller and James Carrier in Unwrapping Christmas, ed. Daniel Miller (Oxford, 1993). For changing Christmas traditions in nineteenth century Germany, see Weber-Kellermann, Die deutsche Familie, 112-113; Angela Meinel, Kinderleben und Kinderkultur in Sachsen. Versuch eines Uberblicks (Dresden, 1998) p. 87; Barbara Beuys, Familienleben in Deutschland. Neuer Bilder aus der deutschen Vergangenheit (Reinbeck bei Hamburg, 1980), pp. 443-444; Budde, Aufdem Weg, p. 85.

(22.) Weber-Kellermann, Die deutsche Familie, pp. 112-113; Budde, Auf dem Weg, p. 86.

(23.) Weber-Kellermann, Die deutsche Familie, p. 113; see also Miller, Daniel, "A Theory of Christmas," Unwrapping Christmas, pp. 19-20; James Carrier, "The Rituals of Christmas Giving," Unwrapping Christmas, pp. 55-56; Nissenbaum, The Battle for Christmas, pp. 132, 172-175.

(24.) Hans Fallada, Damals bei uns Daheim. Erlebtes, Erfahrenes und Erfundenes (Stuttgart, 1958), p. 165.

(25.) Mauss, Marcel. The Gift, quoted in Carrier, "The Rituals of Christmas," Unwrapping Christmas, p. 56. Carrier also acutely analyzes the problem of giving impersonal commodities as gifts.

(26.) Jean Baudrillard, The System of Objects (New York, 1996); Jean Baudrillard, For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign (St. Louis, 1981).

(27.) Nissenbaum, The Battle for Christmas, pp. 132-133.

(28.) The relation between consumerism and love is best explored in Daniel Miller, A Theory of Shopping (Ithaca, 1998). The link between consumption and desire is one of the most common tropes and theses of western literature and scholarship for centuries. See for example, Rosalind H. Williams, Dream Worlds. Mass Consumption in Late Nineteenth-Century France (Berkeley, 1982); Campbell, The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Modem Capitalism. Classic formulations from the time period investigated in this project include Emile Zola, The Ladies Paradise (Berkeley/Los Angelas, 1992); and Werner Sombart, Luxury and Capitalism (Ann Arbor, 1967).

(29.) "Der Tag der Erwartung," Berliner Tageblatt, 23 Dec. 1900, 1. Beilage, 1.

(30.) "In der Bescheerungsfrage," Berliner Tageblatt, 16 Dec. 1900, 1. Beilage, 1.

(31.) "Weihnachtsfreuden," Daheim, 22 Dec. 1889, 1. Beilage, 1. With its typical petty jingoism, Daheim managed to cast doubt on the familial and religious devotion of all other Europeans, while insisting that only Germany celebrated Christmas properly.

(32.) Hartel, Paul, "Am heiligen Abend," Die Gartenlaube, 1899, 821.

(33.) Raimond, "Der Wunschzettel," Daheim, 14 Dec. 1912, 29.

(34.) Fallada, Damals, p. 164.
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Author:Hamlin, David
Publication:Journal of Social History
Geographic Code:4EUGE
Date:Jun 22, 2003
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