This thesis examines the relationship between consumer culture and efforts to introduce legislation to regulate the production and labeling of American food products during the decades in the United States known as the Progressive Era. As food became increasingly mass-produced, consumer anxiety about contamination grew. Ultimately the federal government passed the Pure Food, Drink, and Drug Act in 1906 to ensure that American-made food items were produced in a hygienic manner and properly labeled. Using nostalgic modernism (characterized by scholars as a deeply-rooted impulse that causes
Americans to simultaneously embrace and resist change) as a framework, my research demonstrates that the wide promotion of so-called “pure food” in the years both before and after the passing of this legislation reflects the pervasive ambivalence to modernity emblematic of this period. This project will demonstrate how food advertising reflected wider anxieties about a nation being reshaped by urbanization, industrialization, and corporate capitalism.