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Marquette History Students Collaborate with Middle-Schoolers to Research the Latino History of Milwaukee

By William Denzer

As the refrain goes, people study history in order to understand the present and plan for the future. In our current political climate, little is more heavily debated than national policies of immigration. This spring semester, I have been serving as a graduate assistant to Dr. Alison Efford for History 4120, an upper-level undergraduate course on immigration. What makes this course unique is not only the final project, in which the students create websites, but who they are collaborating with.

3About twice a month middle school students from St. Rafael Catholic School on the South side of Milwaukee came to Marquette’s campus to work with a group of students in HIST 4120. Each group was expected to use primary sources found in the greater Milwaukee or Madison-area and create a Weebly-based website showcasing their findings.

This course provided undergraduates the opportunity to navigate the historical narrative of Milwaukee immigrants while collaborating with the St. Rafael students, most of whom identified with the Latino community. The visiting St. Rafael students were able to participate in an undergraduate course and learn firsthand not only what a collegiate experience would be like, but how they could have similar experiences again in their near future at Marquette.

On April 26, nearly sixty students met to present their websites to other students and faculty members in Eisenberg Room of Sensenbrenner Hall. Descriptions of two of the projects follow.

Anna DeMeuse, Tim Sanchez, and Angelica Martinez’s group chose to examine the Sanctuary Parish movement in the Milwaukee Archdiocese in the 1980s. Their website (www.sanctuaryMKE.weebly.com) incorporated personal letters, meeting notes, newspaper articles, and transcribed interviews between migrant workers and parish council members. What the group generally discovered in their sources were tensions between members of the parish councils as they debated which policies and how much assistance to provide to those in need. This project gave each group the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with primary documents and garner insights into the process of creating a historical narrative.

1Another group, comprised of Perla Hernandez, Cassy Cassa, Luisa Era, and Edgar Vazquez Ramirez, focused on migrant workers’ camps in Wisconsin from the late twentieth century to the early twenty-first century (www.usmigrantcampos.weebly.com). Many migratory camps in Wisconsin housed agricultural workers, who often enured limited amenities. McKay Camp in Waterloo was a camp established for individuals and families who were working in the cherry industry. McKay Camp was closed in 2004 and the students believe it may be due to nitrate levels in the water supply. Many of the camps’ residents transitioned into the extensive dairy industry in Wisconsin. To construct their examination, the group incorporated documents from the Department of Workforce Development and the Migrant Labor Camp files, all housed at the Wisconsin Historical Society. Visiting the Wisconsin Historical Society provided insight into how archives are constructed and how professional historians utilize documents to recreate historical experiences, such as those within Milwaukee’s Latino community.

Such a unique and collaborative effort would not have been possible without the assistance of many talented faculty and staff. Special thanks to the research assistance from Taylor McNeir and Leatha Miles-Edmonson in the library, as well as 2016-2017 Mitchem Fellow Sergio González for his inspiration and guidance throughout the semester. Many thanks to the teachers Erin Mulligan, Michael Derrick, and Andrea Alvarez at St. Rafael. Marquette’s Center for Urban Reaching, Teaching, and Outreach, under the interim direction of Dr. James Marten, provided funding for transportation and the culminating celebration.

William Denzler has just finished his first year as an MA student at Marquette University. His main interests are in twentieth century American history, Allied Powers transnational history, Holocaust studies.

The Jumonville Incident, 1754: An Experiment in Teaching History through Game-Based Learning

By Bryan Rindfleisch

On the 14th of June in 1754, George Washington – a newly promoted colonel in the Virginia militia – stood trial at Fort Necessity in a military court presided over by the local British commander, Captain James Mackay. Only two weeks previous, Washington led a detachment of colonial troops and allied Native Americans, escorted by the Mingo (Seneca) headman Tanaghrisson, into the Ohio River Valley where they encountered a French force commanded by Joseph Coulon de Villiers de Jumonville. Amid the fog of war, the two sides exchanged gunfire, a skirmish that resulted in an overwhelming British victory. However, during the battle, it was rumored that Jumonville had been killed under a flag of truce, a breach of military etiquette and one with consequences for the mounting tensions between France and Britain. To complicate matters, a series of conflicting reports emerged in the aftermath of the fighting, some of which accused Washington of ineffective leadership, of exceeding his orders by engaging the French force, and proving unable to stop his Native allies, particularly Tanaghrisson, from killing Jumonville for their own purposes. Therefore, Washington faced a military tribunal on June 14, forced to answer the summons of Mackay and other jurors like Lt. Col. George Muse, Captain Robert Stobo, and Captain William Polson. All the while, Washington’s testimony was cross-examined and weighed against other witness accounts, including fellow officers Jacob Van Braam and Thomas Waggoner, Native combatants like Tanaghrisson and Monacatoocha, civilians such as Christopher Gist and George Croghan, and even French prisoners-of-war. Therefore, in June 1754, Washington’s fate rested in the hands of a jury that had to sift through the testimonies of those on both sides of the conflict.

