Category Archives: American Studies

The song (like the flag) is still there

Guest post by Marc Ferris

The story of how The Star-Spangled Banner became America’s national anthem and what took Congress so long to designate it as such is a fascinating tale that reflects the give and take between the rulers and their subjects over national symbols, the symbiotic relationship between patriotism and religion, and the song’s adoption and adaptation by Americans of all political persuasions. Akin to the flag lionized by Francis Scott Key, the song is “still there” and will be for a long time because—like the Fourth of July, Flag Day, and other national holidays—it reflects the people’s will.

Star Spangled song sheetYet, there are occasional rumblings over the song. Many Americans complain about its melodic leaps, for example, though its range is the same as Silent Night (and when was the last time anyone complained about that Christmas chestnut?). America the Beautiful also contains an awkward jump in the chorus (at the first iteration of “America”), yet it has been a popular rival to The Star-Spangled Banner.

It’s worth remembering that the anthem never would have taken hold if ordinary Americans had trouble singing it during the 1800’s. The melody Key consciously borrowed, To Anacreon in Heaven, served as the bedrock for more than 80 other popular ditties from the late 1700’s through 1820. One of the reasons why The Star-Spangled Banner has fended off all challenges, in fact, is its distinctive melodic edge, which is lacking in other anthem alternatives, including Hail, Columbia, popular in the nineteenth century. Over the years, several campaigns have attempted to dislodge The Star-Spangled Banner from its official status, either by holding anthem contests or attempting to promote alternatives such as America the Beautiful and God Bless America. Both of these came too late to the party and suffered from serious limitations, including challenging, dated melodies and stilted, sometimes unmemorable words.

Despite the anthem’s familiarity, Americans do seem to have a hard time remembering the words to even the first verse (and there are four!). Perhaps people had better memories in the early 1800’s, since renditions of the anthem in that era routinely included all the words. In one joke that circulated during World War I, a solder returning from patrol in enemy territory encounters a checkpoint. The guard asks, “Who goes there?” The solder replies, “An American.” The sentinel responds, “Then recite the first verse of The Star-Spangled Banner.” The soldier answers, “I can’t remember it.” To that, the guard says, “Then pass, American.”

After the battle in Baltimore harbor in September 1814, the culmination of the War of 1812, the song spread rapidly, first by word of mouth and then in print (often without musical notation). The conflict represented a serious crisis to the country’s sovereignty and the outcome remained in doubt until Baltimoreans repulsed the British. Key captured the relief felt by many Americans, and his words served as a journalistic answer to the question, “What happened in Baltimore?”

Yet, over the years, his lyrics have also come under fire for being militaristic, even though Key merely related what he witnessed. If Americans still sang the fourth verse, they would know that Key, a pacifist who took up arms against England in 1814, reluctantly sanctioned war by writing “then conquer we must, when our cause it is just.” He also sought the approval of a higher power and devised a phrase that inspired the country’s official slogan: “And this be our motto ‘In God is Our Trust’” (parsed to “In God We Trust” and adopted by Congress in 1956).

Perhaps all the complaints simply reflect complacency, since the anthem is performed so often at ballgames, flag-raisings, school assemblies, and civic events. Yet one of the most chilling renditions of the song took place just last year, at the first Boston Bruins game after the marathon bombings. Singer Rene Rancourt started the song off, then stopped singing after a few bars and waved his microphone like a conductor’s wand. The crowd bellowed a moving and heartfelt version, proving that a determined group of randomly assembled Americans can indeed sing their anthem with emotion and purpose—if they want to.

ferrisMarc Ferris earned an M.A. in history from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Newsday, Time Out New York, Spin, Vibe, and elsewhere.  His book, Star-Spangled Banner: The Unlikely Story of America’s National Anthem, will be published by JHU Press in September.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under American History, American Studies, Baltimore, Holidays, Popular Culture, The War of 1812

Q&A with Donald Kraybill


From the Preface to the forthcoming Renegade Amish: Beard Cutting, Hate Crimes, and the Trial of the Bergholz Barbers:

Amish. Hate. Crimes. These three words suddenly linked arms in the fall of 2011 when a string of beard-cutting attacks startled the Amish community in eastern Ohio. The fact that the perpetrators were Amish generated an avalanche of news stories about Amish-on- Amish violence as the bizarre story played out until the defendants were sentenced in February 2013. Pundits and late-night talk shows alike poked fun at the Amish—these supposed saints who now had streaks of sin on their faces. Even a cartoonist joined in the humor by depicting a distraught Santa Claus with only stubbles on his chin, waiting in vain for children to sit on his lap. Apart from beards, bonnets, and buggies, nonviolence is a cardinal signature of Amish identity. That a band of supposedly pacifist Amish had assaulted their own people shattered all the Amish stereotypes in the popular imagination.

When this cultural brawl finally ended, ten men and six women from a maverick Amish community near Bergholz, Ohio, were behind bars. A federal jury found them guilty of multiple charges involving conspiracy, hate crimes, kidnapping, lying, and obstructing justice. Most shocking of all, the three Bergholz clergymen—Bishop Samuel Mullet and his two ministers—were among those charged and convicted. The jurors found evidence that the assailants had attacked the Amish victims because of their religion.

Apart from etching violence into the annals of Amish history, the case set a new legal precedent—under the 2009 Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act—for its first-time conviction of assailants for religion-driven hate crimes. Moreover, it was also the first one within the same faith community. In addition, because a hate crime conviction requires evidence of “bodily injury,” the jury had to judge whether cutting a beard qualified as disfigurement, which is one type of bodily injury. The verdicts stretched the definition of bodily injury for hate crimes and the nature of acceptable evidence for interstate commerce—one requirement for federal jurisdiction and prosecution of hate crimes. Some legal experts considered the interstate commerce evidence tenuous in the Bergholz case, and others have even raised questions about some aspects of the constitutionality of the Shepard-Byrd Act.


