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Archives For July 2015

This summer, Department of History Assistant Professor Jacob Steere-Williams took his “Epidemics and Revolutions” class on a walking tour to highlight several aspects of the history of disease, medicine, and public health local to Charleston. Some of the places they visited include the original 19th c. sites of Roper Hospital and the Medical College of South Carolina, the Unitarian and Circular Congregational Churches, and the residences of several important Charleston physicians, such as David Ramsay and John Lining.

Marine Hospital pic

History class on a walking tour of Charleston

The picture here is in front of the controversial Marine Hospital, designed by the famed architect Robert Mills, and federally-funded by the Marine Hospital Fund. Not only did the Hospital serve as the major center for treating yellow fever patients in mid 19th century Charleston, but after the Civil War it was used as a free school for African American children, and later as an orphanage. Today, the Charleston Housing Authority resides in the building.

Learn more about Dr. Steere-Williams’ research interests and classes taught here.

The Margaret Herrick Library is home to a collection of historical motion picture items visited by scholars and industry professionals, as well as the general public. Among the library’s collection are items, such as books, photographs, scripts, and production records. Colleen Glenn, film studies professor in the Department of English, traveled to Beverly Hills, California, to visit the collection for research on one of Hollywood’s most timeless actors — Jimmy Stewart. Although most of us remember Stewart as the lovable character he plays in the film, It’s a Wonderful Life, Colleen’s research sheds light on the darker roles Stewart played in the post-WWII period; this includes showing how It’s a Wonderful Life is much more troubling than we may remember.

Can you tell us more about your research?

“I am working on a project on Jimmy Stewart that reconsiders the actor and war hero as a star persona who negotiated cultural anxieties related to combat fatigue and traumatized veterans. Prior to WWII, Jimmy Stewart was generally cast as the earnest, genial boy-next-door in movies like The Philadelphia Story (1940) and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). After the war, however, his roles became increasingly darker and psychologically complex. Ranging from It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) to The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), Stewart plays neurotic, guilt-ridden, distraught, and often, traumatized, men. This includes the films Stewart made with Alfred Hitchcock, Rear Window (1954), The Man who Knew Too Much (1956), and Vertigo (1958), where his behavior is particularly disturbing. While others have noted Stewart’s transformation in the fifties, my project makes a connection between these well-known films and the postwar moment, in which millions of returning veterans—and civilians on the home front—struggled to readjust to “normal” after the war.”

Glenn at Library

The Margaret Herrick Library

What was the Library like? What was your experience there?

“The Margaret Herrick Library is impressive. It’s in Beverly Hills, and it contains an incredible amount of material on the Hollywood movie industry—the films, the people who made them and starred in them. Last summer, I spent a week there doing archival research on Stewart, looking specifically for how the actor was treated by/understood by the media before, during, and after the war. I found some valuable news items and photographs related to his war service.”

Will you be going back to the Library?

“I will definitely be going back to the library again when I can. I need to do more research on Stewart, and I also have a project on Frank Sinatra that may require more archival work.”

What is your favorite Jimmy Stewart movie?

“My favorite Stewart movie. That’s tough. I would probably have to go with Rear Window, but tied for second would be The Shop Around the Corner (1940).”

Glenn at Griffith Observatory

Colleen Glenn at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California.

If you could remake any move Stewart starred in, what would it be and WHO would play Stewart?

“For years, Tom Hanks was compared to Stewart, and actually, The Shop Around the Corner was remade as You’ve Got Mail (1998). Since Hanks has had his turn, I think if I were making a remake today I’d remake Rope (1948) because I think it could be improved and updated in interesting ways. I’d cast Leonardo DiCaprio, who is super talented and has just the right combination of smugness and intelligence to play the cynical schoolteacher, Rupert Cadell, that Stewart played so convincingly in his first collaboration with Hitchcock.

