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The Boundaries of American Political Culture in the Civil War Era

Mark E. Neely Jr.

Publication Year: 2005

Did preoccupations with family and work crowd out interest in politics in the nineteenth century, as some have argued? Arguing that social historians have gone too far in concluding that Americans were not deeply engaged in public life and that political historians have gone too far in asserting that politics informed all of Americans' lives, Mark Neely seeks to gauge the importance of politics for ordinary people in the Civil War era. Looking beyond the usual markers of political activity, Neely sifts through the political bric-a-brac of the era--lithographs and engravings of political heroes, campaign buttons, songsters filled with political lyrics, photo albums, newspapers, and political cartoons. In each of four chapters, he examines a different sphere--the home, the workplace, the gentlemen's Union League Club, and the minstrel stage--where political engagement was expressed in material culture. Neely acknowledges that there were boundaries to political life, however. But as his investigation shows, political expression permeated the public and private realms of Civil War America. Arguing that social historians have gone too far in concluding that Americans were not deeply engaged in public life and that political historians have gone too far in asserting that politics informed all of Americans' lives, Mark Neely seeks to gauge the importance of politics for ordinary people in the Civil War era. Looking beyond the usual markers of political activity, Neely sifts through the political bric-a-brac of the era--lithographs and engravings of political heroes, campaign buttons, songsters filled with political lyrics, photo albums, newspapers, and political cartoons. In each of four chapters, he examines a different sphere--the home, the workplace, the gentlemen's Union League Club, and the minstrel stage--where political engagement was expressed in material culture. Arguing that social historians have gone too far in concluding that Americans were not deeply engaged in public life and political historians have gone too far in asserting that politics informed all of Americans' lives, Neely seeks to gauge the importance of politics for ordinary people in the Civil War era. Looking beyond the usual markers of political activity, Neely sifts through the political bric-a-brac of the era--lithographs and engravings of political heroes, campaign buttons, photo albums, newspapers, and political cartoons. In each of four chapters, he examines a different sphere--the home, the workplace, the gentlemen's Union League Club, and the minstrel stage--where political engagement was expressed in material culture. Did preoccupations with family and work crowd out interest in politics in the nineteenth century, as some have argued? Arguing that social historians have gone too far in concluding that Americans were not deeply engaged in public life and that political historians have gone too far in asserting that politics informed all of Americans' lives, Mark Neely seeks to gauge the importance of politics for ordinary people in the Civil War era. Looking beyond the usual markers of political activity, Neely sifts through the political bric-a-brac of the era--lithographs and engravings of political heroes, campaign buttons, songsters filled with political lyrics, photo albums, newspapers, and political cartoons. In each of four chapters, he examines a different sphere--the home, the workplace, the gentlemen's Union League Club, and the minstrel stage--where political engagement was expressed in material culture. Neely acknowledges that there were boundaries to political life, however. But as his investigation shows, political expression permeated the public and private realms of Civil War America.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5

Contents

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pp. 6-7

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Preface

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pp. vii-xiv

In March 2002 I gave the Steven and Janice Brose Lectures for the Richards Civil War Era Center at Penn State. The three lectures made a case for the importance of politics in understanding the lives of ...

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Chapter 1: Household Gods: Material Culture, the Home, and the Boundaries of Engagement with Politics

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pp. 1-29

Before the Civil War, the poet Walt Whitman was a beer-swigging Bohemian, but when the war came he finagled himself an easy patronage job in Washington, D.C., and in the abundant spare time ...

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Chapter 2: A New and Profitable Branch of Trade: Beyond the Boundaries of Respectability?

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pp. 30-70

During the heated canvass for the presidency in 1864, a newspaper reporter in New York observed an amusing deception practiced in a nighttime rally for Democratic candidate ...

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Chapter 3: A Secret Fund: The Union League, Patriotism, and the Boundaries of Social Class

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pp. 71-96

The Great Sanitary Fair opened in New York City on April 4, 1864. Its organizers, women mostly, put this gigantic charity bazaar together to raise money for the U.S. Sanitary Commission, which ...

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Chapter 4: Minstrelsy, Race, and the Boundaries of American Political Culture

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pp. 97-127

On June 29, 1860, not long after the Republicans nominated Abraham Lincoln for president, the candidate received a letter from a man named Louis Zwisher, a former resident of ...

Notes

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pp. 129-148

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 149-154

Index

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pp. 155-159


E-ISBN-13: 9781469604909
E-ISBN-10: 1469604906
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807829868
Print-ISBN-10: 0807829862

Page Count: 176
Illustrations: 24 illus.
Publication Year: 2005

Series Title: The Steven and Janice Brose Lectures in the Civil War Era