With his new book coming out in August, Donald Kraybill has stopped by the JHUP blog to answer a few questions about the Amish beard cutting scandal which shook the Amish community in late 2011.

Q: How did you first learn about the Ohio Amish beard cutting story?

A: I heard about it on various media in September 2011. I thought it was a joke at first or some kind of misunderstanding.

Q: Have beard cutting attacks happened before in Amish history?

A: This is a precedent. It never happened before these attacks by the Bergholz Amish community. It’s the most bizarre thing I’ve come across in researching and writing on the Amish of North America over the last 35 years.

Q: How did you get involved?

A: I was contracted in the spring of 2012 by the U. S. Department of Justice to assist them in the prosecution. I helped them to understand Amish beliefs and practices. In September 2012 I served as an expert witness for five hours during the three-week federal trial in Cleveland, which included 16 Amish defendants.

Q: Why did you write the book?

A: For several reasons. This was such a benchmark case in Amish history. I wanted to understand it better and also document it for historical purposes. I was also curious about the background of the Bergholz Amish which executed the attacks. Who were they? How were they transformed from a peace-loving group into a violent one? Were they, in fact, really Amish?

Q: How did you answer that question in the book?

A: I provide an abundance of evidence that shows many ways in which the Bergholz clan strayed from Orthodox Amish faith. Throughout the trial they maintained that they were Amish. They still use horse and buggy transportation and dress Amish-like. Of course there are no laws that prevent any group from claiming the Amish brand. In my judgment they are not Amish, at least not according to any conventional standard of Amish belief and practice.

Q: How do other Amish people view the Bergholz clan?

A: The 65,000 other Amish people in Ohio were greatly embarrassed and shamed by the beard cutting attacks. The attackers even included members of the Bergholz clergy. Another reason I wrote the book was to vindicate the thousands of sincere and devout Amish people in Ohio and other states whose Amish identity was maligned by these attacks

Q: Why did the federal Department of Justice become involved in what might appear as a petty Amish quarrel?

A: There were nine victims, sixteen offenders, and five different attacks in various counties. It would have been difficult to undertake multiple prosecutions in different counties for a host of reasons which I explain in the book. The federal prosecutors argued that the nature of the crimes and the fact that they involved interstate commerce made it possible to prosecute the offenders under the 2009 Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Act. The jury agreed and convicted the sixteen defendants with some 87 different criminal charges.

Q: What surprised you most about the story?

A: The case is now under appeal to the sixth circuit federal appellate court. Recently the national Anti-Defamation League pulled together a coalition of 40 different groups vigilant about civil rights abuses. These groups filed a friend of the court brief urging the appellate court to uphold the convictions. The coalition groups view the Amish convictions of federal hate crimes as a benchmark that will help to protect many other Americans from hate crime attacks. The case is especially pertinent for attacks motivated by the hatred of a person’s religion, sexual orientation, race, gender, or disability.

Q: What is the most important take away of the book?

A: The sad irony is that the hate crime convictions of some former pacifist Amish have helped to reinforce the long-standing American tradition that citizens are legally protected to practice their religious faith according to their conscience without fear of being attacked by those who may despise their religion.

Kraybill_RenegadeDonald B. Kraybill is a Distinguished College Professor and Senior Fellow at the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College. He is the author, coauthor, or editor of more than a dozen books on Amish culture, including The Riddle of Amish Culture, The Amish, and the upcoming book on the Bergholz Barbers, Renegade Amish.

1 Comment

Filed under American History, American Studies, Amish, Anabaptist & Pietist Studies, Current Affairs, Law, Religion

Flag Day and The Star-Spangled Banner

Guest post by Ralph Eshelman and Burt Kummerow

On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress approved the design of a national flag. Since 1916, when President Woodrow Wilson issued a presidential proclamation establishing a national Flag Day on June 14, Americans have commemorated the adoption of the Stars and Stripes by celebrating June 14 as Flag Day. To encourage a better appreciation of the story behind the Star-Spangled Banner, we offer an edited  excerpt from our book, In Full Glory Reflected: Discovering the War of 1812 in the Chesapeake.

A Flag and a Song

“Then, in that hour of deliverance, and joyful triumph, the heart spoke; and, Does not such a country, and such defenders of their country, deserve a song?”—Francis Scott Key, 1836

It all began with an arrest. Sixty-five-year-old Dr. William Beanes (1749-1828) of Upper Marlboro was a respected physician and Revolutionary War veteran well known in the Washington region. He had cordially entertained both General Robert Ross and Admiral George Cockburn when the British Army marched through on its way to attack Washington.

Ralph 4 SSBThe trouble began when the British were returning to their ships. Enemy stragglers were looting in the neighborhood and Dr. Beanes helped local citizens arrest the troublemakers. The British brass was not amused. Dr. Beanes, arrested in his bed, soon found himself and two companions in irons on board a Royal Naval ship. The next stop might be Halifax, Nova Scotia, or, even worse, England’s Dartmoor Prison.

