American Fancy

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American Fancy was a decorative style popular in the United States between 1790-1840. Author Sumpter Priddy writes, American Fancy is a "cultural phenomenon born out of new and enlightened ways of seeing, understanding, and responding to the surrounding world. Fancy expressed itself in just about everything that pleased the senses; generally colorful and boldly patterned, it elicited delight, awe, surprise, whim, and caprice."[1]

In the late 18th century, "fancy" was a synonym with "imagination," and America was developing a new fascination with the imaginative. The Fancy style began with "trifles," generally snuff boxes, fans, and combs made for women and consisted of whimsical patterns and bright colors.[2]

Invented in the early 19th century, Kaleidoscopes inspired the creation of many textiles, furniture, and glass works in the American Fancy style.

American Fancy began to decline around the 1830s; with the invention of photography cultural interest shifted toward realism and away from the abstract patterns that defined American Fancy.[2]


  1. ^ Priddy, Sumpter (2004). American Fancy: Exuberance in the Arts, 1790-1840. Chipstone Foundation. p. 267. ISBN 978-0-9724353-9-0. Retrieved August 2010.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  2. ^ a b Moustaki, Nikki (2004). "Tickling the American Fancy". Humanities. 25 (3). Retrieved August 2010.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)