Final Project

by erich.grosse on January 1, 2014

In our last two classes, everyone in the class presented their final projects.  I was really impressed with the research that everyone did and enjoyed listening what their papers were about.  The topics varied from railroad monopolies, a newspaper creating a hoax about a civilization living on the moon, how the English language was affected by politics, and even how children’s books had political motives of their own.

My project was about how Samuel Colt and modern weaponry affected 19th century society.  Colt’s weapons included the new invention of the revolving chamber which allowed weapons to fire as many as six shots before reloading as opposed to just one.  These weapons ultimately led Americans to feel confident and superior enough to head out west and take on the frontier.  Feelings of superiority towards Indians existed even before Colt, but the new weapons made Americans feel  more invincible than ever before.  As settlers brought this attitude to the frontier, it led to violence with the Indians.  Battles were fought and eventually the west was controlled by Americans.  The results of these events can still be seen today, however, as treaties and Indian reservations still exist to show us the results of events that happened decades ago.

The sources from the American Antiquarian Society really helped me with my research for this project.  One of the most important was “Armsmear:  the home, the arm, and the armory of Samuel Colt,” written by Henry Barnard in 1866.  This book gave me a wealth of information on Colt’s factory and his weapons.  I also used the children’s book, “The picture book of Indians,” written by an unnamed citizen of New England in 1831, along with a particular original copy of the Crockett Almanac Improved, that was written in 1841, to discover the real unpleasant attitude that Americans looked down on Indians with.  There were also other AAS documents that were used and some online sources as well.

The class at the AAS this semester was really one of the best classes I have ever taken.  All of the information we learned, primary documents we analyzed, and discussions we had in class were great, and it made the originally feared research project become something that I enjoyed working on.

I also want to give a shout out to Professor Klinghard, Mr. Erickson, and everyone at the AAS for making our experience what it was.  If it was up to me, you all would win Employees of the Month every month!


It’s been a pleasure everyone,

Erich Grosse


Final Project

by jason.duke on December 10, 2013

Today was the final day of the American Studies Seminar. I gave my presentation on my project last week, and the final six members of the class still needing to present did so today. At the end of class, I handed in my final project! I chose to focus on the innovation of the railroad in the 19th century, focusing on its technology, economics, and regulation. The following excerpt from my paper, which appeared as the introduction, gives great insight into what my project contained:

The addition of the Railroad to society incited some of the most drastic changes to the world in the 19th century. It took a world in which people traveled at lethargic paces by power of foot, horse, or boat, and sped up their pace exponentially. The transition from these forms of transportation to the stereotypical usage of the train was not a smooth one though. To start with, the technology necessary needed to be invented and perfected. For example, without the power of the locomotive, the railroad would not have had nearly the same effect on transportation, economics, and society. Additionally, society as a whole had to make the decision to implement the railroad as the main means of transportation. Though in retrospect it seems like this should have been a straight forward decision, there was a heated debate amongst the general public when deciding whether to implement the canal or the railroad. At the same time, the issue of railroad funding came into question. People openly argued between the railroad being funded and operated by the government or private firms. Finally, after the railroad actually came into use, various problems arose along with the positive effects it resulted in. The railroad greatly improved commercial endeavors, but also raised vast economic concerns such as price discrimination, monopoly, and other railroad abuses. Though some of these concerns, such as monopoly, were misconceived as problems by the public, some actually were issues and as a result warranted regulation. Thus, the final stage of implementing the railroad was how these issues came to be, or should have been, regulated by the government. As will be demonstrated via various primary and secondary sources, the railroad followed a bumpy path, begun by technological advance, to altering the economic and political aspects of society. This started with its early history and technological advances, followed by the widely debated choices about its implementation and funding, and the eventual issues that arose and needed regulation.

As the final paragraph of my paper shows, I came to the following conclusions:
In conclusion, the railroad has a long and winding history. It started as something incapable of functioning as society wanted with the tram-road, and, with the help of technological advancement, became a society altering entity once it was chosen over the canal as the future of transportation. This brought about an immense amount of positive effects both in society and commerce, but it also brought about issues such as the debate over subsidization, concern with monopoly, and price discrimination from too much competition. In the end, the government needed to step in to solve the railroads problems, but it largely failed. Instead of realizing that pooling and monopoly were the perfect means to stabilizing the railroad industry, it attempted various other types of regulation. But, in the end, pooling was the perfect answer to solving many of the issues with railroad despite the issues this presents in terms of economic theory.

I used many fantastic sources from the AAS, many of which were pamphlets written at the time these events were occurring. These helped me to come to these conclusions. Overall, the experience of participating in this seminar was both enjoyable and extremely educational. I thoroughly enjoyed my research into the railroad as it allowed me to utilize both my history and economics majors, while also finding interesting and intriguing primary sources. It was definitely cool to be able to research my topic from original primary sources. Overall, my experience with the AAS American Studies Seminar could not have been any more enjoyable or academically interesting and beneficial. I am very happy to have participated in and experienced it!

Best, Jason Duke



The Control Revolution

November 26, 2013

This week we discussed the Control Revolution by James R. Beniger. In this book, Beniger makes several arguments in regards to the evolution of the information world.  Beniger published this book in 1986, which is quite astonishing because a lot of the subject matter he discusses has changed rapidly and dramatically since then, with the [...]

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The Threat of Technology

November 26, 2013

Last Monday, the theme of the seminar was the threat of technology. We discussed various readings and our general views of the threat of technology throughout history and today. Then, we headed over to the main AAS building where Erich and Maura presented their projects. Maura detailed her own presentation in her previous post, but [...]

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Post for 11/4: Choosing between the Railroad and the Canal

November 19, 2013

Sorry for the late post! I completely forgot to put this up! On November 4th, we discussed the decision people had to make about choosing technology.  They had to choose between the railroad or the canal, and often the debates got very heated.  But before we got into what technology was claimed to be better, [...]

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Regulation of Technology

November 17, 2013

Last Monday, Jen and Jason presented their Independent Research Projects on the Western Union and railroad subsidies. The class discussed the concept of regulating technology, how at first there is radical freedom to act without any regulation, then the government becomes interested in the activity, and finally decides to regulate.  We related this regulation to [...]

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The Debate Over Science and Technology in the Early Republic

October 30, 2013

This week during the seminar, we discussed the relationship between science, society, and government.  We read several different articles about the development of science during the first half of the 19th century, as well as one article about stem cell research today.  One part of the discussion was centered on a comparison between science and [...]

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The Post Office

October 21, 2013

Today at the American Studies seminar, we discussed a book titled “Spreading the News” by Richard John which covered the origins and history of the post office. We talked about the reason the post office was formed and who it really benefited: Was the post office really just formed to inform the public or was [...]

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American Postal System

October 16, 2013

We didn’t have class last week because of the Columbus Day weekend, but our readings for Monday included Spreading the News: The American Postal System from Franklin to Morse.  I have to admit, I was dreading this book, but it was actually quite interesting! As the title suggests, it gives details about the postal system [...]

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Republicanism and the Federalist Papers

October 8, 2013

Today in our class we went over how America’s attitude of Republicanism conflicted with the Federalist Papers.  The idea behind Republicanism is that people have an obligation to society and that people should emphasize a greater community rather than individual wealth.  If everyone in society was virtuous, then there would be nothing to worry about [...]

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