Tales from the Frontier

The primary source documents collected in Tales from the Frontier help us to understand existence and consequences on the various frontiers that arose from the movement of Europeans to Africa, Australasia and North America.

When Europeans left their shores in their millions in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to settle in faraway Africa, Australasia and North America, they ushered in a new era of global history. The frontier regions that arose from these movements were spaces where people of different backgrounds – cultural, economic, political – encountered, cooperated and competed with one another. The frontiers that came about were dynamic places that resulted in adventure, misery, economic booms, busts and huge extensions of influence. Yet not only wealth but new states and global powers were created as a result of the advances and evolutions of these frontier zones. The European settlers, and for a time indigenous peoples, then colonial governments and new independent nation states were able to exploit the opportunities that arose as a result of these new dynamics, helping to create a new world order. On the other side was demise for the original incumbents of the lands that these frontiers surpassed. Indigenous peoples were decimated and damaged as a result of these influxes and theirs is a story that is also told here.

The primary source documents digitised and collected here tell the story of some of these frontiers in North America, Australasia and Africa, allowing scholars to better understand the nature and significance of these regions at various points from the eighteenth century up until the twentieth century.

American Consumer Catalogues

Explore domestic life, leisure and the material culture of nineteenth- and twentieth-century America through the rich and varied material presented in American Consumer Catalogues.

Trade catalogues have been a prominent feature in commerce and manufacturing from the eighteenth century to the present day. Highly illustrated, they are an essential visual record of a variety of products and facilitate research into popular culture, material culture, social norms and attitudes, as well as the history of marketing, business, and technology.

These documents provide evidence of the evolution of distribution and communication systems linking manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, and consumers across the emerging United States and beyond. They document the changing commercial tastes and fashions of the consumer over a period of rapid growth, expansion and crisis (both at home and overseas), revealing contemporary prices and economic expenditure for households and individuals on a range of products.

Interrogation of trade catalogues, trade cards and marketing ephemera provides opportunities for interdisciplinary research across the social sciences including:

- Social history
- The rise of mail order and department stores
- The role of women; both within the home and without
- The changing nature of consumerism
- The idea of the ‘American Dream’
- Mass production.