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Happy Thanksgiving!

Because it’s the season, here’s a compilation of all my previous posts on Thanksgiving and this time of the year. My favorite part of the holiday is proclaiming the family’s relationship to John Billington, a Mayflower wayfarer who shot his neighbor in a land dispute and was then executed by the powers that be. I’m fairly certain we’ve turned Thanksgiving into National Civil Disobedience Awareness day, because we, as a family, aren’t afraid to let you know when you’re being an idiot, but sometimes we forget to play nice when we work for you, and there’s a small nonexistent chance that was the same for Billington.


And so without further ado, in order of most recent to oldest, my Thanksgiving Day posts

Book Review of The Mayflower: A Story of Community, Courage, and War: featuring the Mayflower story and more interestingly, King Philip’s War that the second generation were involved with

So You Think You Know The Pilgrims : featuring an expansion on the themes brought up during the History Film Forum

History Film Forum : featuring a gratuitous history conference and a screening of Ric Burns’ The Pilgrims, an account of the first colony from the perspective of its leader, William Bradford

Turkey Day: a summary of the origins of the holiday, with excerpts from both Washington’s and Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Day Proclamations


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The Art of Revolutions

Of all the things to get me out of bed before 7:30 on a Saturday morning, you can bet a conference discussing the intersection of art and revolution would be near the top of the list. Hosted by the American Philosophical Society, this conference expanded on the concepts unearthed when putting together the Curious Revolutionaries, or the Peales of Philadelphia, exhibit.

I missed the keynote on Thursday night and the first day of paper presentations on Friday so I was only present for the Saturday sessions and the closing remarks. But that was ok because I had more space to digest the paper abstracts that were presented. Afterwards, descendants of the Peale family were to donate more artifacts or papers to the American Philosophical Society, but if it happened, I missed it as I was caught up in sandwiches and discussing Alternate/Virtual Reality and it’s potential impact on smaller museums.

*quick note: my only information was from the panel presentations. I have not read the full text of the papers presented.


A full program of events can be found at the event page of the APS’s website:

You can watch the segments live at this link:


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Books!: The Origins of Slavery

If you remember, Dear Reader(s), that way back in June I had visited the Museum of the American Revolution and had written up a post about its presentation of slavery. I am, in general, supportive of the narrative they chose to tell, yet there were still gaping holes that left me, frankly, annoyed and did the general public a disservice, I thought.

Thus, as is my wont, I took myself to the local library and checked out a load of books on the subject to make myself smarter than the museum. The first (and shortest!) one I read was called The Origins of Slavery: Freedom and Bondage in the English Colonies by Betty Wood.


Nothing like a nice, leisurely Saturday afternoon…

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The Paoli Massacre … or Something

Now that I’m living in the greater Philadelphia region, and fueled almost entirely by the first 70-ish episodes of The American Military History Podcast, I’m much more aware of the Revolutionary Era sites within easy driving distance of me. Which is how last weekend happened: on my way back from a Notre Dame Alumni event, I decided to swing by the Paoli battlefield site, as I had heard there were events happening there, and I didn’t want to miss out.

For those of you who don’t know, the Battle of Paoli happened in 1777 in Paoli, PA, which today is about 45 minutes from Philadelphia Proper. Also known as the Paoli Massacre, this event immediately followed the Battle of Brandywine, the largest land battle of the Revolution and a British victory.



So maybe it will be useful to back up a little bit further:

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TURN Down for What, Part II

(This is a little late because Real Life has been happening…)

WHEW. Did any one catch the series finale of TURN? ALL THE FEELS.

My life, of late, has been aperfect storm of all things Revolutionary, especially all things Culper: The tv series, relocating to Philadelphia, the first 71 episodes of the American Military History Podcast, the Museum of the American Revolution. Add the two recent books on this subject, George Washington’s Secret Six and Washington’s Spies, and I’ve been wallowing in the Culper Ring like a pig in mud. It’s been fantastic.

You see humanity, savagery, unexpected feels, unexpected plot twists (unless you know how the actual history plays out – funny how history has spoilers like that..). You even get to see Virginia star as Virginia as the excitement moves south! You follow everything obsessively on social media, put people in touch with people so you can say, “I know one of the extras!”, and can talk about the show with other fans at colonial balls so you both know what you mean when all you say is, “all the feels!”

But even more important to me: let me take even more time to gush about the production quality and the cinematography. Because it is beautiful and dramatic and adds elegance and authority and drama and so gorgeously underscores everything the characters do. I can’t coherently articulate my thoughts on the cinematography so I will sum it up with, “all the feels.





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A Different Angle

Last year I had written about an opportunity to go behind the scenes to see some of the Smithsonian’s 9/11 collection. Link here. Our tour guide, who was a curator but did not collect for this particular event, briefly touched on the mental and emotional impact experienced by those brave souls who did curate the sites, working among the rescue workers in an attempt to make sense of the event and find a way for future historians to tell the story, while no one yet understood what exactly that story was.

We always remember the first responders, and rightly so, from the firefighters to the National Guard to the chaplain who died giving last rites to victims. As an historian and someone whose livelihood exists behind the scenes, I don’t want to forget the people who operated in realms not often considered, from the museum curator who couldn’t do her job to a trucker whose interview I heard on the radio last week. The trucker’s cargo was empty body bags, and he had to drive to New York to deliver them. Yikes.


“9/11 Living Memorial,” Jerusalem, Israel. Made from recovered steel

It’s hard to express this year’s feelings on today. Searching for pictures to use made me realize what an international event it was, even before the War on Terror began. It has become both more global and more individualized as I look at the pictures and see both large groups involved, whose individual members all have a story. The trick is not forgetting either the group or the person as this event has been seminal on both an individual and a global level.



Image Source: 9/11 Memorials around the world

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Public History Done Fun

“In its simplest meaning, Public History refers to the employment of historians and the historical method outside of academia: in government, private corporations, the media, historical societies and museums, even in private practice.”
Public History: Its Origins, Nature, and Prospects, Robert Kelly

About once every quarter or so, I have an existential crisis of some severity in which I wonder if I made the right decision by not pursuing academia. The answer is usually yes; watching the education bubble inflate, with the number of history students exceeding history job openings, as well as the “publish or perish” mantra all reassure me that that’s something I’m ok without.

To assuage the academia FOMO*, I pursue history in other ways that, I think, prove history can be just as enjoyable outside of the ivory tower, if not more so. Whether that’s historical reenacting (lite, not hardcore), reading books, or staying up to date with historical scuttlebutt online, I keep my brain engaged, if not very organized.
*Fear Of Missing Out

I don’t claim to be a public historian, even by amateur standards, but in my travels across the internet, I have come across public history done many different ways by those of whom the ivory tower would probably disapprove. What follows are some of my favorites:


“The Allison Brothers of PA” by Jared Frederick of History Matters

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