Richard West, a close friend of the doctor, approached his brother-in-law, the influential 35-year-old Georgetown lawyer Francis Scott Key (1779–1843), for assistance. He was well-connected in the Federal City. Key met with President Madison who then met with General John Mason, the commissary general of prisoners. They approved a mission to seek the release of Beanes and requested that Key accompany American Prisoner Exchange Agent John Stuart Skinner. In Baltimore they boarded a flag of truce packet ship and sailed south to the British fleet near the mouth of the Potomac River. Boarding Admiral Cochrane’s flagship, HM Ship-of-the-Line Tonnant, the party was greeted coldly by the senior British officers when the purpose of their mission was revealed. At first General Ross was unwilling to release the doctor. However, when letters from wounded Englishmen were shown lauding Beane’s medical treatment, the General and his naval colleagues agreed to let the doctor go. They also detained the truce party so as not to allow them to report about the British plans to attack Baltimore. Before the battle, Key, Skinner, and Dr. Beanes were returned to their truce boat still under guard. There, they unwittingly found themselves at the very center of the Battle for Baltimore.

: Mary Pickergill, along with many helpers, hand sewed the new garrison flag for Fort McHenry in 1813.

Mary Pickergill, along with many helpers, hand sewed the new garrison flag for Fort McHenry in 1813.

If not during the bombardment of Fort McHenry, all three gentlemen undoubtedly saw the flag flying over the fort when they entered Baltimore harbor two days after the British fleet withdrew down the Patapsco, having failed to take the fort or the city. The garrison flag (30’ x 42’) was commissioned by the fort’s commander, Major George Amristead, along with a smaller storm flag (17’ x’25’) the year before. The flagmaker, Mary Pickersgill, a thirty-seven-year-old widow, was an experienced ship and signal flag maker. She labored on the garrison flag for seven weeks with her 13-year-old daughter Caroline, two nieces (13-year-old Eliza Young and 15-year-old Margaret Young), a 13-year-old African American indentured servant, Grace Wisher, and possibly her old mother, Rebecca Young, who had taught her the trade. They pieced together strips of loosely woven English wool bunting, then laid the whole flag out on the floor of a brewery near Mrs. Pickersgill’s Pratt Street house.

Key and his colleagues had perhaps the most unique location to observe the bombardment among all Americans, since they had a front row seat among the enemy for the drama that unfolded. At dawn, the men were all straining to see the fort and the flag. The British stopped their bombardment and an eerie quiet settled over the harbor. The three Americans slowly realized the British were retiring. The attack was over.

This is the first published version of the “Star-Spangled Banner” that identified the author but incorrectly refers to Francis Scott Key as “B. Key, Esqr.”  Note at the beginning of the song it states “With Spirit.”

This is the first published version of the “Star-Spangled Banner” that identified the author but incorrectly refers to Francis Scott Key as “B. Key, Esqr.” Note at the beginning of the song it states “With Spirit.”

In Baltimore, Key spent the evening at the Indian Queen Hotel. It is there that he wrote the four stanzas to a tune that he probably had dancing in his brain on the truce ship. That original manuscript, entitled “The Defence of Fort M’Henry” and written with only a few corrections, is on display today at the Maryland Historical Society.

From the beginning, Key intended for the stanzas to be sung “To Anacreon in Heaven,” an eighteenth-century English club song that was already popular in America. An amateur poet and lyricist, he had been toying before with both the patriotic ideas in the lyric and the tune of the song.

Bands played the song regularly during the Civil War, and the U.S. Navy made it an official part of their flag ceremonies in 1889. President Woodrow Wilson ordered it be played for military ceremonies during World War I. President Herbert Hoover finally signed a law on March 3, 1931, making “The Star Spangled Banner” the official anthem of the United States.

After a decade long, multi-million dollar restoration, the Star-Spangled Banner flag is again on permanent display at the National Museum of American History in the nation’s capital.

 eshelman2012Ralph E. Eshelman is a cultural resource consultant, historian, researcher, and writer; he is the author of A Travel Guide to the War of 1812 in the Chesapeake and coauthor of The War of 1812 in the Chesapeake, both published by JHU Press. Burton K. Kummerow is president and CEO of the Maryland Historical Society and president of Historyworks, Inc. Together, they are coauthors of In Full Glory Reflected: Discovering the War of 1812 in the Chesapeake, published by the MdHS Press in collaboration with the Maryland Historical Trust, the National Park Service,  and the Maryland War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission. Images from the book used in this blog post appear courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, and illustrator Gerry Embleton.

 

1 Comment

Filed under American History, American Studies, Baltimore, Regional-Chesapeake Bay, The War of 1812, Washington

Meet us in Baltimore: Society of Civil War Historians

By Robert J. Brugger

It will be a great pleasure to welcome members of the Society of Civil War Historians to Baltimore, scene of so many events leading up to the sectional conflict and such deep division during and after the war itself.  William Lloyd Garrison stood trial here for supposedly defaming the character of a slave dealer.  Frederick Douglass learned to read in Fells Point.  Confederate sympathizers on Pratt Street, resisting the passage of Massachusetts troops, produced the first bloodshed of the war on the anniversary of Lexington and Concord, April 19, 1861.  In the spring of the following year a pro-Union mob attacked a Southern-leaning social club at Franklin and Cathedral streets, enraged that, following the Battle of Front Royal, Confederate Marylanders reportedly had shot into the ambulances of Union Marylanders.  After the Battle of Gettysburg, Union military authorities arrested males members of Baltimore families burying Confederate dead in local cemeteries.

As a high-school student in Hagerstown, I happily fell under the spell of Civil War history.  I’ll not likely grow tired of reading it, and I’d like to think that books Johns Hopkins has published on the topic in the past two decades have owed something to that boyhood fascination.  I’m of course proud of all of them, though I would point to the work of Margaret Humphreys as extremely important to the history of medicine during the war and wartime (and the history of medicine and surgery generally).  Non-academic readers understandably await the next of Ron Coddington’s “Faces of” series with eager anticipation (the next will explore Union and Confederate sailors and marines).  Michael Burlingame’s massive Abraham Lincoln may be the most enduring single title I have had any connection with at Johns Hopkins.  As a Vietnam vet, I call special attention to Michael C. C. Adams’s compelling and sobering view of the war (that is, of war).