But things are not all what they seemed to be. In this case, the following scene did not unfold at Fort Necessity in June 1754, but instead in the Raynor Memorial Library at Marquette University in May 2017. In the place of Washington, Mackay, and Tanaghrisson were students in HIST 6110: Early American History, who assumed the roles of these historical actors and conducted this inquiry into the events surrounding the “Jumonville Incident,” a game designed by Nick Proctor, professor of history at Simpson College. Leading this demonstration was Dr. Jeff Fortney, assistant professor at Florida Gulf Coast University, a practitioner of a new movement in higher education rindfleischknown as “Reacting to the Past” (RTTP), a game-based initiative designed to transform how historians teach, and how students learn about, history. As a testament to the growing popularity of RTTP, it is estimated that instructors at over 350 colleges and institutions in the United States incorporate it into their curriculums. I thought it prudent, then, to give this model of teaching a shot, albeit using graduate students as proverbial guinea pigs for this experiment.

Beyond my rather innocuous description above, what is RTTP? Think history meets role-playing, where students are assigned roles and given character sheets complete with their own individualized “powers,” tasked with pursuing objectives specific to their individual, and obligated to interact with their peers to achieve their own goals. This all sounds rather familiar to anyone who has experienced role-playing games before. But where RTTP differs is that students must first research their character, thoroughly read and dissect the primary sources pertaining to their individual (so as to inform the actions they take during the game), and in reacting to other students, justify their decisions using primary sources. Every action and reaction requires an intimate familiarity with their role and a thorough grounding in the historical context. In the case of the “Jumonville Incident,” this means that the student playing Washington had to familiarize himself with the skirmish using secondary sources, consult primary sources to compose his own testimony in which he defended his actions to the jury, scrutinize the other accounts of those who testified at his trial so that he might counter their arguments, and react in other ways consistent with Washington’s persona. To add drama to the mix, Washington and other student actors were constantly plotting behind-the scenes, inside and outside of the classroom, to achieve their ends.

RTTP is the brainchild of Mark C. Carnes, professor of history at Barnard College, who developed this game-based learning model in response to students who found his courses “sorta boring.” What started as an experiment by Carnes has become a movement in academia today, with annual conferences and play-testing conventions around the United States (this year’s conference is in New York City and the convention is in Wichita). The scenarios that instructors are able to choose from range from events in U.S. history such as Cherokee Removal, Greenwich Village in 1913, and the American Revolution in New York City; European history with games related to Constantine and the Council of Nicaea, or Henry VIII’s conflict with the Reformation Parliament; Global history specific to the Mexican Revolution, the collapse of apartheid in South Africa, and the independence movement in India (1945); and even Ancient history with the debates over democracy in Athens in 403 B.C. These games all vary in the time that it takes to introduce and play in the classroom, anywhere from one class period to four weeks’ worth of classes. Most of these games are available free-of-charge to university instructors, and are open to customization, so long as one provides feedback to the game’s designer and unless a game has reached a certain point in its development (what the RTTP Consortium considers Level 5), which is then published by W.W. Norton & Company. There is also extensive resources for interested instructors, including the RTTP webpage, a facebook faculty network group, twitter handle, and H-Net listserv that troubleshoots, bounces ideas off of one another, and provides feedback in either designing or implementing these games in the classroom.

From the beginning, though, Carnes and other instructors like Fortney are cognizant of the pitfalls inherent to role-playing as well as resistance by faculty and students to this teaching model. Between the amount of time and preparation RTTP demands from instructors and bearing the stigma of “gaming” rather than “teaching,” to having to gain the trust of students to “buy-in” to the model and asking instructors to relinquish control of their classroom to students, there are several downsides to RTTP. However, despite such potential drawbacks, and myself heartened by most students’ enthusiasm during the “Jumonville Incident,” there is also much to gain from game-based learning. First and foremost, students learn to not only read primary and secondary sources, but understand what it is to analyze and scrutinize those sources carefully, and how history itself is an interpretive process rather than facts set in stone. History is constantly reshaped, reinterpreted, and refashioned for a multitude of purposes, and students see that in action during a game such as the “Jumonville Incident.” Similarly, students appreciate the messy realities and the contingency of history, in which the past – and our understandings of it – are contested and fluid, far from static or lifeless. History is also dramatic, in which human actors have shaped and influenced the course of events throughout the past, whether at Fort Necessity in June 1754 or in Ancient Greece. In other cases, RTTP challenges students lived experiences and worldviews. One need look no further than the “Jumonville Incident” to see how Native Americans like Tanaghrisson were central figures at the trial and critical to the outcome of the game, which serves as an effective way of illustrating the importance of Native Peoples to the American past. Finally, the game-based model prompts students to collaborate continuously with one another, whether conspiring with or against each other, which creates a unique community and fellowship in the classroom. And whether they know it or not, students also take ownership of their learning in the process. All of this is to say that my experiment in “Reacting to the Past” was rewarding, and even though I am unsure if I will take the leap in the future by integrating game-based learning into my classroom, I see the merits of this teaching model.

