Commonplace
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 18, 2006 Contact: James David Moran
(508) 471-2131 (office)
(508) 248-4694 (home)
(508) 783-5085 (cell)
jmoran@mwa.org (e-mail)

Online history journal finds bloggers in the 19th Century

Worcester, MA- From a blogger's perspective on the reprint periodicals that flourished in mid-nineteenth century America to the early republic's anti-war perspectives on the Iraq conflict of today, the January 2007 issue of Common-place, the online history journal offers a rich assortment of points of view.

"Lurking in the Blogosphere of the 1840s," by Meredith L. McGill in the "Common Reading" section of Common-place compares postings found on today's popular blogs with a popular weekly digest of reprinted articles from the foreign press and comments on the audiences of both.

"Perhaps writers and readers are drawn to blogs-and were drawn to the popular print forms of the 1840s-because they offer a sense of belonging to a public, a self-organizing group of strangers without discernable boundaries," McGill writes.

"Blogging should remind us to ask of the past, not just who was reading or what was read by whom, but also when, how often, and where was reading done?" she concludes.

In "Making Peace Patriotic," J. M. Opal writes that antiwar principles once represented a potent voice in American civic life. Opal studied the enlightened patriotism promoted by the fifty-odd "peace societies" of the early nineteenth century and notes that the current terms of patriotism "have been contaminated by the cynical dichotomies of us versus them, good versus evil, freedom versus terror."

Writing in "Talk of the Past" Opal states that the "meanings of public duty and good citizenship must be rebuilt to reflect the saner voices within and among usÉ"

Common-place feature articles also offer a variety of perspectives. "Vulgar Things" by Hannah Carlson takes up Victorian womanhood and consumerism from the perspective of a handkerchief. Writing about the 1843 novella, The Autobiography of a Pocket Handkerchief by James Fenimore Cooper serialized in a monthly magazine, Carlson discovers that Cooper's foray into the popular press allowed him "the freedom to confront Victorian America's peculiar habits and deliver incisive observations about Victorian women's 'attachment' to their valuables."

An oration on the Boston Massacre from the perspective of aRoman-complete with toga-is the perspective offered in "Dr. Warren's Cicerian Toga" by Eran Shaley.

The speech by toga-clad Joseph Warren, a physician-turned-revolutionary leader, was given on March 3, 1775 at Boston's Old South Church to an audience that included British Redcoats. Warren's attire and philosophical and ideological argument in defense of the colonists' position sparked the revolutionary conflict that later flamed in Concord and Lexington.

In "Frontiers of Body and Soul," Elizabeth Lewis Pardoe introduces the Ephrata monks of Pennsylvania and Virginia "who existed in an excruciating limbo between Protestant and Catholic, French and English, 'savage' and 'civilized,' male and female, mystic sexuality and corporeal celibacy, asceticism and ceremony, individual and community.

"The strange utopian communities this undertaking produced probed the limits of religious toleration in the American colonies, but in the end, those limits proved more powerful than this band of pietistic Protestants," she concludes.

In Ask the Author,Catherine Allgor, author of, A Perfect Union: Dolley Madison and the Creation of the American Nation (New York, 2006) explains how her subject's role as wife and hostess enabled her to be a premier influence peddler.

In "Pastimes," Joyce E. Chapin tours the musŽe du quai Branly in Paris, dedicated to non-Western art, and finds that a temporary exhibition "does what the permanent exhibits do not: it shows that Europeans and non-Europeans have a common history, as well as distinctive cultures."

From the pages of ships' daybooks recorded in the meticulously organized Dutch archives in the Hague and the considerably less well preserved papers in the Mauritius National Archives, James Fichter finds the story of American ships in Cape Town sailing to and from China in the 1780s and 1790s. The discoveries he made while following the trail of the ships in Macau, Jakarta and Capetown is the subject of "Tales from The Vault."

Paula S. Marron writes of her fourth grader historians who participated in a simulated Revolutionary-era town meeting in "A Common School." The nine-year-olds learned to appreciate many different perspectives as they delivered speeches, engaged in debate, and shared differing interpretations of the decision to sign the Declaration of Independence.

A surprising perspective on successful nineteenth century businessmen is offered by Paul Staiti who writes in "Object Lessons." Staiti examined the portrait collection that once adorned the walls of the Great Hall of the New York Chamber of Commerce and found that the pictures de-emphasize the specific attributes and behaviors associated with running a business, making money or even conspicuously giving it away and instead encourage viewers to focus on a generalized look of high character.

The current issue of Common-place also contains the following book reviews: Kathleen DuVal's The Native Ground: Indians and Colonists in the Heart of the Continent, by April Lee Hatfield; Robin L. Einhorn's American Taxation, American Slavery, by Sean Patrick Adams; Russell R. Menard's Sweet Negotiations: Sugar, Slavery, and Plantation Agriculture in Early Barbados, by Christian J. Koot; Marie Jenkins Schwartz's, Birthing a Slave: Motherhood and Medicine in the Antebellum South, by Hilary Moss; Robert E. Wright's, The First Wall Street: Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, and the Birth of American Finance, by Brian Phillips Murphy; and Shane White and Graham White's, The Sounds of Slavery: Discovering African American History through Songs, Sermons, and Speech. by Jeffrey Robert Young.

About Common-place

Common-place is a common place for exploring and exchanging ideas about early American history and culture. A bit friendlier than a scholarly journal, a bit more scholarly than a popular magazine, Common-place speaks—and listens—to scholars, museum curators, teachers, hobbyists, and just about anyone interested in American history before 1900. Common-place readers can join in the discussion of any of the journal’s features by visiting the "Common-place Coffeeshop," a message board on the website. Common-place is sponsored by the American Antiquarian Society and the Florida State University Department of History.

About the American Antiquarian Society

The American Antiquarian Society (AAS) is a learned society and independent research library, specializing in all aspects of American history and culture through 1876. Founded in 1812 by the patriot printer and publisher Isaiah Thomas, AAS is the third oldest historical organization in the United States and the first to take the whole nation as its scope. The AAS library is the preeminent repository of pre-twentieth-century American printed materials and related manuscript and graphic arts materials in the world.

The Society also sponsors an array of programs to encourage the use of its collections and to foster a greater understanding of American history. The main office for Common-place is at AAS, 185 Salisbury St., Worcester, MA 01609-1634; telephone (508) 755-5221.

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