Amanda Casper

University of Delaware

2014 to 2015
Dissertation Writing Fellow

Home Alteration in Industrial Philadelphia, 1865 to 1925

Abstract: Modern home alteration took shape in the nineteenth century, amidst rising professionalization, regulation, and reform. Home alteration was not a modern phenomenon, but a rise in home alteration, spurred by new technology, pulled home owners and their projects into public discourse for the first time. This dissertation examines how and why home alteration changed between 1865 and 1925. Using four kinds of alteration projects as a framework, this study interweaves the history of building technology with themes of social, legal, cultural, and economic history. Home alteration was not merely a set of projects or assemblage of supplies, but instead a heated legal and moral battleground where homeowners, builders, architects, building reformers, and city officials fought to control the changing landscape, inform people’s behavior, and enforce the American standard of living. Home alteration provides an intimate lens for understanding how people coped with the changes of America’s second industrial revolution. Read the reasearch report here.