I came across a fascinating book while browsing in the USC Bookstore this afternoon: SERVICE AND STYLE: HOW THE AMERICAN DEPARTMENT STORE FASHIONED THE MIDDLE CLASS by Jan Whitaker. The book covers the history of the American department store and is filled with both color and black and white photos of department stores, department store advertising, and more.
It was published a few months ago, in August 2006. It was reviewed in The Washington Monthly. A bit more information can be found in the listing at Powell's Books.
The author herself had a column on this topic last fall in The Boston Globe.
This is just the kind of "slice of American popular history" I find interesting. The book has gone on my "future reading" list.