Final Project- Walking/ Driving Tour of Former Movie Theaters in Albany

Identify your theme and how it is unique from the existing tours of Albany Walks for Health. What are the closest related tours? How does your tour differ from the related tours?

The theme of my walking tour will be the exploration of the former sites of the plethora of palatial movie theaters that once existed in Albany, New York. Although many of the locations that will be included on the tour were still occupied by the movie theaters in question as recently as the 1980’s, the change in the way in which movie theaters appeared and were operated over the past hundred years will be made evident through descriptions of the bygone theaters compared to the contemporary theaters with which participants on the tour are familiar. This theme is unique from the existing tours on Albany Walks for Health as movie theaters are significantly more modern than the themes on the Walks for Health, which predominantly span from the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. Additionally, due to the nature of this project, the locations on my tour, unlike an abundance of the locations on the Walks for Health, are no longer existent.
The closest related tour on the Albany Walks for Health to the tour that I am going to create is Tour #7: Entertainment Centers of Downtown Albany. Unlike most of the other tours on the Walks for Health, ‘Entertainment Centers of Downtown Albany’ takes participants to more contemporary locations, such as the Egg, which was built in the 1960’s, and the Times Union Center, which was not even constructed until 1990. Additionally, both my tour and ‘Entertainment Centers of Downtown Albany’ appertain to leisure activities enjoyed by Albany residents and visitors. Unlike ‘Entertainment Centers of Downtown Albany,’ which includes a variety of types of entertainment venues, such as theaters (the Palace Theater, Park Playhouse) and concert halls (the Washington Armory) my tour will only feature locations that were once movie theaters. Another tour featured in Albany Walks for Health that is similar to my movie theaters tour is ‘The Leisures of Albany.’ Like ‘Entertainment Centers of Downtown Albany,’ ‘The Leisures of Albany’ is homologous to my tour because it is about recreational activities in Albany. Also like “Entertainment Centers of Downtown Albany,’ ‘The Leisures of Albany’ features locations for an assortment of leisure activities, including theaters such as the Palace Theater and parks such as Washington Park, and museums such as the Albany Institute of History and Art, whereas my tour will only contain movie theaters.

What is the organizing theme or story for your tour? Who is the audience for this tour? What’s the big takeaway point that the visitor will get from your tour?

Since movie theaters began to emerge in the final years of the nineteenth century, they have grown into one of the most popular and prominent venues in the entertainment industry. The multi-screen movie theaters that we know today, often operated by a chain (Regal, AMC, etc) deviate greatly from those that existed up until even the mid to late twentieth century. Older movie theaters, also called ‘cinemas’ or ‘movie houses,’ were formerly built to create a memorable overall experience that extended beyond the viewing of a film. They would often include ornate architecture, sumptuous lounges, and one large theater. This tour will explore the many opulent theaters that once existed in Albany, but were closed down in lieu of theaters that boasted multiple screens and that were able to show more movies to more people simultaneously. Additionally, many of the theaters on this tour are further tied to Albany’s history  as they were named after locations or prominent figures in Albany’s history.
This tour is geared towards Albany residents. Participants who have grown up in Albany may be interested to learn about the sheer number of now unassuming locations that once housed movie theaters. In addition, older Albany residents can enjoy the nostalgia of visiting the sites of theaters that they might have frequented in times past.
Participants on this tour should come away with a better understanding of how the notion of what defines a movie theater has changed over time. Many people are already aware (and, if not, will be informed on the tour) that the modern movie theater evolved from Vaudeville theaters. Through reading about movie theaters that once existed in familiar locations in Albany, participants taking this tour can attain a greater level of comprehension regarding the early incarnations of movie theaters and the fact that they were the midpoint between the exalted Vaudeville theaters of the nineteenth century and the utilitarian theaters with which we are familiar today. Additionally, participants of this tour will be able to glimpse into Albany’s history by showing them the different way in which people of the past engaged in a familiar activity in a familiar place.

Identify at least four potential locations. Briefly describe the historical location and what is currently at that location.

1.) Hellman Movie Theater– Located at 1365 Washington Avenue in Albany, the Hellman Movie Theater was constructed in 1960. Art deco in style, the theater originally featured a lobby, lounge and single screen, though it was divided into two screen during the 1980’s after being taken over by United Artists. The theater was built by Neil Hellman, also known for building the Neil Hellman Library at the College of Saint Rose, and is named as a memorial to his father, Harry Hellman. The Hellman Theater was demolished in 1989, and the site in which it once stood is now occupied by the Washington Center for Medical Arts, which leases office space to various medical practices.

2.) Eagle Movie Theater– Opened in 1928 on Hudson Avenue and Eagle Street (for which it is named) in Albany, the Eagle Movie Theater was housed in a defunct arsenal that was constructed in 1858. In 1938, the theater was remodeled an reopened as the ‘New Eagle Theater.’ The theater operated for three decades as a popular entertainment venue with a single screen and 830 seats. However, a decline in attendance in the 1950’s led to the theater staying in business through an agreement with local schools to show children’s specials on Saturday afternoons. In 1962, the state of New York acquired the site through eminent domain, and it was demolished in order to construct the South Mall arterial of the Empire State Plaza. The site is now occupied by the Albany County Probation Department.

3.) Harmanus Bleecker Hall– Opened in 1888 and named for attorney, congressman, and foreign ambassador, Harmanus Bleecker, Harmanus Bleecker Hall was originally opened as a regular theater. However, in 1929 it was remodeled to become a single screen motion picture theater with 2,070 seats. This sumptuous theater was decorated with tones of brown and gold that were highlighted with shades of blue red and green. Unfortunately, the theater, which was located at 331 Delaware Avenue in Albany, was destroyed in a fire on May 6, 1940. The site, which is now occupied by the Delaware Branch of the Albany Public Library, is nearby the still operational Spectrum 8 Theaters, which was opened soon after the fire that destroyed Harmanus Bleecker hall.

4.) Ritz Movie Theater– Located in a former jailhouse at 21 South Pearl Street in Albany, the Ritz Movie Theater first opened in the 1920’s. In 1941, the theater was purchased and operated by Warner Brothers. This single screen, 1,125 seat theater began to decline in popularity once the majority of households began acquiring televisions. Like the Eagle Movie Theater, the Ritz Movie Theater was ultimately demolished to make way for the construction of the Empire State Plaza. The Times Union Center now stands on its former site.

5.) Leland Movie Theater– Located at 43 South Pearl Street in Albany, the Leland Theater replaced the Trimble Opera House that was destroyed in a fire during the mid-nineteenth century. It was reopened in 1873 as the Leland Opera House, and was converted for Vaudeville and movies in 1906 and renamed the Leland Theater. With one screen and 1,350 seat, the Leland Theater remained popular until, like the Trimble Opera House before it, it was destroyed in a fire in the early 1960’s. It’s former location is now occupied by apartment and office space.

Text and Digital History

1.Movie NGrams
The first tool in this week’s reading was Bookworm Movies. Within these databases, a user can change the corpus of the search and view trends in areas such as dialogue in films based on text. In the accompanying blog post, “Sapping Attention”, the author uses Bookworm to view trends in language and the subject matter discussed in films. It is due to collections of metadata available in places such as IMDB, the writer contends, that allows users to better view trends. Metadata such as writer,director, and country of origin can give a more complete picture of trends in film.
This was actually a really fun page. Through this portal, a user can view trends in a variety of different subjects. Along with the Movie NGrams there is Vogue, babynames, and Rate My Professor, all popular web pages. This particular part of Bookworm is known as Culturomics,and focuses on content which would fit under mainly entertainment or popular culture. There are also other databases like OpenLibrary and US Congress hold trends in government and literature.

3.Historic Newspaper NGrams
This NGram is in the same vein as the Culturomics databases. It shows a very large example of historic newspapers (7m texts, 212 billion words). The default search criteria, “bicycle” showed a rise in the mention of this form of transportation in the mid-1890s. When you click on the line on the graph, you can view both the frequency within a particular year and also the text.

4.Mining the Dispatch
This piece focuses on the Richmond newspaper, the Dispatch, and its significance in uncovering the Confederate capital during the tumultuous years of the Civil War. Historian Kenneth Noe contends that although it was the center of much political and social change, much about Richmond during these years is relatively unknown.This particular text project, “Mining the Dispatch” aims to open up the conversation about this time and place by using text. The time frame used in this database is from Lincoln’s election in 1860 to the evacuation of the City in 1865. This collection encompasses 24 million words in 12,000 pieces. This system uses Topic Modeling, a process that uses statistics to categorize texts and form patterns from them. Through software called MALLET, the program collects specific numbers of topics from documents using algorithms to display patterns. A topic is defined in this piece as “a group of words that are likely to appear together in the document”(“Mining”). The author uses slavery as a topic example and a model basis. Through graphs, two aspects of data can be discovered, thematic, through relative space occupied graphs, and generic, which is shown through graphs that count the number of articles where “proportion is above the specified level”(“Dispatch”).

5.NYT Chronicle
This NGram focuses on the records of the New York Times, and uses keyword searches to show trends within the content of the written works from 1860 to the present. I used the examples of slavery, civil rights, and Jim Crow, after reading the “Mining the Dispatch” piece and was interesting to see the trends and their correspondence to the time periods included within the data. For example, there was a rise in the mention of Civil Rights around the 1960s.

