From Princeton to Williamsburg!

TWOILH at Williamsburg

In 1773, a recent graduate of the College of New Jersey at Princeton from the southern New Jersey town of Greenwich went to Virginia to teach the children of a wealthy plantation owner.

The tutor was Philip Vickers Fithian.  The planter was Robert Carter III.  Carter’s plantation was called Nomini Hall, but he also had a house in Williamsburg.

I wrote about Fithian’s experience in my book The Way of Improvement Leads Home: The Rural Enlightenment in Early America.  The teachers in my Gilder-Lehrman seminar on colonial America read the book during their week in Princeton.

So perhaps it is fitting that some alums from the Princeton Seminar traveled, like Fithian, to Williamsburg this week.  And look what they found on sale in the Colonial Williamsburg bookstore!

Thanks for sharing Jamie, Jen, and Tracy!

American Slavery and American Freedom at Princeton University

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Samuel Finley planted this sycamore after the 1766 repeal of the Stamp Act

As some of you know, I was at Princeton University last week for the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History summer seminar on colonial America.

Each year the teachers take a tour of colonial-era Princeton.  One of our stops is the Maclean House (aka The President’s House), the home of the earliest presidents of the College of New Jersey at Princeton.  Aaron Burr Sr., Jonathan Edwards, John Witherspoon, and several others lived here.

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The President’s House at Princeton University: a view from Nassau Street

According to Princeton lore, Samuel Finley, the president of the college, planted two sycamore trees in the front yard of the house to commemorate the repeal of the Stamp Act in March 1766.  They still stand today. (See pics above).

Did Finley’s slaves plant these trees?

Here is a 1764 sketch of the campus with Nassau Hall on the left and the president’s house on the right:

Nassau 18th

In May 2019, the Princeton & Slavery Project complicated the story of this house and its relationship to American liberty. Visitors will now get a better glimpse of the close relationship between slavery and freedom at Princeton by viewing this plaque:

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Plaque placed at the President’s House by the Princeton & Slavery Project in May 2019

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President’s House with the plaque

 

2019 Princeton Seminar: Day 5

Princeton Seminar 2019--Cheetos

Coke and Cheetos-fueled teachers are taking a lot of notes this week

Day 5 of the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History summer seminar on colonial America is in the books.  It was a long day, but a very good one.  In the morning I lectured on the Middle Colonies, South Carolina, and the Enlightenment in America.

In the afternoon we walked to the Firestone Library at Princeton University and saw some rare books from colonial America.  Eric White, curator of rare books at Princeton, introduced the teachers to book history and showed us copies of books by William Penn, John Locke, John Eliot, Phillis Wheatley, Cotton Mather, Increase Mather, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, Laurence Sterne, and others.  He also showed us one of the original Dunlap broadsides of the Declaration of Independence.  This is always one of my favorite moments of the week.  I love to watch the teachers read original copies of these seminal works.  Many of them gasp when the book is revealed.  Others are moved to tears.

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This teacher got to read a Phillis Wheatley poem from a 1st edition

After dinner we hit streets of Princeton.  Landon and Richard, both tour guides for the Princeton Historical Society, introduced us to historic Princeton University.  As is often the case, the evening ended at the Yankee Tap Room where I introduced several teachers to the Campari. (And thanks to the teachers who bought my rounds!).

Some additional pics:

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Jim is trying to read John Eliot’s Algonquian Bible

Princeton Seminar 2019--Nate Augustine

Nate tried to smuggle out a Dunlap broadside of the Declaration of Independence and a 15th-century edition of St. Augustine’s City of God.  Fortunately the curators stopped him.

On the Road in Late July

Fea at Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon Museum

I am in the at the midpoint of two weeks of work with the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History.  As some of you know, this last week I was in Mount Vernon, Virginia and Boston filming a 12-week lecture course on colonial America for elementary school history and social studies teachers.  We filmed the lectures in a hotel in Framingham, Massachusetts and filmed five-minute lecture introductions in the tobacco fields and at the slave quarters at Mount Vernon, the Reynolds Museum at Mount Vernon, the Boston Long Wharf, Old South Meetinghouse, King’s Chapel Burial Ground, the Massachusetts State House, Harvard University, the Boston Public Library, and Boston College.  It was hot and the work was rigorous (one day I gave five 50-minutes lectures to a camera!), but this kind of work is rewarding and hopefully useful to teachers–the men and women on the front lines of preserving, sustaining, and strengthening our democracy.