We continue to search for meritorious work in the era and have some exciting new Civil War and society books in development, among them Scott Hartwig’s reappraisal of the Battle of Antietam; an examination of Union engineering expertise; a fresh assessment of Lincoln’s war governors, the first since that of William B. Hesseltine in the late 1940s; a new look at the problem of military mobilization in major Union cities; and, an especially promising project, the prelude to war, the conflict itself, and its aftermath as a study in Southern generational experience.


SCWH Featured New and Bestselling Titles:

Faces of the Civil War: An Album of Union Soldiers and Their Stories, byRonald S. Coddington
African American Faces of the Civil War: An Album, by Ronald S. Coddington

Secession Winter: When the Union Fell Apart, by Robert J. Cook, William L. Barney, Elizabeth R. Varon
To Antietam Creek: The Maryland Campaign of September 1862, by D. Scott Hartwig
Marrow of Tragedy: The Health Crisis of the American Civil War, by Margaret Humphreys
Soldiering for Freedom: How the Union Army Recruited, Trained, and Deployed the U.S. Colored Troops, by Bob Luke and John David Smith


Senior Acquisitions Editor Robert J. Brugger, PhD, acquires books in American History, American Studies, History of Technology, and regional topics for the JHU Press. In Baltimore, meet Bob and the Press at our space at the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel from June 12 to 14.  Use the SCWH discount code HEYT to receive a 30% discount on all books featured in this blog post or mention this code when calling in your order at 1-800-537-5487. Check out the SCWH online; read more about the SCWH Biennial Meeting; and/or follow the JHU Press on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Acquisitions, African American Studies, American History, American Studies, Baltimore, Civil War, Civil War, Conferences, History of Medicine, History of technology, Military

Forever in his debt: George C. Marshall

Guest post by Mame Warren

Reading other people’s mail, particularly when one of the correspondents is George C. Marshall, provides an absorbing opportunity to delve into stories behind the official history. One of the towering figures of the twentieth century, Marshall helped orchestrate the Allied victory in World War II as chief of staff of the US Army, although he is best remembered for the European Recovery Program—universally known as the Marshall Plan—which he first proposed on June 5, 1947, as secretary of state under President Harry S. Truman. This year, as we prepare to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the dedication of the George C. Marshall Research Library in Lexington, Virginia, I’ve learned a lot about the genesis of the foundation that made the research library—and my fascinating job helping to edit the seventh and final volume of The Papers of George Catlett Marshall—a reality.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton received a copy of The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, volume 6, “The Whole World Hangs in the Balance,” January 8, 1947–September 30, 1949 on one of her final days in office.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton received a copy of The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, volume 6, “The Whole World Hangs in the Balance,” January 8, 1947–September 30, 1949 on one of her final days in office.

One of Harry Truman’s last acts before leaving office was to issue a presidential directive on January 17, 1953, to the secretaries of state and defense and the head of the General Services Administration advising them that “The Board of Visitors of the Virginia Military Institute has arranged for the organization of the George C. Marshall Research Foundation, Inc., as a non-profit Virginia corporation. The purpose of the Foundation will be to collect and receive papers and records with other historical objects and documents, and to provide a suitable building to house them at VMI. To assist in effectuating this, the General Assembly of Virginia has enacted legislation authorizing VMI to deed land to the Foundation.”

“The establishment of the Foundation has been a matter of great interest to me,” Truman continued, “and I have consulted with VMI officials about it over a period of more than a year. In connection with these conferences, I have agreed that the United States Government would in so far as practicable make available to the Foundation documentary material relating to the activities of General Marshall as a soldier, as Secretary of State, and as Secretary of Defense.”

President Lyndon B. Johnson was the keynote speaker at the dedication of the Marshall Library on May 23, 1964. He was escorted down the steps by General Marshall’s close friend and Marshall Foundation President General of the Army Omar Bradley.

President Lyndon B. Johnson was the keynote speaker at the dedication of the Marshall Library on May 23, 1964. He was escorted down the steps by General Marshall’s close friend and Marshall Foundation President General of the Army Omar Bradley.

Many meetings and much correspondence ensued among Marshall’s former colleagues and many admirers who believed, as Winston Churchill did, that “Succeeding generations must not be allowed to forget his achievements and example.” Marshall, who had steadfastly refused to write his memoirs, professing that he had been compensated adequately for his service to his country, was reluctant to become involved. Finally, on December 22, 1954, General Marshall wrote to John C. Hagan, the first president of the Marshall Foundation, “In accordance with your request, I will turn over to the Foundation those documents in my personal possession which may legally and appropriately be made a part of the collection being assembled by the Foundation.”

When the New York Times announced on December 31, 1955, plans to build the George C. Marshall Research Library and to publish his papers, letters and checks of support quickly followed. “I shall feel forever in your debt, sir, and I always will admire, respect and remember your name and what you have done,” wrote World War II veteran and New York businessman Edward M. Rosenthal, who included a check for one thousand dollars.

The library dedication drew more dignitaries and the largest crowd that Lexington had ever welcomed. Audience estimates ranged from ten to twenty thousand and security was tight when President Johnson took the podium just months after the Kennedy assassination.

The library dedication drew more dignitaries and the largest crowd that Lexington had ever welcomed. Audience estimates ranged from ten to twenty thousand and security was tight when President Johnson took the podium just months after the Kennedy assassination.

