Indian Factories and the American Empire of Commerce

Today’s post was written by David A. Nichols, associate professor of history at Indiana State University. It is based on his new book, Engines of Diplomacy: Indian Factories and the Negotiation of American Empire (University of North Carolina Press, 2016).

The American purchase of Louisiana had many consequences, but in the beginning it was mainly an affair of commerce. Thomas Jefferson and his partisans made their deal with Napoleon not to acquire land but to control the Mississippi River, conduit for one-third of the United States’ trade. Commerce also became the means whereby the Jeffersonians, leery of armies and large bureaucracies, planned to realign their new Trans-Mississippi domain’s Native American majority. The Corps of Discovery, one of several parties sent to reconnoiter the new territory, bore additional responsibility for opening peaceful trade with the northern Plains Indians. As Lewis and Clark approached the Continental Divide, another group of federal officers entered the eastern Louisiana Territory to turn vague promises of American trade into reality. These were the employees of the United States’ Indian factory system.

The factories already comprised a growing network of trading posts in the Trans-Appalachian West, selling manufactured goods at cost and buying Indians’ peltries and other wares at market prices. The public traders, or factors, who ran these posts sought to lure Native Americans away from foreign traders and make them economic clients of the United States. Economic clientage would then lead to political alliance. “Commercial connections,” as George Washington argued in 1784, “of all others are the most difficult to dissolve.” Washington would go on to champion a federal trading-house system, modeled on the “truck houses” operated by several British colonies, as a guarantor of peace after the Northwest Indian War (1790-94). His Jeffersonian successors built a dozen more factories, believing that trade and commercial debt would make Indians both friendly to the United States and pliant enough to cede their lands.

By 1802 federal officials, or at least some of them, had begun learning that Native Americans were not mere instruments of someone else’s policy. They were instead a diverse set of peoples with their own economic and social histories. The experiences of factors and their Native American counterparts in the Mississippi Valley drove this point home.

Many Indians living in the Louisiana Territory already had multiple private trading partners, like Bright & Morgan of Arkansas Post and Saint Louis’s Chouteau family. The Osages and Sauks and their neighbors used the federal factories as alternate business places, but still sold most of their peltry to their more familiar private partners. When Native Americans did come to the factories to trade, the exchange did not always go smoothly. Sometimes Indians wanted to sell things that factors refused to buy: in the late 1810s Comanches offered to sell horses (the economic base of their “empire”) to the trading house at Sulphur Fork, but the factor demurred, suspecting that his guests offered stolen property. More often, Indian hunters used the federal trading houses to dump wares that private traders wouldn’t buy, but the more conciliatory factors would. Deerskins were the most noteworthy example: in the early nineteenth century falling European demand for deer leather glutted the market with deerskins, but the Natchitoches factory at still bought 130,000 pounds of them between 1806 and 1811.

Native Americans also sold the factors goods for which there was only a local market: meat, wild rice, and baskets, for example. In this case they were not dumping a commodity but taking part in what James Carson calls a “hospitality economy,” offering food and housewares not only as exchange items but to maintain amicable relationships with the factors. The hospitality exchange was not unilateral: Indian visitors to the factories expected factors to offer them food, lodging, and gifts. One factor, George Sibley of Fort Osage, observed that he “frequently” prepared dinner for “an Osage chief or war captain” and his companions and daughters (“princesses”). Through such pleasantries Native Americans “naturalized” the federal trading houses and turned the factors into fictive kinsmen.

Indians did not hold a monopoly on agency. The factors and their superiors in the War Department made decisions that shaped the western factories’ relationship with their Native American trading partners. They closed trading houses at inconvenient locations, or which had too many private competitors, like Bellefontaine near Saint Louis. Bellefontaine’s two successor posts, Fort Osage in western Missouri and Fort Madison in modern Iowa, enjoyed a far higher volume of business: Sauks and Mesquakies annually sold the latter factory 35,000 pounds of lead, while Fort Osage’s factor George Sibley shipped about 60,000 deerskins and smaller furs over a five-year period. Factors turned both of these newer trading houses into diplomatic assets for their government. Sibley endeavored to connect the Osages, Kansas, and United States in what Andrew Isenberg described as a regional trading alliance, while Fort Madison became valuable enough to the Sauks and Mesquakies that during the War of 1812 federal officials encouraged a faction from these nations to move to central Missouri (away from British influence) by transferring their factory there. After 1815, the War Department continued to sustain advantageous alliances through its trading houses, using the new Spadre Bluffs factory to arm emigrant Cherokees whom the United States supported in their internecine war against the Osages.

In the aggregate, the Indian factories served as points of interethnic contact, reifying the borderland, the shadowy zone of contested influence, that the United States had projected across the Mississippi River. They also became places of dialogue between federal policies and Native American agendas, with the latter frequently superseding the former. Ultimately, though, the trading houses strengthened American influence and power by driving foreign competitors out of business and persuading Native Americans to become, if not clients of the United States, at least their allies. After the War of 1812 a growing white settler population would use that power to curtail Indians’ independence, offering Native Americans cash and goods not for their peltries but their lands, and threatening them with violent displacement if they refused. That those settlers no longer believed they needed to build their power through trade, that they felt the factories had served their purpose, became evident in 1822, when one of their political leaders, Thomas Benton of Missouri, led a successful campaign in Congress to shutter the trading houses. The Louisiana Purchase, or at least the eastern part of it, was changing from an empire of commerce into one of white settlement and Indian exclusion.

 

Sources:

James Taylor Carson, Searching for the Bright Path: The Mississippi Choctaws from Prehistory to Removal (Lincoln, 1999).

