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Dissertations in Progress in 2013

Katrina Anderson (Armstrong Dunbar)
“Traveling the British Atlantic World: Free Women of African Descent and Emancipation in the Black Atlantic, 1770-1865”

Jeffrey Appelhans (Heyrman)
“Catholics in Early American Civil Society and the Public Sphere”

Kevin Barry (Montaño)
“Iwerddon and An Bhreatain Bheag: Celtic nationalism, identity and ethnicity
within the British Isles, 1870 – 1925”

Nicole Belolan
“The Material Culture of Physical Mobility Impairment in America, 1700-1861”

Chris Bouton (Kolchin)
"Unsettling Slavery:  Small-Scale Confrontations between Slaves and Whites in the Antebellum Southern United States" 

Andy Bozanic (Mohun)
“The Acoutic Guitar in American Culture, 1880-1980”

Amanda Casper (Garrison)
"Home Alteration in Industrial Philadelphia, 1865 to 1925"

Elise Ciregna (Garrison)
"The Lustrous Stone: Ornamental Marble and the Stonecutter in America, 1780-1880"

Lucas Clawson (Garrison)
“Henry du Pont and Delaware Loyalty during the American Civil War"

Christy Croxall (Heyrman)
"Holy Waters: Lived Religion, Identity and Loyalty along the Mississippi River, 1780-1830"

Richard Demirjian (Matson)
“’To All the Great Interests':  Political Economy in the Early Urban Republic, 1783-1830"

Jennifer Fang (Strasser)
"Another Chinese America: Negotiating Chinese American Identity and Suburban Life in the Cold War Era"

Julie Fisher (Matson)

Shalon Hallager (Armstrong Dunbar)
“Building Bethel: The Creation of the AME Church In Philadelphia and Baltimore, 1790-1860”

Kevin Impellizeri (Grier)
"The Three-Player Game: A Cultural History of Home Video Games in America, 1972-1994"

Terry Johnston (Kolchin)
"Paddy in Blue: Irishmen, Irish Americans, and Service in the Union Armies, 1861-1965"

Elizabeth Jones (Matson)
“Consuming Goods, Producing Value: Women’s Shopping in the Mid Atlantic, 1750-1815”

S. Seabrook Jones (Wolters)
“A History of Race and Education in Louisville, Kentucky Public Schools, 1870-2012”

Jamie Kuhns (Haber)
"Asylum for Jim Crow: African American Mental Hospitals in the South Atlantic United States, 1865-1965."

Melissa Maestri (Kolchin)
"Oh What a Tangled Web We Weave: Comparing the Slave Trades of New York City and Charleston, South Carolina"

Ashley Moreshead (Heyrman)
"American Evangelicals and the Promotion of Foreign Missions, 1790-1870"

Kimberly Nath (Matson)
“The British are Coming, Again: Loyalists, Property Confiscation, and Reintegration in the Mid-Atlantic in Revolution and Peace, 1777-1800"

Stephanie Lampkin (Matson)
“Negotiating Freedom and Power in a Changing Borderland: The Intersections of Indigenous and Maroon Communities in Florida, 1693-1803”

Toni Pitock (Matson)
“Commerce and Connection: Jewish Merchants, Philadelphia, and the
Atlantic World, 1738-1822”

Michael Pospishil (Matson)
“Land, Authority, and Development in the Empire State:  New York, 1790-1840”

Sandra Pryor (Boylan)
"Catholic Women, Benevolence, and Social Change: Baltimore and Philadelphia, 1790-1890"

Anne Reilly (Grier)
“Birthplaces of a Nation: Public Commemorations of American Origins in the Early 20th Century”

John Sharpe (Wolters)
“For the Re-Union of Labor and Capital: Motives, Men, and Movements Behind the Insurgency of Small Proprietorship Against Industrial Capitalism from 1800 to 1940”

Tom Sheeler (Kolchin)
"Negotiating Slavery on Mason and Dixon's Line: Race, Section, and Union in Maryland and Pennsylvania before the Civil War"

Ryan K. Thompson (Matson)
“From the ‘Most Ornamental’ To The ‘Most Useful’: Educational Experiments in Philadelphia, 1682-1836”

