Interview with Donald F. Johnson, 2016 Manuscript Prize Winner

Dr. Don JohnsonAt the 2016 SHEAR conference, Donald F. Johnson, assistant professor of history at North Dakota State University, received the SHEAR Manuscript Prize for his Northwestern University dissertation, “Occupied America: Everyday Experience and the Failure of Imperial Authority in Revolutionary Cities under British Rule, 1775-1783.”

The Republic (TR): How would you summarize the argument of your dissertation?
Donald F. Johnson (DJ): “Occupied America” argues that everyday experiences of military occupation fundamentally changed Americans’ attitudes towards the British Empire in port cities. Occupations began with high hopes on both sides: city residents who remained expected a return to the prosperity of the pre-Revolutionary British Empire, while soldiers and officials expected a pliant population base eager to their allegiance to the king. Although occupation provided opportunities for many civilians to better themselves socially and financially, however, military rule utterly failed to bring about a restoration of imperial authority. Despite its promise, the lived experience of occupation – material hardships brought on by the army, insults to colonists’ perceived position in the Empire, and mismanagement of civil government ultimately alienated many who had once been among the Empire’s most vehement supporters. Thus, when the British army finally evacuated its posts in American port towns, the majority of civilians were happy to see them go.

TR: What led you to choose this topic to research?
DJ:  I was drawn to the topic by watching the failed US occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan in the 200s and early 2010s. Touted as nation-building projects and the use of the military as protectors of civil society, these occupations actually sparked or worsened civil wars as they continued. As a student of Revolutionary America, I wondered whether British military occupation in America may have had the same effect, and, after doing a small exploratory study on occupied Charleston, South Carolina, found a much more interesting story.

TR: Which historians and/or writers most influenced your research?

DJ: My first influence has been my doctoral advisor, Tim Breen, who taught me how to ask hard questions of my sources, how to “read between the lines” of primary documents to find previously unheard voices, and how to think like a historian while remaining relatable to a more general audience. Over the course of my research, my biggest influences have been Franklin Jameson’s conception of the Revolution as a social movement, John Shy’s perceptive insights into the social and political dynamics American Revolutionary War, Gary Nash and Benjamin Carp’s studies of the popular politics of Revolutionary cities, David Waldstreicher and Benjamin Irvin’s work on the connection between social ritual and politics, and Ethan Shagan’s insightful study of popular politics during the English Reformation, although countless other works and minds have also informed my own thinking.

TR: Once your dissertation is published, what do you think your next project will be?

DJ:  I’ve got a few projects in mind, but the one that interests me most is an investigation of the Revolutionary War as a transformative event in its own right, rather than simply a War for Independence that followed an already-effected political Revolution. As many scholars have demonstrated recently, the war fundamentally changed the way people in North America thought about their relationship to authority, and these changes did not fall simply along the lines of that elite politicians expected, or their descendants deigned to recollect in their early histories. I’d like to explore how the war itself pushed and twisted the course of the Revolution in different ways, and how taking it seriously as a Revolutionary War, rather than simply a War for Independence, changes our conceptions of that event.

Interview with April R. Haynes, 2016 James H. Broussard Book Prize Winner

April R. Haynes is an assistant professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her book, Riotous Flesh: Women, Physiology, and the Solitary Vice in Nineteenth-Century America, was co-winner of the James H. Broussard Best First Book Prize.

The Republic (TR): For those who haven’t read your book, would you provide a synopsis?

April R. Haynes (AH): Riotous Flesh tells a new story about how proscriptions against the “solitary vice” of masturbation became a dominant sexual discourse in the northern United States between 1830 and 1860. Prior historians have analyzed antimasturbation discourse as a means of instilling white men with the restraint required of republican citizens and middle-class economic actors. I argue instead that white female moral reformers and black abolitionist women led the campaign against the solitary vice as part of their larger quests to dismantle the sexual double standard and racialized ideals of femininity.

Women became interested in the solitary vice because crowds of men and boys rioted outside of lecture halls wherever they gathered to listen to Sylvester Graham speak about sexual physiology. Graham gave women the same advice he offered to men, and some of the women’s lectures were racially integrated. The crowds who tried to shut them down overlapped in significant ways with those who participated in both brothel riots and proslavery riots during the 1830s.

