Developing a Knowledge Base to Spark and Support Social Enterprise and Small Business Development Among Our Young Citizens and Second/Third Career Adults


I would like to work with any of your young adults who might be interested in an on-line exploration of the world of the “social enterpriser” or “small business entrepreneur.”

I think many offspring of intellectual professionals or working classes might not enjoy being employees of large institutions.

I think many of them are somehow destined to be part of the “free agent nation” or among the “creative working classes.”

I am interested in exploring these themes on line, to be punctuated by occasional gatherings at cool locations like Timbuktu, the Acanthus Inn, the Bahai Temple in Wilmette, the Soldiers Home, Groppi’s Market, and other funky or sacred places.

Here are some pages on “the history of peddling” I collected on a “wiki” web site I’m co-creating with some friends.

Pass them along to any young people you know who might be interested in checking into these notions.

I have established good relationships with some excellent artists, artisans, and knowledge workers who need some help promoting their work, their practice, and their products. These range from Moscow fine artists to Chinese and USA degreed immigrant doctors, coppersmiths to cabinet makers, antique furniture and antiquities restorationists, film makers and therapists, ornamental iron workers to proprietors of music and theatre venues.

I would like to think that Milwaukee can develop a network of promoters of our fine artists, artisans, and knowedge workers as competent as the artists, artisans, and knowledge workers in what they do. We have many able people who should be as widely connected with good markets as is possible with some smart work.

I think there is a long history of people of a certain adventuresome spirit working for “The Man” for basics and experimenting with other market offerings on the side. Moonlighting and multiple careers seem inescapable these days.

I have many clients I promote throughout the days, weeks, and months. Certain clients are better promoted at different seasons. This winter I hope to establish connections with art galleries, in Milwaukee, its suburbs, ex-urbs, and, via the internet, throughout northern Chicago region and small Wisconsin cities. This ambition is rooted in my discovery of Artur Kalendjian, who you might wish to meet someday, both with an eye toward a possible client for your just-in-time knowledge worker offerings and for the sheer thrill of meeting a Moscow Institute of Art level artist/artisan, on 9th and National. I hope to help him peddle some very impressive art from his friends in Moscow. He has given me permissionn to try to develop a team of commissioned “peddlers.”

See or

I would also encourage “enterprise experiments.” I once read that it takes about 20 failed experiments to find an idea that will make enough money to warrant continuation. A key principle to guide experiments, in my mind, is following one’s passion, “bliss,” and context. There seem to be forces driving each of us, some kind of “destiny.” Certain people “must” try this or that. If they try things that flow from their “essence” or follow their “grain,” they will more likely endure the various and inescapable obstacles to success. Trial and error. Grim determination. Resilience.

I also think self-knowledge is important. There are introverts and extroverts, each of whom needs the other. I think introverts tend to be technically competent. Extroverts socially competent. So if one is an extrovert they should look for introverts to team up with. Most of my artist, artisan, and knowledge worker heroes, for example, really do not want to spend time “meeting the public” or “dealing with the public.” They prefer to focus on their specific set of skills that usually require great concentration, focus, intelligence, and skill.

So I am looking for introverts with great skills needing promoters. I am also looking for extroverts who would like to team up with me and establish “peddling networks.” This would put me into the category of “apprentice merchant peddler,” insofar as I now hope to bring on peddling apprentices. That’s one of the reasons an on-line “hedgerow school of peddling” makes sense.

Feel free to pass this or just about anything around these themes along where they might prove useful or interesting.

This section contains exerpts from googling “peddling,” “history of peddling,” “ancient peddlers,” and like terms. I think it very useful for anyone wishing to cultivate their “entrepreneurial aspect” to look closely into the history and concept of peddling.

The Library of Congress

Pushcart Peddlers

The following excerpt from American Life Histories, 1936–1940 describes a group of men in New York City who made their living by collecting and selling junk from their pushcarts. Drawn together by their common occupation, the pushcart peddlers lived in the same area of the city and spent a good deal of time together. What kinds of work did the pushcart peddlers do before the depression? How would you describe the living conditions of the pushcart peddlers? What were the pushcart peddlers’ reactions to the depression?

