Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute 

This post is part of the APUSH Gameday series.

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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)    “Knowledge and Thoroughness”

RPI spans nearly two hundred years beginning with its founding in 1824. RPI is the oldest continuously operating technological university in both the English-speaking world and the Americas. The Institute also holds the distinction of being the first to grant a civil engineering degree in the United States, in 1835.  More recently, RPI also offered the first environmental engineering degree in the United States in 1961, and possibly the first ever undergraduate degree in video game design, in 2007.

Curriculum Connections: Mascot, founding (1824) Alumni Theodore JudahGeorge Washington Ferris ,  Washington Roebling 

 

 ‘The Real All Americans’

Reel All Americans

The Real All Americans is Sally Jenkins’ sweeping nonfiction account of two coinciding chapters in American history: Just as the Western frontier was closing, football “jumped up out of the mud” to replace it in the national psyche. Jenkins’ tale takes readers from a real battle in 1866 to a football contest in 1912, pitting the Carlisle Indians against West Point. “Football,” says the veteran sportswriter, “became a substitute for war,” and in its earliest days the game, like the real thing, could be mortally dangerous.

NPR Podcast: Sally Jenkins Discusses ‘The Real All Americans’ (37:43)

 

 

 

Native Americans as Prisoners of War

Background – Aaron Huey’s effort to photograph poverty in America led him to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where the struggle of the native Lakota people — appalling, and largely ignored — compelled him to refocus. Five years of work later, his haunting photos intertwine with a shocking history lesson in this bold, courageous talk.

#1  View Mr. Huey’s  TED Talk ” America’s native prisoners of war”  (15 Minutes)

 #2 From the talk construct a timeline on Native America History and provide a brief summary of each event mentioned

#3 Provide a reaction/reflection to one of the following Aaron Huey quotes:

“[The U.S. government] was tired of treaties. They were tired of sacred hills. They were tired of ghost dances. And they were tired of all the inconveniences of the Sioux. So they brought out their cannons. ‘You want to be an Indian now?’ they said, finger on the trigger.”

“‘Wasichu’ is a Lakota word that means ‘non-Indian,’ but another version of this word means ‘the one who takes the best meat for himself.’” 

More Medals of Honor were given for the indiscriminate slaughter of women and children than for any battle in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan.”  on the Wounded Knee massacre

“The last chapter in any successful genocide is the one in which the oppressor can remove their hands and say, ‘My God, what are these people doing to themselves? They’re killing each other. They’re killing themselves while we watch them die.’ This is how we came to own these United States. This is the legacy of manifest destiny.”

 

Enrichment: Photographing, and Listening to, the Lakota

http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/17/photographing-and-listening-to-the-lakota/

 

 

 

Review: Transportation Innovation

1825 Wedding of the Waters: The Erie Canal and the Making of a Great Nation
Key Player : Gov. DeWitt Clinton  The building of the Erie Canal, like the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Panama Canal, embodies one of the greatest and most riveting stories of American ingenuity

The Pacific Railroad Act of 1862  Key Player: Theodore Judah
” An Act to aid in the construction of a railroad and telegraph line from the Missouri river to the Pacific ocean, and to secure to the government the use of the same for postal, military, and other purposes.”

1914 Building of the Panama Canal  Key Player: Alfred Thayer Mahan
“A continent divided, a world united”  The United States now has a two sea navy. Mahan vision of a stronger navy to protect American interests and commerce comes just in time for the start of World War.

Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956,  Key Player: President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Popularly known as the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act  massive interstate highway building (41, 000 miles) contributes to suburbanization.

 

 

 

 

 

The Railroad Prophet

Judah

The prophet of the transcontinental railroad did not live to see it built. Theodore Judah was known as “Crazy Judah” because of his single-minded passion for driving a railroad through the Sierra Nevada mountains.  His advocacy and enthusiasm for the project in California and in Washington, D.C., made possible America’s first transcontinental route.  Judah constructed the first railroad in California, helped organize the Central Pacific Railroad Co., surveyed routes across the Sierra Nevada, and served as the railroad’s agent in Washington, D.C.

Yet his scouting, surveying, lobbying, and fundraising efforts defined the route and prepared the way for the technology that would unite a nation.

