Gary Cross

Gary Cross, Ph.D., is a distinguished professor of modern history at Penn State. Today, he would probably be called a 20th century U.S. cultural historian with a focus on consumption, childhood, and leisure issues. But, as a historian trained in modern French and German history and with experience in British and Australian libraries and universities, he has also done comparative history on work, political economy, and time. He has an ongoing interest in the modern history of western technology and co-authored a text on the subject. His abiding theme is the origins, uses, meanings, and consequences of 20th century affluence, with books like Time and Money: The Making of Consumer Culture, An All-Consuming Century, and The Playful Crowd: Pleasure Places in the 20th Century. Another theme is the modern history of childhood, parenting and generation with Kids’ Stuff: Toys and the Changing World of American Childhood, The Cute and the Cool, and Men to Boys: The Making of Modern Immaturity. His most recent works explore how sensuality was compressed and made mobile by technology and marketing in the generation around 1900 and how memory has recently been impacted by the rapid turnover of consumer goods. Currently, he is completing a book on how cars shaped the coming of age of 20th century Americans. He tries to reach audiences beyond the academy and encourage students to ask probing questions about the present that can be explained by the past.