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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 Culture, Kids Stuff: Toys and the Changing World of American Childhood, An All-Consuming Century, The Cute and the Cool, and The Playful Crowd: Pleasure Places in the 20th Century. My most recent book Men to Boys explores the decline of markers of male maturity in American culture since 1945. I am currently completing on two projects, a book about packaged pleasures, the engineering of sensual intensity around 1900, and a book about how modern nostalgia is shaped by consumer culture. 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:

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

Dictionary of American History (Scribner’s, 2007-08 revision)  (Co-editor involved in producing about 400 new articles and revising old ones)

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), reviewed in the Washington Post and elsewhere.

Awards and Service:

Consultant, Coney Island in Art Exhibit, Yale Art Gallery (2010)
Consultant, Childhood in Long Island Exhibit, Long Island Museum (2009)
Alfred P. Sloan Visiting Scholar, Center for Working Families (2002)
Faculty Scholar's Medal, Pennsylvania State University (2002)

Recent Courses:

HIST001 - The Western Heritage
HIST151 - Technology and Society in American History
HIST418 - The French Revolution and the Napoleonic Era
HIST525 - Imperial Borderlands in Modern Europe

Research Interests:

Twentieth-Century US:
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