For further information about RTTP, see Mark C. Carnes’s book, Minds on Fire: How Role-Immersion Games Transform College (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014), or Inside Higher Ed’s review and interview with Carnes: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/08/27/book-advocates-reacting-past-pedagogy

Bryan Rindfleisch is assistant professor of history at Marquette and the author of the book manuscript George Galphin’s Intimate Empire: Family, Trade, and Colonialism in Early America, which is currently being considered for publication.

The Cubs and a New Episteme

By Phillip Naylor

A new baseball season is starting, but like so many other fans (including departmental colleagues Kristen Foster and Dave McDaniel), the Cubs’ 2016 season remains an inimitable existential experience. Actually, it seemed more like a temporal displacement still leaving me in disbelief over its monumental achievements—103 regular-season wins (celebrated by ubiquitous “W” flags even here in Milwaukee), the National League Pennant (dreamt of since childhood), and the World Series Championship (beyond reverie). Perhaps I had entered an alternate universe? Or should I invoke Michel Foucault and an idea of a disrupted, discontinuous episteme, i.e., the displacement (and replacement) of configured relations and knowledge? Was my condition postmodern as well as existential, if not metaphysical? Ontology (being) and epistemology (knowing) were also at play during the 2016 season.

Oh sure, I perceived a couple of years ago while attending a late season Brewers-Cubs game of the potential of young players like Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, and Jorje Soler (now a Kansas City Royal). The Cubs won that one. Ironically, when Kristen, Dave, Kitty, and I went to a game last September, the Brewers pummeled the Cubs 12-5! I tried to repress the thought that this signaled a cosmological corrective. Nevertheless, future National League Most Valuable Player (MVP) Kris Bryant did not play (to Kristen’s particular disappointment) as Manager Joe Maddon rested him—apparently preparing for the postseason—and to my astonishment, the Cubs’ victories subsequently mounted.

An extraordinary discourse developed along with a shifting episteme—Cub fans now talked positively and anticipated winning rather than losing. Oh sure, there was a vestigial fatalism, perhaps a dreadful Ted Savage-like out-at-the-plate moment (against the Cardinals in 1967). Nevertheless, I discovered that the season sparked long dormant synapses activating currents of memory and history, e.g., my impression of Wrigley Field when the Macks took me to my first game (I had never seen a venue so verdant); a Memorial Day double header when my friend Kenny and I explored Wrigley’s empty upper grandstand during the second game; my sunburn while sitting in the sizzling right field bleachers with my father and brother; and introducing my children to Wrigley’s ambience with its faint organ music allowing reflection regarding the game’s subtleties between innings (unlike Miller Park’s electronically generated cacophony producing sensory overload).

Then there were memories of the Cubs themselves. Foremost was Ernie Banks. Yes, Ernie, that slender slugger from the Negro League’s Kansas City Monarchs whose baseball prowess and power earned him the respect, if not adoration of fans. Indeed, he was indirErnie Banksectly, like African American players of his generation, a Civil Rights figure by his very presence on the field. Banks’s positive attitude (“Let’s play three”) and dignity profoundly impressed. His love of the game transcended the ineluctable team losing streaks. I was proud that he was the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 1958 and 1959.

As a boy, I poured over my Cub yearbook, which introduced me to (Joe) Tinker-to- (Johnny) Evers-to (Frank) Chance, “Three Finger(ed)” Mordecai Brown, and Gabby Hartnett (and his twilight home run against the Pirates in 1938). Yes! There had been great Cubs like Lewis “Hack” Wilson who in 1930 hit 56 home runs and drove in 191 runs (the latter statistic remains a record). I learned about Phil Cavaretta and the 1945 pennant winners. The Cubs had been winners, but the World Series Championship (last won in 1908) remained elusive.

