Book Review: Manufacturing Advantage: War, the State, and the Origins of American Industry, 1776-1848

Book review by Kyle B. Carpenter

In her debut monograph, Manufacturing Advantage: War, the State, and the Origins of American Industry, Lindsay Schakenbach Regele produced an outstanding history of Early American capitalism. She argues that the American arms and textile industries became the focus of policymakers’ efforts to create national security after the American Revolution in order to protect the United States from reconquest and move on from dependence on British manufactured goods. An excellent political economy of Early America, the book shows the clear connections between the American state and business interests from the moment the United States declared its independence. It also hits on the major themes of national security, nationalism, and U.S. territorial and economic expansion. I found the book to be a joy to read as it contributes a valuable new concept, is tightly organized and always stays on point in its argumentation.

Schakenbach Regele offers historians of American political economy a new concept: national security capitalism. She defines it as “a mixed enterprise system in which government agents and private producers brokered solutions to the problems of international economic disparities and war.”[1] A forerunner to Eisenhower’s notion of the military industrial complex, national security capitalism neatly summarizes that the United States never completely adhered to free-market capitalism. Federal subsidies, government contracts, and protectionist tariffs for the arms and textile industries ensured the United States could withstand international conflict. The concept usefully provides a shorthand for future historians to utilize without having to delve into the depths of the connections between state and business in Early America on their own. Schakenbach Regele did all the work and wrapped it in a neat three-word concept.

In terms of its construction, Manufacturing Advantage is chronologically organized and adheres to its tightly woven argument. She begins the book with the supply nightmares George Washington faced during the Revolution and uses Valley Forge to ground her argument in the reality of shortages of clothing and arms. The framers of the constitution, keenly aware of the war’s supply problems, included executive powers for presidential cabinets and staffing to bolster manufacturing without having to wait for congressional legislation. Schakenbach Regele then takes the reader through all the formative decisions made by succeeding presidents and their cabinets from Washington to Polk, hitting all the major events from the embargo under Jefferson, the War of 1812, expansions into Latin America, and finally the U.S.-Mexico War. In each chapter, the author sticks tightly to her argument by explicitly showing how policymakers supported the arms and textile industries.

In fact, my one critique of the book is that it may at times be too tightly organized. Some sections of the book could benefit from the narrative loosening up to explore the broader context. For example, in chapter 6, “Industrial Manifest Destiny,” the author gives a brief background of the United States’ expansion into Oregon and Mexico but spends most of the chapter’s focus on changes to the Ordnance Department. I think this section of the book had an opportunity to expand a bit to explain the continued British and French presence in Texas and how it enflamed U.S. nationalism. Since nationalism was a key element in the unity between the state and manufacturing industry, further exploring the context of rising nationalism might help make the argument even more forceful.

My critique is merely how to make an excellent book even better. Manufacturing Advantage remains an incredible contribution to the history of Early American capitalism and political economy.  Its conceptual framework and organization make it an accessible read for any scholar interested in the topic.

[1] Lindsay Schakenbach Regele, Manufacturing Advantage: War, the State, and the Origins of American Industry, 1776-1848 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019), 2.

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From Rejected to Accepted: Learning from Mistakes and Setting Yourself Up for Success

By Andrew Klumpp

One of the things no one told me about graduate school when I started was exactly how much rejection I would face as a graduate student. The application process to graduate school probably should have indicated that the academy includes a fair amount of rejection, but I’m not sure that I really understood that until I started the process of really putting myself out there for fellowships, conferences, and jobs.

Social media and departmental websites make it easy to witness our colleagues’ successes. When someone receives a prestigious grant, their name and picture, deservedly, show up on the department website. When conferences make decisions about accepted papers/panels, I often find out first from enthusiastic announcements on Twitter before I even have time to check my own inbox.

Conversely, people infrequently announce their rejections from fellowships, jobs, or conferences.

I’ve been fortunate enough over the past four years to receive my fair share of acceptance emails, and on occasion, I’ve even announced my delight on social media; however, a big part of my process of receiving more acceptances has involved learning from plenty of rejection.

I used to keep all of my deadlines in my head and just presumed that I wouldn’t forget any of them. Vaguely, I knew when conference proposals were due and which fellowships might apply to my research interests. I had a bit of success that way, but I also got my share of rejections. I occasionally missed a deadline because it came up more quickly than I anticipated or failed to pull a panel together in time because I didn’t start my work putting it together soon enough. My first few years as a grad student, I learned some of these lessons the hard way, through rejection and the occasional missed opportunity.

I don’t mind be open about those early struggles, failures, and rejections, though. First of all, I’ve learned and changed as I’ve developed as a scholar. Secondly, I recognize that this is part of the process of my learning as a graduate student and good preparation for future efforts to navigate the academic world.

So, what have I learned from all of this?

1) Keep a Spreadsheet

In light of the lessons I’ve learned, I do things differently now. Every August I sit down to prepare an excel sheet to keep track of all upcoming conference, fellowship, and job deadlines for the academic year. This year, as a fourth-year student, I knew I’d spend a lot of my time in the classroom, in the archives, and writing my dissertation, but I didn’t want to lose sight of the many opportunities that would come my way. Missing a few deadlines earlier in my career or being rejected because I knew I didn’t allot the appropriate amount of time to an application taught me a lesson. Knowing the importance of these applications forced me to set myself up to maximize my opportunities for success.

