Published Date

January 1, 2004



This resource was developed in 2004 as part of “The 19th-Century US Survey and American Religions through the Civil War” by J. David Hoeveler.


Religion and the Founding of the American Republic

This excellent site consists of eight sections, in approximate chronological order. The last of them, Religion and the New Republic, is relevant to the early 19th century. (I invite readers to consult the supplementary project on American religions that I have contributed; there they will find directions to the splendid collection of annotated images from American religious History. The materials derive from the Library of Congress collections and the program is introduced as follows: “Encompassing over 200 objects including early American books, manuscripts, letters, prints, paintings, artifacts, and music from the Library’s collections and complemented by loans from other institutions, Religion and the Founding of the American Republic explores the role religion played in the founding of the American colonies, in the shaping of early American life and politics, and in forming the American Republic.”

And is it that visual dimension that appeals most in the exhibition, although students will find useful narrative summaries of the topics and personalities presented. The coverage ranges widely, from the radical republican religion of Thomas Paine (The Age of Reason, 1796) to the era of Evangelical revivalism. This subject embraced the camp meetings, the circuit riders, and new churches like those of the Disciples of Christ, all presented here. Related subjects include the Benevolent Empire, denoted by organizations such as the American Bible Society and the American Tract Society, and including the vast missionary effort of the early 19th century. Along with these topics the program also includes the emergence of the black churches, most famously Richard Allen’s creation of the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church, which also furnished women preachers such as Juliann Jane Tillman. These decades also witnessed new and experimental religious movements including the Shakers and the Mormons. Overall, these powerful visuals will challenge teachers and students to see the pluralistic dimensions of American religious history.

American Literature (19th Century)

This website book offers a guide to American literary history from its beginnings to the contemporary era. The 19th century has four chapters: Early 19th and Romanticism; Early 19th and Transcendentalism; Late 19th and Realism; Late 19th and Naturalism.

The site also has 12 appendixes, including ones on minorities’ and women’s literature, writing assignments, and American literary history and theory. It offers a course syllabi and connections to serval literary book dealers for acquisition of old and out-of-press publications. Readers will also find a link to the Library of Congress.

The chapter on romanticism effectively describes the structure and organization of the others. It presents an Introduction that includes such topics as “Elements of Romanticism,” “Romantic Title Matter,” “Romantic Attitudes,” “Romantic Techniques,” “Philosophical Patterns,” and “The Renaissance” (with listings of white and black writers on separate charts). A set of Study Questions follows. They have excellent thematic suggestions, some of them making connections back to Puritanism and the Enlightenment.

The subject listing includes sixteen names that describe canonical male figures and major women writers and black writers such as Harriet E. Adams Wilson. All chapters have a diverse representation of American writers. Some subjects have outside links, although not all have been maintained. The material for William Cullen Bryant has such typical categories as a “Selected Bibliography,” “Brief Literary Biography,” “Major Works,” “Biographies,” and “Study Questions.” The last also has excellent thematic suggestions that will prompt the thinking of students writing essays or research papers on Bryant.

Chapter Four on Transcendentalism includes Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, and Walt Whitman, plus others, and subjects such as “The Utopian Movement” and “The Women’s Rights Movement.” Its suggestive introductory section relates transcendentalism to other intellectual movements and lists the central tenets and ideas of the movement. Another category of the Introduction presents a chronology and another considers the reasons for the emergence of Transcendentalism. Students in the America history survey, who often experience an abrupt and difficult shift to such topics as this one, will find a very useful guide here.

Chapters Five and Six complete the material on the 19th century, dealing, respectively, with realism and naturalism. Sometimes one will find useful links that expand the material on certain subjects. A link to the Mark Twain site, for example, will enable the visitor to access, chapter by chapter, Twain’s classic novel Huckleberry Finn. Throughout, the site seems to have the college student in mind , probably at the advanced level, but freshmen and sophomores can find ways to use the site for various projects.

Thomas Jefferson

This versatile website, prepared by Clay Jenkinson, offers an abundance of information about Thomas Jefferson, from his domestic life and the Monticello project to his extensive writings on politics and religion. For example, visitors, will find the complete text of the “Jefferson Bible” and have access to the long involvement of this American thinker with religion and the “Life and Morals of Jesus” in particular. These materials deserve attention, for, as Jefferson says in an 1803 letter, reproduced here, he is offering “the result of a life of inquiry and reflection, … very different from the anti-Christian system imputed to me by those who know nothing of my opinions.” For politics, the site offers a convenient arrangement of Jeffersonian reflections, all with citations to standard references, such as The Papers of Thomas Jefferson and The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (Memorial Edition). Categories include topics such as “The Fundamentals of Government,” “The Theory of Republican Government,” “The Structure of Republican Government,” “Governmental Policy in a Republic,” and “The Prospects for Self-Government.” Each of these listings has several subcategories. The first, for example, includes “Inalienable Rights,” “Securing Rights,” “Moral Principles,” and three others.

Other subjects in the site include Jefferson’s famous 1786 letter to Maria Cosway, (“My Heart and My Head”) an excellent document for a class discussion, Thomas Jefferson on slavery (not well developed), and Jefferson’s views on women. A bibliographical guide to scholarship on Jefferson offers another great advantage of this site. One can locate material by author, subject, or by year of publication. Furthermore, full paragraph descriptions of journal articles and books on Jefferson make the listings particularly valuable. Mr. Jenkinson offers recurring reflections on Jefferson and current issues in American public life, such as the impeachment subject in late 1998. Readers can join a discussion group about America’s third president as well. A lengthy list of links to other subjects assists students and teachers in moving from Jefferson into a wide variety of American historical topics.

James Madison


This site draws on a number of sources to compile an extensive record on the life and writings of America’s fourth president. It begins with a brief and somewhat cursory biography, but adds substantive material in other sections. Among the important original documents, the site includes Madison’s first and second inaugural addresses as president. It also has Madison’s “Questions and Answers On Slavery,” derived from the retired president’s response to a lengthy query from Jedidiah Morse, conveyed to him from a British abolitionist. In it, Madison attributes the present growth in the slave population to the “comparative defect of moral and prudential restraint on the sexual connection.” In addition on this subject, the site has Madison’s plan for the emancipation of slaves, a proposal not unlike the longstanding scheme for manumission proposed by the American Colonization Society.

The site should prove highly valuable to students interested in Madison’s political thought. It offers much material on the Bill of Rights and Madison’s invaluable notes on the Federal Convention of 1787, with a calendar display that will immediately access any particular day of the convention meetings. One can print out Madison’s key contributions to the Federalist Papers, Nos. 10 and 51, and the site opens to the Federalist Papers on line. For useful comparisons, visitors can also access all the chapters of John Locke’s Second Treatise on Government.

Other categories in this site include Madison on Judicial Review and Madison on Native Americans. The President James Madison category offers links to many aspects of the War of 1812. Finally, a valuable section includes Madison quotations on such subjects as Republic v. Democracy, Separation of Powers, Electoral College, Church and State, and Protection Against Majority. The Dolly Madison link includes a brief biography in the larger website on the First Ladies.

