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Gary Cross

Distinguished Professor of Modern History

210 Weaver Building
University Park , PA 16802
Office Phone: (814) 863-0181

Curriculum Vitae

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  1. PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1977
  2. MA, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1973
  3. MDiv, Harvard University, 1972
  4. BA, Washington State University, 1968


Today I would probably be called a 20th century US cultural historian with a focus on consumption, childhood, and leisure issues. But, as a historian trained in modern French and German history and with experience in British and Australian libraries and universities, I have also done comparative history on work, political economy, and time. I have an on-going interest in the modern history of western technology and co-authored a text on the subject. My abiding theme is the origins, uses, meanings, and consequences of 20th century affluence with books like Time and Money: The Making of Consumer CultureAn All-Consuming Century, and The Playful Crowd: Pleasure Places in the 20th Century. Another theme is the modern history of childhood, parenting and generation with Kids’ Stuff: Toys and the Changing World of American Childhood, The Cute and the Cool, and Men to Boys: The Making of Modern Immaturity. My most recent works (Packaged Pleasures and Consumed Nostalgia) explore how sensuality was compressed and made mobile by technology and marketing in the generation around 1900 and how memory has recently been impacted by the rapid turnover of consumer goods. Currently I am completing a book on how cars shaped the coming of age of 20th century Americans.  I try to reach audiences beyond the academy and encourage students to ask probing questions about the present that can be explained by the past.

Recent Publications:

Consumed Nostalgia: Memory in the Age of Fast Capitalism (Columbia University Press, 2015)

Packaged Pleasures: How Technology and Marketing Transformed Desire
(University of Chicago Press, 2014)

Men to Boys: The Making of Modern Immaturity
(Columbia University Press, 2008)

The Playful Crowd: Pleasure Places in the Twentieth Century (with John K. Walton), (Columbia University Press, December 2005)

The Cute and the Cool: Wondrous Innocence and Modern American Children’s Culture (Oxford University Press, 2004).

Recent Courses:

HIST  001 - The Western Heritage
HIST 116 - The Family and Sex Roles in Modern History
HIST 151 - Technology and Society in American History
HIST 451 - The Consumer Revolution

Research Interests:

Twentieth-Century US; Modern Consumer Society; Modern Technology; Childhood and Youth
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