During this process, I also take time to scour fellowship announcements, research library grants, and a variety of other sources of support for graduate students. If I find something that looks like it will apply to my work, I enter it into my spreadsheet, copy the website into the appropriate line, and insert the due date. Most of these opportunities occur annually, so I can find them at any time of the year, and by doing much of the legwork ahead of time, funding opportunities are less likely to sneak up on me. Sure, things come up unexpectedly, but when they do, I put them in the spreadsheet and continue with the process.

With all of that information collected, I can arrange my spreadsheet by due date and pace my work appropriately without the fear of missing an important deadline.

2) Start Conference Planning Early

Plenty of rejections have also taught me quite a bit about the process of putting together panels for conferences. Most crucially, I’ve learned to start earlier rather than later. Sometimes things come together last minute, but I’ve often found more success when I started early. It takes work to put together a dynamic panel and as a graduate student, that meant leaning on my contacts in the field, sending emails to folks I’d never met, and in at least one instance, turning to Twitter to fill a last minute vacancy. It’s work that takes time. An important part of getting your work out there is the process of presenting at conferences, but coordinating between scholars, particularly over email, is something done best with plenty of time to spare.

When setting up a panel, it’s also important to know who you are and pay attention to creating panels that represent the diversity of voices in the field. That’s been hard sometimes, especially because as a graduate student many of my closest colleagues are other graduate students. I know of panels of graduate students that have been accepted at some conferences, but your odds always improve if you are able to folks at diverse points in their career—the same goes for representing all other forms of diversity working in the field. With a bit of time and chutzpah, you can often secure established scholars for a panel. In fact, I’ve often been surprised by how gracious, kind, and encouraging these folks are when approached about panel opportunities.

3) Don’t let fear of rejection stop you.

Rejection can be very hard, and with every letter or email I get, there’s a tinge of disappointment. But I’ve learned not to be afraid of it. More than once in the past year alone, I’ve been happily surprised because I took the time to apply for fellowships or ask well-known scholars to participate in a panel I was developing.

When I look back on my 2018-2019 spreadsheet, it’s a mixed bag. I still got plenty of rejections, but I also met almost every single one of my deadlines with time to spare. At the end of the day though, it was my most successful year by far, particularly for fellowships and panel and paper proposals.

By taking the lessons I learned from rejections earlier in my career, I received three wonderful research grants for the coming year from the Van Raalte Institute in Holland, Michigan, the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts, and the New-York Historical Society in New York City. I also managed to snag a small dissertation completion fellowship, which will certainly ease the stress of writing next year and a few conference travel grants. This year, I’ll also have the opportunity to present my work in a variety of contexts, including on panels that I organized at the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, and the American Academy of Religion.

Since I started graduate school four years ago, I’ve been rejected a lot. Those rejections have often been difficult, disappointing, or frustrating, but they’ve also been instructive. I’ve learned that rejection is a part of the process. The system I’ve developed isn’t perfect and it certainly doesn’t stop me from getting rejected. Ultimately, though, it works for me. It helped me, as a fourth year Ph.D. candidate, look back at 2018-2019 academic calendar as one filled with both instructive rejections and also plenty of acceptances.

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Teaching Texas History: Connecting State and Local History to the World

By Kyle B. Carpenter

During this past Spring semester, I assisted Dr. Brian Franklin with his survey course on Texas history. It was an excellent experience. The guidance Dr. Franklin imparted was invaluable. He is a model for how to lead a fun and engaging historical survey. Not only did I gain valuable skills from his example, but his willingness to allow me to lead discussion sections and give lectures in class gave me a head start for when I go to create my own syllabi on Texas history. Through Dr. Franklin’s lectures and guidance, as well as my own research in building lectures and discussion exercises, I came to the unequivocal understanding that regional history is global history. I also found that functionally, regional histories offer broad appeal to students through their recognizability and clear demonstration the historian’s craft. Teaching Texas history has offered me an even more positive perspective of regional history than I previously had.

Throughout its history, Texas has been a transnational space. Prior to European contact, indigenous groups migrated into and out of the region competing for trade, space, and natural resources. European attempts to settle Texas created even more contestation over the region as the Spanish and French entered into the already complicated competition over territory. After Mexico gained its independence, the new nation attempted to open Texas for the Atlantic World. Through the empresario system, Mexico contracted with independent agents to promote migration to Texas from Europe and North America. Ultimately, the empresario system drew in thousands of Anglo-Americans from the U.S. South who rebelled against Mexico in order to maintain their own notions of Jacksonian democracy and African chattel slavery. They established the Republic of Texas which became a hotbed of international intrigue and diplomacy that drew in the English, French, United States, and several German principalities. Those diplomatic struggles, particularly over the issues of the cotton trade and African chattel slavery, continued after Texas annexation to the United States and re-engulfed the Atlantic World during the U.S. Civil War. Transnational contestation in Texas remained unceasing.[1]

By the twentieth century, Texas became a place where global conflicts played out. The confluence of the Mexican Revolution, increasing ethnic violence, and the Zimmerman Telegram pushed Texans to support the U.S. entering World War I. Oil speculations and the rising oil and gas economy in Texas helped dictate world economies and American foreign policy. Furthermore, the United States fought portions of the Cold War through Texas. Texas Instruments contributed to U.S. military technology to help build a vast American nuclear arsenal. Religious leaders based in Texas, like Billy Graham, developed theologies to combat Soviet atheism. The world moved in and out of this one region in the middle of North America.[2]

In all of these examples showing how Texas was tied to the globe, teaching Texas history allows for various historical perspectives. Not only can one teach the subject from the points of view of Spain, Mexico, England, the Soviet Union or OPEC, Texas history promotes indigenous, African American, Mexican American, and various gendered perspectives. There is something in this regional history for everyone. Students can certainly find something to latch onto, something meaningful to them.

