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History > U.S. History > 19th Century

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The Commercialization of News in the Nineteenth Century Cover

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The Commercialization of News in the Nineteenth Century

Gerald J. Baldasty

     The Commercialization of News in the Nineteenth Century traces the major transformation of newspapers from a politically based press to a commercially based press in the nineteenth century.  Gerald J. Baldasty argues that broad changes in American society, the national economy, and the newspaper industry brought about this dramatic shift.
     Increasingly in the nineteenth century, news became a commodity valued more for its profitablility than for its role in informing or persuading the public on political issues.  Newspapers started out as highly partisan adjuncts of political parties.  As advertisers replaced political parties as the chief financial support of the press, they influenced newspapers in directing their content toward consumers, especially women.  The results were recipes, fiction, contests, and features on everything from sports to fashion alongside more standard news about politics.
     Baldasty makes use of nineteenth-century materials—newspapers from throughout the era, manuscript letters from journalists and politicians, journalism and advertising trade publications, government reports—to document the changing role of the press during the period.  He identifies three important phases: the partisan newspapers of the Jacksonian era (1825-1835), the transition of the press in the middle of the century, and the influence of commercialization of the news in the last two decades of the century.

Confessions of Nat Turner, the Leader of the Late Insurrection in Southampton, Virginia Cover

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Confessions of Nat Turner, the Leader of the Late Insurrection in Southampton, Virginia

Together with a Preamble, to the Coloured Citizens of the World, but in Particular, and Very Expressly, to Those of the United States of America

Nat Turner

Perhaps no other moment in history crystallized the fears of slave owners in the South like the August 21-22, 1831, slave insurrection led by Nat Turner in Southampton, Virginia. ###The Confessions of Nat Turner# details Turner's life and the events surrounding that armed revolt, which left more than fifty men, women, and children dead and that culminated in Turner's execution. Interviewed by Thomas R. Gray while in prison for his crimes, Turner begins his story with his earliest childhood memories, and the subsequent narrative leads the reader through his decision, formed over years in slavery, to strike for freedom. He discusses his religious conversion and his belief that he was called by God to murder slave owners. He spares no detail as he describes each murder he oversaw or committed. Unique in its historical moment and powerful voice, ###The Confessions of Nat Turner# provides an uncensored look into one of the key events in the slave-holding South.

Conflicting Memories on the “River of Death” Cover

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Conflicting Memories on the “River of Death”

The Chickamauga Battlefield and the Spanish-American War, 1863–1933

How veterans of two wars constructed contrasting meanings for one sacred landscapeOn September 19 and 20, 1863, the Union Army of the Cumberland and the Confederate Army of Tennessee fought a horrific battle along Chickamauga Creek in northern Georgia. Although the outcome of this chaotic slugfest was a stunning Confederate victory, the campaign ended with a resounding Union triumph at Chattanooga. The ill-fated Army of Tennessee never won another major battle, while the Army of the Cumberland was ultimately separated from its beloved commander, George H. Thomas.

Beginning with an account of the fierce fighting in 1863, author Bradley Keefer examines how the veterans of both sides constructed memories of this battle during the three decades leading to the creation of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. By preserving this most prominent battlefield, the former foes created a sacred, commemorative landscape that memorialized mutual valor, sacrifice, and sectional reconciliation.

Three years after the park’s 1895 dedication, the War Department made the Chickamauga battlefield the main training site for volunteer troops during the Spanish-American War and temporarily renamed it Camp George H. Thomas. Firsthand accounts by the camp’s soldiers initially reinforced the heroic connections between the Civil War and the war with Spain. However, rapidly deteriorating conditions at the camp contributed to a typhoid fever epidemic that killed over 700 men. The resulting scandal created a rift between the Civil War veterans, led by park founder Henry V. Boynton, and the disgruntled Spanish-American War soldiers who claimed that the park was unhealthy, the War Department negligent, and the deaths unnecessary.