Laura Walikainen (Mohun)
"Private Spaces in Public Places: Exploring the Boundaries of Privacy, 1880-1930"

Nathaniel Wiewora (Heyrman)
"’A Feigned Revelation Purporting to be Literally New’: The Antebellum Evangelical Encounter with Mormonism”

Alessandra Wood (Grier)
"Designing the Department Store: Designers, Retail Establishments, and the Changing Public Perception of Design in the Mid-Twentieth Century"

 

Katrina Anderson (Armstrong Dunbar)
“Traveling the British Atlantic World: Free Women of African Descent and Emancipation in the Black Atlantic, 1770-1865”

This dissertation focuses on free women of African descent in the British Atlantic World between the years 1770 and 1865. This project explores the social, political, and economic realities for free women of African descent and I plan to investigate the ways in which these women defined and demonstrated their freedom in public and private ways. While I focus upon the ways in which free black women positioned themselves in British Atlantic World societies, I am specifically interested in their own definitions of race, class, color, or free status.   Further, I examines the importance of mobility and travel within the lives of free women of African descent, which allowed free black women to dispel myths and assumptions, challenge societal norms, and create opportunities for themselves as women and as people of African descent.  This project seeks to determine whether free black women gained a greater or lesser sense of their positions within a broad diaspora of African people within the British Atlantic World. 

Jeffrey Appelhans (Heyrman)
“Catholics in Early American Civil Society and the Public Sphere”

The fortunes of the long-subjugated minority of American Catholics took a dramatic turn in 1776, as rapid political changes seated them on diplomatic missions, committees of correspondence, and constitutional conventions. In fits and starts, Catholics soon enjoyed freedom of worship, suffrage rights, and elected positions. Native-born and immigrant Catholics exerted expanding influence within both the developing institutions of civil society and the deliberative public sphere of the early republic. But as their numbers ballooned—from perhaps one percent of the population during the revolution to becoming the largest denomination of Christians on the eve of the Civil War—Catholic power in the public sphere paradoxically decreased and their place in civil society met violent challenge. My dissertation illuminates these changes in Catholic participation and power in civil society and the public sphere from the 1776 to 1844. By comparing shifts in Catholics’ material, cultural, and political influence in multiple seaboard cities from Boston to New Orleans, I analyze how regional and national developments encouraged and then withered political, spiritual, and cultural ecumenism.

Kevin Barry (Montaño)
“Iwerddon and An Bhreatain Bheag: Celtic nationalism, identity and ethnicity
within the British Isles, 1870 – 1925”

The late 19th and early 20th century was an important period in the development of nationalism in Ireland and Wales, with intense debate taking place in both countries regarding the parameters of “Irishness,” “Welshness,” and “Britishness.”  My dissertation focuses on the idea of Celtic identity and its influence on nationalists in Ireland and Wales who sought to redefine the position of their nation within Britain and the wider world.  I argue that the prominence of the Welsh language was a central influence upon Irish nationalists who set out to create an independent, Gaelic state. At the same time, the strength of the Irish Home Rule party was critical to the emergence of a Welsh political consciousness.  I also examine why nationalists in both countries, despite embracing their “Celtic” heritage and being willing to learn from one another, were also deeply uneasy about their causes being closely allied.  Ultimately, the concept of “Celticness” was used to reinforce older positions about what role each nation should have within the British state, rather than generating a common “Celtic” consciousness between Ireland and Wales.

Nicole Belolan
“The Material Culture of Physical Mobility Impairment in America, 1700-1861”

My dissertation probes how early Americans with physical mobility impairments (loss of a physical function of the body due to an amputation or a chronic illness, for example) used objects such as gout cranes and go-chairs to manage their bodies. She is investigating who made these early American objects and how Americans used them within private and public spaces in an era featuring far fewer material “accommodations” than we are accustomed to today. More broadly, Belolan is investigating how the objects, along with their associated impairments, shaped ideas and practices related to gender roles, citizenship, and identity. She is interested in how people experienced living with these impairments as opposed to how society sought to cure them.