In 1837, moral reformers and abolitionists created the Ladies’ Physiology Society of Boston and began to sponsor lectures on sexual physiology by and for women. Members traveled to small-town female moral reform societies, where they persuaded thousands of women that all bodies—male and female, black and white—were subject to a universal set of God-given laws of life and health. The dominant sexual discourse revolved around binary concepts of race and gender, despite the very real presence of people living beyond those binaries in the antebellum North. Reformers strove to erase the sexual line that purportedly separated these poles. They insisted that each individual possessed both the physiological capacity for desire and the moral imperative to restrain it.

The sexual universalism of evangelical physiology contradicted the twin stereotypes of passionless white “ladies” and licentious black “Jezebels” that rationalized so many aspects of white patriarchy. It sparked an interracial moment in moral reform between 1835 and 1840. Black activists such as Sarah Mapps Douglass, Lavinia Hilton, and Nancy Prince urged white women to stop conflating passivity with innocence and act as politically, morally, and sexually accountable beings—particularly by joining the abolitionist movement. Some white reformers, notably the Grimké sisters, Sarah Townsend Smith, and Paulina Wright Davis, embraced active virtue and spurned passive purity. This distinction became fundamental to the nascent women’s rights movement and blossomed into a call for “sovereignty of self.” But other white moral reformers clung to the doctrine of passionless, with its promise of moral superiority. The female moral reform movement fractured over race and sex in the early 1840s.

When moral reform women were the main popularizers of antimasturbation discourse, few Americans took heed. But as the movement splintered, more and more white women turned inward and focused on their own sexual redemption. The word spread from a small, interracial corps of “ultra” reformers to the predominantly white mass culture. In the process, warnings against the solitary vice became a kind of screen behind which white, middle-class women could discuss a broad range of sexual issues without risking their protections and privileges.

Urban entrepreneurs sold tickets to secular anatomy and physiology lectures by appealing to married women’s longing for reproductive control and sexual satisfaction. It became possible to justify graphic public depictions of “amativeness” (heterosexual desire) by warning against the solitary vice. The amative orgasm in women was increasingly considered natural and healthy—yet all agreed that the masturbatory “paroxysm” caused debility, insanity, and death. The solitary vice made heterosexual desire into a social virtue.

The popular physiology lectures of the 1840s also incorporated scientific racism in the form of comparative anatomy. Lecturers and writers represented white women’s amativeness as essentially moderate, black women’s bodies as tending naturally toward “excess.” The sexual universalism promoted by earlier activists faded from memory. Black women and men responded by creating separate institutions that could empower younger people in their communities to develop their own politics of embodiment. The last chapter of the book details Sarah Mapps Douglass’ education of young black girls for anatomical literacy and sexual health. She counseled them toward amativeness, reproductive autonomy, and self-love—but away from the solitary vice.

The marketing of solitary vice discourse dovetailed with its institutionalization in medical practice, asylum administration, and public schools during the 1850s. As medical feminists and educational reformers, women once again led the charge. But over the next two decades, the focus of antimasturbation discourse shifted away from adults of all genders and toward male youth. The “spermatorrhea” diagnosed by mid-nineteenth century American physicians echoed the masculine “onanism” scare of mid-eighteenth century England. Because of women’s agency, Americans paid more widespread attention to such warnings than they had prior to 1830. But the counterdiscursive possibilities that had inspired women to crusade against the gender-neutral solitary vice had disappeared.

TR: What led you to choose this topic for your book?

AH: While doing dissertation research, I stumbled across evidence of the riots at Graham’s “Lecture to Mothers.” I had heard of his Lecture to Young Men on Chastity, but not of the lecture to women only. At the time, I had no interest in writing about moral reformers. I was interested in sex radicals, and I thought female moral reformers represented the most boring aspects of nineteenth-century sexual culture. But the riots really surprised me. Why would men riot to prevent women from hearing a lecture that counseled chastity? What was so threatening about the possibility that women were learning not to masturbate?