Kathleen DuVal, The Native Ground: Indians and Colonists in the Heart of the Continent (Philadelphia, 2006).

Pekka Hämäläinen, The Comanche Empire (New Haven, 2008).

Eric Hinderaker, Elusive Empires: Constructing Colonialism in the Ohio Valley (Baltimore, 1997).

Andrew Isenberg, “The Market Revolution in the Borderlands: George Champlin Sibley in Missouri and New Mexico, 1808-1826,” Journal of the Early Republic 21 (Fall 2001): 445-465.

Andrew Cayton Memorial and NHC Fund

Dear Colleagues,

We’re writing to encourage you to consider making a gift to the National Humanities Center in honor of our friend and colleague Drew Cayton.  As we shared our grief at Drew’s passing in the fall, we hoped for some way to commemorate his dedication to scholarship and teaching.

On the SHEAR blog, friends and fellow past-SHEAR presidents have remembered Drew: http://www.shear.org/category/drew-cayton/, and there will be a session at the SHEAR conference in New Haven dedicated to Drew. On the Omohundro Institute’s website a roundtable at the last American Historical Association meeting has been curated and posted: http://oieahctest.wm.edu/ucs/memorium_cayton.html

In a panel this Friday, July 22, at SHEAR’s annual meeting, Drew will be remembered as a Teacher, Mentor, Colleague, Author, Friend, and Citizen of SHEAR.

On the Omohundro Institute site you’ll also see a place for making a contribution to the NHC’s Andrew W. Cayton Memorial Fund: http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/the-andrew-cayton-memorial-fund/. This fund will support both scholars at the NHC and their webinars for high school teachers across the country.  We can think of no better way to remember Drew than to help further the work he cared about so passionately.

With all best wishes,

Jan Lewis, Dan Richter, and Karin Wulf

SHEAR 2016: Final Conference Preparations

Less than a week until SHEAR’s 38th annual meeting opens in New Haven and I have a few updates to share.

  • The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library is undergoing renovations and you must page your materials in advance so that they can be brought to Sterling Library.  Learn more at http://beineckelibraryrenovation.yale.edu
  • The Papers of Benjamin Franklin editorial offices, located on the second floor of Sterling Memorial Library, holds the world’s finest collection of materials relating to Franklin’s life and times (books, pamphlets, engravings, &c.) — and extends a warm invitation to SHEARites.  They are offering a tour of the offices on Thursday, July 21st at 3:00 p.m. Those interested can congregate at the security gate in front of the stack entrance of Sterling Library.  On Friday, July 22nd, the offices are open to the public from 9:00 to 5:00; visitors should call the editors at (203) 432-1809 to make arrangements to be brought through the security gate and upstairs to the Franklin Collection.
  • For Friday’s off-site reception:  a free shuttle van will make a continuous loop between the Omni hotel and St. Thomas More Chapel for those who wish to ride between the venues.
  • The conference public spaces will have complimentary WiFi.  However, if you are staying in the conference hotel, your guest room does not.  Join their SelectGuest (the Omni’s loyalty program) to receive free WiFi in your hotel room.

I send you traveling mercies,

Robyn

Interview with Lorri Glover

Dailyhistory.org recently interviewed SHEAR member Lorri Glover about her new book, The Fate of the Revolution: Virginians Debate the Constitution, part of Johns Hopkins University Press’ Witness to History book series. Glover’s book “harnesses the uncertainty and excitement of the Constitutional debates to show readers the clear departure the Constitution marked, the powerful reasons people had to view it warily, and the persuasive claims that Madison and his allies finally made with success.”

Harriet Tubman and Andrew Jackson: A Match Made in the U.S. Treasury Department

Note: This essay, with its cross-border themes, is being jointly posted by The Republic and Borealia: A Group Blog on Early Canadian History. Our thanks to Denis McKim for coordinating this joint post.Tubman on 20

The net has been abuzz with news of Treasury Secretary Jack Lew’s announcement that Harriet Tubman will be placed on the front of the $20 bill and Andrew Jackson demoted to the back.  The first African American to ever appear on an American bill, Tubman was a slave-turned-Underground Railroad operative, then an agent for the Union Army during the Civil War.  Jackson was the first U.S. President to be born of common people, and he achieved legendary status as the Hero of New Orleans in the War of 1812.  He was also an unrepentant slave holder and the architect of Indian removal.

Surely, the change to the $20 bill reflects some sort of shift in America’s cultural outlook.  It has been sixty years since the Civil Rights Movement. Black Lives Matter is, perhaps, the next evolution of what African Americans fought for in the 1950s and ’60s.  Tubman was a remarkable woman who fought against and overcame a system of bondage that nearly tore the nation in two.  Yet she could not overcome the inherent racism that allowed that system to flourish and has remained to this very day.  Tubman left the United States and lived in British Canada from 1851 to 1858, disgusted with the racial failings of America.  Such contradictions raise the question of why Secretary Lew is placing her on the $20.

Jackson is equally puzzling.  He actually hated paper money and surely rolled over in his grave when the Treasury Department placed him on the bill in 1928.  Yet America at the time needed a guiding force that reflected democracy and the people.  Jackson certainly fit the bill (pun intended).  Few at the time were troubled about the rights of the enslaved or of Native Americans; Civil Rights was still decades away.

In twenty-first-century America, Tubman is a much more appealing figure than Jackson.  Both, however, have their pluses and minuses when it comes to being a symbol for America important enough to place on the iconic $20 bill.  This essay, collaborated on by a Tubman scholar and a Jackson scholar, seeks to explore some of these contradictions and the legacies of two Americans who were so different, yet are now joined and will soon be in the pockets of so many.

