Mapping the Works Progress Administration in New York

The New Deal is often identified as being one of America’s great political undertakings, encompassing a family of administrations and acts intended to help get Americans back to work. This was not the only way that the New Deal was intended to re-build America, though, as the work that the New Deal stipulated was meant to contribute to the long-term improvement of infrastructure and environment as well. For instance, the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) was a New Deal project that saw the construction, expansion, and improvement of America’s forests, wildlife refuges, and other natural settings. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was created to bring prosperity to its area of operation through such means as production of fertilizer, hydroelectricity, re-direction of waterways, and education of local farmers on modern agricultural methods.

File:FDR in 1933.jpg - Wikipedia
Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

One New Deal project that always interested me was the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The WPA, which was founded in 1935, was designed to get Americans working towards building various civic centers, roadways, and waterways, or improving upon older ones. These included, but were not limited to, schools, town halls, fire departments, sewers, roads, and bridges. The WPA employed millions of Americans for these ends, and ultimately, thousands of infrastructural projects were finished by the time the WPA was discontinued in 1943. Because much of the infrastructure created by the WPA continues to exist and function to this day, the WPA is one of the most enduring New Deal projects. Included among the buildings created by the WPA is my town’s middle school, which is partly where my interest in the WPA comes from.

e-WV | Works Progress Administration (WPA)
Poster for the Works Progress Administration.

For my digital project, I propose creating an interactive map which shows the locations of New York schools that were created as a result of the WPA. The objective of the project would be to show the enduring legacy of the New Deal, and how it continues to contribute to the general welfare of the United States, particularly for education. Being that the current presidential administration is posturing itself towards sweeping efforts on boosting vaccine production, domestic computer chip production, and financial assistance for small businesses, it would be pertinent to create a project related to the New Deal, and the effort to bounce back from the Great Depression.

The Evolution of “States’ Rights” in 19th Century America

Throughout American history, there have been several political phenomena that have become defining characteristics of American politics, such as individualism and sectionalism. Phenomena like these have deep roots in America’s past, going back to the 18th and 19th centuries. In spite of this, however, these concepts are rarely invoked consciously. Conversely, the concept of “states’ rights” is not just a significant political concept in American history, it has been (and continues to be) invoked by politicians and private citizens alike.

Whose Vision of America Won Out—Hamilton's or Jefferson's? - HISTORY

“States’ rights” can be traced as far back as the 1790s, when the Jeffersonian and Federalist factions sparred over what they deemed the correct course that the government should take, especially between the issue of a centralized or de-centralized government. That was not the only time when “states’ rights” was a central concept in American politics, and it would only become more relevant as the 19th century unfolded. In the present day, this concept has become increasingly invoked by, and affiliated with, American conservatives. But in the past, the issue was less partisan, and had different connotations from today.

States' Rights vs. Federal Authority (Discussion) - The American Civil War

This being the case, I am interested in studying the evolution of “states’ rights” throughout the 19th century, and to utilize digital historical tools and methods to do so. One way that I will do this is by using Google Ngram to identify periods when the term was used more, and to draw correlations between it and other issues of the time. I will also utilize the Library of Congress’ database, so that I may find specific documents relevant to the issue of “states’ rights.” Finally, I will run certain texts and documents that I find on the LOC website through Voyant, so that I may draw further correlations between “states’ rights” and other issues that are paired with it, like tariffs, slavery, taxes, etc. Ultimately, I hope that this project will help me identify certain patterns between the invocation of “states’ rights,” and the occurrence of certain political crises that arose simultaneously with “states’ rights” usage. If this is accomplished, then hopefully it will demonstrate the fluidness by which the concept is invoked, and determine when, and how, it is invoked.

Practicum: Cleveland Historical, Wordclouds.com, and Historypin

Hello everyone! I hope that your weekend is going well so far. Today, I am going to be walking you through the practicum for this week, which are Cleveland Historical, Wordclouds.com, and Historypin. I know what you’re thinking: “Wait, weren’t we supposed to be doing PhilaPlace and Wordle?” We were supposed to, but unfortunately, those two websites are not working, so instead, we will be looking at Cleveland Historical and Wordclouds, which function similarly to those two.

Cleveland Historical

This is a website which allows you to discover a variety of historical locations in and around Cleveland, Ohio, learn about the history of these landmarks, and find out which of these locations offer tours.

Front page of the Cleveland Historical Website.

To begin using Cleveland Historical, you first interact with the Google Map on the front page. On the map are circles which indicate the number of historical sites in that part of Cleveland. As you click on the circles, the map zooms closer until it reveals pins on the map, which give the name of the sites.

Zooming in reveals the pins for the historical sites.

When you click on a pin, it will open up an article about that historical site. For example, I chose to explore the page for Grays Armory. There, I learned that the armory served as the headquarters for the Cleveland Grays, a local militia, but also served as a venue for military balls and orchestras. Additionally, the page gave me information about the address of Grays Armory, images, the official website, and links to tours which included the armory.

Article for the Grays Armory.