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It was snowing and, shortly after noontime, the snow changed to sleet and beat a tattoo against the rocks and board shacks that had been carelessly thrown together on the west bank of the Harlem. It was windy too and the cold blasts that came in from the river sent the men shivering for cover behind their shacks where some of them had built huge bonfires to-ward off the icy chills that swept down from the hills above.

Some of them, unable to stand it any longer, went below into the crudely furnished cabins that were located in the holds of some old abandoned barges that lay half in, half out of the water. But the men did not seem to mind. Even the rotting barges afforded them some kind of shelter. It was certainly better than nothing, not to mention the fact that it was their home; address, the foot of 133rd Street at Park Avenue on the west bank of the Harlem River; depression residence of a little band of part-time pushcart peddlers whose cooperative colony is one of the most unique in the history of New York City.

These men earn their living by cruising the streets long before daylight, collecting old automobile parts, pasteboard, paper, rags, rubber, magazines, brass, iron, steal, old clothes or anything they can find that is saleable as junk. They wheel their little pushcarts around exploring cellars, garbage cans and refuse heaps. When they have a load, they turn their footsteps in the direction of the American Junk Dealers, Inc., whose site of wholesale and retail operations is located directly opposite the pushcart colony at 134th Street and Park Avenue. Of the fifty odd colonists, many are ex-carpenters, painters, brick-masons, auto-mechanics, upholsterers, plumbers and even an artist or two.

Most of the things the men collect they sell, but once in awhile they run across something useful to themselves, like auto parts, pieces of wire, or any electrical equipment, especially in view of the fact that there are two or three electrical engineers in the group. . . .

After being introduced to some of the boys, we went down into Oliver’s barge. It was shaky, weather-beaten and sprawling, like the other half-dozen that surrounded it. Inside, he had set up an old iron range and attached a pipe to it that carried the smoke out and above the upper deck. On top of the iron grating that had been laid across the open hole on the back of the stove were some spare-ribs that had been generously seasoned with salt, pepper, sage and hot-sauce. Later I discovered a faint flavor of mace in them. The small and pungency of spices filled the low ceilinged room with an appetizing aroma. The faces of the men were alight and hopeful with anticipation.

There was no real cause for worry, however, since Oliver had more than enough for everybody. Soon he began passing out tin plates for everyone. It makes my mouth water just to think of it. When we had gobbled up everything in sight, all of us sat back in restful contemplation puffing on our freshly lighted cigarettes. Afterwards there was conversation, things the men elected to talk about of their own accord. . . .

The conversation drifted along until I was finally able to ease in a query or two.

“Boys,” I ventured, “how is it that none of you ever got on Home Relief? You can get a little grub out of it, at least, and that would take a little of the load off you, wouldn’t it?”

At this they all rose up in unanimous protest.

“Lis’en,” one of them said, “befo’ I’d take Home Relief I’d go out in duh street an’ hit same bastard oveh de haid an’ take myse’f some’n’. I know one uv duh boys who tried to git it an’ one of dem uppity little college boys ovah dere talked tuh him lak he was some damn jailbird or some’n’. If it had been me, I’d a bust hell outn’ him an’ walked outa duh place. What duh hell do we wants wid relief anyhow? We is all able-bodied mens an’ can take it. We can make our own livin’s.”

This, apparently, was the attitude of every man there. They seemed to take fierce pride in the fact that every member of Joe Elder’s National Negro Civil Association (it used to be called the National Negro Boat Terminal) was entirely self-supporting. They even had their own unemployment insurance fund that provided an income for any member of the group who was ill and unable to work. Each week the men give a small part of their earnings toward this common fund and automatically agree to allow a certain amount to any temporarily incapacitated member. In addition to that, they divide among themselves their ill brother’s work and provide a day and night attendant near his shack if his illness is at all serious.

After chatting awhile longer with them, I finally decided to leave.

“Well boys,” I said, getting up, “I guess I’ll have to be shoving off. Thanks, a lot, for the ribs. See you again sometime.” . . .

Outside the snow and sleet had turned to rain and the snow that had been feathery and white was running down the river bank in brown rivulets of slush and mud. It was a little warmer but the damp air still had a penetrating sharpness to it. I shuddered, wrapped my muffler a little tighter and turned my coat collar up about my ears.