The aging Civil War veterans worked tirelessly to restore the park to its former condition by obliterating the remnants of Camp George H. Thomas and obscuring its place in memory. For the veterans of the Spanish-American War, the ambiguous memories surrounding their ordeal at Camp George H. Thomas reflected their inability to make a significant dent in the nation’s collective consciousness. The neglect and victimization that many Spanish and Philippine war veterans felt they had endured at the camp continued well into the twentieth century as they and their accomplishments were gradually overshadowed by the legacy of the Civil War and the epic significance of the two World Wars.

Confronting Savery Cover

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Confronting Savery

Edward Coles and the Rise of the Nineteenth-Century America

Edward Coles, who lived from 1786-1868, is most often remembered for his antislavery correspondence with Thomas Jefferson in 1814, freeing his slaves in 1819, and leading the campaign against the legalization of slavery in Illinois during the 1823-24 convention contest.   

A Connecticut Yankee in Lincoln’s Cabinet Cover

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A Connecticut Yankee in Lincoln’s Cabinet

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles Chronicles the Civil War

Gideon Welles

Gideon Welles, the Connecticut journalist-politician who served as Lincoln’s secretary of the navy, was not only an architect of Union victory but also a shrewd observer of people, issues, and events. Fortunately for posterity, he recorded many of his observations in his extensive diary. A Connecticut Yankee in Lincoln’s Cabinet brings together 250 of the most important and interesting excerpts from the diary, dealing with topics as varied as the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, the Marine Band’s concerts in Washington’s Lafayette Square, Lincoln’s sense of humor, rivalries among cabinet members, Welles’s often caustic opinions of prominent politicians and military leaders, demands for creation of a navy yard in his home state, the challenge of blockading 3,500 miles of Confederate coastline, the struggle against rebel commerce raiders, the battles of Antietam and Gettysburg, the Fort Pillow massacre of African American troops, and Lincoln’s assassination. Together, the excerpts provide a candid insider’s view of the Civil War as it unfolded, and an introduction provides the reader with context. Published by the Acorn Club.

A Conquering Spirit Cover

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A Conquering Spirit

Fort Mims and the Redstick War of 1813-1814

Written by Gregory A. Waselkov

The Fort Mims massacre changed the course of American history in many ways, not the least of which was the ensuing rise of one Andrew Jackson to the national stage. The unprecedented Indian victory over the encroaching Americans who were bent on taking their lands and destroying their culture horrified many and injured the young nation's pride. Tragedies such as this one have always rallied Americans to a common cause: a single-minded determination to destroy the enemy and avenge the fallen. The August 30, 1813, massacre at Fort Mims, involving hundreds of dead men, women, and children, was just such a spark.

Gregory Waselkov tells compellingly the story of this fierce battle at the fortified plantation home of Samuel Mims in the Tensaw District of the Mississippi Territory. With valuable maps, tables, and artifact illustrations, Waselkov looks closely at the battle to cut through the legends and misinformation that have grown around the event almost from the moment the last flames died at the smoldering ruins. At least as important as the details of the battle, though, is his elucidation of how social forces remarkably converged to spark the conflict and how reverberations of the battle echo still today, nearly two hundred years later.

Contentious Liberties Cover

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Contentious Liberties

American Abolitionists in Post-Emancipation Jamaica, 1834-1866

Gale L. Kenny

The Oberlin College mission to Jamaica, begun in the 1830s, was an ambitious, and ultimately troubled, effort to use the example of emancipation in the British West Indies to advance the domestic agenda of American abolitionists. White Americans hoped to argue that American slaves, once freed, could be absorbed productively into the society that had previously enslaved them, but their “civilizing mission” did not go as anticipated. Gale L. Kenny’s illuminating study examines the differing ideas of freedom held by white evangelical abolitionists and freed people in Jamaica and explores the consequences of their encounter for both American and Jamaican history.