When I began following newspaper coverage of the physiology riots between 1833 and 1837, it became clear that women in multiple cities persisted in organizing those lectures and physically resisted the rioters because they recognized that it wasn’t Graham who was being targeted but themselves. Anti-Graham editors argued that the lectures exposed innocent wives and daughters to indecent words and images, but the women in each city invariably denied that the men in the crowd were their husbands and fathers. Rather, they said that the ringleaders were editors of racy papers, actors at scandalous theaters, and brothel proprietors. To test these claims, I began tracking down some of those editors and the men named by reformers as having “gotten up” a particularly violent 1834 riot. I discovered that the female moral reformers were basically right about the composition of the crowds and the motivations of their enemies. The editors who defended the riots overtly stated that white men deserved sexual privileges over and above white women and people of color. They claimed that the lectures promoted “amalgamation” (interracial intimacy), deprived white women of their “freedom from debasing passion,” and threatened to make men into genderless “monsters.”

So the reform women had a point. This was the last thing I expected to find, so profoundly opposed to the whole moral reform project was I. That tension created a puzzle that I wanted to pursue. How could these smart, activist women have been so right about their enemies and also (in my view) so very wrong in the sexual discourse they ultimately produced?

TR: Americans typically think of this period as prudish and private when it came to sexuality. Is that a misconception?

AH: Yes and no. It is a misconception that sexuality has ever been a strictly private matter in the United States. However, there have definitely been moments of extreme pressure to conform to a specific sexual standard, usually one correlated with purity and righteousness—pressure to perform prudery, as it were. What I tried to do in Riotous Flesh was to trace the process by which one such norm came to be accepted by so many people, at least superficially. Writers across the entire spectrum of political, intellectual, and religious beliefs pronounced that masturbation killed tens of thousands of people each year. These were people who could agree about absolutely nothing else! Even the editors who had sparked the riots against women’s physiology lectures eventually declared their opposition to the solitary vice (they told male readers that it would be better to pay for sex with any woman than to masturbate). In order to manufacture consent on such a scale, publicity was absolutely necessary.

That said, one of the great ironies in the construction of modern heterosexuality has been a consistent refrain that “prudery” must be overcome in order to purge society of its “perversions.” Marriage manuals of the early twentieth century educated readers about how to have “wholesome” sex while denouncing prudish women as frigid. Similarly, moral reformers of the early nineteenth century railed against “false delicacy,” which killed women silently by keeping them addicted to the solitary vice. Women masturbated because they simply had not been taught the dangers of masturbation, reformers said, which was why popular science lectures and medical institutions must teach them.

TR: Did white women and African American women differ in their views on masturbation?

AH: In the 1830s, both groups saw antimasturbation physiology as having the potential to challenge strictures of passionlessness. White moral reformers saw how their opponents manipulated passionlessness to claim that white women need to be protected from sexual information, by violence if necessary. Black abolitionist women in New York City saw an opportunity in the moral reformers’ declaration of war against “licentiousness in all its forms” to urge white women to come out against the “licentiousness of slavery.” They also wanted white women to face the sexual aspects of northern white supremacy, such as the sexual harassment of black domestic workers in white homes. While forging this delicate and temporary alliance, they attended physiology lectures and moral reform meetings and learned to deploy the language of solitary vice to their own ends. If white women who appeared “pure” could secretly be sexually vicious, then the whole racialized virgin/whore dichotomy could be turned on its head. In order to demolish the Jezebel stereotype, the assumption that white women were naturally passionless had to be obliterated—the two ideologies must stand or fall together.

But as growing numbers of white moral reform women became obsessed ridding themselves and their families of the solitary vice, many stopped hearing the deeper call for accountability and activism. They reverted back to a claim of moral superiority, now based on cultivated virtue rather than essential purity. Black abolitionist women, in turn, moved on to other projects. That isn’t to say that they stopped believing that masturbation was physically harmful—Sarah Mapps Douglass told her students that it was—but as a counterdiscourse, the solitary vice lost its utility earlier for them than for white women. It had always been only one of many layers of African American sexual counterdiscourse, anyway. I can only imagine how distressing it must have been for black abolitionist women to watch that particular strand of sexual thought gain such traction while racist ideas about gender and sexuality remained deeply entrenched.

TR: What is your current/next project?

AH: While working on this project, I became very interested in the dynamics between moral reformers, abolitionists and the women they purported to rescue. They used the sexualized word “traffic” to describe both prostitution and slavery. The solution, according to diverse reformers, was to channel formerly trafficked women into waged domestic labor. Doing so often meant geographic displacement, family separation, and public inspection of workers’ bodies—in a way, an authorized form of trafficking. So I have another puzzle regarding intentions and outcomes to work out. I’m currently researching the ways in which some women began marketing the feminized labor of others during a pivotal era in the history of American capitalism, 1789 to 1860.

