Trench warfare

Trench warfare is a form of warfare whereby conflicting troops fight one another from trenches facing each other. This style of warfare is characterized by a plot of land in between two opposing trenches commonly referred to as no man’s land. The opposing forces would fight from theses trenches crossing no man’s land trying to break through the enemy’s front line. In ancient times forms of this style of warfare were used they were not seen on such a large scale.

Ancient and medieval trench warfare had not been developed to the extent it was following the development of firearm technology in the mid-nineteenth century. It was during the American Civil War that the changes can be seen. By the end of the American Civil War the style of fighting became more like the trench style of warfare seen in the First World War. It was during the First World War that trench warfare was used on such a large scale.

There were two major factors which lead in part to the trench warfare seen during the First World War. The first was the use of the breech-loading loading firearm which significantly increase the ability of a small force to hold off a larger force if they were entrenched or had a barrier in which to conceal themselves. The other major impact on warfare was the introduction of the machine gun, this rapid firing weapon allowed small troops to keep larger forces at bay as long as they were concealed. These two inventions, rapid-firing small arms and machine guns made the traditional style of infantry fighting impossible. Another invention barbed wire paid a role in the use of trench warfare. Barbed wire was placed in no-man’s land and along the top of my trenches and it significantly slowed down the advancement of the opposing forces. Breech-loading high velocity artillery was another development which impacted the use of trenches during war.

It was the use of these weapons which basically immobilize the infantry, forcing them to build defences (trenches). Once built the trenches provide the infantry with a form of defence away from the rapid-firing small arms and artillery. World War One was the first major trench warfare as both sides reached a stalemate.

Introduction of the various rapid-firing arms and artillery which made the infantry have to dig in, building an elaborate trench system which stretched for miles across the various military fronts. Both sides began to utilize means such as gas to attempt to infiltrate the opposing army’s trenches. Tanks were brought in to try to eradicate the other army’s trenches. Meanwhile both sides were attempting to produce better and better weapons to fight trench warfare. Greater forces of artillery were brought in by both the German and Allied forces to try to breach the opposing forces defensive line.

The trenches on the Western Front of the WWI essentially started out as small shallow dips in the land which later evolved into large holes in the ground with an elaborate system of tunnels and trenches joined together. This allowed the soldier to move without exposing themselves to the barrage of artillery rained down on them from the opposing forces.

The barrage of attacks by the artillery on the conflicting forces meant that no man’s land became a sea of churned up land and mud. This slowed any attempts by the conflicting forces to attack the others trenches and left the advancing forces exposed to the enemy’s barrage of machine gun fire, artillery and small arms fire.

Large frontal attacks by the opposing sides would result in enormous losses with trivial territorial gains. Poisonous gas and massive artillery barrages were used to try and soften up the enemy prior to placing a frontal attack were also introduced during this time. These huge frontal

attached produced large casualties and troop sizes began to dwindle. The Allies began to impose ever-harsher conscription laws and troops were brought in from the British colonies and eventually even the United States, in the hope that one more attack and artillery barrage would finally overrun the enemy’s trench lines.

Trench lines were breached by the opposing forces but they never seemed to last long as reinforcements would be brought up threw the elaborate trench and tunnelling system. This pattern would continue in the hopes that one of these breaches would finally have the desired results; trench life for the soldiers was very frightening with large period of rest followed by short intense periods of fighting. The trenches themselves evolved from being unconnected holes in the ground to an elaborate system laid out in a zigzag pattern to decrease the impact of the artillery barrages.

The World War One trenches became an elaborate system of zigzagging holes in the ground with a secondary line behind the front line. The zigzagging not only decreased the impact from the artillery barrages but also meant that in a section of the trench was breached they couldn’t just shot down a straight line. Trenches were dug into the ground 4 to 5 feet with a topper of sandbags added to give an additional 3 feet. Wooden boards would be placed to form a walkway over the sludge of mud and steps were placed to allow the soldiers to see over the parapet of sandbags to fire on the advancing enemy. Periscopes were used to watch the opposing side without exposing themselves to enemy fire. Dugouts were used to shelter the troops but the trenches were not only within the range of fire by the artillery but also by enemy snipers. These conditions along with the infestation of rats and other pests made the trenches, especially the front line one of the most nerve racking places to be assigned.

