The Great Central Fair

The Great Central Fair

Every month or two at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, a new document display goes up in the lobby. Each display has a theme and contains HSP’s sources that relate to that topic. Currently, there is a WWI display  to commemorate the centennial of the start of the war. Next month, the display theme will be the Great Central Fair, also known as the Philadelphia Sanitary Fair. What is a Sanitary Fair, you ask? What made this fair so “great”?  Well, let me tell you. The U.S. Sanitary Commission was a precursor to the Red Cross and was founded in 1861 to help support the sick and wounded soldiers of the Union army during the Civil War. Their main fundraisers were Sanitary Fairs, public fairs held in major cities that raised money for the soldiers. The fairs were held successfully in Chicago, Cincinnati, and Boston, before it was decided to hold one in Philadelphia in 1864. The buildings of the Fair were constructed in a mere 40 days in what is currently Logan Square. The Fair opened on June 7th, 1864, and closed three weeks later, on June 28th. The Fair included displays of art and historical relics and  vendors selling various items. 9,000 people attended per day, on average. In total, the Fair raised over $1,000,000, an incredible amount of money in 1864. Over the last few weeks, another intern and I have been working on this display. We have looked through HSP’s collections on the Great Central Fair and have pulled items that are important and visually appealing. Looking through all this stuff from the Civil War...
Peanut Oil and The French Empire

Peanut Oil and The French Empire

Working to oil the gears of French North Africa to accept an Anglo-American invasion in late 1941, Robert Murphy was introduced to Jacques Lemaigre-Dubreuil, an edible-oil-man himself. Lemaigre-Dubreuil, a business and newspaper owner, expressed to Murphy an interest in creating a provisional French government in Africa to aid the Allied forces. Murphy, unsure of the trustworthiness of the rightwing, business focused colonizer, expressed his concerns and Lemaigre-Dubreuil’s plan in a Memorandum for the State Department. (First page seen below). One of Lemaigre-Dubreuil’s demands, or suggested ‘necessaries’ for the success of the Allies, was that the United States and Great Britain must “guarantee the complete restoration of all the French Empire to France after the termination of hostilities.” This was not a new idea for Robert Murphy or even the State Department, in fact, it is such a common theme throughout all of Murphy’s letters to State Department officials and vice versa that I can see the phrase “the French Empire must stay fully intact” with my eyes closed. The vision that Lemaigre-Dubreuil expressed and Robert Murphy shared with his fellow diplomats is not short of irony for the French position during the war, or the American position in accordance with after the war. For Lemaigre-Dubreuil French North and West Africa had the potential to become the point of leadership for the Empire, which included in his eyes, Metropolitan France. This role would ironically make Algiers or Dakar more important political cities than Paris. For the Americans, who trumpeted self-determination and anti-colonialism under the banner of Trusteeship for former colonies, the assurance of a lasting French Empire after the “termination...
Ghost Dancing at the NYPL

Ghost Dancing at the NYPL

This summer I am remotely assisting Professor Reckson with a book she is writing about ecstatic experience and performance in American literary realism. In the fall she will be doing research at the Library of Congress in D.C., and until then I’m helping her come up with resources and materials, primary and secondary, that might assist her research and writing about the Ghost Dance, a Native American spiritual practice and performance, most famously documented by American ethnographer, James Mooney, in his 1896 monograph, The Ghost-Dance Religion and the Sioux Outbreak of 1890. In a sense, I’ve become more familiar with the Ghost Dance these past few weeks. I’ve culled all kinds of texts about the Ghost Dance from the NYPL; I’ve searched Haverford’s Tripod entering things like– ‘ghost dance technology’, ‘ghost dance realist ideology’, ‘ghost dance representation’ – and have yielding some fascinating articles by contemporary scholars discussing the logics and limits of late nineteenth century technologies and ethnographic methodologies deployed in the documentation of this circa 1900 Native American practice; I’ve listened to Mooney’s 1894 recordings of Ghost Dance songs; so yes, I’ve familiarized myself with the material. And yet, despite my efforts to know a little more, I have a gaining awareness of what I can’t know and of what can’t be known. This waning sense of familiarity with academic insights and cultural artifacts is coupled by a gaining sense of wonder at that which teases at the boundaries, at that which exceeds discursive conceptualization. I find these seemingly contradictory senses native to the topic. While my research began broadly, more recently, I’ve been culling sources that...