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Ramapo College of New Jersey (Mahwah, NJ 07430-1623)
Meredith Davis (Project Director: March 2014 to May 2016)
The Hudson River in the 19th Century and the Modernization of America

Two one-week workshops for seventy-two school teachers that use the Hudson River for a study of modernization in nineteenth-century America.

This workshop focuses on the Hudson River as a case study of the scope of modernization in nineteenth-century America. By focusing on art, literature, and architecture alongside the developments in commerce, industry, and tourism that emerged on the nineteenth-century Hudson, the workshop reveals the several ways in which Americans navigated the waterway. This approach also brings an interdisciplinary perspective to history and a humanities focus to environmental studies. Each day allows for a specific topic with lectures, discussions, readings, and site-based activities tied to a region of the river. Participants begin by considering the mouth of the Hudson as an estuary and economic gateway; they survey New York Harbor by boat, walk the commercial district of Wall Street, and read Walt Whitman's poetry at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge. Farther up river, they discuss short stories by Washington Irving, visit his home, Sunnyside, and compare this modest structure to Lyndhurst, its Gilded Age neighbor and home of financier Jay Gould. They study the development of the steamboat and Erie Canal for the purpose of industry and commerce, and the Hudson River School paintings of Thomas Cole as romantic depictions of nature. A session on "Race, Labor, and the Landscape" illuminates the stories of African Americans in the Hudson River Valley. Finally, an afternoon boat trip--enhanced by readings in period guidebooks--enables participants to interpret the river's dramatic geology, iconic vistas, and environmental change through a nineteenth-century lens. Project directors Stephen P. Rice and Meredith Davis are scholars of American studies and art history, respectively. Their expertise is supplemented by Elizabeth Hutchinson (art history, Columbia University), Judith Richardson (English and American studies, Stanford University), Myra Young Armstead (history and Africana studies, Bard College), Thomas Wermuth (history, Marist College and Director of the Hudson River Valley Institute), and Stephen Stanne (Hudson River Estuary Program, Cornell University). In addition to place-based writing exercises, a session entitled "Teaching Your Place" assists teachers in translating the Hudson River workshop to other local sites.

Project fields:
American Studies

Landmarks of American History and Culture

Education Programs

$179,734 (approved)
$169,850 (awarded)

Grant period:
9/1/2014 – 12/31/2015