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Cypress/West Oakland Historical Archaeology Project

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~ Chapter 9 Detail ~
Chapter 9 artifacts


This essay examines room renting in West Oakland between 1880 and 1900, directing attention to the gender and material culture of room renters at select sites during a period of transition and change. The terms “room renting” and “room renters” encompass the extent of rental housing culture for men and women in West Oakland where room renters included boarders—whose rent generally included meals—and roomers, who purchased meals separately from housing (and could also be known as lodgers). During the period under study, great changes occurred with respect to this aspect of rental housing culture in the United States, as boarding fell out of favor and rooming became the preferred practice among many tenants across the nation. The two table settings pictured here represent the two extremes of late-19th-century boarding in West Oakland: room renting in individual homes (the McLaughlin household, top) and institutional room-renting in hotels (the Railroad Exchange Hotel, bottom). The table settings in both of these instances comprised sturdy, utilitarian dishes.

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