If you’ve landed on this page, it’s because you can help me.
THE ARTICLE: I am currently completing revisions of an article for the Journal of American History on the evolution of the “college shop”– a student-staffed section of the ever-evolving department store. From the early 1930s through the 1950s, virtually every department store had one, and each wooed shoppers with gimmicky marketing campaigns that ranged from free Cokes to rhumba lessons. In these seasonal shops, collegians sold and bought the casual styles they inspired and vetted.
THE SOURCES: I am desperately seeking three kinds of primary sources to complete the revisions the editors have requested:
- Student letters and diaries written between 1900 and 1970. These documents detail what students bought and wore. Ideally, these letters would mention shopping, but they don’t have to. I am trying to get to the decision making process behind “buying”—what did students look for in garments? How did they fit? How did they finance new purchases? Where did they look for fashion advice?
- Department store records from 1930-1970 that deal with the internal workings of the store. Ideally, I am looking for publicity efforts to woo youth shoppers. This may be a file called “College Shop” from the marketing department or customer surveys done to gauge consumers’ wants. I have found some traces of “how” sales staff are hired or trained—but need more. I am trying to make the case that the department store was a dynamic space that changed over time to fit patterns in consumption.
- Clothing manufacturers records from 1930-1970 that detail the producers’ interactions with the youth market. My dream source? A survey done by a clothing maker that outlines what college youth wanted in their garments.
THE PROCESS: If you can identify that you have these sources, I am looking to hire an on-site researcher to pull and photocopy the documents. I’m not looking to add to anyone’s workload, but to help me identify if these document exist in your collection.