War of 1812

This website will have a marginal use for scholars and advanced students except insofar as they have a special interest in the military aspects of the War of 1812. The location offers sections on such political events as the imperial and commercial entanglements that agitated the diplomacy leading to the war, and it has a short section on the Hartford Convention, in which Federalist New England expressed its hostility to American involvement in the conflict. For a documentary history of the conflict, the site offers only the full text of the Treaty of Ghent, which concluded the war in 1815. Information about policy-making in the administration of Presidents Jefferson and Madison have better coverage in sites established for those individuals.

The “War of 1812” label and “The War of 1812-1814” offer visitors reviews of the major battles in the conflict, over a dozen in number. Some of these engagements have only brief summaries, but each has interesting contemporary portraits and some have maps. Altogether the visual material at this site is quite exciting and can be appropriated for excellent enhancements to classroom instruction. For particular aspects of the war, students will find extended treatment–for example, Oliver Perry’s naval conflict on Lake Erie. The section on the “Star-Spangled Banner” offers an alternative account to the conventional one with respect to the writing of the national anthem. One will find here also the less well-known second and third verses of the song. Students can also test their knowledge of the War of 1812 in a short quiz.

Tecumseh and the Shawnee (2) (Tecumseh) (Shawnee)

Tecumseh is one of the best known of the American Indians, although his familiarity to many comes from his defeat at the hands of William Henry Harrison at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. That name, in turn, became part of the famous campaign slogan of 1840 when Harrison and John Tyler gave the Whig party its first presidential election victory. These two sites will help students know much nore about Tecumseh and his people.

The first site traces the encounters between Indians and natives in the Wabash Valley area of Indiana, beginning with the establishment of a trading post in 1791. An Indian village arose in turn and became the center for the great confederacy created and led by Tecumseh and his brother Tewskwatawa, a reaction to their growing fears of the whites. Tensions grew until Harrison, as governor of Indiana, organized an army of 1,000 whites to drive out Tecumseh. Tecumseh sought revenge by allying with the British and joining in the Battle of the Thames in the War of 1812. Students interested in the details and graphics of warfare will find a full military report of the battle.

Classroom instruction in this subject will also gain by students studying the various treaties, published here in full, between the Shawnees and the United States government. They will read from the treaty of 1786:

“ARTICLE 3: In consideration of the fidelity to the United States which has been manifested by the Wyandot, Delaware, Seneca, and Shawanoe, tribes, throughout the late war, and of the repentance of the Miami tribe, as manifested by placing themselves under the protection of the United States, by the Treaty of Greenville, in eighteen hundred and fourteen, the said United States agree to pardon such chiefs and warriors of said tribes as may have continued hostilities against them until the close of the war with Great Britain, and to permit the chiefs of their respective tribes to restore them to the stations and property which they held previously to the war.”

From these standard historical sources, students may pursue a more intimate knowledge of Indian life and culture by studying the Shawnee website. It has a detailed, two-part history of the tribe and their connections to the Algonquians. A brief section on Shawnee cosmology and a report on the political arrangements of a very authoritarian system show Indian history before the arrival of the Europeans. The history continues with these encounters, beginning with the Yamasee War against South Carolinians in 1715. Another sections describes how the Shawnees, a migrating group, engaged other North American Indians, with recurring hostilities. Further interest lies in the section on white captives (they include Daniel Boone), some of whom the Indians adopted and who became acculturated into Indian life. A map of historic Shawnee villages shows the range of Shawnee habitations.

James Monroe

This site has the advantage of some direct links to supporting Internet materials that help to round out the career of our fifth president. In itself, it will offer only minimal information for investigating students. Among the useful links are the succinct career and personality portrait of Elizabeth (“Eliza”) Kortwright Monroe in the extensive website on the American First Ladies. Especially informative for American political history are key documents of the Monroe presidencies. Monroe gave his first inaugural in 1817 and described a nation at peace, its treasury full, and, with war recently concluded, looking for further expansion. He could thus write: “Never did a government commence under auspices so favorable, nor ever was success so complete. If we look to the history of other nations, ancient or modern, we find no example of a growth so rapid, so gigantic, of a people so prosperous and happy. In contemplating what we have still to perform, the heart of every citizen must expand with joy when he reflects how near our Government has approached to perfection; that in respect to it we have no essential improvement to make.” The second inaugural four years later conveyed many forebodings as it turned its main attention to world affairs. Monroe summarized American dealings with Great Britain, France and Spain (with attention to the revolutionary movements in Latin America), and with the Barbary Pirates. The President warned: ” Europe is again unsettled and the prospect of war increasing. Should the flame light up in any quarter, how far it may extend it is impossible to foresee.” But he added, “It is our peculiar felicity to be altogether unconnected with the causes which produce this menacing aspect elsewhere. With every power we are in perfect amity.” Readers will find here the important passages from his seventh address to Congress, what became known as the Monroe Doctrine.

Godey’s Lady’s Book

This website is a work in progress. It presents one of the major journals of the 19th century addressed to a female audience, an invaluable document in American women’s history. Materials to date begin with issues in the mid-1850s, although the publication had its debut in 1830. Under the editorial leadership of Sarah Josepha Hale, Godey’s gave its attention to literature for women, fashion and clothes-making, and other subjects. The journal also presented ample and often lush illustrations.

The website reproduces these aspects of the journal for the years 1855-1858. The selection of color plates are superb visual documents of the middle-19th century. One will find the one titled “Costumes for a Bridal Reception,” accompanied by descriptive notes of the various gowns on display in the picture, particularly interesting. Likewise, the full-page illustrations have much appeal, enhancing the literary fiction and travel accounts in the journal issues. Godey’s made itself a guide to fashion and offered instructions in the making of dresses, hats, and “novelties.” Students and teachers interested in the domestic fiction of the 19th-century, the genre that Hawthorne ascribed to “a damned mob of scribbling women,” can access full-text stories and see synopses of others. For example, “The Miller’s Dream; or, the Wedding Bonnet,” by Alice B. Neal, appears here, with the illustration that accompanied the story. The site also offers a chart guiding the visitor to author’s names, titles of their contributions, and citations of the journal numbers and dates. Finally, three Hale editorials address national needs for schools and normal schools to train teachers for them. She also pleas for establishment of a national day of Thanksgiving.

Scribbling Women

This website project will challenge the sophisticated student, but its literary dimensions and theoretical matter should not discourage teachers from making an effort to give such a student an opportunity to work with it. The site derives from the Scribbling Women project of the Public Media Foundation. Its work involved selection of short stories written by American women and reforming them as dramas for radio broadcast on National Public Radio. It began the presentations in 1991. Ten are included here. Of these six come from the 19th century. They are: The Schoolmaster’s Progress, by Caroline Kirkland (1844); Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, by Harriet Jacobs (1861); Life in the Mills, by Rebecca Harding Davis (1861); A Whisper in the Dark, by Louisa May Alcott (1863); Louisa, by Mary E. Wilkins; and The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, (1892).

One can illustrate the pattern of study for all these works with reference to Alcott’s Whisper. The first section presents a “brief synopsis.” “Literary Interpretation” follows and shows how sophisticated the analyses of the stories often becomes. It explains how Alcott combines the Gothic tradition in literature with the domestic novel. (Indeed the phrase “scribbling women” comes from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1855 complaint about the popularity of the sentimental “trash” written by this group of American writers). The brief essay also explores the “indelible bond” between mother and daughter. Alcott used certain obligatory features of the Gothic romance, but made some alterations, too. Thus, we read:

“The feminist theme of patriarchal silencing receives special attention in A Whisper in the Dark through manipulation of both sounds and silence. Alcott connects the strange noises that Sybil hears in the asylum with the nurturing presence of her mother, a comforter brought to the daughter out of her condition of confinement. The mother’s imprisonment and her heroic attempts to communicate with the daughter she has never known suggests threats and possibilities that confront all women.”

