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July 1, 2004 Contact: James David Moran
(508) 471-2131 (office)
(508) 248-4694 (home)
(508) 783-5085 (cell) (e-mail)

"Reality TV history" featured in July issue of Common-place
Online history journal bridges scholarly and public worlds
as it explores pre-twentieth-century American history and culture

Worcester, MA–How real is reality tv’s history? A modern day historian-turned-tv-consultant explores how closely PBS’s "Colonial House" approximated the world of a seventeenth-century colonist in the July 2004 issue of the online journal Common-place ( In "Talk of the Past," Emerson W. Baker discusses production of the recent PBS series "as it depicts a group of modern day "colonists" who spent four months in 2003 experiencing the life of settlers in 1628 Maine. Despite its challenges, Baker is convinced that "reality history" is a potentially powerful way to introduce the past to a wide audience.

Other features in the July issue also include a discussion of the golden age of counterfeiting during the nineteenth century, when as much as half the paper money in circulation was fraudulent, in the article, "Accept no Imitations" by Stephen Mihm. In "The Pathfinder’s Lost Instruments," Tom Rea recounts explorer John Frémont’s mapping of the early Oregon territory and his cavalier attitude towards some of the scientific instruments he used. Author Joanna Brooks finds native American history very much in evidence in a New England casino in "Samson Occum at the Mohegan Sun." In "Ask the Author," David Waldstreicher discusses whether Benjamin Franklin deserves his reputation as the nation’s anti-slavery founder.

The July issue also includes book reviews of: The Known World, by Edward P. Jones; Masquerade: The Life and Times of Deborah Sampson, Continental Soldier, by Alfred F. Young; The Afflicted Girls, by Nicole Cooley; Ready-Made Democracy: A History of Men's Dress in the American Republic, 1760-1860," by Michael Zakim; and Lightning Man The Accursed Life of Samuel F. B. Morse, by Kenneth Silverman.

How suicide was covered up in polite society and exploited by early American tabloids is the subject of the "Tales From the Vault" column; "The Common School" column discusses using John Singleton Copley’s family painting to spur discussion in history class; and "Object Lessons," explores the cultural significance of a cross-stitched sampler from eighteenth-century New York.

The July 2004 issue of Common-place will be on-line through September and then available among the journal’s archived issues on the website. Individuals may "subscribe" to the journal in order to be notified of the publication of each issue and occasional between-issue "extras." Common-place readers can join in the discussion of any of the journal’s features by visiting the "Common-place Coffeehouse," a message board on the website.

About Common-place

The web magazine aims to provide "a common place for exploring and exchanging ideas about early American history and culture," says co-editor and founder Jill Lepore. "A bit friendlier than a scholarly journal, a bit more scholarly than a popular magazine, Common-place speaks–and listens–to scholars, museum curators, teachers, hobbyists,

and just about anyone interested in American history before 1900." Common-place readers can join in the discussion of any of the journal’s features by visiting the "Common-place Coffeeshop," a message board on the website.

About the American Antiquarian Society

The American Antiquarian Society (AAS) is a learned society and independent research library, specializing in all aspects of American history and culture through 1876. Founded in 1812 by the patriot printer and publisher Isaiah Thomas, AAS is the third oldest historical organization in the United States and the first to take the whole nation as its scope. The AAS library is the preeminent repository of pre-twentieth-century American printed materials and related manuscript and graphic arts materials in the world.

The Society also sponsors an array of programs to encourage the use of its collections and to foster a greater understanding of American history. The main office for Common-place is at AAS, 185 Salisbury St., Worcester, MA 01609-1634; telephone (508) 755-5221.

About the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

The Gilder Lehrman Institute (GLI) promotes the study of the American past by organizing seminars and enrichment programs for teachers; supporting and producing publications and national traveling exhibitions; creating innovative history high schools, history programs, and Saturday academies; establishing research centers at universities and cultural institutions; granting and administering a major fellowship program for work in leading archives; and seeking to build national and international networks of people and institutions involved in American history.

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