Crowding the Parlour

IntroductionPrevious 5
M977X.169.2 I-63635 M930.50.7.421 M995.48.13.1-3 M968.125.1.1-2 M992.145.1.2 M21337 II-114793 Conclusion


So we have visited some parlours and seen how they are decorated. We have looked at individual items and talked about their discovery, use and history. We have met some families and a few famous people along the way. We have seen the contents of the domestic interior. We have investigated the who, what, when and where. But why is it all there, why is the parlour so crowded?

The emphasis in post-Confederation Canada is on expansion. Expansion across the continent to link markets coast to coast. Expansion in extraction of raw materials and manufacturing a variety of goods to create a constant supply. Expansion in immigration and population size to generate demand for consumer goods. The essential is not quality, but quantity. The upper-class market for refined goods is insufficient to fuel the industrial era. More profits are achieved if more goods are sold.

In order to create demand, railway owners encourage tourism to distant hotels. Exotic souvenirs are collected en route. A wider and foreign world is brought into the interior with mementos of "contact" with First Nations, with mimicry of imports from the Orient, with animals and birds from distant lands. Demand is also generated as more occasions for gift giving are promoted, from Christmas to jubilee celebrations. Sumptuous wedding presents ensure that the cycle of consumption continues.

Families are at the root of the modern world. They are the consumers of society's products. They teach social graces, from dancing through to conversation, to attract prosperous partnerships. The stuff of entertainment, from game tables to pianos, fills the interior. The stuff of education, from journals to the Bible, graces parlour tables. The stuff of discovery, from kerosene to chromolithographs, alters the tone of interiors. The stuff of nature, from exotic birds to tolerant plants, enlivens the domestic realm. The stuff of comfort, from deeply buttoned cushions to upholstered furniture, makes the home a haven. The stuff of fleeting fashion, from Renaissance revival through to William Morris, dictates changing patterns of consumption.

In reality, the domestic interior is the repository of all the advances in science and society! By the end of the 19th century, the bourgeois Canadian home has become the custodian of the world.


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