There was wind in the rain, and behind me lay the jagged outline of the ramshackle dwellings. I hated to think of what it would be like, living in them when there was a scarcity of wood or when the fires went out.
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1830′s - 1880
While early American Jews settled along the Atlantic Coast, the second wave that arrived after 1830 crossed the mountains to the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. Many like Levi Strauss, strapped packs on their backs and headed all the way across the continent to San Francisco, peddling textiles, kitchenwares, and other non-perishables as they went along. Jews have always been in the backpack business, selling spices, fabric, precious stones, anything that could be packed up easily when they were expelled from a country. It was a natural occupation for them, as they were rarely allowed to own land. In America, they became a familiar sight in the countryside before mail-order catalogues, like the Jewish-owned Sears Roebuck, put them out of business. Food, especially kosher food, posed a problem for them when they were traveling. Peddlers would often roast herring wrapped in newspaper over an open fire, or subsist on preserved or hard-boiled eggs and kosher sausage. On Saturdays the men created Sabbath communities in little towns where they met to pray. Often, as they made a little money peddling, they would buy a wagon and eventually settle in these communities, bringing their families from abroad.

Bors living history

Bors living history Bors is not Sweden’s oldest city, but it has a vivid and unique history dating back to the beginning of the 17th century - to a time when the farmers in the rural districts became increasingly interested in trade and craftsmanship in order to supplement their means of livelihood.

A tradition in textiles developed early on and became a cultural heritage. There was one problem, however. All trade and craftsmanship had to be conducted and controlled in the cities - nowhere else. This had been decided by the king, Gustav II Adolf. The farmers in the rural districts had the right to barter their own livestock and products, but that was all. Goods such as fabric and other textiles had to be taken to the cities to be sold.

In 1620, some farmers from the county of Vstergtland visited the king to request permission to trade in the rural districts. They were informed, to their great disappointment, that this type of trade was prohibited. If they wanted to continue their business, then before midsummer they would either have to make their way to an existing town in Vstergtland, or designate “another convenient and practical district or place”, where a new town could be built up.

And so it was. In 1621, a new town was founded on the designated site around the hamlet of Torpa, alongside the ridges of Rya. The town was named Bors, probably after a nearby farm that was called Buers, which means “the huts by the ridge”.

From hamlet to merchandising centre
Initially, it was difficult to get the rural population to move into the new town. The problem was solved a few years later by a royal writ. This unique privilege gave all citizens of Bors the right to carry on house-to-house peddling throughout the country on condition that they only sold locally-produced goods.

Several centuries later, this area came to be called ‘Sjuhradsbygden’ (Seven Administrative County Districts)*. These new commercial rights gave Bors a unique position in Sweden and meant the start of rapid growth for the town. Merchandising had found its Mecca.

The textile industry grows strong
The traders from Bors were often criticised and house-to-house peddling was a heated topic of debate in parliament. But the members of parliament representing the Sjuhrad district succeeded at length in warding off the attacks against local traders and commerce. This produced results - commerce grew until it predominated completely. In 1864, freedom of trade was introduced throughout Sweden and shops were permitted to start trading in the rural districts. Consequently, the number of customers in the town dwindled and the traders were forced to start thinking along new lines.

The end of the 19th century saw a surge in the growth of industry in the district and soon people were occupied with weaving or other kinds of production in almost every crofter’s cottage. The finished products were then sold to the traders. As the number of spinning mills, textile mills and dye-works burgeoned, more and more people moved to the town and embarked on a new life there. New suburbs gradually developed and since then Bors has expanded in all directions.

Mail order trade is gaining ground
Mail order trade is the modern equivalent of the house-to-house peddling of the past. At the beginning of the 1950s there were over 100 mail order companies in Bors. Most were small enterprises and the owners ran them in their spare time. Some of these companies expanded substantially and are now ranked as some of the largest in the business. Bors is still a Mecca for domestic textiles and off-the-peg clothing. New enterprises also have a strong foothold in the city and are continually breaking new ground, in areas such as woven linings and filters. This development suggests that, in the future too, we are likely to see the textile tradition remaining firmly anchored in Bors.

  • The Sjuhrad district has become an unusual, if not to say unique concept in Sweden. The reason for this is no doubt that for the last few centuries the area has been a mutual Mecca for trade in textile goods. The seven administrative districts are Veden, s, Mark, Kind, Redvg, Bollebygd and Gsene. If one thinks along the lines of municipalities, which are more common nowadays, it comprises Bors, Bollebygd, Mark, Ulricehamn, Tranemo, Svenljunga and part of Herrljunga.

