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American Misfits and the Making of Middle-Class Respectability$
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Robert Wuthnow

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780691176864

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691176864.001.0001

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Worked as a Huckster

Worked as a Huckster

Moral Connotations of Placeless Labor

(p.39) Chapter Two Worked as a Huckster
American Misfits and the Making of Middle-Class Respectability

Robert Wuthnow

Princeton University Press

This chapter focuses on hucksters who peddled farm produce in towns, brought town goods to farms, in the nineteenth century. The social role of the huckster offers an exceptional opportunity to probe the moral ambiguities of American culture as the nation transitioned from an agrarian to an urban economy. In simplest terms, hucksters occupied a liminal space that was neither fully rural nor fully urban, connecting the two as they passed goods from one to the other. They served as a significant commercial link antecedent to the establishment of large-scale wholesale and retail markets. As important as this role was economically, its cultural significance was equally important. By their own account and in the many accounts that contemporaries gave of them, hucksters transgressed familiar occupational and spatial categories and in so doing dramatized both in negation and in affirmation the shifting meaning of those categories.

Keywords:   hucksters, social life, nineteenth century, American culture, peddlers

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