Chris Bouton (Kolchin)
"Unsettling Slavery:  Small-Scale Confrontations between Slaves and Whites in the Antebellum Southern United States" 

My dissertation analyzes physical confrontations between slaves and whites in the antebellum South. It seeks to contextualize these altercations within southern cultures of honor and violence as well as compare them to other forms of slave resistance. Slaves had their own conceptions of honor and it occasionally led them into physical conflict with whites. Physical confrontations represented one type of violence in the antebellum South where duels, stabbings, and beatings represented a common feature of daily life. Physical confrontations, like slave flight, represent a rich middle ground for historical investigate that scholars have yet to fully explore. Understanding the circumstances that prompted slaves to engage in physical altercations with whites can provide significant insight into the ways in which slaves, despite the physical and psychological domination of slavery, rejected the power of their masters and sought some measure of control over the course of their own lives. 

Andy Bozanic (Mohun)
“The Acoutic Guitar in American Culture, 1880-1980”

From the glistening all-metal instruments made by the National String Instrument Corporation to the traditionally crafted products of C.F. Martin, the acoustic guitar is perhaps one of the most iconic images in American culture. This project examines the interplay between makers and users in the social construction of the acoustic guitar, an object that became the instrument of choice for the American masses in the 20th century. Over the course of nearly a century from 1880 to 1980, American manufacturers and musicians influenced the composition, appearance, style, and sound of a series of acoustic fretted instruments. The result was the creation of a uniquely flexible and distinctly American guitar that was easy to play, hard to break, and extremely portable. Musicians, both amateur and professional, learned and developed the skills that allowed the guitar to be adapted by and interwoven through a myriad of musical genres that include blues, country, folk, and, most notably, rock and roll. An instrument initially identified with the 19th century middle-class parlor, the guitar evolved over time to become one of the most popular and ubiquitous instruments in the United States. This story promises to enrich historians’ understandings of how industrialization changed the production, meaning, and use of this distinctive artifact.

To make sense of this complex story, I have organized the dissertation into three thematic and chronological sections. The first section utilizes a comparative analysis of the innovations, manufacturing methods, and marketing techniques of three prominent late 19th century guitar makers: the immigrant luthier C. F. Martin, the innovative woodworker Orville Gibson, and the established music house of Lyon and Healy, the maker of Washburn guitars. The second section explores the influence and impact of ethnic musical traditions and innovations, such as the mandolin, ukulele, and Hawaiian steel guitar, on both musicians and manufacturers. The third section investigates how musicians in the 20th century playing in various musical styles adopted the guitar and turned it into an instrument of mass culture amidst the rising popularity of the electric guitar. My research utilizes a variety of sources including musical instruments, business ephemera, oral histories, periodicals, sheet music, and sound recordings. This project will encompass perspectives from the fields of business, social, and cultural history as well the study of material culture and the history of technology.

Amanda Casper (Garrison)
"Home Alteration in Industrial Philadelphia, 1865 to 1925"

My dissertation examines the material, legal, and social history of home alteration in Philadelphia between 1865 and 1925, a topic scholars know little about. During that period, Americans altered their houses like never before, making the most of a rapidly changing building industry.  Using archival and material evidence, Amanda examines five common alteration projects to understand how people engaged a complicated system of commerce, followed municipal regulation, listened to marketers and designers, and strategically accepted innovations.  While this project begins with ordinary people and their private choices, it demonstrates how the seemingly mundane act of alteration drew broader concern from professionals, reformers, regulators, and tastemakers.  Consequently, alteration is a unique lens for examining how Americans coped during a period of rapid change in urban growth, industrialization, regulation, and consumerism.  Amanda also maintains a dissertation blog titled “Home Alteration History” at: http://homealterationhistory.wordpress.com/

Elise Ciregna (Garrison)
"The Lustrous Stone: Ornamental Marble and the Stonecutter in America, 1780-1880"

