Category Archives: This Week in American History (HistWeek)

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Episode 033 The Ten Commandments in US History: The Making of an American Icon


This week at In The Past Lane, the podcast about history and why it matters, we look at the fascinating history of the Ten Commandments in the U.S. You might think that a history of the Ten Commandments would be situated in Israel, but it turns out that it’s a very American story. In fact, over the last 150 years Americans have found many imaginative ways to embrace, reimagine, and repurpose the Ten Commandments. To learn more about this story, I’ll talk with historian Jenna Weissman Joselit about her book, Set In Stone: America’s Embrace of the Ten Commandments.
Subscribe to ITPL - ERIAmong the many things we’ll discuss:
* The great Ten Commandments Hoax of 1860.
* How Americans came to embrace the Ten Commandments as an icon of religious devotion.
* How the Ten Commandments have served as an emblem of order and stability in times of wrenching social change in US history.
* Why Jewish Americans after World War II promoted the idea of an American Judeo-Christian tradition with the Ten Commandments as its iconic expression.
* How some late-19th century Americans supported a proposal to make knowledge of the Ten Commandments a requirement of US citizenship and a proposal to create a national holiday to honor the Ten Commandments.
* How the famous 1956 Cecil B. DeMille film, “The Ten Commandments,” helped promote the idea of erecting Ten Commandments monuments in the US.
* How Americans have come to use the Ten Commandments as a template for everything from the Ten Commandments of Safe Driving to the Ten Commandments of Healthy Relationships.
* Why monuments of the Ten Commandments have become the focus of so many First Amendment controversies.

ITPL Ep 033 Joselit book coverAbout Jenna Joselit Weissmanwebsite

Further Reading

Jenna Weissman Joselit, Set In Stone: America’s Embrace of the Ten Commandments (Oxford, 2017).

Katherine Orrison, Written in Stone: Making Cecil B. DeMille’s Epic, The Ten Commandments (1999).

Dr. Laura Schlessinger and Stewart Vogel, The Ten Commandments: The Significance of God’s Laws in Everyday Life (1998).

Music for This Episode

Jay Graham, ITPL Intro (JayGMusic.com)

Kevin McCleod, “Impact Moderato” (Free Music Archive)

Lee Rosevere, “Going Home” (Free Music Archive)

David Szesztay, “Joyful Meeting” (Free Music Archive)

The Bell, “I Am History” (Free Music Archive)

Production Credits

Executive Producer: Lulu Spencer

Technical Advisors: Holly Hunt and Jesse Anderson

Podcasting Consultant: Darrell Darnell of Pro Podcast Solutions

Photographer: John Buckingham

Graphic Designer: Maggie Cellucci

Website by: ERI Design

Legal services: Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

Social Media management: The Pony Express

Risk Assessment: Little Big Horn Associates

Growth strategies: 54 40 or Fight

© Snoring Beagle International, 2017

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Episode 025 Who Was Thomas Jefferson?


subscribe-buttonIn this episode, we take a close look at another Founding Father – Thomas Jefferson (Episode 23 focused on Alexander Hamilton). And why not? Jefferson was born in the month of April – April 13th to be precise – and he’s Thomas Jefferson, maybe the most multi-talented of the Founders. He was part businessman, philosopher, writer, naturalist, theologian, statesman, architect, and inventor — among other things. To help us understand Jefferson and why he still matters – despite all the Hamilton mania these days – this episode has two parts:

Gordon-Reed book cover1) First, I provide a brief overview of the life of Thomas Jefferson. In so doing, I’ll raise some of the many key questions about the 3rd President, most especially: how could the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence also own 600 slaves? And have children with one of them (Sally Hemings)?

2) Then, I’ll sit down with award-winning historian Annette Gordon-Reed, co-author of the most recent major book on Jefferson, “Most Blessed of the Patriarchs”: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination. It’s just been released in paperback. It’s a deep and compelling examination of this most important and most enigmatic of Founders.

 About Annette Gordon-Reed website

Further Reading

Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter S. Onuf, “Most Blessed of the Patriarchs”: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination (WW Norton)

Annette Gordon-Reed, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (W.W. Norton, 2009)

Annette Gordon-Reed, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy (University Press of Virginia, 1997)

Peter S. Onuf, The Mind of Thomas Jefferson (University of Virginia Press, 2007)
Music for This Episode

Jay Graham, ITPL Intro (JayGMusic.com)

Kevin McCleod, “Impact Moderato” (Free Music Archive)

Andy Cohen “Trophy Endorphins” (Free Music Archive)

Ason Shaw, “Acoustic Meditation” (Free Music Archive)

The Bell, “I Am History” (Free Music Archive)