The 2016 season reminded me how my friends and I avidly collected baseball cards. I cherished my Cubs collection—now long gone. Each card was an archive with biographical and statistical data. I learned about geography too, i.e., the location of minor league teams. (Trading cards provided early experiences of the role of utility in assessing a player’s value!) Memory recalled a great blunder—the Cubs’ trading of outfielder Lou Brock (a Hall of Famer) to the St. Louis Cardinals for pitcher Ernie Broglio in 1964. Brock immediately helped lead the Cardinals to a World Championship while, sadly, Broglio’s arm became sore.

And the Cubs chronically lost. I would check team standings in the home-delivered Chicago Tribune to see how close the Cubs were to escaping the cellar. If they lost, how bad was it? An 8-6 loss was palatable; at least “we” came close. Yet I kept on being a fan. While at the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle (UIC today), I watched for the “W” or “L” flag fluttering from the scoreboard as my northbound Englewood/Howard A or Jackson/Howard B (now Red Line) or Evanston Express train approached the Addison stop. Oh sure, I had my moments when Cubs teams frustrated if not alienated me. Yet no matter what I said, denounced, and even renounced, I still could not let go.

The worst was the 1969 season. After a phenomenal start, “Cub Power” dissipated. The Mets’ eventually overtook the Cubs and capped their “miraculous” success vs. the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series. Decades after that season, a new Western Civilization Varsity Theater Program teaching assistant (TA) entered my Coughlin Hall office and introduced himself. He wore a Mets hat. I immediately informed him that he was not to wear that hat again in my presence. Of course, I told him that I was kidding (Yeah, kinda!) and he ended up being one of my finest TAs that I had the pleasure to work while “in the Varsity.” Of course, there were other disappointments such as the 1984 National League Championship Series loss to the San Diego Padres after the Cubs won the first two games in Wrigley but lost the next three on the West Coast. Despite the heroics of Mark Grace in the 1989 National League Championship Series, the Cubs were outhit by Will Clark and the San Francisco Giants. In 2003, with five outs needed to win the National League Pennant and return to the World Series, a fly ball drifted foul toward the stands in left field tracked by the Cubs’s Moises Alou…‘nuff said! Despite that loss and other heartbreaks, 1969 remained the most odious season.

There was also tragedy concerning the Cubs that had nothing to do with the game on the field. In 1962, Ken Hubbs was Rookie of the Year. (Hall of Famer Billy Williams won the award in 1961.) Hubbs was a brilliant, seemingly flawless second baseman and set major league records for his errorless fielding. He was the first rookie to win a Gold Glove award. The future looked very promising, but Hubbs perished in a plane crash in February 1964. (See: https://miscbaseball.wordpress.com/2012/01/07/remembering-1960s-cubs-second-basemand-ken-hubbs/ airplane) I was also moved by the death of Jack Quinlan in March 1965. Jack was the Cubs’ superb radio announcer who died in an automobile accident in Arizona. Quinlan’s broadcast partner was Lou Boudreau, the former brilliant player-manager who led the Cleveland Indians to their last World Series Championship, 68 years ago. As reiterated often during the 2016 World Series, Cleveland’s been waiting a long time too.

Favorite Cubs paraded through my consciousness during 2016. There was Walt “Moose” Moryn who habitually and heroically (and repeatedly) collided with right field foul line brick wall chasing line drives and fly balls. With no padding, man, that had to hurt! His most famous catch was in left field where he grabbed a sinking line drive to preserve Don Cardwell’s no hitter in May 1960. He could slug, too, and was an all-star. Dick Drott and Moe Drabowsky had fire-balling right arms. I remembered Gene Baker, Don Hoak, Hobie Landrith, Bob Rush, and Cal Neeman among so many others on losing teams. I must add here that these are names that my esteemed colleague, Professor Emeritus Tom Jablonsky, knows well. (I miss you, man!)

I never subscribed, however, to the cachet image of the Cubs as “lovable losers.” The Cubs were simply the Cubs; a baseball team that usually lost games. When I taught at Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts, I readily identified with the Red Sox. Marquette history doctoral graduate Pete deRosa (who is a professor at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts and a baseball scholar) and I used to compare the Red Sox and the Cubs while watching games in Fenway Park. Red Sox memorable losses were, however, much more dramatic, if not Sophoclean, i.e., Johnny Pesky’s hesitant relay in the 1946 World Series or Bill Buckner’s error in the sixth game of the 1986 World Series (against the Mets!). I highly recommend Stephen Jay Gould’s article on history and memory: “Jim Bowie’s Letter & Bill Buckner’s Legs,” Natural History, 109, no. 4 (May 2000): 26-40. (My undergraduate seminar students read it this semester.) I must add, Pesky was a great Red Sox (“Mr. Red Sox”) and humanitarian. Buckner played well with the Cubs before being traded to the Red Sox. (Overlooked, he had a distinguished career with over 2,700 hits.). Gould argues that Buckner has been unfairly portrayed and blamed regarding the Red Sox loss in the sixth game and the World Series. See also: http://weldbham.com/blog/2011/10/27/bill-buckner-shouldn%E2%80%99t-be-blamed-for-a-red-sox-loss-in-the-1986-world-series/. Of course, after 86 years, the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 and then in 2007.

