The New Year brought with it a new job. I'm now Curator of History at the Michigan State University Museum. Two months into the job, and I'm already planning several exhibitions while familiarizing myself with the extensive collection. Total immersion: it's the only way! I was able to publish several articles despite a lengthy daily … Continue reading Playing Catch-Up
Here's my essay, for Connecticuthistory.org, on the problem of mercury poisoning among hatters in Danbury, Connecticut: http://connecticuthistory.org/ending-the-danbury-shakes-a-story-of-workers-rights-and-corporate-responsibility/ The Danbury Hatters case (Loewe v. Lawlor, 1908) was a staple in high school and college U.S. history textbooks throughout the twentieth century. But fewer and fewer college history textbooks including this landmark case. More's the pity, given … Continue reading Mad as a Hatter: The Danbury Shakes
The phrase, "the economy of makeshifts," is historian Olwen Hufton's. She employed it in The Poor of Eighteenth Century France 1750-1789 (1974) to describe the survival strategies of the poor in France before the Revolution. The phrase, as adopted by historians of England, shifted in its application to that country's working poor. As I work … Continue reading The Economy of Makeshifts
Last week, reporter Jill Cowan, of the Bakersfield Californian, contacted me to discuss the reasons why Americans shop for secondhand goods. I very much enjoyed our conversation and the article, but I was left with a nagging question: what do we mean when we label an object "vintage" or when we say that an object … Continue reading What, exactly, is “vintage”?
In reviewing British Pathe newsreels of Ohio events in the 1930s, I came across a silent feature that had not been identified. I was watching the aftermath of a June 18, 1936 strike and riot at the Black and Decker Electric Co. plant in Kent, Ohio. Now British Pathe knows. Only the date of the … Continue reading Not Bad For a Monday
How to engage students in the study of their material lives and the consequences of their choices, from The Chronicle of Higher Education: "Anthropology Course Explores the Life Cycle of, Say, Your Pen" What I find interesting is that we use "life" and "lifespan" to refer to an object's usefulness. Arjun Appadurai discusses the "social" … Continue reading Globalization and Material Culture Studies
The weather today outside matches the weather that farmers in Wood County endured when they traveled to Wally Kramp's farm on February 26, 1933. There some 700-800 farmers stood out in the cold and staged a "penny auction" to save Kramp from foreclosure for an $800 loan he could not repay. They bid pennies on … Continue reading Penny Auctions in Ohio, 1933