American Fancy: Exuberance in the Arts, 1790-1840

Between 1790 and 1840, millions of middle-class Americans throughout the nation encountered "Fancy": they rode in a Fancy sleigh,
dressed up in Fancy clothes, blew their noses in Fancy handkerchiefs, bought goods at Fancy shops, ate at Fancy tables on Fancy dishes, and slept under Fancy coverlets. Not just fancy but Fancy: an early 19th-century cultural phenomenon born out of new and enlightened ways of seeing, understanding, and responding to the surrounding world. Fancy expressed itself in just about everything that pleased the senses; generally colorful and boldly patterned, it elicited delight, awe, surprise, whim, and caprice. Whether experienced in the form of painted surfaces, kaleidoscopic quilts, or imaginary landscapes, Fancy engaged the emotions and expanded the imagination, expressing the core of human fancy. American Fancy offers an appropriately fantastic experience of this uniquely American sensibility. Author Sumpter Priddy has assembled and produced an original oeuvre in the field of decorative arts, going beyond the traditional modes of furniture analysis, which concentrate on style, history, and construction, to consider the perceptual and emotional responses through which the original users and viewers would have interacted with these material things. To this end he employs the interpretive methods used in the fields of literature, fine arts, philosophy, and even psychology. Rich, fully illustrated, wondrously researched, and bound in a cover that imitates a typical Fancy pattern, American Fancy does its marvelous subject true.