Interview with Shane White, 2016 SHEAR Book Prize Winner

Shane White is the Challis Professor of History and an Australian Professorial Fellow in the History Department at the University of Sydney specializing in African-American history. His book, Prince of Darkness: The Untold Story of Jeremiah G. Hamilton, Wall Street’s First Black Millionaire, was this year’s SHEAR Book Prize winner.

The Republic (TR): For those who haven’t read your book, would you provide a synopsis?

Shane White (SW): In Prince of Darkness, I recount the story of Jeremiah G. Hamilton’s life. Hamilton, born in 1808, first turns up in New York in 1828 running counterfeit coin to Haiti for a consortium of merchants. He moves permanently to the city in the early 1830s, struggles for a while, and then begins to establish himself as a guy who can make money for you on Wall Street. He always sailed rather close to the wind. Initially he had a reputation, deserved, for over-insuring boats and then arranging to have them scuttled. He invested his first fortune in real estate, in 1836 buying houses, a 400 foot-long wharf, and land in Poughkeepsie. The 1837 “panic” ruined him and he went bankrupt. But Hamilton bounced back and made another fortune on Wall Street, dispensing advice on what stocks to buy to white investors. Although Hamilton was hardly pure as the driven snow (but then who was on antebellum Wall Street), he also faced considerable discrimination. The second stock exchange in NY passed a resolution in the mid-1840s that anyone who dealt with Hamilton would be expelled. In 1863, during the Draft Riots, a mob invaded his house—the intention of its members had been to hang him from the lamppost out the front of his house on East 29th Street, but he, sensibly had hightailed it over the back fence. When he died in 1875, he was reportedly worth some two million dollars.

TR: What led you to choose this topic for your book?

SW: I have been reading New York nineteenth-century newspapers and court cases for decades and I kept on coming across references to him. It took a while for me to realize that the person I had found running counterfeit coin in 1828 was the same person suing Cornelius Vanderbilt in the 1850s. But once I did, I started to pursue him actively not quite knowing what I was going to do with the material. In the end the challenge of writing a book about someone about whom absolutely nothing was known drew me in and took a couple of years out of my life.

TR: By the time you were finished writing, were you satisfied that you knew the real Jeremiah G. Hamilton?

SW: Absolutely not!! Prince of Darkness is an unusual book. By dint of a lot of hard work, I found surprising amounts of material on some parts of his life. But I haven’t a clue what he was doing for years at a time. And he did not leave a diary or letters somewhere convenient for biographers. I almost never have any indication of what JGH was thinking. This means that there is a lot of “context” in the book. By my lights, and by using JGH’s life, I think the book ends up developing a new version of what it meant to be African American and walking the streets of NYC in the 1830s and 1840s. Some readers like this—others, several “Amazon” commentators come to mind (does anyone but the author of the book in question ever read Amazon readers’ comments?) have been bored to tears by it. On this count I was particularly gratified that the SHEAR prize committee awarded it the best book prize and not the biography award.

TR: Which historians and/or writers most influenced your research for this book?

SW: In my view, there are two major influences on the way I write history. The first is the “Melbourne School” of ethnographic historians, notably Rhys Isaac, Greg Dening, Inga Clendinnen and Donna Merwick. The other important influence is the work of my friend Larry Levine. From these scholars I learned how to approach and exploit sources in such a way that I could write stories about African Americans who had been left out of other historians’ accounts. More specifically, in terms of writing about JGH, I always had in mind such classic books as Natalie Davis, The Return of Martin Guerre (1983), Linda Colley’s The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh (2007), and particularly the wonderful Al Young’s brilliant The Shoemaker and the Tea Party (1999). As well, some of the recent archive-rich work on slavery was helpful: most obviously, James Sweet, Domingo Alvares (2011) and Rebecca Scott and Jean Hébrard Freedom Papers (2012).

TR: What is your current/next project?