Voyant is a Text tool that allows the user to insert a page into the reader, where patterns are created from the given information. I uploaded a reading from another class and began messing around with the program. The user can click on any word in the document, and it will show the frequency of that word in the piece. The program also gives a brief summary of the corpus,giving frequency of unique words and the most frequently used words.

7. Getting Started With Voyant
This page is a user-friendly guide to using voyant. It show how to upload not just single pages, but HTML, XML, and PDF content. It then show she different skins shown within the program including the summary, cirrus(word cloud), and corpus reader. This piece also tells the reader how they can bookmark particular corpora, and export them unto sites such as blogs.

8.Comparing Corpora in Voyant
This particular piece shows how to upload corpora on voyant in order to compare patterns. It shows a step-by-step guide on how to export multiple corpora by saving one corpus and adding it to another example,by enabling the “difference” function. The end result is that one can view the comparison of word frequencies in both corpora.

Questions for Discussion
What are the benefits of using software such as voyant or bookworm in research? What are some difficulties?
How could these technologies strengthen the connections between the humanities and other fields?
Are these technologies the new frontier in research? Could they create new fields within historical practice?

Zotero, Paper Machines, and fun with words

For my project I am using Zotero and Paper Machines to analyze the American Jewish Yearbook (hereafter AJYB) for the years 1939 until 1981. During that period of publication, the AJYB was owned by the American Jewish Committee, one of the largest Jewish organizations in the United States, and thus provides a very good indication of the direction of that American Jewish leadership is trying to push the community. The AJYB began publication in 1899 and was intended to bring the diverse communities of American Jewry together. There was a concern that Jews further out in the hinterlands would not maintain their Judaism if they were not connected to the wider Jewish world. For this reason, the publication attempted to de-centralize itself from a focus on larger cities with substantially more Jews, and instead focused on American Jews overall. From its earliest publication, the AJYB had the purpose of situating American Jews in the wider Jewish world. Because of its intended purpose of chronicling matters of importance to the Jewish community both at home and abroad, because of this, a digital analysis of it is a great asset to larger work on American Jews in the twentieth century. This study focuses on the AJYB in the years 1939 until 1981. This was done in an attempt to discover the changing American Jewish relationship with Israel, and how the civil rights movement altered, or did not alter, that relationship.

The results of this project reveal just how much American Jews were concerned with international affairs. All of the Paper Machines methods reveal different parts of essentially the same story: the centrality of external events and actors on American Jewry’s perception of itself. The Holocaust, Israel, and the plight of Jews in the Soviet Union dominated the discourse on the pages of the AJYB. The fact that these places and events are featured so prominently in sections that deal with American Jewry demonstrate both the international character of American Jews, and the attempts by American Jews to deal with their position as both Americans, generally liberal ones, who were focused on American issues, and as Jews who were concerned with the plight of their co-religionists across the world.

Dunnings-log Word Cloud

Dunnings multiple word clouds

The program that offered the best general narrative history of American Jews in the postwar was a Dunnings-log likelihood word cloud. Using a word cloud filtered with the titles of sections as stop words and Dunnings-log likelihood, which helps to show over-represented words in comparison to the other pieces of data, I was able to create a rough sketch of how the topics that were discussed by American Jews changed over time. To someone familiar with American Jewish history, the topics revealed by the Dunnings-log likelihood do not come as a surprise. The earliest years in the study were dominated by a mix of words relating to both domestic and international threats to American Jews such as “German government” and “Father Coughlin” as well as significant political figures and institutions such as “President Roosevelt” and “British government”. These words reveal an American Jewish community that was concerned with the plight of European Jews, but was also focused on American interests.

As the Second World War waged at full force, and American Jews began to better, if still not fully, understand the existential threats faced by European Jewry. Jewish leaders began to organize efforts to alleviate the suffering of their co-religionists in Europe. This included linking their efforts with Zionism and the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine, a proposition that had hitherto been received largely with indifference on the part of American Jews. These findings are generally in line with the existing historiography with Historian Arthur Goren arguing, “American Jews confronted the enormity of the destruction of European Jewry and the urgent need to resettle and rehabilitate the one-third that had survived. This task merged almost immediately with the struggle for Jewish statehood in Palestine. Linking the solution of the problem of the survivors with the attainment of statehood created a unity of purpose on a scale unprecedented in the modern history of the Jews.” (Arthur A. Goren A Golden Decade: 1945-1955 in The American Jewish Experience edited by Jonathan Sarna New York: Holmes and Meier publishing 1997 p.296)

The results from the word cloud largely conformed to the link posited by Goren, although words relating to Zionism and European Jews begin several years before the time period discussed in his work. There is the added challenge that some of the words that come up in the word cloud do not explicitly reference Zionism or the Holocaust, but the implicit tie is clear if you have the historical background. For example, one of the words from the 1942-1943 AJYB “San Francisco” likely references the Biltmore Conference that took place in May 1942. The conference united American Zionist factions, that had previously been fighting and established Zionism as a dominate part of American Jewish discourse. In his work The Emergence of American Zionism Mark Raider describes the conference as an event that “epitomized the progress that American Zionism as a whole had taken since 1917.” (Mark Raider The Emergence of American Zionism New York: NYU Press 1998 p. 207) In addition, the same year features the words “Dr. Silver” likely a reference to Dr. Abba Hillel Silver, a prominent American Zionist leader. These words reveal one of the main challenges when working with word clouds, which is that they are most effective when one already has a background in the subject. It is easier for someone with experience to use these types of tools because there is an element of subtly to language and some words have connections or meanings that are decidedly implicit. The rest of the 1940s in this word cloud is largely dominated by words and phrases relating to European Jews and the aftermath of the Holocaust such as ‘Displaced Persons’, which, in the Jewish context referred to Holocaust survivors who were not able to return to their homes in Europe.

The words in the 1950s re-focus the American Jewish experience to the United States and center largely on the civil rights movement and gains made by African Americans. Issues such as school desegregation and Supreme Court decisions relating to African Americans dominate the word clouds. This is largely in line with the historiography that centers American Jews as part of the broader civil rights coalition and allied with African Americans. While this thesis has come under some scrutiny as of late, it still largely holds in the historiography. Cheryl Greenberg puts it best when she describes the alliance as “a cold war liberal attempt to end discrimination based on race or religion using the institutions of civil society: courts, legislatures, media, public schools and voluntary organizations.” (Cheryl Lynn Greenberg Troubling the Waters: Black-Jewish Relations in the American Century New York: Princeton University Press 2006 p.115) The words featured in the word clouds for this time period generally feature words centering on government and liberal efforts to end discrimination such as ‘de facto segregation’ and ‘supreme court’.

Where the word cloud gets interesting from a historiographical perspective is in the mid-1960s. In particular, the word cloud for the 1963 issue features the phrase ‘intermarriage rate’ and the 1964 edition the phrase ‘negro antisemtism’. This is extremely telling and extremely important for understanding the American Jewish relationship with civil rights. By the late 1960s, the civil rights coalition was fracturing along ethnic lines, ultimately causing the rise of a unique brand of Jewish conservatism that centered on the projection of American power and the defense of the state of Israel in the form of neoconservatism. Like nearly all forms of conservatism, neoconservatism was based on a fear of losing position in society. In my larger dissertation argument, I argue that American Jews are concerned with rates of assimilation and intermarriage that are so high that they are potentially unsustainable to continued Jewish life in America. This is why the leaders of institutions such as the American Jewish Committee work to over emphasize this idea of antisemitism in the civil rights coalition. This connection from one year to the next would seem to indicate a correlation between the two topics.

The final decade covered in the analysis, the 1970s sees a return to a focus on foreign policy, with issues related to Israel and Palestine dominating the word cloud, with the exception of one, “Andrew Young” who was an African American ambassador whose tenure was cut short after he met with leaders from the Palestine Liberation Organization, a move that vilified by American Jewish organizations and lead ultimately to Young’s resignation. In short, if one were to look at how American Jews viewed themselves via this word cloud analysis of the AJYB, one would surmise that their fate was closely tied to the fate of Israel. Although this word cloud was by far the most straight forward in terms of telling a pretty standard narrative of 20th century American Jewish history, it nonetheless helps to reveal some of the subtleties within that standard narrative and allows for an exploration of many of the external factors that influenced American Jewry.

Large Word Cloud

large word cloud

Perhaps the most interesting result came from a tif filtered large word cloud. This word cloud showed the most used words in the corpus of what I was looking at. Because the sections of the AJYB that I looked at were centered on the United States, I expected to find references to mainly to domestic issues. Instead, I discovered that the largest word in the word cloud is ‘Israel’. This is very telling and, given that so many other words including ‘Palestine’ and ‘Zionism’ that are also related to Israel are also in the cloud, the centrality of Israel to the writers, editors, and presumably readers of the AJYB cannot be ignored. While this one publication obviously does not speak for the entire Jewish community, it does reveal larger trends in the American Jewish trend toward looking to Israel as a source of ethnic and religious identity.