Tubman on the Front

The $20 bill is an unlikely place for Tubman, an American-Canadian transnational, militant direct-action abolitionist, who struggled with finances for the majority of her life. A devoted Christian, moreover, “money is the root of all evil” was quite frankly her perspective on cash. Chaining a liberator to a capitalist tool that oppresses and exploits a wealth of people is paradoxical. Deeming Tubman, as many assert, an “American Hero” is unbefitting as well and it is outright dismissive of British Canada. For some seven years, Tubman fled the United States, with others, for freedom. Settling in the borderland town of St. Catharines, Canada West, she was able to negotiate nations in the same manner as she navigated the American South and North. Tubman explained: “I wouldn’t trust Uncle Sam with my people no longer…I brought ‘em clear off to Canada.”[1] To Tubman and other freedom seekers, Canada was “the land of the free, and the home of the brave.” When Tubman decided to live in the “Sweet land of liberty” again, she settled in Auburn, New York, an ideal location on the edges of the “Burnt Over District.” While the American-Canadian border hardly played a daily role in Central New York, a hint of its presence always loomed and allowed reasonable access to Canada, in case of emergency. The mobile-minded Tubman utilized these means to reenter Canada on occasions, including in wake of the 1859 John Brown insurrection.[2]

This, of course, is not the story the federal government’s $20. They want to project a rigid nationalist message that Tubman was a Union Civil War spy and nurse, not that she was an unpaid veteran who had to petition repeatedly for compensation. In 1899, nearly eighty years old, she received $12 per month for her service as a nurse, and $8 as a widow’s pension for her deceased Union husband Nelson Davis, ironically totaling $20.[3] Neither is the new bill’s intent to divulge that Tubman was conned out of money by a fraud artist, worked as a domestic servant for the elite, borrowed funds from friends, and solicited donations or told Underground Railroad tales for her ever-present need for capital. Perhaps this is part of Tubman’s attraction; like America and the greater portion of its citizenry, she was a debtor. Tubman’s money issues were not all self-inflicted or because she was fiscally frivolous, but it is the systemic problem with capitalism. Harriet Tubman cared for the lowly, fed the sick, clothed the naked, and even built the Tubman Home for the Aged in Auburn. She looked after others, though her assets were meager. Money, the very thing that taunted and pained Tubman throughout her life, is now going to be tied to her very existence by the U.S. Treasury. Should this be rejoiced, ridiculed, or utterly rejected? In addition, while a score of African Americans are cheerful about Tubman on the $20, how does her gender factor in as she stands alone among men on dollars?

Jackson on the Back

AJ on 20Andrew Jackson has always been controversial and perhaps this is the reason for his demotion to the back of the $20 bill. In one sense, it is absurd that Jackson is on paper money anyway. He hated a currency that he considered unstable, easily manipulated, and often worthless.  In the early nineteenth century there was no “American” currency.  That is, none printed by the government and recognized as the accepted medium of exchange. To be clear, Jackson did not hate all banks, as some today wrongly argue.  He hated the monopoly and power of the Bank of the United States and the unstable nature of paper money. Why Jackson was initially placed on the $20 bill is something of a mystery.  There was no discussion of the legislation when it was passed, but many historians surmise that coming at the tail end of the Progressive Era, when the government had been battling monopoly, trusts, and corruption, Jackson made a perfect candidate.  He was the original defender of the people against big business. He famously explained: “The bank…is trying to kill me, but I will kill it.” Jackson’s bank veto was presented as a monumental defense of the people and denunciation of monopoly.

The sea change for Jackson on the $20 bill has actually been waged for years, one of the main rationales being he was a genocidal maniac who destroyed Native American cultures. Look at virtually any website or commentary on the currency issue, and you will see that this is a core complaint. Jackson also was a slaveholder.  He was unrepentant, owned upwards of 150 human beings, and defended the South’s right to maintain an abhorrent institution. Certainly, there is no excuse in today’s time for the racial bigotry of Jackson. Yet to judge him with a 21st century moral absolutism is off the mark. And if Americans decide to deface Jackson for actions against Natives and Blacks, they might as well do the same for most of the Founding Fathers. Take down the Washington Monument, bulldoze Jefferson’s Monticello, remove Madison from all mention when it comes to creation of the Constitution.  Repositioning Jackson to the back of the bill is telling and is better than entire removal. It reflects the changing social mores of our society, but not a complete erasure of our past.  This is as it should be.  Americans should not erase the people and history that they do not like. They can and should judge history and learn from it, but not seek to totally erase it. Perhaps the biggest question is why Tubman is being placed on the front.  She represents the Civil War Era.  The image most fitting to pair with Jackson is a Native American, the people to which he did so much harm.[4]

Conclusion

Since they are destined to be together on the $20 bill, it is best that Tubman and Jackson are back-to-back.  They clearly did not see eye-to-eye on a number of issues, including their outlook on the British. While Jackson hated the British and fought the Redcoats in the American Revolution and during the War of 1812, at New Orleans, Tubman respected the British for abolishing slavery and fashioning Canada for fugitives. The sentiments each held for the British were lasting. Jackson’s elder brother Hugh died in battle during the American Revolution and when the teenage Andrew was held captive and refused to clean the boots of a British officer, the Redcoat swung his sword, cutting Jackson on the head and hand, leaving both physical and psychological scars. Jackson despised the English even in his presidency. Tubman also experienced a head wound as a youngster, but at the hands of an American slaveholder seeking to enlist her help in capturing human property. Tubman resisted, and the overseer threw a weight that struck her in the skull, precipitating epileptic seizures and a lifelong illness. However, she had a mind to employ Canada for safety and, later, after Queen Victoria read Tubman’s narrative and was “pleased with it,” she mailed her a silver medal, which memorialized Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897.[5] At Harriet Tubman’s 1913 funeral, the medal from the Queen was placed in her coffin, and an American flag was draped on her casket, suggesting dual national identities.