The section on Historical and Literary Contexts follows. It describes the appeal of the Gothic genre to middle-class audiences in Great Britain and the United States, its escapism and titillation. But it also observes that the Gothic had a subversive role within the milieu of official Victorian manners and morals.

The next section, Biography, provides a substantial outline of Alcott’s career, from father Bronson Alcott’s immersion in the transcendentalist movement to the various stages of her own evolving literary work. Further Reading follows and then a most useful section on Lesson Plans. Teachers and students will have their studies greatly facilitated by the thoughtful questions posed in this section and by the suggestions made for research. One assignment would ask students to find facts about women’ lives in the period of Alcott’s life–from the 1830s to 1870s. The lesson plans ask very probing questions about the literary works.

Two “Featured Plays” are accessible by Real Audio. The Scribbling Women Multimedia Education Kit has the ten plays recorded on five double-sided disks, purchasable by phone order.

US-Mexican War (1846–48) (2)

Students and teachers interested in the Mexican-American War are well advised to consult these two sites. They are quite different, and the second will be far more satisfactory for educational purposes. The first does provide useful documents abut the war, including the Joint Resolution of Congress, in March 1845, wherein the two chambers “consent” to the creation of the state of Texas. It also offers the text, accessible section by section, of the Treaty of Gaudaloupe-Hidalgo that concluded the war in 1848. It presents an English and a Spanish version of the treaty. Otherwise, the site will inform history students mostly of the military aspects of the war, and this it does effectively. One can “click” on from a map any of the four major theaters of the war–California, Texas, Northern Mexico, and Central Mexico. Some striking pictures appear also, such as Scott’s entrance into Mexico City in September 1847. Under construction, we are informed, is a site about “soldiers and solidaros.” What it presents to this date are some letters from the front, rather fascinating to read.

One of the links in the first site will open up the second. This one derives from a PBS documentary on the war presented in fall 1998. It is a model site for educational purposes. It illuminates facts that the first does not consider, specifically that this war created political controversy at its time and among historians who have tried to assess its causes and its legacy in the century and half since its ending. To be sure, the site could do more in presenting the American opposition to the war, but it strives earnestly to show the war from both the Mexican and American viewpoints. For each of several subjects–””Manifest Destiny,” “The Borderlands,” “A Call to Arms,” and “Aftermath of War”–American and Mexican scholars present short summaries of their views. For example, Robert Johannsen discusses the war within the context of the concurrent Romantic Era in American culture. Jesus Velasco-Márquez presents the Mexican view of the War and its understanding of American ideals. In the last category, nine scholars give thoughtful reflections on the enduring significance of the war.

One can read this site in both English and Spanish.

The Underground Railroad

This project emerged from the Rural Learning Network, which links rural schools, and is the work of Hazel Carrasco and Owen Solberg. Although intended for use in high school history classes, it will eminently suit the purposes of a college American history survey class.

The Introduction to this site explains the operation of the Underground Railroad and, as is the case throughout, features occasional illustrations, for example, a vivid cover illustration from an 1840 issue of the American Anti-Slavery Almanac. This opening section also explains the Fugitive Slave Bill of 1850 which gave urgency to the whole question of escaped slaves and their status in “free” areas of the country. Particularly interesting is the Personal Narrative section that follows. It includes readable and often gripping selections from several individuals, including Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman. Here one can read from Linda Brent’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl one of the many dangerous episodes that marked her travel on the Underground Railroad:

“[Peter] took me in his boat, rowed out to a vessel not far distant, and hoisted me on board¼They said I was to remain on board till near dawn, and then they would hide me in Snaky Swamp¼.About four o’clock, we were again seated in the boat, and rowed three miles to the swamp. My fear of snakes had been increased by the venomous bite I had received, and I dreaded to enter this hiding place. But I was in no situation to choose, and I gratefully accepted the best that my poor, persecuted friends could do for me.” (p.115)

Under construction at present is a section on “Music” of the Underground Railroad, with lyrics to such songs as “Follow the Drinking Gourd.” Visitors will find two maps of the Underground Railroad and will get access to valuable links. These connections, especially the List of Sites, will particularize the general topic of the Underground Railroad. Maps of some eighteen states open up to pictures of the various “stations” along the road and provide ample biographical accounts of the men and women who operated them. Thus, for example, one can visit the home of Owen Lovejoy, brother of the martyred Elijah, in Princeton, Illinois, and read of his efforts to extend his brother’s commitment to the fight against slavery. One can also visit William Lloyd Garrison’s home in Boston and the Levi Coffin House in Wayne County, Indiana, among many other locations.

John C. Calhoun

For much of his life, John C. Calhoun was the major voice of southern politics. It has always been noted about Calhoun that he moved with his region from its nationalist perspectives to its sectionalist mentality. This site offers a brief but useful narrative of Calhoun’s career, from his early life in the South Carolina Upcountry to his subsequent activities with the “War Hawk” party in 1812. Calhoun served as vice-president and secretary of state, and won recognition as one of the “Great Triumvirate” that included Webster and Clay in the U. S. Senate. This site also includes a year-by-year chronology that relates Calhoun’s life to other events in American history.

The site will interest visitors intrigued with the changing South and the redirection there that prepared the way for civil war. It includes several samples from Calhoun’s writings and speeches. We find a young Calhoun much in the model of Jefferson, a nationalist who championed individual rights. (“We have a government founded on the rights of man; resting not on authority, not on prejudice, not on superstition, but reason.”) However, by the end of the 1820s, Calhoun was vigorously defending states’ rights, as the sample from his nullification speech here shows. And Calhoun had fewer problems than Jefferson with the contradictions of natural rights and slavery. He wrote of that subject:

“I hold that in the present state of civilization, where two races of different origin, and distinguished by color, and other physical differences, as well as intellectual, are brought together, the relation now existing in the slave-holding States between the two, is, instead of an evil, a good–a positive good….There has never yet existed a wealthy and civilized society in which one portion of the community did not, in the point of fact, live on the labor of the other….I fearlessly assert that the existing relation between the two races in the South, against which these blind fanatics are waging war, forms the most solid and durable foundation on which to rear free and stable political institutions.”

Fortunately, this site also accesses the full text of Calhoun’s Disquisition on Government, one of the most formidable pieces of political theorizing in 19th-century America.

Levi Jordan Plantation

Here is a website that will involve students in a possibly interesting new departure. It focuses exclusively on one place, the Levi Jordan Plantation in Brazonia, Texas, built in 1848. Kenneth Brown, archeologist of the plantation and associate professor of archaeology at the University of Houston, was principle builder of the site.

One link leads to another in this chronicle, but when one has traversed them all, one has the sense and feel of a substantial history. Brown and his colleagues want students to know about archaeology and its uses for studying the past. They introduce us to methods of identification and verification. Artifacts of the Jordan Plantation find listing s under several classifications, another part of the archaeologist’s work. We find numerous items placed under such headings as building, farming, glass, tools, ceramics, munitions. The human history here is extensive and chronicled in remarkable detail. Students will find this site a close-up look at slavery. A map identifies different buildings in the slave quarters and uses them as points of departure for discussions of slave life and culture. The conjurer/midwives’ cabin, for example, analysis symbols of African origin. This subject links to pages from Robert Farris Thompson’s book, Flash of the Spirit. Discussion of the Praise House/Church explains aspects of African-American religion and also traces the history of the local Grace Methodist Church back to the religious life of this plantation.