Present in the large word cloud are words and phrases relating to domestic issues such as the push for civil rights such as ‘federal’, ‘teachers’, and ‘housing’. The prominence of these two themes can be seen throughout this project. This speaks to the duality that defined American Jewry in the postwar. They were at once emphasizing their American identity, but also concerning themselves with the wider Jewish world. As with the Dunnings-log word cloud, there are many words that can be put into context by someone with experience in the subject that might be missed by someone who does not work extensively in it. Some of the words in the cloud can be seen as ambiguous, unless one knows the context of their likely use and can connect them with larger trends.

Phrase Nets

As part of my work, I also created multiple phrase nets. Paper Machines allows one to make custom phrase nets, as well as allowing one to use the standard ones that the program has set up. Phrase nets allow one to see how words and phrases are connected in a given text. In this study, I used both the standard phrase nets (x equals y, x the y) and I made my own using terms that were pertinent to my research, such as ‘Israel’ and ‘antisemitism’. All of the phrase nets revealed something interesting, but perhaps the most useful was the phrase net that I ran was for the term ‘antisemitism’. That net was much smaller than the others, but the words that it connected to were very telling. The two largest words were ‘combat’ and ‘negro’. While I was certainly expecting to find references to African Americans in a phrase net such as this, I also expected to find references to right wing antisemitism in the United States and abroad, or words such as ‘Egypt’, ‘PLO’, or ‘Arab’ in reference to Israel. In my research, I also took into account the fact that the word ‘antisemitism’ has changed over the decades. While the meaning has stayed the same, the physical construction of the word has undergone a change. Anti-Semitism is the original spelling, and antisemitism is much more modern, which could potentially skew the results. With this in mind, I also ran the phrase ‘anti-Semitism’ and the top word on that phrase net was ‘Soviet’. This was certainly not surprising, as there were several attempts made over the last half of the twentieth century to alleviate the sufferings of Jews in the Soviet Union.

Another phrase net using the term ‘civil rights’ reveal the intricacies of the civil rights movement, with words such as ‘federal’ and ‘state’ mixing with words describing the impact of legislation such as ‘major’ and ‘historic’. This phrase net was less valuable than I had hoped for, as it did not really say anything about relations between African Americans and Jews, but instead emphasized government legislation. In addition, A phrase net centered on the word ‘Israel’ was also less helpful than anticipated, especially considering how central Israel seems to be to American Jews based on the various word clouds. Most of the words linked to ‘Israel’ were organizations, such as the United Jewish Appeal (UJA) or dates such as 1967. Significantly, the word ‘American’ did appear as well as ‘United’, although United could possibly be referring to the UJA and not the United States

Topic Modeling

Finally, I ran multiple topic models that gave me graphs of a change over time in word usage in the AJYB. What I was most surprised about was the domination of words relating to Israel in the topic model. Nearly every three-word phrase in some of the topic models related in some way to Israel or Palestine, certainly much more so than any other country, including the United States. What makes the topic models most interesting is that they show a strong change over time by their word use and combination of words surrounding Israel. For example, the graph shows a very prominent use of the term ‘Palestine’ early in the sample study, alongside the words ‘war’ and ‘committee’. This is a reference Palestine’s place as a refuge for European Jews during the Holocaust. As a bookend to this, the words ‘president’, ‘Carter’ and ‘Israel’ become more pronounced at the end of the graph. This is likely because of President Carter’s negotiations for a major peace treaty between Israel and Egypt at Camp David. While this combination of words is to be expected in a section focusing specifically on Israel, it is very notable that they appear in parts of the publication that are focused on the United Stats, especially since the AJYB’s stated goal is write on Jewish communities and not on political leaders.


In some ways the programs ran on the AJYB confirmed my suspicions about the place of Israel in American Jewish discourse. The American Jewish relationship with Israel is highly touted and Jews on both the left and right have strong opinions on the state. Author Jo-Ann Mort writing in Dissent magazine in the Spring 2011 issue summed the relationship up succulently when she wrote: “It [Israel] is my home away from home, but it is also my home, the place where I feel a deep sense of connection even in the midst of a jumble of its own contradictions and my own, too. Were I to lose that “home,” the place for which I fight and keep my Jewish soul, I would finally be homeless.” (Dissent magazine vol.58 no.2 Spring 2011 p.25) This centrality of Israel to American Jewish identity can be seen in the digital analysis. One thing that is surprisingly absent, and should be noted however, is explicit references to the Holocaust. This could be because of the way that it was spoken about euphemistically, with phrases like ‘the death of the six million’ used to describe the events, or because it is hidden or implied in discussions about threats to Israel’s safety and concerns about demographics which in the discourse can sometimes emphasize a concern that high levels of assimilation might grant Adolf Hitler a posthumous victory vis-à-vis the end of Jews in the world.

One of the largest continuing controversies in the American Jewish studies historiography centers on the Holocaust and Peter Novick’s 1999 work The Holocaust in American Life which centers the event as defining American Jewish identity. That there have been large numbers of studies concerning American Jews and the Holocaust, and in my own work, I have come across references to the Holocaust extensively makes it seem odd that it is not discussed more in the AJYB. This could be because the AJYB was focused on stories that offer a breadth of knowledge and not an analysis of why events were happening, or it could be that other sections, such as ones discussing Israel have more references to the Holocaust.

-Jonathan Sarna ed. The American Jewish Experience New York: Holmes and Meier publishing 1997
-Mark Raider The Emergence of American Zionism New York: NYU Press 1998
-Cheryl Lynn Greenberg Troubling the Waters: Black-Jewish Relations in the American Century New York: Princeton University Press 2006
-Peter Novick The Holocaust in American Life. New York: Mariner Books 2000.

Great Awakenings and Anti-Catholicism in America

During the 19th century, many changes occurred in the United States. The Union was nearly torn apart when the South seceded and the Civil War was being fought. There was also a change in culture and industry. The United States began to transition from a WASP-y agrarian culture to one that was more industrial and less anglo-saxon, although this would be confined to much of the late 19th century. Christianity also began to change during this time too. As immigrants from Europe began to settle in the country, they brought different forms of Christianity. Irish Catholics in particular, would come to dominate Catholicism by the end of the 19th century, and the beginning of the early 20th century, especially in the Northeastern United States. However, there were some issues regarding the increasing number of Catholics in the United States, and anti-Catholic/nativist movements became increasingly prominent. It was during this time that evangelical protestantism began to appear in the country. Movements stemming from the Great Awakenings that occurred in waves during the 18th and 19th centuries were beginning to have larger affects on mainline protestantism. In this selection of scholarly works, these movements and demographic changes will be examined on a national, regional, and statewide scale.

In order to understand Christianity in the United States, it is necessary to discuss the religion of the colonies, and how religious diversification began to happen in the 19th century. In David, Wills’s Christianity in the United States, (specifically the chapter, “Colonies in the Atlantic World”) he lays a groundwork for the reader to understand the various sects of the religion as they have come to exist in the United States. Wills makes the case that in order to understand Christianity in the United States, it is important to know that it is rooted in the history of the Atlantic States (Wills, 5). This would make sense, as most of the voyages of exploration that occurred from the 15th century onward ended in the Americas, and thus would be the basis for the countries that would form out of this discovery. Wills makes the point that Protestants weren’t always the dominant group in North America, as many Catholics from Spain, Portugal, and France had already settled in parts of the continent by the early 17th century (Wills, 7). It wasn’t until the Dutch and the English began claiming territory that demographics began to change. When permanent settlements were established (Jamestown, Providence, the Massachusetts Bay Colony), British Christianity in particular began to grow (Wills, 7-9). Wills goes on to say that the three regions of the colonies (New England, Middle, and Southern) all had different defining characteristics. New England’s religious groups tended to support morality and social justice, while the Middle Colonies, which were more ethnically diverse focused on toleration and religious liberty(a by product of Quaker settlement, apparently) (Wills, 11-13). The South, in contrast with the other two, would resemble the colonies in New England, if not for the separation of religious groups based on race, and the fact that different religious traditions (Islam and traditional forms of African religion) were brought into the country by enslaved Africans (Wills, 13-14). As Wills continues, he writes about how there are disputes as to whether the United States was formed under the auspices of European Enlightenment ideals, or Great Awakening theology. While he doesn’t give a conclusive answer, he does provide evidence that the First Great Awakening was made more important retrospectively, than it actually was in the 19th century (Wills, 15). He also states that, under the leadership of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, who were both deistically inclined, instituted religious freedom into the Constitution through the ratification of the First Amendment (Wills, 15). The actions here would have repercussions in the next century, as not everyone was overjoyed with this foundational principle. While Wills’s book is a great introduction, its brevity causes some issues, as he doesn’t go as in depth as other authors do.

