Tag Archives: 19th century

Science, Reform, and Anti-Vivisection

Things have been pretty political around here lately, so we wanted to dig into something that’s just fascinating and, frankly, creepy: anti-vivisection, or the 19th century campaign to end scientific and medical experimentation on living animals. Join Averill and Sarah as they talk about the practice of vivisection and the efforts to stop it. Also, a word of warning: we use some nineteenth century language when reading quotes, and also describe some pretty graphic events. You might want to turn it down if you’re sensitive or listening with kids.

Sources & Further Reading 

A History of Anti-vivsection from 1800s to the Present: Part I (1800-1914).

Dissecting the Living: Vivisection in Early Modern England,” Chirurgeon’s Apprentice

Davis, Janet M. “The History of Animal Protection in the United States.” The American Historian. 

Johnson, Eric. “Charles Darwin and Vivisection Outrage,” Scientific American, October 6, 2011.

Frances Power Cobbe.

Markel, Howard. “Case Shined First Light on Abuse of Children,” New York Times, December 14, 2009.

McCurry, Justin. “Japan Revisits its darkest moments where American POWs became human experiments,” The Guardian, August 13, 2015.

McNeill, Leila. “Women, Animals, and the Poetry of Activism,” Nursing Clio. 

Prosecution at Norwich: Experiment on Animals,” The British Medical Journal, December 12, 1874.

Stowe, Harriet Beecher. Uncle Tom’s Cabin. 

Renaissance Anatomy.

Black Soldiers in the American Civil War

Download this episode (right click and save)

A few months ago, we talked about the experiences of Civil War contraband, and mentioned the United States Colored Troops. Today, we dig a little more deeply into the history of that military organization. What motivated black men to enlist, and what was their experience in uniform? Join Averill and Sarah to learn more about black soldiers in the American Civil War.

Show Notes and Further Reading


Will Hickox, Remember Fort Pillow!, New York Times Disunion 

Richard Slotkin, The Battle of the CraterNew York Times Disunion 

Kevin Levin, The Myth of the Black ConfederateThe Daily Beast 

USCT, The Civil War Trust

Carole Emberton, “Only Murder Makes Men: Reconsidering the Black Military Experience,” Journal of the Civil War Era 2 (September 2012), 369-93.

Black Past, 54th Massachusetts




Feature image: United States soldiers at Camp “William Penn” Philadelphia, PA., 1863 | Library Company of Philadelphia / Flickr Commons

America’s Second Great Awakening

Chances are, if you were an American with radical religious ideas, you came from Vermont, and you moved to the “Burned Over District” of New York. Join the History Buffs for Part I of a special three part series exploring America’s Second Great Awakening. In this episode Sarah, Marissa and Katie introduce the Second Great Awakening, and talk about some of the major movements of the period, including Joseph Smith and the Mormons.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Show Notes & Further Reading

Joseph Smith Welcome Center, Hill Cumorah

“The New York Period of the Mormon Church,” History of Mormonism

Crabtree, Adam. “Animal Magnetism and Mesmerism.” Occult World. Ed. by Christopher Partridge. London: Routledge, 2015.

“George Whitefield: Sensational Evangelist of Britain and America.” Christian History, August 8, 2008. Retrieved 24 March2016

Kidd, Thomas S. The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007.

Juster, Susan. Doomsayers Anglo-American Prophecy in the Age of Revolution. Philadelphia, Pa: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006.

Purvis, Thomas. “Great Awakening, first.” A Dictionary of American History. Blackwell Publishing, 1997. Blackwell Reference Online. 19 May 2016

Purvis, Thomas. “Second Great Awakening.” A Dictionary of American History. Blackwell Publishing, 1997. Blackwell Reference Online. 19 May 2016.

Todras-Whitehill, Ethan. “Mormon Faith and Spectacle at Hill Cumorah in Palmyra, N.Y.New York Times. 27 July 2007.

Global Nineteenth-Century Revolutions

During seventeen tumultuous years in the mid-19th century, it seemed like the whole world was in chaos. Revolution broke out in Europe, South Asia, East Asia, and the United States. What was going on? Katie, Dan, and Tommy investigate.