Rosenthal considered himself the “happiest citizen, luckiest human being because I live in America. You, sir, I feel have done much to make it possible for me and my family to have what we possess,” he told Marshall. On June 5 in Lexington we will observe the fulfillment of the Marshall Foundation founders’ vision. And on June 6 we’ll get back to work on volume 7 of the Marshall Papers.

For more on George Marshall and his legacy, please visit the Marshall Foundation online.

The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, Vol. 6Mame Warren is a senior assistant editor of The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, based at the George C. Marshall Research Library in Lexington, Virginia, which will celebrate its fiftieth anniversary on June 5. Warren spent twelve years as director of Hopkins History Enterprises at the Johns Hopkins University, and edited Johns Hopkins: Knowledge for the World, 1876–2001; Our Shared Legacy: Nursing Education at Johns Hopkins, 1899–2006; and Transit to Tomorrow: Fifty Years of Space Research at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. With her father, Marion E. Warren, she coauthored Bringing Back the Bay; Maryland Time Exposures, 1840–1940; and Baltimore: What She Was When She Used to Be, published by Johns Hopkins University Press.

1 Comment

Filed under American History, American Studies, Biography, Foreign Policy, Libraries, Military

Fifty Years a Museum

Guest Post by Robert C. Post

This year, 2014, marks the golden anniversary of the National Museum of American History, a familiar presence that has changed somewhat since 1964. After 9/11, the driveway curving in from Constitution Avenue was blockaded; a cabbie can no longer drive you up to the door. Also, the museum has a different name than when it opened. The original name, the Museum of History and Technology, was changed in 1980, and for good reason—to help people understand that technology is a central component of our history, not distinct. But the building itself looks the same as in 1964, very “modern,” even with its tall slats intended to mirror the colonnade of the neoclassical Commerce Department across the street.

Post_National-Museum-of-American-History

The MAH is not very old, not as museums go. To the west, the National Museum of African American History and Culture is still under construction. Designed to evoke the art of an ancient West African kingdom, the NMAAHC reminds us that several of the Smithsonian’s museums are newer and more architecturally innovative than MAH. Long forgotten is the hurtful MAH review by the New York Times architectural critic Ada Louise Huxtable, although we may still recall her brave battle for New York’s Penn Station, which was being reduced to rubble even as the museum was getting its finishing touches. There was a special irony, for Penn Station had been a triumph of McKim, Mead, and White, once the grandest of American architectural firms. The “awkward attempt to marry the classical and the modern” in Washington was its final commission, and good riddance!, thought Huxtable.

But inside the museum! The exhibits pleased everyone, even Huxtable. More than anything, the designers wanted to dispel the image of “a Nation’s Attic” and capture the buoyant spirit of a World’s Fair. Visitors flocked to the new museum, more than five million the first year—said to have been the most ever recorded for any museum anywhere. They were not disappointed. The centerpiece was a Foucault pendulum swinging from 52 feet above the ground which demonstrated the rotation of the earth. A circle of wooden pegs fell, one by one, when they were struck by the bob. Dramatic, spellbinding, the pendulum became the museum’s signature, like the elephant in the Natural History Museum or, later, the Milestones of Flight exhibit in the Air and Space Museum. The pendulum, here was the place for groups that had scattered to plan a rendezvous, or for parents and children to sit quietly, wait for a peg to topple, and then cheer. David Shayt, a poet among the curators, called it “a unifying experience across time and generation.”

Now, the pendulum is gone. Or, rather, it is on display as a “relic” in an exhibit opening May 16, “Making a Modern Museum,” that marks the MAH’s fiftieth anniversary. The pendulum does not swing back and forth, nor will it ever. A few years ago the museum got a makeover, and the central space where the pendulum had swung was transformed. Now there is an atrium. The atrium is bright, but somehow seems bleak, say critics who declare that no other museum space in Washington is harder to distinguish from a shopping mall or airport. Presently one of the first Ford Mustangs, manufactured in 1964, is placed in exactly the spot once occupied by the circle of pegs. Can it replace the pendulum? Will visitors say to one another, “Meet you at the Mustang”? Maybe.

The initial controversy over the museum’s design has long since subsided. The marriage of classical and modern has become a pleasurable artifact of the 1960s. Awkward though it may have seemed at first, it is now just a reminder of the museum’s “yeasty” history. Yeasty is the expression that the distinguished museologist Harold Skramstad used to describe that MAH in a video produced for the anniversary exhibit by the History Channel. Watch it and see if you don’t agree.

 

postRobert C. Post received his Ph.D. from UCLA in 1973, and then was employed by the Smithsonian for twenty-three years, as a technician, historian, and exhibit curator. Exhibits are the subject of his latest book from Johns Hopkins University Press, Who Owns America’s Past? The Smithsonian and the Problem of History, which one reviewer called “part history, part memoir, part polemic.” While at the Museum of American History, Post was editor of the Society for the History of Technology’s quarterly journal, Technology and Culture, also published by Johns Hopkins, and in 2001 he received the society’s highest honor, the Leonardo da Vinci Medal.

Leave a comment

Filed under American History, American Studies, D.C., Uncategorized, Washington

April/May news and new books

Enter code HDPD at checkout to receive a 30% discount on all books featured in this blog post or mention this code when calling in your order at 1-800-537-5487.

News and Notes/Praise and Reviews

Doris Iarovici, M.D., author of Mental Health Issues and the University Studentdiscusses the “antidepressant generation” in The New York Times Well Blog.

“Access to well-trained health workers when you need them should not be an accident of geography,” say the coauthors of Noncommunicable Diseases in the Developing World, Jeffrey Sturchio and Louis Galambos, in The Huffington Post.

John Eric Goff, author of Gold Medal Physics: The Science of Sports, discusses the redesign of the World Cup soccer ball on NPR’s All Things Considered.