The next book, Religion in America, by Denis Lacorne, deals with similar issues as Wills, but with greater depth (see above criticism). Concentrating on the chapter, “Evangelical Awakenings” and “Bible Wars”, Lacorne picks up where Wills ended, and deals with the religious revivals that occurred in the United States during the 18th and 19th centuries. Lacorne describes how the democratization of religion challenged Puritanical religious thought in the 19th century, and would affect relations between religion and politics for decades to come, and would play a role in causing revivals (Lacorne, 44). These Awakenings also disproportionately affected Protestant sects, with Baptists and Methodists enjoying greater growth than older sects (Presbyterian and Episcopalian, Lacorne, 44-45). When the Great Awakenings began, philosophers and writers, for example Alexis de Tocqueville, saw the rise of evangelical Protestantism as a passing phenomenon that would not affect many people, which would be incorrect, as Lacorne writes that Tocqueville underestimated the power of these new sects (Lacorne, 55).
In the following chapter, “Bible Wars”, Lacorne shifts from just the Great Awakenings and rise of evangelical Christianity to the conflicts that arose between Catholics and evangelicals during the 19th century. While Catholics in the colonies were in the minority of Christian denominations in the late 18th century, there was an explosive amount of growth during the 19th century as Irish, Italian, and German Catholics immigrated to the United States. By the 1850s, there were over a million Catholics in the country, up from about 35,000 just sixty years prior (Lacorne, 64). Anti-Catholic sentiment already existed due to English propaganda, which regarded the largely Irish immigrants as papists who threatened American democracy (Lacorne, 65). Combined with bad press and evangelical Protestantism, anti-Catholic riots began to occur throughout the 1830s, with Irish neighborhoods in Boston being looted, while a convent in Charleston was set ablaze by rioters (Lacorne, 65-66). Riots would continue into the next decade, culminating in a period of a few months in Philadelphia (Kensington to be exact), where Irish neighborhoods were, again, attacked and looted (Lacorne,77). A source of the issues between Protestants and Catholics in the United States was over which translation was used. According to Lacorne, Irish Catholics in particular favored the Douai Bible, while Protestants used the King James Version (apparently there are major differences, hell if I know though, they all sound the same to me, Lacorne, 69). One of the key events in the dispute over Bibles occurred in 1859, when an Irish student at a public school refused to recite the King James version of the Ten Commandments. As a result, his knuckles were whipped until they bled, and when other Irish students stood in solidarity, they were expelled (Lacorne, 72-73). This led to legal battle over whether or not the student should have been punished so severely, but it was eventually decided that refusing to recite the King James commandments was a violation of student obligations in Boston public schools (Lacorne, 73). While the court case was a failure, the student became a martyr in the eyes of Catholics around the country, and would be used as a symbol against anti-Catholicism (Lacorne, 77). While Lacorne makes the case that anti-Catholicism was part of the reason for violence on the part of Protestants, he also adds that there were other reasons for this occurring. The Irish, during the mid-19th century, were seen as low wage workers who were stealing jobs from hardworking Americans (that sounds familiar), not only threatening the political and social stability of the United States, but also the economic livelihood of “native-born” citizens (Lacorne, 78). Compared to Wills’s book, Lacorne’s is much more in depth, as stated earlier, but there are some issues, one of which was the fact that he goes out of order, listing the events of the “Bible War” before the Kensington riots, even though the it happened in 1859, while the riots occurred in 1844. There is also a problem with the fact that when he describes the criticisms of the Great Awakenings, he uses only four sources, Tocqueville, Fanny Trollope, Michel Chevalier, and Gustave Beaumont, leading to a skewed perspective as to what philosophers and foreign visitors thought of the revivals of the 19th century.

Coinciding with the rise of Protestant Evangelicalism was an increase in anti-Catholicism. While the Great Awakenings and nativist thought may not have been mutually exclusive, Charles Hambrick-Stowe makes the case for there being a direct connection between the two. According to Hambrick-Stowe in his article, “Charles G. Finney and Evangelical Anti-Catholicism”, this movement was rooted in animosity towards the “official disestablishment of churches and rising religious diversity” (Hambrick-Stowe, 39). This would make sense, as during the 18th century, the rise of Enlightenment Era thought in the United States, coupled with the immigration that occurred in the 19th century, may have been disconcerting to Protestants who felt that their status as majority was in danger of being threatened.
The man at the center of this article, Charles G. Finney, was a minister from the Burned-Over-District of Western New York (a phrase that he coined, coincidentally). The Burned-Over-District, which encapsulated at least a dozen or so counties in New York, was a hotbed for religious revivals in the 19th century (including the establishment of Mormonism), one of which involved Finney. The preacher felt, with regards to Catholics, that they were bound by outdated tradition that prevented the dissemination of the Gospel in America (Hambrick-Stowe, 43). While Finney never explicitly attacked Catholicism (concentrating more on converting and “saving” them from sin, Hambrick-Stowe, 44), his rhetoric was important in fostering the development of anti-Catholic sentiment in the United States later in the 19th century( Hambrick-Stowe, 41). In this way, Finney was more subtle than his contemporaries, such as Lyman Beecher, who claimed that the Catholic Church was “the most skillful, powerful, dreadful system of corruption to those who wield it” (Hambrick-Stowe, 42), instead, he appeared to be preparing Protestants for future “battles” with Catholics. While Hambrick-Stowe dedicates half of this article to anti-Catholicism, he makes the point that Finney disliked organizations other than the Catholic Church, including German Protestants, political parties, and masons, feeling that they all presented similar threats to evangelical Protestantism as the Catholics (Hambrick-Stowe, 46-48). In terms of criticism of this article, there are some issues with length, being thirteen pages means it isn’t that long, and sometimes the scope is too narrow. While Finney is an interesting figure from this movement, including more about his contemporaries would have been useful.

In conclusion, the books that were chosen for this project all present views on Christianity in America. Wills and Lacorne provide a context through which the religious makeup of the country can be viewed, but in two different ways. Wills writes in much broader terms than Lacorne, encapsulating hundreds of years in a few pages. In contrast, Lacorne takes a more detailed approach, writing about specifics in regards to the Great Awakenings, and the animosity between Protestants and Catholics in 19th century America. Both styles have their strengths, and are useful, but the amount of information provided by Lacorne is much better. To compare with the other two, is Hambrick-Stowe’s article, which, as stated previously, was had a more narrow view than previously expected. It might be easier to say that Hambrick-Stowe’s piece is a combination of the other two, mostly because, while he deals with specifics, like Lacorne, the amount of attention he dedicates to certain subjects is similar to Wills.

Hambrick-Stowe, Charles E., “Charles G. Finney and Evangelical Anti-Catholicism”, U.S Catholic Historian, Volume 14, No.4 (1996) 39-52.
Lacorne, Denis, Religion in America: a Political History (New York, Columbia University Press, 2011).
Wills, David W., Christianity in the United States: a Historical Survey and Interpretation (Notre Dame, University of Notre Dame Press, 2005.

