cover image Hotel: An American History

Hotel: An American History

Andrew K. Sandoval-Strausz, . . Yale Univ., $37.50 (375pp) ISBN 978-0-300-10616-9

In this lucid and creative work, Sandoval-Strausz, an assistant professor of history at the University of New Mexico, situates the rise of hotels within the history of the triumph of capitalism and of an increasingly mobile society. Hotels, he says, facilitated mobility and the integration of frontier lands into larger networks of capital and commerce. Hotels were also part of the gradual process that dissociated people from particular places. If hotels solved some social problems, Sandoval-Strausz shows, they created others: guardians of domesticity, for example, worried about urban dwellers who chose to live full-time in hotels. In exploring the social and political meaning of hotels, the author pursues countless avenues, from menus to morals (“Hotels were magnets for prostitution” and other forms of illicit sex). There's a bit of labor history thrown in, too, since, in order to make good on the promise to be patrons' “home away from home,” hotels employed a huge number of workers, from cooks and launderers to janitors, Sandoval-Strausz also traces hotels' exclusion of Jews and blacks—the book ends with the 1964 Supreme Court case that desegregated public accommodations. From start to finish, this is a fascinating study. 93 color, 58 b&w illus. (Nov.)