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Printing Technology and the Role of Illustration

America's Introduction to Aesthetics


Architectural Pattern Books

Architectural Advice Books: The A.J.s

Architectural Advice Books: Other Writers

Art Instruction and Leisure Pursuit Manuals

Exposition Catalogs


Further Information

Gardens & Ground Plan
Gardens & Ground Plan, chromolithograph, Samuel Sloan, The Model Architect, 1852.

Americans met the challenge of creating a nation during a time of political transformation, technological innovation, westward expansion, and massive immigration. They held that productive citizens were not simply born, they were made, and nurturing and inspiring domestic surroundings helped cultivate moral fiber and instill shared ideals. Because Americans were on the move both geographically and within a social class system, and not confident about what was appropriate and suitable in home design, they turned to professional advisors to guide them through the labyrinth of taste. Experts on architecture, applied art, and lifestyle exploited the illustrated publication, a medium made possible in the mid-19th century by the convergence of printing and papermaking technologies.

We see echoes of these same concerns today. Americans continue to exhibit a general unease with cutting-edge art and architecture and often listen intently to pronouncements made in the media by arbiters of taste. Issues relating to local and national legislation of taste still stir up arguments about who decides what is appropriate, acceptable, or beautiful. Clearly, the debate continues.