Grier, Katherine C. 1953–

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Grier, Katherine C. 1953–


Born January 16, 1953, in Utica, NY; daughter of John J. (an educator) and Anna L. (a manager) Grier; married Paul E. Johnson (an historian). Education: Princeton University, B.A., 1975; State University of New York College at Oneonta, M.A., 1980; University of Delaware, Ph.D., 1988.


Office—Office of Advanced Studies, Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library, Winterthur, DE 19735. E-mail—[email protected]


Historian, educator, and writer. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Austin, curator and assistant planner, 1979-82; Strong Museum, Rochester, NY, historian, 1985-90; Obert C. and Grace A. Tanner Humanities Center, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, visiting scholar, staff member, then acting director, also assistant professor of history, c. 1991-97; University of South Carolina, Columbia, assistant professor of history, beginning 1998; University of Delaware Winterthur Program in Early American Culture, director of research fellowship program at Winterthur Museum and Country Estate, executive editor of Winterthur Portfolio, and adjunct professor in Department of History. Curator of traveling exhibition titled "Pets in America: The Story of Our Lives with Animals at Home," 2007.


American Studies Association, Decorative Arts Society.


Charles F. Montgomery Award, Society of Architectural Historians and Decorative Arts Society, 1989, for Culture and Comfort; National Endowment for the Humanities fellow, 1990.


Celebrations in Wood: The Sculpture of John Scholl (1827-1916) (exhibition catalog), Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (Harrisburg, PA), 1979.

Culture and Comfort: People, Parlors, and Upholstery, 1850-1930, University of Massachusetts Press, 1988, abridged edition published as Culture and Comfort: Parlor Making and Middle-Class Identity, 1850-1930, Smithsonian Institution Press (Washington, DC), 1997.

Pets in America: A History, University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill, NC), 2006.


Katherine C. Grier told CA: "My special interest and expertise lie in what has been given, for better or worse, the rubric ‘material culture.’ Put more plainly, I'm fascinated with stuff—particularly Victorian stuff. I try to find new windows into the past by using such things as architecture, furnishings, toys, and clothing as handles for interpreting social and cultural history. Further, I find ordinary things, rather than the production of elite architects, artists, and fashion designers, most telling and interesting to work with."

Grier's Culture and Comfort: People, Parlors, and Upholstery, 1850-1930 was first published in 1988 and later appeared in an abridged version titled Culture and Comfort: Parlor Making and Middle-Class Identity, 1850-1930. In the book, the author correlates the popularity and eventual decline of the Victorian parlor with the changing habits of middle-class consumption near the end of the nineteenth century. Referring to the author's study as "sophisticated" in the Journal of Social History, Lisa Jacobson also noted: "Grier's nuanced analysis of parlor furnishings and upholstery reveals a ‘critical tension in Victorian culture’ between middle-class aspirations toward what she calls culture and comfort."

Grier explores the explosion of household pets in the United States in her book Pets in America: A History. Focusing on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the author discusses how the popularity of home pets grew along with the development of an unique middle class. Drawing from sources such as diaries, letters, magazines, and government records, the author also examines the changing attitudes of Americans toward their pets. In turn, Grier writes about the expansion of the pet business, from the development of special pet foods and medicines to a host of other products geared to make American pets healthier and happier. The author discusses the pets of famous personages, such as President Theodore Roosevelt and humorist Mark Twain, and includes vintage photographs and advertisements. Alicia Graybill, writing in Library Journal, noted the author's "coherent, friendly writing style," and New York Times Book Review contributor Alida Becker wrote that Grier "has a nice habit of tweaking a detail to make a larger point." "Grier's strongest chapters document the inclusion of pet-keeping within a Victorian ethic that promoted self-cultivation and self-control," Becker added, "and saw cruelty to animals as ‘one outward expression of inward moral collapse.’"



Journal of Social History, summer, 1999, review of Culture and Comfort: Parlor Making and Middle-Class Identity, 1850-1930, p. 978.

Library Journal, February 15, 2006, Alicia Graybill, review of Pets in America: A History, p. 140.

New York Times Book Review, March 26, 2006, Alida Becker, review of Pets in America, p. 17.


Associated Content, (May 2, 2007), review of Pets in America.

University of Delaware Department of History Web site, (May 2, 2007), "Katherine C. Grier."

University of South Carolina Department of History Web site, (May 2, 2007), "Katherine C. Grier."

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Grier, Katherine C. 1953–

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