Plantation records abound. Especially interesting are the genealogies of slave families. One can follow the generations that move from Samuel and Ina Mack (born in Africa ca. 1797 and 1813) to Julia, a contemporary resident of Brazonia. A Photo Gallery offers pictures of the black and white residents of the Jordan Plantation back to the 19th century.

Afro-American Almanac

This site features major documents in African-American history. It has many items useful and necessary for students working in the 19th century.

The section most in need of improvement is the first, titled “Biographies.” It lists thirteen males, twelve females, and two groups. It has well-known individuals such as Frederick Douglass and Martin Delaney and commercial icons such as the woman known as “Aunt Jemima.” The section seems most deficient in religion and cultural life and omits important black intellectuals. Each principal receives a brief but informative career summary.

The two most valuable sections follow. One, “Afro Books,” has major documents that the visitor can print. They include Charles W. Chessnut’s March of Progress, Frederick Douglass’s Narrative… and his Reconstruction, Booker T. Washington’s The Case of the Negro, and W. E. B. DuBois’s The Souls of Black Folk. Here and elsewhere the site includes items from whites that mark the course of black history in America. Thus a reader can access and print all of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The other section, “Historical Documents,” makes available the texts of major Congressional legislation, such as the Civil Rights Acts of 1866 and 1964. It also offers the Dred Scott decision of 1857, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, and his First and Second Inaugural Addresses. One can also read the “Principles of the Ku Klux Klan.”

“Historical Events” narrates the circumstances that produced landmarks in the American politics of race and slavery, including the creation of the American Colonization Society, the enactment of the Missouri Compromise, and the History of the Republican Party. One will also find an account of the Tulsa, Oklahoma race riot of 1921. “Folk Tales” offers an exciting cultural dimension to the site. Visitors can read and print such items as “The Tortoise and the Eagle,” “The Story of Little Black Sambo,” “The Weasel’s Mother,” and “Why There is Day and Night.”

“Afro Links” opens to many sites dealing with African-American life. Much of it supplies contemporary references to organizations, but history students will find “Black Scientists, Inventors, and Engineers” a useful reference. The ten “Trivia Games” are informative and fun to take.

Finally, “Afro Voices” presents speeches by African-Americans and the words of certain white individuals. Here one will find Frederick Douglass’s “Appeal on Suffrage,” but also the first American protest against slavery (by the Mennonites), Thomas Jefferson’s thoughts on slavery, and John Quincy Adams’ appearance before the United States Supreme Court in re Appellants v. Cinque et. al.

The Dred Scott Decision (1857)

Many consider the Dred Scott decision the most infamous rendering of the United States Supreme Court. Chief Justice Roger Taney may have expected to put the race question to political rest by ruling so comprehensively in the case, but, of course, nothing but controversy followed. Visitors to this site will have the legal aspects of the case presented in full, including rulings coming up from Missouri. Conveniently, one can access each of the nine Supreme Court justices’ opinions individually and have their full texts on display or available for printing. Some of the material repeats other categories and some of the listed subjects were not in operation.

One feature of the site has considerable interest and offers useful opportunities for the classroom discussions and debates. “Secessionist Editorials,” a larger website project of that name, offers newspaper editorials that reacted to the Scott decision in 1857. They range from Albany in the North to Midgeville, Georgia in the South. Altogether, the opinions show how politically charged was this decision. Thus, the Albany paper wrote:

“It is no novelty to find the Supreme Court following the lead of the Slavery Extension party, to which most of its members belong. Five of the Judges are slave holders, and two of the other four owe their appointments to their facile ingenuity in making State laws bend to Federal demands in behalf of “the Southern institution.”

And the Midgeville editorialists wrote:

“The leaders of the Black Republican Party are denouncing the decision of the very Tribunal to which they had appealed, and are endeavoring to excite among the people of the North a bitter hostility to it.

Civil War Biographies


This material exists within the larger complex of the Home of the Civil War site and deserves special attention of its own. The biographical list consists of nearly one hundred individuals whose work made them prominent in the American Civil War. One will find descriptive accounts of familiar names from the military history of the war: Hooker, McClellan, MacDowell, Meade, Lee, Pope, Rosecrans, and many others. These reviews often provide very human portraits that make the battle scenes of the war an arena of soldiery combat and personalities, too. Those consulting the link to the extended biography of Thomas “Stonewall Jackson,” for example, will read that Jackson was in all habits strictly moral, but had given no particular attention to the duties enjoined by the church. Convinced now that this neglect was wrong, he began to study the Bible and joined the Presbyterian church in 1851. “His remarkable devoutness of habit and unwavering confidence in the truth of his faith contributed, it is conceded, very greatly to the full development of his singular character, as well as to his marvelous success.”

Three women appear in the biographical list–Clara Barton, Dorothea Dix, and Elizabeth Van Lew. The third here, less well-known than the other two, offers an intriguing account of Civil War espionage activities. Born into a prominent Richmond family, Van Lew received an education in Philadelphia and there acquired strong abolitionist views. She resolved to return to the South and purge it of slavery’s evil. We have brief accounts of her work, the ruses she devised to aid the Union Army, and her access into the home of Jefferson Davis.

Students can use the biographical lists to gain additional information about their chosen subjects and about the Civil War itself. The links in the Jackson biography, for example, yield the General’s personal report of his command from September 5 to September 27, 1862, including his reports of the Battle of Antietam. At the same time, links provide the military reports of the same encounter provided by James Longstreet for the Union forces.

Civil War enthusiasts will appreciate the excellent individual portraits that accompany these biographies, which they can download for their own monitor “wallpaper.”

The Memoirs, Diary, and Llife of Private Jefferson Moses, Company G, 93rd Illinois Volunteers

Most students learn of the Civil War by studying the politics that led up to it and continued through the conflict, and by studying the major battles of the sectional conflict. This site will give another view of the war–the first hand accounts of an ordinary soldier. Jefferson Moses joined Company G of the 93rd Illinois Volunteers in 1862. From the time of his enlistment he kept a journal and later wrote memoirs of his experience. His unit saw some fighting, but students will learn from his accounts that soldiering in the Civil War meant mostly a life of daily routine and considerable boredom. Moses moved with his compatriots to several sites over a three-year period. His stays included time passed at Vicksburg, Memphis, Nashville, Savannah, Columbus, Mississippi, and northern Alabama.

Jefferson Moses was born in 1843 to a family of German farmers in Somerset County in Pennsylvania. They moved to Illinois in 1856. At the outbreak of the war he had no inclination to enlist. But his friends did and some died. Seeing their bodies returned to his home town raised a higher patriotism in him and he resolved to join the fighting, if his father gave his consent. When the reluctant approval came, it set the stage for one of the very human moments in the Moses chronicles. He recalled: “My dear mother stood beside me with her hands to her face crying to most break my heart. Oh the sad moment. I got my breakfast. Went to Cedarville. Put my name on the list. Was then sworn in the army to serve three years as during the war. I was now a United States soldier and was redy to go any time.”

