Thesis ID: CBB951294113

Docile by Design: Commercial Furniture and the Education of American Bodies, 1840-1920 (2020)


Carlino, Philip (Author)
Moore, William D. (Advisor)
Sichel, Kim (Advisor)

Boston University
Moore, William D.
Sichel, Kim
Publication date: 2020
Language: English

Publication Date: 2020
Physical Details: 813

Whether we inhabit a desk in a classroom or office or occupy a seat on a train or in a theater our bodies are enveloped, supported, manipulated, and controlled through the form and operation of furniture that is seldom noticed. Ubiquitous, intimate, and often compulsory, commercial furniture (institutional furniture used outside the home) is a powerful resource for elucidating politics in the public sphere. This dissertation demonstrates that between 1840 and 1920 manufacturers produced commercial furniture intended to teach postures, behaviors, and interactions suited to competencies expected of occupants as compliant citizens and industrious workers. In response to the overwhelming social, economic, and demographic changes that accompanied industrialization and urbanization furniture constructed new psycho-social and physical borders between individuals and groups in public space that defined identity. The furniture and interior design of schools, offices, theaters, and trains are analyzed using an interdisciplinary material culture methodology to elucidate the constraints of manufacturing and recover the sensory experience. Material evidence is evaluated alongside visual culture and textual sources to show that manufacturers mediated among the expectations of educational and occupational theorists, executives, administrators, experts, civic leaders, and furniture users to determine furniture form and function. Standard furniture forms emerged out of a web of influences and were sent across the nation to realize a corporatist vision of America that elevated white men and the wealthy, accommodated white immigrant and native-born members of the middle class, and distanced members of the working class, the poor, and African Americans.

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Authors & Contributors
Alac, Morana
Berne, Rosalyn W.
Blaszczyk, Regina Lee
Cronon, William
Edwards, Clive A.
Mitchell, Robert Cameron
The Bridge: Journal of the National Academy of Engineering
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine
Science, Technology, and Human Values
Configurations: A Journal of Literature, Science, and Technology
Icon: Journal of the International Committee for the History of Technology
Journal of Design History
Johns Hopkins University Press
Cambridge University Press
Duke University Press
The MIT Press
University of North Carolina Press
Technology and society
Human body
Science and technology studies (STS)
Gaba, Lester
Raymond Loewy
Time Periods
21st century
19th century
20th century
20th century, early
18th century
15th century
United States
Great Britain

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