While in the trenches the soldiers were relatively safe but forays were made against the enemy lines, sometimes only involving a few men anther times would involve hundreds of soldiers attacking in multiple groups all at once. The endless waiting and tension in the front line trenches caused great stress amongst those in the front line trenches therefore troops were rotated in and out of the front line to give them a relief from the high tension front line.

When the troops were ordered to attack they poured out of the trenches going over the top and began to advance towards enemy lines in through the crater and muddy no man’s land. This slowed the troops down and some losses by some units were extremely high in just a few hours.

The introduction of rapid-fire weapons and mass-produced barbed wire in part responsible for the end of trench warfare and it could be argued the introduction of the tank. Tanks were available early in the conflict but it was not until later in the war that they became more commonly used as the number of tanks available increased and generals began to see the advantages of deploying them to fight against the enemy trenches. Although the tank certainly assisted in the death of trench warfare it was not the only tactic that was utilized. Surprise attacks on the enemy’s weakest points while by-passing his strongest points and the ability to achieve tactical surprise was also a contributing factor in trench warfare’s demise. In fact it was a combination of various tactics that made trench warfare obsolete. The combination of closer cooperation between the infantry, light artillery, air support and if possible tanks all lead to making trench warfare obsolete.


Sources:

“trench warfare.” The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2012. Encyclopedia.com. (November 22, 2012). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-trenchwa.html

John Whiteclay Chambers II. “Trench Warfare.” The Oxford Companion to American Military History. 2000. Encyclopedia.com. (November 22, 2012). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O126-TrenchWarfare.html

“Trench warfare”. http://www.encyclopedia4u.com/t/trench-warfare.html

Library and Archives Canada, Military and Peacekeeping :Oral Histories of the First World War http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/first-world-war/interviews/025015-1500-e.html#a.essay

Faryon, Cynthia J. Mysteries,Legends And Myths Of The First World War: Canadian soldiers in the trenches and in the air. James Loimer & Company Ltd. Publishers Torotnto

Dyer, Gwynne. WAR: The New Edition. Vintage Canada Edition, 2005

Shephard, Norma Hillyer. Dear Harry: The Firsthand Account of a Worl War I Infantryman. Brigham Press. Canada. 2003.

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History of Childhood and Family

In the beginning we began by exploring the question of when was a child an infant and when did they become an adult. In pre-industrial Europe, the definition of a child and an infant seemed to be interchangeable. There did not seem to be a specific age in which one went from being a child to being an adult. This becomes an issue when researching, the history of children due in part to the limited amount of information available as well as the accuracy of the information provided, many were recollections of people’s childhood and not first-hand accounts. Legal documents such as ship manifests and court records did not always note the age of the child and they referred to them interchangeably as both infants and children. Following the industrial revolution, information on childhood and children’s first-hand accounts of growing up were readily available. Not only did the children themselves document their childhood but the adults around them also mentioned them more frequently in their records.

In pre-industrial Europe, the care of poor orphan children was the responsibility of the parish in which they resided. In the1550’s London and other larger towns began setting up hospitals to care for orphans. These hospitals replaced the charity care system of the religious houses. A system evolved whereby the small children and babies were boarded out, children were placed into the hospital at the age of six, and older children were given some schooling and instruction while at the hospital. Adolescents (thirteen to fifteen year olds) were usually placed in apprenticeships or positions of service. This new system brought the poor children under the jurisdiction of the civic authorities rather than the parishes (religious) authorities.

We then went on to learn about the education process in place during this time. One document written by Locke, states how he felt children should be educated. Although Locke, himself had no children, he appeared to have not only observed many of his friends’ children but also to have had a part in directing how they were educated.

