- 1865 - Richmond, Virginia, the Confederate capital, captured by a corps of black Union troops
- 1865 – Lee surrenders to Grant at Appomattox Court House
- 1865 - Abraham Lincoln assassinated; Andrew Johnson becomes President
- 1865 - American Civil War ends as the last elements of the Confederacy surrender
- 1865 - 13th Amendment passes, permanently outlawing slavery
- 1865 - Freedman’s Bureau
- 1866 - Civil Rights Act of 1866, forerunner of 14th Amendment.
- 1866 - Ku Klux Klan founded
- 1867 - Tenure of Office Act enacted
- 1868 - Impeachment of Andrew Johnson, acquitted by the Senate
- 1868 - Fourteenth Amendment is ratified; second of Reconstruction Amendments, citizenship.
- 1868 - Ulysses S. Grant is elected president
- 1869 – The First Transcontinental Railroad is completed at Promontory Summit, Utah Territory
- Franco-Prussian War.
- John D. Rockefeller founds the Standard Oil Company.
- Territory of Utah gives full suffrage to women; the first election in which they vote occurs on 1 August
- 1870 - 15th Amendment – right to vote.
- 1870 - Force Acts – protecting the right of African Americans to vote.
- 1871 - Great Chicago Fire
- 1872 - Yellowstone National Park created
- 1872 - Crédit Mobilier scandal
- 1872 - Amnesty Act amnesty to secessionists
- 1872 - U.S. presidential election, 1872 – U.S. Grant
- 1873 - Panic of 1873
- 1873 - Virginius Affair
- 1876 - National League of baseball founded
- 1876 - Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia
- 1876 - Munn v. Illinois establishes public regulation of utilities
- 1876 - Colorado becomes a state
- 1876 - Battle of Little Bighorn
- 1876 - Wild Bill Hickok is killed by a shot to the back of his head by Jack McCall while playing poker in Deadwood, South Dakota. He held aces and eights, now known as the Dead man’s hand.
- 1876 - Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone
- 1876 - U.S. presidential election, 1876 produces an unclear result with 20 Electoral College votes disputed
- 1877 – The Electoral Commission awards Rutherford B. Hayes the presidency
- 1877 - Reconstruction ends
- 1877 - Nez Perce War
- 1879 - Thomas Edison creates first functioning light bulb
- 1879 - Knights of Labor go public
The beauty of having Historical Attention Deficit Disorder is that I read about a wide assortment of events on a daily basis. The downside of the condition of course is that I don’t remember much, because the throughput of information overwhelms my limited capacity for absorption. This of course has nothing to do with the post, which actually came about when I was thinking about President McKinley (although honestly I was thinking about Roosevelt).
I’m no fan of assassins, but I did read Eric Rauchway’s great book, Murdering McKinley, which in turn prompted me to consider President Garfield due to the fact that he was our second assassinated president just 20 years earlier than McKinley.
Rauchway’s work gave great insight to McKinley’s killer, a real life anarchist, Leon Czolgosz, and explains how Czolgosz had real political motives for murdering the president. As a steel worker, Czolgosz was a labor activist, and his act was not on the same level as “I think I’ll impress Jodie Foster,” or other such nonsense, he was really anti-government. Despite his beliefs, his actions could obviously never be justified, but his anarchism at least connects us to his motivation for the crime.
President Garfield’s killer, Charles Guiteau was a different animal all together. After failing as an attorney in Chicago, he turned to theology, and then became interested in politics. (The Trial of the Assassin Guiteau: Psychiatry and the Law in the Gilded Age, Charles E. Rosenberg, 1989). In 1880, Guiteau wrote a speech supporting Ulysses Grant, but Garfield won (barely) the Republican nomination at the national convention in Chicago that year. Instead of wasting a perfectly good speech, Guiteau simply changed his speech, basically substituting Garfield for Grant throughout, and the speech was delivered by Guiteau to the Republican National Committee in New York (from the Georgetown Library, see this link).
After Garfield won the presidency, Guiteau apparently believed his speech was largely responsible, and after his repeated requests to the White House for an ambassadorship were denied, he decided that the president was a traitor and decided assassination was the nation’s only hope. Primary sources, in the form of letters that Guiteau wrote “To The American People” reveal his motivation.
Although too small to read from within this post, a copy may be accessed at (http://www.library.georgetown.edu/dept/speccoll/fl/address.jpg). On page one Guiteau refers to the president as some one who was “a traitor to the men that made him,” speaking of himself of course. Other sources reveal that Guiteau felt that the assassination was “an act of God” (see: http://www.library.georgetown.edu/dept/speccoll/fl/f133%7D1.htm#id42706).
Either way, the whole point of this post was that when I first saw a picture of Guiteau I thought he looked a little crackers. It may be the eyes that are the tell tale sign, but it may be subjective; I already knew he was the assassin before I saw him, so I honestly can’t be sure how strong my preconceived notions were.