Show Notes and Further Reading

Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Civil War Isn’t Tragic,” The Atlantic, April 26, 2011

Christopher Hibbert, The Great Mutiny (1978)

Thomas R. Metcalf, The Aftermath of Revolt (1964)

Jürgen Osterhammel, The Transformation of the World: A Global History of the Nineteenth Century.  Trans. Patrick Camiller (2014)

Feature images, clockwise from top: Suppression of the Taiping RebellionViennese students during the 1848 revolutionThe British Lion’s Vengeance on the Bengal TigerBombardment of Fort Sumter.  All works in the Public Domain.

Frankenstein: Monster of the Enlightenment

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley created two of the most enduring characters in literary history with her 1818 work Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus.  You’re probably familiar with modern depictions of Dr. Victor Frankenstein and his monster,  whether through the classic Boris Karloff films, the cartoon incarnation from Hotel Transylvania, or Mel Brooks’ tap dancing duo in Young Frankenstein. What is it about the story of Victor Frankenstein and his grotesque creation that has stayed in the public consciousness for nearly two hundred years?


Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s Monster in The Bride of Frankenstein, 1935 | Public Domain/ Wikimedia Commons

We’ll dive more deeply into Dr. Frankenstein, his monster, and their continued grip on our collective psyche in this week’s cast. Before we do, though, we’d like to share some more background on the tale and its enduring legacy.

 One of the most prominent and popular interpretations of the book right after it was written held that the doctor and his monster represented humanity’s attempts to seize power from God. Victor Frankenstein is “playing God” when he creates life in his monster. He is soundly punished for this transgression, as the monster destroys his family and friends one by one. By the end of the work, Dr. Frankenstein is left devastated and alone.

Dr. Frankenstein’s punishment for dabbling in divine domains seemed a kind of warning to those living in the era of the Enlightenment: trespass into matters beyond the human realm, and face God’s wrath.


Franciso de Goya, Saturn Devouring His Son  | Public Domain/Wikimedia

The theme of divine retribution also echoes through the Romantic art of the period. One of our favorite professors at the University at Buffalo,  Dr. Don McGuire, often assigns Frankenstein as required reading to his students. He pairs it with a painting by Francisco Goya entitled Saturn Devouring His Son, as the two works have striking parallels. 

Drawn from Greek and Roman mythology, Goya’s painting depicts the Titan Saturn, or Cronus, eating his own children as they were born.  According to the myth, it had been foretold to Saturn that one of his children was destined to overthrow him in the future. Fearing this loss of status and power, the Titan his children as a threat. He therefore devours them, one by one.

Like Shelly’s Frankenstein, Goya’s painting acts as a warning to society that if one tries to overthrow the natural order of the world, there will be dire consequences.  It also raises questions on the extent to which that-which-has-been-created, whether monster or child, can pose an existential threat to its parents. The case of Saturn is a more obvious example, but Dr. Frankenstein can also been viewed as a direct threat to God’s presumed omnipotence in nineteenth-century Europe.  Seen in this light, the painting and the story are also cautionary tales about the lengths to which the parent will go to ensure that such a transgression does not happen again.


Frankenstein’s Monster says You Are Beautiful,” Marc Moss | Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND

Did this whet your appetite?  Good!  Then join Averill, Marissa and Sarah as they talk about Mary Shelley, her monstrous book, and what it has meant to readers across the centuries.


Show Notes & Further Reading

Bennett, Betty T., and Stuart Curran. Mary Shelley in Her Times. Baltimore, Md: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.

Crook, Nora. “Mary Shelley, Author of Frankenstein.” Blackwells Companion to the Gothic. New York: Wiley, 2001.

Flesher, Caroline McCracken. The Doctor Dissected: A Cultural Autopsy of the Burke & Hare Murders. Cambridge: Oxford University Press, 2011.

George Forster, Executed at Newgate, 18th of January, 1803, Newgate Calendar.

Hoeveler, Diane. “Frankenstein, Feminism, and Literary Theory.”

Laston, Jennifer. Did A Real-Life Alchemist Inspire Frankenstein. TIME.

Mary Shelley, Biography.

Moers, Ellen. Literary Women. Garden City: Doubleday, 1976.

Mellor, Anne K. Mary Shelley: Her Life, Her Fiction, Her Monsters. New York: Routledge, 1988. 