Middle class children were known as the angels of the house, while women had control of the household and the ideology of manhood began to change. In the pre-industrial world, the rich married mainly to consolidate holdings or strengthen political partnerships. The lower class did not marry as young and usually only after the women had become pregnant.

The aristocratic adults talked about sentimental childhoods but reality was that children were usually brought to the parents and they were to be seen but not heard. Mostly they spent their time in the nursery prior to being introduced to society or being sent away for education.   New ideas around education began to be seen around the time of industrialization, when adults begin talking about the importance of play and childhood lessons. It was during this time that the idea of vulnerable children requiring adult supervision was introduced by reading stories in newspapers. Stories such as the popular Grimm brother stories, first published in 1827 and Peter Parley’s book of fables were written specifically for children and they had a moral theme. These books contained pictures and covers which had been painted by widows, sometimes with the help of their children. This craft work which also included painting cards meant that they were able to stay at home with their families while providing them with an income which helped to keep the family together.

The ideology of family was slowly changing; evidence of this can be seen in the group portrait done in 1846 by Franz Xaver Winterhalter. The painting shows Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their children all together as one big family. Many other families had paintings done similar to that of the Queen and her family, showing how Victoria was setting a standard for the middle class morality and family. She was also the one who start the big white wedding tradition. Large families were the norm during this time and it has been estimated that about one-third of most women’s lives was dedicated to having children. This was due in part to the fact that many children did not survive due to the high fatality rate. Children were vulnerable to a large number of diseases and viruses and many did not live to see their fifth birthdays. Children were very susceptible to diseases such as whooping cough and diphtheria both of which were high contagious.

The dynamics of family life and the roles of women continued to change. This can be seen with the popularity of the book “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott. The book talks about four sisters; Margaret “Meg” March Brooke who becomes a governess and later on marries and stays home with her children, Josephine “Jo” March Bhaer who was a known tomboy when she was a young girl, and wanted to be a writer. She pursued this dream in New York City where she meets her husband who is a professor. The third sister is Elizabeth “Beth” March who is known as the home body, she later dies in the story. Last but not least is the youngest sister Amy Curtis March Laurence who wants to become an artist, she later on marries and has a child that she names Elizabeth “Beth” after her dead sister, her daughter seems to have many similarities with Aunt Beth as she is very ill. This was considered a coming of age reading for many girls.

Victorian British children did not receive the same education, playtime, or even the need to have a job. British society was still very depended on the class system. The life of the family differed according to their placement within society’s classes. This can be seen by comparing the three (sometimes four) classes; these classes being the high class, middle class, working class (the fourth being poor class). We can break it down even more with children having both parents, one parent, being an orphan or being a bastard child (though this child can be put in the same group as having one parent or orphan group).   The first subject that I will be discussing will be the education or lack of education in some of the cases.

Education was quite simply if you were part of the lower/working class you learned the basics; writing, reading, and some basic numbers. The middle classes education was very similar but went into more depth. This meant they were able to continue their education if they desired by attending colleges. The upper class not only learned writing, reading and math but they also would learn the classics as well as Latin and Greek. This distinction in classes continued into the Industrial Era.

In the Era prior to the Industrial Revolution, there was a boom in the younger population as people were marring younger (age 23 for most women). It was during the Industrial Revolution that the need for cheap labour and labour easily trained. It was during, Industrial Era that the Children of Victorian Era began filling in the labour force. These children have become known to the historians as the “white slaves of Britain”[i]. Some of these children signed up not knowing what they were signing up for, others were sold by their family, or they took over their parents jobs. These children started working at the age of six. They were in all types of works from factories, farming, to street work (newspapers, matches, sweepers). It was only in 1802 that children were not allowed to work before six am or after nine pm and then in 1831 no one was allowed to work after dark if they were under the age twenty. In 1842 some of the Victorian people became horrified over the reporting of children age five to six being used as trappers and that older children were exposed to topless women working in the narrower mine shafts which the ponies were unable to work in. This practice was stopped and only children twelve and older were able to work. It was due to legislation brought in 1847 that the Quarry Bank stopped using children in the factory, and 1850 in half days were introduced.

