Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Richard Jefferies


Material culture is an understudied aspect of social life in Appalachian Studies, the multi- disciplinary investigation of social life in the Appalachian region. Historically, material culture in the region has been largely studied for its semiotic properties, decoded as a tangible symbol of “a region apart,” lagging behind the rest of America in terms of moral, mental, economic, and social development. Critical material studies from archaeology and other disciplines paint a different picture, however, and construct a region as American as any other. This study utilizes discourse analysis of material rhetoric about Appalachia and archaeological and oral historical data from two twentieth-century company- owned coal mining towns in Letcher County, Kentucky. It argues that contrary to persistent stereotypes about Appalachia as a backwards place, residents were firmly embedded in the market economy and enacted modern identities through their engagement with fellow citizens and material objects. This intersectional study uses theories of practice to explore how entanglement with mass-produced goods, notably home furnishing and wellness products, constituted residents’ identities as modern consumers along with the rest of the nation during the golden age of Appalachia’s industrialism. Appalachian women and their families embraced consumer goods, whose influx intensified during the Industrial Age, entangling their constitution as modern householders with these everyday goods through daily practice. Contrary to stereotypes about Appalachian atavism and isolation, Appalachian consumers eagerly engaged with mass-produced goods and new ideals about scientific health and house-holding along with their counterparts across the progressive United States.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

Kentucky Oral History Commission Project Grant, James S. Brown Graduate Student Award for Research on Appalachia, Eller-Billings Summer Mini Research Grant, Susan Abbott-Jamieson Pre-dissertation Research Fund Award