Conspicuous Consumption In The Ponce De Leon Hotel

1189 words - 5 pages

The Ponce de Leon Hotel first opened its doors on 1888 right in the middle of what was known as the Gilded Age, a time period that was marked by rapid industrialization, expansion of nations into a structure, free market economy with almost no regulations, rise of captains of industry, emergence of organized labor, and age of conspicuous consumption. The creator of the Ponce de Leon Hotel was Henry Flagler, one of the captains of industry who made most of his money using the Standard Oil Company. When he visited St. Augustine Florida, he recognized the potential for the area to become an attraction for the leisure class and decided he would build a hotel for only the wealthiest in the ...view middle of the document...

The distinction between genders is still prominent during the Gilded Age and can be seen in what guests at the Ponce de Leon hotel would do during their first arrival, as described in the book Flagler’s St. Augustine Hotels by Thomas Graham, with men inhabiting an ‘oak-paneled bar to enjoy a before-dinner drink’ and woman ‘went to the women’s powder room, where they could socialize while awaiting their escorts’ (Graham 33). Men would not go into the powder room and women were of course not allowed to have a pre-dinner drink and participate in the male conversation.
To understand conspicuous consumption one must first understand what conspicuous leisure is. Conspicuous leisure is described by Veblen as ‘Conspicuous abstention from labour’ with the idea of labor becoming ‘dishonorable, as being an evidence of poverty’ (Veblen 25). It is conspicuous exception from all useful work but conspicuous consumption is not easily seen by others, which is upsetting to the leisure class because the whole point of nearly everything they do is to show to others how well off they are, and so is shown through things such as someone from the leisure class learning ‘manners and breeding, polite usage, decorum, and formal and ceremonial observances’ (Veblen 29). The leisure class show off their wealth and their free time by engaging in ‘branches of learning’ (Veblen 29), which can be seen prominently in a man named John Ruskin who wrote From the Stones of Venice and spent most of his life traveling, lecturing, and writing (Ruskin 1274), and it is in this conspicuous leisure that leads to conspicuous consumption. As stated before, the leisure classes’ main goal is to show to everyone else how much wealth they have acquired and one of the ways to show that is by showing how much free time they don’t have to spend doing labor, but another way for the leisure class shows their wealth is by what they and their family buys. It is referred to as vicarious consumption when the ‘consumption of food, clothing, dwelling, and furniture’ is done by the ‘lady and the rest of the domestic establishment’. (Veblen 43), but it is conspicuous consumption when it is down by the leisure class gentlemen and it is usually fulfilled by his consumption of the best of food, drinks , and the act of throwing parties, events, and giving gifts. (Veblen 45-47). This is of course where...

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