Cases 6 & 7: Narrative Threads

The history of American book publishing is closely tied to the commercial and industrial development of the nation. In 1790 there were approximately 140 printing houses. This number grew to over three 3,000 by 1860. Technological advances, such as stereotype plating and the cylinder steam press, allowed printers to produce larger quantities of books at affordable prices for a wider audience. Reading as necessity gave way to reading as leisure, and children's literature, fiction, instructional books, magazines, and newspapers came to be preferred over the devotional literature and almanacs that dominated pre-industrial America. The inclusion of crochet and knitting as subjects of cartoons, poetry, music, and fiction provides evidence of their successful emergence into American popular culture.

The earliest American pattern publications emerged around 1840 in the genre of instructional literature, which included manuals of needlework and housewifery. Although these publications promoted the popularity of crochet and knitting, they were not always useful to the beginner. Published patterns often assumed the reader had a far broader knowledge of the craft than would be expected today and, because crochet and knitting standards were not established in the United States until the mid-twentieth century, authors used terms familiar within their spheres of family and friends. The majority of needlework authors were anonymous, calling themselves "an American Lady," "Lady of Philadelphia," or "Lady of New York." These authors often "revised and expanded" European editions, producing a repetition of patterns with varied instructions in different American publications.