Production Credits

Executive Producer: Lulu Spencer

Associate Producer: Devyn McHugh

Technical Advisors: Holly Hunt and Jesse Anderson

Podcasting Consultant: Darrell Darnell of Pro Podcast Solutions

Photographer: John Buckingham

Graphic Designer: Maggie Cellucci

Website by: ERI Design

Legal services: Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

Social Media management: The Pony Express

Risk Assessment: Little Big Horn Associates

Growth strategies: 54 40 or Fight

© Snoring Beagle International, 2017

Eastern State Penitentiary

Episode 021 The History of Mass Incarceration in the US, Part 1


subscribe-buttonHow did it come to pass that in the United States that we imprison more people than any nation in the world? That’s right – the US comprises 5% of the world’s population, but it holds 25% of the world’s prison population. That’s more people in US prisons than Russia, China, Iran — you name it. How did it come to pass that we’ve put 2.3 million of our fellow Americans in prisons?  Well, in this first of a two-part exploration of the origins of mass incarceration, I visit the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, PA. It’s a famous prison built in the 1820s that closed in the 1970s and then later was turned into a museum. I take a tour of this fascinating institution with staff guide Lauren Bennett. I took A LOT of photographs so you’ll want to check them out below. And keep in mind, this is part 1 of a deep dive into the history of prisons and criminal justice in American history. In part 2, I speak with historian Elizabeth Hinton about her book, From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America (Harvard University Press). You won’t want to miss it!

Eastern State - prisons-todayFurther Reading

Scott Christianson, With Liberty for Some: 500 Years of Imprisonment in America (1998)

John DuMond, Under the Wall: The True Story of the 1945 Tunnel Escape from Eastern State Penitentiary (2014)

Norman Bruce Johnston, Eastern State Penitentiary: Crucible of Good Intentions (1994)

Paul Kahan, Eastern State Penitentiary: A History (2008)

Mark E. Kann, Punishment, Prisons, and Patriarchy: Liberty and Power in the Early American Republic (2005)

Rebecca M. McLennan, The Crisis of Imprisonment: Protest, Politics, and the Making of the American Penal State, 1776-1941 (2008)

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The Big Graph showing the explosion of the US prison population since the 1970s, part of the exhibition, “Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration,” at Eastern State Penitentiary, 2016

Eastern State Penitentiary

Website http://www.easternstate.org/

Prisons Today, an exhibition on mass incarceration at the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, PA http://www.easternstate.org/prisons-today

The Big Graph http://www.easternstate.org/visit/regular-season/history-artist-installations/big-graph

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Panel from the exhibition, “Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration,” at Eastern State Penitentiary, 2016

Music for this Episode

Jay Graham, ITPL Intro (courtesy, JayGMusic.com)

Kevin McCleod, “Impact Moderato” (Free Music Archive)

Lee Rosevere, Going Home (Free Music Archive)

Philipp Weigl, Even When We Fall (Free Music Archive)

Jason Shaw, “Acoustic Meditation” (Free Music Archive)

The Bell, “I Am History” (Free Music Archive)

An aerial view of Eastern State Penitentiary, ca. 1954

An aerial view of Eastern State Penitentiary, ca. 1954

View down one of Eastern State Penitentiary's cell blocks, 2016

View down one of Eastern State Penitentiary’s cell blocks, 2016

Production Credits

Executive Producer: Lulu Spencer

Associate Producer, Devyn McHugh

Technical Advisors: Holly Hunt and Jesse Anderson

Podcasting Consultant: Darrell Darnell of Pro Podcast Solutions

Photographer: John Buckingham

Graphic Designer: Maggie Cellucci

Website by: ERI Design

Legal services: Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

Social Media management: The Pony Express

Risk Assessment: Little Big Horn Associates

Growth strategies: 54 40 or Fight

Snoring Beagle International, Ltd

Typical solitary cell at Eastern State Penitentiary, 2016

Typical solitary cell at Eastern State Penitentiary, now a ruin. Note: the skylight was the only source of light for inmates (2016)

 

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The view from the center of the “wagon wheel” – from which all the cell blocks radiate – at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, PA

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View down a cell block at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, PA (2016)

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As the numbers of prisoners grew at Eastern State Penitentiary, prison officials added a second level to several of the cell blocks.

