Craft: An American History
A groundbreaking and endlessly surprising history of how artisans created America, from the nation’s origins to the present day.
At the center of the United States’ economic and social development, according to conventional wisdom, are industry, commodities, and technology—while craftspeople and handmade objects are relegated to a bygone past. Renowned craft historian Glenn Adamson turns that narrative on its head in this innovative account, revealing how makers have always been central to America’s identity. Examine any phase of the nation’s struggle to define itself, and artisans are there—from the silversmith Paul Revere and the revolutionary carpenters and blacksmiths who hurled tea into Boston Harbor, to today’s “craftivists.” From Mother Jones to Rosie the Riveter. From Betsy Ross to the AIDS Quilt.
Adamson documents how craft has long been implicated in debates around inequality, education, and class, as well as America’s failures to live up to its loftiest ideals. Yet artisanship has also been a site of resistance for oppressed people, such as enslaved African-Americans whose skilled labor might confer hard-won agency under bondage, or the Native American makers who built traditional arts into businesses that preserved cherished folkways. Theirs are among the array of memorable portraits of Americans both celebrated and unfamiliar in this richly peopled book. As Adamson argues, these artisans’ stories speak to our collective striving toward a more perfect union: from the beginning, America had to be—and still remains to be—crafted.
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