Guide to the Vance Packard Papers, 1934-1983

2414

Collection Overview

Title:
Vance Packard Papers
Dates (Inclusive):
1934-1983
Creator:
Packard, Vance, 1914-1996
Abstract:
Journalist, author, and lecturer, Vance Packard, received a baccalaureate in English from Penn State in 1932 and a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University in 1937, working as a journalist and editor until 1956. He then wrote 12 bestselling books criticizing American society and culture.
Abstract:
The Vance Packard Papers document the creation of his nine popular books on American society. Materials include initial ideas, research notes, manuscripts, and reviews.
Collection Number:
2414
Size:
66 Cubic feet
Location:
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Special Collections Library  library catalog.
Repository:
Special Collections Library. Pennsylvania State University.
Languages:
English

Biographical Note

Vance Packard was born in Granville Summit, Pennsylvania, to Philip J. and Mabel Case Packard in 1914. He attended public schools in State College, Pennsylvania, where his father managed a farm owned by the Pennsylvania State University. He entered Penn State in 1932 and graduated with a degree in English four years later. That same year, he started his career in journalism by briefly working for the State College newspaper, the Centre Daily Times. In 1937, he earned a master's degree at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and joined the Boston Daily Record as a staff reporter. The following year, he married Virginia Matthews. Packard joined American Magazine as a section editor in 1942 until 1956. In 1947 he co-authored How to Pick a Mate: the Guide to a Happy Marriage with Penn State professor Clifford Adams who for thirty years conducted research and wrote magazine columns on marriage. Packard then worked as a writer for Collier's Magazine until its demise in 1956. In 1957, Packard wrote The Hidden Persuaders, which brought him national attention and launched his career as a social critic and full-time lecturer and book author. He wrote twelve books in all, most of them best-sellers. In 1961 he was named a distinguished alumnus of Pennsylvania State University. Vance Packard died in 1996 at his summer home on Martha's Vineyard. Vance Packard's work covered important sociological topics such as class divisions and the influence of the media. His books were forerunners of "pop sociology" and bridged a gap between academic scholarship and a more popular readership.

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Collection Overview

The Vance Packard Papers, measure 66 cubic feet and dates from 1934 to 1983, and documents the creation of his nine popular books on American society from origination through publication and reviews. Materials include notes, typed manuscripts and galleys, and review files. Research materials include published materials of all kinds, interview notes, and barely legible handwritten notes all arranged according to chapters. Drafts of chapters reveal the progression of his ideas and their expression. The collection includes copies of American and foreign reviews of his books which were published in several different languages.

The Vance Packard Papers at the Penn State Libraries include information related to nine of Packard's books:

The Hidden Persuaders (1957), which deals with the advertising industry

The Status Seekers (1959), which describes American social stratification

The Waste Makers (1960), which deals with American industry's planned obsolescence

The Pyramid Climbers (1962), which describes the hierarchy and social advancement in the American business structure

The Naked Society (1964), which exposes the threats to privacy with advancements in new technology and surveillance

The Sexual Wilderness (1968), which deals with the sexual revolution of the 1960s

A Nation of Strangers (1972), which deals with the disintegration of community structure caused by frequent geographical transfers of corporate executives

The People Shapers (1977), which deals with the use of psychological and biological testing and experimentation to manipulate human behavior

Our Endangered Children (1983), which discusses childrearing in an America preoccupied with money, power, and status

The Vance Packard Papers are an important source for scholars to draw upon for the history of American consumerism. Producers of a BBC documentary on our consumer society ("The Century of Self" by Adam Curtis) pointed to Packard and The Hidden Persuaders as one of the earliest post-war jeremiads against a society which derives happiness from consumer goods.

Daniel Horowitz, author of Vance Packard and American Social Criticism (University of North Carolina Press, 1994), noted that Packard not only taught the generation of Americans that came of age in the late 1950s and early 1960s about the dangers posed by advertising, he was also one of the first social critics to foster and to benefit from the newly energized social and political consciousness of that period.

The Penn State collection does not include papers for Packard's other books, including How to Pick a Mate (1946); Animal IQ (1950); Ultra Rich: How Much is Too Much? (1989).

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Collection Arrangement

The collection is arranged into 9 series organized in alphabetical order: A Nation of Strangers, Our Endangered Children, The Hidden Persuaders, The Naked Society, The People Shapers, The Pyramid Climbers, The Sexual Wilderness, The Status Seekers, and  The Wastemakers.

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Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Unrestricted access

Copyright Notice

Copyright is retained by the creators of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Vance Packard Papers (2414), Rare Books and Manuscripts, Special Collections Library, Pennsylvania State University.

Processing Information

Processed by Vijaya Narayanan, 2009-11-01.