I particularly appreciate how the Cubs’ success in 2016 evoked fans’ memories and histories—for some, even at deeper ontological and epistemological levels bringing them to tears when the Cubs secured their World Series win. Will the Cubs repeat in 2017 as they did in 1907 and 1908? I can entertain such thoughts now. I feel quite existentially comfortable with this new episteme and thankful for it.

Phil Naylor is professor of history and author of France and Algeria: A History of Decolonization and Transformation and North Africa: A History from Antiquity to the Present, among other books. He teaches courses on the Middle East, North Africa, and Rock and Roll. 

Their Stories are Fascinating and Powerful: Remembering Wisconsin’s Red Arrow Division in the First World War

By Capt. Brian J. Faltinson

This post comes from MA alum, Iraq war veteran, and public historian Brian J. Faltinson, who describes the ongoing commemoration of the centennial of one of the most famous military units to originate in Wisconsin, the “Red Arrow” Division that formed during the First World War. Downtown’s Red Arrow County Park is named in honor of the men who served.

I remember in fifth grade checking out a book on each world war from the school library so I could pass the time on a long drive to my grandparents’ farm in Watertown, South Dakota. I do not precisely remember why, but I found the book on the Great War to be the more fascinating of the two.  Today, I am fortunate as a historian and public affairs officer with the Wisconsin National Guard to share the stories of some of Wisconsin’s World War I soldiers.

The Wisconsin National Guard for the next two years is commemorating the 100th anniversary of the 32nd “Red Arrow” Division and honoring its service in World War I with d of the raa project we call Dawn of the Red Arrow. (The image to the left is of Facebook masthead of the Dawn of the Red Arrow (Wisconsin National Guard Image).  We consider the organization of the 32nd Division to be the beginning of the modern Wisconsin National Guard and most of our units trace their origins to that division.  Given that the U.S. Army ranked behind Portugal when it went to war with Germany, the National Guard was a vital part of building an army capable of fighting on the Western Front.  In September 1917, 15,000 Wisconsin National Guardsmen from units in 72 Wisconsin cities joined with the Michigan National Guard at Camp MacArthur, Texas, to form the 32nd Division.  The division entered combat in May 1918 in Alsace and would later fight in the Aisne-Marne, Oise-Aisne and Meuse-Argonne campaigns.  The French awarded the division a battle citation for its ferocity in combat near Soissons and formalized “Les Terribles” as the division’s nickname – making the 32nd the only American division to earn a nom de guerre from a foreign nation. The division pierced every single German line it encountered and, as a result, its unit insignia is that of a red arrow punching through a German battle line. This success in battle was earned at great cost; the division suffered over 13,000 casualties of which over 2,600 were killed in action.

The overarching theme of Dawn of the Red Arrow is to have the division’s soldiers tell their own story. We have partnered with the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, the Wisconsin National Guard Museum and the Wisconsin Historical Society to find and share the photos, letters, memoirs, artifacts and stories left behind by the division’s soldiers.   A recent research trip to the National Archives found the division’s operational records, daily staff journal, official photograph collection and two hours of U.S. Army Signal Corps film that captured the division’s time in France. These records ranged from private’s observation Ruffreport of enemy activity from the trenches to the division’s operations orders for each of its battles.  Connecting all of these stories and creating their proper context so they can be properly understood is a series of video-recorded interviews with Marquette’s Dr. Julius Ruff (pictured here with Brian Faltinson–photo courtesy Wisconsin National Guard) and history professors from Ripon College and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. We will tell these stories as they happened 100 years ago, which means this project will last through June 6, 1919 when the division’s Wisconsin members marched in a welcome home parade on Milwaukee’s Wisconsin Avenue.

