The Mark Twain House and Museum has just launched a new program called “It Happened in Your Town.” They are inviting Connecticut teachers, students, and historical societies to provide research on their local communities in the year 1874. The museum invites SHGAPE members to put this research in a broader context for the public through a series of short essays.
Last Monday, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City returned to its “First Monday at May” tradition, or as it is commonly known: the Met Gala. Drawing media attention and fashionistas from around the world, the Gala is the annual fundraising event for the museum’s Costume Institute. What began as a modest dinner held outside of the museum in 1948, has turned in recent years into a mega publicity event that brings to the museum millions of dollars in donations.
As scholars who have long been immersed in this pivotal period, we were excited to learn of the lavishly produced HBO series The Gilded Age. With the exception of the fabulously successful feature film Titanic in 1997, ours is a historical period that is often overlooked in popular culture. So we were delighted when The Gilded Age generated advance reviews in mainstream publications including the New York Times and Washington Post. We hoped it would bring attention to the period we find so important in our history, especially for the light it can shed on present day problems and issues—both how they were created and how they might be remedied.
There are dozens of podcasts about the American presidency, as many about wars and military history, and plenty more generic U.S. history shows. Early Republic buffs are spoiled for choice with Ben Franklin’s World and The Junto Cast to name a couple. Antebellum historians have The Age of Jackson and The History of American Slavery. The Civil War, Cold War, and contemporary history have their favorites, too. So, where is the podcast on the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries?
Although it was many years ago, I still vividly remember microhistory week in my graduate research and methods course. When employing microhistory, the historian uses a small event or story to illuminate much larger contexts and historical trends. And, as Duane Corpis suggests, one of microhistory’s great strengths is the ability to present “especially peculiar moments in the past” along with “strange and bizarre events.” I think I was particularly taken with this description because I myself was holding onto an odd tale that I wanted to tell one day, one that I had discovered years earlier in the obituary of my great-great-grandfather, a whaling captain.
Emancipation introduced massive demographic shifts within the U.S. South, and with them came cultural, social, and political changes. These trends and transformations were driven by the hundreds of thousands of freedpeople who left their places of enslavement and their old neighborhoods to strike out for new locations where, they believed, they could better enact their visions of freedom…Yet behind these demographic facts lurk a messier and more elusive question for the study of freedpeople’s communities and political strategies: the information networks and geographical knowledge that supported and sustained one of the most significant internal migration movements in U.S. history.
With centennials in 2019 and 2020 approaching, scholars are working to present the suffrage movement and its legacy in new ways. To date, most studies focus on national or state leaders who directed major organizations or accomplished well-known achievements. They often overlook local activism and less publicized campaigns that broadened the suffrage movement’s support base among ordinary Americans in cities and towns, particularly activism to interest the working class, a growing segment of the population whose endorsement was important to making the campaign less marginal and more mainstream.
Jeffrey Ostler once stated that the contentious field of Populist studies was, “one of the bloodiest episodes in American historiography.” The historiographical debate over Populism is, to say the least, long and nuanced. Historians as different as Richard Hofstadter, Walter Nugent, Lawrence Goodwyn, Elizabeth Sanders, Michael Kazin, John Judis, Jan-Werner Muller, Charles Postel, and Omar H. Ali (to name just a few) have all found different ways to interpret Populist movement of the nineteenth century and populism more generally. Yet what is particularly fascinating about the subject of Populism is that despite this considerable amount of scholarship, historians disagree over the most basic definitions and characterizations of Populism.
My recent scholarship explores civil rights, African American activism and racial justice in the western states and territories. My first book, Black San Francisco: The Struggle for Racial Justice in the West, 1900-54, based largely on my doctoral dissertation, explored many of these questions in a far western city with a global reputation for tolerance and civility toward racial minorities. I argued, among other things, that while western cities like San Francisco, and you could include Oakland, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Portland, were clearly more progressive than cities in the South, the progressive mystique that they portrayed was largely a facade. My work also revealed the presence of an active civil rights movement in the western states dating from the mid-nineteenth century and continuing well into the new century.
My research is on the Princeton sociologist Walter Augustus Wyckoff. Readers may recall that Wycoff gained a fair amount of fame at the turn of the 20th century through the publication of his two-volume investigation, The Workers: The East and The Workers: The West (1897, 1898). My dissertation traces the connections between Wyckoff’s work and that of authors like Stephen Crane, Jack London, and Upton Sinclair. It is also the first biography of Wyckoff. I show that Wyckoff’s motivation to investigate the working class came from the influence of his “Third-Culture Kid” (TCK) upbringing, as the son of missionaries in India.
At every turn, the traveling circus in the United States was an exercise in hyperbole and spectacle; the Barnum & Bailey circus did, after all, refer to itself as the “Greatest Show on Earth!” To Americans, spectacle and power were nearly synonymous, and the circus was an incomparable experience and a force to be reckoned with. The circus, through methods sometimes as simple as using opera chairs, came to serve as a symbol of the United States’ industrial prowess and ever-growing significance on the world stage.
When the Payette family moved to northern New York some time around 1850, the mass migration of French Canadians to the United States was in its infancy. This movement of people from the St. Lawrence River valley continued for the better part of a century, with brief interruptions in the 1870s and in the early part of the twentieth century. Whereas a high proportion of early migrants settled in the Midwest, the U.S. Northeast became the primary destination for those seeking to steady themselves financially.