Fea at Mansion

Thanks to the Gilder-Lehrman Institute for the opportunity to work on this course.  And special thanks to Sarah Jannarone and Peter Shea of Gilder-Lehrman and Garrett Kafchinski of Diagonal Media for all their hard work this week.

I understand that this course will be published at the Gilder-Lehrman website as part of its forthcoming “History Essentials” series sometime next year. Stay tuned

Fea Boston Public

With a 1656 map of New Spain at the Boston Public Library map room

Tomorrow I will be back in Princeton for what is becoming an annual event:  the Gilder Lehrman Institute summer seminar on Colonial America.  Stay tuned.  I will be blogging every day from Princeton.  (Click here to see some of my posts from 2018).  As always, I will be working with Nate McAlister. Nate is my partner-in-crime, a high school history teacher in Kansas, and the 2010 National History Teacher of the Year!

Here are some pics from 2018. I am hoping for another great week:

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Philadelphia bound!

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Nate with a Dunlap Broadside of the Declaration of Independence

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In Philadelphia I introduced the teachers to the legendary George Boudreau

 

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We ran into esteemed early American religious historian Thomas Kidd and some of his students in the Princeton graveyard

Princeton--Why

Jersey Girls

I am reading Mark Lender’s and Garry Stone’s outstanding book Fatal Sunday: George Washington, the Monmouth Campaign, and the Politics of Battle (University of Oklahoma Press, 2016).  In 2017, the book was a finalist for the George Washington Book Prize.

Lender

In the authors’ discussion of Brigadier General Charles Scott’s march through Princeton on June 24, 1778, they write:

As it marched, Scott’s column found the public enthusiastic about the unfolding campaign; there was a perception that affairs were building toward a climax.  As the troops passed through Princeton–a town that suffered its share of pillage in 1776 and 1777–residents gave the soldiery a warm welcome.  As Private Joseph Plumb recalled, they dealt out ‘”toddy” to the men as they marched by, “which caused the detachment to move slowly at this place.”  Cheerful young ladies watched “the noble exhibition of a thousand half-starved and three-quarters naked soldiers pass in review.”  In this, the private’s memory lapsed a bit: the troops were actually in reasonably good condition.  But he remembered the “ladies” well enough.  “I declare that I never before or since saw more beauty,” he wrote.  “They were all beautiful.”  With sectional loyalty, the Connecticut soldier allowed that “Yankee ladies” were perhaps smarter, but he insisted that “New Jersey and Pennsylvania ladies” were “handsome, the most so of any in the United States.”  We can never know if his comrades shared his infatuation, but his paean to the Princeton belles suggests that on that evening, they were as much concerned with Venus as with Mars.”

Lender and Stone source this paragraph with footnote 54.    Here is what that footnote says:

J.P. Martin, Yankee Doodle, 123.  Joseph Plumb Martin’s rhapsody on Jersey girls predates that of Tom Waits by two centures.  And for those mystified by the reference, Tom Waits released the popular song “Jersey Girl” in 1980 on his Heartattack and Vine album; the Bruce Springsteen cover of 1981 made it even more popular.  Waits was clearly of the same opinion  as Private Martin.

To fellow Jersey boys Lender and Stone:  Thanks for making my Saturday afternoon with that footnote!

“Down the shore everything’s all right.”

Martin Joseph

 

The Gilder-Lehrman “Princeton Seminar” on the Colonial Era is Back! Apply Now!

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We are entering Year 6 of the seminar. Join us in Princeton this summer!  Read posts from the last six years here.

Here are details from the Gilder-Lehrman website:

DIRECTORS
John Fea, Professor of History, Messiah College

OVERVIEW
Rather than thinking about colonial America as a necessary forerunner to the American Revolution or the birth of the United States, we will make an effort to understand British colonial life on its own terms, examining how the colonies developed from remote seventeenth-century English outposts to well-connected eighteenth-century provinces of the British Empire. In the process we will critique the so-called “Whig” interpretation of the colonies and think together about how this particular period in the American past provides a laboratory for teaching historical thinking skills in the classroom.

TRAVEL & ACCOMMODATIONS
Participants are responsible for making their own travel arrangements; the Institute will reimburse up to $400 in travel expenses. Read the policy here. Participants will be staying at Princeton University in Princeton, NJ. Princeton is equidistant from New York City and Philadelphia and is easily accessible by train. The nearest airport is Newark Liberty International Airport. For more information on travel to Princeton, please click here.

Workshop participants will stay in on-campus residence halls in their own room, but share bathrooms and common space on each floor. The university provides basic bedding and towels only. Please note that participants should plan to bring alarm clocks, shower shoes, hangers, irons, and hair dryers. Participants should plan to bring laptops as computer access on campus will be limited.