The history of the division as a whole is well-established and our goal is not expand the historiography, but to honor these Soldiers and restore their presence in today’s memory. Their stories are fascinating and powerful.  Cpl. Edward DeNomie, a Ho-Chunk Tribe Native American, provided a veteran’s audio interview to the Wisconsin Veterans Museum and we hear in his own words about how he joined the Wisconsin National Guard while enrolled in the Federal government’s Indian School in Tomah, Wisconsin. Capt. Paul W. Schmidt, who wrote his unit’s history after the war, joined the Wisconsin National Guard in 1898 and led Sheboygan’s Company C, 127th Infantry Regiment in France. Chaplain Capt. Gustave Stearns of Milwaukee wrote vivid letters home to his congregation describing the war. His bravery and compassion on the battlefield with regard to caring for the wounded and dying on both sides earned him a Silver Star and an Iron Cross.  However, the most emotionally powerful collection we have run across features 1st Lt. Bruce W. Clarke, an infantry platoon leader. The collection starts with an almost perfect, crystal clear ID card photo of Clarke, followed by some mundane platoon leader administrative notes and then a message book he used in France to send dispatches to his commander – copies of some of those messages remain legible. The collection’s final photograph is a 1931 image of his mother dressed in black grieving at his grave at the Oise-Aisne American Cemetery in France.

The stories of these and other individuals are easily shared through the Dawn of the Red Arrow website, Facebook page, as well as other social media.  We tell some of these stories as we find them and others will be regular features.  Some items are thematic or concentrate on a specific person, place or event, while others track “on this day 100 years ago”. We want to use these modern media platforms to bring the black-and-white images and words on aged pieces of paper to life so people can connect with these soldiers.   A demonstration of that potential happened during my week at the National Archives, when Red ArrowI regularly posted research updates.  A post of the earliest known photograph of the Red Arrow insignia, painted on a battle-scarred artillery piece (see image to the left, courtesy of the National Archives) went viral and dramatically expanded our audience.   There are thousands who currently wear that insignia, tens of thousands who once wore it and countless more who know someone who once did.   That image had tremendous meaning to those people.  We use social media to share this raw material of history which we will assemble into our culminating product of a one-hour film that tells the division’s story from its service in Texas during the Mexican Border Crisis to its return to Wisconsin after World War One.  We are targeting the film to premier in October at the Wisconsin Centennial Commission’s World War I Symposium in Madison.

Capt. Brian J. Faltinson graduated from Marquette in 1998 with an M.A. in American History. He has been a member of the Minnesota and Wisconsin National Guard since 1988 and is an Iraq War veteran.  He has been the Wisconsin National Guard’s chief historian since 2007.  In his civilian career, he is a project manager & historian with Heritage Research, Ltd, an environmental and public history consulting firm in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.

Guest Blog: A Virtual Journey into Digital Humanities

With the help of a Mellon Grant for the 2015-2016 academic year from the Klingler College of Arts and Sciences, a band of MU historians set out to explore the brave new world of digital humanities.  More accurately, they sought to find out about a world more or less new to them. In Jim Marten’s “The Civil War Era,” Tim McMahon’s “Modern Ireland,” and Bryan Rindfleisch’s course on Native American history, students produced maps, explored texts, and used social media to get at historical issues and questions in ways a regular research paper cannot.

Lezlie Knox’s “Black Death” course partnered with the Raynor Memorial Library’s Digital Scholarship Lab to produce original projects on pandemics through history.  The lab’s dmlDigital Scholarship Librarian, Elizabeth Gibes, was embedded into the class, and helped Lezlie and the students engage multiple applications and approaches to come to a better understanding of how pandemics–from tuberculosis to yellow fever to polio–have affected people around the world.

Two of the projects have already been featured on the Digital Scholarship Lab’s blog (click here and here to read about Katherine Stein’s and Cara Caputo’s projects, respectively).

But the lab’s most recent blog post covers the class in its entirety, and includes an interview with Lezlie.  Please read it here.

Where in the World Are MU Historians?

Years ago PBS aired a popular children’s show called “Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?” With the clever live-action sketches, animation, and an acapella group, viewers learned geography—not just where a country was on a map, but how the people of those countries lived.

One of the primary objectives of Historians@Work is to present the many “journeys” taken by MU historians and students.  Some are figurative, but many are literal.  The latter is certainly the case in this installment, as we learn about the upcoming summer research adventures of a half dozen of our associate professors.  Each was recently awarded funding from Marquette’s Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, which grants Summer Faculty Fellowships (stipends) and Regular Research Grants (for travel expenses) to two or three dozen Marquette faculty each year.

This summer our band of historians will outdo the fictional Carmen San Diego, as they conduct research in Cuba, Guatemala, Mexico, Germany, Ireland, and Italy, as well as Virginia, California, and Chicago.

This year’s awards, worth over $50,000, made history for our department—we have never received so many awards in a single year. This obviously reflects the interesting subjects these historians are exploring, as well as the success of their previous research.  Below, in their own words, you can read about their projects and their travel plans.

