With incredible energy and expertise, Mark Wahlgren Summers brought history to life with his dynamic interpretation of 19th-century political campaigns for the librarians and educators who attended a Readex-hosted breakfast during the American Library Association’s Annual Conference in Orlando. Summers, the Thomas D. Clark Professor of History at the University of Kentucky, where he has taught for the last 32 years, entertained the crowd with his highly animated lecture titled “Politics is just war without the bayonets”: Dirty Politics in a Genteel Age, 1868-1892.
Here, he describes stump speeches, often delivered at train stations, across the campaign trail:
Summers didn’t just tell the crowd about the past, he helped them experience it with his lively retelling, leading attendees to make comments like this:
For most historians, the Gilded Age was the Golden Age of American politics. Well before football or baseball found a vogue, it was the great participatory sport. Families turned out for parades, rallies and barbecues. Campaign clubs designed ornate uniforms and hired brass bands to precede them as they marched. Eligible voters in record numbers showed up at the polls. Watch the full presentation to understand why Summers warned that to be wistful for those days is a grave mistake.