MEALS
Meals will be served in a university cafeteria in space shared by other programs. All on-campus meals will be paid for by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

POLICIES
Please be sure to review the Institute’s policies on independent school teacher participation and travel reimbursement before applying.

COURSE REVIEWS FROM PAST PARTICIPANTS
“Dr. John Fea did a remarkable job sharing his knowledge in the area of the 13 colonies. His passion for history is evident in his lectures and I am more motivated today to teach tomorrow. I have always been intimidated by the 13 colonies because each colony’s background is so diverse. I have a better grasp on the colonies and I will be able to share primary documents to support the classroom learning. I am looking forward to teaching this in the coming weeks.”

“Thoroughly enjoyed the week in NJ. Strengthened my content background & walked away with tons of resources (primary specifically) to take back to my classroom.”

“This seminar was the best thing I have experienced in 25 years of teaching. Dr. Fea was outstanding and his lectures were riveting. I appreciated the content, the setting, and the master teacher’s assistance. It was amazing and memorable. I will certainly be applying this content and these principles to my teaching this year.”

QUESTIONS?
Email the Teacher Seminars department or call 646-366-9666.

Seminar Year: 2018-2019

Day 3 of the 2018 Princeton Seminar

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Teachers hard at work on lesson planning

Day 3 is in the books!  (For posts on Day 1 and 2 click here).

We covered a lot of content today.  I spent the morning lecturing on the seventeenth-century Chesapeake.  After lunch, we started on the Puritans and Massachusetts Bay.  Nate continues to spend the afternoons working with teachers on their colonial-era lesson plans.

Tonight we took an informal tour of Princeton’s Presbyterian Cemetery where we visited the graves of Aaron Burr Sr., Jonathan Edwards, Samuel Davies, Samuel Finley, John Withersoon, Aaron Burr Jr., Grover Cleveland (and his daughter “Baby Ruth”), B.B. Warfield, and others.   We also ran into the eminent early American religious historian Thomas Kidd.  Tommy is in town leading a Witherspoon Institute seminar on religion and the founding era.

Princeton 2018 Wed. 2

Telling the Princeton Seminar teachers about the work of Thomas Kidd

Participant Matt Lakemacher gets the award for the best tweet from the cemetery:

After the cemetery visit, several of us walked over to Morven, the eighteenth-century home of Richard Stockton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.  We also stopped at the Princeton Battle Monument.

It is these informal moments with the teachers that I enjoy most about the Princeton Seminar.

Here are some pics:

Princeton 2018 Wed. 5

An impromptu lesson on the first six Princeton presidents

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Princeton 2018 Wed. 6

Princeton 2018 Wed. 7

Princeton 2018 Wed. 8We are in Philadelphia today.  Stay tuned for a report.

Slavery at Princeton University

MacLean House Princeton

Check out Alex Carp‘s piece at The New York Review of Books on slavery and American colleges and universities.  This particular excerpt deals with slavery at Princeton:

Last fall, after more than four years of research, Princeton became the latest university to present its results. Princeton was the site of a George Washington victory over British forces and housed the Continental Congress. All of the university’s founding trustees, and its first nine presidents, owned slaves. Slaves owned by the university’s fifth president—two women, a man, and three children—were auctioned off under the so-called “liberty trees” outside his house, two sycamores planted around the time of the repeal of the Stamp Act and pointed out on campus tours through this year only as evidence of the college’s devotion to the American Revolution. (Princeton is one of the rare American institutions older than its country. The university was on its sixth president by the time the ink dried on the US Constitution.) According to Martha Sandweiss, the historian who led the project, Princeton epitomizes “the paradox at the heart of American history: from the very start, liberty and slavery were intimately intertwined.”

Slavery was not uncommon in New Jersey, and even once abolition began, it took generations to complete. An 1804 law granted emancipation only to New Jersey slaves born after July 4 of that year, and only after they had served what one historian has called a “term” of slavery that could last for as many as twenty-five years. One result of this gradual abolition was that many New Jersey slaveholders sold enslaved children born after that deadline to plantations out of state, which reduced the number of enslaved people in New Jersey without emancipating anyone. Another was the transition to institutions that closely resembled slavery: towns throughout the state established “poorhouse farms,” where the vagrant or indigent would be confined to work or were sometimes rented out. Businessmen traveling from New Brunswick to New York at the turn of the nineteenth century—a trip that could take the better part of three days, generally by carriage and boat—would come across “stray negroes” who could be jailed, then sold to pay jail expenses, if they failed to explain themselves sufficiently. The last child registered for gradual emancipation—a girl named Hannah, born in 1844, before legislators replaced the category with something called “apprentices for life”—remained enslaved until barely two weeks before the Confederacy’s 1865 surrender. Princeton’s entanglement with slavery, Sandweiss said when describing the project’s findings last fall, is “typical of other eighteenth-century institutions. And it makes us quintessentially and deeply American.”

