During the rise of consumer culture in the nineteenth century, children and childhood were called on to fulfill a range of important roles. In addition to being consumers themselves, the young functioned as both 'goods' to be used and consumed by adults and as proof that middle-class materialist ventures were assisting in the formation of a more ethical society. Children also provided necessary labor and raw material for industry. This diverse collection addresses the roles assigned to children in the context of nineteenth-century consumer culture, at the same time that it remains steadfast in recognizing that the young did not simply exist within adult-articulated cultural contexts but were agents in their formation. Topics include toys and middle-class childhood; boyhood and toy theater; child performers on the Victorian stage; gender, sexuality and consumerism; imperialism in adventure fiction; the idealization of childhood as a form of adult entertainment and self-flattery; the commercialization of orphans; and the economics behind formulations of child poverty. Together, the essays demonstrate the rising investment both children and adults made in commodities as sources of identity and human worth.

chapter |23 pages


Small Change: The Consumerist Designs of the Nineteenth-Century Child
ByDennis Denisoff

part 1|52 pages

Play Things: Toys and Theater

part 2|56 pages

Consuming Desires

part 3|51 pages

Adulthood and Nationhood

chapter Chapter 7|13 pages

Adult Children’s Literature in Victorian Britain

ByClaudia Nelson

chapter Chapter 8|22 pages

Home Thoughts and Home Scenes: Packaging Middle-class Childhood for Christmas Consumption

ByLorraine Janzen Kooistra

part 4|44 pages

Children and the Terrors of Cultural Consumption