Yet the transnationalism of Tubman is not a convenient characteristic and is usually avoided when attempting to tell a nationalist American story. That is certainly what the $20 bill is attempting to do. Jackson’s story is equally difficult in the twenty-first century.  His disposition towards Natives, Blacks, and even the British, captures an American spirit that most today do not want to acknowledge. Will keeping Jackson on the $20 and including Tubman force people to remember the past and learn from nineteenth-century injustices? To say the very least, the Tubman-Jackson mismatch is a strange coupling. It is certainly safe to say that it is not “a match made in heaven,” but rather in the U.S. Treasury.

Matthew Warshauer is professor of History at Central Connecticut State University and the author of two books on Jackson: Andrew Jackson and the Politics of Martial Law and Andrew Jackson in Context.

dann j. Broyld is professor of Public History at Central Connecticut State University who has worked as a consultant for the forthcoming Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Cambridge, Maryland, to be opened in March 2017. He is currently working on a manuscript with the University of Toronto Press.

[1] Sarah H. Bradford, Harriet Tubman, the Moses of Her People (Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc.), 22. Reprinted from 1886.

[2] See dann j. Broyld. “Harriet Tubman: Transnationalism and the Land of a Queen in the Late Antebellum,” The Meridians: Feminism, Race, and Transnationalism special issue: “Harriet Tubman: A Legacy of Resistance.” Vol. 12, No. 2, (November 2014) pg. 78-98.

[3] Kate Clifford Larson, Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of An American Hero (New York, NY: Ballantine Books, 2004), 225-226, 252, 279.

[4] Matthew Warshauer, Andrew Jackson in Context (New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2009).

[5] Beverly Lowry, Harriet Tubman: Imagining a Life (New York, NY: Anchor Books, 2007), 373.

Interview with Cassandra Good

headshotDr. Cassandra Good is assistant professor of history, as well as associate editor of the Papers of James Monroe, at the University of Mary Washington. Her first monograph, Founding Friendships: Friendships Between Men and Women in America’s Founding Era, 1780-1830 (Oxford University Press, 2015), won the 2016 Organization of American Historians Mary Jurich Nickliss Prize in U.S. Women’s and/or Gender History. She also served as assistant editor for The Papers of James Monroe, Volume 5: 1803-1811, ed. Daniel Preston (ABC-Clio: September 2014).

What was the genesis of Founding Friendships?

I came to this project from sources that came up in my undergraduate thesis research over a decade ago.  I was writing about etiquette and politics in early Washington, DC, and read a letter Margaret Bayard Smith wrote about her relationship with Thomas Jefferson.  I was surprised to find that she shared a close, loving friendship with a man–and started to realize that I had seen a number of such friendships in my sources.  The questions this raised and they way they intersected with contemporary debates about male/female friendships stayed with me, and I knew when I started graduate school that this would be my dissertation topic.

When did you first attend SHEAR? Did your SHEAR experience help you with Founding Friendships?

I attended SHEAR for the first time in 2009, when it was in Springfield, Illinois.  I presented a paper on friendships between men and women in the political elite, which was my first year seminar paper in graduate school.  I presented another portion of the project in 2012 in Baltimore.  Through both of these panels I met other scholars working on similar projects.  I have met so many great people at SHEAR’s annual conferences over the years that helped me develop the arguments in the book as well as feel part of a larger scholarly community.

My Jacksonian American students read your book in the spring semester and loved it. Besides winning their admiration (and the Nickliss Prize, of course!), what kind of positive responses have you received about Founding Friendships?

It’s been really fun to hear from non-historians after I give a book talk or after they’ve read the book.  Many people want to share stories of their own friendships with the opposite sex and the challenges they’ve faced in those relationships.  My favorite response, though, came from a colleague who told me that his student read my book and she said that it made her want to be friends with me!  I hope all of this means I succeeded in my goal of making history and gender theory accessible and easy to relate to.

In addition to being the author of an award-winning book, you are also an associate editor at the Papers of James Monroe. How did you get involved in documentary editing?

I was actually doing documentary editing before I realized what that was!  During an internship at the local historical society in high school, I was asked to transcribe a woman’s 19th century diaries.  I became fascinated by her and ended up doing an exhibit comparing her diaries with her husband’s (both kept around a dozen volumes) for my high school senior project.  I also published an article many years ago with transcriptions from Margaret Bayard Smith’s commonplace books.  It wasn’t until I got to the Monroe Papers, though, that I was formally trained in documentary editing.  There’s so much more work that goes into producing the edited volumes that historians all rely on for our research than I had ever realized.

What is the focus of your next book? 

My next project is on George Washington’s descendants and their political role in the new nation.  It will be a family biography using manuscripts, houses, and material objects to examine how the nieces, nephews, and step-grandchildren he helped raise constructed their public image.  I wrote about several of these individuals in Founding Friendships and started to wonder what happened to the family as a whole, particularly given republican fears of power descending through families.  The approach of studying relationships and politics will be the same as in my earlier work, but this will be in the form of a narrative and go further into the 19th century.

Read more about Dr. Good and her research at her website. She also has written extensively for the Smithsonian.

SHEAR 2016 Conference App Information

Cc app icon ba83e967db957a253ebbbdaafbffd791118128043a6f81afa8edb17f444504a9Hello SHEARites! The 2016 annual meeting for the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic is only two months away. We are no longer distributing a printed program in advance of the meeting. Instead, we’ve built a mobile app for SHEAR’s annual meeting that has everything you need to know for the conference, including the full program, locations, maps, travel information, links to registration, hotel, sponsors, and exhibitors, and much more. Using the app or the online version of the program, you’ll be able to create your own schedules, received texted program updates, tap into Twitter and Facebook threads, communicate with participants and attendees, take notes, and organize your thoughts.