At its best, this wave of research demonstrates the ways in which slavery and its legacies have built the world we live in: how the ideas and institutions born in one era do not entirely cast off the forces that shaped them as they move through time. There is no evidence that Princeton University itself owned slaves, but by the early nineteenth century its main building, Nassau Hall, was adjacent to a private farm where enslaved people tended to cattle and worked in a cherry orchard; on the other side of the building, slaves worked in the taverns and other businesses on Nassau Street. Before they could enroll in courses, prospective students had to pass exams in Latin and Greek administered personally by the president; Sandweiss speculates that students arriving for their exams early on their first morning would be greeted at the president’s doorstep by “an enslaved person—the first person on campus a prospective student might meet.” As the college began to chase planter wealth, its antebellum student body grew disproportionately Southern and repeatedly clashed withPrinceton’s community of free African Americans. The school’s Civil War memorial is one of the very few in the country to list the names of the war dead without noting on which side they fought—Sandweiss knew of only one other, at a boarding school—and the university began to grow to its modern size through gifts from a family fortune made by providing financial and shipping services to Cuban slave plantations until at least 1866, the year after slavery’s abolition in the United States.

Read the entire piece here.

Princeton Evangelical Fellowship Changes Name to “Princeton Christian Fellowship”

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The latest Christian organization to drop the label “evangelical” is Princeton Christian Fellowship (formerly Princeton Evangelical Fellowship).  The Daily Princetonian reports:

Here is a taste of Rebecca Ngu’s piece:

‘Evangelical’ has officially become a bad word. After years of deliberation, the Christian student group formerly known as the Princeton Evangelical Fellowship dropped the name it had held since it began in 1937, changing its name to Princeton Christian Fellowship earlier this school year.

The organization’s trustees and directors voted to formally change the name in May 2017 and the decision was announced this August. William “Bill” Boyce ’79, executive secretary and associate chaplain of PCF, said that the term ‘evangelical’ has become an “unnecessary hindrance” to their work. 

“There’s a growing recognition that the term evangelical is increasingly either confusing, or unknown, or misunderstood to students,” he said.

 

The word ‘evangelical’ has a long history in the United States that typically implies a core set of doctrinal beliefs. Such tenets include belief in the authority and inspiration of the Bible, centrality of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the free offer of salvation through faith, according to Boyce.

“I’m old enough to think [evangelical] is a good word, but it’s reached a point where there’s so much baggage attached around it so that it’s no longer a helpful word to identify ourselves,” said Boyce.

Jay Sourbeer ’18, president of PCF, echoed Boyce, adding that the term ‘evangelical’ is “thrown around too much.”

Some people don’t know what ‘evangelical’ means, or others may hold the aforementioned beliefs, but not identify as evangelical. Others associate it negatively with certain political positions. The definition of evangelicalism has morphed and taken on “too much cultural baggage,” Boyce said, including the assumption of a political agenda.

Read the entire piece here.

As I argued back in July, the age of Trump is changing the landscape of American Christianity.

Also see our posts here (Thomas Kidd) and here (Mark Noll) and here.

John Adams Visits Princeton

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His made his first stop to Nassau Hall on August 27, 1775.  Boston 1775 has it covered:

In his diary Adams recorded his impressions:

The Colledge is a stone building about as large as that at New York [i.e., what is now Columbia]. It stands upon rising Ground and so commands a Prospect of the Country.

After Dinner Mr. [John] Pidgeon a student of Nassau Hall, Son of Mr. [John] Pidgeon of Watertown [actually Newton] from whom we brought a Letter, took a Walk with us and shewed us the Seat of Mr. [Richard] Stockton a Lawyer in this Place and one of the Council, and one of the Trustees of the Colledge. As we returned we met Mr. Euston [William Houston], the Professor of Mathematicks and natural Philosophy, who kindly invited Us to his Chamber. We went.

The Colledge is conveniently constructed. Instead of Entries across the Building, the Entries are from End to End, and the Chambers are on each side of the Entries. There are such Entries one above another in every Story. Each Chamber has 3 Windows, two studies, with one Window in each, and one Window between the studies to enlighten the Chamber.

