Since World War II, the United States has successfully exported a commodified aesthetic of comfort, fun, and affluence to most parts of the world, firmly cementing its cultural hegemony well into the 21st century. It’s easy to forget that, until the late 1930s, the image of the American experience was a more modest and messy one, far from a consumer-friendly suburban lifestyle. The young national identity was shaped by settler colonialism and immigration, the Civil War, the Industrial Revolution, slavery, segregation, and the Great Depression, periods throughout which Americans produced a complexity of handmade and industrial objects. Many examples are held at the Smithsonian’s Cooper Hewitt, the country’s only nationally funded design museum. Editor and curator Camille Okhio chose 15 objects from the institution’s vast collection that exemplify the beauty and the violence of everyday American life — and death.