There is much more to the story, but time is limiting the post. There is a Michigan connection to both Czolgosz and Guiteau, but not of any consequence. Czolgosz was born in Alpena and lived in Detroit for some time, Guiteau moved to Ann Arbor in an attempt to get into the University of Michigan Law School (which rejected his application).
The other aspect of the story involves the crude state of medicine at the time of the assassination. President Garfield actually lived for 2+ months after the shooting. The physicians repeatedly surgically probed Garfield’s body in an attempt to find one of the bullets, and nicked his liver in the process. Eventually the President developed a massive infection and blood poisoning which led to his demise. Hopefully I’ll pick this up again in a future post, but I have to go.
I had been fortunate to receive a copy of a book on Irish folk songs a few months back (Irish Songs Of Resistance, 1169-1923 by Patrick Glavin, 1962). Glavin’s book once again reminded me of the link between history and art, similar to Thomas Harrison’s excellent, 1910 The Emancipation of Dissonance, which is a truly enjoyable read. This linkage of course is nothing new, and I was reminded of art as a window of time the other day when visiting the University of Michigan Museum of Art. We were there to see the Sister Corita exhibit, the works that could have only been done in the 60’s, but also the work of Charles Wimar and his 1856 The Attack on an Emigrant Train, which is so politically incorrect now, but was de rigueur for its time.
When I came back to my readings on the industrialization of America, I felt that it may be time to revisit some appropriate art, and of course remembered one of the most striking works just up the road at the Detroit Institute of Art, Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry fresco of the 1930’s.
There’s a comfort level with Rivera’s work in that it shows industry, factory work, the way it is. For those of who only envision production, Rivera fulfills your impression of what it must be like. For those of us who have worked on the factory floor there is an added comfort, because he does capture the frenetic yet cohesive pace of manufacture. In a sense, Rivera puts you there, and it’s what you expect to see.
[Above image: "Detroit Industry" - Detroit Institute of Arts ( Diego Rivera ) - View 1, from DetroitDerek's Flickr photostream.]
As a Marxist from Mexico working in the 1930’s, Rivera didn’t villanize the means of production as much as he put forth a feeling of the struggle, the wageworker, the true proletariat, not glamorized, but in the tradition of bottom up social history.
Striving to achieve maximum contrast from both an artistic and historiographical sense, at the opposite end of the spectrum is the work of Philip Martiny. In the interest of complete disclosure, I realize that Martiny is worlds away from Rivera. Martiny, who was born in France in 1858, died 3 years before Rivera painted his fresco in Detroit, and was a successful sculptor in New York working on projects such as St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in New York, the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, and the Library or Congress, which will be the subject of our examination.
Martiny was a classical sculptor, who worked with the likes of Daniel Chester French, this of course is the other Daniel French, who carved a little piece called the Lincoln Monument (Art Commission and Municipal Art Society Guide to Manhattan’s Outdoor Sculpture, Gayle and Cohen). He was also politically connected, but somehow played off both of factions of the two party system, being commissioned both by Tammany Hall and being an apparent admirer of President McKinley (New York Times, “A Sculptor Who Is Also a Captain of Industry”, March 27, 1904).
With Rivera’s work representing realism and social history, Martiny’s work in the Library of Congress represents the opposite end of the historiography spectrum, the writings of the rationalists; such as George Bancroft and his penchant for Anglo-American destiny and progress come to mind. For this, the stairwell carvings at the Library of Congress are excellent examples because of Martiny’s use of Putti, the classical cherub form, mixed with technology, and in the center figure, the cherub with wires and a phone receiver representing progress through electricity. Even Martiny would not be so bold to juxtapose Putti on the factory floor; clearly Rivera’s style is realism and Martiny is classic symbolism, yet still the contrast gives us pause, and for some a discomfort in the thought of cherubs turned loose with technology.
In this sense we see how not only art reflects history as a window in time, as a valid source for historical inquiry, but also how historical interpretations or ‘spin’ (historiography) is reflected in art. In one sense, we see an attempt to show history the way it really was, and in the other the way it was envisioned to be. Art, history, history, art.
I started this blog about a year ago, full of inspiration that I was going to write short little articles for my own benefit, because I just need an outlet on occasion. One of things I notice on the Web is the sheer number of blogs that are out of date, for the same reasons that TechnicallyHistory became so out of date. Grand expectations, followed by a burst of energy, that lasted a day or two. Other things of course got in the way as well, grad school, fatherdom, work, etc. I’ve now decided to use the site as a note taking site as well as the outlet for a few of my various musings, with my comprehensive exams coming up within the next year, I need a place to make notes and review.
Grand expectations again? Probably. It will be interesting to see if I stay with the updates this time or not. Stay tuned.
