[Neil Oatsvall is a History and Social Science Instructor at the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts. His work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Environment and History, Agricultural History, Essays in History, and the edited collection Proving Grounds (University of Washington Press, 2015). His book manuscript, “Atomic Environments: Nuclear Technologies, the Natural World, and Policymaking, 1945-1960,” is under advanced contract with the NEXUS series of the University of Alabama Press. His Twitter handle is @DctrNO. Vaughn Scribner is an Assistant Professor of Early American History at the University of Central Arkansas. His work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Atlantic Studies: Global Currents, the Journal of Early American History, Early American Studies, the Journal of Social History, Urban History, Agricultural History, and the edited volume, Order and Civility in the Early Modern Chesapeake. His Twitter handle is @VScrib86.]
“Shipping the Sugar,” from William Clark, Ten Views in the Island of Antigua, in which are Represented the Process of Sugar Making…From Drawings Made by William Clark, During a Residence of Three Years in the West Indies (London, 1823).
While co-authoring in the sciences or social sciences is the norm (and often expected), many scholars in the humanities tend to practice the Lone Wolf strategy. We huddle in our den, surrounded by piles of books, cultivating the nagging fear that someone might be researching something too similar to us. But maybe it’s time to move on from our seclusion. Maybe, in the words of Alan Garner from The Hangover, it’s time to grow your wolf pack (link might be slightly NSFW, as it’s from a rated R film). Continue reading →
Guest reviewer Shana L. Haines is an Assistant Professor of English at Tidewater Community College in Portsmouth, Virginia. She is currently a Ph.D student in American Studies at William and Mary focusing on Race, Law, and Literature. She has her J.D. from Boston University School of Law and her Masters in British and American Literature from Hunter College.
Erica Armstrong Dunbar, Never Caught: Ona Judge, the Washingtons, and the Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017).
On May 21, 1796, as George and Martha Washington ate their supper in the Philadelphia Executive Mansion, their twenty-two year old house slave, Ona Judge, walked out of the house and into freedom. With the help of the free black community in Philadelphia, Judge made her way to Portsmouth, New Hampshire where the free black community and white supporters provided refuge. One would expect the fatherly and compassionate George Washington of Hamilton or the stately Washington staring out from Mt. Rushmore over the South Dakota landscape would respond by—well, the Washingtons as slaveholders aren’t a topic that has had entered general discussion in the American collective consciousness. He’s the Revolutionary War hero, the elder statesman, the first President of the United States of America. Through Ona Judge’s story of flight and freedom, however, Dunbar presents us with another Washington; a Washington willing to abuse his office and power to hunt another human being. Even more revealing is how Judge’s enslavement and subsequent flight underscores Martha Washington’s unwavering support of slavery and the outrage that fueled her husband’s pursuit of Judge. Continue reading →
Homespun, Thomas Eakins, 1881, Metropolitan Museum of Art
“Please, sisters, back away from the pink.”
So women planning to attend the January 2017 Women’s Marches were urged by the writer of an opinion piece in The Washington Post. “Sorry knitters,” she continued, but making and wearing things like pink pussycat hats “undercuts the message that the march is trying to send….We need to be remembered for our passion and purpose, not our pink pussycat hats.” To back up her point, the author opined that “bra burning” dominated—and thus damaged—popular (mis)conceptions of women’s rights protests in the 1960s. Please, ladies, she exhorted, don’t repeat the mistakes we made in the ‘60s by bringing fashion into politics. Continue reading →
“Echatillons Etouffes d’angleterre a l’usage des Espagnolesen Europe y en Amerique,” (Samples of English stuffs in use by the Spanish in Europe and America), Joseph Downs Collection, Winterthur Museum and Library
I’d like to build on Kimberly Alexander’s question from last week, “How can we write history when we do not have the original object?” There are many ways to examine a textile and its context without the physical object, as she demonstrated so ably. Much of my research on Native peoples, identity construction, and the Atlantic textile trade is based by necessity on a combination of archival resources, rare portraits, and archaeological evidence. Trade records, price lists, descriptions of treaty meetings, and other archival sources offer a wide range of evidence about textiles and how Natives consumed them, even in the absence of the pieces themselves.
Textiles were among the most lucrative and desirable of imported objects in the early Atlantic economy. The French, Dutch, and British all relied heavily on textile production for a substantial portion of their national revenue. Woolens and linens raised, spun, woven and finished in these areas drove international commerce from the 13th century. Native Americans presented an enormous potential market for their products as the domestic market became increasingly saturated. As one scholar has stated, it could have been termed the “cloth trade as easily as the deerskin trade.”Continue reading →
This Colonial Couture post is by guest contributor Joanna M. Gohmann, Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow in 18th– and 19th-Century Art, at The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore.
Benjamin Franklin (Augustin de Saint Aubin after Charles Nicholas Cochin, 1777, private collection)
While acting as the American ambassador to France, Benjamin Franklin wore a fur hat to express his American status. The French enthusiastically accepted Franklin’s use of the topper, seeing it as an embodiment of the ambassador and a symbol of America and the American cause. When he first came to France in 1767, Franklin wore the clothes of a polite, fashionable Frenchman—a fine European suit and powdered wig—as a way to show respect to the French court. When he returned in 1776, he abandoned all the decorum of French dress and instead wore a simple, homespun brown suit, spectacles, and a large fur hat. He cleverly adopted this style as a way to garner attention and appeal to the French for support of the American cause.
It is a remarkable fact that everywhere that Africans were enslaved in the transatlantic world, they resisted in a myriad of ways. While scholars have frequently examined the more spectacular and violent forms of resistance (like slave revolts and rebellions), a far quieter type of resistance was ubiquitous across the Americas, running away. Where printing presses took hold, broadsheets and newspapers soon followed, crammed with all manner of colonial news. Colonial print culture and slavery were arguably fundamentally linked. More specifically, as Marcus Wood has argued, “The significance of advertising for the print culture of America in the first half of the nineteenth century is difficult to overestimate.”Continue reading →
This Colonial Couture post is by guest contributor Ben Marsh, senior lecturer in history at the University of Kent. His current research project is “Unravelling Dreams: Silkworms and the Atlantic World, c. 1500-1840.”
Super Bowl LI
In July 1760, an American correspondent writing to a former neighbor in Surrey, England, graciously thanked them for dispatching a package across to South Carolina, risking the perils of transatlantic post during the Seven Years’ War, to send some cosmopolitan gifts. The gift of a fan was heralded as a “curiosity,” the suit (probably linen, though this descriptor was scored out) was apparently “universally admired,” but the real coup in the package was unquestionably the pompon. Not only was the pompon the prettiest these Americans had apparently ever seen, but the girl it was intended for was delighted “the more so as they are the first of ye fashion that have reach[e]d this part of the world.” Continue reading →