Consumerism on the Tennessee Frontier



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Texas Tech University


Artifacts dating to the Middle Tennessee Frontier Period (1779-1830) (Jolley 1984) were recovered from the earliest of several historic components identified at the Drennon site (40DV447) in Davidson County, Tennessee. The Frontier Period covers the initial settlement of the area and the area's transformation into a hinterland of the westward moving frontier. The Drennon site Frontier Period artifacts indicate that the sites earliest historic inhabitants were active participants in a worldwide trade network. Frontier period artifacts were recovered from a portion of the site which contained features and structure foundations associated with the earliest historic occupation of the site. The varied nature of the Frontier Period cultural material suggests that traditional views of frontier isolation and simplicity are not correct in all situations. Traditional views of the American Frontier include the belief that these fringe areas were isolated places where settlers either manufactured most of the material goods needed for everyday life or did without them. Trade goods introduced into these areas were thought to be the basic necessities with few if any, luxury or status items included. In other words it has been popularly believed that frontier settlers were for the most part self sufficient (Abemethy 1932: 3; Alderman 1986: 14; Lewis 1977: 154-155; Perkins 1991: 486). These ideas have lately been challenged, since historical records show that traders and storekeepers dealt in a greater variety of consumer goods than was previously recognized. While it was probably not easy to bring in some of these goods there was evidently a demand in frontier areas for consumer goods other than mere necessities. Also, frontier farmsteads may have been isolated by distance from each other but they were not very self-sufficient since they relied on neighbors and stores to supply material goods necessary for everyday life (Gump 1989: 3; Perkins 1991).