New Technology
Theodore Judah and the American railroad matured together. He was born in 1826 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. In 1830, America had just 23 miles of track, but the railroad businesswas about to explode. As a boy Judah studied civil engineering. By 18 he was a railroad surveyor, giving himself a practical education in technology not even two decades old.

A Practical Plan
Engineers were in high demand in the late 1840s, as tracks spread across the countryside like creeping vines. Judah’s enthusiasm earned him the nickname “Crazy Judah,” but by 1856 he and his men had built the Sacramento Valley Line, the first railroad west of the Missouri River. The following year he published a pamphlet, “A Practical Plan for Building the Pacific Railroad,” reviewing engineering problems and painting visions of a nation united by tracks — and commerce — from coast to coast. Such a railroad had been discussed for decades — but the financing and engineering obstacles were formidable.

Maps and Money
Nominated by California’s 1859 Pacific Railroad Convention, Judah traveled to Washington for a crash course in lobbying. He returned having argued persuasively for transcontinental train travel. But he realized he would have to define a practical route and find private financial backing. By October 1861, he had both: a route over the Donner Pass in the Sierra Nevada, and a group of California businessmen as partners.

Untimely Death
Soon after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Pacific Railroad Act in 1862, tensions mounted between Judah and his business associates. He decided to find new partners in New York — but he got sick during the journey, and died soon after his arrival on the east coast in late 1863. Judah’s partners, known as the Big Four — Collis HuntingtonCharles CrockerMark Hopkins, and Leland Stanford — would reap the rewards of the project Judah set in motion. When it was completed in 1869, the transcontinental railroad made the nation smaller, fostered trade, and improved frontier life.

Working on the Railroad
Stephen E. Ambrose tells the story of the men who linked the East and West coasts.

Stephen Ambrose: Nothing Like It In The World
The Men Who Built The Transcontinental Railroad, 1863-1869

Heroism and the Transcontinental Railroad

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/theymadeamerica/whomade/judah_hi.html

 

Ron Chernow on Ulysses S Grant 

Ron Chernow’s history lesson on Hamilton went to Broadway—now he takes up President Ulysses S. Grant. We’ll talk about presidents past and present.
Listen Now: Ron Chernow on Ulysses S Grant  (47:27)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Letter from Jourdan Anderson

Many of you have probably used the remarkable letter of a former slave by the name of Jourdan Anderson sent a letter to his former master. The roughly 800-word letter, which was a crafty response to a missive from Colonel P.H. Anderson, Jourdan’s former master back in Big Spring, Tennessee. Apparently, Col. Anderson had written Jourdan asking him to come on back to the big house to work.  I created the timeline below from internet resources to set the historical context for my students.

Life in Tennessee 1823 to 1864

1823 General Paulding Anderson’s son Patrick Henry Anderson is born in  Big Spring, TN (Wilson County)

1825 – Jourdan Anderson is born in December, some place in Tennessee.

1833 – Jourdan Anderson (age 8)  becomes the slave of General Paulding Anderson  and is given to his son Patrick Henry Anderson (age 10)  as as playmate and personal servant

1844 – Patrick Henry Anderson (age 21) married Mary A. McGregor. She brought with her at least two servants, Amanda McGregor (age 15) and her mother, Priscilla McGregor (age 43). Patrick took several of his father’s slaves to his new home, including Jourdon.

1848 – Jourdan (age 23)  married Amanda McGregor (age 19), Over 52 years of marriage theuy will have 11 children. The children born in Tennessee “seem” to have been Matilda, Catherine, Mildred (known as Milly) circa 1848, Jane circa 1851 and Felix Grundy, born on March 14, 1859. I use the word “seem” because there are no concrete records that prove Matilda and Catherine were Jourdon and Amanda’s children.

There was a Felix Grundy who served as a US Senator from Anderson’s home state of Tennessee in the 1830s who has a Tennessee county named after him

 1860 – According to the 1860 census and slave schedules, Patrick Henry Anderson (age 37) has five ‘slave houses’ on his plantation totaling 32 people (19 males and 13 females) Before the start of the Civil War. P.H. Anderson had a personal estate valued at $92,000 (2.867 million in 2018 dollars)

1861 – April 12th  Confederate artillery fired on the Union garrison at Fort Sumter marking the start of the Civil War ; June 8th Tennessee became the last state to secede from the Union. When the Civil War began in 1861, Jordan’s life changed very little and he still continued to dutifully work the plantation for his master with his wife.