Colleen Glenn ENGLColleen Glenn is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English. Her research interests include: Film history, masculinity on film, cultural studies, film industry studies, and 20th century American literature. 

Independence Day


Sandy Slater, Associate Professor in the Department of History

By: Sandy Slater

As representatives from the far flung thirteen colonies gathered in Philadelphia during the Second Continental Congress, the summer heat blazed outside.   Inside the stiflingly warm room, men argued in 1776 about the legitimacy of independence from Great Britain and many expressed their loyalty to the crown, fearing British military reprisal. These arguments were not new, nor were they especially interesting to most of those who assembled.  And yet despite this, the disagreeing parties consented to form a committee to draft a document severing American ties from Britain.  Five very different men, including Thomas Jefferson, a young representative from Virginia most notable for his literary achievement in the form of the Notes on the State of Virginia, John Adams, the bulwark for independence and representative from Massachusetts who annoyed literally everyone with his energy and adamancy, and also Dr. Benjamin Franklin, well advanced in years and the most famous American in the world at the time, served in an advisory capacity.  The other two members, Robert Livingston from New York and Roger Sherman from Connecticut, long ignored or forgotten as members, also served, but with less distinction, often excusing themselves from discussions for various family needs.  Thomas Jefferson, lovesick and missing his new wife, lamented that the drafting of this document kept him in Philadelphia and away from his beloved home, Monticello.  Over the course the summer, Thomas Jefferson, a Virginian and southerner (an important fact given many southern loyalist sentiments and fears for the demise of slavery), labored unimpressively until his wife arrived in Philadelphia to join him.  Inspired, shall we say, he took up the quill pen and wrote.  The document he produced appeared before the Second Continental Congress and was not without fault, which Jefferson took quite personally, and angrily scratched out notes and amendments, keeping careful tabs of his original document.  On July 2, 1776, the agreed upon the declaration was more than a statement of independence.  The document included a scathing indictment of the inadequacies of King George III and the British crown, accusing the King of a multitude of crimes against his people.  Treason, indeed.    The document appeared with all signatures on the Fourth of July, initially creating both public celebration and fear.  The war which began the year earlier as shots rang out in Lexington and Concord was now indefinite.  Poorly supplied military troops, little money, and few allies incited somberness among both the supporters of independence and those in opposition.  No one knew the outcome and it didn’t look good for the new nation.


In the years during and after the American Revolution, the Fourth of July came to symbolize the moment of American independence from Britain, but also served as a statement of unity; it was the first document of the new American nation, no longer colonies, but free.  The cultural institution and practices began in earnest in 1777 and continue to this day.  Feasts and celebrations began in 1777 in Philadelphia, even including fireworks.  Thirteen shots were fired in honor of the holiday in various parts of America.  The first official holiday following the creation of the United States of America in 1789, in 1791 Congress declared the 4th of July as Independence Day, conveniently forgetting that the document actually went into effect two days earlier.  It didn’t matter.  The document came to the people on the 4th and it became the people’s document.  In 1826, 50 years to the day, both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams lay dying.  Separated by distance, but united in both their cause for liberty and their enduring friendship, the two men seemed to be waiting for something.  As the bells rang out to celebrate Independence Day, both men slipped away, the last of the founding fathers.  Both lived long enough to see the nation thrive and endure.   The sentimental nature of the date of their deaths was not lost on the general population who mourned their passing with great displays.  In the decades that followed their deaths people enjoyed an emotional and cultural detachment from the miseries that accompanied the American Revolution, the dangers of execution for treason, and the many years spent in anxiety, not knowing if the colonies would win the war.  Instead, we remember the glories, freedom, and celebrate in ways that overshadow the true purpose of the historical moment.  This year in particular, when faced with hatefulness or despair, let’s remember that our nation grew from similar pains and arguments around the nature of freedom.  And in our hearts, let’s affirm freedom for ALL Americans and remember the necessity of fighting and defending liberty, a war not forgotten, a war not yet finished.

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