“Karte von Texas entworfen nach den Vermessungen, welche in den Acten der General-Land-Office der Republic liegen bis zum Jahr 1839 von Richard S. Hunt & Jesse F. Randel”. Map courtesy Dorothy Sloan-Rare Books, Austin, Texas

Even though Texas history is global, it remains a regional history with a limited geographic space that allows students a greater ability for analytical development and to better understand the historian’s craft. Dr. Franklin demonstrated this perfectly through a newspaper project that each student submitted individually. The assignment took place in stages and encouraged students to interact with primary sources throughout the semester. Students chose two separate Texas newspapers within a 3-month period between 1850-1877. They read four editions of each newspaper within their chosen timeframe and identified four topics that stood out to them as either being particularly significant or just interesting. Finally, they drew out the topic that they found most engaging and wrote a final report based on their primary sources and select secondary sources. Students wrote about a vast array of topics from slavery, to the Civil War, to railroad development, to border conflicts, to fashion. I thought the newspaper project a wonderful exercise for students to grasp the significance of Texas history and to learn how historians develop ideas.

I gained so much essential experience in my assistantship with Dr. Franklin. He included me in the early design phase of the course where we discussed possible readings and assignments for the students. We shared in the grading and student advisement. He also generously shared his lecture slides and notes when I got stuck on how best to frame a lecture. Perhaps most importantly, I learned in Dr. Franklin’s course how to construct a survey on a regional history that draws out its global implications.

[1] Randolph B. Campbell, Gone to Texas: A History of the Lone Star State, Third edition (New York ; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018); Randolph B Campbell, An Empire for Slavery: The Peculiar Institution in Texas, 1821-1865 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2009); Jesús F. de la Teja, Paula Mitchell Marks, and Ronnie C. Tyler, Texas: Crossroads of North America (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co, 2004); David J. Weber, The Spanish Frontier in North America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009).

[2] Patricia Bernstein, The First Waco Horror: The Lynching of Jesse Washington and the Rise of the NAACP (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2006); H. G Bissinger, Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream. (Boston: Da Capo Press, 2015). Campbell, Gone to Texas; de la Teja, et. al, Texas: Crossroads of North America.

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Graduate Students as Writers

Last week we had a wonderful lunch with the great Alessandra Link (On twitter at @AlessandraLink2).   She talked about writing, learning to write, writing well, and cherishing writing.

Here is a list of the great books she recommended

  1. Aaron Sachs, “Letters to a Tenured Historian: Imagining History as Creative Nonfiction–or Maybe Even Poetry,” Rethinking History  14:1 (2010)
    1. with responses from other historians:
      1. Jeffery Wasserstrom, “A letter from an Emeritus Historian, c. 2049″
      2. Kate Brown, “Three Letters from to a Junior Colleague
      3. Jenny Price, “A Letter from a Lapsed Colleague
  2. Anne Dillard, The Writing Life
  3. Dani Shapiro, Still Writing (a personal favorite)
  4. Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
  5. John McPhee, Draft No. 4
  6. Stephen King, On Writing
  7. Zadie Smith interview

 

 

 

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“arrayed in wood shoes, armed to the teeth, well supplied with spirits… and brimful of wrath and cabbage”

Check out GPRS PhD Candidate Andrew Klumpp’s lastest post over at the US Intellectual History blog.  The Midwestern “Heartland” has a contentious and “hardscrabble” history — a different kind of borderlands.  You’ll never think of small town Iowa in the same way…

Wooden Shoes on a Warpath: Violence and Power in the Nineteenth-Century Midwest

 

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Why Esteem Trumps Fame: The Lesson from George Washington that “we the people” and our Government Should Remember on this President’s Day

By Camille Davis

Rembrandt Peale
George Washington, Copy of Patriae Pater, 1850
Oil on Canvas
33 1/8 inches X 27 3/4 inches
Dallas Museum of Art

In 1850, Rembrandt Peale, one of the last living portraitists of George Washington, painted his 80thcopy of one of his most famous depictions of America’s first President. This painting – called Patriae Pater – was originally created in 1824, and its name is a variation of the Roman appellation: Father of the Country.  Although Washington passed in 1799, his role as the inaugural leader of America was still being celebrated in 1850, and portraits of him – like the Patriae Pater copies—were still being commissioned. The celebration continues today. Here’s why:

Rembrandt Peale
Patriae Pater, 1824
Oil on Canvas
71.5 inches X 53.25 inches
United States Senate

When Washington took office in 1789, he came with a well-established track record of prioritizing the needs of the country before his own. He exhibited this most aptly in his conduct as Commander of the Continental Army during the American Revolution. Although Washington masterfully projected confidence and competence in public settings, he privately anguished about the ways to lead those who entrusted their lives and fortunes to him. This apprehension infused his style of leadership with a rare sense of sobriety and magnanimity.

Those who served in the Continental Army saw myriad examples of Washington using his power to protect and serve. One poignant example is described in Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch’s recently released book called The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington. Meltzer and Mensch describe the famous episode of August 1776 when the British possessed control of New York and continuously thwarted attempts from the American forces to gain control over it. Once it became clear that Washington’s opponents outmaneuvered him, it seemed that he had only two choices: attack or surrender. The first option meant certain death or capture for his men, and the other meant placing his men at the mercy of their enemies. Washington considered and executed a third option — a great escape. He arranged for all of his men to secretly take boats across the East River from Brooklyn Heights into Manhattan. What makes Meltzer and Mensch’s account of the story worth discussing is that they emphasize Washington’s decision to be the last person in the army to take a boat to safety. He ensured that his troops evacuated first.  