It was due to the child labour laws that the parameters around children became more defined. The age of children was not only noted and used to classify what work they were able to do but when they were able to engage in this work. Children and childhood began to have definite limitations as outlined by parliament.


[i] Children who built Victorian Britain, BBC network


Sources:

Tarbin. Stephanie, Caring for Poor and Fatherless Children in London, c. 1350-1550.” The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth. (Vol 3. # 3). The Johns Hopkins University Press. Fall 2010

Benzaquen. Adriana Silvia, Locke’s Children.” The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth. (Vol 4. # 3). The Johns Hopkins University Press. Fall 2011

Nadel. Ira Bruce, ““The Mansion of Bliss,” or the Place of Play in Victorian Life and Literature”. Children’s Literature. (Vol. 10) The Johns Hopkins University Press. 1982

Hurl. F. Lorna, “Restriction Child Factory Labour In Late Nineteenth Century Ontairo”. Journal of Canadian Labour Studies. (Vol 21) Spring 1988

Children who built Victorian Britain, BBC network

Class for Notes Weeks 2, 4, and 5

Interpreting what I learned in my Aborignal History Class

Interpreting the Indian Act: Indian Agents, Aboriginal Land and Resistance

What the Aboriginal peoples saw as honest negotiation for their land, the Europeans and then the Canadians saw as a peaceful way of gaining land without the costly expenses of war. They signed a number of treaties with no intention of keeping them.

This caused starvation in some areas as the government tried to control the Aboriginals through their food rations. “Peoples of Treaty 4, who signed partly because of their disappearing food source, the bison, had not received the promised farm equipment six years after signing; they were starving, sick and ill-dressed for a tough winter (Lux 2001, 36; Wilson 2007, 380–381).”(Bednasek and Godlewska, 448) Other aboriginal tribal chiefs reported rotten food being delivered and claimed it was killing their people, even if the food was not spoiled many reported that they were not getting enough food to feed their people. The Canadian government tried to force the Aboriginal tribes to sign away their land using food. They wanted the land to be developed by European settlers.

“Indian Commissioner Edgar Dewdney targeted the Cree leadership: ‘I know they are not getting enough flour but I like to punish them a little. I will have to increase their rations, but not much’ (Lux 2001, 40)”. (Bednasek and Godlewska, 448) He and his assistant, Hayter Reed utilized a work for your rations method to encourage the aboriginals to learn farming.

Many of the treaties signed by the government were not seen as binding by the government but the Aboriginals did not have this view. They expected the government to abide by the word of the treaty.

The Aboriginals saw the governor-generals as representatives of the “Great Mother (Queen Victoria)” (Carter, 35) and believed their continued assurances that the treaties would be upheld. The Aboriginals viewed the visits by the governor-general and royals as a reaffirming their treaties and a confirmation of their long partnership. These treaties were the basis for many debates by the Canadian government.

The government created the North West Mounted Police due to their fears that the Americans would extend their territory into western Canada. The police could only operate in areas not yet formed into provinces because law enforcement was under the jurisdiction of the provinces unless an agreement was made between them and the Canadian government. The North West Mounted Police was originally to have British officers with Metis filling in the other positions but this idea was vetoed after the revolt of 1869-70. The forming of the federal police force was instrumental in curbing the liquor trade and establishing good relations with the Aboriginals. The federal police force and the improved relations with the western aboriginals led to further treaties between the aboriginals and the government.

The Indian Act of 1867 promoted assimilation of the aboriginals. This Act took away even more of the Aboriginal people’s rights and allowed the government to restrict their lives even more than the previous act. In 1869 the process of electing chiefs and band council members was put in place by the government. They were trying to make the Aboriginals conform to their system of governance.