Intensive Civil War buffs can relate the incidents of Moses’ Civil Ware experiences to other details of the war through the links offered in this site. “Illinois in the Civil War” has exhaustive details and “History of the 93rd” offers more information.

Women in the Civil War

This subject represents one category in the multifaceted Civil War project of Dakota State University. The most valuable offerings in the women section can be found in the original materials that document the experience of American women–northern and southern–in the Civil War years. The site accesses the Duke University Special Collections and its extensive holdings. Valuable items can be printed directly, such as Mrs. Tillie (Pierce) Alleman’s “At Gettysburg, or What a Girl Saw and Heard of the Battle,” a compelling first-hand account. The site will also take a visitor to individual collections, such as the papers of Rose O’Neal Greenhow. She became a prominent socialite in Montgomery County, Maryland and a “passionate secessionist.” This archive contains her Civil War correspondence and her efforts on behalf of the Confederacy. She writes on June 19, 1863: “I saw the President [Lincoln] this morning and he affords me every facility in carrying out my mischief.”

Readers can also e-mail access the Annual Conference on Women and the Civil War and receive news and announcements of the events.

“Remember the Ladies” is a valuable category of this site. It lists Spies, Soldiers, Nurses and the United States Sanitary Commission, Writers, Lawyers, and Publishers. There are links to other women, books about women and the Civil War, and diaries, letters, and reminiscences from such women as Carrie Berry, Catherine Hunsecker, Sallie Seeper Scott, and others. Varina Davis, wife of the Confederate President Jefferson Davis, gives an account of Christmas at home during the war. She reports:

“On Christmas morning the children awoke early and came in to see their toys. They were followed by the negro women, who one after another ‘caught’ us by wishing us a merry Christmas before we could say it to them, which gave them a right to a gift. Of course, there was a present for every one, small though it might be, and one who had been born and brought up at our plantation was vocal in her admiration of a gay handkerchief. As she left the room she ejaculated: ‘Lord knows mistress knows our insides; she jest got the very thing I wanted.'”

A photograph section further documents the Civil War experience of American women.

Making of America

The Making of America is a major project underway, but already substantial and highly useful. Support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation made possible this digital library of primary forces. It focuses heavily on the middle 19th century–the antebellum period through Reconstruction. It has particular strengths in history, sociology, religion, science and technology. As described, the collection has some 1,600 books, and 50,000 journal articles. They are fully accessible and offer page-by-page reproductions so that citation of the original material is possible. One must call up pages individually, which can make the process a bit laborious, although one can proceed through texts by clicking “next page” or “previous page.”

One can best explain this site by using an example. I proposed to investigate the subject of female suffrage. Word entry of this couplet informed me of 237 matches in 22 different books. I decided to bring up the “Debate and proceedings of the Constitutional convention of the state of Illinois,” (Volume II), which took place as legislators debated a new constitution in 1869. A list informed me that “female suffrage” appeared 84 times on 46 of the 956 pages of this document. I clicked on page 1034 and joined a heated debate on the issue whether women should have the right to vote on tax matters that affected their economic interests. I then turned to the list of journal sources to learn that “female suffrage” had 63 page references in 44 journals. I accessed the Ladies Repository, a publication of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and turned to the “Editor’s Study” for volume 28 in 1867. Here we find the editor citing the unhappy situation of women in the United States, but he concludes: “Quite possibly some things might be made proper by feminine participation and influence. And yet it would be a complete revolution of society; it would completely change the status of woman, and by consequence, that of man also. Woman may possibly assert her right to be a man, but hardly, we think, to be a man and a woman too.”

Teachers in a survey class may not be assigning research projects, but they might consider the possibility of arranging discussions or debates on such subjects as female suffrage by having students go to the many contemporary reactions to the topic that this site will yield.

Abraham Lincoln

The most studied of all presidents receives, as one might expect, a formidable appearance on line. This site has a popular quality about it and yields to some of the commercialism that has marked the presence of Lincoln in American memory. The site producers recognize this fact and have made additions to the site that are addressed more specifically to Lincoln as an educational subject. There are links to Lincoln journals and books about Lincoln. Nonetheless, one would like to have a more scholarly Lincoln subject.

Two categories here provide much information about the Lincoln assassination. There are descriptions of the assassination theories that grew in the aftermath of the event. There is also plentiful information about John Wilkes Booth, including his acting career and his harsh racial views. Planning and execution of the murder, and the aborted attempt on Secretary of State William Seward, also have coverage. Another category has “Frequently Asked Questions About Lincoln” and supplies answers. For example: “Did Lincoln Own Slaves.” Answer: “No.”

For the key documentation that marks Lincoln’s career in politics the site is most valuable. One will find in “Speeches and Addresses” the full texts of the House Divided Speech, the Lincoln-Douglas Debates (through a link to the Claremont Institute Website), the Cooper Union Address, the First Inaugural, the Gettysburg Address, and the magnificent Second Inaugural. This listing also has some key letters of Lincoln, including the famous one to Horace Greeley in August 1863; here Lincoln restates the supremacy of the union over slavery as the objective of the Union Army. The list of items under “Writings” includes full texts of the Emancipation Proclamation and the Proclamation of a Fast Day in 1863, as well as other valuable pieces. The links available on this site open up Lincoln’s life to the many diverse interests of Lincoln followers.

Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project

This sprawling website is rich in materials for the Illinois years of the 16th president and for a host of subjects related to Lincoln. The site first has two sections. The first, Historical Themes, opens up several subjects relevant to Illinois in Lincoln’s time and to Lincoln’s own experiences.. The Black Hawk War, for example, has excellent coverage in its own right. One can access all of the 1882 publication of the Autobiography of Ma-Ka-Tai-Me-She-Kia-Kiak, or Black Hawk, Embracing the Traditions of his Nation, Various Wars In Which He Has Been Engaged, and His Account of the Cause and General History of the Black Hawk War of 1832, His Surrender, and Travels Through the United States. Also Life, Death and Burial of the Old Chief, Together with a History of the Black Hawk War . The work offers three superb artistic portraits of the subject. Also in historical themes one will find essays, documents, and illustrative material on the African-American experience, law and society, frontier society, religion and culture, politics, and women and gender roles.

The second section presents Lincoln’s Biography. A chronological arrangement takes us from Boyhood and Migration, 1809-1830 to Indian Fighting and Politics in New Salem, 1831-1836, and then through the familiar course of Lincoln and Whig politics, his legal practice, the Kansas-Nebraska controversy (with full reproduction of Stephen Douglas’s legislation), the Lincoln-Douglas debates (full texts also), and “The Campaign of the Century, 1859-1861.”

This website has excellent instructional possibilities. Above all it provides a rich context for Lincoln’s career, from its wealth of primary documents to its useful directions for additional study in secondary sources.

The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson

The impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton at the end of 1998 and in early 1999 returned attention to the same proceedings against President Andrew Johnson in the 1860s. Harper’s magazine produced this outstanding website using all of its materials from the publication of that name, one of the most influential in the 19th century. This site, in fact, covers the entirety of Reconstruction, not only the impeachment.