Such instances of valor and unselfishness were what made Washington respected among his troops and venerated among the American public. They also led to comparisons of Washington to well-known Classical figures from ancient Greece and Rome who gained their reputations by their virtue. This perception of Washington was promoted by America’s leading intellectuals who sought to construct a new American government based on the idea of meritocracy – a proven ability to lead –instead of presumption – a desire to lead without having earned the right to do so. Painters of Washington, like Rembrandt Peale, were a part of the intellectual class that used words and images to teach Americans the importance of picking leaders who possessed the merit to govern.

With full knowledge that subsequent Presidents would not always be military heroes or even veterans, the founders bequeathed elections to us as a mechanism for deciding who would best represent the interests of the nation. Their hope was that we would overcome our own personal biases and petty preferences in order to choose presidents and other elected officials who could serve the common good.

To be sure, George Washington was not perfect. No politician will ever be. We human beings share a penchant for error.

Gilbert Stuart
George Washington, Athenaeum, 1796
Oil on Canvas
28.63 inches x 23.63 inches
United States Senate

However, what made Washington remarkable as a general and as a President was his desire and determination to overcome his shortcomings in order to rise to the great challenges of his time.

By the time that the fighting of the Revolution began, Washington was the most famous man on the American continent. Because of this, he could have become a great tyrant who worked for political expediency and political glory.

However, instead of resting in fame, Washington chose to prove to his fellow Americans that he was worthy of their trust by behaving with personal honor. His conduct as general and later as President solidified something greater than fame.  Washington earned respect and the right to be the sole American bestowed with the honor, Patriae Pater.

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The Transatlantic Graduate Student History Association 19th Annual Conference

By Kyle B. Carpenter

On October 19th-20th, the Transatlantic History Student Organization put on their 19th annual graduate student conference at the University of Texas at Arlington. Highlighted by an engaging roundtable, keynote address from Dr. Nayan Shah, and exciting new research from graduate students in the field of Transatlantic History, the conference proved to be an excellent professional experience where I made great connections.

The conference kicked off on Friday night with a roundtable that directly tackled the theme of the weekend, “Subversive Spaces, Subversive Bodies.” With several discussants, including Drs. Stephanie Cole and Patryk Babiracki, the topics ranged from race to gender to the role of the state. One topic they deliberated that I found particularly engaging was the difference between subversive zones and borderlands. I had always considered those two concepts regarding their location in geographic space: the borderlands as an area that no state has yet to be able to fully establish its authority and subversive zones as areas within an established state where people are able to practice subversive activity. Their discussion got me thinking about how subversive zones exist within the borderlands, as people coalesce to challenge and subvert power in various forms, regardless of the state. It was a fun, engaging, and well-organized roundtable that, frankly, I could have listened to for another hour.

Immediately following the roundtable, Dr. Shah took the floor and presented his research on hunger strikes as a bodily form of protest in prisons. One of the key concepts of his work is the notion of the carceral control of food. Life in a prison is organized primarily around meal times and the primary power of the prison is that it can dole out and withhold food as it pleases. He argued that when political inmates went on hunger strike, it severely undermined the power structure within the institution. The prison’s control of food no longer mattered to the protester. If the hunger strike became public, it further undermined carceral control, thus making hunger strikes an important weapon of political prisoners throughout the twentieth century.

Leaflet advertising THSO 2018

In thinking about his presentation and the topic of bodily forms of protest, my mind immediately turned toward more extreme protests, like bodily mutilation or self-immolation. When I asked him about it during the Q&A, Dr. Shah patiently went through the many forms of bodily protest that occurred in prisons but came back to his argument that hunger strikes were the most effective at undermining carceral control. It was a convincing argument and the talk overall was a rewarding experience.

On Saturday, the degreed professionals took a back seat and the graduate students got to shine. The first panel of the day, titled “Reinterpreting the Body: Gender, Race, and Youth Construction,” contained three insightful papers. One that stood out because it seemed quite relevant to the public activities of white supremacists today was Derrick Angermeier’s “The Germans are Beating Us at Our Own Game: The Path from Southern Eugenics to Transatlantic Nazism.” He argued that, while Nazism undermined scientific Eugenics in the South, white supremacy remained a welcome pathway for racial expression in the United States. He dubbed the post-World War II American white supremacist movement as “transatlantic Nazism” because it shared so many features with its German cousin, particularly the symbolism, like the use of the iron cross. Angermeier’s presentation was both engaging and a little bit scary considering some of the parallels he made to current events.

The second panel, “Policing the Body Politic,” only had two presenters but they both provided unique perspectives on their topics. Heather Lane enlightened us on the debates within police forces across the Atlantic about systematizing human identification. While fingerprinting ultimately won out, different systems of measurement were championed across the western hemisphere which led to considerable confrontations among police forces. Aleksei Rubstov similarly tackled the issue of police monitoring and identification but flipped it to show how police identified social networks within protest movements in Moscow. One of the highlights of Rubstov’s presentation was his beautiful visualization of those networks and how they connected or did not.

Aleksei Rubstov presents his networks at THSO 2018.

I was in the third panel, “Buying In: Subverting Economy, Citizenship, and Expectations.” After we three panelists all presented, I understood the real value of a graduate student conference. Throughout the conference, a panel chair commented on each paper and most of them provided an incredible amount of constructive feedback. Our panel was no exception as Dr. Christopher Morris gave us all individual comments that, for me at least, will make not only that paper better, but help me think through my entire dissertation. I also made excellent professional connections with the other members of my panel.

