Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Studies


Grey Gundaker

Committee Member

Alan Wallach


"How Gardening Pays" is a case study of the formation and transmission of cultural practices and interpretations of flower-gardening as profitable leisure, idealized labor, and luxury consumption in nineteenth-century transatlantic culture. Mid-nineteenth-century cant about American flower-gardening as an anti-materialistic and morally improving occupation was premised upon the multiple functions of flower gardening in British working-class culture. Methodologically, this dissertation is unlike most intellectual histories of the ideological significance of nature in American culture, or formal studies of the physical attributes of horticultural history, because it demonstrates how ideologies and material practices were interrelated.;The first half of this dissertation focuses on early-nineteenth-century British working-class flower gardening for profitable leisure and labor reform. British urban Protestant weavers, particularly the militant silk-weavers of Spitalfields, London, practiced floristry as an integral and profitable part of workshop culture. When artisanal floristry declined with the onset of industrialization, agricultural and industrial capitalists reinterpreted and revived flower-gardening as a rational recreation that prevented labor riots and the formation of trade unions. their efforts were often thwarted by surviving traditions of working-class floristry and the elite interest in flowers as fashionable luxuries.;These conflicting circumstances materially and ideologically shaped the development of commercial horticulture in the northeastern United States, thanks to the overwhelming number and influence of imported horticultural texts and immigrant horticulturists who promoted parlor gardening. When material practices crossed the boundaries of class, geography and gender, parlor gardening emerged as a bourgeois translation of both the techniques of artisan florists and the rhetoric of flower gardening as rational recreation.



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