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53 2 My­ thol­ o­ giz­ ing His­ tory on Du ­ Pont’s Cav­ al­ cade of Amer­ ica­ Tucked away in a pleas­ ant cor­ ner of space, away where Time has no mean­ ing—­ there’s a part of the Prom­ ised Land re­ served for ­ Americans, where all com­ ers are al­ lowed to wan­ der any­ where they want . . . Ha­ gley Mu­ seum and Li­ brary, Pic­ to­ rial Col­ lec­ tions, Cav­ al­ cade of Amer­ ica Tran­ scripts, “Davy Crock­ ett,” no. 227 So began a 1941 Cav­ al­ cade of Amer­ ica radio play about Davy Crock­ ett. These words also serve as an intro­ duc­ tion to the Cav­ al­ cade it­ self. Blend­ ing to­ gether his­ tory and myth, ac­ cen­ tu­ at­ ing na­ tion­ al­ ism and pa­ tri­ ot­ ism, and de­ fin­ ing who and what be­ longs in the ­ American story, the Du Pont ­ Company’s ­ twodecade -long pub­ lic les­ son in ­ American his­ tory ­ achieved all this while re­ shap­ ing the past into a con­ sis­ tent ar­ gu­ ment ­ against govern­ ment reg­ u­ la­ tion. His­ tory was­ molded into some­ thing use­ ful, both for the spon­ sor and for many other ­ Americans , who saw the se­ ries as an ed­ u­ ca­ tional op­ por­ tu­ nity that might en­ cour­ age civic re­ newal ­ through ­ greater knowl­ edge of the ­ nation’s his­ tory. Ed­ u­ ca­ tors, his­ to­ rians, and com­ mu­ nity lead­ ers ­ looked to Du Pont to pro­ vide what that they felt lack­ ing—first on radio, later on tele­ vi­ sion: the ed­ u­ ca­ tional pro­ gram­ ming that had ­ largely ­ failed to flow forth as ex­ pected from these new tech­ nol­ o­ gies. Fol­ low­ ing the endorse­ ment of prom­ i­ nent his­ to­ rians, school­ teach­ ers ­ across the 54 E Du Pont’s Cavalcade of America coun­ try used Cav­ al­ cade films and phono­ graph ­ records to in­ struct their stu­ dents in ­ American his­ tory. Ad­ di­ tion­ ally, mil­ lions of ­ Americans tuned in to the se­ ries on their own radio and tele­ vi­ sion sets. The pop­ u­ lar­ ity of the pro­ gram ­ raises ques­ tions about how a care­ fully cal­ cu­ lated ad­ ver­ tis­ ing cam­ paign by one of the larg­ est and most vis­ ible cor­ po­ ra­ tions in the ­ United ­ States was so ­ widely ac­ cepted as an ed­ u­ ca­ tional tool for teach­ ing ­ American his­ tory—or even ac­ cepted as his­ tory in it­ self—and how Du Pont could reach mil­ lions with its inter­ pre­ ta­ tions while the pro­ fes­ sional his­ tor­ i­ cal as­ so­ ci­ a­ tions strug­ gled to com­ mu­ ni­ cate with the pub­ lic. This ­ mythic his­ tory re­ told tales from Amer­ ica’s past, es­ pe­ cially sto­ ries that cel­ e­ brated in­ di­ vid­ u­ al­ ism, the be­ nev­ o­ lence of big busi­ ness, and a tra­ di­ tional Amer­ ica where men and women pos­ sessed “the con­ sol­ ing knowl­ edge that no govern­ ment ta­ boos would inter­ fere with their prog­ ress.”1 The pro­ gram em­ pha­ sized Du ­ Pont’s “con­ tri­ bu­ tions to ­ people’s wel­ fare and hap­ pi­ ness” and also elu­ ci­ dated the “fun­ da­ men­ tal re­ li­ gious, so­ cial, eth­ i­ cal, po­ lit­ i­ cal and eco­ nomic prin­ ci­ ples” that fos­ tered the past, ­ present, and fu­ ture en­ vi­ ron­ ment ­ wherein the cor­ po­ ra­ tion ­ thrived.2 Cav­ al­ cade gen­ er­ ally used fa­ mil­ iar his­ tor­ i­ cal mo­ ments but re­ con­ fig­ ured the sto­ ries into us­ able ­ fables. ­ Through this pro­ cess, his­ tory lost con­ text, chro­ nol­ ogy, and any sense of dis­ tance. Cav­ al­ cade of Amer­ ica’s ­ highly se­ lec­ tive pick­ ing and choos­ ing from the past to find the de­ sired les­ sons for the­ present bears close re­ sem­ blance, in both act and con­ se­ quence, to comb­ ing the Bible for a sin­ gle verse that sup­ ports or re­ futes a par­ tic­ u­ lar ar­ gu­ ment. The fail­ ure to con­ sider how the anec­ dote fits into...


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