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A new semester and the last couple months

Greetings all, I apologize for not posting since October. Things just got busy for me and I found myself putting blogging to the side, as well as wanting to avoid the mundane posting of “today in class, I lectured on . . .” It is a new semester for me, with a new class of students and new classes for me. I am planning to take my comps later this semester so I can begin working on that dissertation.

Courtesy of Bill Caraher, I stumbled upon The History Blogging Project, which motivated me to get back into posting here and on my other sites. Not much else to report on now, but hopefully soon.

Fun last few days

From Wednesday, October 13 to Saturday, October 16, we hosted the Northern Great Plains History Conference in Grand Forks, ND. There were a number of great papers and panels on a wide variety of topics. Yours truly presented papers on the social transition in Illinois Civil War camps of instruction, A. C. Townley’s leadership of the Nonpartisan League, and chaired a panel. I was also able to meet several fine graduate students all doing great things at several far-flung programs from CUNY to TCU, to even New Brunswick. It was a great amount of fun to host the conference and meet so many great scholars. I look forward to keeping in touch with those who I met.

An interesting online publication

April 10, 2010 1 comment

Cross posted at Military History Blog

Thanks to the Society for Military History website for making me aware of this online military history publication. A solid group of scholars, who organized as the Michigan War Studies Group created the Michigan War Studies Review, which, according to the announcement on the SMH website, is seeking contributors. I urge everyone to subscribe to this publication,which is free, and to tell others interested in military history about this site.

An interesting new blog on Public History

As someone interested in public history and is getting into an oral history project this semester, I always like to make others aware of new blogs and sites devoted to such pursuits. Some of my colleagues are engaged in a public history internship course this semester and have set up a blog for it called The Muses’ Web. I encourage you all to check it out and have linked it in my blogroll.

A new semester

It is that time of year again, the beginning of the new semester. This semester will be a great one, as I will be taking courses dealing with the American West, a research seminar that will allow me to complete a chapter of the dissertation, and a Public History project dealing with oral history, where I will interview local World War II veterans who participated in the Honor Flights to visit the National World War II Memorial in Washington, DC, to understand their experiences in the conflict and how visiting the memorial affected them.

I will also be returning to North Dakota History, with a new group of students and an additional teaching assistant, which will lighten the workload for me. I will also devote some time to preparing for my class in the fall, which will be exciting and challenging. When that time arrives, I will devote many posts to examining the interesting angles of teaching my own class for the first time, with some of them appearing on Teaching Thursday, so stay tuned to this site. It’s good to be back in the swing of things and I look forward to sharing the fun with you.

Conveying the radicalism of North Dakota

November 18, 2009 1 comment

Today, I delivered lecture on the rise of socialism and the creation of the Nonpartisan League in North Dakota. This was quite fun for me, as I am going to be doing my dissertation on the NPL, specifically analyzing the landmark book by Robert Morlan Political Prairie Fire (1955), which I hope to update, incorporating new methods of interpretation into Morlan’s examination of the organization.

We began by exploring socialism in broad terms, then the rise of socialism in North Dakota. Given that traditional socialism revolved around industrial production and collective ownership of production means, many farmers were wary of the system. However, North Dakota was able to attract farmers by incorporating into socialism reforms that were ideal for farmers. The Socialist Party in North Dakota was founded in 1900 in Fargo and joined with the national party in 1902. It advocated state control of industries vital to agricultural production, including mills, elevators, banks, and implement dealers, as well as advocating a state-funded hail insurance program. This type of socialism with agricultural reforms at the center was termed “prairie Socialism” and was forged through the common experience of the Great Plains states facing economic struggles during the late nineteenth century.

These items led to growth in the movement as well as electoral success. In the 1912 elections, eight percent of ballots were cast for Socialist candidates and the cities of Minot, Hillsboro, and Rugby all elected Socialist mayors. There still was some disillusionment on the part of North Dakota farmers to the party, especially being called Socialists. This led to a moderation of the platform of the state party in 1914.

As the state party was moderating its position, a failed flax farmer from Beach, ND came on the scene. Arthur Charles, or A.C. Townley joined the ranks of the state Socialist party in an effort to secure justice for farmers. Having failed at bonanza farming and flax farming, which resulted in bankruptcy to the sum of $80,000, Townley felt that the current system was rigged against the farmer and sought to use the Socialists as a means to enact the reforms farmers needed. However, Townley, despite good organizational methods, including using the Model T and post-dated checks to recruit party members, ran afoul of the Socialists because he was recruiting members that were not “true” Socialists. The party fired Townley in late 1914. A side note was that we briefly touched on early activities, including violence of the International Workers of the World (IWW) that was going on in some parts of the state.

With Townley ousted from the party, the NPL was the next topic presented to students. I spoke about the 1915 legislative session, which saw Townley in Bismarck witnessing the failure of farm bills that would enact reforms. Legislators and others leveled impolite comments against the farmers, including Treadwell Twitchell, who reportedly told farmers that governing was none of their business and to “go home and slop the hogs.” This comment served as a rallying cry for Townley and his followers. Townley and the Wood brothers met at the Woods’ farm in McHenry County in February 1915 and created the Farmers Nonpartisan League, including drafting the platform.

The new League desired to use the Republican Party, then a strong political force in the state, to achieve its goals. The platform outlined the goals of the NPL, which were state control of mills, a terminal elevator, state bank, state control of grain grading, and state hail insurance to name a few ideas. The NPL grew quickly, claiming 30,000 members by fall 1915. Part of this rapid growth was due to Townley’s organizational skills, which used the automobile to travel great distances, and used high dues to make farmers feel a part of the group and invested in its success. Another contributor was the use of media. Socialist publications existed and were popular in the state and region earlier, including the Appeal to Reason and Iconoclast, but these publications would be dwarfed by The Nonpartisan Leader, which became a major publication with twice the circulation of any community newspaper in the state. I briefly pointed out the subtle use of imagery in the cover of the Leader presented in the slide show, which depicted North Dakota as a fair and diminutive women, while the farmer was a strong Pilgrim figure with a large gun on his shoulder, as if to say that the farmer would protect and preserve North Dakota. This imagery was quite appealing to farmers.

This is the point where we had to stop due to running out of time, but I will continue my lecture on Friday by discussing the electoral victory and platform of the NPL, as well as showing a video on what North Dakota was like at the time. Overall, this was my best lecture, but that is likely due to having some experience with the subject.

Dr. Michael Fronda’s lecture online

September 21, 2009 Leave a comment

Dr. Caraher has made Dr. Michael Fronda’s lecture from Thursday available for download. Click here to download the lecture. Be sure to let him know what you thought on his blog The Archeaology of the Mediterranean World.