The Week in Early American History

TWEAHHappy 2015 to our Junto readers! In our last edition of The Week in Early American History, we learned how to make George Washington’s eggnog (fess up – how many of you tried it?). And, speaking of holiday “cheer,” have you ever wondered what Washington has in common with Lady Gaga? Both are apparently fans of whiskey! Washington had his own distillery, which was not so unusual for a man of his station. In the eighteenth century, whiskey was a “man’s drink,” but much has changed since the early republic.

In other founding father/Early Republic news, S, Prestley Blake, one of the founders of the Friendly’s restaurant chains, is a great admirer of Thomas Jefferson. Blake celebrated his 100th birthday by building a $7.5 million replica of Monticello in Somers, Connecticut. The property is currently for sale for $6.5 million. We are now accepting donations for the new Junto headquarters . . . kidding . . . mostly . . ..  Also, John Quincy Adams was unsurprisingly not a fan of kissing games, and the time capsule from The Old State House will finally be opened this coming Tuesday, Jan. 6th.

Early January also marks the annual meeting of the American Historical Association–this year in New York City. My Junto colleague Joseph Adelman brought us a preview of early American history at AHA, but, as always, the conference has included some panels on professional concerns. Juntoists participated in some of those panels, with Sara Georgini sitting on a panel about on how the blogosphere has changed the historian’s craft. (Prime example: two bloggers modernized some 18th-century recipes for today’s foodies.) Also, Michael Hattem was part of a panel on dissertation embargoes (thanks to this post and article on the topic) that grew out of the reaction to the AHA’s controversial statement from last year. Other professional concerns from the twitterverse included several pieces in the ongoing discussion about the adjunctification of higher ed.

Now on to public history. Perhaps fittingly, given that the AHA is in New York City this year, the New York Times recently featured an article that described how a ferry made Brooklyn a suburb. The Nassau was a twin-hulled boat, which, by 1814, was a regularly scheduled commuter ferry between Brooklyn and Manhattan. (The Brooklyn Bridge was not completed until 1883.) Under the handle @afamhistfail, a docent who leads tours of an unnamed plantation, tweeted some of the (jaw dropping) things that tourists have said. Meanwhile, in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, the historic Hancock Shaker Village has struggled financially.  New Year’s resolution: Support those local history museums!

And finally, the start of a new year is often a time of reflection. The American Antiquarian Society released a list of 2014 publications by its recent fellows. Eran Zelnik published the third installment of his 4-part series on the uses and abuses of intellectual history on the Society for United States Intellectual History’s blog. (Parts 1 and 2, here.) Over on the African American Intellectual History Society blog, Emily Owens discussed the roots of slave codes and the legacy of “———-ing while black,” reminding her readers that it’s not a new phenomenon. (The AAIHS celebrates their first birthday this month – congratulations!) And finally, on the History News Network, David Carr asked, “Are We More Like the Roman Empire than We Care to Admit?” One can’t help but remember Edward Gibbon’s 1782 tome, The Decline and Fall of Rome.


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