Breweries in Albany NY/Albany Ale

For my walking tour I decided to focus on the breweries that were located in the city in the era before prohibition. Prior to the Eighteenth Amendment the area held a number of breweries that went beyond small scale operations and had influence across the Northeastern US. As the Albany area was settled long before today’s beer capitol in the Midwest specifically Milwaukee our area had a head start in the local manufacturing of goods including beer. Also prior to refrigeration perishable products like beer could only be made so far from the intended market and Albany with its river access and close proximity to the then expanding industrial areas of New York, Rochester, and Buffalo was ideally suited to supply both itself and the surrounding region with beer. The reason behind my decision to halt at prohibition was that after the ban on alcohol aka the Volstead Act breweries in Albany and across the country found themselves without a product to sell. Only the larger breweries such as Anheuser Busch were able to survive until prohibitions repeal in 1933 which centralized America’s brewing industry and also lead to only a few styles of beer being available nationally. For Albany brewers even with beer once again being legal Albany’s previous geographic advantages were rendered moot with refrigeration technology allowing Midwestern brewers to ship their product nation wide and local operations were not able to compete. Finally even before prohibition the rise of the Midwest breweries showed a shift in both the beer industry and the American population that hurt the prospects of both the companies in Albany and the styles of beer being produced in the area. The Midwestern operations favored beers based around the German lager or pilsner style as opposed to the previously favored English ale. Lager is a lighter style of beer meant to be refreshing for the drinker, pilsner originating in Pilsen in what is today the Czech Republic with the most popular American variety being Miller is also a lighter beer designed for refreshing drinkability, and ale being a heavier and more filling product with origins in the United Kingdom explaining its popularity with the early settlers in the English colonies. Demographically lager surpassing ale in US markets showed the tastes of newly arrived immigrant populations entering the mainstream popularity in the nineteenth century.
The topic of beer in Albany first caught my interest when I saw a subsection in the Flicker page detailing breweries and distilleries. This subsection is somewhat mislabeled as the photographs within are almost exclusively breweries. What inspired me to address this topic is that beyond the surprise I personally had when I began researching the topic in regards to the extent of beer making in Albany it is also a topical subject with the rise of the micro brewing trend over the past decade. In addition to the interest in smaller breweries making more unique varieties of beer there has also been a renewed interest in both the methods and styles of beer that existed in the past going all the way back to the beers of the ancient world. This trend allows the historian to connect with the general public by offering information on a topic that the average person would find interesting and while beer is easy to see as a non academic subject the history of beer making does go all the way back to the dawn of civilization. As beer has been and continues to be a staple of many of the world’s diets it is a topic possessing both a large amount of material and importance to many of the world’s cultures. Beyond the effects of alcohol beer gave people the ability to use excess grain without it spoiling which was essential in the days before refrigeration.
Before entering into the details of the tour itself it is important to lay out an abbreviated summary of what differentiated the beers made in Albany from other localities and the summary of beer making in Albany and the capital region. Albany like other colonial era settlements in the New World began producing beer shortly after the area was settled by Europeans and by the Revolutionary War era had like other regions had developed a unique style. Albany Ale is XX strength ale that has its origins in the late eighteenth century. This reflected the popularity of ales in the colonies and latter the United States through the mid nineteenth century with today’s favored lager or pilsner style being brought over by German immigrants later on additionally prior to the Anheuser Busch company creating the refrigerated railcar the production of lager on a lager scale was problematic with the Albany Ale Project noting “Lager had been in the U.S since the 1840s, but since it needs to be cold-fermented and then chilled for a number of months”1.
Sources I have found on the topic of so far have been the “Albany Ale Project” a webpage that was started by beer bloggers Alan McLeod and Craig Gravina to detail both the specific ale style as well as brewing in the Albany area. The site has a partnership with two local breweries C.H. Evans Brewing Company at Albany Pump Station and The Home Brew Emporium and has worked with these businesses to create a recreation of Albany Ale Amsdell’s 1901 Albany XX Ale which I will probably try over the next several weeks for purely research purposes. Another resource is the article The History of Beer: Albany, New York, Once the Largest Brewing Hub in America written by Hudson Valley Magazine which gives a quick summary of brewing in the area through the years. Moving on to the website Old Breweries which gives a list breweries in a given area which importantly includes breweries that are no longer operational, the site gives a brief summary of the businesses history, years it was in operation, and less critically perceived value of merchandise from the company.
A potential problem with developing the waling tour is that the breweries as previously mentioned went out of business by the seventies and consequently the buildings that housed the breweries are also gone. To overcome this issue alternate sites will need to be found, there are two possible ways to accomplish this the fist being to see if the original sites contained notable architectural styles and then to find sites in Albany that retain said style. The second work around would be to use existing breweries in Albany particularly if they work with historical styles of beer notably the “Albany Ale” that has appeared in the articles I have found such as the Pump Station in downtown Albany. Another issue is that the demographic for this tour would for legal reasons need to be the twenty one and over crowd which would exclude the primary school as well as a large part of the undergraduate university audience which limits its ability to be employed for scholarly purposes.
In conclusion while there will a small number of roadblocks the topic of beer making in the capital region is a topic that can be used for the walking tour project. While the city has long lost its place as a beer making center the select few microbreweries in the city have helped keep the tradition alive if not well and the history behind the beer industry in Albany ensures that the project has the potential to connect a modern audience with the cities past. So to close once the research has been complete the history of Albany’s beer business should be an informative look at both local businesses as well as how a staple American product evolved with a changing population and legal status.

1. Albany Ale Project,

Albany and the Hudson

During the 19th century, Albany New York had an important and growing relationship with its waterfront on the Hudson River. This relationship helped to change not only the city of Albany, but the nation as well. The river provided inspiration to artists, power for factories, connection to politics, and the transportation for travel and trade. With the development of infrastructure during the 19th century, most notably for this topic the creation and completion of the Erie Canal, Albany became a hub of connectivity. Within a block from the waterfront were some of the most important banks, businesses, and transportation centers of the time. The 19th century was most certainly the peak of this relationship between river and residents for Albany. Now, for many local residents, the waterfront is mostly inaccessible and the ruins of formerly booming industries litter the banks of the river. There has been a push to rebuild the waterfront and reestablish that relationship. The history of the Hudson River in Albany is important on a local and national level, and if the relationship is to be restored the people should be aware of the milestones and changes that were created and amplified by this connection.
One of the most large scale impacts in which the Hudson River played a role is discussed in John Larson’s book, The Market Revolution, in the chapter ‘Marvelous Improvements Everywhere’ in which Larson discusses the creation of the Erie Canal and how the connection of waterways in New York State was able to impact the way goods were produced and shipped nationwide. Goods that had previously gone to local markets could now be distributed with the entire Atlantic world, which meant that goods from the American interior went from local markets to global markets. The Erie Canal allowed goods to be shipped quickly and inexpensively. This helped to create a commercial industrial economy that changed the face of the nation. Larson quotes important American leaders like Thomas Jefferson on the success of the Erie Canal stating that, “Thomas Jefferson thought the Erie Canal would bless New York’s” decedents with wealth and prosperity” while proving to “mankind the superior wisdom of employing the resources of industry in works of improvement”. (Page 50) Larson goes on to say that ambitious men and women during the 19th century ‘flocked’ to Upstate New York to benefit from the access to markets, trade, and travel that region provided. In Albany, the market for transportation boomed. The waterfront had steamships running on a regular schedule, and similarly a block away from the waterfront Albany’s Union stations had railroads connecting the state. This competition for travel methods would drive costs down. After the construction of the Erie Canal the market for local companies expanded and allowed them to trade on a larger scale and compete with more companies along the Hudson. Places like Beverwyck Brewing Company and Albany Lumber saw their sales expand. Larson’s book discusses the origins of the Market Revolution in America and the technological advancements seen early on in New York State but continues with how the revolution spread throughout the nation and how the Market Revolution’s deep roots connect to the economic structure of modern day.
Building on to the origins of the Market Revolution, the advancements in the technology for travel, trade, and communication are discussed in John McEneny’s book Albany: The Capital City on the Hudson. McEneny discusses how Albany was at the forefront of these advancements. He discusses Robert Fulton’s steamship the Clermont and its journey from New York City to Albany as a display of power. The Clermont would be the “first commercially successful steamboat” having a regular scheduled service carrying passengers between the two cities. (Page 92) McEneny credits steamships and the canal to Albany’s advancement in a similar way that Larson had in his book. However, McEneny also cites the early installation of the telegraph in 1845 and the strong railroad system at the time for improving not only Albany’s economic power but political position as well. McEneny states on page 134, “… at the crossroads of both commercial and political traffic between New York City, Montreal, Buffalo, and Boston, whether by land or waterway, Albany played a vital role in the development of the state of New York. It has frequently taken an important part in national politics as well…”. Through McEneny’s chronological narrative he is able to discuss the long history of local peoples connection to the Hudson River dating back to indigenous tribes and stretching into the 21st century. While the first half of the book explains the patterns of settlement, the importance of the Hudson River, and the advancements in technology that assisted in Albany’s growth; the second half of the book focuses on politics by century in the city of Albany. Although not expressly explained, one can see through the McEneny’s work that the relationship between the residents and the river looses its importance throughout the 20th century.
In the book Wedding the Waters by Peter Bernstein he is able to combine the local importance that McEneny captures with the national significance that Larson discussed. Bernstein explains the impact of trade and transportation on the Hudson River and on the Erie Canal had on Albany’s industrial boom. Beyond the numbers that show the outward impact on the nations economic system, he is able to show the spirit of Albany and how quickly residents understood the importance of the canal. Immediately following the completion of the Erie Canal, local residents lined the banks of the river to celebrate. Bernstein quotes on page 274 Cadwallader D. Colden who said, “The pencil could not do justice to the scene presented on the fine autumnal morning when the Albany lock was first opened”. Bernstein goes on to say, “The crowds filled the windows and the tops of houses, jammed the open spaces in the fields, and lined the banks of the canals for a number of miles”. In Wedding the Waters, Bernstein truly captures the grandness of small-scale impact on Albany.
Clearly the Hudson River was important to more than just the people who worked on the water and for more reasons than the Erie Canal. While not solely focused on Albany in David Schuyler’s book Sanctified Landscape: Writers, Artists, and the Hudson River Valley, 1820-1909 is able to capture the ways in which the Hudson River impacted the culture of America beyond trade and transportation. The Hudson River became a muse for the arts during the 19th century, which inspired famous works that would shape a national identity. Schuyler’s book looks into the paintings of the Hudson River School who’s movement of landscape paintings was the first American art movement. He goes on to depict the impact that small towns on the Hudson River impacted the writings of famous authors like Washington Irving and now nature itself inspired the essays of naturalist John Burroughs.
In Rinaldi and Yasinsac’s Hudson Valley Ruins: Forgotten Landmarks of an American Landscape, the authors pay homage to the booming history of the Hudson River in the 19th century while also pointing out the troubling fact that the history has been disappearing before our very eyes. The book discusses the history of companies like Powell and Minnock Brick Company in Coeymans and the Fort Orange Paper Company in Castleton, both of which are close to Albany and benefitted from the Albany waterfront. Both were thriving companies until the 20th century when the economy shifted with the impact of the world wars and changing technology. The relationship between Albany and the waterfront changed, leaving behind the ruins of these companies among other historic sites. This book helps strengthen the historiography by providing a history of the individual sites and a broad history of the region while also engaging in a question of how local history is taught and maintained.
Albany has a long and rich history with the Hudson River, but the connection between the residents and the river has been all but lost. There are movements to enhance the waterfront and books like Hudson Valley Ruins pose the challenge to maintain the history of the waterfront. Overall these books all showed the importance of the region during the 19th century and the connection that Albany and the Hudson had to the Market Revolution as a hub of connectivity.