SW: At the moment I am half way through writing a book about black confidence men and women. This is another subject where the African American “contribution” has been erased from American history. For most people, confidence men, the “aristocrats” of the criminal world, were white and male. Paul Newman and Robert Redford in The Sting are, for many people, the only con men. My argument is that there were two golden ages of the black con in New York history, one in the 1830s and first half of the 1840s and the other in the 1920s and 1930s. Not coincidentally, both periods were particularly important and exciting in African American history. My conceit is that I can use the patter of con artists, how they fooled their marks, to write African American economic history not from the top down but from the bottom up. My intention, then, is to utilize black confidence men and women as a point of entry into Black Manhattan’s underground economy.

Interview with Mary Sarah Bilder, 2016 James Bradford Biography Prize Winner

Mary Sarah Bilder is Founders Professor of Law at Boston College Law School. Her book, Madison’s Hand: Revising the Constitutional Convention, was the inaugural winner of SHEAR’s James Bradford Biography Prize.

The Republic (TR): For those who haven’t read your book, would you provide a synopsis?

Mary Sarah Bilder (MB): Madison’s Notes of the Constitutional Convention remain the standard authority for scholars, historians, journalists, law professors—and with the rise of originalist constitutional argument–lawyers and judges. They created the narrative we inherit of the Convention. Madison’s Hand argues that the Notes do not date in their entirety to the summer of 1787, but were revised by Madison as he changed his understanding about the Convention, the Constitution, and his own role. It explores the manuscript as a text and also as a historical object, an artifact. Over fifty years, Madison transformed the Notes from an incomplete political diary, taken in part for Thomas Jefferson, to a seemingly impartial and objective account of the writing of the Constitution. In the summer of 1787, Madison only completed the Notes through August 21. In the fall of 1789, he wrote the remaining section using rough notes and a secret personal copy of the official Convention journal. He then revised the manuscript and even replaced certain of his speeches in part to accord with Jefferson’s new vision of republican politics. Madison ultimately decided not to publish the Notes in the 1790s and continued to revise them in the decades after his retirement from the presidency. Madison understood his revisions as repeated efforts to create a record—his record—of what he saw as significant in the Convention. Yet each revision—small and large—increased the distance from the summer of 1787. The story of Madison’s composition of the Notes emphasizes his inability—and that of his fellow delegates—to perceive the extraordinary document that the Constitution would become. Tracing Madison’s composition of the Notes guides us back to a moment when the substance and fate of the Constitution remained uncertain.

TR: What led you to choose this topic for your book?

MB: I had never intended to write on any of the Founders. Some years ago I thought I would try and write an article on the Framers as lawyers. In attempting to develop a list, I ran across misidentified law notes by James Madison in the Library of Congress. I wrote an article about Madison and his legal note-taking referring to him as a Demi-Lawyer, a person who never professionally identified as a lawyer. I enjoyed writing about notes and genre (I was an English major as an undergrad and my Ph.D. is from an interdisciplinary program). I thought I would write about Madison’s Convention notes the way a literary scholar might write about a text. I started by trying to find a version of the Notes that represented what they had looked like in the summer of 1787. As I became more familiar with the sources, I realized that there were significant mysteries about the manuscript. In exploring those mysteries, digital technologies allowed me to compare manuscripts at different archives and to take inexpensive watermark photographs. I was fortunate to have the significant cooperation of the Library of Congress and other archives that held Madison manuscripts.

TR: Madison’s Hand won SHEAR’s Bradford Prize for Biography, but it isn’t a traditional biography. How does your book expand historians’ definition of that genre?

MB: Unfortunately, we don’t have a good word for a book that explains how a manuscript/text developed from initial stages to iconic status—and how that also helps us understand the author’s development and the changing historical moment. As I was working on this project, I read Adam Nicolson’s God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible, which has somewhat of a similar goal. But explaining one’s project as “about the making of a manuscript” doesn’t come off as particularly methodologically sophisticated. Moreover, texts don’t make themselves and so the author is always present. I’m indebted to Jack Rakove who first suggested that the book was really a biography. The word completely captured what I was attempting to do. (At one point, I wrote a part of the introduction attempting to coin a new word to describe a biography of a text (e.g., librography, manuscriptography, scriptography)—but soon decided that biography was expansive enough to incorporate the story of a text. A biography is the story of someone’s life – and a book like mine tells that story through the lens of a particular piece of the person’s writing. It allows the historian to think about the ways in which our images of people are created through the texts they leave – which are themselves self-curated.  For me, the biography label has special meaning. The first article I ever published was called “The Shrinking Back: The Law of Biography” (1992), using literary theories of biography to argue that quotations of copyrighted material used for history or biography were “facts.” It has been fun to come full circle.

