Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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pp. v-viii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xii

Every book is a collective vision; this one is no exception. This project grew out of the generous intellectual encouragement of my mentor Karen Halttunen, one’s beau ideal of a cultural historian. The manuscript also benefited in its early stages from the input of other senior scholars: Judith Bennett, Philip J. Ethington, John Carlos Rowe, and especially Anne C. Rose, ...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-8

A merchant admires a statue in the Boston Athenæum art gallery, straining to hear the sounds a critic claims to have heard whispering from it. A Harvard student strolls the Charles, contemplating infinity in the passing current. A clairvoyant travels in spirit from a Boston drawing room to the streets of New York City, ...

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1. Ordering Boston’s Landscape

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pp. 9-49

In January of 1830, an eighteen-year-old dry goods clerk named Bradley Newcomb Cumings braved “a real cold day” to hear a local physician, J. V. C. Smith, lecture at the Boston Athenæum on “the most wonderful and astonishing” of human organs: the eye. The lecture’s gist can be gathered from ...

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2. Looking Past Disorder

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pp. 50-81

Throughout the antebellum years, Boston’s reforming elite sought to establish an orderly and inspiring urban landscape that would cultivate rationality, self-discipline, and deference among its residents. Yet there was reason to doubt that such a project could succeed. When Bostonians stepped ...

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3. Transcending the Gallery

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pp. 82-113

In the 1820s, Boston’s avid new middle-class spectators encountered the fine arts in an unprecedented range of public spaces, including auction rooms, warehouses, and dedicated exhibition halls such as the Boston Athenæum Gallery, Harding’s Gallery, the New England Museum, the triennial Massachusetts Charitable Mechanics Fairs, and Horticultural Hall. ...

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4. Drawing Forth Spirits

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pp. 114-139

One of the clearest expressions of Bostonians’ desire to refine their vision was their enthusiasm for learning to draw. Practiced in colonial New England almost exclusively by artisans, amateur draftsmanship did not achieve popular appeal until the first decades of the nineteenth century. ...

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5. Discovering the Blind

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pp. 140-166

In 1835, the Boston resident Abram V. Courtney opened his autobiography, Anecdotes of the Blind, by explaining his reasons for writing it. “I have observed that men generally take an interest in matters relating to the blind, or others deprived of the ordinary means of communicating with their fellows,” Courtney offered, adding that it was not sympathy ...

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6. Enchanting the City

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pp. 167-197

On Christmas day in 1844, Daniel Franklin Child took his children to see Cinderella; or, The Fairy with the Little Glass Slipper, a fairy opera. A former clerk who had risen to treasurer at Boston Locomotive Works and a member of Theodore Parker’s congregation, Child exemplified Bostonians’ new respect for the theater. His daughter “was almost bewildered with so great ...

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Epilogue

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pp. 198-208

By the end of the antebellum period, Bostonians’ habit of idealizing the urban landscape was yielding to the new transatlantic fashion of realism. Rather than idealize the city, realist writers and artists documented it in detached and comprehensive detail. Among the first Americans to anticipate the commercial appeal of urban realism were local photographers ...

Notes

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pp. 209-236

Bibliography

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pp. 237-270

Index

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pp. 271-280