The Washington Post calls Collecting Shakespeare: The Story of Henry and Emily Folger “a superlative book . . . crisply written and packed with facts and anecdotes.”

In a review of Gene Jockeys: Life Science and the Rise of Biotech Enterprise, by Nicolas Rasmussen, Nature says “Rasmussen’s research is dogged and creative, his analysis perceptive and nuanced.”

Foreign Affairs calls Maxwell’s Demon and the Golden Apple: Global Discord in the New Millennium, by Randall L. Schweller, “The most original and thought-provoking forecast of future world politics to be published in recent years.”

Hot off the Press

Washington and Baltimore Art Deco: A Design History of Neighboring Cities Art Deco buildings still lift their modernist principles and streamlined chrome into the skies of Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

Field Guide to the Natural World of Washington, D.C. A field guide to plants and animals commonly found in the nation’s capital.

Stealing Cars: Technology and Society from the Model T to the Gran Torino Stealing cars has become as technologically advanced as the cars themselves. John Heitmann and Rebecca Morales tell a story that highlights both human creativity and some of the paradoxes of American life.

Pain: A Political History Keith Wailoo examines why and how pain and compassionate relief has been a battleground for defining the line between society’s liberal trends and conservative tendencies. Wailoo describes his book as part of the Robert Wood Johnson What’s Next Health Series.

Gene Jockeys: Life Science and the Rise of Biotech Enterprise Nicolas Rasmussen chronicles the scientific scramble to discover the first generation of drugs created through genetic engineering.

Doctors Without Borders: Humanitarian Quests, Impossible Dreams of Médecins Sans Frontières An intimate portrait of the renowned international humanitarian organization.

A Chosen Calling: Jews in Science in the Twentieth Century (co-published with Hebrew Union College Press) Noah Efron questions traditional explanations for Jewish excellence in science in the United States, the Soviet Union, and Palestine in the twentieth century. Zócalo Public Square recently published Efron’s article “When L.A.’s Jews Went Crazy for Albert Einstein.”

Enter code HDPD at checkout to receive a 30% discount on all books featured in this blog post, or mention this code when calling in your order at 1-800-537-5487.


Leave a comment

Filed under American History, American Studies, Baltimore, Current Affairs, For Everyone, Foreign Policy, General Science, History, History of Medicine, Literature, Middle East, Poetry, Politics, Public Health, Religion, Reviews, Sale, Social media, The War of 1812, War and Conflict

Living Hell in pictures

Guest post by Michael C. C. Adams

We asked Professor Michael C. C. Adams to select some archival images to represent each chapter of his latest book, Living Hell: The Dark Side of the Civil War. Professor Adams’ explanation of each picture and its significance follows.

Living Hell, Chapter One: Gone for a Soldier
Bucking and gagging or crucifixion on a spare artillery wheel appear to be harsh punishments, but were common for serious military offenses such as theft, drunkenness, or rank insubordination. Regular officers, in particular, used severe measures, including flogging and execution, to control ill-disciplined citizen soldiers. These sketches are by Charles Reed, a Civil War veteran; they appeared in Hard Tack and Coffee: The Unwritten Story of Army Life , an 1887 memoir written by John D. Billings of the 10th Massachusetts Volunteer Artillery. Although a Congressional Medal of Honor winner, Billings didn’ t flinch from confronting the dark side of soldiering. I talk more about punishments and adjustment to army life in the first chapter of Living Hell.
Adams1 Bucker Spare Wheel


Living Hell, Chapter Two: On the March
This sketch of soldiers wading through mud accompanied the text of the 1906 memoir The Young Soldier, which was written by Joseph E. Crowell of the 13th New Jersey Volunteers. Dust, mud, and lack of water to wash made soldiers miserable, then as now. Some vets said being filthy was worse than fighting. But mud was also a vector for diseases that entered the host body through cuts, sores, and abrasions. I look more at the health hazards faced by soldiers tenting in the field as part of Chapter Two of Living Hell.

Adams2 Soldiers Deep in Mud


Living Hell, Chapter Three: Close Order Combat
This soldier from Confederate General Richard S. Ewell’s Corps, killed in heavy Virginia Wilderness fighting in May 1864, had not been dead long enough to bloat when this photograph was taken by a Mathew Brady cameraman (the photograph is now in the Library of Congress collection). The victim was hit in the shoulder by a rifle round (lead “minnie” balls inflicted deep, gouging wounds). As he is soaked in blood to the waistline, we may conjecture that he bled to death before help could reach him. I examine Civil War weapons, tactics, and the lethal destruction they caused in Chapter Three of Living Hell.

Adams3 Soldier Killed


Living Hell, Chapter Four: Clearing the Battlefield

In this sketch, now in the Library of Congress, field artist Alfred R. Waud showed infantry trying to carry a wounded man to safety using a makeshift stretcher during the Virginia Wilderness fighting of May 1864. Burning to death was a terrible fate dreaded by men on both sides, including General William T. Sherman, who witnessed the horror at Shiloh in April 1862. Survivors said the cries of those roasting haunted their dreams for decades. Cartridge boxes exploding with the heat added to the agony of victims, I discuss the plight of the wounded, along with the problems of burying the thousands of corpses from major battles, in Chapter Four of Living Hell.
Adams4 Wounded Soldiers


Living Hell, Chapter Five: The Edge of Sanity

Field artist Alfred R. Waud drew this “straggler” from life, one of the many thousands who hung around the peripheries of the armies, often preying on civilians to stay alive. A Victorian would likely see here a coward who had “lost his character.” With the benefit of later scientific insights, we might diagnose over-exposure to the elements and to combat, producing emotional demoralization and probable degeneration of the immune system. I examine all aspects of psychological wounds, including shell shock or traumatic brain damage, combat exhaustion, dissociation, and post traumatic stress disorder, in Chapter Five of Living Hell.

