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The HoardersMaterial Deviance in Modern American Culture$
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Scott Herring

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780226171685

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226171852.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 27 January 2020

Collyer Curiosa

Collyer Curiosa

Chapter:
(p.19) 1 Collyer Curiosa
Source:
The Hoarders
Author(s):

Scott Herring

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226171852.003.0002

This chapter explores the role that Collyer Brothers syndrome played in hoarding’s historical formation. This cultural history of Homer Collyer and Langley Collyer surveys sensational reports regarding two of the most famous hoarders in modern America. It argues that representations of the Collyers facilitated a cultural shift in hoarding as a curious abnormality. Descriptions of these two eccentrics in newspaper articles after their deaths in 1947 treated their disorderly mansion in Harlem and their belongings as a freak show. Magazines and novels supported this image of these men as pathological hoarders, and they influenced the concept of hoarding as a form of chronic disorganization. Exploring how these early accounts of hoarding also connected to depictions of Harlem and its residents, the chapter finds that reports on individuals treated as insane hoarders were influenced by social anxieties over urban social disorder.

Keywords:   hoarding, mental illness, Homer Collyer, Langley Collyer, disorganization, freak show, eccentrics, Harlem

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