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Controlled Access Headings

Genre(s)

  • Audio

Personal Name(s)

  • Packard, Vance, 1914-1996

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Collection Inventory

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General note

A Nation of Strangers dates from 1964 to 1974 and documents Vance Packard's 1972 book of the same name from conception through publication. The series includes notes on its origination followed by research notes on each chapter. The research notes include clippings, reprinted articles, and his notes written on paper fragments and notebooks. Research notes are organized as they were received from the author, inserted into magazines which served as file folders. Chapter notes are followed by the files Packard titled, "Queries." After these are the first and second drafts, bibliography, manuscripts, and final drafts-all of which are arranged according to chapter. Also included are reviews of the book by various newspapers and magazines both in United States and abroad.

In this best-selling book, Packard focuses on the ever-increasing mobility of people in the United States. He discusses the patterns of mobility and the problems that hyper mobility entails-fragmentation of established relationships, loosening of roots, and especially the impact this has on children. He offers new approaches to reestablishing a sense of community and argues for more diverse communities where the residents have varied incomes, social characteristics, and ages.

This book was very well received by newspapers and magazine reviewers in the United States. It was included in the best-sellers list in October, 1972. Ironically, Packard did more traveling and in-person investigations for this book than any of his other books.

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General note

Our Endangered Children dates from 1976 to 1983 and documents Vance Packard's 1983 book, Our Endangered Children, from original ideas through revisions, publication, and publicity. The series includes detailed notes on the conception and correspondence relating to early revisions of chapters. This is followed by notes on all the 29 chapters. This book underwent major revisions and additions to each of the chapters. These additions are arranged in the form of chapter notes entitled new chapter notes (chapter 1-22) followed by final drafts and galleys.

Our Endangered Children examined the environment in which children grew up in the 1980s and argued that families, daycare centers, schools, new urban planning, and governmental policy were seriously malfunctioning in preparing children for adulthood. Packard's criticisms focused on homes in which both parents worked, families headed by single-parent (the number of which had increased due to the rising divorce rate), and melded families of parents and children from different marriages. He argued that children had insufficient contact with their parents and homes were both impermanent and sometimes located in the eerie world of high-rises. This sweeping exploration of modern childrearing expanded criticisms of the effects of modern social forms on children that he raised in A Nation of Strangers. Our Endangered Children was well received by reviewers in the United States and Canada.

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General note

The Hidden Persuaders, dating from 1948 to 1964, documents Vance Packard's book, The Hidden Persuaders (1957), from initial conception through publication. The series includes his notes on the conception of the idea, research notes on each chapter which include clippings, reprinted articles, and handwritten notes on paper fragments. These notes are arranged by chapters. The series also includes the final manuscript, galleys, reviews of the book by United States and foreign newspapers and magazines, and files related to the promotional and publicity appearances by the author.

Mr. Packard first gained national attention with the publication in 1957 of The Hidden Persuaders, which exposed what he saw as the growing and not entirely benign influence of the nation's advertising industry. Alarmed by new techniques that convinced people to run out and buy things, he detailed advertising's fascination with a school of consumer analysis known as motivational research. It spawned concern and additional critiques of the less benign aspects of advertisement. The advertising business responded; its representatives took to public forums everywhere to declare that motivational research helped advertisers better serve the American people. The Hidden Persuaders became wildly popular; it sold over one million copies in the United States and was popular in Europe, and remained in New York Times best-seller list for over a year.

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General note

The Naked Society dates from 1956-1966 and documents Packard's book of the same name from original ideas through publication and reviews. The series includes research notebooks as well as loose notes organized by insertion into the pages of magazines. All research is arranged by chapter. The series includes the original early manuscript, two galleys, and page proofs. This series also includes reviews of the book by various newspapers and magazines both in United States and abroad along with the promotional and publicity appearances by the author. In addition, there is correspondence between Vance Packard and a Congressional committee.

In this book Packard traces the evolution of the secret assault on individual privacy. He makes a bold and powerful critique of the lack of privacy and dignity in modern society. He documents the use by industry of lie detector tests, psychological batteries, and electronic bugs. He denounces the government for covering its callousness regarding what to Packard is the vanishing right of privacy under the cloak of national security. He concludes the book with two chapters advocating personal liberty. This 1964 best-seller was very well received by reviewers.

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General note

The People Shapers, dating from 1958-1978, documents Vance Packard's 1977 book The People Shapers from conception through publication. Included are copious notes on the genesis of the ideas in the book, followed by general notes written in notebooks. This is followed by research notes, a final draft, reviews, and the corrected galleys. There are additional files about possible titles and final as well as launching the book and popular reaction. Additional chapter notes follow photocopies of the manuscripts.

In The People Shapers, Packard views with alarm what he sees as a rising tide of manipulation of human behavior, moods, reproduction, personality, brain function, and genetic traits first by science, such as genetic manipulation; and next by reshaping human desires through advertising techniques and psychotherapeutic drugs. Packard is concerned about the potential for abuse and social control, and anticipates a tragic outcome. This book was very well received in United States and Britain when it came out; however, his recommendations for more governmental control of "people-shaping" were largely rejected.

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General note

The Pyramid Climbers dates from 1941 to 1964 and documents Vance Packard's 1962 Book The Pyramid Climbers from its original ideas through publication. This book was Packard's third book in three years. The series is organized into notes on chapters (1-26) including clippings, reprinted articles, and his handwritten notes, original and final manuscripts, galleys, and correspondence with publishers both in United States and abroad. There are additional files about possible titles, editing, and the book launch. This series also includes reviews of the book by various newspapers and magazines both in United States and abroad, along with the promotional appearances by the author.