Larson, John Lauritz. The Market Revolution in America: Liberty, Ambition, and the Eclipse of the Common Good. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

McGreevy, Patrick. Stairway to Empire: Lockport, the Erie Canal, and the Shaping of America. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2009.

Bernstein, Peter L. Wedding of the Waters: The Erie Canal and the Making of a Great Nation. New York: W.W. Norton, 2005.

Schuyler, David. Sanctified Landscape: Writers, Artists, and the Hudson River Valley, 1820-1909. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2012.

McEneny, John J., Dennis Holzman, and Robert W. Arnold. Albany, Capital City on the Hudson: An Illustrated History. Sun Valley, CA: American Historical Press, 2006.

Rinaldi, Thomas E., and Rob Yasinsac. Hudson Valley Ruins: Forgotten Landmarks of an American Landscape. Hanover: University Press of New England, 2006.

Jewish Communities in Antebellum America

The journey of Jews in American history is a multifaceted, layered, and rich collection of experiences and individuals. Perhaps the most well known period of immigration, the late 1800s through the first decades of the nineteenth century, saw a wave of Jewish immigrants, many of them from Eastern Europe. This period is widely studied and debated within scholarship, and is key in understanding the Jewish experience in America, even in the twenty-first century. However, another wave of Jewish immigration which occurred during the antebellum period may tell us much more about Jewish community and tradition as it relates to Jews in the present-day.
In my research, I explored four different pieces of scholarship that deal with this specific moment in in the Jewish experience in the United states. Though unique in their execution of their particular subject matter, the historians behind these works paint a cohesive portrait of community,family,and identity.Thrust into a predominantly Protestant, Christian society, where the pressure of assimilation and antisemitism, American Jews created new traditions and cultural identities. Beyond the scope of culture and religious dogma they were able, even in small number, create a presence in business and other ventures that would nonetheless give them influence in American cities.The following will demonstrate the direction of recent scholarship of this particular period and shed light on the Jewish experience before the Civil War.
The first piece in my exploration was written by Harvard research fellow, Rowena Olegario and was featured in the Business History Review in the 1999 Summer issue. This was a unique essay because it dealt with Jewish influence on business throughout the nineteenth century, while also giving insight into the tight-knit, and often secretive Jewish communities in American urban centers. Her main argument is that Jews had an important impact on the nineteenth century American economy, while also maintaining less-than-transparent business transactions. In relating to the wider story of Jews in the United States, the author attributes the preservation of religious and cultural traditions that the isolation and marginalization of Jews in their European homelands led to isolated communities in the United States, thus continuing ancient traditions(Olegario,5). Olegario contends that in a still largely agricultural economy, Jews often migrated to larger cities, where their presence was often resented by city fathers and the upper class(Olegario,4). She than goes on to state that though their migration rates from 1840 to 1880 were quite small, Jews were nonetheless visible in the communities in which they chose to build their new lives, especially in the business sector(Olegario,5).
Jews seemed to be very aware of the public’s perception of them, and the stereotypes that they faced at every turn. Olegario states that antisemitism was more a product of larger cities than towns or western settlements. In many cities they were admitted to popular social groups and secret organizations such as the odd fellows and freemasons(Olegario,27). Beginning in the 1840s, a group of Jewish men had started an exclusively Jewish organization, the B’nai B’rith, built upon the rituals of American organizations, this was one way in which Jews created community in the United States.
Another condition of Jewish seemingly smooth assimilation into American society was the fact that Rabbis and organized religious bodies were a later addition to the Jewish experience (Olegario,27). In fact, the more secularized Jewish communities were less threatening to the Protestant status quo than other religious and cultural groups such as Roman Catholics, whose strict church social structure and ritual led Protestants to be more weary(Olegario,27-28). This is quite telling, since scholars often discuss the anti semitism,missionizing, and stereotypes attributed to Jews and that scholarship of struggle has been so pervasive especially following World War II.
A second piece deals with the changing scholarship of Jewish history, and includes a study of how historians are approaching the subject of Antebellum Jewish life. The author, Jonathan Sarna, writes his piece with the aim of informing scholars about the current state of Jewish historical scholarship and includes within his introduction a quantified graphic of how the number of articles written on the subject of Jewish American history has risen from just 175 publications in 1965 to 515 publications in 1989, a year before his piece was written (Sarna,1). In dealing with the antebellum period, Sarna contends that the 1840s and subsequent decades saw the most development within Jewish communities, due to a rise in immigration. Jew immigrated from all over Europe, but the greatest numbers during this period were from Germany, which prompted many historians to call this the “German Period”(Sarna,5).
In studying this timeframe, Sarna states that the most pressing questions facing historians is how Jews viewed themselves and their communities. Many historians, Sarna contends, have chosen to focus on the German aspect of this relationship of a people to their religion and culture(Sarna,6). Exploration into German-Jewish immigrants daily lives have shown that many participated in the wider Germanic community, thus showing a strong connection to their homeland, while still maintaining ties to their ethnic and religious traditions(Sarna,6). Another aspect of this time period that is important in recent scholarship concerning Jews in America is how they dealt with antisemitism and missionizing attempts. One conclusion that historians have come to is that Jews, even when they were assimilated into American society felt that they were also denied an equal standing among their fellow, Christian citizens (Sarna,6). Beyond cultural acceptance, religion is also undoubtedly one of the most important studies of recent academics. Sarna states in his work that scholars were beginning to delve deeper into the Synagogue, its place in the community and the importance of ritual and myth in Jewish religious practice(Sarna,7-8).
A third piece,written by historian Bobbie Malone, deals with a specific group and place, but nonetheless shows the continuity of scholarship concerning this period of Jewish-American history. Featured in the Journal of the Louisiana Historical Society Malone focusses this narrative on the Jews of uptown New Orleans, particularly the Congregation of the Gates of Prayer. By studying the minutes of this Synagogue, historians have made strides in understanding and interpreting the lives of Jews in a large, urban center. This particular congregation was founded in the 1820s by a wealthy Jewish businessman from New York who upon his visit was compelled to establish a synagogue because he could find no matzo for his passover celebration(Malone,5). The fact that the minutes of the Gates of Prayer were first written in German show that German Jews were settling in the southern cities as much as in the northern ones(Malone,8). It also shows that scholarship continues to focus on the “German Period” mentioned by Jonathan Sarna in the article previously discussed.
Their new lives in a new country was also molded by their experience in a predominantly Protestant nation. Many sought to just gain the economic means to survive and establish businesses. Because of this, Malone contends, many Jews during this period were not entirely concerned with Jewish law(Malone,12). As a result, reform Judaism began to grow in popularity. A reaction to increased conflict between American and Jewish cultural norms, Reform Judaism was less stringent and allowed Jews to function more seamlessly in their day to day lives in the United States(Malone,12-13). In this was, scholarship can focus on this fact as it relates to present-day reform Judaism and the part in plays in the lives of Jewish-Americans.
The fourth article dealing with this particular scholarship deals with a unique experience amongst Jewish immigrants in America in the nineteenth century. In “Between Vision and Reality:reassessing Jewish agricultural projects in nineteenth century America”, author Tobias Brinkmann, a professor and historian of Jewish studies, demonstrates how Jews formed communities and created ties that would allow them to be successful in their new homeland. In his piece, Brinkmann tells the story found in much scholarship of the time and subject. Jews, though making up a relatively small group immigrated to the United States. Once they arrived,many resorted to becoming peddlers, a fact that made many established American Jews nervous over how their people would be viewed by other Americans. It was because of this that the idea of a settlement for peddlers to be formed in the west was first proposed. The settlement, which was to be founded in Chicago, would go on to form the basis of what would be the larger Jewish community in the Chicago area(Brinkmann,4).
William Renau is credited with forming this community in the early 1840s,this area would soon be called Schaumberg,and today makes up part of Chicago’s suburban center. One of the main driving factors in the formation of this and other communities like it was the emancipation of Jews in Central Europe, another argument that can figure strongly in present-day scholarship(Brinkmann,310). Brinkmann also contends that another motive for these communities was a desire to knock stereotypes that were pervading American cities(Brinkmann,311). It demonstrates how Jews, more than anyone were aware of just how important it was to assimilate in many ways to be able to “make it” in America. Though many of these communities proved to be failures, the ideas and message they demonstrate cannot be overlooked. The creation of these settlements shows a clear attempt by Jews to empower each other in a time where their entire world was evolving. Agricultural settlements are just another example of the creation of bonds of community that are still so important to Jewish-Americans today.
How the Jewish story is interpreted in America is evolving even in the last decades, as evidenced in the scholarship above. As history and the humanities as a whole come to a crossroads, the way we interpret and do history is also constantly changing. In a time of academic crisis, historians are trying to make sense of recent developments and are trying to pay close attention to stories or narratives that perhaps were never fully explored or given full attention. Like womens or black history, I feel Jewish history has been seen as a neglected history, or one that leaves much out in favor of studying one event or aspect of Jewish cultural or religious practice. What these four essays demonstrate is that the Jewish-American identity is something that is not so simple to understand;in fact is as abstract and complex as any idea of social, cultural, or religious identity is.
Recent scholarship, more than anything perhaps, has shed light on how Jews viewed themselves within their wider communities, and even amongst their own families or congregations. Their story is filled with both struggle and progress, as their world changed from Orthodox European communities to more secularized reform ones in America. For scholars, I believe that is important to understand how Jews viewed themselves, and I think that this could be the direction further inquiries into this particular subject take.
The nineteenth century was a time defined by the changing tides of society, industry, and demography. America was moving from an agricultural to a more industrial economic system. Cities were growing up from small towns,and immigrants were taking their own piece of these communities and making history in their new land. Jews were coming from Central Europe, a region still marred by ethnic prejudice and ancient anti semitic feelings. Though they faced prejudice in the United States, it was there that they were able to form their own unique community bonds, own successful businesses, and participate in organizations that in Europe would more likely than not be closed to them. This moment in history shaped how Jews live and share their cultural and religious heritage today, in a country where their numbers are greater and their lives more visible than in the 1840s or 1850s. That being said, I think that the scholarship concerning this time period can still evolve and uncover more about this people steeped in rich history and looking towards the future.