Since Antiquity people have associated marble with iconic objects and architecture.  In eighteenth and nineteenth-century America, marble became recognized as a fashionable and highly prized material for use in architectural decoration, interior ornamentation and commemoration.  White marble cemetery monuments and architectural elements such as sculpted chimneypieces and elaborately colored and tiled floors reflected progressive taste as well as fashion and luxury.  The ascendance of marble in the hierarchy of decorative stone was largely responsible for the organization, professionalization, and specialization of the stonecutting industry in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.  The formation and organization of the marble industry preceded the development of an American school of sculpture based on marble classical and Renaissance models, and it established the “marble works” trade, an elite branch of the stonecutting industry.   Marble workers were highly skilled carvers producing carved and sculptural work.  To succeed marble workers also needed the varied skills of salesman, businessman, importer, designer, and retailer for a specific luxury good.  Taste and sensitivity to a customer’s needs were crucial, particularly in the selection of funerary monuments.  By the mid-nineteenth century, steam-powered equipment for marble work and the associated capital costs fostered the creation of mid- to large-sized firms, that could respond sensitively, flexibly and creatively to the high demand for white marble, the popularity of the rural cemetery movement, and grieving families that wanted monuments characteristic of those landscapes.  The advent of even more powerful stonecutting machinery, capable of carving fine detail in highly durable granite later in the nineteenth century, was a significant contributing factor to the decline of marble and the ascendance of granite as America’s dominant ornamental stone, a situation that continues today.

Lucas Clawson (Garrison)
“Henry du Pont and Delaware Loyalty during the American Civil War"

Christy Croxall (Heyrman)
"Holy Waters: Lived Religion, Identity and Loyalty along the Mississippi River, 1780-1830"

Richard Demirjian (Matson)
“’To All the Great Interests':  Political Economy in the Early Urban Republic, 1783-1830"

This study explores the political economies of two small cities in different regions of the early American republic in comparative perspective between 1783 and the 1830s: New Haven, Connecticut in New England and Wilmington, Delaware. During those critical years, the United States developed from a set of newly independent states beginning to build a political economy, to an expanded federal union with a state-directed market economy.  Addressing the long historiographical fixation on large seaports or “macropoles,” like Philadelphia and New York, this study configures the smaller ports or “micropoles,” in to the political economy of the early republic.  Agriculture and rural life, manufactures, commerce, internal improvements, and banking, are examined not as a set of independent local concerns, but as local discourses in tension with each other and with the overall development of each region’s political economy as they intersected with the national plane of economic, political, and cultural changes.  The study reveals how well-known historical events and processes redounded at local levels, and the ways in which local discourses reverberated upward to shape discourses and policy at regional and national levels.  Close examination of the political economies of cities such as New Haven and Wilmington reveals that simple categorizations of Republican and Federalist, Jeffersonian and Hamiltonian, New Englander, or American easily dissolve.  

Jennifer Fang (Strasser)
"Another Chinese America: Negotiating Chinese American Identity and Suburban Life in the Cold War Era"

My dissertation examines the construction of ethnic and hyphenated identities by exploring the settlement of American-born Chinese and new Chinese immigrants outside of urban Chinatowns during the Cold War decades. In particular, this project investigates how suburban and urban Chinese Americans negotiated their identity and created community ethnic networks in environments with relatively few Chinese American inhabitants. Did these Chinese Americans and new Chinese immigrants choose to play-up or erase their ethnic differences? How does this pattern of identity negotiation compare to the patterns that exist among other groups of Chinese Americans living in different socioeconomic and geographic areas? I use the experiences of these individuals as a lens through which to examine the complicated and paradoxical relationship between Cold War ideals of a diverse and democratic citizenry and the reality of racial discrimination and cultural marginalization in the mid-to-late twentieth century.

Julie Fisher (Matson)

My dissertation argues that interpersonal relationships were the glue of Indian-English politics in seventeenth-century southern New England, a view that runs counter to the current historiographical focus on aggregate polities like tribes and colonies. From the beginning of colonization, Indian and colonial leaders formed alliances with each other to advance their personal ambitions and their people’s fortunes. These relationships became so fundamental to intercultural politics that they shaped the political geography of the region to a greater degree than the formal political claims of colonies and tribes. “Go-betweens,” individuals that translated the language and cultural practices between English colonies and Indian communities, were essential actors in this history. The English and Indian go-betweens were exclusively male and varied in social status. Language skills were the crux of success for these English and Indian go-betweens and explaining how they acquired their language skills is therefore critical in writing this history. While go-betweens the world over acquired new languages through sexual partners or in childhood, few if any in New England had the benefit of either. Nevertheless, Englishmen learned native languages—Narragansett, Wampanoag, Pequot-Mohegan—and Indian men learned English.  But the question remains: how precisely did they do so? If scholars are to understand Indian-colonial relations in New England, they need to understand the individuals that shaped the diplomacy.