If you haven’t yet preregistered for the conference, you can still access the online program via the app and/or the mobile version of the program. Just follow these steps:

Step 1: Download the App!
The first thing you’ll need to do is download the app on the device you’re bringing to the event. The app only works on iOS or Android devices. If you use a Blackberry or you want to use your computer and not a smart phone, skip Step 1 and go straight to Step 6 to use the mobile version of the app.

Step 2: Log in
Tap the hamburger icon in the upper-left corner to open the side nav, then Log In.

Step 3: Enter your info
You’ll be prompted to enter your first and last name. Tap Next. Enter an e:mail address, then tap Next again.

Step 4: Verify your account
A verification email will be sent to your inbox. Open it and tap Verify Account. You’ll see your confirmation code has already been carried over. Just tap Finish.

Step 6: Access the mobile version and follow the prompts

Contact me at robyn.davis@millersville.edu or 405/409-5909 if you have any questions.

See you in New Haven!

Robyn Lily Davis, Ph.D.
National Conference Coordinator
Society for Historians of the Early American Republic

Reflections on SHEAR and History

We recently asked three long-time SHEAR members and recipients of the organization’s Distinguished Service Award to reflect on their careers and their connection to SHEAR. Connie Schulz, Craig Friend, and Jim Bradford were gracious enough to give their thoughts. Our thanks go to the following University of Oklahoma students, who are interning with JER editor Cathy Kelly: Terrence Robertson, Franklin Otis, and Sarah Miles.

Connie Schulz is Distinguished Professor Emerita and Project Director/Senior Editor at the Papers of the Revolutionary Era Pinckney Statesmen at the University of South Carolina.

1. What has surprised you about how research, teaching, or study of history has changed over the years?

While I have been using some form of digital technology since 1980 when I had an NHPRC fellowship at the Papers of the First Federal Congress (they had just purchased a Wang word processor), I am amazed at how much the digital tools that have developed in the last 15 years have affected all areas of historians’ work. Who would have imagined when I was in graduate school in the 1960s that as a researcher, you could sit at your desk at home and access every journal article in your field through JSTOR, or have free access through “Founders Online” to several hundred volumes of the edited papers of the founding era? The downside, I think, is that the ability that technology gives us to go right to the keyword in a document or the indexed article is that we have lost the serendipitous discovery of something we hadn’t thought to look for that happens when you read through an edited volume of documents, or browse through the hard copy of bound journals – or indeed see on the shelf next to the journals a book you had forgotten you had read a review about and turns out it has exactly what you need!.

2. How has SHEAR proven valuable to your professional career?

I spent the first dozen years after I received my PhD as an “underemployed historian,” teaching part-time at night or as an adjunct at local universities in the Washington DC area while being the “able to stay home” parent raising 3 young children, so SHEAR was my link to those in the profession who shared my intellectual interests. I volunteered to organize the “recent articles” section of SHEAR’s small newsletter and made many friends in the organization then through our pre-e-mail correspondence. (I even briefly edited the newsletter before SHEAR started the JER.) SHEAR was also a key professional organization for my development as a young historian because its members welcomed me even though I was not (nor was my grad school adviser) a recognized “name” in the field. Members like Ed Pessen and Bob McCauley and Joyce Appleby listened to what I had to contribute and engaged with me in discussions important to the organization and to me. I particularly appreciate that in those early years of SHEAR,  because we met on college campuses and stayed in dormitories rather than hotels, I could actually afford to attend the annual conferences. Even as SHEAR has gotten much larger, it has a “small and accepting community” feel to it – an organization where I know many of the “old-timers” but where I can also meet and get to know and learn from the young scholars just entering the field. For more than 40 years it has been my intellectual professional home ground.

3. Do you have any advice for aspiring historians?

Be a good citizen of the profession. Volunteer to help at professional meetings, or to serve on committees. If a fellow student or colleague asks for help in a project, if you can do it, pitch in, share your insights and tell them about sources you have found. We often are tempted to work in silos, but anything I’ve ever studied has benefited by the help others have given me, and the networks I’ve enjoyed as a result are often because I served on a committee with someone, or responded when they asked how I had learned about something.

And be curious! Follow through and Google (or search through some of the wonderful other digital tools we now have) the names of persons or places you haven’t noticed before when you come across them in a document or a monograph. Read books or articles outside your field that pique your interest. You never know where something unexpected will lead you in your research, or in your teaching interests.

4. What was the most recent good book you have read?

I loved All the Light We Cannot See when my book club read it.  And since we are currently beginning work at the Pinckney Statesmen Papers project on the years in which all were diplomats (and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney headed for France in 1796 for what eventually became the XYZ affair), I am delighted with Francois Furstenberg’s new book When the United States Spoke French: Five Refugees Who Shaped a Nation.

From 2004-2015, Craig Friend, CHASS Distinguished Graduate Professor of History and Director of Public History at North Carolina State University, served as SHEAR’s national conference coordinator.

1. What has surprised you most about working with SHEAR? What do you think makes working with other historians in such an organization valuable?

Surprised me most? Well, to be honest, it was how people tried to avoid paying! But let us not linger on that. I don’t think anything else really surprised me. People are people.