Visitors should begin with the “Introduction” and open up to the 27 political cartoons reproduced here from the years 1865 to 1869. Most of them come from the masterly artistry and satirical acumen of Thomas Nast. They provide in themselves a review of the Reconstruction events and they deserve close scrutiny. We are taken back to an era when the American reading public knew Roman history and Shakespearean plots and characters, as these ingredients supply the subtlety of Nast’s insights on 1860s politics. Of course, illustrations made Harper’s what it was and the historical treasure its issues have become today. This site has them in abundance. It includes the familiar depiction of Lincoln’s assassination, but also Johnson’s tailor shop in Tennessee (which Harper editorialists made an object of ridicule), a scene of “Johnson Pardoning the Rebels,” several scenes of the Senate debates, including Thaddeus Stevens’ closing plea, “The Ladies Gallery” (fashionable Washingtonians watching the Senate proceedings), and many others.

A gallery of political portraits appears here also: Johnson, Stevens, Benjamin Curtis, Benjamin Butler, Salmon P. Chase, Wendell Phillips, Edward Stanton, William Seward, Alexander Stephens, Charles Sumner, and others. Useful biographical sketches accompany the portraits. One can follow the events of Reconstruction though the “News Articles” category. It contains reports as well as documents, such as Johnson’s Amnesty Proclamation of 1865 and the Final Report of the Reconstruction Committee. Harper’s was no disinterested observer of Reconstruction Politics. Ninety editorials reproduced here make that fact clear.

Finally, for the use of teachers and students, the site offers an “Impeachment Simulation Game.” It sets out a procedure for a re-enactment of the trial and demands of participants a sophisticated grasp of the issues. Guidelines for a student essay accompany the simulation game. An singular and excellent website.

Grover Cleveland

A three-part biography introduces this website about the only president to serve two unconsecutive terms of office. The first describes the early life of this son, one of nine children, in a Presbyterian minister’s family. It takes Cleveland’s life to the year of his departure for the west and his settlement in Cleveland in 1855. Grover served his uncle as bookkeeper for his cattle business. Back in New York, Cleveland entered and rose rapidly in city and state politics. He became the first Democratic President since James Buchanan. The biographical sections give interesting anecdotal accounts of his early life and summarize the political career of Cleveland. They lack interpretive viewpoints and do not incorporate the important scholarship on Cleveland and the Democratic party that he represented. But a survey course teacher can direct students to a useful engagement with this site. It includes Cleveland’s two inaugural addresses, and they are highly thematic statements. Cleveland’s first repeatedly sites the toll of partisan and factional politics, for the Gilded Age was notorious. It appeals to a higher national good will. Both messages remind us that the Democratic party was in many ways the “conservative” party of this era, especially in its view of government. Cleveland thus urged: “It is the duty of those serving the people in public place to closely limit public expenditures to the actual needs of the Government economically administered, because this bounds the right of the Government to exact tribute from the earnings of labor or the property of the citizen, and because public extravagance begets extravagance among the people. We should never be ashamed of the simplicity and prudential economies which are best suited to the operation of a republican form of government and most compatible with the mission of the American people.”

In the second inaugural Cleveland denounced narrow interests that besiege the government for special favors. Invoking the laissez-faire ideology that the Democratic party inherited from the Jackson era of its history, Cleveland denounced pleas for high tariffs: It perverts the patriotic sentiments of our countrymen and tempts them to pitiful calculation of the sordid gain to be derived from their Government’s maintenance. It undermines the self-reliance of our people and substitutes in its place dependence upon governmental favoritism. It stifles the spirit of true Americanism and stupefies every ennobling trait of American citizenship.” In related matters, Cleveland promised to bring the Indians within the folds and civilizing effects of American life and he promised diligence in repressing polygamy among the Mormons of the West.

A short but incomplete biography accompanies this website and a time line cites events of the era. The site was prepared by sixteen-year-old Josh Smith.

Documenting the American South: A Digitized Library of Southern Literature

This title represents one of three projects in this effort to create a website preserving southern literary culture, from its beginnings to 1920. The texts in this category come mainly from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill library system and were selected by the solicited recommendations of fifty different scholars.. One hundred entrees are thus accessible through this site. Interested readers can learn about the technical nature of this production through accounts describing the production process.

Some of the major items from the 19th century include:

  • Joseph Baldwin, The Flush Times of Alabama and Mississippi. (1854)
  • James Branch Cabell, Old Creole Days. (1883 )
  • Kate Chopin, The Awakening. (1899 ), and Bayou Folk. (1894)
  • George Fitzhugh, Cannibals All! or, Slaves Without Masters. (1857), and Sociology or the South: or, The Failure of Free Society. (1857)
  • Joel Chandler Harris, Free Joe, and Other Georgian Sketches. (1887)
  • John Pendleton Kennedy, Rob of the Bowl. A Legend of St. Inigoe’s. (1872)
  • Thomas Nelson Page, In Ole Virginia, or Marse Chan and Other Stories. (1895)
  • Poe, Edgar Allan, Tales. (1845)
  • William Gilmore Simms, The Yemassee. A Romance of Carolina. (1844)

Teachers using this site could introduce students not only to literarature evoking the life of the South but also, while discussing with them the question of slavery, to Fitzhugh’s works in defense of the slave systems. They constitute some of the major apologetic literature of the antebellum are. Fitzhugh’s writings stand out in this literature because they make a sustained critique against northern, or free society, and the ravagings of the industrial economy then becoming prevalent in that part of the United States. Fitzhugh thus begins Sociology for the South by writing: “From some peculiarity of taste, we have for many years been watching closely the perturbed workings of free society. Its crimes, its revolutions, its sufferings and its beggary, have led us to investigate its past history, as well as to speculate on its future destiny. This pamphlet has been hastily written, but is the result of long observation, some research and much reflection.”

Documenting the American South: First-Person Narratives of the American South

This site, the second part of the American South project, offers an abundance of primary sources, most of them from the 19th century. The “first-person” category includes diaries and journals, autobiographies, and reminiscences . One hundred texts selected by fifty scholars fill the collection. They range widely. For example, many document the life of Southern women. (1908); Myrta Lockett Avery, A Virginia Girl in the Civil War, 1861-1865 (1903); Caroline Elizabeth Thomas Merrick, Old Times in Dixie Land: a Southern Matron’s Memoirs (1901), and, this intriguing title–The Southern Husband Outwitted by His Union Wife, by Kate Plake (1868), plus many more. Plantation life supplies another category that includes: David Brown, The Planter: Or, Thirteen Years in the South (1853); John George Clinkscales, On the Old Plantation: Reminiscences of His Childhood (1916); and Robert Q. Mallard, Plantation Life Before Emancipation (1892). Many items recall the Civil War experience: Cora Mitchell, Reminiscences of the Civil War (1916); George Edward Pickett, The Heart of a Soldier as Revealed in the Intimate Letters (1913); and Lot. D. Young, Reminiscences of a Soldier of the Orphan Brigade (1918), and several others. Another large group consists of slave memoirs: William B. Pickens, The Heir of Slaves: An Autobiography (1911); Rev. William H. Robinson, From Log Cabin to the Pulpit: or, Fifteen Years in Slavery (1913); and Belle Kearney, A Slaveholder’s Daughter (c1900).