Shalon Hallager (Armstrong Dunbar)
“Building Bethel: The Creation of the AME Church In Philadelphia and Baltimore, 1790-1860”

My dissertation focuses on the development of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AMEC) from 1790-1860. I seek to complicate the way we understand the black church and the black independent church movement by retelling a familiar history from a new perspective.  My dissertation focuses on two congregations, one located in Philadelphia and one located in Baltimore, and their journeys to become “Bethels” within the larger AME church.  While Philadelphia functioned as a black capital of sorts and a beacon of freedom, Baltimore was the home of a fasting growing black community made up of both free and enslaved blacks. This selection allows me to bridge the divide between the ways that scholars have studied the religion of free blacks compared to the study of enslaved blacks. Comparing these two congregations, I focus on how issues of geography, legal status, class and gender shaped the development of each congregation. Although both of these churches would eventually become part of the larger AME, the paths that they took to get there differed.

Ai Hisano (Strasser)
“A History of Food Color in the United States, 1880s-1970s,”

My dissertation explores how different actors constructed cultural knowledge about food color that reflected shifting notions of goodness, purity, and artificiality in the twentieth-century United States. At the turn of the century, the industrialization of food processing and agriculture and a change of eating habits transformed the function of color in food businesses and the American diet. For many food companies, the manipulation of color became a significant means for making food look fresh, disguising its deterioration, and distinguishing one brand from others. Packaged food dyes also provided consumers with creative opportunities to color their dishes at home. By examining political regulations, technological development, marketing strategies, and consumer expectations regarding the color of food, I analyze how administrators, scientists, advertisers, and corporate managers, across the realm of politics and business, conceptualized and constructed food color that signified product quality and a set of cultural norms. Moreover, my dissertation challenges a view that the coloring of food was only the reflection of a corporate conspiracy to deceive consumers. I aim to show culturally constructed notions of food color served to determine how processors controlled the appearance of products, as well as investigating how marketing strategies and government policies reinforced consumer expectations about the “right” color.

Kevin Impellizeri (Grier)
"The Three-Player Game: A Cultural History of Home Video Games in America, 1972-1994"

Terry Johnston (Kolchin)
"Paddy in Blue: Irishmen, Irish Americans, and Service in the Union Armies, 1861-1965"

Elizabeth Jones (Matson)
“Consuming Goods, Producing Value: Women’s Shopping in the Mid Atlantic, 1750-1815”

I examine the role of women’s consumption in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century mid Atlantic, using methodologies from both economic history and material culture studies. I situate shopping as a form of unpaid work essential to the early American economy and the functioning of individual households, a type of labor that required knowledge about price, availability, and quality of consumer goods.  I argue that female shoppers and shopkeepers created networks within and across class distinctions, in which they exchanged gendered knowledge about the economic and social values of goods, and in which they created emotional care essential to family survival, necessity, and comfort.   I also engage with objects as reflections of individual taste, embodiments of emotional relationships, and repositories of exchange value that could re-enter the market for quick cash after being transformed from unfinished commercial goods into fully-consumable products found in city markets, pawnshops, vendues, or public auctions. I am studying objects related to women’s consumption, such as pocketbooks and reticules, but also examining a wide range of household objects used to process raw materials, ease the chores of household maintenance, and embody both short- and long-term value for families.

S. Seabrook Jones (Wolters)
“A History of Race and Education in Louisville, Kentucky Public Schools, 1870-2012”

In September 1975, Louisville, Kentucky made national news over its apparent “massive resistance” to federal busing orders.  Despite the limited participation and quick death of this resistance, that week in September became the defining moment in the history of race and education there.  My dissertation corrects this distorted image by presenting a full history of race and education in both Louisville and surrounding Jefferson County public schools. Working from a history of education perspective, I focus on the policies and practices that governed the education of African-Americans from the creation of Louisville’s black public schools in 1870 to the school system’s current fight to maintain racial integration in its schools.  I examine the creation of Central Colored High School in 1882, decades before the state mandated high school education for white students; the successful desegregation of Louisville’s public schools in 1956, which received national acclaim as a model for other southern urban centers; the school board’s determined efforts beginning in the 1980s to maintain integration in schools after busing orders were lifted, while many cities around the nation returned to de facto segregation; and the school system’s current fight to promote socio-economic diversity after a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling struck down its hitherto successful racial integration plan.