Overall, the Transatlantic History Student Organization put together a wonderful conference, which makes it clear how a graduate student conference made it to its nineteenth year. I encountered engaging academic discussion, received amazing feedback, and created a couple important professional connections that I hope lead to future conference panels.

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Echoes of the Bracero Program During California’s Primary Election Debate

By Jonathan Angulo

Before California’s gubernatorial primary election, four Democrats and two Republicans faced off in a televised debate on January 25, 2018. Moderators Jorge Ramos and Ilia Caldéron asked candidates Antonio Villaraigosa (D), Delaine Eastin (D), Gavin Newsom (D), John Chiang (D), John Cox (R), and Travis Allen (R), about many issues, including immigration in general and in particular—they asked questions on sexual assault against undocumented women, on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and on immigrant farm work. Candidates Chiang and Cox alluded to the Bracero Program, a guest-worker program enacted between 1942-1964, during the debate. The discussion demonstrated how the program is remembered and how guest workers should be treated. The comments suggest the United States should remember workers’ hardships, so they are treated humanely when legislators propose immigration policies.

A fourteen-year old, Benjamín Zepeda, asked the candidates, “How can you help families like mine that are scared to be separated due to deportation?” this prompted Chiang’s indirect reference to the Bracero Program. As he highlighted immigrants’ contribution to California’s development, he recalled that during World War II the nation invited Mexicans to labor in our farms. Acknowledging the country’s failure to advocate for fully just immigration policies, he declared that our economic future would be shaped by immigrants. In recalling braceros’ contributions, the candidate pledged his support for immigrants because our country should represent dignity, decency, and respect for all people. He accordingly vowed to solve such issues with all governors by pushing Washington D.C., to enact comprehensive immigration reform. Thus, Chiang’s comments alluded to the significance and importance of the Bracero Program. 1

Candidate Chiang is seen answering a question during the debate.

 

Chiang’s statement referring to this country’s failure in advocating for just immigration policies had merit even in regard to the Bracero Program, whose resurrection is sometimes promoted as a solution to current immigration problems. The binational agreement originated when the agribusiness and railroad industries lobbied Congress for a guest-worker program. President Franklin Roosevelt subsequently signed an executive order which caused Mexico and the United States to create the Bracero Program from 1942-1951; Congress later extended the program from 1951 to 1964. Contracted Mexican workers, known as Braceros, traveled from their homes to migratory stations in Mexico before reaching the border. Then, they traveled from the stations to U.S. reception centers where they were formally contracted. Braceros were to be paid a minimum wage, provided with housing, given food, and promised a small pension from deducted funds in their paychecks.2

The program brought numerous laborers to the United States; however, there were not enough jobs for them, which led the applicants to take desperate measures. For example, on June 13th, 1958 a bracero bought a peer’s identity, so he could move up in the waiting list. Contracted by the Ventura County Citrus Growers Committee, the bracero, after his six-month contract, used the peer’s name again. Migratory officials, however, found that he was using the fraudulent identity. Thus, Mexicans who could not attain a contract through formal measures used such informal means and increasingly crossed the border as undocumented immigrants. The Eisenhower administration, subsequently, enacted Operation Wetback in 1954 which resulted in the deportation of over a million Mexicans. Mexican officials were upset at the deportations as they argued that the U.S. had invited workers to cross the border, then punished undocumented workers, instead of the employers who hired them.3

Moderator Ilia Caldéron later in the debate asked John Cox, “Do you know that more than 60% of the people harvesting fruits and veggies here in California are undocumented immigrants? Isn’t it pro-business to give them a legal status?” The candidate answered by sympathizing with Central Valley Farmers. According to Cox, the farmers advertised higher wages; however, they continued to endure labor shortages. The candidate then argued for a labor importation program, basically another Bracero Program already shown to be flawed. He claimed that Latinos came from dysfunctional and corrupt countries such as, Mexico, Honduras, Venezuela, and Guatemala. Cox continued by describing them as nations where special interests, cronies, and monopolists receive government favors. The candidate ended by stating that Latinos come to the United States because it is a country of laws. But some farmers’ actions during the program tell a different story.4

Candidate Cox addresses Trump’s comments about African Nations and Third World countries.

 

The Bracero Program demonstrated that the United States often acted as a nation without laws, as the government frequently served farmers’ interests despite written agreements. For example, in November 1942, a frost damaged pea crops in the Imperial Valley of California. At the time, braceros were contracted to harvest peas, but were instead ordered to tie carrots. In addition, farmers paid braceros and domestic workers six cents per bushel instead of the normal eight-cent piece rate which challenged the prevailing wage agreement in the program. Objecting against such “cheap” labor, discontented domestic workers organized a strike on January 9, 1943 advocating for the original rate. In response, the California Farm Labor Transportation Program and the Imperial Valley Farmers Association worked together to deport braceros who refused to be strikebreakers. Thus, forty workers were deported between January 9 and February 3. The tying season finished before the strike gathered momentum.5

The United States, nevertheless, continued to break laws. Before 1952, the U.S president and the Mexican government informally re-approved the Bracero Program. Once President Harry Truman signed Public Law No. 78, the program required Congress’s approval every two years. The next renewal was accordingly discussed in 1954. Although both countries had failed to come to an agreement in early 1954, U.S. Border Patrol officials encouraged Mexicans to cross the border under an undocumented status. Tony Gose, a resident from the Imperial Valley, verified this claim in a House Agriculture Committee report. On one occasion, he witnessed a Mexican official grab a former bracero to prevent him from being hired as an undocumented laborer. A U.S. official, however, in a tug of war fashion, grabbed the laborer in an attempt to take him from the Mexican agent. Finally, both governments after tense negotiations agreed on a new renewal in 1954.6

Los Angeles Times Photographer Frank Q. Brown’s Imperial Valley Border Picture, 1954.