Instructors can readily devise useful exercises from these documents. They could have students read three of four selected pieces written by women, for example, and compare on the problems and challenges of Plantation life. Slavery, of course, yields a reoccurring theme and students will find that these writers did not shy from it. Many wrote about it sensitive to abolitionist and other criticisms of the institution. In Nancy de Suassure’s book Old Plantation Days (1909) , a volume addressed to her descendants, we find this comment: ” I will proceed to answer your inquiries. You know I am Southern born and raised. I am a Georgian, and although never a slaveholder I was nursed by a negro woman to whom I was most fondly attached, and who, I believe, loved me as she would her own son. I have had the opportunity to mingle freely with slaveholders of different characters and dispositions, and while I regard slavery as such an enormous evil and am heartily glad that it has been abolished in this country, I am bound in candor to say that my observation, during all these years of my residence in Georgia and South.” Carolina, thoroughly convinced me that in the majority of cases slaves were more kindly treated and brought into more intimate and kindly relations to white families than they are now.”

Documenting the American South: North American Slave Narratives, Beginnings to 1920

This title constitutes the third part of the American South project and it offers access to full texts of twenty-four electronic sources, all documenting the first-hand experiences of American slaves. Included in the list of titles are some that have become classics: Frederick Douglass’s Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, Written by Himself (1881) and Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845); Nat Turner’s The Confessions of Nat Turner (1831); and Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery: An Autobiography. Other narratives include Charles Bell, Fifty Years in Chains: or, the Life of an American Slaves (1859), John Andrew Jackson, The Experience of a Slave in South Carolina (1862), and Sarah H. Bradford, Harriet, the Moses of Her People (1886). Teachers should be readily able to direct students to aspects f slave life and Southern living by following these texts. For example, Austin’s Steward’s narrative Twenty-Two Years a Slave and Forty Years a Free Man… (1857) has thirty-seven chapter titles; they include “Slave Life on the Plantation,” “At the Great House,” “Horse Race and Its Consequence,” “Hired Out to a New Master,” “Condition of the Free Colored People,” “Desperation of a Fugitive Slave,” “Escape from My Enemies.”

Students will enhance their understanding of the texts here by first consulting the “Introduction” to the slave narrative provided by the project directors. They provide a historical overview of American slave development, with statistical references. They sketch the pattern of race relations and the plight of the former slaves in the aftermath of slavery, and much of the personal accounts describe the life of ex-slaves. The narratives have more than contemporary interest. Many of them had wide readerships and entered the political turmoil of the antebellum era as they were circulated by abolitionists. The narratives compelled southern apologists into their own literary defenses. John Pendleton Kennedy offered his novel Swallow Barn (1832) as antidote to Nat Turner’s Confessions. This genre of southern literature depicted a normative life of “moonlight and magnolias” and cast slavery in a benevolent light.

Women in Politics

This url references one of three sections of the “Women in Politics” website and the review that follows describes only the section on “History.” In itself, the section has a modest amount of information, but it acquires its high instructional use because it links to other sites that richly supplement the immediate subject. For the 19th century two topics are relevant.

The temperance movement begins with a brief history that describes the wide extent of alcohol consumption in America before 1840 or so. The attending problems had a particular impact on women, many of whom were, quite frankly, “married to drunks.” The historical narrative of the temperance movement leads one to other topics directly related to this one. Thus we have a rich contextual setting for the subject. One link connects the temperance movement to the cause of women’s suffrage. It offers sections on Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the Seneca Falls Convention (with the full text of the 1848 “Declaration of Sentiments” available). The Women’s Christian Temperance Union continues the story. The narrative here shows the critical link made by Frances Willard between the WCTU and the suffrage movement and it details the opposition she encountered in her efforts to make it. President Ann Turner Wittenmeyer, for example, opposed her. She is one of several biographical sketches that this site offers.

Another 19th century topic deals with women and the Civil War. Many American females helped the Union cause through their activities with the United States Sanitary Commission, which receives a brief history. Dorothy Dix, of course, became one of the best known of the Civil War nurses. Her biography here describes some of the controversies in which she became involved. For the Confederacy, Kate Cummings played an active role. Her biographical sketch here says: “From 1863 to the end of the war, Kate worked in the caravan of mobile field hospitals set up throughout Georgia to handle the effects of Sherman’s devastation.” The locations included Kingston, Cherokee Springs, Catoosa Springs, Tunnel Hill, Marietta, and Newnan. Cummings’ work as a nurse was nothing extraordinary, but the detailed journal she kept during the War is invaluable. After she lived in Mobile and published A Journal of Hospital Life in the Confederate Army the War. Students will also find it interesting that American women worked as spies. This section describes the adventures of Belle Boyd and her espionage for the Union.

Lieber-Meister Louis Sullivan: The Architect and His Work (2)

Louis Sullivan achieved a breakthrough in original American architecture and remains a monumental figure of the Gilded Age. This site will afford students an excellent introduction to his life and work and expand their interest in the 19th century American city. The brief narrative of Sullivan’s life that opens the first site has several links that immediately expand the subject. Students will glimpse Chicago in the years before the 1871 fire through fine illustrations of city landmarks, including the Water Tower on the north side, built in 1867. Vistas of the city also enhance this visual introduction. The Chicago fire, which set the stage for Sullivan’s career, also has a graphic presentation here. The site offers pictures of the conflagration, along with a narrative, and photographic views of the devastation it brought.

The essay on Sullivan’s career also links to the buildings that made him famous–the Chicago Auditorium, the Wainwright Building in St. Louis, and the Transportation Building at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. It also includes the later works that Sullivan created when he had fallen from influence in American architecture. The Merchant’s Bank of Grinnell, Iowa is nicely treated here.

The second site listed here is an essay by Pam Selover and may interest advanced students in more technical aspects of architecture. It focuses on the Auditorium and the Schlesinger Meier Department store in Chicago, now Carson, Pririe, Scott.

Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1830-1930

This website seeks to introduce students to a voluminous collection of documents relates to these two subjects. It is the work of graduate and undergraduate students at SUNY-Binghamton, directed by Kathryn Kish Sklar and Thomas, Dublin, and funded by NEH. The site offers a variety of projects, each a subject for students to investigate. Six of the seventeen pertain to the 19th century. They are: The Appeal of Female Moral Reform, 1835-1841; Lucretia Mott’s Reform Networks, 1840-1860; Women and the Freedmen’s African-American Women and the Chicago World’s Fair, 1893 id Movement, 1863-1870; Minnesota Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, 1878-1917.

A glance at the first topic. It announces: “During the 1830s and 1840s, middle-class women in New England and the Middle Atlantic states organized Female Moral Reform societies in order to attack the sexual double standard. The documents in this project, drawn largely from moral reform newspapers published in New York and Boston, examine the appeal and tactics of the movement, arguably the first social movement in the United States to be led by and consist largely of women.” There follows, as for each of the topics, and introduction. This one describes the several aspects of the sexual reform movement of these years, tanging from prostitution to sexual abstinence for young men. A very helpful feature of the introductory narratives are footnote references to relevant scholarship. A Document List will follow in these projects. This one includes such items as First Annual Report of the Female Moral Reform Society of the City of New York, 1835; “Just Treatment of Licentious Men. Addressed to Christian Mothers, Wives, Sisters and Daughters,” Friend of Virtue, January 1838; and “Important Lectures to Females,” Advocate of Moral Reform, 1 March 1839. At the end of the document list will find a links section; this one will direct students to related subjects–John Humphrey Noyes and the Oneida Community, the Grimké sisters, and Sarah Ingraham, who for a time edited the Advocate of Moral Reform.