The government never gave up its policy to assimilate the aboriginal peoples. Their need to assimilate the Aboriginal people has meant the loss of many aboriginal traditions and customs. The government also failed to fulfill its promises as described in the treaties, many tribes were left not only without the means to feed themselves but also without the assistance from the government agents. The aboriginal peoples of Canada lost much of their rights through treaties that were not upheld by the government. The debate over the treaties or lack of treaties with the aboriginal tribes continues to be an issue for both the provincial and the federal governments today.

Interpreting the Indian Act: Education and Health

The Canadian government and the provinces saw education as a way in which to further erode the Aboriginal customs and traditions. By removing the children from their villages, families and familiar surroundings and forcing them to conform to European style boarding schools and style of dress they were able to limit the amount of contact they had to their customs and traditions. Those in charge saw the education of the Aboriginal children as a way of assimilating the Aboriginals into European acceptable peoples, the missionaries saw the schools as a way of striping the Aboriginals of their sense of community, of ridding them of their heathen ways, and of training them to the European way of thinking.

The schools robbed the Aboriginal children of their sense of self, community, and connection with their families, and an understanding of their traditions and customs. It left many generations of Aboriginal peoples adrift. “The village that it takes to raise a child, especially those that are Aboriginal ones, have not been supported, or developed, so that they can be, in and of themselves, places of child welfare: with adequate employment, nourishing systems of education appropriate to a peoples’ beliefs and values and supportive of their identity, and with systems of self-government that allow people, together, to make their way forward, together, in a difficult world.”( Milloy, 3) The removal of children from their communities to educate them although well-meant was disastrous to Aboriginal communities. The legacy it has left is sad. More Aboriginal children were removed in the 1970’s from their parents care due to neglect than any other ethnic group. Many Aboriginal who had attended residential school were lost, and did not have any support systems. This was not true for all Aboriginal tribes. Some never lost their sense of community, family and self –worth. They even found ways to incorporate the parts of colonization that they found beneficial while still maintaining their sense of community identity.

The attempts by the government to assimilate the Nisga’a into their European style culture failed. The Nisga’a fought them or ignored those ideas they did not feel were beneficial to their culture. They continued to have a separate identity and their many battles with the government has rather than discouraged them from adopting any European ideas “encouraged them to seek out other aspects of non-Nisga’a culture that might be used to benefit Nisga’a. Medicine is one of these features”. (Kelm, 336)

Most disputes between the Aboriginal tribes regarding their culture and the government usually ended in disagreements. These disagreements could in some cases require court interventions. The governments of Canada and the provinces seemed to be influenced by the non-Aboriginal population when implementing programs that directly affect them. This has lead to misunderstandings as the Aboriginal councils try to protect their people and their people’s life styles.

Resources Economies and Aboriginal Lives in a Changing World

In week twelve of my class reading and discussions we learned were about the economic resources of British Columbia and the way Aboriginal lives changed due to the allocation of these resources. For many years the aboriginal peoples of British Columbia have utilized the natural resources of our coast waters, river, streams and lakes. Many tribes’ cultures and traditional foods relied upon the fisheries of the BC waters. Prior to the invasion of the European fur traders, settlers and fisheries they managed and sustained their ecological resources. Since the early 1900’s this has changed, fisheries were now being harvested not only by the Aboriginal peoples but also by the European commercial fisheries and sport fishermen. Even though the treaties were supposed to protect the native fisheries, they were under the management of the government that were lobbied by commercial and sport fishermen for an ever increasingly larger portion of the fishery. Just as the Aboriginal treaties has been a major bone of contention so to have the fishery and hunting rights along not only the west coast of Canada but also the Arctic and Atlantic Coasts.