Jamie Kuhns (Haber)
"Asylum for Jim Crow: African American Mental Hospitals in the South Atlantic United States, 1865-1965."
 
Because of the growing presence of mental illness among African-Americans after the Civil War, treating this sick population could not be ignored.  In  most states – in both the North and the South – governments decided to segregate their facilities by creating new wards, wings, or buildings to accommodate black patients. Yet four states in the South Atlantic region, including Virginia (1870), North Carolina (1880), Maryland (1913), and West Virginia (1926), created an entirely new type of institution – the “colored” lunatic asylum – to provide the most practical and efficient treatment for this special population. The concept of a separate facility based on race distinction seems foreign to us now. Since 1965, these four institutions were integrated. Today, only Central State Hospital in Petersburg, Virginia remains open, while the State Hospital in Goldsboro, North Carolina became a smaller private psychiatric hospital, and both Crownsville in Maryland and Lakin in West Virginia closed permanently in recent years. As these hospitals fade into obscurity, it is important to unravel their origins, development, and missions before they are nothing more than a distant memory. The goal of this dissertation will be to find a permanent place for the black mental asylum in the historical record.

Stephanie Lampkin (Matson)
“Negotiating Freedom and Power in a Changing Borderland: The Intersections of Indigenous and Maroon Communities in Florida, 1693-1803”

Running through the plantation fields and into the woods, slaves began their dangerous, life-threatening journey from British North American colonies to Spanish Florida.  Seeking refuge in Florida, a contested area of rivalry among European colonizers and among indigenous cultures, these runaway slaves encountered members of various indigenous groups of the region while attempting to maintain their freedom and rebuild their communities.  Throughout the eighteenth century, the crossroads between these groups led to creative, volatile, strategic, and long-term relationships. My dissertation examines the complexities of life on a multicultural, dynamic, and negotiable Florida frontier from the perspective of maroons and their descendants as well as indigenous peoples who, willingly or unwillingly, migrated to the region.  I received the museum studies certificate in 2010 and have an interest in digital humanities.

Melissa Maestri (Kolchin)
"Oh What a Tangled Web We Weave: Comparing the Slave Trades of New York City and Charleston, South Carolina"

Ashley Moreshead (Heyrman)
"American Evangelicals and the Promotion of Foreign Missions, 1790-1870"

Kimberly Nath (Matson)
“The British are Coming, Again: Loyalists, Property Confiscation, and Reintegration in the Mid-Atlantic in Revolution and Peace, 1777-1800"

My dissertation explores the complex nature of loyalty through records of property confiscation and how this process of confiscation aided in the making of a body of American citizens in the mid-Atlantic. Property confiscation legislation, the action and process of confiscation, and the sale of the property became absolutely crucial to the understanding of citizenship during this period. Patriots effectively began to define who was part of the new America as well through confiscation. The seizure and sale of loyalist property, then, became a way to determine loyalty to the war and thereby determine who was a citizen. This, however, was not a simple task. The line between loyal and patriot was often blurred. My dissertation explores the complicated meanings of loyalty from the standpoint of colonial ties based on economic interest, cultural affinities, and other attachments, and the painful ways those loyalties were broken or challenged during the process of identifying loyalists and deciding their fates.

Toni Pitock (Matson)
“Commerce and Connection: Jewish Merchants, Philadelphia, and the
Atlantic World, 1738-1822”

Beginning in the 1730s, Philadelphia became a base from which local Jewish merchants engaged in commerce in a large Atlantic sphere. Their economic and cultural practices as Jewish merchants shaped their personal histories as well as the economic culture of the city. My dissertation examines this small but influential Jewish community, with particular emphasis on its connections to the broader economic culture in which they participated. It also looks at the consequences of Jews’ involvement in the dominant society and their culture of creolization.  Having capital, credit, and connections in trade gave Jews valuable access to the dominant culture and held out the possibility of inclusion and acceptance. And their participation in commerce allowed them to refashion themselves culturally as creole residents of Philadelphia. Like all merchants, they had to learn the array of practical knowledge that made commerce possible, including how to build connections to people in far-flung locations and how to meliorate the potential for deceit and dispute. To optimize their business opportunities Jewish merchants collaborated not only with other Jews who were dispersed through the Atlantic world but they also cooperated and formed partnerships with gentile contemporaries everywhere they found markets.

