Photo credits: Chris Paul (Robin), Bobak Ha’Eri (Lake Michigan), Bert Kaufmann (Willis Tower), Bev Sykes (St. Louis), Mactographer (Barn), Pan Krzyżówka (Zinnia Flower), and Rachel Kramer (Grand River)

Videos of the events are available below or as a full playlist here.

Midwestern History Conference
June 1, 2016
Charles W. Loosemore Auditorium, Richard M. DeVos Center
401 Fulton St. W.
Grand Rapids, MI

Finding the Lost Region 2016: Second Midwestern History Conference

In spring 2015, the Hauenstein Center, in collaboration with the Midwestern History Association, hosted a Common Ground Summit on the history, culture, and art of the American Midwest. Our many speakers asked how the renewed study of the Midwest – a field long neglected by scholars and critics – might shed new light on the development of democracy, the expansion of industry, and the flourishing of pluralism in America.

On June 1, 2016, the Hauenstein Center and Midwestern History Association hosted a continuation of that summit. Committed to the discussion of the Midwest as “America’s Most Common Ground,” our conference featured historians, literary scholars, and cultural critics who are dedicated to rebuilding the field of Midwestern studies. A significant theme of our conversations was the synergy between the revival of Midwestern history and intellectual history in academic discourse. Ultimately, our conference advocated for greater attention to Midwestern history among professional historians, contributed to rebuilding the infrastructure necessary for the study of the American Midwest, and promoted greater academic discourse relating to Midwestern history.

Keynote speakers and discussants included Andrew Seal (Yale University), John Wunder (University of Nebraska-Lincoln), Kathy Borkowski (Wisconsin Historical Society Press), Kelly D. Mezurek (Walsh University), John E. Miller (South Dakota State University), and Jon Lauck (Midwestern History Association).

Panels covered topics as varied as the political history of the 18th century Midwest to the contemporary literature of the Rust Belt. Speakers came from universities across the Midwest and nation.

“Thank you very much for a first rate conference on June 1st. It was of very high calibre….[The panel on the Midwest and the civil war was] truly outstanding, one of the best panels I have heard in attending conferences in the past 45 years.”
~James E. Davis on “Finding the Lost Region 2016: Second Midwestern History Conference”
Professor Emeritus at Illinois College


Videos and Schedule

9 AM – 10 AM

Plenary: Andrew Seal, Yale University: “The Regrowth of American Thought: Midwestern and Intellectual Histories after the Age of Fracture.”

10:15 – 11:45 AM: First Panel Session

Panel 1: American Indians and Westward Expansion—Chair: Edward Frantz

“Dakotas, ABCFM Missionaries, and Conflicting uses of Literacy, 1863-1866,” Linda Clemmons, Illinois State University

“Simon Pokagon, Chicago History, and the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893,” Lisa Cushing-Davis, Loyola University Chicago

“Decolonizing Landscape, Sacralizing Trauma, and Commemorations of the U.S. – Dakota War Hangings,” Wayne Ratzlaff, Waubonsee Community College

Panel 2: Defining the Midwest: Nostalgia, “Midwestern Values,” and Ethnoreligious Identity—Chair: Matthew Daley

“Midwestern Stereotypes: Nostalgia? or Another Way of Looking at Things?” John E. Miller, South Dakota State University

“‘Where People and Things Wear Out’: Masculinity, Rural Time, and the Midwestern Farm Novel,” Andy Oler, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

“Selling Modern Gadgets with Nostalgia: Creating Midwestern Consumers at the 1939 New York World’s Fair,” Patricia Oman, Hastings College

“Faithful Narratives: Dutch-American Identity in the Midwest After World War II,” David Zwart, Grand Valley State University

Panel 3: Toward an Intellectual History of the Midwest—Chair: Jon Lauck

“John Barlow Martin and the Path of a Midwestern Public Intellectual” Ray E. Boomhower, Interim Senior Director, Indiana Historical Society Press

“What is ‘Middlewestishness’? The Evolution of Midwestern Literary Studies” Sara Kosiba, Associate Professor at Troy University

“The Hope of the Founders: The Upper Midwest as the Second Promised Land,” Gleaves Whitney, Grand Valley State University

Panel 4: The Midwest in the Long 19th Century—Chair: James E. Davis

“Unchristian Politics: The Anti-Masonic Movement and the Greenbacks, 1868-1888,” Michael Davis, Northwest Florida State College

“James Smith’s Account and the Significance of the Captivity Narrative,” William Heath, Mt. St. Mary’s University

“The Distribution and Origins of African Americans in the Old Northwest, 1800-1850,” Gregory S. Rose, The Ohio State University at Marion

12 – 1:45 PM

Luncheon Plenary: John Wunder, University of Nebraska-Lincoln: “Mapping Out Midwestern Studies.”