View down one of Eastern State Penitentiary's cell blocks, 2016

View down one of Eastern State Penitentiary’s cell blocks, 2016

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Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, PA (2016)

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Single cell (now a ruin), Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, PA (2016)

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Remains of a medical facility, now a ruin, Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, PA (2016)

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Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, PA (2016)

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Prison yard, Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, PA (2016)

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Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, PA (2016)

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Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, PA (2016)

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Contemporary exhibition at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, PA (2016) – “Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration”

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The Big Graph, showing the explosion of incarceration since 1970. NOTE: The small orange bar is 1970; the tall one is 2010. Contemporary exhibition at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, PA (2016) – “Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration”

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The graph shows how exceptional the US is when it comes to incarceration. Today the US imprisons 730 people per 100,000 of its population. In the European Union the average is about 150/100,000. Contemporary exhibition at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, PA (2016) – “Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration”

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Contemporary exhibition at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, PA (2016) – “Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration”

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Contemporary exhibition at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, PA (2016) – “Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration”

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One of the MANY thought-provoking questions posed at the exhibition at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, PA (2016) – “Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration”

Mercy Street Rewind - MansionHouse_LOC - title card

Mercy Street Rewind with Megan Kate Nelson – We Review Each Episode from Season 2

subscribe-buttonMercy Street Rewind is a special feature of In the Past Lane, the podcast about history and why it matters. Historian Megan Kate Nelson (Senior Civil War Correspondent for ITPL) sits down with Edward T. O’Donnell (Historian-at-Large and host of ITPL) to break down each episode of the PBS historical drama, “Mercy Street.” We offer insightful and often humorous analysis of the show, its characters, and the stories it tells — all from the perspective of historians, with Megan’s sharp cultural critic analysis as an added plus. Spoiler alert: we recommend you watch each episode before listening to our take.
Scroll down to find each episode. [Looking for Season 1 episodes? Click here]

Mercy Street Rewind, Season 2 Extra – a conversation with co-creator David Zabel

Mercy Street Rewind, Season 2, Episode 1: “A Balm in Gilead”

Mercy Street Rewind, Season 2, Episode 2: “The House Guest”

Mercy Street Rewind, Season 2, Episode 3: “One Equal Temper”

Mercy Street Rewind, Season 2, Episode 4: “Southern Mercy”

Mercy Street Rewind, Season 2, Episode 5: “Unknown Soldier”

Mercy Street Rewind, Season 2, Episode 6: “House of Bondage”

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Episode 20 African American Soldiers in the Civil War


In this episode of ITPL, we focus on the experiences of African Americans who joined the Union Army during the Civil War and the profound impact they had on the war’s final outcome — and on American society in the decades that followed. There’s a lot more to this story than what you may have seen in the award-winning film, “Glory” (1989). So here’s the lineup:
1. First, I provide a brief backgrounder on the basic details regarding African Americans and their service in the Union Army and Navy.
2. Second, I sit down with historian Douglas Egerton to talk about his new book, Thunder at the Gates: The Black Civil War Regiments That Redeemed America (Basic Books, 2016).
3. Finally, I present a feature on the Ft. Pillow Massacre, perhaps the grimmest incident in the whole Civil War.
In The Past Lane is a production of Snoring Beagle International, Ltd.

Show notes for this episode

More About Douglas Egertonitpl-020-egerton-book-cover

His faculty page at LeMoyne College

Further Reading and Links

Douglas Egerton, Thunder at the Gates: The Black Civil War Regiments That Redeemed America (Basic Books, 2016)

Martin H. Blatt, ed., et al, Hope & Glory: Essays on the Legacy of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment (2000)

James Henry Gooding, On the Altar of Freedom: A Black Soldier’s Civil War Letters from the Front

James M. McPherson, The Negro’s Civil War: How American Blacks Felt and Acted During the War for the Union

Episode Credits

Music

Jay Graham, ITPL Intro (courtesy, JayGMusic.com)

Kevin McCleod, “Impact Moderato” (Free Music Archive)

Kevin McLeod, Impact Moderato (Free Music Archive)

Andy Cohen, “Bathed in Fine Dust” (Free Music Archive)

Ketsa, “Escape the Profane” (Free Music Archive)

Jason Shaw, “Acoustic Meditation” (Free Music Archive)

Cuicuitte, “Vivan” and “Sultan Cintre” (Free Music Archive)

Dana Boule, “We All Need to Calm Down” (Free Music Archive)

The Bell, “I Am History” (Free Music Archive)

Hyson, “Signals” (Free Music Archive)

The Bell, “I Am History” (Free Music Archive)

Production

Technical Advisors: Holly Hunt and Jesse Anderson

Podcasting Consultant: Darrell Darnell of Pro Podcast Solutions

Photographer: John Buckingham

Graphic Designer: Maggie Cellucci

Website by: ERI Design

Legal services: Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

Social Media management: the Pony Express

Risk Assessment: Little Big Horn associates

Growth strategies: 54 40 or Fight

Snoring Beagle International, Ltd