Rosner, Lisa. The Anatomy Murders: Being the True and Spectacular History of Edinburgh’s Notorious Burke and Hare and of the Man of Science who Abetted Them in the Commission of Their Most Heinous Crimes. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010.

Ruston, Sharon. “The Science of Life and Death in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.” 

Sappol, Michael. A Traffic in Dead Bodies: Anatomy and Embodied Social Identity in Ninteenth-Century America. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002.

Seimsen, Cynthia. “Wollenstonecraft, Mary.” Blackwell Companion to Sociology. New York: Wiley, 2007.

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein: Or, The Modern Prometheus

Feature Image: “Frankenstein At Work In His Laboratory,” from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Or The Modern Prometheus, 1922 Cornhill edition | Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons 

Mini Cast: Snow and the City

Well, and snow in the country … and in the small towns. Actually, snow everywhere! 

How does severe weather – specifically blizzards – impact the lives of Americans? It can have positive affects, such as providing a shared bonding experience for community members (as we know all too well here in Buffalo). It can change the outcome of politics and influence city planning and urban management. Of course, it can also leave tragedy in its wake. In this episode, Tommy, Dan and Sarah discuss some famous historic storms and their human toll.


The Blizzard of 1977 hit upstate New York fiercely, making roads nearly impassable.| Public Domain /Wikimedia Commons

Show Notes & Further Reading 

Applebaum, Yoni. “Blizzards and the Birth of the Modern Mayor.” The Atlantic, January 25, 2015.

Christiano, G. J. “The Blizzard of 1888; the Impact of This Devastating Storm on New York Transit.” NYC Subway.

Grabar, Henry. “The Secret History of Snowstorms: How Blizzards Shaped the Modern American City.” Salon, February 1, 2015.

McKelvey, Blake. Snow in the Cities: A History of America’s Urban Response. Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 1995.

Laskin, David. The Children’s Blizzard. New York: Harper Perennial, 2004.

Shepard, Richard F. “Recalling the Blizzard of 1888.The New York Times, January 14, 1988.

Wade, Jared. “A History of Blizzards.” Risk Management, February 1, 2011.

Wilder, Laura Ingalls. The Long Winter. New York: Harper Tribute, 2007.


Feature Image: Extracted from King’s Handbook of New York City by Moses King, 1893 | Public Domain/ Wikimedia Commons

The Burning of Buffalo and the War of 1812

Read the complete transcript of this episode.

Most American history books devote a page at most to the War of 1812. It is often referred to as the forgotten war. However, scholarship on the war has exploded in recent years due to the 200th Anniversary of the beginning of the war in 2012.

Drawing of citizens fleeing Buffalo, NY December 30, 1812. Drawn by LeGrand St. John. Courtesy of Buffalo History Museum.

Drawing of citizens fleeing Buffalo, NY December 30, 1812. Drawn by LeGrand St. John. Courtesy of Buffalo History Museum.

The War of 1812 may be a lesser known episode within the larger narrative of American history, but for inhabitants of Buffalo, NY and the surrounding region- the War of 1812 still holds a place of fascination and remembrance.

Join Elizabeth Garner Masarik and Tommy Buttaccio as they discuss the War of 1812 and how the Burning of Buffalo transformed this once frontier town overnight, and even travel with them to the Buffalo History Museum as they speak with Cynthia Van Ness, Director of Archives, about documents pertaining to this obscure episode of American history.


Birds eye view at the junction of main and tupper. Drawn by LeGrand St. John. Courtesy of Buffalo History Museum.

Suggested readings:

Alan Taylor. The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, and Indian Allies. New York: Knopf, 2010.

Carl Benn. Native Memoirs from the War of 1812: Black Hawk and William Apess. Johns Hopkins Press. 2013.

Nicole Eustace. 1812 : War and the Passions of Patriotism. University of Pennsylvania Press. 2012.

For a discussion on using rhetoric of rape and sexuality for political means see:
Sharon Block. Rape and Sexual Power in Early America. Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, 2006.

Burned residence chimneys drawn by LeGrand St. John. Courtesy Buffalo History Museum.

Burned residence chimneys drawn by LeGrand St. John. Courtesy Buffalo History Museum.

Featured Image: The Burning of Buffalo. Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. “Burning of Buffalo.” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed November 20, 2015. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e0-f6d1-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99