Fishing and hunting and the cultural significance it plays in Aboriginal peoples lives has become of great concern as the environmental issues of the world become more and more evident. The consuming of Canada’s natural resources seems to be a historical trend, the settlers would arrive, trick the aboriginals into giving them some land and when they had utilized all the resources in that area would petition the government to remove the aboriginals to another area. This was true also of the fishing industry; they Aboriginal peoples were removed from their traditional fishing grounds so the settlers and commercial fisheries could harvest the fish from the area. They would wait at the mouth of the streams and rivers catching the fish before they would have a chance to spawn.

The Aboriginals in the area would protest the management of the fisheries in their area but in many cases their concerns would fall on deaf ears. The government never spoke with the aboriginals in the area when the implemented fishing bans or conservation efforts. This trend of disregarding the Aboriginals traditional knowledge of their tribal lands has begun to change over the last few years with naturalists and others beginning to acknowledge and accept the historical knowledge the various tribes have of their traditional lands. The Aboriginal peoples of British Columbia were managing the fishery resources and the other natural resources of their lands long before settlers came. I

 Land Claims, Charter Rights, Aboriginal Title to Land: From the Indian Act to Delgamuukw to the Nisga’a Treaty

The Nisga’a Treaty signed August 4, 1998 is one of the most significant documents signed between the government and the Aboriginal peoples. It “stands out as a model of compromise and moderation” (Foster,3) when one looks around the world at how other nations are coming to grips with their colonial pasts. This Treaty recognizes the Nisga’a right to self-govern themselves within the laws of Canada and the provinces; it also recognizes their right to their lands and the resources located on those lands. It gives the Nisga’a people the rights to their lands, which had been illegal taken from them by the local government of 1887. In 1913 the Nisga’a Land Committee and their legal council “petitioned the British Crown for recognition of their title” (Foster,3). They relied on the broad statement made by King George the third, to prove their point that the government had not signed a treaty with them and therefore had no claim to their lands. “The committee and its successor, the Nisga’a Tribal Council, took similar action after the First World War and again in the 1960 and 1970s, when they took the famous Calder case all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.” (Foster, 3) The Canadian government was advised that the provincial governments could not use the Aboriginal lands as a source of revenue until they had received full title to the lands from the Aboriginal peoples. The upholding of the Aboriginal title and their self-governance rights by the courts was the easy part; the hard part was in implementing the ruling.

The majority of the public seems to have forgotten the legal tradition of treaties and of the Aboriginals turning their land over to the crown (government) in trade for certain concessions of the government such as self-governance. The memories of the government seem to be spotty at best, they like to forget they never signed treaties or if they did that they did not keep them. The British Columbia government has a history of not making treaties with the aboriginal people and “when British Columbia’s new Crown Land Act was referred to Telesphore Fournier, the dominion minister of justice, he was quick to note that it made no mention of the Royal Proclamation and made no provision for Aboriginal title. Fournier therefore recommended that the Act be disallowed, and the Dominion Cabinet accepted that advice.” (Foster,5 ) The idea was that the disallowance would enable the BC province to become more realistic about the reserve question and stop or at least minimize their complaints about the railway. The federal government found away to get around the provincial government’s lack of consent by engaging in various lawsuits in their position as trustee for the Aboriginal title-holders. This made the provincial government defend the land grant in question. However, after the 1911 election when Laurier’s government was defeated this strategy ended. In a bid to gain British Columbia’s inclusion in the Dominion of Canada the federal government sided with British Columbia and the famous “McKenna-McBride Report” was written. The report encouraged the tribes to form the Allied Indian Tribes of British Columbia. This group dominated the Land Question here in BC until 1927. Negotiating a solution to the land issue because BC would not participate and it was assumed that Ottawa would not proceed without them did not seem possible. The land claim issue was only resolved for the Nisga’a and a small number of other bands. Mean while the political scene has changed and negotiations with the various aboriginal tribes has slowed down. The Nisga’a treaty has opened the door for other aboriginal tribes and hopefully everyone has learned from their mistakes.