Brinkmann, Tobias. “Between Vision and reality:reassessing Jewish Agricultural Colony Projects in Nineteenth Century America”.Jewish History,21 no.¾(2007):305-324.
Malone,Bobbie. “New Orleans Uptown Jewish Immigrants the Community of the Congregation Gates of Prayer,1850-1860”. Louisiana History:the Journal of the Louisiana Historical Society,32 no.3(1991):239-278.
Olegario, Rowena. “That Mysterious People” Jewish Merchants, Transparency, and Community in Mid-nineteenth Century America”. The Business History Review,73 no. 2(1999):161-189.
Sarna, Jonathan D. “American Jewish History”. Modern Judaism,10 vol.3 (1990):343-365.

The Transatlantic Slave Trade: Economic vs Humanistic, A Historiography

It is perhaps not a large stretch to assume that most citizens of the United States, by the time they graduate high school, have at least heard of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. One need only type the three-word phrase into a search engine to see pages of lesson plans and resource sites for teachers and students alike. The topic seems to be nationally approached, at the very least, in terms of simplified definition and time range. The Transatlantic Slave Trade lasted several hundred years. It describes the global economic phenomenon of the buying and selling of human slaves from the African continent to the Americas and Europe (“Transatlantic Slave Trade”).

It is no surprise, if this basis is what the casual learner receives, that higher education offers more of an in-depth look at the particulars of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and its impact on the world and its victims. In the past, or at least during the 1900s, mainstream scholars seemed to write about the period of trade from a strictly critical viewpoint. Slavery is bad, and so any writing about slavery and the global economic leaders’ place in it must reflect that. In the 1970s, however, a work entitled Time on the Cross was released to directly challenge this interpretation (Haskell). Time on the Cross claimed that not only was the institution of slavery overwhelmingly beneficial to the building of American economy, but past scholarly work on the subject painted the alleged harsh treatment of slaves in an over exaggerating light (“Time on the Cross”).

In modern times, Time on the Cross is regarded as being a failed attempt at using math to justify history, and is generally ignored as an academic text. Still, it seems to have set a precedent for 21st century discussion of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Very few modern scholars seem interested in arguing the benefits of slavery in a defensive light. The trend of unapologetically presenting slavery as something irredeemably criminal seems to have, in general, continued on. Still, modern scholars seem stuck between two types of approaches when it comes to reflecting on the Transatlantic Slave Trade: commenting on the economic backbone to nations human trafficking provided as well as the often detrimental social consequences brought on by abolition, and intimate looks into the oppression and resistance of victims of slavery.

Many writings on the use of slave labor to build national economy seem like apologetic admittance. Portraying historical fact–that national economy benefited—without taking any particular pride in the matter. Some scholars waste no time in demonstrating this; the very first line in Van Welie’s Slave Trading and Slavery in the Dutch Colonial Empire claims that slavery was fundamental in building the Dutch colonial empire (Van Welie, 47), and Van Welie claims that admitting this fact with help shed light on previously overlooked, undesirable aspects of Dutch and European history (49). An often ignored point, he claims, is the fact that Dutch colonies continued to use slave labor even after the Dutch Republic had it publicly abolished. Van Welie does not seem overly concerned about hiding his contempt for slavery from the tone of his writing.

Van Welie is not the only one to attempt to shed light onto the misconception that abolishment of slavery meant the immediate releasing of all slaves. As detailed in Kim Butler’s Slavery in the Age of Emancipation, the closing of the Transatlantic Slave Trade in fact led to a system of internal slave trading across North and South America and the Caribbean that resulted in the buying and selling of 200,000 victims of slavery (Butler, 969). Butler claims that even this estimate might represent less than the actual amount of victims, due to the amount of undocumented slave transactions by slave traders and slaver owners fearful of legal repercussions. Like with the Dutch colonies, the use of slave labor in Brazil did not end just because it became illegal to buy and sell slaves. Butler also makes sure to make it clear that victims of continued forced labor were not restricted to Brazil; many victims were taken and sent to the supposedly liberated British colonies across the Caribbean as well (971).

Continued use of slave labor despite abolishment is not the only consequence of abolition written about, such as in the case of Van Der Linden’s Unanticipated Consequences of ‘Humanitarian Intervention’. Van Der Linden goes into detail on the necessity for Britain to convince its neighbors to agree to the abolishment as well (Van Der Linden, 283). Legislation was passed with the eventual blessing of other European nations, but still, as also demonstrated by Van Welie and Butler, “…it turned out to be difficult to block the slave trade” (286). It seems that, for a great while, slavers simply got better at smuggling their human cargo. Van Der Linden, too, acknowledges the increase of domestic slave trades due to the abolition of an international system (288), as well as an increase in cross-Africa and Asian slave trade (289). Connections between the criminalization of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the colonization of East Africa and parts of South Asia are made as well. According to Van Der Linden, it was not until “Britain consolidated its rule in the Sudan and East Africa at the end of the nineteenth century” that there was even a dent in the Arab slave trade (290). Colonization in the name of social justice shows a sort of nationalistic, yet cynical, portrayal of a nation’s campaigning for abolishment.

That’s not to ignore the humanistic side of scholarly research on the Slave Trade. Butler, to use as a transitional piece, uses the continued slave trade as a vehicle to demonstrate the extraordinary bravery of the Brazilian rebels still victim to the system. Butler does not want it to seem as though continued victims of human trafficking were simply passive and accepting. Due to the lack of documentation of these trades, of course, intimate knowledge of many of the victims is lacking (Butler, 974). Still, the slaves who could would pay for their own freedom or attempt escape when they were able (975). Additionally, Butler claims, when physical resistance was impossible some communities turned to cultural resistance (978).

Others write on the resistance shown in African American communities and families, as well, though not every story told has a happy ending for the resisters, as detailed by Kenneth Marshall in his article Powerful and Righteous with his implication of two African slaves committing suicide to escape bondage (Marshall, 24).

Interestingly and as just an aside, both Marshall and Brenda Stevenson in her article The Question of the Slave Female Community and Culture in the American South go out of their way to name accounts from women who were nobility or royalty before captured and sold off to America. Marshall relates the written account of an African princess named Phillis and her experience on a slavers ship, and how it relates to others’ experiences as human cargo (Marshall, 25). Stevenson comments on several women who’d been nobles in their home nations, and how their culture helped them in servitude as slaves (Stevenson, 75). Though Marshall makes it clear that Phillis’ experience is one of the few remaining stories of African women on the ships, one can’t help but notice the manipulation the authors are doing to make these stories of oppression settle heavier; by presenting the life stories of noble women specifically, readers feel the impact of knowledge that anyone could be victimized. Even African royalty, and even royal women.

Sowande’ Mustakeem, also like Marshall, writes on the experiences of the victims of slavery while crossing the Atlantic in cargo ships. According to Mustakeem, despite the active purchase of healthy-looking Africans sickness was a common problem in the Transatlantic Slave Trade that very often resulted in death (Mustakeem, 475). It did not help that limited provisions on the journey meant that the African captives were also often malnourished (Mustakeem, 480). Marshall elaborates on the captives’ suffering on-ship in his description of the conditions of the hold the Africans were actually kept in, which were hot and cramped and they were all packed in in such a way to incapacitate and demoralize them (Marshall, 32).

Still, slave resistance as a whole, rather than individual origin stories or accounts of the horrific conditions faced by captives on the slave ships, seem to be the focus of many scholarly works about the Transatlantic Slave Trade. One article in particular, written by Karen Bell, suggests in an ironic twist that though many accounts of individual captives during their journeys to the Americas are lost, documentation of their resistance is able to give modern historians at least some insight into their lives (Bell, 158). On a further ironic note, instances of cultural resistance to forced American integration was possible for some communities of slaves and their dependents due, in part, to the demographics of the Africans captured; often slavers would buy many slaves from the same markets, making it sometimes possible for Africans from similar ethnicities to stay together and reinforce cultural traditions. Similarly, new traditions and comradery could be shared among communities of slaves based on the shared experiences of being slaves (Ibid.).