2 – 3:30 PM: Second Panel Session

Panel 5: Politics and Pluralism in the Midwest—Chair: John E. Miller

“Unlike Partners: James Brown, Richard Lugar, and Republicanism in the Midwest,” Edward Frantz, University of Indianapolis

“Was Midwestern Progressivism Different? Merlin Hull and the Wisconsin Progressive Tradition,” William Kostlevy, Brethren Historical Library and Archives

“A Triumph of Conservatism: Lincoln, Lane, and the Election of 1860 in Indiana,” Gregory Peek, Pennsylvania State University

“The Midwest as Seedbed of Cultural Pluralism: Jane Addams, Horace Kallen, and the Urban and Rural Sources of an Idea, 1900-1920,” Michael C. Steiner, California State University, Fullerton

Panel 6: Mapping the Midwest: Lakes, Rivers, and Wilderness—Chair: Gregory S. Rose

“‘A Fully Accredited Ocean’: Including the Great Lakes in Midwestern History,” Matthew L. Daley, Grand Valley State University

“Wisconsin as Boat-Building Center,” Andreas Jordahl Rhude, Antique & Classic Boat Society

“The Place of St. Louis in the Geography of the Historical Imagination,” Thomas Kivi, St. Louis University

Panel 7: Going Glocal: Shifting Master Narratives Through Grand Rapids Women’s History—Chair: Jo Ellyn Clarey

“Mining the Mother Lode: WWI Women’s Registration Cards and the Council of National Defense,” Anita Anthony-VanOrsdal, Michigan State University

“Fighting Faulty Assumptions about 1890s Women’s Groups, Black and White,” Jo Ellyn Clarey, Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council

“Creating a Resource: A Unique Record of Women’s Elective History,” Deirdre Toeller-Novak, Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council

Panel 8: The Literary History of the Midwest—Chair: Patricia Oman

“Reading the Rust Belt: 1991-2016,” Danielle Cope, Grand Valley State University

“The Memoirs of Union soldiers from Midwestern States as Travel Literature,” James E. Davis, Illinois College

“The Space and Place of Northern Plains Writers,” Joshua Preston, Baylor College of Medicine

3:45 – 5:15 PM: Third Panel Session

Panel 9: The Political (and Radical) Midwest—Chair: Paul V. Murphy

“Beyond Utopia: The American Socialists and the Reimagining of the Public Sphere,” Wesley R. Bishop, Purdue University

“A Frenchwoman in the City: Jenny P. d’Héricourt in Chicago, 1863-1873,” Michelle M. Campbell, Purdue University

“Tammany Farmer: The Al Smith Presidential Campaign and Midwestern Politics of the 1920s,” Jason K. Duncan, Aquinas College

Panel 10: The Midwest and the Civil War—Chair: Linda Clemmons

“‘The Only Bridge that Spans the Chasm Dividing Us from Our Homes’: Communicability, Connectivity, and the Experience of Separation during the Civil War,” L. Bao Bui, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

“The Crusade of Black Midwesterners for Citizenship Rights,” Leonne M. Hudson, Kent State University

“‘I Have Seen More since I Left Home than I Ever Supposed There was in the World’: Black Soldiers, Midwestern Community Correspondence, and the Civil War,” Kelly D. Mezurek, Walsh University

Panel 11: Narratives of Midwestern Women: 1930-1980—Chair: Sara Kosiba

“History of the Humble: The Lived Experience of Midwestern Women, 1930-1980,” Alexa Giebink, Gustavus Adolphus College

“‘If the situation seemed insurmountable, I always wanted to be there’: Virginia Coffey, A Midwest Human Relations Pioneer,” Phillip J. Obermiller and Thomas E. Wagner, University of Cincinnati

Panel 12: Civic Identity in the Midwest—Chair: Wayne Ratzlaff

“Anti-Semitism in the Ozarks: How Glenn Frazier Miller’s Murders Are Reflected in Local Communities,” Mara W. Cohen Ioannides, Missouri State University

“The Syrians of Sioux Falls, Circa 1927,” Stephen R. Cusulos

“A ‘Self-Made’ Town: Semi-Annual Furniture Expositions and the Construction of Civic Identity in Grand Rapids, 1878-1965,” Scott Richard St. Louis, Grand Valley State University

“Communists, Caltrops, and Collusion: The Clinton Corn Strike (1979-1980) Oral History Project,” Brad Wiles, Clinton Public Library

Panel 13: What’s the Midwest Got to Do With It? Pecans Punk Rock, and Perestroika—Chair: David McMahon

“Mikhail Gorbachev’s Saint Paul Summit and the Construction of a New Midwestern Identity,” Cory Haala, Marquette University

“Reclaiming the Pecan’s Roots,” Catherine Lambrecht, Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance and Highland Park Historical Society

“‘Don’t Need No Pretty Face’: The Forgotten Midwestern Origins of the Punk Rock Movement,” Rachael Price, University of Arkansas

5:30 – 7 PM


7 – 8 PM

Plenary Panel: The Future of Midwestern History

Discussants: Kathy Borkowski (Wisconsin Historical Society Press), Kelly D. Mezurek (Walsh University), John E. Miller (South Dakota State University), and John Wunder (University of Nebraska-Lincoln).

Chair: Jon Lauck (Midwestern History Association).


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