Sunday, 17 January 2016

Baseball Cards and Adams

I found much of the memory collection interesting but, after viewing them, saw a strong link between the phenomena of baseball cards and Adams' work we covered in class.

Used predominantly as advertisement on cigarette cartons; the collection of baseball cards became nationally recognisable and like smoking itself a habit and fad.

I should just add of course that smoking went on too dispel the ‘fad’ statement. “In 2014, nearly 17 of every 100 U.S. adults aged 18 years or older (16.8%) smoked cigarettes.” Per the tobacco data statistics.

This map similarly shows the extent of smoking in contemporary America.

Anyway, the collecting of baseball cards as a popular past time is whats most interesting. Americans in the 1880’s to early 90’s were most concerned with the new and the progressive and got behind these non-traditional activities. As a 2 5/8 x 1 1/2-inch photo or print; the collection of baseball cards acts as a great indicator of the decline in spiritual versus the increased valuing of the material which Adams alluded to in his ‘the Epic of America’. The want for the next, newest, biggest, most popular thing swept American minds as the values born out of the pioneer culture of the first migrants appeared to whither.

The mass production of cigarettes from 1883 onwards advocates another of Adams’ concerns. It acts as a metaphor for the demise of quality in the new era of quantity. Tobacco grown since the 17th century was originally rolled and thus smoked by those who knew how. But with the scale of production now untapped, the mass market of American society demanded a vast quantity and would accept such with a drop in quality.

In contrast, I believe there is one contradiction of Adam’s work when it comes to the popularity of baseball card collecting. Adams argued that culture made way for business but this example suggests that business created or adapted a culture. Mass production of Tobacco as a cash crop for the export market was essentially what created the need for abundant, cheap labor which the importation of slaves to America answered. The divide geographical, North and South, of slave and non-slave states was similarly a product of the business of slavery. And politically, western expansion was to a large degree about whether or not pro-slavery or anti-slavery states attained a majority influence over the entire nation.

Therefore, the business of cigarette manufacturing – to which these baseball cards are symbiotically related – can be attributed to shaping and molding the culture of the United States historically, geographically and politically. And not inhibiting culture, as Adams proposed.

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