As for what makes working with other historians valuable to me, I would say “intellectual engagement.” Like most other historians, I am passionate about history. It rewards me intellectually and even emotionally. During my years as conference coordinator, it was difficult to find time to engage intellectually at panels and even in informal discussions. When I did manage to participate, I was always impressed most with the collegial approach taken by most of my fellow historians. Despite the individualism of our projects, it always seemed as if we are undertaking a common discovery, rethinking, and re-narrating of the past. That sense of a collective undertaking inspires my own work.

2. What project has been the most fun or of the most interest to you during your career? Why?

Although it will never be published, the project that has brought the most enjoyment is my own genealogy, which has been an on-going project for years. On my paternal side, I discovered that my great-grandfather’s Confederate regiment fought against my husband’s grandfather’s US Colored Troops regiment at a skirmish in southwestern Virginia during the Civil War. Beyond the serendipity of such historical moments, however, I think there is a unique lens through which we historians view our ancestors since we are already aware of the historical contexts for their lives. On my maternal side, for example, I discovered that my ninth-great-grandmother Hannah Foster Stone (daughter of Ann Foster, an accused Salem witch) was murdered by her husband Hugh Stone. Such stories often stand out against the mundanity of most ancestors’ lives because of the sensationalism of the event. But as a historian, my first reaction to uncovering these ancestors was sorrow over the domestic abuse that framed Hannah’s married life and led to her eventual death. This is a connection that most people would not consider: they would find her murder sensational in itself as if nothing led to it.

3. What do you see as the role of public history and academic (professional) history in the coming years? How do you imagine the two being linked?

I think that academic history is approaching a crossroads, if it is not yet there: the public and its politicians increasingly cannot see the relevance of the humanities, which does not bode well in a political culture shaped by heightened budgetary concerns.

Recent calls for academics to embrace public history as a panacea, however, are misguided because public history is not solely or even primarily about the delivery of academic history to the public. Most certainly, public history is about making history useful to public audiences, but although good public history interpretation is informed by academic history, it is also circumscribed by traditions of public narrative and the expectations of advisory councils and funding sources.

Instead, I think the solution is that academic historians need to be proactive as public intellectuals. Some historians have taken to social media to relate academic history to hordes of Twitter or Facebook followers, placing contemporary events into historical narratives, and providing reasons for non-historians to appreciate the usefulness of academic history. Other historians have engaged cultural media like television shows—I am thinking of genealogy shows like Finding Your Roots—to do the same. I have started my own blog page to contextualize modern popular culture in historical contexts. But public intellectualism can also take place during a historians’ talk to a high school history class, a meeting of the local DAR, a family reunion (yes, I make powerpoint presentations of my genealogy with a lot of historical contextualization for family reunions), or any audience where we academics can inspire appreciation for our professional work.

4. On what are you currently working?

I am working on three book-length projects–a biography of Lunsford Lane, a slave born in 1803 Raleigh, North Carolina, who purchased his freedom in 1835 and became a black abolitionist; the revision of The New History of Kentucky textbook with Jim Klotter; and a historical novel about upcountry South Carolina in 1828, drawing from the real diary of Cyrus Stuart–and a handful of smaller article-length projects. I find that simultaneously working on multiple (and conceptually different) projects drives my creativity.

Texas A&M University Professor of History Jim Bradford served as JER book review editor for fifteen years (1981-1996) and as SHEAR executive director for seven years (1996-2003).

1. What made you want to pursue history as a career? 

For my first three years as an undergraduate, I was a “pre-law” major with a minor in history. I planned to practice law for a few years before entering politics. Halfway through my freshman year, I was elected treasurer of state association of college organizations of one of the two major parties. During my junior year I worked for a U.S. Senate candidate organizing support among college students until the incumbent senator died, the governor appointed a member of the House of Representatives to fill the vacancy, and the candidate I worked for withdrew from the race. At about the same time, a county officeholder announced his retirement, and I was encouraged to run for the position. After discussing this option, my wife and I decided against a career in politics, and I changed majors to history to pursue a career in academe—a decision we have never regretted. Why history? I had enjoyed the history classes more than any others I’d been taking and had gotten to know and respect two history professors—one as a teacher and the other a scholar in the era of the Revolution.

One of the major attractions of an academic career was the fact that college professors have their own classes to teach and select research topics of their own choice from the beginning of their careers. They do not have to spend several years “paying their dues” by doing menial tasks or understudying a more senior individual.

2. What do you like most about teaching and/or researching history? 

I enjoy teaching at all university levels, especially the opportunity to get to know students and observe their intellectual growth. Teaching survey courses provides opportunities to challenge students’ thinking, to introduce them to the nuances of history, and to broaden their perspective.  Upper division courses allow time to focus on narrower topics and examine a wider variety of viewpoints. Graduate seminars force me to think more deeply about the subject of the week and to watch students mature. Teaching in study abroad programs is particularly rewarding because I get to know most of the students on a more personal level than on campus and to see the impact the study abroad experience has on most of their lives.

Conducting research is equally rewarding. I enjoy traveling to archives; sifting through manuscripts, identifying themes or patterns, and discovering a document that provides a key to answering questions that intrigue me; and discussing my “discoveries” and conclusions with fellow historians. I draw satisfaction from completing a project—be it a chapter or a book.

3. What do you think makes SHEAR stand out as an outstanding organization?

SHEAR was founded in large part to expand opportunities for historians of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries to exchange ideas both at annual conferences in the Journal of the Early Republic. Meetings of other organizations often focused on specific themes, while SHEAR is a forum for people working on any aspect of history in the era. SHEAR panels/sessions are less formal than those at many other meetings; the result being more discussion. Participants—ranging from graduate students to senior scholars—mix informally to discuss their research, share their experiences at archives, and teaching in a congenial atmosphere.