Michael Donoghue: Race, Identity, and Gender in U.S. Military-Cuban Relations 1941-1964  I plan to travel to Cuba and Virginia this upcoming summer to investigate the local records of U.S. Military-Cuban relations from 1941-1964 in Havana and Guantánamo City, Cuba and at the Marine Historical Division in Quantico.  3The focus of my research is on the intersections of race, identity, and gender that occurred between U.S. military personnel and the Cuban people from World War II until the closing of the U.S. Guantánamo naval base from Cuban contact in 1964 – and how these interactions contributed to the anti-American atmosphere of the Cuban Revolution.  I hope that this project will make a significant contribution toward our understanding of the many strands and forces that helped shape the Cuban Revolution beyond, high status actors, larger events, and economic indices, as it focuses on the personal and social relations that contributed to many revolutionary processes.  Michael is author of Borderland on the Isthmus: Race, Culture, and the Struggle for the Canal Zone (2014).

Alison Clark Efford, Suicide and Immigrant Emotions, 1882-1924  I received funding for two research trips, one to San Diego to investigate suicides among Japanese immigrants in the early twentieth century and the other to Chicago to research suicide, immigrant Catholicism, and the influential “Chicago School” of sociology. My larger book project explores the negative emotions that sometimes accompanied immigration by addressing the extensively documented act of suicide. I probe the inner lives of a variety of immigrants and shows how suicides drew wider attention to immigrant emotions. As early as 1861, the New York Times noted that the foreig1n-born accounted for about a third of the city’s population but three-quarters of its recorded suicides. By the turn of the century, the suicidality of immigrants was accepted as common wisdom. Whether commentators thought it reflected ethnic characteristics or the trauma of relocation, immigrant suicide became entangled with fears about alienation in modern society and rapid demographic change.  Alison is author of German Immigrants, Race, and Citizenship in the Civil War Era (2013)

Lezlie Knox, Mariano of Florence and Religious Life in Cinquecento Italy.    Mariano was a prolific author—in less than 25 years, he wrote fifteen treatises in both Latin and Italian.  These works range from shorter works on devotional themes to lengthy—really lengthy–histories of his religious order (male, female, and lay branches of the Franciscan Order) and his native Tuscany.  Many of these works remain in manuscript, due in no small part to Mariano’s cramped handwriting!  This grant will fund my completion of archival work in Italy, as well as time to do work at the Antonianum, the Franciscan Order’s pontifical university in Rome, which has one of the best libraries for my subject.  However, I am not just interested in Mariano as a Franciscan historian, but also in the ways his works describes religious culture in the towns and ecclesiastical centers of late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century Italy.  My study of his life and writings contributes to a broader 2understanding of society and culture during the later Middle Ages, particularly one which approaches that era as vital in its own right rather than symptomatic of later medieval decay or, conversely, a threshold to the humanistic attractions of the Renaissance.  Lezlie is author of Creating Clare of Assisi: Female Franciscan Identities in Later Medieval Italy (2008) and co-editor of the forthcoming Visions of Sainthood in Medieval Rome:  The Lives of Margherita Colonna by Giovanni Colonna and Stefania.  She has also received a $3000 Franklin Research Grant from the American Philosophical Society to help fund this research.

Laura Matthew: Circulations: Death and Opportunity on Mesoamerica’s Costa del Sur, 1500-1630  I will devote the summer to research for a book-length project examining migration, networks, and trade along Mesoamerica’s southern Pacific6 Coast in the century after European invasion. The SFF and RRG will fund a deep foray into the Guatemalan national archives, a first exploration of the regional archives of Chiapas, and travel along the routes described in the documents to achieve a more grounded sense of the places and spaces she is writing about.  Laura is author of Memories of Conquest: Becoming Mexicano in Colonial Guatemala (2012), recipient of the 2013 Howard F. Cline Memorial Prize from the Conference on Latin American History and the 2013 Murdo MacLeod Prize from the Southern Historical Association. 

Timothy G. McMahon, Beyond the Boundary Commission: Partitioned Identities in Modern Ireland   The United Kingdom government partitioned the island of Ireland through legislation in 1920, creating two states that claimed distinct identities (Northern Ireland as British, the Irish Free State as Irish). Partition had, however, been proposed and rejected on two prior occasions by many of the people who seemingly embraced it in the 1920s. A the new states sought to reinforce the distinctiveness of their populations, people living on either side of the new border continued to interact in spite of the new reality. The present project builds on the work of Rogers Brubaker to propose a new way of thinking about how the reality of a novel state boundary shaped identities, examining the 4interdependence of daily lived experience with movement politics and parliamentary legislation. Given the recent Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom and the possible shake-up of the United Kingdom—which has already seen calls from some in Scotland to secede and from some in Ireland and Northern Ireland to examine the relevance of the existing border—a detailed study of identity formation on this frontier has both historical and contemporary relevance. My proposal will enable me to undertake three weeks of archival research in Dublin and Belfast before spending approximately six weeks drafting an article to address the changed attitudes of the early 1920s.  Tim is author of Grand Opportunity: The Gaelic Revival and Irish Society, 1893-1910 (2008) and editor of the memoir Pádraig Ó Fathaigh’s War of Independence: Recollections of a Galway Gaelic Leaguer (2000).

