We’ve all shopped on King Street….haven’t we? Those of us who have been doing it a while realize the transformation of the last dozen years. Sure, it’s really bustling now but there are a lot more chain stores shoving out long time local merchants.
Have you ever wondered what it was like in the 1850’s? It was still Charleston’s prime retail corridor but obviously it was very different than today. But one thing that hasn’t changed is strong women on both sides of the counter.
In the years before the Civil War, King Street emerged as Charleston’s main shopping district. Women especially visited its shops to peruse the latest styles in everything from laces and bonnets to wall hangings, furniture, and such new inventions as sewing machines and early iceboxes. Women also numbered among King Street’s entrepreneurs, offering fashionable bonnets and dress trimmings, china and glassware, dry goods and confectionery to Charleston shoppers.
This talk will discuss these businesswomen, examining where they purchased their stock, how they advertised their wares, how they responded to a changing business environment, and ways in which they themselves participated in the nation’s emerging consumer culture.
Amanda Mushal is an associate professor of history at the Citadel in Charleston, S.C. She earned her B.A. from the College of William and Mary and her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. Her work focuses on antebellum southern commercial culture. Dr. Mushal is a contributor to The Field of Honor: Essays on Southern Character and American Identity and The Southern Middle Class in the Long Nineteenth Century. Her current project examines the early development of R.G. Dun & Company, a commercial credit reporting firm whose surviving records document the mid-nineteenth-century activities of businesses throughout the United States.