Mr. Euston then shewed us the Library. It is not large, but has some good Books. He then led us into the Apparatus. Here we saw a most beautifull Machine, an Orrery, or Planetarium, constructed by Mr. [David] Writtenhouse of Philadelphia. It exhibits allmost every Motion in the astronomical World. The Motions of the Sun and all the Planetts with all their Satellites. The Eclipses of the Sun and Moon &c. He shewed us another orrery, which exhibits the true Inclination of the orbit of each of the Planetts to the Plane of the Ecliptic. 

He then shewed Us the electrical Apparatus, which is the most compleat and elegant that I have seen. He charged the Bottle and attempted an Experiment, but the State of the Air was not favourable.

Read the entire post here.

 

2017 Princeton Seminar: Day 6

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Very happy teachers!! Gilder Lehrman “Princeton Seminar” participants enjoying their last day on campus

The 2017 Princeton Seminar on the “Colonial Era” wrapped-up yesterday.

The day began with lectures on the “Enlightenment in America” and the “First Great Awakening.”  The Enlightenment lecture focused largely on the lives of Philip Vickers Fithian and Benjamin Franklin.  The teachers read my The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in Early America and spent a lot of time on Wednesday touring Ben Franklin’s Philadelphia with historian George Boudreau.

The First Great Awakening lecture focused on George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Chauncy, Gilbert Tennent, James Davenport, and the legacy of evangelicalism as it relates to American oratory, American religion, the transatlantic world, and colonial education.

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My attempt at drawing a primitive graph illustrating the spike in church membership during the First Great Awakening

After lunch we wrapped things up with a lecture titled “From Colonials to Provincials: The American Colonies on the Eve of the American Revolution.”  This lecture is adapted from Ned Landsman’s From Colonial to Provinicals: American Thought and Culture, 1680-1760, but I also take it in a few different directions.  In this lecture I try to get the teachers to understand the Anglicization of the British colonies and the sense of British nationalism pervading the colonies at the end of the French and Indian War.

During the rest of the afternoon the teachers met together to discuss the lessons plans they designed during the seminar:

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Throughout the week I wanted the teachers to think about British colonial America on its own terms, rather than through the grid of the American Revolution.  We tried to imagine what the story of the colonies might look like if the Revolution had never happened.  Those who took this exercise seriously began to move from a Whiggish, civics-based view of the era, to an approach defined by the “unnatural” act of historical thinking.  This is not easy for most teachers and I appreciated their efforts to reorient their thinking and their lesson plans in this way.

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Another Princeton Seminar is in the books. It was a great week of teaching, learning, and collaboration with 35 K-8 teachers from around the country.  Special thanks to Nate McAlister, my partner-in-crime, master teacher, heart and soul of the Princeton Seminar, and an all-around great guy.  I couldn’t do it without him. Nate is a history machine! Next week he will be in Mount Vernon doing research on George Washington and Native Americans. I also want to thank the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History for giving me the honor to lead this seminar.

And I am also happy to announce that the Gilder Lehrman has informed me that we will be back again next year!  Stay tuned for more details.

2017 Princeton Seminar: Day 5

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Princeton rare books librarian Eric White breaks out a first-edition collection of Phillis Wheatley’s poetry and the teachers transform into the paparazzi

It was another busy day at the Gilder-Lehrman Institute‘s “Colonial Era” teacher seminar at Princeton University.  We covered a lot of ground yesterday and traveled through three different regions of British colonial America:

  1. We started the day discussing women and dissent in colonial New England.  We talked about Anne Hutchinson and the “Good Wives” made famous by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.
  2.  We had a great day in Philadelphia on Wednesday.  On Thursday we discussed Philadelphia in the larger context of the Middle Colonies with a specific focus on Pennsylvania as a Quaker and liberal colony.
  3.  After lunch we discussed the emergence of slave culture in the rice fields of colonial South Carolina.

We ended the day in the Firestone Library’s Rare Books Department where curator Eric White showed the teachers a host of first editions from the 17th and 18th centuries.  We got to see a copy of John Eliot’s Algonquian Bible and works by William Penn, Cotton Mather, John Locke, George Whitefield, Phillis Wheatley, Samuel Richardson, Laurence Stern, Addison and Steele, and others.  It is always fun to watch the teachers’ eyes light-up as they are exposed to these books.

One more day left!

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Notes were taken

 

2017 Princeton Seminar: Day 4

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Yesterday the 2017 Princeton Seminar spent the day in Philadelphia.  Our host for the day was the legendary George Boudreau, the man who I consider to be the greatest Philadelphia history tour guide of all time!!

