Over the last three centuries, the widespread acquisition of goods has shaped much of
American culture. Americans have increasingly participated in the culture of
consumption, transforming the economy from one based on agriculture and raw
materials to one that is driven by the manufacturing, advertising, and selling massproduced
goods. One way to study this social and economic transformation is through
the products America manufactured and the people who interacted with them. With
this in mind, a prominent national museum has decided to mount an exhibition of
American consumer culture.
The members of HIST289R have been invited to partner with the museum in building
the exhibit. We have been tasked with curating the new exhibit. Your assignment is to
contribute to a history and understanding of American consumer culture.
You will be assigned a topic from a list that will include people, artifacts, laws/court
rulings, slogans/advertising campaigns, or places of consumer activity.
A list of possible topics will be distributed in discussion section.
NB: This is NOT a traditional research paper. This is an argumentative essay.
Convince us! You must have an argument that persuades us of the significance of your
topic. Tell us why your topic matters for consumer history.
Your task is to explain why your topic should be included
in the exhibit.
In order to do so, you must describe your topic, analyze its
historical relevance, and explain why its inclusion in the
museum would instruct visitors in the larger themes of
history of US consumer culture.
This assignment has two parts:
1. An annotated bibliography due 04/09/18 that outlines your topic
and explains relevant sources (see separate handout for instructions)
2. A four- to five-page argumentative essay due 05/02/18 that explains
why your topic should be included in the museum exhibit
Once you have your topic, you should pursue two routes of research.
• First, conduct research in scholarly secondary sources in order to tell the story of
your topic and to determine its significance. You should undertake research on
your own, but you also may use any of the assigned readings for this course.
When you undertake research on your own, please be sure to use reputable and
academic sources (ie: no blogs or Wikipedia-type websites). If you are unsure if
your source is reputable, ask one of your instructors or a research librarian.
• Second, you will need to find at least three primary sources–published or
unpublished–to shed light on the history of the artifact that you have chosen.
Consider looking at magazines, advertising archives, oral history collections, etc.
We will provide you a sample in discussion section.
You may be tempted to do all of your research work with web-based sources.
This will likely be a mistake. Even with many scholarly sources being put on the
web, there is no substitute for the library. Make sure to use it.
What is a scholarly source?
A scholarly source is peer-reviewed, contains citations, and is published by a reputable
press (such as a University press). Scholarly or peer-reviewed books and journal articles
are written by scholars or professionals who are experts in their fields. The scholarship
is then vetted by others working in the field and by professional editors. Thus, an article
in the Journal of American History is a scholarly source; an article in Time magazine or
the New York Times is not.
When assessing if a source meets the standards of scholarship, consider the language,
content, and intended audience.
For information on distinguishing periodical types, see this page:
Formulating an Interpretation of the Topic
Building a good interpretation involves scrutinizing a topic carefully then turning to
related historical and primary sources. Therefore, you should consider issues such as
• how gender roles are shaped by consumer culture
• how consumer objects define an individual’s identity
• how marketing strategies sell consumer goods
• how consumer goods were used in the home
• the relationship between work and consumption
• the values and beliefs Americans have associated with consumption
• how consumption affects the environment
• how Americans have used consumer goods to define their social status or identity
** Criteria for Evaluation **
1. Quality of your research and analysis of topic
2. Development of a clear, analytical thesis that is supported with evidence. Did you
integrate information from primary and secondary sources?
3. Quality of your argument: are your conclusions substantive and do they follow
logically from your analysis? Did you place your artifact/person/etc. into a larger
contextual and historical framework?
4. Quality of your writing: did you express your ideas clearly and in an organized
manner? Is your writing technically correct (correct grammar, syntax, spelling, etc.)?
(pro tip: Visit the Writing Center for help with editing and revising.)
5. See the rubric on ELMS for fuller details.
A: 93-100 points A-: 90-92 B : 87-89
B: 83-86 B-: 80-82 C : 77-79
C: 73-76 C-: 70-72 D : 67-69
D: 63-66 D-: 60-62 F: 0-59
Please note: Your grade is based entirely on the work that you produce. It is not
based on your need/desire or on the amount of effort you put into the essay.
1. Be sure to cite fully. Use endnotes ONLY. (No parenthetical citations or footnotes.)
Use the format found within the Chicago Manual of Style or Kate Turabian’s guide.
2. Use 1-inch margins on each side and 12-point font (Times New Roman), doublespaced.
3. Number your pages.
4. Submit the paper on ELMS in doc, docx, or pdf format.
5. DO NOT use the first person. This is an analytical essay. Your Afeelings@ and Abeliefs@
have no place in this assignment. You should write in declarative statements using
supporting evidence drawn from historical sources.
6. If you mention a person, be sure to introduce him/her to establish relevance.
7. Avoid the passive voice at all costs!
8. Avoid excessive quotations. Using direct quotes undermines your argumentation
and leaves the reader feeling that you have nothing to say. Better to paraphrase and
cite. If you must quote, try to keep it short (about 10 words) and be sure to analyze the
quote. Never use a quotation as a substitute for your own words
Above is the complete assignment description. I’m attaching a couple of document and I will explain each.
One is the complete description of the essay assignment (above as well). It basically has everything in there. My assigned topic is to analyze Pepsi. It must be written on Pepsi!
Another document is from the direction sheet for the annotated bibliography. I already did that and will attach what I submitted. You do not need to do the annotated bibliography part. I used the University of Maryland library database and the Duke University digital repository. I believe these are both open to the public and anyone can access them, so feel free to pull sources from there. I must have primary and secondary sources in the essay and they all must be scholarly.
At the end of the completed annotated bibliography document are comments from the professor. I have a thesis in there, but it might need to be more specific than that.
Let me know if you have some sort of quote after you’ve read and understood the assignment.