A Personal Perspective
A Failed Peddler
An immigrant’s memoir of trying to jump on the Jewish-peddler bandwagon
By Ephraim E. Lisitzky Modern/ModernSocial/Peddlers/Lisitzky

Ephraim Lisitzky(1885–1962) immigrated to the U.S. from the Russian town of Slutzk in 1900. An Orthodox scholar, he had a difficult time adjusting to life in his adopted country, though he eventually settled in New Orleans and became a prolific Hebrew poet. He wrote his autobiography in Hebrew, and in 1959, it was published in English as, In the Grip of the Cross-Currents. The excerpt below describes the challenges he faced in earning a living when he first arrived in the U.S. in the early 1900s. Reprinted with permission from Writing Out Lives: Autobiographies of American Jews, 1890–1990, edited by Steven J. Rubin (Jewish Publication Society).

The question of my future began to vex me. My attention was diverted from my Talmudic problems to a much more serious one whose solution could not be postponed: What was to become of me? My father sought the advice of our fellow Slutzk immigrants who used to drop in. They thought it over, discussed it among themselves, and concluded that my salvation lay in becoming a custom-peddler.
The Advantages of Peddling

They preached the advantages of peddling:

In the first place it gives you a livelihood, meager to begin with, but eventually plenteous. It does not require you to desecrate the Sabbath or holidays; if you want to, you can observe them. At the same time, you get an opportunity to learn the language and ways of America. To be sure, it’s a small beginning—but many people began carrying a peddler’s notions basket and ended up owning a business or a factory—and it wasn’t a matter of luck either. However, if you want to become a peddler, you must decide to be aggressive and daring.

The main thing is a peddler has to be a talker—the more he talks the better. Suppose you enter a house and the customer does not need or want what you have to sell, you can’t simply leave looking for another customer who may need and want it. You would go on looking till the Messiah comes and never find him! You have to stick with that customer until you get him to say, “I’ll take it!” How? You talk yourself into his good graces and once having won his heart, you have won yourself a customer, and a good one! Do it this way and you’ll get customers and make money. First you’ll just make a living, but you’ll end up making piles of money—and you’ll be all set.
A ‘Repugnant’ Prospect

I nodded involuntary affirmation mingled with self-pity: so this is the end of the great achievements you aspired to—to be a door-to-door peddler!

Still, repugnant as the prospect was, I decided to try peddling and see whether I was fit for it. I talked to one of my acquaintances, a boy my own age, who was a peddler himself, and he consented to lend me for a day his notions basket with the understanding that we would share the profits. I chose Tuesday, a lucky day in Jewish tradition, to embark on my peddling experiment.

It was a rainy autumn day. The wind shook my basket and whipped the shoelaces dangling from my hand into my face. I trudged down the street like a doomed man on his way to the gallows. Whenever anybody looked at me I lowered my eyes in shame. I approached a house whose number was the numerical equivalent of a verse of Scripture I had in mind, timidly mounted the stairs—and couldn’t bring my hand to knock at the door. At last I knocked diffidently. The door opened. I stood in the doorway with downcast face, and inquired clumsily in a low voice:

“Maybe the lady wants matches?”

“Matches?” The woman at the door responded sardonically. “Come in and Ill show you the piles of matches the peddler already supplied me with—enough to burn up all the houses in Boston!”

I tried to ask her if she wanted any of the other notions in my basket but I couldn’t find my voice. I went down the stairs, bowed and beaten, and trudged along.
Talmudic Inspiration

Before I had found another house whose number tallied wit the numerical equivalent of the verse of Scripture I had in mind, I reminded myself of the passage of “the merchants of Lod,” which I had studied in the Talmud and knew by heart. In my fantasy I saw Lod and its merchants. I pretended that Boston was Lod and I one of the merchants. This parallel made peddling important enough to be discussed by the Talmudic Sages and to serve as a basis for the formulation of certain rules of commerce.

When I came to the second house, I climbed the stairs with firm step, and knocked boldly at the door. When the door opened I went in and raised my voice—I was no common peddler now, but a merchant, one of the merchants of Lod! Unluckily my voice collapsed into a cough-like sound made by blowing the trachea of a slaughtered goose.

