Alexander Parry

Ph.D. Stutdent, Department of History of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University

2020 to 2021
Research Fellow

Risky Homes: Domestic Accidents from the Progressive Era to the Consumer Movement

This project analyzes how the detection, mitigation, and care of domestic accidents reshaped household labor, the liberal state, and consumerism from the Progressive Era to the “consumer movement.” I trace four types of accidents—electrocutions, suffocations, falls, and burns—and historicize their causes and solutions through the family relations, technologies, and surrounding communities of specific homes. Although histories of risk frequently emphasize disasters, this project examines how routine accidents affected the day-to-day lives of ordinary Americans and situates physical hazards within domestic space. I therefore describe how accidents changed over time and varied with age, gender, race, and class. Safety experts, corporations, government officials, and families, meanwhile, sought to manage common dangers using information, continuous maintenance, and equipment. Overall, I define accidents as “processes” rather than “incidents” to clarify how laypeople experienced the stages of risk from prevention to injury to recovery and why professionals intervened at each stage.