 

After the program, society has demonstrated that braceros have been remembered, but policymakers need to study their experiences more closely. Providing assistance for such study, the National Museum of American History has created the Bracero History Project to tell the complex history of braceros. Also, the Bracero Justice Movement has sought to recognize the exploitation and injustices guest workers faced, as well as to recuperate pensions and wages withheld from them. Policymakers should remember that braceros often found ways to alleviate the wrongs they experienced. They also developed agency when confronting state power in ways that might give politicians pause in promoting new guest worker programs As Mireya Loza argues in Defiant Braceros, braceros participated in deviance and defiance when they participated in the vice and sex industries along the border. Their shared leisure experiences gave them agency but also demonstrates that the importation of temporary male workers might be less preferable than admission of permanent residents in families.7

Policymakers, nevertheless, must agree that the United States and California was built on the backs of immigrants, that our country represents dignity, decency, and respect for all people, and that our nation should recognize and avoid repeating historical injustices when composing new immigration laws.

 

  1. Univision Noticias, “Forum with California’s gubernatorial candidates 2018.” YouTube video, 1:36:14, January 25, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcWa-X0RxwA&t=2044s&index=13&list=WL.
  2. Henry P. Anderson, The Bracero Program in California. (New York: Arno Press, 1976),43, 108.
  3. Peter N. Kirstein, “Agribusiness, Labor and the Wetbacks: Truman’s Commission on Migratory Labor,” The Historian, vol. 40. no. 4 (1978): 651; Richard B. Craig, The Bracero Program Interest Groups and Foreign Policy (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1971), 4.
  4. Univision Noticias, “Forum with California’s gubernatorial candidates 2018.”
  5. Don Mitchell, They Saved the Crops: Labor, Landscape, and the Struggle Over Industrial Farming in Bracero-Era California (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2012), 35-36; Warne D. Rasmussen, A History of The Emergency Farm Labor Supply Program 1943-47(Washington D.C., Agriculture Monograph No. 13, U.S. Department of Agriculture Bureau of Agricultural Economics, 1951), 202.
  6. “Valley Hopes for Border Labor Pact,” Los Angeles Times, Jan. 1, 1954; “Violence Halts Wetback Crossing,” Los Angeles Times, Jan. 25, 1954; “Policy Shift Traps Mexican Farm Workers,” Los Angeles Times, Jan. 26, 1954; Robert S. Robinson, “Taking the Fair Deal to the Fields: Truman’s Commission on Migratory Labor, Public Law 78, and the Bracero Program, 1950-1952,” Agricultural History84, no. 3 (Summer-2010): 394-398.; House of Representatives, Committee on Agriculture, Mexican Farm Labor. 83rdCong., 1954, 67, 69.
  7. Mireya Loza, Defiant Braceros: How Migrant Workers Fought for Racial Sexual and Political Freedom, (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2016), 17, 173, 182.
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Dynamic Digital Methods for Integrating Local History into Public History Institutions and the K-16 Classroom

by Joel Zapata

A Western History Association Sponsored Workshop

The 2018 Western History Association Annual Conference featured over a dozen digital, public, and teaching sessions or workshops. These sessions and workshops considered how history practitioners—K-12 educators, students at all levels, university professors, museum professionals, and public historians—study, record, and communicate the past. As in most contemporary history meetings, the question of what it means to be a twenty-first-century historian arose. While neatly answering this may be high-reaching, conference participants did consider more attainable questions: how do we democratize history, how can we make invisible history visible, how can historians present their work clearly and to the widest audience possible, how can public historians co-create historical projects with communities, what digital or traditional tools should we utilize, and how can history practitioners better collaborate with each other and others?

Public historians, digital historians, design technologists, professors, K-12 educators, librarians, archivists, as well as students considered and answered most of the above questions at the Dynamic Digital Methods for Integrating Local History into Public History Institutions and the K-16 Classroom Workshop (see page 52 of the Conference Program), which the WHA Committee on Teaching and Public Education sponsored. Linsey Passenger Wieck, Director of the Master of Arts in Public History Program at St. Mary’s University, hosted the workshop at her home campus one day after the annual conference. The workshop featured four speakers: Rebecca Wingo, Shannon Murray, Jason Heppler, and myself.

Rebecca Wingo, Director of Public History at the University of Cincinnati, opened the workshop. Wingo’s presentation centered around the History Harvest, a community-based and student-driven digital archival project in which community participants bring items of historical significance and give oral histories about their items while students digitize the objects. Participants then take their family and community heirlooms back home where they belong. While teaching at Macalester College (St. Paul, Minnesota), Wingo and her students partnered with Rondo Avenue, Inc., the governing body of St. Paul’s Rondo neighborhood. As countless African American communities across the nation, the Rondo neighborhood was deliberately bifurcated by the construction of I-94 during the 1960s. Keenly aware of this history and the positionally of Macalester College as a privileged and majority white institution, Wingo discussed the importance of community leadership in the project. Honoring this, Rondo Avenue, Inc. and community members took leadership status in the partnership. Thus, Wingo and her students entered the community as welcomed partners. The resulting digitized items and oral histories provided valuable additions to Rondo Avenue, Inc.’s online history collection of photographs, historic maps, other archival materials, and oral histories housed at Remembering Rondo. Through the History Harvest process, historians, students, and community members democratize history while helping make a too often invisible local history visible.