George gave us a phenomenal introduction to the colonial city.   We made several stops along the way:

  • Welcome Park:  George oriented us to the layout of William Penn’s city.
  • Christ Church:  The teachers got their photos taken in George Washington’s pew and we paused at the gravestone of Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson where George told us about her life and taught us about the vulnerability of women in colonial America.
  • Betsy Ross House:  George told us about George Washington’s visit to “Mr. Griscom’s upholstery shop.”
  • Arch Street Quaker Meetinghouse:  George told some gruesome tales of Philadelphia Quakers building this meetinghouse atop the meeting’s graveyard.
  • Benjamin Franklin’s Court:  The teachers spent some time in the museum, George signed copies of his book, and George and Ben Franklin sang us a song.
  • First National Bank: This was not part of our “colonial” tour, but all the teachers are obsessed with “Hamilton” so we had to make a quick visit here.
  • Carpenter’s Hall
  • The site of Anthony Benezet’s school for women and African Americans,
  • The American Philosophical Society:  George rattled off several dozen collections held by the society.

We ended the day at the Pennsylvania State House.  In the early 19th-century people started calling this place “Independence Hall.”

We are back in the lecture hall today.

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I introduce the teachers to George Boudreau

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George tells us what we can expect in Christ Church

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Sometimes we let the teachers break out of the 17th and 18th centuries

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We met Ben

Princeton Seminar 2017: Day 3

Burr

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History “Colonial Era” teachers seminar (aka the “Princeton Seminar“) is rolling along.

This morning in the lecture hall we finished our discussion of colonial Virginia. I made the connection between mercantilism and tobacco culture and challenged the teachers to consider the social and cultural influence of tobacco on race, social structure, gender, and labor in the seventeenth century colony. We ended this lecture with an examination of Bacon’s Rebellion.

Midway through the morning session we turned to colonial New England.  We did a lot of background work today.   My lecture developed along these lines:

  • The settlers of New England were Christians
  • The settlers of New England were Protestant Christians
  • The settlers of New England were Calvinist Protestant Christians
  • The settlers of New England were English Calvinist Protestant Christians

We then discussed Winthrop’s idea of a “City Upon a Hill” and how Puritan theology influenced politics and regional identity in Massachusetts Bay.  On Thursday, when we return to New England, I am hoping to say a few words about social life in the region, drawing heavily from Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s Good Wives.

The teachers spent the afternoon with master teacher Nate McAlister.  He continues to work with the teachers on their lesson plans and the use of primary documents.

After dinner we all headed over to the Princeton Cemetery.  I gave a very brief lecture at the graves of the early Princeton presidents–Aaron Burr Sr., Jonathan Edwards, Samuel Davies, Samuel Finley, and John Witherspoon.  For some reason the grave of Aaron Burr Jr. got more attention than it has in years past. 🙂

We will be in Philadelphia tomorrow with George Boudreau!

Weed

2017 Princeton Seminar: Day 2

Tour

Today the teachers got a tour of early American Princeton

Monday was a long and busy day at the Princeton Seminar.

We began with a morning of lecture and discussion about how we should think about “colonial America.”  I tried to get the teachers to think historically about the colonies and try to rid themselves of a Whig-centered interpretation of the period.  In the process we spent a lot of time talking about the difference between a “civics” approach to the past and a “historical thinking” approach to the past.   I challenged the teachers to try to understand the colonial American past on its own terms and, at least for a week, pretend that the American Revolution never happened.

I also introduced the teachers to what has been called “The New Indian” history.  What might our understanding of colonial America look like if we examine it from the perspective of native Americans?  I focused this lecture around three concepts: “Facing East” (Dan Richter), the “Indians’ New World” (James Merrell), and the “Middle Ground” (Richard White).

Finally, we got started with a lecture on the colonial Chesapeake and tried to make sense of why so many people starved to death in the early years of Jamestown.  We will be finishing this discussion today by carrying the Virginia story through Bacon’s Rebellion.

In the afternoon, Nate McAlister introduced the teachers to their lesson-plan assignment. Every teacher needs to pick a primary source from the colonial era and write a lesson that they can use with their students.   It is always fun to see the documents that they choose and the lessons that they design.

After dinner we split into two groups and got a historical tour of Princeton.  My tour guide, Leslie, was excellent.  She took us through Princeton University, Princeton Theological Seminary, the home of Albert Einstein, the home of Richard Stockton (Morven), and the Princeton Battlefield Monuments.  We got caught in the middle of a thunderstorm while visiting Einstein’s house, but Leslie pushed us through.  There we were–standing outside of Morven in the pouring ran listening to Leslie expound upon the life of Stockton.  These teachers are real troopers!