TR: What is your current/next project?

MB: I was sorry not to be able to write about women in this book in any meaningful manner. My first book had a chapter on women and colonial constitutionalism. This summer, I’ve been reading around in the wonderful scholarship written over the past several decades about women and politics in the revolutionary period and early republic. I’ve been thinking about how to think about what role women played in the politics of the Convention.

Interview with Rebeccah Bechtold, 2016 Ralph D. Gray Article Prize Winner

Displaying Bechtold_Rebeccah_color.jpegThe Republic (TR): For those who haven’t read your article, would you provide a synopsis?

Rebeccah Bechtold (RB): “A Revolutionary Soundscape: Musical Reform and the Science of Sound in Early America, 1760–1840” examines how the growing accessibility of music in the mid eighteenth century cultivated a wider appreciation for music as an individuated art. In this period, advocates for music linked its practice with the political aims of independence through a shared discourse of sensibility, turning to the science behind sound in order to describe music as an art form capable of communicating to and regulating the emotions of the listening public. Influenced by music’s origins as a sacred art and an Enlightenment rhetoric interested in bodily functions, Americans living and working in the northeastern cities of Philadelphia, Boston, and New York ultimately employed a revolutionary rhetoric that advocated for the aesthetic as a method of reform, accenting music’s potential in safeguarding national harmony and, in the nineteenth century, producing social concord.

TR: What brought you write on this topic, and how does it fit within your broader research?

RB: My research tends to explore the social, cultural, and formal intersections of music, described in the early American period as a “language of feeling,” with its literary counterpart, the sentimental tradition. More specifically, I am interested in how music reshaped prevailing attitudes toward sentimentality and the production of emotion in the United States. I came to write “A Revolutionary Soundscape” while working on building a cultural history of music’s emergence as this emotive aesthetic. Even though my research originally focused exclusively on the nineteenth century (in particular the explosion of musical culture in the 1830s and 1840s), it quickly became clear that the American description of music as a sentimental aesthetic had an earlier foundation—as seen, for instance, in the writings of eighteenth century psalmodists like William Billings and Andrew Law.

TR: As a professor of English, do you find yourself thinking differently from historians about the role of music in history?

Perhaps—I usually begin with a literary text in order to develop questions about the historical use of music and sound. However, I am very much interested in maintaining a historical awareness of how early Americans heard and interacted with music, an approach I first learned from my dissertation chair, Trish Loughran. Much of my work also is informed by the soundscape studies of historians like Mark M. Smith and Richard Cullen Rath. Their work, among others, encouraged me to think more broadly about my archive—the kinds of texts I could use to examine music in its broadest definition, as a cultural phenomenon encompassing a network of music, musicians, composers, listeners, instruments, images, and texts.

TR: What is your current/next project?

RB: I am currently working on two article-length essays that explore sound and music’s function as a mode of religious or spiritual communication. One examines Augusta Jane Evans’s use of the romantic prelude-form in her 1859 Beulah—a novel that overtly studies the tension between religious faith and artistic expression—while the other interrogates the soundscape of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables and its portrayal of sound as a “spiritual medium” capable of countering the destabilizing noise of the modern world.

SHEAR 2016 Roundtable on Hamilton Musical to Air on C-SPAN 3

Dear SHEARites,

At our recent annual meeting, C-SPAN taped panel 19, ‘”History is Happening in Manhattan:” A Critical Roundtable on Hamilton’ and the recording will air this weekend and next on C-SPAN 3.  Look for it on Sunday, 8/21 at 8:00 a.m. and Saturday, 8/27 at 2:00 p.m ET.

After the first airing, it will be available in C-SPAN’s video library for you to view and share the link. In the meantime, here is a preview.

Robyn Lily Davis

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:, 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:

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: 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
  • 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,


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 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

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 (


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 ( 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 (  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


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, ,

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

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,


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.


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.


Greyhound Bus Lines provides service to Union Station.

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

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

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.


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 (  I look forward to seeing you New Haven this July, and I send you traveling mercies.

Robyn Lily Davis, conference coordinator