Overall, the website is a great resource for finding historical locations in the Cleveland area. The interactive map can help you discover where the historical sites of Cleveland are concentrated, and the articles that are associated with the pins gives enough information for the reader to learn about the sites, and if they choose, arrange to tour them.

Wordclouds

Wordclouds is a web tool that allows you to create tag clouds, which are stylized collections of words that make up an image. The way that you make a tag cloud is by either copy/pasting text into its word processor, pasting a website URL in, or by uploading a file to the website, such as a PDF or a Word document. Once you have entered your desired text, it will randomly generate an image out of the text you have chosen, with word size being based upon the frequency of occurrence that a given word appears in the entered text.

This is the dropdown menu where you upload your text/file of choice.

Webcloud gives you a number of tools to customize your tag cloud. Take, for example, the tag cloud that I made, which was done with text from the Emancipation Proclamation. Initially, the shape and font style that it formed was random. However, I wanted my tag cloud to fit the text that I submitted better. To change the font style of my tag cloud, I went to the dropdown menu called “Font,” and changed it from block letters to a form of cursive. Next, I changed the shape that the cloud formed to resemble the United States, which I did from the “Shape” menu. Finally, I added a “Mask” to the cloud so that an outline of my shape would be visible behind the tag cloud. Here was my result:

My tag cloud, formed from the Emancipation Proclamation.

And your options are not limited to these either. There are other tools which let you change the aspect ratio of your tag cloud, the zoom-level of the image, the color, etc. My take-away from interacting with Wordcloud is that it’s a fun tool for making aesthetic and creative images, and which gives the creator a number of different possibilities for customization.

Historypin

The final website we’ll discuss today is Historypin. This website is very similar to Cleveland Historical, in that it lets you discover historical sites through the usage of “pins” on a map. However, where Historypin differs from Cleveland Historical is that it allows online users to create pins, photos, articles, and collections for historical locations. Clicking on a map pin for a given location will open the collection of pins for that area. For example, below is a collection of pins for my hometown, which were created by my town’s historical society.

A collection for my hometown. Pins and collections can be found either by interacting with the map on the left, or by typing in a location.
Here, I am creating a pin on the map. In this case, I am making one for my local park, which I do by typing in either the name of the area, providing an exact address, or by dragging the pin around the map.

To begin making a pin or a collection of your own, you will first need to set up an account with Historypin, which can be done through your email, Google account, etc. Then, in the top right corner of the screen, you will click on your name to access your account, and then click on where it says “Create a Collection” or “Pin Something.” To create a pin, you will need to upload either a photo, video, audio, or text of your choice. Then, you need to name and describe the place you are pinning. You also have to choose your license of choice, which essentially dictates how other people are allowed to access and use your content. Finally, provide a date of the location you’re pinning, a location for your pin, and then lastly, pin it to the map. Add any tags you might be useful for people to find your pin. Once you have done this, you are all set, and your pin will be created.

Historypin is a great tool for discovering historical places both in your area, or even outside of it, especially ones which might otherwise be difficult to find. Going back to my town, I was able to find pins for historical churches, cemeteries, and monuments, dating back as far as the 1790s. Because pins can be created by anyone, anywhere, historic sites which might otherwise be overlooked can get recognized and explored by anyone who is interested.

Introduction to Raphael Governali

Hello everyone! My name is Raphael Governali, and I am a first year General History graduate student at American University. I live about an hour North of New York City, in Westchester County (or, as it is tenderly known by New Yorkers, “Upstate.”) I came to AU from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, CT, where I received my BA in General History. There, I wrote a thesis in which I studied the tactics employed by the American abolitionists, in their fight against slavery. My interest in abolition first began in May of 2019, when I started an internship with the John Jay Homestead. At that internship, I was tasked with transcribing a variety of letters from William Jay, the son of John Jay, and an active member of the American abolitionist movement. Abolition remains my primary historical interest, however, the Civil War and Reconstruction class which I took last semester has expanded my interests into 19th-century American political history as well.

One of my first introductions to digital history came in February of 2020, when I served as an intern at the New Haven Museum. There, I was tasked with photographing, measuring, and accessioning a variety of collections materials. Then, some of these materials would be posted to the museum’s online exhibition. This experience gave me behind-the-scenes exposure to the processes and tools which go into the publishing of history online, like working with professional databases, and following guidelines for how the collections materials should be prepared for online exhibition.

With the emergence of COVID-19, and subsequently the move to online spaces for many museums, the importance of digital history has been made even clearer to me. When applied correctly, digital history can afford historians the opportunity to reach a far greater audience than they might otherwise be able to, and it can allow historians to utilize multimedia tools not just to convey the ideas of history, but the experiences of history as well.

In taking this class on digital history, I hope to discover the tools that a historian can use to research and publish online, and how to utilize those tools correctly. Although the old ways of doing history will certainly remain relevant, like reading and publishing in journals and at conferences, it will be important for historians to utilize these new tools and spaces of history. I am looking forward to getting to know the rest of you better, and to begin to be a part of the change that is happening in the field of history.