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Lecture 5

HIS202H1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 5: World'S Columbian Exposition

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Week 5 – February 3rd – Collection & Exhibition
Edward Said on Orientalism
- The American Museum, NYC, 1841-1865
- Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893
Two theoretical frameworks:
- Latours “cycles of accumulation” -> “recombine the world” -> create space and
oTravel, transport, profit
oSub argument: the way that cumulative science interpreting it, recombines
the world by orienting space and time in a particular way (Columbian
- Said’s “orientalism” -> workshop Orientalism in lecture
Victorian Science
Major internal development:
1) establishment of biology as a formal discipline around 1800
2) emergence of social sciences over the course of the 19thc
3) Popularization of Evolutionary thought
Major external developments
1) agitation for womens rights
1848 Seneca Falls Convention
Temperance, abolition, and school reform
2) Agitation for abolition of slavery and black emancipation
Slave trade abolished between 1800-1810 in Britain, France, Holland,
Spain and U.S.;
Institution continues into 1830s in many countries, 1865 in U.S., 1880s in
Cuba and Brazil
The “fact” of race & sex -> suffrage + abolition (external challenge)-> new theories
Key: evolutionary theories offered a new language of developmental stages; a “deepening
of the knowledge about the fact of biological sex and race
19thc Science as Entertainment”
- the idea of mass culture
- “popular culture” in the 19thc this came into being
- Western Europe became industrialized and increasing wage laborers
Focus thus far: Knowledge production
“Colonial exchange of 18thc a process of contact, collection and classification: world
brought to enlightenment centres;
“Modernity” emerged in context of colonial acquisition and appropriation; so too did
biological “race” and “sex”
Week 5 – February 3rd – Collection & Exhibition
How did scientific ideas about human difference get transmitted to general public?
A: 19thc science became a form of popular culture
- science was advancing, public was curious to be a part of it
KEY: scientific professionalization
Transition away from general natural history culture of the 18thc
Early 19thc:
- Formalization of scientific disciplines
- Rise of specialized scientific language
- Emergence of scientific societies
- Term “scientist” coined in 1830s
Earliest form of science as popular culture direct product of professionalization: Lyceum
Movement (1820s-1860s) adult education, public appetite for scientific knowledge
Lyceums: forums for public lectures on history, science, and literature *a form of popular
adult education and entertainment) also concerts, plays, and public debates. An increasing
accessibility of intellectual culture, bring more middle class into the elite of intellectual
- Lyceums encouraged audience to appreciate science, not necessarily become
- Audience: largely middle class, though importantly included women (one of few
sites of science education for women)
- Lyceum book collections often the origins of local libraries throughout United
- Popular speakers on lecture tour could earn Thousands -> self identifying experts
- Records show everyone form Ralph Waldo Emerson, Frederick Douglass, and Ida
B. Wells to later discredited phrenologists, made this circuit
- Sites could be urban or rural
- By 1840s: competition from those differently concerned with professionalizing
- Key figure: P.T. Barnum (American Museum (1841-1865)
oBarnum’s museum combined “lecture room” or theater component of
lyceums with sensational entertainment and gaudy display
oFor 25 cents, visitors could hear lectures about temperance reform or see
Shakespearean dramas
oAs well as encounter an ever revolving series of human attractions,
oddities, and exotica
oBarnum’s human “attractions” confronted viewer with spectacle of
physical difference; explored the relationship between humans, animals,
and evolution “the link between apes & humans)
Week 5 – February 3rd – Collection & Exhibition
Two human attractions most frequently exhibited:
1) naturally different
so called tribal people; “new or unknown” races; people with
demonstrable differences (psychical abnormalities)
2) novelties
people made unusual through body modification (tattoos) or performance
(sword swallowing)
- Barnum also contributed to “real” 19thc science centers: Smithsonian, Harvard,
and others.
- Scientific museums of 19thc depended on sideshows and circus for animals,
animal pelts, and skeletons
- Much of Barnum collection would fit is way into “real” museums -> donated
thousands of dollars to places like Smithsonian
Key: Barnum often aimed to give displays a scientific aura
- tried to spark scientific controversy and coax actual scientists to publish opinion
pieces about the veracity of his displays
- invented fictitious scientists to promote or condemn his specimens (e.g. famed
British scientist “Dr. Griffin” and the case of the “Feejee mermaid”)
What made Barnum different?
- the American Museum the commercial version of contact + collection +
- KEY: Barnum exploited ambiguity between entertainment and emerging borders
of professional science
Pre-Darwin era of 1840s-50s: Barnum exhibits first live orang-otang, calling the
“connecting link between human and brute creation”
Following Dar’s Origin of Species
Whatisit? A black male portrayed as half human and half animal
- opened during the Presidential campaign of 1860
- exploited scientific theories of evolution and antebellum debates over race and