“Maybe the lady wants candles?”

“Candles?” my customer responded in a tone of amazement. “If all the days of the week were Sabbath Eve I would have enough candles for a whole year running.”

“Maybe you want shoelaces?” I asked again, in a pitiful voice.

“I have plenty of shoelaces, enough to make nooses to hang Haman [the villain of the Book of Esther] and all his 10 sons!”

I went down the street again, mortified at my second failure, attributing it first to bad luck and then to a lack of practical skill. “You schlemihl!” I scolded myself [using the Yiddish word for “bungler” or “fool”]. “First principle of peddling, you must be aggressive, bold, and talkative, and you mustn’t let a customer go just because he doesn’t need or want your merchandise—you have to make him want it, keep after him until he says, ‘I’ll take it!’ Ask a woman if she needs what you’re selling, you can be sure she won’t touch it. ‘Lady! I see that you need such and such, and I can give it to you for next to nothing—’ That’s the way to talk to a customer!”
Newfound Boldness

I stopped seeking Scriptural verses, assumed an air of aggressive boldness, went up to another house, and knocked at the door energetically, loud enough to waken the dead. The door opened and before me stood a woman with a sooty face and dirty hands who had left her stove to find out what all the pounding was about. I made myself aggressive, bold, and talkative:

“I see, madam, that your face is sooty and your hands are dirty and they need a good washing with soapnot just ordinary soap, but a good soap. I have just that, here in my basket, and you can have it for next to nothing. As the prophet Isaiah said: ‘And I will cleanse as with soap thy—’” The door slammed in my face! I never finished the verse.

That evening I went back to my acquaintance’s house, and returned the basket with all the merchandise intact—not a thread or shoelace was missing. He checked his merchandise and gave me a scoffing and pitying look. I scoffed at myself: “Oh, you Slutzk unworldly idler, you good-for-nothing yeshiva student—there’s no hope for you!”
Retreat to Synagogue

I plodded wearily to the synagogue and stayed after the evening prayers to study my daily portion of Talmud. Mutely I looked at the Talmud, afraid to open my mouth lest the suppressed cry within me, about to burst forth, erupt.

The synagogue emptied. The distinguished scholars who had finished the portion of their nightly study left. Only an old Slutzker, Artche, the Hebrew teacher, remained to finish his study. He sits at his Mishnah, intoning sadly, reading every chapter once in the book through a magnifying glass, and repeating it twice by heart. He is losing his eyesight, and before losing it entirely he is laboriously fortifying his memory with portions of Mishnah, food for his soul in the days of blindness that were closing in on him. Upon completing his daily portion he shuts his feeble eyes, and ends his study with a portion of Psalms chanted in a melancholy undertone. Suddenly his voice rises and he begins to groan and cry out into the stillness of the synagogue: “My heart flutters, my strength fails me, and the light of my eyes is also gone from me—O God, my Light and my Salvation, the light of my dyes is gone from me!”

An autumn drizzle falls outside and covers the panes of the synagogue with tear-like drops. The synagogue sheds tears out of compassion for Artche, the Hebrew teacher, whose light of his eyes is dimming and for me, whose light of my life likewise is dimming, and for both of us, our world turns dark….

My one day’s unsuccessful experiment in peddling was enough to convince me that I had been born with no practical talents whatsoever, a fate for which there was no remedy. Clearly, heaven had ordained that scholarship was to be my trade. I decided to devote myself to study with all my Slutzk diligence, and become a rabbi. The rabbinate appeared to me the only practical way to make good in America. I set up a regular schedule of learning.

Copyright 1991, the Jewish Publication Society of America.

The history of wajima lacquer ware

The sturdy and gorgeous lacquer ware wajima is one of japans traditional industrial arts of that can trace its history back 600 years. It found its market throughout the country and was industrialized during the period of bunka bunsei nenkan (1818–1829) nushiya a lacquer painter, peddled his wares throughout the country and spread the market nationally. The history of wajima lacquer ware can thereby also be considered the history of peddling.

Why IS WAJIMA Lacquer ware

Wajima lacquer ware requires at least 36 separate coats of paint. The process which takes 124 to 130 steps, is entirely done by hand, which means that even small pieces require about a year to be completed moreover, all

the materials used in making wajima lacquer ware ,such as grains and lacquer, are of the absolute highest quality.

