Business Enterprise, Consumer Culture and Civic Engagement, 1890s-1930s: Sheffield Entrepreneur, John Graves.

RICHARDSON, Rachael (2018). Business Enterprise, Consumer Culture and Civic Engagement, 1890s-1930s: Sheffield Entrepreneur, John Graves. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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This thesis examines the activities of Sheffield business man, civic figure and philanthropist, John George Graves from the 1890s-1930s. The original contribution and aim of this thesis is to address a missing piece of historical analysis concerning this businessman’s activities, his contributions to the early development of British mail order and consumer culture and his civic and philanthropic engagements in the city of Sheffield. The thesis consists of seven chapters which are thematically rather than chronologically structured. Chapter one explores the roots of British mail order. It compares and contrasts its development with its American counterparts and evaluates the programmes and initiatives of the three leading British entrepreneurs, J. G. Graves, the Fattorinis and William Kilbourne Kay. Chapter two continues this theme by examining the firms’ attempts to address the competition of urban shopping developments, their use of agents and advocates and the agents’ association in the development of ‘consumption communities’. While chapter three focuses on Graves’ programme of credit, its association with the promotion of self-betterment, self-gratification and its relationship with the rise of suburbia, chapter four examines how Graves reflected issues of gender in his marketing rhetoric. It considers how the firm represented men and women in its advertising narrative, how that narrative reflected issues of separate spheres and how it accommodated the demands of the fashion conscious lower middle class consumer. Chapter five examines the firm’s relationship with the British Empire. It explores how the firm attempted to augment its profits and portfolio through an imperial market, how empire was reflected in its sale of commodities and how its advertising rhetoric had the capacity to reflect an imperial ideology related to issues of race, cultural differences and separate identities. Chapter six concentrates on Graves’ business welfare programme. It explores his initiatives alongside those of Cadbury, Leverhulme and Rowntree and argues that the businessmen shared the same approach and values. In addition, the chapter provides evidence that Graves’ introduction of his workplace pension scheme pre-dated those of his business contemporaries. Continuing with this theme on welfare, the final chapter focusses on Graves’ civic activities. It explores how his entrance into the political and philanthropic arenas shared similarities with his predecessors and how such entrances had been paved through the course of British history. It also examines Graves’ progressive and liberal approach as a philanthropist and civic figure along with the contributions he made to the city of Sheffield and the benefits he bestowed upon its citizens.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Twells, Alison [0000-0003-2602-0029]
Additional Information: Director of studies': Alison Twells
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Colin Knott
Date Deposited: 15 Apr 2019 12:29
Last Modified: 03 May 2023 02:02

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