A quintessential global product : bentwood furniture in Canada and Australia 1860 to 1945
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This thesis is the first global history of an ubiquitous product, the bentwood chair, one of the most common furnishing items in 19th-century Australia. It identifies two Canadian companies that were large-scale manufacturers of chairs and other products, and traces their local production and global distribution in an integrated history of design, trade, and consumption. It posits that trade between Canada and Australia began earlier and was much larger than current accounts suggest. The thesis contributes to a new understanding of comparative economic development and nascent 19th-century industries and occupations. It analyses a wide range of sources including government reports, trade catalogues, studio and vernacular photography, business publications, family archives, shipping records, and newspaper articles and advertising. It tests the generalisation of exclusive Austrian and American ownership of the massive global trade in bentwood chairs. In doing so, it challenges the perception of a primarily English influence in British Empire trade and consumption.
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