Adams5 Homeless


Living Hell, Chapter Six: Deprivations and Dislocations

Civilians suffered drastic physical deprivations through economic shortages, loss of homes, and the absence of breadwinners. They also bore grievous personal losses in the deaths and injuries of loved ones, along with chronic dislocation to their lives, especially if trapped in a war zone. In this sketch by artist Francis H. Schell for Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, farmers who had evacuated Sharpsburg, Maryland, return to their lands on September 19, 1862, after the bloody battle of Antietam. They stare in horrified fascination at the grotesque corpses, some of the many not yet buried. I describe civilian struggles to cope with wartime traumas in Chapter Six of Living Hell.

Adams6 Farmers Return


Living Hell, Chapter Seven: Invasions and Violations

It is conventional to label the sectional conflict a “brothers’ war,” which in some ways it was, dividing families, communities, and states. But, viewed from a different perspective, this was a “strangers’ war.” Most people on either side knew very little about their enemy and filled this knowledge gap with negative caricatures that demonized the “alien other” as cruel and fiendish. Dark stereotypes helped to make the latter stages of the fighting cruel and merciless, as the conflict descended into total war. Regional stereotypes were common even before the firing began. This editorial cartoon in Harper’s Weekly (New York, 1860) depicts a Southern militiaman: scruffy, out at the knee, bristling with weapons (including the murderous bowie knife and tomahawk), he clutches a lynching rope. I discuss mutual hatreds and the savagery generated by war psychosis in Chapter Seven of Living Hell.

Adams7 1860 Wood Engraving


Living Hell, Chapter 8: State of the Union

Devastation to Richmond, Virginia, as captured in this spring 1865 photograph (now in the Library of Congress), suggests the ruin inflicted on the war’s losers. Sections of the South had not recovered a century later. Not all on the winning side prospered either. African Americans saw their fragile hold on full citizenship eroded by legal chicanery and physical intimidation. Women, who thought their contributions to the war effort would net them full civic equality, had to wait until 1920 for the right to vote in federal elections. Union workers, who had seen this as a people’s war, were also disappointed as big business, in league with government, became the most powerful voice in national affairs. I discuss the lasting legacies of the war in chapter eight of Living Hell.

Adams8 Ruins of Richmond


Living Hell: General Lee and the Gray Ladies
The soldier pictured on the cover of Living Hell (from the Library of Congress collection), lying shot through the forehead in a Petersburg, Virginia, trench, early 1865, reminds us of the war’s pathos. Young and handsome, he had his hair cropped recently to deter lice, fleas, and ticks, the unwelcome companions of field life. In an act that must still provoke unease in the viewer, the photographer has posed the body and attendant props (muskets) to create a romantically Gothic effect. The boy is one of the numberless, nameless thousands who died anonymous deaths on fields far from home. I try to capture the lasting emotional emptiness of civilians left to grieve the missing in the Closing to Living Hell.
adamshell-contrast


adamshell-contrastMichael C. C. Adams, Regents Professor of History Emeritus, University of Northern Kentucky, is the author of Living Hell: The Dark Side of the Civil War and The Best War Ever: America and World War II, both published by Johns Hopkins. To hear Michael Adams talk about Living Hell with Abraham Lincoln Book Shop during a Virtual Book Signing™ click here.

1 Comment

Filed under American History, American Studies, Book talks, Civil War, For Everyone, Gettysburg, Illustration, Military

March events feature Shakespeare, Lindsay, Einstein, and more

March roars in with a variety of events suitable for lionizing, and JHU Press authors, editors, and staff will keep busy all month. Stephen H. Grant loved the idea that the official publication date for Collecting Shakespeare would be the Ides of March, and several events around that date welcome his book. At Hunter College, Joseph P. Viteritti and a group of very distinguished panelists will discuss the legacy of New York Mayor John Lindsay to launch the publication of Summer in the City: John Lindsay, New York, and the American Dream. And Michael C. C. Adams will discuss and sign Living Hell: The Dark Side of the Civil War in the latest Virtual Book Signing™  hosted by Chicago’s Abraham Lincoln Book Shop. A Virtual Book Signing™ is a live and online book talk and signing event webcast from the bookstore and streamed round the world. Customers both in the store and online can listen to the presentation, ask questions, and then buy books and see them signed by the author. Please spread the word about JHUP’s March line-up!


weaver-zercher rev comp.indd6 March 2014, 11:30 a.m.

Book Talk & Signing
- Valerie Weaver-Zercher
Thrill of the Chaste: The Allure
of Amish Romance Novels

Common Hour, Mayser Gymnasium
Franklin & Marshall College
Admission: Free and open to the public; information here.


 grant.collecting11 March 2014, 12:30 p.m.
Hopkins Club Lunch & Lecture – Stephen H. Grant
Collecting Shakespeare:
The Story of Henry and Emily Folger

JHU’s Homewood Campus
Baltimore, MD
Admission: $20; members call the Club to make reservations; non-members contact Jack Holmes at 410-516-6928 to attend as a guest of the Press.


mace512 March 2014, 7:30–9:00 pm
Book Talk & Signing - Peter V. Rabins, M.D., M.P.H.
The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer Disease, Related Dementias, and Memory Loss
The Kaleidoscope Program
Roland Park Country School
Baltimore, MD
The author’s JHUP’s best-selling book discusses “The Ethical Issues of Alzheimer Disease and Memory Loss” in the popular RPCS speaker series.