Shannon Murray, Indigenous Programming Manager for the Calgary Stampede (a rodeo, exhibition, and festival held every July in Calgary, Alberta), presented on the work of her organization’s education team. Seeking to connect K-12 students to local history, particularly the history of First Nations, Murray’s team focused on building collaborative relations with the First Nations whose history was being told. Through such collaboration, the education wing of Calgary Stampede founded an Indigenous Youth Program to teach life skills while emphasizing the importance of culture and tradition. This collaborative focused work has also produced exhibition signage in Blackfoot for the Calgary Stampede. Perhaps most impressively, the collaboration aided Siksika Nation’s Old Sun Community College and Board of Education in creating the Blackfoot language application. In a similar vein, Jason Heppler, Digital Engagement Librarian at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, presented on making local history accessible to the public through digital archives. Heppler showcased his project Silicon Valley Historical, “a mobile app and website that lets you explore the history of Silicon Valley through location-based essays, oral history, archival images, and documentary film.”[1]. Heppler then lead the workshop in brainstorming how digital tools can be used to improve the teaching and exhibition of history along with what tools could work for chosen projects. I presented on my digital history project, Chicana/o Activism in the Southern Plains Through Time and Space, which I envision as an accessible, digital museum for both scholars and the wider public. You can read about the project in my previous post, “Digitally Mapping and Exhibiting the Plains’ Chicana/o Movement.”

Together, the workshop’s presenters and participants posited and answered many questions concerning the future of the history profession. As the number of history majors shrink alongside the job openings for historians in academia, what struck me the most profoundly from the workshop was the innovative pedagogical, civic, and research approaches that the presenters followed. One can hope such innovations will counter or solve some of the profession’s most pressing issues. Overall, I left the workshop thinking that perhaps answering what it means to be a twenty-first century historian can be done by collaboratively answering more attainable questions regarding the future and betterment of the history profession.

 

 

[1]“About,” Silicon Valley Historical, accessed October 26, 2018, http://svhistorical.org/about/.

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Why the September Issue Still Matters: The Power of Visuals in American Culture

By Camille Davis

Photo taken by Tyler Mitchell, the first African American to shoot the cover of Vogue

When Julie Andrews sang My Favorite Things in Roger and Hammerstein’s 1965 musical, The Sound of Music, she really wasn’t singing about things.

Well, at least not in the sense that we are used to talking about them. This was not a tune about buying or collecting “stuff.”  No. This was no ode to materialism.

Instead, Andrews was singing about how the sight of certain things gave her a sense of pleasure and delight because she associated them with ideas and values that she esteemed.

Arguably, the extraordinary power of sight is what keeps the 126-year-old Vogue magazine publishing its famous September issue despite the tentative status of print culture in American society and in the world.

Background- What is the September Issue?

It’s no secret that a panoply of digital news and entertainment sites have caused print publications to struggle. Last September, The New York Times discussed the crises of the print world in an article called “The Not-So-Glossy Future of Magazines.” The Times seemed settled on the idea that print culture was fighting an inevitable decline, and it explained, “Magazines have sputtered for years, their monopoly on readers and advertising erased by Facebook, Google and more nimble online competitors.”[1]

Two years ago, The Times mentioned some of the specific obstacles that affected Vogue’sparent company, Conde Nast.  According to NYT, “Its digital business is up nearly 70 percent…but that component, as with virtually every other legacy media company, represents a much smaller percentage of overall revenue, which has declined in recent years.”[2]

Despite these realities, Vogue still continues to print a large, ornate, and expensive commemorative edition of the magazine each September.

This yearly commemorative edition is not merely a guide for style and self-presentation. It is an attempt to provide an analysis of American culture while simultaneously making cogent assessments about important international issues.

Vogue’seditor, Anna Wintour explains: “I think we’re living, in terms of media, in a very democratic age, but I think that we still look at everything through the lens of Vogue and through our own point of view. Vogue…can help guide enormous audiences through this fascinating world.”[3]

In other words, Vogue still feels like it has something unique to offer its readers. This something is an intricately illustrated periodical that uses aesthetics as an impetus for describing, explaining, and editorializing changes in the national and international spheres.

This month’s issue celebrates global beauty and the democratization of decisions regarding what is legitimately considered a style trend. Vogue explains that the proliferation of digital media and social media sites have allowed those outside of the fashion industry and outside of the Western World to make important contributions and commentary about what is virtuous, appropriate, and/or attractive.

What is Inside this September Issue?

One of this month’s stories discusses the politics of clothing in Muslim societies and promotes a Muslim fashion exhibition at San Francisco’s de Young Museum with articles of clothing from research conducted in Indonesia and Malaysia. The article depicts the myriad ways in which Muslim women express their personal identities through their garb. It also mentions that the exhibit displays documentary photographs of women who protested the wearing of a chador, a traditional cloth worn over the head and upper body, during the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

Another story discusses dinners for refugees that are hosted by a food-event, start-up company called Komeeda. The organization sponsors “refugee-chef dinners,” that allow those who have fled from their countries to introduce their plights and their countries’ cuisines to American participants. Dinners have occurred in the Lower East side of New York, Austin, TX, and Washington D.C. Vogue reports there is a French catering company called Les Cuistots Migrateurs that has done something similar in Paris, Lyon, Madrid, and Rome.

Back Cover of Vogue: Serena Williams advertising Nike’s Virgil Abloh collection, specifically designed for her post-childbirth body.