One of the great debates among scholars of the history of technology is whether or not technological advances fit into a continuous or discontinuous model. The continuous camp views technological breakthroughs as evolutionary, that all inventions in some sense are built upon previous technologies. The discontinuous camp, which is where the general public falls, views technological breakthroughs as the sole work of revered inventors; Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and James Watt come to mind . As with many other philosophical debates, the best answer probably lies somewhere in between, with technologies owing themselves not only to a cumulative bank of knowledge, but also to a novel spark or idea that transforms existing inventions into something quite different.
As technological historians, we have the luxury of looking back in time and spotting connections; often, we can clearly see what components of the past were building blocks for later or current technologies. Although we can see these connections of evolving technology over time, we can’t always be sure if the inventive pioneers of subsequent technologies were consciously thinking about or even aware of what developments came before them; after all, human nature has a tendency towards the individual taking as much credit for his own inventiveness as possible.
If the myriad of inventors responsible for all of our modern point to point communication technologies didn’t look backward at Claude Chappe’s network in early 19th century France, they missed a good bet. Chappe’s technology, which was the first widespread and viable visual telegraph system, utilized several technologies that could easily be considered the forerunner of everything from the electric telegraph to the telephone to the Internet.
As today we click, text, type and tweet online from any location, we should consider that in the early to mid 1800′s, Napoleon was communicating through Chappe’s 5000 km nationwide network connecting all of the major cities in France. Chappe’s invention, which consisted of towers or relay stations some 6 km apart, utilized a semaphore system, with movable arms mounted on towers which could be moved by operators. The relative positions of the arms were encoded into numerals, so if both arms were straight up vertical, that meant 1, both horizontal meant 2, one vertical and the horizontal meant 3, and so on. With ten different positions on a Chappe semaphore, the system established a base-10 signaling system, the basis of which has been used for digital communications to this day. A great article expanding upon the technical aspects of the Chappe system can be found at Berkeley’s Website (Napoleon’s Secret Weapon).
In addition to the signal encoding, the notion of a wide area network (WAN) consisting of relay stations placed on hilltops by Chappe was also groundbreaking for the era. At its height, the Chappe system had over 500  stations spanning the country. Perhaps proving the long-term viability of this set up, a Bell System article from 1946, a century after Chappe, proudly boasts of Bell’s microwave towers placed 25 miles apart, see “34 Jumps To Chicago“, and compare it to this map of the Chappe system. Considering the era and the days technology, the sophistication of the Chappe system is impressive. We still use the notion of hops, jumps, or relays today, even the Internet was founded on the basis of hops between root servers and routers, a technology that you are taking advantage of right now as you read this.
While conceptually the technologies used in the Chappe system and modern communication systems share many of the same ideas, the funding for the technologies also came about for the same reasons. In the case of Chappe’s network, the French government provided funding to build out the system, no doubt Napoleon saw the advantage in a national communication network to help unify the country. Nearly a century and a half later, the U.S. Department of Defense funds the ARPAnet, later our Internet, as a technology for use as a widespread communication network in case of nuclear attack.
As the electric telegraph began to come online in France in 1853, the Chappe system became obsolete. Low bandwidth, inability to communicate at night or in bad weather were huge disadvantages to the system. Despite these issues however, the Chappe system deserves a place as a groundbreaking technology, and Claude Chappe’s accomplishments deserve recognition as the basis for much of today’s modern communication system.
 Basalla, G. The Evolution of Technology (26)
 Bray, J. Innovation and the Communication Revolution (31)
Why is the teaching of history in general, and more specifically the teaching of the history of technology important to students majoring in the sciences and engineering?
With the spotlight on STEMM programs (science, technology, engineering & mathematics/medicine) it’s prudent, and necessary, to reexamine the importance of a solid history program in education.
When it comes to the value of history, one answer I repeatedly hear is that it “teaches us to not repeat our past mistakes.” While maybe that should be true we all know it certainly isn’t; besides, that answer focuses on the negative with “mistakes.”
A different way to look at the value of history is to turn the previous answer into a positive where mistakes become accomplishments; with this semantic shift we can say “learning history is valuable because it teaches us what we can achieve.” Personally, I like this answer better than the “mistakes” one. It’s not that I am in any way advocating a rose-colored glasses approach to history education, the good, bad , and ugly all should be taught in an unbiased manner; to help us understand and appreciate the human condition and where we as individuals fit, but I digress.
When we look at history education as a window through which we can see what is possible, what we as humans can accomplish, especially our technological achievements, then we can relate history directly to STEMM programs, and in a big way.
STEMM is all about discovery, innovation, and invention; finding better ways to improve our world and the human condition. Without knowledge of the past we can’t invent the future. Without knowing that Rome was built by hand, and the pyramids were built without cranes, we wouldn’t say “yes we can” and we wouldn’t try continued experimentation after our first failures. Without knowing about the rise and fall of civilizations and how we fit in the big picture we might not try to improve the human condition, we might not see the potential for a better tomorrow. Without knowing what humans have achieved, we’re not as driven to achieve more. History can teach us what we can do and STEMM can teach us how to do it.