4. Do you have any advice for aspiring historians?

Set goals and adopt a “calendar” that assigns specific times to research/write, prepare for class, and read books and journal articles (both recent publications and important works from the past). Read widely, rather than focus on a narrow topic. This will prepare you to teach survey as well as upper division courses and to place your research in context. Review each lecture given and discussion led shortly after the class meets, noting strengths and weaknesses of each session. Such notes will be of great help when you revise course content and conduct.

Set aside blocks of time during semester and summer breaks to focus on research and writing. Set a goal when writing—so many words or pages each day or week.

Get to know people in your field—SHEAR’s annual conference is a great place to do this—as well as colleagues in your department.

SHEAR 2016 Conference Information

Hello SHEARites! The 2016 annual meeting of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic is less than three months away, and plans are well underway. We are no longer distributing printed programs in advance of the meeting (printed programs will be available to conference attendees upon check-in). Instead, an online version of the program is available on the SHEAR website, and the mobile phone app / digital versions will be available after 15 May.  The digital program will allow you to create your own schedule, receive texted program updates, tap into Twitter and Facebook threads, and take notes and organize thoughts.

For those of you ready to make your plans, please find below the conference highlights as well as information about accommodations, travel, and registration.  If you have unanswered questions, please contact the conference coordinator directly (robyn.davis@millersville.edu).

Accommodations

Conference Hotel:

A block of rooms has been reserved at the Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale, 155 Temple Street, right beside the New Haven green.  (A second block of rooms at the hotel, as well as a block of dorm rooms, have been reserved for graduate students; please see below.)  Rates are $179.00/king or double room, and are valid up to two days before and two days after the SHEAR conference, subject to availability.  The hotel amenities include an on-site spa, state of the art fitness center available to all guests, rooftop restaurant, and wi-fi.  Conference attendees are responsible for making their own room reservations directly with the Omni, either online via this link or by calling the central reservation line at 1-800-843-6664 and mentioning the conference name to ensure you receive the SHEAR room rate.  The deadline for making reservations at a reduced rate is Monday, June 20, 2016.  More information about the hotel and its amenities is available here.

Graduate Student Hotel Block:  Rooms are available for graduate students at the reduced rate of $75.00/person.  All hotel rooms must be shared.  Students interested must contact the conference coordinator directly (robyn.davis@millersville.edu) to be booked for this block.  If you do not have a roommate in mind, the coordinator will keep a list to facilitate rooming options.  The deadline for making reservations is Monday, June 20, 2016. 

Dorm Rooms:  A block of single and double dorm rooms has been reserved for graduate students.  The cost is $92/single $64/person/double.  Dorm rooms are air conditioned, with a shared common space, kitchenette, and bathroom.  Bed linens are included.   Students interested in booking these accommodations must contact the conference coordinator directly (robyn.davis@millersville.edu).  If you do not have a roommate in mind, the coordinator will keep a list to facilitate rooming options. The deadline for making reservations is Monday, June 20, 2016. 

Getting There

Planes:

From Philadelphia, American Airlines flies directly into Tweed New Haven Regional Airport, New Haven (HVN).

Approximately 45 minutes away is Bradley International Airport, Hartford (BDL), served by nine domestic carriers as well as Air Canada.

Two to 2.5 hours south by train, the New York City area airports – John F Kennedy (JFK), La Guardia (LAG), and Newark (EWR) – are served by all major carriers.

Seven major carriers serve T.F. Green airport, 2.5 hours to the east in Providence (PVD).

Ground Transportation Service from Airports:

Red Dot Airport Shuttle, Serves JFK and LaGuardia International Airports. 800-6-RED-DOT or 203-330-1005, , www.ridethedot.com

Connecticut Limousine serves Bradley, JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark International Airports. 800-472-LIMO or 203-783-6800, http://ctlimo.com

GO Airport Shuttle Connecticut Service offers door-to-door service to and from JFK and LaGuardia as well as transportation services to and from White Plains Westchester County Airport, Hartford Bradley Airport, and Newark Liberty Airport. 866-284-3247 or 203-891-1280, http://www.2theairport.com

Trains:

Amtrak at Union Station, 50 Union Avenue, New Haven provides both Northeast Corridor and Vermonter Service with connecting service from Boston South Station and New York Penn Station.

Metro-North Railroad to Union Station, New Haven.  The New Haven line runs from Grand Central Terminal, NYC.

Automobiles:

Approximately 90 minutes north of New York City, the Omni New Haven at Yale is easily reached from Exit 47 on I-95 North and South.  After exiting, proceed onto Route 34. Take Exit 1 on Route 34 and follow to the first traffic light. Turn right at the light (Church Street) and follow to the third traffic light. Turn left at the third traffic light (Chapel Street) and follow to the first traffic light. Turn left (Temple Street) and the hotel is on your left (155 Temple Street). Directional city signage (large yellow signs) is also available to assist from the I-95 exits.

Parking:  Covered self-parking is available for $23/day and includes in in/out privileges.  Valet parking is also available for $28.75/night.

Buses:

Greyhound Bus Lines provides service to Union Station. www.greyhound.com

Peter Pan Bus provides service to Union Station. 800-343-9999 for reservations. www.peterpanbus.com

Conference Highlights

Field trip to Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, Thursday, July 21.  Includes a guided tour led by Ned Blackhawk, Professor of History at Yale University, lunch of Native American cuisine, and a presentation at the Research Center and Archives. Gather at Phelps gate (344 College Street) at 10:15 am, return by 4:00 pm.  Transportation provided by Yale’s Center for Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration.   Tickets are $15.00; registration is required and seating is limited.