Kenny finds that white Americans—who went to Jamaica intending to assist with the transition from slavery to Christian practice and solid citizenship—were frustrated by liberated blacks’ unwillingness to conform to Victorian norms of gender, family, and religion. In tracing the history of the thirty-year mission, Kenny makes creative use of available sources to unpack assumptions on both sides of this American-Jamaican interaction, showing how liberated slaves in many cases were able not just to resist the imposition of white mores but to redefine the terms of the encounter.

Courtship and Love among the Enslaved in North Carolina Cover

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Courtship and Love among the Enslaved in North Carolina

Through an examination of various couples who were forced to live in slavery, Rebecca J. Fraser argues that slaves found ways to conduct successful courting relationships. In its focus on the processes of courtship among the enslaved, this study offers further insight into the meanings that structured intimate lives. Establishing their courtships, often across plantations, the enslaved men and women of antebellum North Carolina worked within and around the slave system to create and maintain meaningful personal relationships that were both of and apart from the world of the plantation. They claimed the right to participate in the social events of courtship and, in the process, challenged and disrupted the southern social order in discreet and covert acts of defiance. Informed by feminist conceptions of gender, sexuality, power, and resistance, the study argues that the courting relationship afforded the enslaved a significant social space through which they could cultivate alternative identities to those which were imposed upon them in the context of their daily working lives. Rebecca J. Fraser is lecturer in American studies at the University of East Anglia. Her essays have appeared in Journal of Southern History and Slavery and Abolition.

Cow Boys and Cattle Men Cover

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Cow Boys and Cattle Men

Class and Masculinities on the Texas Frontier, 1865-1900

Jacqueline Moore

Cowboys are an American legend, but despite ubiquity in history and popular culture, misperceptions abound. Technically, a cowboy worked with cattle, as a ranch hand, while his boss, the cattleman, owned the ranch. Jacqueline M. Moore casts aside romantic and one-dimensional images of cowboys by analyzing the class, gender, and labor histories of ranching in Texas during the second half of the nineteenth century.

As working-class men, cowboys showed their masculinity through their skills at work as well as public displays in town. But what cowboys thought was manly behavior did not always match those ideas of the business-minded cattlemen, who largely absorbed middle-class masculine ideals of restraint. Real men, by these standards, had self-mastery over their impulses and didn’t fight, drink, gamble or consort with "unsavory" women. Moore explores how, in contrast to the mythic image, from the late 1870s on, as the Texas frontier became more settled and the open range disappeared, the real cowboys faced increasing demands from the people around them to rein in the very traits that Americans considered the most masculine.

Published in Cooperation with the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies, Southern Methodist University.

Creating the Culture of Reform in Antebellum America Cover

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Creating the Culture of Reform in Antebellum America

T. Gregory Garvey

In this study, T. Gregory Garvey illustrates how activists and reformers claimed the instruments of mass media to create a freestanding culture of reform that enabled voices disfranchised by church or state to speak as equals in public debates over the nation's values. Competition among antebellum reformers in religion, women's rights, and antislavery institutionalized a structure of ideological debate that continues to define popular reform movements.

The foundations of the culture of reform lie, according to Garvey, in the reconstruction of publicity that coincided with the religious-sectarian struggles of the early nineteenth century. To counter challenges to their authority and to retain church members, both conservative and liberal religious factions developed instruments of reform propaganda (newspapers, conventions, circuit riders, revivals) that were adapted by an emerging class of professional secular reformers in the women's rights and antislavery movements. Garvey argues that debate among the reformers created a mode of “critical conversation” through which reformers of all ideological persuasions collectively forged new conventions of public discourse as they struggled to shape public opinion.

Focusing on debates between Lyman Beecher and William Ellery Channing over religious doctrine, Angelina Grimke and Catharine Beecher over women's participation in antislavery, and William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass over the ethics of political participation, Garvey argues that “crucible-like sites of public debate” emerged as the core of the culture of reform. To emphasize the redefinition of publicity provoked by antebellum reform movements, Garvey concludes the book with a chapter that presents Emersonian self-reliance as an effort to transform the partisan nature of reform discourse into a model of sincere public speech that affirms both self and community.

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