Michael Pospishil (Matson)
“Land, Authority, and Development in the Empire State:  New York, 1790-1840”

In the wake of the British departure from North America in 1783, the thirteen states cooperated and contested one another for authority to set the terms of the post Revolutionary settlement. During the next fifty years New York’s new citizens revamped their landscape both leading to, and reflecting, an unprecedented thickening of the pace of production and commerce. By the time the Erie Canal was completed in 1825 New Yorkers already touted their state as the Empire State.  My dissertation investigates how they used the mantle of state authority to remodel the New York landscape.  Teams of surveyors, engineers, militiamen, sheriffs, prison wardens, public school commissioners, and county officials utilized their authority as state agents to initiate and guide New York’s economic development. Their ideas and actions together embodied a post-Revolutionary land ethic that profoundly reshaped the landscape. Using the documents left behind by this group of state agents, the private papers of those citizens whose lives were altered by state authority, and the changing shape of the landscape as my primary sources, I analyze the intersections of authority, land ethics, and economic development in early republican New York State.

Josh Probert (Grier)
“Gilded Religion in the Age of Tiffany, 1877–1932”

I have coined the phrase “gilded religion” as a heuristic device to describe a new aesthetic of confidence in religious spaces that Louis Comfort Tiffany was in the forefront of creating. In its fully realized manifestations, this aesthetic contained the following characteristics: (1) large in scale, (2) a sense of interiority, (3) visually intricate, (4) saturated in color,  (5) historically informed, and (6) artistic. I approach Tiffany stained glass windows, mosaics, altars, lecterns, and decorative treatments as fossilized ideologies. In doing so, I unpack the values they embodied and how these changed over time. Topics include the power of beauty to shape character, tasteful religion as a sign of civilized progress, the Protestant embrace of multisensory worship, the rhetorical separation of “artistic” from commercial furnishings, sentimental memorialization, and the power of ministers and tastemakers to shape how people viewed the divine and themselves.

Sandra Pryor (Boylan)
"Catholic Women, Benevolence, and Social Change: Baltimore and Philadelphia, 1790-1890"

Anne Reilly (Grier)
“Birthplaces of a Nation: Public Commemorations of American Origins in the Early 20th Century”

My research explores the creation of memorial landscapes at the sites of the Jamestown, Plymouth, and New Sweden colonies in the early twentieth century. By celebrating the three-hundredth anniversaries of these settlements, political and cultural leaders sought to foster a sense of shared national identity. They erected monuments, redesigned the area around the landing sites, and encouraged the public to interact with these physical places. In my dissertation I investigate the motives of the commemorators and how their twentieth-century concerns influenced the design and construction of these memorials and the landscapes surrounding them. By examining the way people memorialized the colonies in the early twentieth century, I hope to help the public understand the landscapes around them and to consider how they will commemorate these same events in the early twenty-first century.

John Sharpe (Wolters)
“For the Re-Union of Labor and Capital: Motives, Men, and Movements Behind the Insurgency of Small Proprietorship Against Industrial Capitalism from 1800 to 1940”

In every nation where rationalist economic thought and economic modernization separated laborers from capital in the historical phenomenon eventually (if imprecisely) known as capitalism, small proprietors, artisan producers, labor agitators, and economic and social thinkers reacted contemporaneously to urge the reunion of the laborer with productive property. This dissertation reviews the writings, activism, archival records, and personal papers of several dozen of the key English-speaking individuals and associations to tell a portion of their story. Combining intellectual with social and cultural history, it aims to follow the thread of small-proprietor advocacy and action from early American republicans, to the producers of early industrialism, to late nineteenth-century wage-system opponents, and on to the prolific owner-operator apologists and activists of the inter-war years. Beginning with the 1840 missive of Orestes Brownson ("The Laboring Classes") and looking back to artisan, agrarian, and Revolutionary republicanism, and forward to the Distributists, Southern Agrarians, School of Living adherents, Catholic popes and bishops, and other unsung torch-bearers of an old, persistent ideal, “For the Re-Union of Labor and Capital” will offer an understanding of and appreciation for a unique and surprisingly consistent non-Marxist reaction to proletarianization that characterized the development of industrial capitalism.