Andrew Carnegie

We have here an ample depiction of the career and thoughts of one of the 19th century’s legendary businessmen. The site derives from the PBS American Experience presentation of Carnegie’s career and integrates its material with that documentary. However, the site stands by itself and teachers will find many advantages in it. The Special Features section reviews Carnegie’s early life in Scotland and then describes the Pennsylvania to which he later arrived. Carnegie recalled: “Any accurate description of Pittsburgh at that time would be set down as a piece of the grossest exaggeration,” Carnegie wrote, setting aside his usually optimistic tone. “The smoke permeated and penetrated everything…. If you washed your face and hands they were as dirty as ever in an hour. The soot gathered in the hair and irritated the skin, and for a time … life was more or less miserable.”

A Timeline allows the viewer to scroll horizontally, year by year, to see what parts of Carnegie’s career coincided with other events in American history. A Gallery then adds an impressive visual dimension to this subject, focusing on the “Millionaire’s Row,” the famous Fifth Avenue, New York City location of the “chateaux” homes of America’s wealthiest families. We are reminded of the splendors and excesses of the Gilded Age. Then A People and Events section introduces Carnegie himself, his mother (an intriguing personal portrait here) and Herbert Spencer. Of all the great businessmen of the late 19th century, has interest because of his pronounced social views. Carnegie claimed an influence from Herbert Spencer, the British philosopher who celebrated laissez-faire competitiveness as the vehicle of social progress. The brief essay makes a useful point about Carnegie and Spencer: “Yet Carnegie did not follow all of Spencer’s teachings, especially Spencer’s call for unfettered laissez faire capitalism. Carnegie argued, for example, that if workers were to have an eight-hour day, the state would have to regulate it — something that Spencer never would have approved. Carnegie also ignored Spencer’s complete opposition to philanthropy, as the American business tycoon was one of the great philanthropists of his day. Spencer held that the poor were the unfit who would not survive; Carnegie, however, believed that the poor (such as himself) were often the ones who grew up to become ‘the epoch-makers.” A concluding special focus then considers Carnegie and the famous Homestead Strike of 1892.

Teachers will be able to use this site to study the major social controversies of the Gilded Age. A Teacher’s Guide provides thoughtful questions for classroom discussion and essay questions.

The Spanish-American War Centennial Website

This work is in progress and asks for volunteers, but it has already assembled many useful materials for study of the Spanish-American War of 1898. It begins with a chronology opening on April 10, 1895, the date of the Second Cuban revolution for independence from Spain, and finishing on July 4, 1902 when President Roosevelt pronounced the Philippines “Pacified.” A “Background” section by Brad Williford usefully describes the local events that preceded American involvement in the Cuban-Spanish conflict.

Visitors here will find documentary material not included in textbook accounts of the war and much of it is quite interesting. The section on “Action Reports and First-Hand Accounts,” for example, has a 1910 memoir by one of the Rough Riders. Other materials document the experiences of participants. Several crew members of the battleship USS Maine describe the powerful explosion that sunk that vessel and raised war fever in the United States. Others remember the Battle of Manila Bay in which American Admiral George Dewey defeated the Spanish navy and prepared the way for American occupation of the Philippines. We also have here Dewey’s own report of the event and that of the Spanish naval leader Admiral Montojo.

Much of the remaining material will have particular interest to military historians and afficionados. There are ship profiles of both the American and Spanish navy–photographs of the USS Baltimore, the USS Boston, the USS Brooklyn, and others. Extensive, descriptive detail of their histories and service, as well as “technotes” accompany each description. The Spanish ships have similar presentations and include the Isla de Cuba and the Christobal Colon. Also in this interest category one will find weapons profiles, especially the varieties of rifles used by Americans and Spaniards. Another section has unit profiles of the fighting groups, including, for example, the Fourth Pennsylvania Infantry.

Public hysteria and a fervent nationalism propelled American politicians into this war. A very useful section of this website focuses on the role of newspapers. It has substantial narratives of Joseph Pulitzer of the New York World and William Randolph Hearst of the New York Journal. In a helpful way, however, the site takes the matter of journalism and the war beyond these two familiar figures to discuss the journalists who reported from the front and others who testified before Congress.

The Era of William McKinley

This website, one in the collection of the Ohio State University History Department, reviews the political career of President William McKinley, 1897-1901. Visitors will readily see that this site is strong in visual materials and weak in narrative. It has sections on McKinley and Mark Hannah, McKinley as President, McKinley as Ohio politician, and McKinley and the Spanish-American War. Students will probably find most interesting the various political cartoons of the era, directed overwhelmingly against McKinley and holding up for mockery his connection to Mark Hannah and to the money powers in general. This portfolio draws most heavily from the New York City Democratic paper The Verdict. The artistry, creative caricatures, catches the eye. Other, more serious portraits, come from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper and effectively convey that style of late 19th century journalism.

Students will need the careful help of their teachers in maximizing their use of this site. All sections lack narrative background and explanations that would help them understand what aspects of McKinley’s political life are under scrutiny. A subsection on the presidential elections of 1896 and 1900, for example, have circular and bar graphs showing the popular and electoral results of those years. But they offer no analysis–class, region, ethnic patterns of voting. Likewise, the pictorial material on the war with Spain leaves students to find their way unassisted by any accounts of the events leading up to the war or of McKinley’s understanding and reaction of the events of 1898 and afterward. There is no account of his agonizing decision to hold the Philippines and no material on his assassination.

The Digital Classroom: Primary Sources, Activities, and Training for Educators and Students

This cite, prepared by the National Archives and Records Administration, introduces students to the use of primary documents in the study of history. Its opening section, “History in the Raw,” makes a case for the importance of such sources and their centrality for an adequate understanding of the past. They point to the advantages of students reading letters written by farmers to President Roosevelt during the Great Depression or the enduring impression made by eyewitnesses to the Battle of the Little Big Horn. They add: “Through primary sources students confront two essential facts in studying history. First, the record of historic events reflects the personal, social, political, or economic points of view of the participants. Second, students bring to the sources of their own biases, created by their own personal situations and the social environments in which they live. As students use these sources, they realize that history exists through interpretation–and tentative interpretation at that.”

The website helps teachers prepare students to use documents. From the site they can print forms that ask questions about documents and it provides forms for the different types of documents that students may be using. They include written documents, cartoons, posters, maps, artifacts, sound recordings, and motion pictures. For example, the questionnaire on maps asks students questions that classify the type of map in question and then pose other questions: Why do you think this map was drawn? What evidence in the map suggests why is was drawn? What information does the map add to the textbook’s account of this event? Does the information in this map support or contradict information that you have read about this event? Explain. And, it includes an instruction to write a question to the mapmaker that is left unanswered by this map.

The “Primary Sources and Activities” section contains the workable material for this site. For the 19th century the program offers six topics (the initial subjects in a site intending to expand). They are “Launching the United States Navy,” “The Armistad case,” “Lincoln’s Spot Resolutions,” “Black Soldiers in the Civil War,” “Migration North to Alaska,” and “Glidden’s Patent Application for Barbed Wire.” These sections begin with a narrative explanation that contains highlighted words that bring up the relevant documents. Teachers also have available for them specific questions by which they can lead their classes through a discussion and analysis of the documents.

Finally, teachers should know that this site has an “Online Exhibit Hall” that accesses a great variety of interesting American documents. The section on “American Originals” has the “classic” ones such as George Washington’s Inaugural, the Louisiana Purchase, and many others.