There is also an article advocating the global initiative of raising the minimum age of working models to eighteen to combat the emotional turmoil and sexual abuse known to be pervasive in the modeling world.

The September Issue has lighter touches, as well. There are profiles of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new director, Max Hollein, and the man recently responsible for designing Serena’s Williams court ensembles that have been praised throughout the sports and aesthetic worlds, Virgil Abloh.

And, of course, there is an essay written by the cover star, Beyoncé, who waxes poetically about the evolution of her mind, soul, and body. She recently gave birth to twins, and like her friend Serena Williams, who also gave birth within the last year, Beyoncé experienced complications in childbirth. Both she and Williams have advocated societal acceptance of women’s bodies post childbirth.

Additionally, Beyoncé uses the pages of Vogue to express her unequivocal belief that modern communication platforms must express the voices and the struggles of those marginalized within the United States and around the world.

All of these articles are illustrated, and Vogue argues that printed illustrations are the best ways to ensure that the messages of the brand continually resonate with its readers.

Vogue’seditor, Anna Wintour puts it this way: “I think what you have to do in print is to create even more memorable images and more memorable pieces because what one consumes online or in social [media] has a much shorter shelf life, so to speak, so what print has to have is no more weight, but it has to be something that you can’t find so easily online. It has to really stand for print.”[1]

There is a desire by Wintour and her staff to appeal to their readers at a level beyond the simple transmission of rhetoric. They want their readers to remember the people, the values, the events, and the moments that they believe are notable. And with all the print and digital competition that is constantly vying for the modern consumer’s attention, it helps to have an intricately illustrated “cheat-sheet” to refer to and to collect for posterity.  

Examples of Iconic Images in American Culture

In using print images to commemorate important people and moments of American culture, Vogue is continuing a tradition within America of representing and commemorating the country’s most poignant times visually. Below are a few iconic examples:

President George W. Bush encouraging firefighters at Ground Zero in NY City on September 14, 2001. Photo: U.S. News & World Report

This photo was taken on September 14, 2001, three days after the historic terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. President George W. Bush flew to New York and stood at Ground Zero where the World Trade Center’s twin towers lay in ruins. Bush climbed on top of some rubble and placed his arms around one of the fire fighters, took a bull horn, and began thanking and encouraging the first responders on the scene. His famous line, “I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you! And the people who knocked down these buildings down will hear all of us soon!”[1]created a defining moment in his presidency and was a crucial step in solidifying support for the war on terror.

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama together in a freight elevator at an Inaugural Ball, January 20, 2009 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Pete Souza/White House via Getty Images

This image was taken on January 20, 2009 during the inaugural ball of President Barack Obama, the country’s first African-American president. It captures a private moment between the President and the First Lady, Michelle Obama, and contributed to the popular belief that America’s new president wasn’t just smart; he was “cool.”[1]

President John Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy in Dallas on Nov 22, 1963, the day of his assassination. Irish Central

This image was taken on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, TX only a few moments before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, which resulted in America’s loss of “Camelot.”[1]

Photo taken of Phan Thi Kim Phúc, a 9-year-old girl in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Photo taken by Nick Ut of the Associated Press. Courtesy of the Associated Press.

For many, this photograph of 9-year-old Phan Thi Kim Phúc, running while burned and naked in 1972 represented the horrors of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, despite the fact that this particular incident of horror came from a napalm bombing carried out by a South Vietnamese Air Force pilot.  The photo earned a 1973 Pulitzer Prize.

President Truman enjoying a moment of irony on November 3, 1948, after the Chicago Daily Tribune incorrectly published the results of that year’s Presidential election.

This photograph reminds us that the results of an election cannot be known until every vote is counted. The prevailing wisdom of the time was that President Truman would lose the presidency to New York governor, Thomas Dewey. The day after the election, November 3, 1948, President Truman delighted in being underestimated.

 

Flag Raising on Iwo Jima, World War II, February 1945. Photo by AP photographer Joe Rosenthal, 1945. Time Magazine.

This Pulitzer Prize photo by Joe Rosenthal illustrates the raising of an American flag by five Marines and a Navy corpsman who were ordered by a commander to hoist the flag to encourage American troops and to discourage the Japanese enemy.

These images affirm that visuals are as much a part of American history as our ideas, our rhetoric, and the moments that embody, challenge, and shape us. Vogue realizes this and is continuing to contribute to our visual history. For this reason, the September issue still matters.

 

[1]Sydney Ember and Michael M. Grynbaum, “The Not-So-Glossy Future of Magazines.” The New York Times. September 23, 2017.

[2]Ravi Somaiya, “Conde Nast Adapts to New Forces, Leaving Some Employees Unsettled.” The New York Times. January 31, 2016.

[3]Alexandra Steigrad, “Anna Wintour on Vogue at 125 – and Defining Print in the Digital Age.” Women’s Wear Daily.September 13, 2017.

[4]Ibid.

[5]Kenneth T. Walsh, “George W. Bush’s ‘Bulhorn’ Moment.” U.S. News and World Report. April 25, 2013.

[6]Julia Azari, “A Challenge for Obama’s Successor: Being a Casual, Cool President.” Politico Magazine.

[7]“JFK and the Public View,” The Kennedy Era: A CYOU project about John F. and Robert F. Kennedy. (pages.shanti.virgnia.edu) A University of Virginia site. The article sites the original publication that used the Camelot reference. Life Magazine. December 6, 1953.

[8]“Confronting the Myths of the ‘Napalm Girl.’ “ The Baltimore Sun. March 31, 2017. The article discusses the initial article that it printed about this image on June 9, 1972.

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