In The Pyramid Climbers, Packard argues that large corporations oppress their executives by requiring adherence to a rigid code consisting of careful speech, exemplary appearance, smooth social skills, and stable marriage to poised wives. Marriage, however, cannot take precedence over loyalty to the corporation. Packard also showed that executives were largely white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant men who graduated from selective colleges. Few women, persons without a college education, or African Americans are found in the ranks of corporate executives. The book was a best-seller in 1962 and 1963; its conclusions were well received by reviewers in United States, but reviews were mixed in Canada and Great Britain.

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General note

The Sexual Wilderness dates from 1950 to 1972 and documents Packard's book (published in 1968), from conception through reception. The series includes his notes on the genesis of his ideas; research notes on each chapter, such as clippings, reprinted articles, hand written notes on paper fragments and notebooks; and chapter notes (1-28) followed by original drafts, final manuscripts, master galley, title revisions and reviews. This book was based on four years of research and travel throughout the United States and abroad, including interviews with experts in fields such as medicine, family counseling, psychology, and education.

In The Sexual Wilderness, Packard analyzes modern relationships between men and women and explores inherent differences, such as concerns about equal rights and choices for women both in the home and outside the home. He investigates problems within the institution of marriage and suggests how men and women of the 21st century would live and work together. Packard surveys the sexual behavior of university students from the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Norway and Germany using questionnaires, interviews, and other methods to investigate the effect of a rapidly changing environment on the behavior of men and women in their relationship with each other. Packard suggests ways to ameliorate the slide to the dissolution of marriage such as a two-year, pre-marital confirmation period, including during which the couple can decide if the marriage is viable. He sanctions premarital sex only for those who intend to marry. The Sexual Wilderness was a best-seller in 1968 and received positive reviews in newspapers and magazines both in United States and abroad.

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General note

The Status Seekers, dates from 1934 to 1965. The Status Seekers, published in 1961, just one year after his best-selling book, The Hidden Persuaders, focused on class status in America. The series documents the origination of his ideas, followed by his research notes on each chapter. The research includes clippings, reprinted articles, and his notes written on paper fragments. All are organized by insertion into magazines which serve as file folders. The notes are filed by chapter numbers. The series includes the original early manuscript, two galleys, and page proofs. This series also includes reviews of the book by various newspapers and magazines both in United States and abroad along with the promotional and publicity appearances by the author.

The Status Seekers provides a detailed analysis of American social structure arguing that Americans are obsessed with "keeping up with the Joneses" instead of determining their own goals and aspirations. Packard argued that American society judged its members on the basis of the jobs they performed, homes they owned, cars they drove, and their education levels. Packard described a dual process of stratification of American society: vertical and horizontal. In The Status Seekers Packard divided society horizontally into five classes. Horizontal classes included the "diploma elite" consisting of the "real upper class" and the "semi upper class." A second group, he called the "supporting classes," including classes labeled "limited success," "working class" and "real lower class." Vertical divisions are based on racial coloring, religion, national origin, and length of stay in an area.

Well-known sociologists, such as Seymour Martin Lipset and Lewis Coser, however, dealt with it harshly. Lewis Coser criticized him for false knowledge, fake precision, and homogenization. Lipset, whom Packard quoted in the book, was much more severe. He questioned Packard's many claims and argued that his claims were wrong or lacked sufficient proof. In particular, Lipset questioned the rigid nature of the class society as portrayed by Packard in the book. Despite the criticism of scholars, the book was popular and well received by lay reviewers.

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General note

The Waste Makers, dating from 1944 to 1964, documents Vance Packard's book, The Waste Makers (1960), from conception through publication. This book followed his two previous books, The Hidden Persuaders and The Status Seekers, which made his a household name. This series includes materials about the conceptual framework for the book, followed by research notes on each of the twenty-five chapters. Research materials include newspaper clippings, reprinted articles, notes written on scraps of paper and notebooks. All notes are filed by chapter numbers. This is followed by a first draft of 16 chapters (ch. 11-14, 16-20, and 21 are missing), final typed manuscripts, master galleys, and footnotes. Also included are reviews of the book by various newspapers and magazines both in United States and abroad.

The Waste Makers analyzes and condemns United States consumerism, focusing particularly on the marketing and manufacturing sectors for encouraging an economic model based on premature obsolescence and buying on credit. Packard warns Americans of the ecological damage caused by their actions and its effect on future generations. Packard proposes inculcating an attitude of thrift and prudence in the consuming public that would result in less waste.

The book was very well received by lay reviewers in United States and abroad in countries such as Ireland, Australia, and Canada. Experts in the marketing industry, however, responded by questioning his analysis of the economy and consumer attitudes. Academic sociologists like Seymour Martin Lipset also dismissed the study for lack of rigor, and judged the book more journalistic than scholarly.

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