More traditional forms of slave resistance, not just cultural resistance, is also occasionally noted by scholars. Also sometimes noted by scholars is the difficulty in pinpointing not the resistant actions of slaves at the time of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, but the context behind their resistance and their motivation for change, assumptions on which tend to be oversimplified or come from a place of European arrogance (Kyles, 498). It is suggested that the combination of original African identity mixed with the adopted African American identity helped forge the type of resistance an individual slave or slave community might participate in, but even that is difficult to confirm due to a persistent general lack of knowledge in many slave origins (499-500).

A minority of modern scholars, when writing on slave resistance, sometimes mention the opposite side of that; African American slaves who side with their white owners and attempt to turn in the slaves they believe are going to try to resist. In one documented case, a slave in fact received his freedom for warning his master against an attack and protecting him from the resisters (Kyles, 503). Though this account is not presented with any sense of encouragement from the author of the article, but as a sort of example of the types of power moves slave masters would do to keep resisters in line. Overall, it is suggested that the slaves’ ability to resist or type of resistance did not come from their African cultural background, but their ability to adapt, like any human, to their environments (506).

Modern scholars of the Transatlantic Slave Trade do not just write on the consequences of abolition and the personal accounts of slaves, but the overall majority of modern focus seems to be on these topics. Wide-spread racism, especially in North America, has continued to be a widely discussed controversy. One could argue that it is this persistent controversy that has spurred academics into the research that they do; a common argument, after all, is that Americans cannot live in a racist country if the leader of the country himself is of African descent. This socially relevant argument can be paralleled to arguments that slavery ended immediately just because the Transatlantic Slave Trade was abolished—a fact that has been disproven in several papers by several academics. Understandable, too, is the focus on the resistance shown by victims of the slave trade.

One could argue that it is intellectually dishonest and socially irresponsible to continue to write about a historically marginalized people as though they have never been anything but helpless and oppressed, especially when modern social activism often resorts to acts of passive and active resistance against the oppressive. On a stretch, a claim could be made that by not documenting acts of negative consequence or resistance, past historians are guilty of large-scale victim blaming slaves—if no acts of resistance are shared, then it is impossible to say whether the marginalized group truly felt marginalized. It is this type of justification that no doubt led to works such as Time on the Cross, and subsequent modern studies, to be written.


Bell, Karen B. 2010. “Rice, Resistance, and Forced Transatlantic Communities:: (Re)envisioning the African Diaspora in Low Country Georgia, 1750-1800.” The Journal of African American History 95 (2): 157–82. doi:10.5323/jafriamerhist.95.2.0157.

Butler, Kim D. 2011. “Slavery in the Age of Emancipation: Victims and Rebels in Brazil’s Late 19th-Century Domestic Trade.” Journal of Black Studies 42 (6): 968–92.

Haskell, Thomas L. 2016. “The True & Tragical History of ‘Time on the Cross.’” The New York Review of Books. Accessed Feb 27.         history-of-time-on-the-cross/.

Kyles, Perry L. 2008. “Resistance and Collaboration: Political Strategies within the Afro-Carolinian Slave   Community, 1700-1750.” The Journal of African American History 93 (4): 497–508.

Marshall, Kenneth E. 2004. “Powerful and Righteous: The Transatlantic Survival and Cultural Resistance of an Enslaved African Family in Eighteenth-Century New Jersey.” Journal of American Ethnic History 23 (2): 23–49.

Mustakeem, Sowande’. 2008. “‘I Never Have Such a Sickly Ship Before’: Diet, Disease, and Mortality in 18th-Century Atlantic Slaving Voyages.”The Journal of African American History 93 (4): 474–96.

Stevenson, Brenda E. 2007. “The Question of the Slave Female Community and Culture in the American South: Methodological and Ideological Approaches.” The Journal of African American History 92 (1): 74–95.

“Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery | Economic History Services.” 2011. December 20.

“Transatlantic Slave Trade.” 2016. Public. UNESCO.                sciences/themes/slave-route/transatlantic-slave-trade/.

Van Der Linden, Marcel. 2010. “Unanticipated Consequences of ‘Humanitarian Intervention’: The British Campaign to Abolish the Slave Trade, 1807-1900.” Theory and Society 39 (3/4): 281–98.

Van Welie, Rik. 2008. “Slave Trading and Slavery in the Dutch Colonial Empire: A Global   Comparison.” NWIG: New West Indian Guide / Nieuwe West-Indische Gids 82 (1/2): 47–     96.

Digital History Questions-3/1, This All Feels Vaguely Orwellian

First, I apologize for how late this is, I had some trouble understanding the more technical aspects of the material.

The first article, Social Media and Academic Surveillance was an incredibly interesting read. Dorothy Kim describes how in the digital age, the issue of privacy, how ethical it is to use data that researchers do not have explicit permission to access, and how women of color are treated in the digital world. She begins her article by talking about Twitter as being similar to the panopticon, but it’s her description of Twitter as being inhabited by digital bodies, and thus, being afforded the same freedoms as people would be afforded in the physical public that is compelling, and I agree that data ethics needs to be addressed. In talking about these ethical dilemmas, Kim uses a few examples.

The first couple of cases are more recent. The study on “Black Twitter” at USC Annenberg, was troubling in how the researchers, rather than informing students involved with the study that their Twitter feeds were being examined, declined telling them. This led to obvious backlash, and a response from the students who had their information taken. The next case, which involves a website being plagiarized by students attending the California College of Arts. In this instance, the students claimed that the project, developed by the Save Wiyabi Mapping Project, was their own, when it really wasn’t. While the group that originally created the project was able to get the CCA work taken down, it was still able to win an award.

The third case relates to a woman named Henrietta Lacks, an African American woman who had cells harvested from her while she was battling cervical cancer. The cells, which were harvested in 1951, eventually became the basis for many advances in medicine (including the polio vaccine). This information was hidden from Lacks’s family until the 1970s, as the harvesting was done without the consent of Lacks or any of her relatives. The resulting controversy eventually led to a change in the NIH’s rules and guidelines, adopting an “informed consent” model.

Kim concludes her article by going back to the earlier parts of her piece, stating that while Twitter is still a digital panopticon, it has the ability to respond.

The second set of articles are about creating connections between people through the use of metadata, in this case, Paul Revere. Writing from the position of a data analyst in the 18th century, Kieran Healy, an associate professor of sociology at Duke. This is where things started to get confusing, at least for me. It seems that, instead of creating a social “networke” in a more traditional way, Healy worked with colonial membership rosters as a way of creating connections. This led to him finding Paul Revere, who bridged a number of various groups when the data was compiled. This shows that while connections may be difficult to find, they exist if one knows where to look.

The next set of articles relates to the program Gephi, and they provide tutorials on how to use it.First, as way of visualizing data, Gephi is pretty interesting. It takes spreadsheets and makes them into colorful diagrams, which can be hard to decipher (if I’m being honest). Seeing the connections as a visual is also useful, and much easier than sifting through data. The tutorials were helpful for starting the program, but I did run into problems finding certain functions on my end. If I can get over these issues, I’m sure Gephi will be useful in the near future.

The final set of articles deals with information similar to the previous groups. In the case of Dr. Kane’s “A Company of These Women”, she examines the interactions between female members of the Iroquois and other Native Americans and European settlers. She begins by giving some background on how Native history is presented, especially as it relates to families, and how the structure of family changed after colonial settlers arrived. She then goes on to describe the difficulties in studying indigenous history, which is the lack of significant data. What follows is a reclamation of Native history from a settler narrative that barely acknowledged it.

The first of three sets of data that she uses provide a glance into how important Iroquois women were to connections between different groups of people. While the author, Evert Wendell, declined giving women much agency (either leaving them unnamed, or being the wife of someone), this doesn’t affect the connections between the women and others, and in fact, they are central to different networks. The second set, the Ulster Network, is similar to the Wendell network, except that women (with the exception of one) don’t occupy roles as bridges between groups like they do with Wendell’s. It’s actually the opposite, with husbands being more influential than their wives. The final data set, taken from an Anglican Church register, is the largest of the three. There are problems with this data, as the narrow scope can be both enlightening and limiting. Women have similar amounts of influence, but they occupy a larger variety of positions.

The final article examines data relating to the marriage of Etienne Hebert, a French immigrant to America, and Elisabeth Philipe, the half-French, half-Native American daughter of an established farmer. What follows is an interesting examination of the different kinds of connections that were made when these two people got married. Much of the article is about the debate about the true use of social network analysis. Morrissey, the article’s author informs the reader that rather than being used for understanding an individual, SNA relates more to the actual network it represents.

1. Why are actions on Twitter more likely to be used against academics than actions in the physical world? Is posting a tweet that might be controversial any different from attending a protest or rally that deals with a similar issue?
2. As seen in the USC Annenberg case, where is the line drawn in how far we should go to get information that may be relevant to a project?
3. Obviously, metadata can be a useful tool for an historian, but it is not without faults. What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of using metadata?
4. How useful is a program like Gephi in organizing and displaying data? Are there any drawbacks to the program that might cause issues (other than the technical ones that I mentioned)?
5.How can digital history be used to remedy gaps in historical narratives, especially as they relate to women of color?