President’s Plenary, Thursday, July 21.  SHEAR’s 38th annual conference opens with the President’s Plenary, A Conversation with Lin-Manuel Miranda, Creator of the Musical “Hamilton” with Joanne B. Freeman and Brian Phillips Murphy, Filmed in New York April 2016.  Begins at 6:00 pm in the Omni Hotel at Yale.

Plenary Reception, Thursday, July 21.   In the Omni Hotel at Yale immediately following the Plenary, from 7:30 to 9:00.   Free to registered conference-goers, guest tickets are $15.00.

Friday Evening Reception, July 22.  The Friday reception will be held at St. Thomas More Catholic Chapel & Center at Yale University (268 Park Street), a half-mile walk from the conference hotel, beginning at 6:30 pm.  Pizza &c. provided by Big Green Truck Pizza, run by descendants of the Coffin whaling family.  Free to registered conference-goers, guest tickets are $15.00.

Graduate student Meet-n-Greet, Friday, July 22.  Graduate students from the area will welcome their colleagues at in informal gathering immediately after the Friday reception.  Gryphon’s Pub at GPSCY (204 York Street), beginning at 8:30 pm.

Boydston Women’s Breakfast, Saturday, July 23.  The women of SHEAR will gather for their eighth annual breakfast honoring the life and career of long-time SHEAR member and supporter Jeanne Boydston.  Reservations required.  Tickets are $25.00 for a delicious, hearty, and heartening breakfast.  Scheduled from 8:00 to 9:00 in the Omni, this event is sponsored by the Women’s Faculty Forum at Yale.

Graduate Research Seminars, Saturday, July 23.   Continuing SHEAR’s long tradition of mentoring graduate students, eight senior scholars will host four concurrent research seminars, each with twelve advanced graduate students, devoted to different scholarly topics in the history of the early republic.

Film Screening, Saturday, July 23.  A screening of Ghosts of Amistad:  In the Footsteps of the Rebels, directed by Tony Buba and produced by Marcus Rediker.  Winner of the 2015 John E. O’Conner Prize for best documentary film, awarded by the American Historical Association.  Running time, 56 minutes.  Begins at 4:00 pm with a discussion following the screening led by Markus Rediker, University of Pittsburgh, and Joseph Yannielli, Princeton University.  For more information, go to www.ghostsofamistad.com

Presidential Address, Saturday, July 23.  The 2016 presidential address begins at 6:30 in the Omni Hotel Grand Ballroom.  The President’s Address is free and open to all conference participants but please arrive early to ensure a good seat.  President Jan Ellen Lewis will discuss What Happened to the Three-Fifths Clause:  The Relationship Between Women and Slavers in Constitutional Thought, 1787 – 1868.

Banquet, Saturday, July 23.  The SHEAR awards banquet follows immediately after the presidential address, in the Omni Hotel Grand Ballroom.  Tickets are $65.00 per person and include dinner and wine.  A cash bar will also be available.  Seating is limited and reservations are required.

Registration

Preregistration for the conference opens 1 May 2016 under “Annual Meeting” on the SHEAR homepage, where you will also find the conference schedule.  The phone app and digital program will be available on 15 May 2016.

Preregistration costs, exclusive of internet fees, is $75 for members and $110 for non-members; graduate students, public history professionals, and K-12 school teachers pay $50. All preregistration must be completed online by 6 July 2016.

If you do not preregister, you may register on-site at the conference. The on-site price will include a $10 on-site registration fee and must be paid with cash or a check made out to SHEAR.

On-site conference check-in will be open from 5:30 to 7:30 pm on Thursday, July 21, at the Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale. It will continue on Friday and Saturday from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm, and Sunday from 8:00 am to 10:30 am.

If you have questions about registration or any aspect of the conference itself, please feel free to contact me (robyn.davis@millersville.edu).  I look forward to seeing you New Haven this July, and I send you traveling mercies.

Robyn Lily Davis, conference coordinator

SHEARites’ Perspective on the $20 Bill

Andrew Jackson gets bumped from the $20 bill by Harriet TubmanUnless you spent 24/7 in an archive last week or went into isolation to put the finishing touches on your 2016 SHEAR conference paper, you know that the U.S. Treasury Department announced that it was replacing Andrew Jackson with Harriet Tubman on the front of the $20 bill.

The news was met with mixed reactions. Andrew Jackson VI blamed political correctness for his ancestor’s move to the back of the $20, while former U.S. senator Jim Webb made a similar argument: “This dismissive characterization of one of our great presidents is not occurring in a vacuum. Any white person whose ancestral relations trace to the American South now risks being characterized as having roots based on bigotry and undeserved privilege.” Former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan called the change “affirmative action raised to fanaticism, a celebration of President Obama’s views and values, and a recasting of our currency to make Obama’s constituents happy at the expense of America’s greatest heroes and historic truth.”

A number of SHEAR members weighed in via the media as well. Andy Burstein and Nancy Isenberg supported the change, remarking, “Ultimately, the question we face is how important an honest encounter with history is, versus how needful some will always be to cling to the rule of the patriarchs, to our long-dominant national mythology that consecrates the singularity of founder genius.” Dan Feller, chief editor of The Papers of Andrew Jackson, pointed out that “we don’t honor people on the currency just because they’re important. We do it because we admire them, or because they represent something we value.” Jackson, in other words, no longer represents American ideals. Catherine Clinton outlined the historiographical shift that now recognizes women’s contributions. “Historians and biographers, professors and students, pundits and theorists, and the inevitable legions of naysayers may find these critical moments challenging and often unsettling,” Clinton observed, “but they signal change is afoot.”

The alterations to the $20 bill, as well as to the back of the $5 and $10 bills, will take years to implement, and it seems likely that the debate over the decision will only add to the heated political discourse in which the nation is currently engaged.