About half of us ended the night at the Yankee Doodle Tap Room at Princeton’s Nassau Inn.  This is the place where the Princeton Seminar goes to solve all world problems. Tonight was no exception!

Looking forward to day 3!  Stay tuned.

2017 Princeton Seminar: Day 1

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The Gilder-Lehrman 2017 Princeton Seminar on colonial America is underway!

Last night we held our opening dinner with the teachers.  A few teachers had some difficulties with flights, but everyone is now here and settled into their rooms on the Princeton University campus.  This year we have 35 history teachers representing 20 states: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhoda Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

My partner-in-crime Nate McAlister (did I mention he was National History of the Year in 2010?) got the teachers started on a gargoyle scavenger hunt on the Princeton campus. We also took a brief tour of the eighteenth-century campus.  All of the attendees read The Way of Improvement Leads Home and seem eager to see sites related to Philip VIckers Fithian.

The teachers will be busy this week. In addition to morning lectures on colonial America and afternoon sessions on interpreting primary sources, we will be spending the entire day on Wednesday touring colonial Philadelphia with LaSalle University public historian and tour guide extraordinaire George Boudreau.

On Monday afternoon we will be teaming-up with the Historical Society of Princeton for a tour of early American Princeton. On Thursday afternoon we will spend a couple of hours with a rare book librarian from Princeton University’s Firestone Library.  I have asked the librarian to pull first editions of every book Fithian read during his short life and most of the books I will discuss in morning lectures.  This is always one the highlights of the week.  Finally, we are hoping to spend some time at the Princeton cemetery where the teachers will get a chance to visit the grace of Aaron Burr Jr., Jonathan Edwards, John Witherspoon, and others.

It is going to be a great week!  Stay tuned for updates.  Check out pics at @princetonsemnr

Princeton Seminar Is About To Kick-Off Its Fourth Year

36167-nassau_hall_princetonNext week I will be at Princeton University to lead a Gilder-Lehrman Institute seminar of the “Colonial Era” for history teachers.  This is the fourth year that I have joined my partner in crime, 2010 National Teacher of the Year Nate McAlister, in leading this seminar. The Princeton Seminar (as we call it) has become one of the professional highlights of my year.

Stay tuned for updates as the week progresses.  In the meantime, here are some pics from previous Princeton seminars:

Welcome Park

The 2015 Princeton Seminar at Welcome Park in Philadelphia

Boudreau

George Boudreau of LaSalle University, the man who many believe to be the greatest tour guide of colonial Philadelphia that has ever lived, will be back in 2017!

McCalister

Nate likes to take the teachers into Einstein’s old classroom

Witherspoon

There is plenty of time for impromptu tours of the 18th-century Princeton campus

Documents

Teachers spend a lot of time working with primary sources

Fithian Wall

The teachers read The Way of Improvement Leads Home.  The ghost of Philip Vickers Fithian (Princeton class of 1772) hovers over the events of the week

Cemetery

Our visit to the Princeton Cemetery (Aaron Burr, Jonathan Edwards, John Witherspoon, etc.) is always a highlight–rain or shine.

Wheatley

One my favorite moments of the week is when we take the teachers to Firestone Library to look at rare 18th-century books

Lecture

And yes, there is the occasional lecture

“Political Jealousy is a Laudable Passion”

eacac-fithian2bbookI was watching the news last night and remembered this passage (p.142) from my book The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in Early America.

Philip reached maturity in this patriotic culture.  He was taught at Princeton that it was appropriate to exercise the passions in the defense of liberty.  In his 1772 commencement disputation he echoed the words of the eighteenth-century political tract of John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, Cato’s Letters, by defending the notion that “political jealousy is a laudable passion.” His speech distinguished between “domestic and ecclesiastical jealousies,” which were harmful, and “political jealousy,” which was “rational & uniform & necessary.”  As Philip had learned all too well through his courtship with Elizabeth Beatty, “jealousy” was normally a dangerous “disease” that could blight friendships and lead to “suspicions” among acquaintances.  However, when channeled in the right direction, it was also a useful passion.  The truly “jealous” citizen kept a careful and virtuous watch on his government leaders to guard against vice and corruption.  Political jealousy served as a unifying force–a common political ideology of resistance grounded in a common morality–that held a community togehter in times of strife and preserved societal order.  Philip said that it had a “natural tendency” to “unite people” around interests that were closely associated with the preservation of the nation.”

