Friday, June 8, 2018

New England Historic Genealogical Society NERFC Fellow Update

Visit  ‘Indifferent to the world’ at the New England Historic Genealogical Society to get an overview of the research done there by NERFC Fellow Peter Walker. Thanks to Scottt Steward for sharing Peter's post about his work at NEHGS.

The Rev. Samuel Fayerweather (1725-1781)
in the NEHGS Fine Art Collection

Friday, June 1, 2018

Visiting Researchers Inspire CHS Displays 

The CHS is pleased to continue its partnership with the New England Regional Fellowship Consortium (NERFC), and to host visiting scholars whose research is supported by grants from NERFC. In December of 2017, two NERFC scholars shared their work during brown-bag lunches with CHS members and staff. 

Shira Lurie, Doctoral Candidate at the University of Virginia, presented her project Politics at the Poles: Liberty Poles and the Popular Struggle for the New Republic. She explained that during the 1790s, an old way of protest in American politics re-emerged. Federalists, who dominated New England, were cast by Republicans as autocratic elitists who ran roughshod over the Republican minority. In protest, the Republicans revived the Revolutionary-era practice of erecting liberty poles in town squares. The poles stood as symbols of opposition to tyranny. Federalists denounced this as an illegitimate form of political expression. In their view, the vote and the legislative process were the only proper way to express dissent. They worried that Republican opposition would undermine federal authority and drag the country back into the chaos of the 1780s. Local Federalists tore down the poles, leading to violence, acerbic press coverage, and legal action.

Kathrinne Duffy (below), doctoral candidate at Brown University, is working on a project entitled Skulls, Selves, and Showmanship: Itinerant Phrenologists in Nineteenth-Century America. Phrenology was a controversial and influential science in the mid-1800s. Proponents believed that the shape of one’s cranium revealed one’s character — a materialist conception of the self that gave rise to novel modes of introspection and observation. To promote their science of the mind, practical phrenologists traveled from town to town, offering lectures and examinations. Ms. Duffy sketched the backgrounds of several prominent phrenologists, and the reaction of audiences, ranging from credulity to skepticism.

Both presentations have inspired future displays at the CHS. Ms. Lurie’s research prompted the CHS Collections staff to plan a display about liberty poles and their depiction in early America; we have examples of them popping up on items as varied as swords and currency. Similarly, the CHS will mount a display of ephemera related to phrenology in the 1800s. Look for these displays at the CHS this year. Both displays will be mounted in our Nawrot History Nook, just outside the Waterman Research Center.

Please visit to learn about upcoming NERFC scholar presentations, or sign up to be notified of future events via email.