Filling personal spaces with purely decorative, cheaply made trinkets—or tchotchkes, knickknacks, bric-a-brac, junk—is as American as apple pie. “Over time, Americans have decided—as individuals, as members of groups, and as a society—to embrace not just materialism itself but materials with a certain shoddy complexion,” writes author Wendy A. Woloson in her book Crap: A History of Cheap Stuff in America. The country’s proud heritage of excess began during the consumer revolution of the 1700s, when artisans created inexpensive replicas of in-demand exotic goods; faux-wood finishes and paste gems imbued a sense of luxury. Soon, traveling salesmen were hawking cheap goods to people on the lower rungs of the social strata. All of those unnecessary baubles became “conduits through which Americans could envision better lives, ” Woloson writes. Items easily discarded and replaced also lowered the stakes of ownership—people no This story is from Kinfolk Issue Forty-One Buy Now Related Stories Arts & Culture Issue 50 Close Knit Meet the weavers keeping traditional Egyptian tapestry-making alive. Arts & Culture Issue 50 The Old Gays Inside a Californian TikTok “content house” of a very different stripe. Arts & Culture Issue 50 New Roots The Palestinian agriculture collective sowing seeds of community. Arts & Culture Issue 50 Angela Trimbur “I’m talking to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority…. I want to do a rat king ballet in the subway.” Arts & Culture Issue 50 Peace & Quiet In the UK, a centuries-old Quaker meeting house encourages quiet reflection. Arts & Culture Issue 50 Free Wheelers On the road with London’s Velociposse Cycling Club.