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April 1, 2005 Contact: James David Moran
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(508) 248-4694 (home)
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Common-place explores hoaxes, heirlooms and verses in the April issue

Online history journal explores a wide variety of topics about the past as it bridges scholarly and public worlds

Worcester, MA–The April 2005 issue of the online history journal, Commonplace, ( features stories of hoaxes, heirlooms and poetry as it explores various aspects of American history and culture. In "Brother, Can You Buy a Salem Witch Death Warrant?" Harvard historian Steven Biel describes how the sale of a fake document in the Midwest of the 1930s illuminates the economic conditions of the great depression, the plight of World War I veterans and regional cultural attitudes. Research librarian, Martha L. Brogan, finds her professional life merging with her personal when she inventories her late mother’s possessions. A portrait and scraps of letters eventually reveal her family’s connections to the California Gold Rush and the Civil War. While poet Robert Strong examines the Puritans’ desire to make visible the invisible spiritual connection to the divine in three poems based upon historic sources entitled "Puritan Spectacle."

Also in the regular features of the issue Jeffrey L. Pasley places the current debate on social security reform into a larger historical context of social care for the elderly and the indigent in the "Publick Occurrences" column. In the "Tales from the Vault" feature, Susan Branson seeks to verify the biographical claims made by a nineteenth-century female ghost writer. And in "The Common School" educators W. Dean Eastman and Kevin McGrath describe the transformative intellectual journey students in Beverly, Massachusetts take as they uncover the lives of nineteenth-century African Americans. This column also features short video clips of the students describing their own work.

Future issues of Common-place will be even more interactive according to editor, Edward G. Gray. Writing in the "Talk of the Past" column, Gray claims the continual evolution of the Internet - even within the five years since Common-place was launched - now allows for greater participation by those visiting the online journal. The site will soon employ flash technology to allow for virtual tours of historic objects and places. Historic documents on the site will also be highly interactive as electronic prompts will guide readers through the text to reveal clues and provide greater context and meaning.

The April 2005 issue also features reviews of new books including a history of childhood, Huck’s Raft by Stephen Mintz; a book on the relationship between courthouse design and the legal profession entitled From Tavern to Courthouse: Architecture & Ritual in American Law, 1685-1860 by Martha J. McNamara; a book that explores the connections between the early history of the British Colonies and the English Civil Wars called The English Atlantic in an Age of Revolution, 1640-1661 by Carla Gardina Pestana; and a new political history of the early Republic entitled Beyond the Founders: New Approaches to the Political History of the Early American Republic edited by Jeffrey L. Pasley, Andrew W. Robertson, and David Waldstreicher.

The April 2005 issue of Common-place will be on-line through June and then available among the journal’s archived issues on the website. Individuals may subscribe to the journal to be notified of publication of each issue. Common-place is published quarterly, in October, January, April, and July.

About Common-place

Common-place is a common place for exploring and exchanging ideas about early American history and culture. 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. Common-place is sponsored by the American Antiquarian Society and the Florida State University Department of History.

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.

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