1864 – Union Soldiers happened upon the Anderson plantation.  Upon encountering Jordan, the soldiers granted him, his wife and children their freedom, making the act official with papers from the Provost Marshal General of Nashville

Upon being granted his freedom, Jordan immediately left the plantation which angered P.H. Anderson’s son Henry (age 18) to such an extent that he shot at Jordan as he was leaving, only ceasing to fire when a neighbor, George Carter,  grabbed Henry’s pistol from him. Reportedly, Henry vowed to kill Jordan if he ever set foot on his property again.

Jordan and Mandy worked for a time  at the Cumberland Military Hospital in Nashville under the surgeon in charge  Dr. Clarke McDermont.  Jordan and Mandy, with the help of Dr. Clarke McDermont, relocated to Dayton, Ohio in August of 1864

Life in Dayton, Ohio 1865 to 1905

1865 – Following his departure from the plantation, Jordan worked briefly in a Nashville field hospital, becoming close friends with a surgeon called Dr Clarke McDermont. When the Civil War ended in 1865, McDermont helped Jordan and his family move to Dayton, Ohio and put him in contact with his father-in-law, Valentine Winters, an abolitionist who helped him secure work in the town.

For the most part, Jordan’s life in Dayton was uneventful, with his time spent working with a stoic sense of quiet dignity, supporting his family and making sure his many children received a good education, something the illiterate Jordan was never given the opportunity to have. (In fact, it was noted that while still a slave, when an unspecified white girl tried to teach one of his children to read, the girl was beaten for it and forced to stop.)

The Letter

As it turns out, following the Civil War, the Anderson Plantation had fallen into complete disrepair, as is wont to happen when your entire workforce leaves pretty much all at once.

Deeply in debt, in a desperate attempt to save himself from total financial ruin, Henry reached out to the only man he knew who not only had the skills needed for the harvest, but also potentially the clout to convince some of the other slaves to return for paid work- Jordan Anderson. The letter also promised that Jordan would be paid and be treated as a free man if he returned.

He is a list of the payments requested by Jourdan from his former master and the 2017 equivalents:

Jourdan – $25.00 ($400.00 in 2017 dollars) per month for 32 years

Mandy  – $8.00 ($120.00 in 2017 dollars) per month for 20 years

$11,600.00  ( $175,000 in 2017 dollars)   with interest

1867 – A penniless Colonel P.H. Anderson dies of heart attack at age 44

1870 – Census records show  Jordon Anderson living in Ohio with Mandy, four children (Jane, Felix, William, and Andrew). Jordan will find work as a janitor, coachman, laborer and sexton.

1905 – The Dayton Daily Journal publishes Jordan Anderson’s obituary. He was 79 years old.

Resource Links:

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Freed slave who penned sarcastic letter to old master after he was asked back to farm pictured for first time

 

 

American Biographies

Inspired by the hit Broadway musical Hamilton I decided to incorporate historical actors into every time period covered in my Advanced Placement United States course. After reading NY Times critic Ben Brantley’s August 6, 2015 review of ‘Hamilton.’ I was drawn to one particular paragraph that captured the essence of the American story: “Mr. Miranda’s Hamilton, a propulsive mix of hubris and insecurity, may be the center of the show. But he is not its star. That would be history itself, that collision of time and character that molds the fates of nations and their inhabitants.”

As social studies professionals we are in the business of telling stories. History is drama. It’s full of character and conflict. Who is protagonist?   Who has the starring role?  What, when, and where does the plot turn? Does it have a happy or tragic ending? These are the problems historians deal with when they tell the story of America. Effective educators tirelessly weave endless narratives about America’s past into lesson plans designed to share what this collision of time and character ultimately created.

While the chronological framework of any US History course is pre-determined, stressing the importance of uncovering the life stories of individuals or groups creates the possibility of a broader understanding of the American story.  As historians we should
emphasize that history is made by many nameless and faceless  people—slaves, factory workers, farmers, suffragists, and others— are agents of  historical change.

American Biographies companion website