Peter Staudenmaier, The Politics of Blood and Soil: Environmental Ideals in Nazi GermanyMy project aims toward a book manuscript examining controversial historical questions about the role of environmental protection efforts and ecological sustainability within the Nazi regime. Though scholars in a variety of fields recognize the prominence of “blood and soil” ideology in the Third Reich – the belief in an essential link between natural regeneration and racial renewal – there is no consensus on its historical significance or practical relevance. My research represents the first comprehensive analysis of the topic, based on extensive archival research5 over the past five years. It is structured around three main case studies: the emergence of early alternative agricultural movements during the Weimar era and their reception under Nazi rule; the role of Nazi “advocates for the landscape” in environmental planning during the Third Reich; and the ecological components of Nazi policy in conquered territories in Eastern Europe during World War II. I plan to use the Summer Faculty Fellowship to complete the final stages of research and begin writing the book.   Peter is author of Between Occultism and Nazism: Anthroposophy and the Politics of Race in the Fascist Era (2014).

The Silence at Promontory Summit Was Deafening

By John N. Vogel

PhD alum John Vogel reflects on a recent visit to an iconic historic site.

The silence at Promontory Summit was deafening.

I find the significance of silence often encountered at historically prominent places is proportional to that of the event that occurred. The impact of silence is reflected in one’s pensiveness, and how lost one can be in the event, the site of which is being observed many years later. So it was as I recently visited the National Park Service’s Golden Spike National Monument.

We all know, at least to some extent, of the driving of the Golden Spike at Promontory promontory-summit-golden-spike-photo-loc-2Summit, Utah, on May 10, 1869.  The moment was captured in the famous photo to the left (courtesy the Library of Congress).  It was that spike, in both a real and ceremonial sense, that physically united the nation–which for the first time had been tied together in a functional and intractable way.  That first transcontinental connection inspired an untold number of histories that have expressed affection or derision for the railroad, as well as offered all sorts of analysis.  It is unquestioned that Thomas Durant, of the Union Pacific, and Leland Stanford, Collis Huntington, Charles Crocker and Mark Hopkins, all of the Central Pacific, were interested in making money with the railroad they built.  But that does nothing to diminish the physical and national accomplishment that was the first transcontinental link.

That portion of the route passing through Promontory Summit was bypassed between 1902 and 1904 with construction of the Lucin Cutoff across the Great Salt Lake. The new route provided a straighter, flatter and shorter path across northern Utah than the original alignment to Ogden.  Rail traffic through Promontory Summit was thereafter limited to local trains.  The route was eventually abandoned and in 1942, just after the beginning of the Second World War, the track was removed for use in the war effort.  Promontory Summit was designated a National Historic Site in 1957.  About a mile-and-a-half of rail was re-laid in order to accommodate the replica locomotives that provide a dramatic way of commemorating the site’s history.

On the day I visited this iconic spot, the Park Service’s interpretive center closed at 5:00 PM and the parking lot was almost immediately empty. There is nothing around Promontory Summit except a few ranches off in the distance. I was alone on the high plains, waiting for the sunset that would occur three or four hours later on a partly cloudy jnv-promontory-summit-2012evening.  I alternately walked along the tracks, sat on a nearby bench, and read and re-read the various commemorative plaques and monuments at the site.  Constant throughout the evening was the wind so common to the high plains.

As I waited for sunset, I was reminded of the classic Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall novel, Mutiny on the Bounty. Nordhoff and Hall wrote of a character, Roger Byam, who returned to Tahiti many years after the fateful mutiny.  As he looked over the island, Byam observed that  “suddenly the place was full of ghosts, shadows of men alive and dead . . .”  I saw no ghosts that evening.  Yet I found the spirit of all those who built that first transcontinental railroad was inescapable.

Promontory Summit is a place of unquestionable significance in the history of our nation. East and west were tangibly tied together as one and have been ever since.  Yet despite the thundering importance of this place, the silence at Promontory Summit was deafening.

John N. Vogel graduated from MU in 1989 with his Ph.D. in American History. He is the President and Senior Historian of Heritage Research, Ltd., an environmental and public history consulting firm that works with states, engineering firms, municipalities and others to research and produce components needed for environmental impact statements, business and institutional histories, and legal research. He is also author of Great Lakes Lumber on the Great Plains (1993).  


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