It has been said that wajima lacquer ware can be passed

On throughout three generations.this means that if a work of wajima lacquer ware was purchased at 500,000 yen and used for fifty years, It would cost 830 yen per month, or 27 yen per day. If you think of it this way, dont you think it is reasonable.

Why is Wajima Lacquer ware
Solid and Hard to Break

Unique techniques are used to provide Wajima Lacquerware with its solidity. [Nunokise] is a technique that covers the vulnerable parts of the grain with cloth. [jinoko]is yellow ocher, a kind of diatomite, which is smothered and crushed before being mixed with ground lacquer.

istory of Pedlars in Europe. - Review - book reviews
Journal of Social History, Winter, 1998 by Cissie Fairchilds mi_m2005/is_2_32/ai_53449391

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By Laurence Fontaine (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University, 1996. 280pp. $17.95/paperback $49.95/cloth).

When this book was published in France, it was hailed for breathing new life into the moribund field of social history. That it does. By rethinking the traditional techniques, categories and, assumptions of the Annales school, Laurence Fontaine of France’s CNRS has produced a pathbreaking work which moves a hitherto neglected social type, the supposedly “marginal” pedlar, to the center of early modern European economic, social, and cultural history.

Fontaine begins by questioning the stereotype of the pedlar as a rootless, poverty-stricken migrant living on the verge of criminality. She argues that from the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries the term “pedlar” was applied not just to lowly packmen of the stereotype but also to wealthy and respectable city merchants. This leads to her second redefinition, that of the nature of migration. City merchants were “pedlars” because they, like the packmen, had their roots in mountain villages - in, for example, the Scottish highlands, the Italian Alps, or the Dauphine. Although they may have lived for generations in a lowland city which an ancestor had first visited as a migrant pedlar (as the book-selling Brentanos of the Italian Alps lived in Frankfurt), they retained ties to their family’s native village: cousins who still lived there, houses to which they returned for a few months each year, land, investments. Thus for them migration was not a permanent move from one locale to another, nor was its motive either the traditional “push” or “pull.” Instead, migration was a “way of occupying space,” specifically a way of making barren mountain land support a large and relatively wealthy population.

This leads to Fontaine’s third redefinition, that of wealth and social dominance in peasant communities. We have usually assumed these flowed from land ownership and therefore we have reconstructed rural villages from their cadastres. Liana Vardi has recently shown that this approach slights rural protoindustry(1), and Fontaine shows it does not work for mountain communities either. Cadastres paint such villages as “republics” of equal - and equally poor - small holders. In fact, wealthy migrant merchants dominated these communities through the loans and credit they extended to their poorer neighbors. Fontaine meticulously reconstructs this complex financial web from notarial archives. Such loans not only brought the merchants more wealth in the form of interest, but also gave them access to land and grazing rights for livestock (the collateral of poor debtors), and, very importantly, labor, in the form of villagers who, to pay off their debts, would take to road selling the merchant’s goods.

These peddling networks explain the central role of middlemen in the economy of early modern Europe that Fontaine assigns to her merchant pedlars. Eschewing the traditional focus of economic history on one town or region, Fontaine reconstructs the economic activities of her merchant pedlars from account books and bankruptcy records and follows wherever they lead, even across national boundaries (Frenchmen peddled in Spain; Scots in England, Scandinavia, and Poland). Fontaine’s reconstructions show that merchant pedlars were the essential link between manufacturers of goods, with whom they cultivated long-term relationships, and the small shopkeepers and pedlars (usually from their home villages) they employed, extended credit to, and vouched for, who actually sold the goods to consumers. Fontaine argues that in early modern Europe most commodities were distributed through such peddling networks.

This was especially true of new goods, like books, and many of Fontaine’s examples derive from the well-studied book trade. But it was also true of sheets, curtains, handkerchiefs, pocket watches and other new consumer goods, and Fontaine argues that pedlars played vital roles in the consumer revolution of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In the cities where they settled, merchant pedlars rather than the native elites were usually the first to adopt the new goods and the new lifestyles they made possible. And packmen brought the new goods to the countryside as well. Fontaine has interesting things to say about the interactions of peasants and pedlars and about the cultural effects of new goods in rural villages: the widening of intellectual horizons, the “selling of dreams” of health and happiness, and the facilitating of the expression through clothes and accessories of one’s unique personality.

