In this engaging new book, Howard Chudacoff describes a special and fascinating world: the urban bachelor life that took shape in the late nineteenth century, when a significant population of single men migrated to American cities. Rejecting the restraints and dependence of the nineteenth-century family, bachelors found sustenance and camaraderie in the boarding houses, saloons, pool halls, cafes, clubs, and other institutions that arose in response to their increasing numbers. Richly illustrated, anecdotal, and including a unique analysis of The National Police Gazette (the most outrageous and popular men's publication of the late nineteenth and the early twentieth century), this book is the first to describe a complex subculture that continues to affect the larger meanings of manhood and manliness in American society.
The figure of the bachelor--with its emphasis on pleasure, self-indulgence, and public entertainment--was easily converted by the burgeoning consumer culture at the turn of the century into an ambiguously appealing image of masculinity. Finding an easy reception in an atmosphere of insecurity about manhood, that image has outdistanced the circumstances in which it began to flourish and far outlasted the bachelor culture that produced it. Thus, the idea of the bachelor has retained its somewhat negative but alluring connotations throughout the rest of the twentieth century. Chudacoff's concluding chapter discusses the contemporary "singles scene" now developing as the number of single people in urban centers is again increasing.
By seeing bachelorhood as a stage in life for many and a permanent status for some, Chudacoff recalls a lifestyle that had a profound impact on society, evoking fear, disdain, repugnance, and at the same time a sense of romance, excitement, and freedom. The book contributes to gender history, family history, urban history, and the study of consumer culture and will appeal to anyone curious about American history and anxious to acquire a new view of a sometimes forgotten but still influential aspect of our national past.
"For many men, the bachelor lifestyle became the defining act of being a man: living unencumbered by family and free to indulge in the many pleasures city life offered. Rigorously documented but very accessible to readers of American culture."--Booklist
"This vivid study examines the salacious, sensuous bachelor lifestyle at the height of its prominence. . . . Chudacoff's research and methodology are admirable, offering a fine mix of evidence, anecdote, biographical account, and sociological material to explore all important aspects of his subject. A well-rounded view of the turn-of-the-century bachelor, particularly valuable to readers drawn to the cultural landscape of Victorian America."--Kirkus Reviews
"Sharp, insightful, and always entertaining, The Age of the Bachelor is an example of cultural history at its best."--Michael Bronski, The Boston Phoenix Literary Supplement
"What a wonderful book! Who would have expected that a history of bachelor subculture would illuminate so much of the nation's past? . . . A major contribution to a hitherto largely unexamined subject."--Benjamin G. Rader, author of American Sports: From the Age of Folk Games to the Age of Television
"Being single is typically understood as a stage of life, not a way of life. Yet in this remarkable study of bachelorhood at the turn of the last century, Howard Chudacoff explodes our myths about those errant sons and strange uncles, and reveals a subculture of masculine resistance--and thus gives bachelorhood its first history."--Michael Kimmel, author of Manhood in America: A Cultural History
Table of Contents:
Introduction The Age of the Bachclor 3
Chapter One Bachelorhood in Early American History 21
Chapter Two Why So Many Bachelors? 45
Chapter Three The Domestic Lives of Bachelors 75
Chapter Four Institutional Life 106
Chapter Five Associations: Formal and Interpersonal 146
Chapter Six The Popular Culture of Bachelorhood 185
Chapter Seven Bachelor Subculture and Male Culture 217
Chapter Eight The Decline and Resurgence of Bachelorhood, 1930-1995 251
Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by Howard P. Chudacoff: