The revolution before the Revolution? A Material Culture Approach to Consumerism

Author(s): Eleanor Breen

Year: 2014


What made the 40-year period before the American Revolution unique was that access to goods appears to have opened up for larger segments of the colonial population through a more sophisticated and far-reaching system of distribution for imported items. How equal was this access? How democratic was this consumer revolution? Through a material culture approach that triangulates between three vital sources - George Washington’’s orders for goods through the consignment system, inventories from a local store in northern Virginia, and the archaeological record at Mount Vernon ‘- the complexities of consumer access and motivation are revealed. Additionally, systematically analyzing objects within these three datasets lends insights into current methodological challenges in the field of historical archaeology. The outcome of this project (presented at suggests cataloguing protocols and analytical tools necessary to study archaeological assemblages for evidence of the meaningful, myriad, and nuanced consumer behaviors that fueled life in the eighteenth century.

Cite this Record

The revolution before the Revolution? A Material Culture Approach to Consumerism. Eleanor Breen. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. 2014 ( tDAR id: 437320)

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Society for Historical Archaeology

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): SYM-75,05