Category Archives: U.S. history

Ray Mohl

I suppose every human culture depends on elders who are willing not only to teach the young, but to listen to them. Back in graduate school, I was writing about freeway revolts with a methodology that consisted of figuring out which Ray Mohl article was most relevant to a given section. Yet when I met Ray in person, he treated me not as a receptacle of his wisdom and knowledge, but as someone from whom he himself could learn.

That may have been true at the edges; one of the pleasures of urban history is that each city has its particulars, so another detailed case study is always welcomed. But more than that, Ray was a fundamentally patient, gentle, and curious man. His was a face I always delighted to see at a conference, and I mourn that I won’t see it again. Ray, I miss you.

For more on Ray’s work, see In Memoriam: Raymond Mohl

STEM Focus Crowds Out Humanities in College. Also, Suez Canal Opens

The colleges of the country are sinking in tone, lower & lower, in accordance with the opinion & manners of the people—I mean of what is considered even the best educated portion of the people. Practical ability, physical science, knowledge that may promote success in the great & absorbing ambition of all—making money—are now immensely prized & preferred to literature, philosophy, & art. Parents wish to see their sons successful men of business, not scholars & gentlemen, & to gratify this desire the colleges are reducing their standard of excellence & admitting the natural sciences to the foremost place among the studies prescribed.

Sidney George Fisher, 18 December 1869

A Philadelphia Perspective: The Diary of Sidney George Fisher, edited by Nicholas B. Wainwright (Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1967), 556.

Breech of Protocol

XKCD takes on U.S. history. Generally accurate, I think, but it refers to James Monroe as wearing “pants instead of breeches.” Linda Thrift of the National Portrait Gallery notes that Monroe “wore small-clothes until his death. Monroe’s wife enforced dress etiquette at presidential receptions, refusing admission to anyone not in breeches and silk hose.”