Admission: $30; call 410-323-5500 to register.


gimbel13 March 2014, 6:30–8:30 pm
Book Talk & Signing - Steven Gimbel
Einstein’s Jewish Science
The Johns Hopkins Odyssey Program
JHU’s Homewood Campus
Baltimore, MD
Admission: $28; call 410 -516 -8516 or register online here.


14 March 2014, 7:00 p.m.
Book Talk & Signing
- Stephen H. Grant
Collecting Shakespeare: The Story of Henry and Emily Folger
One More Page Books
2200 N. Westmoreland St.
Arlington, VA
Admission: Free; call 703-300-9746 or visit www.onemorepagebooks.com.


adams.hell15 March 2014, 12:00–1:30 p.m.
Virtual Book Signing™
- Michael C. C. Adams
Living Hell: The Dark Side of the Civil War
The Abraham Lincoln Book Shop
Chicago, IL
Admission: Free and open to the public; participate at the book shop or online; more information here.


osteen19 March 2014, 6:00–8:00 p.m.
Book Talk & Signing
- Mark Osteen
Nightmare Alley: Film Noir and the American Dream
Loyola University Maryland, Knott Hall
Baltimore, MD
This program is sponsored by the Phi Beta Kappa Alumni Association of Greater Baltimore.
Admission: Free with RSVP to baltopbkalum@yahoo.com.


kelly20 March 2014, 6:30–8:30 pm
Book Talk & Signing - Cindy Kelly
Outdoor Sculpture in Baltimore: A Historical Guide to Public Art in the Monumental City
The Johns Hopkins Odyssey Program
JHU’s Homewood Campus
Baltimore, MD JHU Press author Cindy Kelly will present “A Close Look at Baltimore’s Battle Monument.”
Admission: $28; call 410-516 -8516 or register online here.


vitteriti20 March 2014, 5:00 p.m.
Book Talk & Signing
- Joseph P. Viteritti
Summer in the City:
John Lindsay, New York, and the American Dream

Hunter College, The Kaye Playhouse
New York, NY
Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College hosts a launch event for Summer in the City featuring Joseph P. Viteritti, Sam Roberts, Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, Vincent Cannato, Lizabeth Cohen, and Richard Ravitch.
Admission: Free, reservation required; call 212-396-7931.


20 March 2014, 6:00–8:00 p.m.
Book Talk & Signing
- Stephen H. Grant
Collecting Shakespeare: The Story of Henry and Emily Folger
Drama Book Shop
250 W. 40th St.
New York, NY
Admission: Free; call 212-944-0595 or email info@dramabookshop.com.


kilcup26 March 2014, 7:00 p.m.
Book Talk & Signing
- Angela Sorby
Over the River and Through the Wood:
An Anthology of Nineteenth-Century
American Children’s Poetry

Boswell Book Company
Milwaukee, WI
Admission: Free; 414-332-1181 or visit online.


28 March 2014, 6:30 p.m.
Book Talk & Signing
- Stephen H. Grant
Collecting Shakespeare:
The Story of Henry and Emily Folger

Folger Shakespeare Library
Washington, D.C.
Admission: Members only; for information, call 202-675-0302.

Leave a comment

Filed under American History, American Studies, Amish, Baltimore, Biography, Book talks, Dementia and Memory Loss, General Science, Geriatrics and Gerontology, Kids, Literature, Mental Health, Physics, Poetry, Politics, Urban Studies

February news and new books

Enter code HDPD at checkout to receive a 30% discount on all books featured in this blog post or mention this code when calling in your order at 1-800-537-5487.

News and Notes/Praise and Reviews

Dr. Gil Yosipovitch, coauthor of Living with Itch: A Patient’s Guide, was featured in The New York Times and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Health Check, a BBC World Service program, interviewed contributors to Amy Boesky’s The Story Within in a special episode on living with genetic disorders.

Library Journal says of The 36-Hour Day, audio edition: “Rabins’s well-paced, friendly, and authoritative reading capably addresses uncomfortable or potentially embarrassing topics.”

Click here for more information or to hear podcast excerpts of The 36-Hour Day, audio edition. The complete book is available on eleven CDs, in a print edition, or as a download from Audible.com.

In The Lumière Reader, Terry Castle wrote, “One of the most elegant new critical books I’ve encountered recently is Janine Barchas’s Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity—a very original and well-researched, sometimes mind-blowing study of the numerous real-world people who stand ‘behind’ individual Austen characters. Barchas is stunning, for example, on Northanger Abbey, one of Austen’s more elusive fictions.”

Hot off the Press

Bipolar Disorder: A Guide for Patients and Families, 3rd ed. The vital resource for people with bipolar disorder and their loved ones, completely updated.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Fiction: “An Almost Theatrical Innocence”  In his personal tribute to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novels and short stories, John T. Irwin offers an intricate vision of one of the most important writers in the American canon.

Essential Readings in Evolutionary Biology  This collection of classic publications offers a chronological history of evolutionary biology from Darwin to Watson and Crick to the present.

Mental Health Issues and the University Student  Case-based intervention strategies for mental health professionals working with college and university students.

Forging China’s Military Might: A New Framework for Assessing Innovation  Experts examine how innovation and technology are transforming China’s defense industry.

The Boy Problem: Educating Boys in Urban America, 1870–1970  A historical perspective on the factors affecting boys’ relationships with school and the criminal justice system.

Enter code HDPD at checkout to receive a 30% discount on all books featured in this blog post or mention this code when calling in your order at 1-800-537-5487.


Leave a comment

Filed under American History, American Studies, Baltimore, Current Affairs, For Everyone, Foreign Policy, General Science, History, History of Medicine, Literature, Middle East, Poetry, Politics, Public Health, Religion, Reviews, Sale, Social media, The War of 1812, War and Conflict