Princeton Seminar: Day Four

Nate McAlister leads a pedagogy session

It was a great day in Princeton with the teachers from the Gilder-Lehrman Institute for American History “13 Colonies” seminar.  It has been a very hot and humid week and we have done a lot of walking (and sweating), but the teachers have yet to hit the proverbial “wall.”  These K-8 educators are like a bunch of Energizer Bunnies!  Each day they seem to be more engaged than the day before.  Nate McAlister, their fearless leader, keeps them busy with all sorts of teaching resources, websites, and other tools. 

Tonight the teachers are working hard on their lesson plans and Nate is hanging out in a dorm lounge offering suggestions and help.  Needless to say, it has been a great week.  Here are a couple of highlights:

  • A teacher from Utah found her father’s 1957 Princeton doctoral dissertation on the history of the New Jersey Constitution.  She had never seen the dissertation before because her father passed away shortly after he finished it.  I know it has been a very meaningful week for this teacher.
  • A teacher from Florida has been thinking deeply about how to lead her students into the past (the past is a “foreign country) and still make it relevant for the present.  It is so rewarding to watch her come to grips with the inherent tensions that come when one pursues historical thinking at a high level.  As I conversed with her today I was reminded that historical work is very tiring.  We historians and history teachers are constantly “on the road,” traveling back and forth (with our students) between the past and the present.

I gave two lectures this morning.  I began with a lecture on the “provincial Enlightenment.”  This is always my favorite lecture of the week.  I tried to explain the Enlightenment through the biography of two men: Philip Vickers Fithian and Benjamin Franklin.  My Fithian book works very well here in Princeton. As many of you know, Philip was a member of the class of 1772. 

My other lecture this morning was on slavery and rice culture in colonial South Carolina.  We talked about the connection between South Carolina and Barbados, the arrival of West African slaves, task and gang labor, the Stono Rebellion, and the emergence of a distinct African-American culture.

After Nate led the teachers through another great pedagogy session, we headed over to the Rare Book Library in Princeton’s Firestone Library.  I asked Gabriel Swift, a member of the library staff, to pull about thirty books and documents from the collection.  I narrowed my choices to books mentioned in Alan Taylor’s American Colonies, books we discussed in lectures, and books that Philip Vickers Fithian read at various points of his short life.  The teachers got to peruse these books, hold some of them, and take pictures.  Gabriel also showed the students the Fithian’s diaries. 

Gabriel Swift, a Princeton Rare Books librarian, answers questions from teachers

Teachers reading the diary of Philip Vickers Fithian

After our visit to the Firestone Library we crossed Nassau Street (in the rain) and got some ice-cream at The Bent Spoon, a very popular Princeton establishment.  I highly recommend the bananas and cream!

Tonight, while the teachers worked on their lessons, I wandered around the Princeton campus.  I really hope that Princeton faculty appreciate the fact that they get to come to work every day on this campus.  As someone who has spent a lot of time studying the history of this institution, I am always finding something new and interesting about the college and the town in which it resides.

But tonight my self-guided walking tour focused on another one of my loves–sports.  I walked out onto the field of the new Princeton football stadium, tried (with Nate) to get into the Hobey Baker Ice Arena, and then headed over to Jadwin Gym.  I went to Princeton basketball camp as a kid and became enamored with Pete Carril, the architect of the so-called “Princeton Offense.”  I walked into Jadwin, stood on “Pete Carrill Court,” and took some pictures. 



Pete Carril is a basketball genius
The Princeton Tiger in Jadwin Gym
Jadwin Gym

Pete Carril and Bill Bradley banners in background

One more day left.  Stay tuned.

Princeton Seminar: Day Two

We have made it through Day Two of the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History Summer Seminar on the “13 Colonies” at Princeton University.  It was a long day, but the twenty-seven K-8 teachers here this week are still going strong.  This group has a lot of energy and they seem to be really engaged.

Today I gave a lecture on the founding of Massachusetts Bay colony, the role of women in colonial New England, and the founding of Pennsylvania.  In the afternoon Nate McAlister worked with the teachers as they developed their lesson plans.

Pennsylvania as a Quaker and liberal colony

After dinner we took a tour of colonial Princeton led by guides from the Historical Society of PrincetonRichard Moody led some of us on a wonderful tour of Princeton University.  Richard took us to Nassau Hall, Nassau Presbyterian Church, the university chapel, the president’s house, and a host of other places on campus.  Richard knows how to end a tour.  The last stop was the Tap Room at the Nassau Inn.

Richard Moody telling us about the history of Princeton

Tomorrow we are heading to Philadelphia where we will be getting a tour from George Boudreau, author of Independence: A Guide to Historic Philadelphia.