Guest Post: Steven Elliott on Public History at the Morristown National Park

Today’s guest post comes from Steven Elliott, a PhD candidate in American Military History at Temple University. Elliott (@EastJerseySteve) is writing a dissertation about the American War of Independence, tentatively titled “The Highlands War: Soldiers, Civilians, and Landscapes in Revolutionary New Jersey.” He has worked for seven years as a historical interpreter at Morristown National Historical Park in Morristown, New Jersey, which is the subject of this guest post.

“The chief aim of interpretation is not instruction, but provocation,” Freeman Tilden, NPS


A depiction of the 1780 winter encampment at Morristown, courtesy of Morristown National Historical Park Collection.

Despite Tilden’s call to action, provocative interpretation at many National Parks remains a challenge, especially for Revolution-era sites. As many Americans learn (or re-learn) their history at public history venues, rather than through books or schooling, the Park Service can play an important role in bringing challenging interpretations to popular audiences. Yet, this can be difficult for Revolutionary-era sites, many of which were created to focus on “heroic narratives” emphasizing military campaigns and political leaders. In this post, I reflect on my personal experiences in attempting to challenge visitors’ assumptions about the Revolution, as a seasonal park guide at Morristown National Historical Park in Morristown, NJ.   Continue reading

State Lotteries in the Early Republic: Or What I Learned from John Oliver originally planned to title this post: “Do I have to thank John Oliver in my dissertation acknowledgments?” In the first season finale of his HBO show, Last Week Tonight, Oliver did a segment on state lotteries (NSFW, crude language), many of which fund education. In the final chapter of my dissertation, I devote a decent chunk of space discussing lotteries to fund schools in the critical period and early republic. If anything makes my research cool to non-academics, it’s that I can relate some of it to this John Oliver bit. Continue reading

Guest Post: Thomas Mundy Peterson and the Fifteenth Amendment

Gordon Bond is an independent historian/researcher. He has written an excellent biography of the colonial New York printer, James Parker, entitled James Parker: A Printer on the Eve of Revolution. He is also the author of Hidden History of South Jersey (2013) and North Jersey Legacies (2012). Currently, he is the Founder, Editor-in-Chief & Director of Garden State Legacies .

While a rejection is nothing any writer wants, sometimes it is what we need. Such was the case with my proposals to publishers for a book about Thomas Mundy Peterson. If you’ve heard of Peterson before, chances are it will be for the Wikipedia reason; in 1870, he became the first African-American to vote under the auspices of the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. He was, of course, more than that moment.

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