Sources:

C Drew Bednasek and Anne M. C. Godlewska, “The influence of betterment discourses on Canadian Aboriginal peoples in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries”, The Canadian Geographer / Le G´eographe canadien 53 no 4 (2009) 444–461

Sarah Carter, “‘Your Great Mother Across the Salt Sea’; Prairie First Nations, the British Monarchy and the Vice Regal Connection to 1900.” History Department University of Calgary

Professor John S. Milloy, How do bad things happen when good people have good intentions?, Trent University, Peterborough (ON)

Mary-Ellen Kelm, “Wilp Wa’ums: colonial encounter, decolonization and medical care among the Nisga’a”, Social Science & Medicine 59 (2004) 335–349

Douglas C. Harris, Aboriginal Rights to Fish in British Columbia, Scow Institute, October 2005

Caroline F. Butler, Charles R. Menzies, Out of the Woods: Tsimshian Women and Forestry Work, Anthropology of Work Review, Anthropology of Work Review

Joseph Gosnell, Speech to the British Columbia Legislature, December 2,1998

“Delgamuukw and Treaties”: An Overview

Olive Patricia Dickason, and William Newbigging. A Concise History of Canada’s First Nations. 2nd ed. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Consumers History

The consumer has always has to travel to purchase basic need and foods they did not grow themselves. In earlier times they would travel to market places and fairs so they could purchase these items from stalls or small general mercantile stores. Unlike today one would have to either travel to a number of small stores or stalls to purchase various items. Items specific stores were common in larger towns and cities. Forts and frontier towns has general mercantile stores where dry goods and items such as cloth, needles, pots, etc. could be purchased. Meat and other perishable items could be purchased but usually at different store or stall in the market place or fair. Shopping as we know today did not exist.

In the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century most items could be purchased from stores similar to today’s co-ops. These stores usually referred to as “Mom and Pop” stores carried a small amount of a wide variety of items. The “Mom and Pop” stores did not have set prices and the cost of an item could vary greatly between them. The stores were usually run by the owners who would set the price and could change it at any time. Inventory could also change depending on the whims of the owner. In the 1916’s this all began to change with the introduction of the “Piggly Wiggly” department store.

The idea behind the “Piggly Wiggly” department store was the customer could browse up and down sidles where merchandise was on display. This enabled them to choose the merchandise they wanted in quantity they required, place it into a self-serve basket which they took to the cashier at the front of the store, paid for the items and left. The merchandise was all labeled with the prices and there was no haggling involved. The owner, Clarence Sanders of the “Piggly Wiggly” department stores hoped this style of shopping would increase his profits as the customers who see the merchandise and pick up items they had not thought of purchasing prior to seeing them on the shelves. In 1926, the stores sold more than twice the merchandise of another store. Although, “Piggly Wiggly” never reached the success of other big department stores, one could say that it paved the way for the department/superstores of today. Just like the superstores and department stores of today, “Piggly Wiggly” tried to carry everything one could be looking to purchase.

“Piggly Wiggly” advertised how convenient they were to shop at, with their large grocery selections which allowed women to choose what they purchased. This was all available without the pressure of a salesman standing over her. She was free to select items off the shelf and bring them up to the cashier where she paid for them and took them home to her family. “Piggly Wiggly” gave the average household an inexpensive way to purchase goods and this idea became the forerunner of the department/superstore we know today.

The start of the large grocery stores became the end of many of the smaller “Mom and Pop” shops which could not compete with the pricing. “Piggly Wiggly” was able to have lower prices because its profit margin depended on mass purchasing rather than the large profit margins. Many of the “Mom and Pop” style stores still in operation today are here because they offer convenience. Located away from the large grocery and superstores, they rely on the customers who forgot on or two items and did not want to travel to the larger store. They have limited merchandise and their pricing is higher, customers pay for the convenience of the store rather than the lower pricing.

Books read to help write this:

Soap, Sex, and Cigarettes: A cultural history of American advertising second edition by Juliann Sivulka

Satisfaction guaranteed: the making of the American mass market by Susan Strasser