All this is very impressive and convincing. Of course this book has its flaws. I think Fontaine over-stresses the importance of her merchant pedlars to European commerce. Migrants could move into only a few guild-free cities; in most towns, native-born merchants controlled trade. Fontaine also slights the vast majority of pedlars who functioned outside her mountain-based networks: the native-born pedlars in towns (usually women, as Merry Weisner has shown:(2) craftsmen’s wives who sold their husbands’ goods; market women who peddled on nonmarket days) and the ubiquitous genuinely marginal, semi-criminal pedlars of the traditional stereotype. And she says amazingly little about fairs, the major source of goods for the latter. This is a history of certain peddling networks, not of peddling per se. Fontaine also overstates the role of pedlars in bringing the consumer revolution to the countryside. Carole Shammas has shown that in rural England consumer goods became widely available only with the rise of the country store, and this was probably true elsewhere.(3) Finally, Fontaine is sloppy about periodization. Although she argues that her peddling networks ended in the late eighteenth century, only to be reconstructed in very different forms in the nineteenth century, she neglects the role of the French Revolution, which abolished guilds, licensed pedlars, and altered fairs, market days, and trade routes across Europe, in their demise, and she draws many of her examples from the anomalous nineteenth-century situation.

But these are minor flaws in a major book which should be read by anyone interested in early modern European economic history, the consumer revolution, migration, peasant communities, the formation of the middle classes - indeed, by anyone interested in the future of social history, for it shows what discarding traditional assumptions and simply following where the documents lead can do. But read it in French if possible. This translation is very literal and therefore very hard going.

Cissie Fairchilds Syracuse University


1. Liana Vardi, The Land and the Loom: Peasants and Profit in Northern France, 1680–1800 (Durham and London, 1993).

2. Merry Wiesner, Working Women in Renaissance Germany (New Brunswick, 1986).

3. Carole Shammas, The Pre-industrial Consumer in England and America (Oxford, 1990), 225–60.

COPYRIGHT 1998 Carnegie Mellon University Press
COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group

rabs in American History
By Juan Cole
Mr. Cole is Professor of Modern Middle Eastern and South Asian History at the University of Michigan. His website is

The capture of Corporal Wassef Ali Hassoun, a Lebanese-American Marine, underlines the service given to the United States by Arab Americans and Muslim Americans. In the wake of September 11, it is especially important that the U.S. public constantly be reminded that Arab Americans are not aliens but a longstanding and essential thread in the great American tapestry. Lebanese began coming to the US in some numbers in the 1880s. That wave of immigration, which was greatly reduced from 1924, also brought the Italians and Eastern European Jews to this country. Although most Lebanese immigrants were Christian, it is estimated that about 10 percent were Muslim.

Many Arabs took up the peddling trade in the Midwest, trekking long hours to farm houses to supply basic supplies at a time before the Model T and the Sears and Roebuck catalogue made it easy to get them. When the automobile helped kill the peddling business, many Arab Americans flocked to Dearborn to work for Ford, so that ironically the very industry that ended their previous jobs provided them new ones. The “Syrians” were a key element all along in the Detroit automobile industry, and southeast Michigan came to have the largest concentration of Arabs outside the Arab world itself.

The Red Scare after World War I and the spread of anti-immigrant racism closed off most such immigration from 1924 until 1965, when the Civil Rights Movement impelled Congress to end the quota system installed in 1924 (which had set tiny quotas for Syria and Lebanon and large ones for Germany and Norway). A second wave of large-scale Arab immigration began from 1965 and continues until the present.

Comedian Danny Thomas and his daughter Marlo Thomas (who married Phil Donohue) are among the best-known Arab Americans. But they are legion. They include Dr. DeBakey, who did pioneering work on the artificial heart, Paula Abdul, and Ralph Nader (Arab newspapers most often refer to him as the Arab presidential candidate), among many others.

Cpl. Hassoun risked his for the United States of America. He is not only a Marine, but an Arab-American Muslim. All Americans owe him and his family a debt of gratitude that cannot be repaid. The next time any American looks askance at someone for having an Arabic accent or appearing Arab, they should remember Cpl. Hassoun.

Last edited by g.   Page last modified on February 18, 2005

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