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Chloe Frechette

MA work

Design on the Rocks: Consistency and Change in the Material Culture of Cocktail Consumption, 1920-1939


  • MA Degree


    School of Humanities


    MA History of Design, 2015

  • Design on the Rocks: Consistency and Change in the Material Culture of Cocktail Consumption, 1920-1939

    During her short publicity tour of the United States, English author, E.M. Delafield, recalled of her visit to America in the 1920s, ‘The influence of cocktails on modern life cannot be exaggerated.’ Whether as a recurring motif in Delafield’s autobiographical account, the preferred potation of Ernest Hemingway’s protagonists, or indeed the stimulant of choice for Hemingway himself, the cocktail has captured the American imagination for much of the twentieth century.

    Taking a design historical approach in which objects form the primary agent of inquiry, this dissertation investigates the material culture of cocktail consumption in New York City from the onset of Prohibition in 1920, often cited as the catalyst for the development of cocktail culture in the United States and abroad, to 1939 at the outbreak of World War II. By employing an object-based approach, which places the primary articles of enquiry – cocktail shakers, spirit measures, stemware - within a network of related objects and primary material, such as advertisements, bar books, retail and manufacturers’ catalogues, and contemporary museum exhibitions, the formal and functional qualities of the objects in question invite analysis of actual user interaction absent in studies that neglect the materiality of objects as effective tools of historical study. Engaging with the material objects in this way offers insight into the cultural climate that produced them, allowing new readings of cocktail culture in the ‘20s and ‘30s, particularly in relation to the dominant narratives of twentieth century modernity and innovation, challenging the historiography that often overstates the impact of Prohibition and Repeal on the development of cocktail culture domestically and abroad.

  • Degrees

  • MA (Hons) Art History, University of St Andrews, 2013