Consumer Revolutions


Consumer Revolutions


Global Capitalism Butter-Nut Coffee Advertisement, Durham Photo Archive


Globalization has brought the world to our doorstep. Expanding networks of trade bring goods from every corner of the world to our homes in Omaha. Although many of us associate globalization with the very recent past, those connections have a long history. This section of the exhibit takes us from the early history of globalization to the present and shows how our consumer decisions transformed economic and environmental relationships around the world.

The first era of globalization dawned in the late sixteenth century when the Spanish Empire created the first global currency. The Spanish used gold and silver mined by indigenous peoples in Bolivia to trade for goods in China. Silver coins greased the wheels of early globalization and connected American mines, to tea fields in China, to the markets of Europe. Expanding wealth and power eventually opened up foreign landscapes to American use as well. By the nineteenth century, consumer networks allowed families in Omaha to consume tropical goods like coffee. Today, multinational corporations like ConAgra dominate food production. They use resources from every type of environment and ship their products globally.

Consumer revolutions accelerated after the Second World War. Home appliances like televisions, refrigerators, and washing machines promised convenience and an increased quality of life, but new technologies sometimes produced unexpected environmental consequences. These objects remind us that modern consumerism was part of a long history of globalization that transformed global environments. Many of us still use objects like these on a daily basis. As you look through this section, ask yourself how many goods you have used or consumed today are connected in some way to foreign landscapes.

Items in the Consumer Revolutions Collection


Trevor Schlecht
Zach Tapia

Eric Heffelfinger
Fletcher Guinn
Figure 1: 1797 Carolus III, Spanish silver Reales

Ian Reuter
Dakota Wagner
Omaha International Exhibition Pamphlet

Maddie Fung
Matthew Mordeson
Philco Corp Twinamatic 16 pound washer, model W5F9P from 1940s

Emily Barnes
Ellianne Jacques
Jordan Rogers
Bear Fur Coat

India Claflin
Brooke Yang
Union Pacific Pepper Shaker

Olivia Fuson
Hannah Yackley
The Kenmore Commander Vacuum as pictured at the Durham Museum in Omaha, Nebraska.

Sydney Hiatt