Tom Sheeler (Kolchin)
"Negotiating Slavery on Mason and Dixon's Line: Race, Section, and Union in Maryland and Pennsylvania before the Civil War"

Ryan K. Thompson (Matson)
“From the ‘Most Ornamental’ To The ‘Most Useful’: Educational Experiments in Philadelphia, 1682-1836”

In the first post-Revolutionary decades centuries, education was a powerful tool in helping Americans deal with tremendous economic and political change. My dissertation focuses on how Philadelphians altered educational practices during this transformational period and as a result, helped set important patterns for later developments in education.  It reconnects two important eras of educational scholarship, the late colonial and the antebellum period, by emphasizing the important developments that took place during the period between them. It also tells an inclusive story about the meanings of education and the various social groups it reached.  Prominent leaders and educators such as Robert Proud, Anthony Benezet, William Smith, Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Rush, Roberts Vaux, Noah Webster, Robert Coram, Samuel Harrison Smith, and Samuel Knox are included. To complement their views, I include those of the young students being taught in the schools and participating in the various societies and organizations. Putting the views of both groups into the larger ideological, political, and economic context adds  another layer of important interpretation and allows me to examine the ways in which the changes in the economy and political ideology helped transform education during this fifty-year ear.

Laura Walikainen (Mohun)
"Private Spaces in Public Places: Exploring the Boundaries of Privacy, 1880-1930"

 Nathaniel Wiewora (Heyrman)
"’A Feigned Revelation Purporting to be Literally New’: The Antebellum Evangelical Encounter with Mormonism”

After making a splash on Broadway, producing presidential candidates, and inspiring a slew of popular and academic works, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints seems to have acquired wider acceptance in American culture.  Nowhere is this more evident than in the relationship between evangelicalism and Mormonism.  Just a year before the 2012 election, the pastor of one of the nation’s largest evangelical churches called Mormonism a cult, and yet, the Republican Party, the political home to most American evangelicals, nominated a Mormon candidate, who evangelicals supported overwhelmingly.  The early history of evangelical anti-Mormonism demonstrates the improbability of this shift.  My research challenges the widely-held supposition that evangelicals rejected Mormonism because of strangeness.  As Mormonism emerged, evangelicalism had begun to coalesce as a movement.  The desire to create a common evangelical cause came up against debates over orthodoxy, acceptable religious practice, revelation, supernaturalism, benevolence, the relationship of church and state, and the limits of the evangelical movement.  Since Mormonism was so much like evangelicalism in appearance, it posed a unique problem and made evangelicals anxious about their own identity.  Anti-Mormonism became a tool in intramural evangelical conflicts, and consequently, evangelicalism became a more cohesive, more defensive religion because of their encounter with Mormonism. 

Alessandra Wood (Grier)
"Designing the Department Store: Designers, Retail Establishments, and the Changing Public Perception of Design in the Mid-Twentieth Century"

My dissertation will argue that the relationships between designers and department stores in the mid-twentieth century, illustrated through installation of spaces, merchandise displays, and marketing, created an expanding cohort of consumers that was highly aware of designed spaces and goods. Public awareness of design became visible in increased consumer demands and expectations for modernized retail facilities and merchandise, which played a key role in ushering modern architecture and design into American homes in the 20th century.
These retail spaces presented consumers with modern architectural design through colors, textures, spatial forms, and artificial lighting.  Just by visiting department stores, consumers absorbed a new standard for the world around them. New department stores set visual standards quickly adopted by older stores. Within these designed spaces, marketing, merchandising, and display also presented consumers with similar ideas about the importance of design in every detail, from gift boxes, to shopping bags, to household goods and furniture, to carefully designed objects.  Designers relied on retail establishments to deliver their ideas and products to the mid-century consumer, who in turn increasingly relied on designers and department stores to attain well designed merchandise branded with a designer’s label as well as cultural capital through knowledge of design.