Buying Respectability

Buying Respectability

Philanthropy and Urban Society in Transnational Perspective, 1840s to 1930s
Thomas Adam
Distribution: World
Publication date: 3/13/2009
Format: cloth 256 pages, 17 b&w photos
6.125 x 9.25
ISBN: 978-0-253-35274-3
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In 19th-century Leipzig, Toronto, New York, and Boston, a newly emergent group of industrialists and entrepreneurs entered into competition with older established elite groups for social recognition as well as cultural and political leadership. The competition was played out on the field of philanthropy, with the North American community gathering ideas from Europe about the establishment of cultural and public institutions. For example, to secure financing for their new museum, the founders of the Metropolitan Museum of Art organized its membership and fundraising on the model of German art museums. The process of cultural borrowing and intercultural transfer shaped urban landscapes with the building of new libraries, museums, and social housing projects. An important contribution to the relatively new field of transnational history, this book establishes philanthropy as a prime example of the conversion of economic resources into social and cultural capital.

Author Bio

Thomas Adam is Associate Professor of History at the University of Texas at Arlington. He teaches courses on German and modern transatlantic history. His research focuses on nineteenth-century philanthropy in the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and Germany and the intercultural transfer of philanthropic concepts between these countries. he has just published a book on funding higher education in Germany, 1800-1960, and is currently working on a comparative study of funding for university education in the United States and Germany, 1800 to 1945.


"Adam has pulled together stories that are very much worth telling, and explore significant issues." —David C. Hammack, Case Western Reserve University

"[Adam] presents a good deal of interesting material, especially on German and North American mutual influences, and correctly positions the book as a contribution to the literature on Atlantic transnational intercultural tradition most tellingly identified by Daniel Rodgers. Adam focuses on traditional categories of philanthropic activity—cultural institutions, housing, women's roles, ethnic-religious orientation. . . . Adam focuses on what the Germans call
Stiften—i.e., 'big philanthropy'. . . . — Choice" —S. N. Katz, Princeton University, Feb. 2010

"Adam’s book . . . has merit in its elucidation of the influences of European social projects upon Americans’ conceptions of goals for their own society and the extent to which American implementation of philanthropic programs caused a reconsideration of the means and ends of philanthropic endeavor in Europe. His willingness to conceive of philanthropy as an expression of transatlantic ideas and cultural concerns provides a

welcome addition to the historiography of philanthropy." —
Journal of American History

"[T]his richly documented book offers many new insights into philanthropic activism and urban society between Jacksonianism and the Progressive era." —American Historical Review , June 2010

"[This book] is an intricately woven composition . . . Those interested in urban history, the use of philanthropy to create new institutional forms and create opportunities for larger audiences, and the ease with which ideas cross national boundaries to influence decision making in other countries will find this volume informative and thought provoking." —
Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly

"The field of philanthropy as an avenue of social advancement into the ranks of urban elites will be a familiar theme for most readers, though Adam makes the point particularly effectively..." —Journal of Social History , Spring 2011

"This sensible book examines philanthropic networks and cultures in various European and North American cities. Thomas Adam demonstrates the interdependence of seemingly contradictory trends: the intercultural transfer of reform ideas and the use of philanthropy for local prestige and status." —
Urban History

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Table of Contents

Part 1
1. Cultural Excursions: Museums, Art Galleries, and Libraries in a Transatlantic World
2. Heavy Luggage: The Intercultural Transfer of Models for Social Housing Enterprises
Part 2
3. How to Become a Gentleman: Philanthropy and Social Climbing
4. Bountiful Ladies: Philanthropy and Women's Place in Society
5. Giving for Good: Philanthropy and Religion