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American Social History Project • Center for Media and Learning
ASHP/CML challenges traditional ways that people learn about the past with its print, visual, and multimedia materials that explore the diverse social and cultural histories of the nation. Our professional development seminars help teachers use the latest scholarship, technology, and active learning methods.

Featured in Herb

Foreign Miner's License

Foreign Miner's LicenseWith the discovery of gold in California in 1848, men seeking to make their fortunes streamed into the area from all over the world. In 1850, the California legislature passed a Foreign Miners' Tax that required miners who were not U.S. citizens to pay $20 every month for the right to mine in the state. In reality, the tax was only collected from Chinese and Latino miners, while European miners were not forced to pay it. The high tax drove many Latin American miners back to their home countries, and immigrant miners who stayed organized protests. The legislature eventually reduced the tax to $4 per month.

Indian Man and Woman Eating; Their sitting at meate

Indian Man and Woman Eating; Their sitting at meateJohn White, a painter who traveled with several English exploration companies in North America, made many illustrations of the people, plants and animals that inhabited the area around the Jamestown colony. Theodor de Bry later made engravings based on White's paintings; this image, and 27 others, were included in a 1590 book about the "New World" that was published in four languages: English, French, German and Latin. De Bry noticeably changed details to make the Indians look more European.

An Illustrator Depicts Irish Ethnic Stereotypes

An Illustrator Depicts Irish Ethnic StereotypesIn this 1866 illustration, the Anglo-Saxon features of Florence Nightingale, the storied battlefield nurse of the Crimean War, are contrasted with those of "Bridget McBruiser," whose animal-like features and generally slovenly appearance are typical of mid-nineteenth century depictions of Irish immigrants. This comparison appeared in a book about "physiognomy," a branch of supposedly scientific study popular in the nineteenth century which argued that individual moral character and intelligence could be seen in a person's facial features.

Child Cotton Pickers Haul Heavy Loads

Child Cotton Pickers Haul Heavy LoadsChild cotton-pickers on a farm in Bells, Texas, documented by Lewis W. Hine, a photographer for the National Child Labor Committee. Children had long been used as cotton-pickers and other agricultural workers in the South, where the tradition of sharecropping as well as sheer economic necessity made the practice widespread. In the caption to this photo, Hine notes, "All these children five years, six years, seven years, nine years [of age]... The very young children like to pick, but before long they detest it. Sun is hot, hours long, bags heavy."

Time Table of the Lowell Mills

Time Table of the Lowell MillsThe young farm women who worked in the Lowell textile mills were used to hard work, but working the large, noisy mills was different. On the farm, women had controlled their own work schedule, and they did may different tasks. In the mill, women did one task over and over again. Factory owners now controlled the speed and hours of work.

Mexican Refugees Flee to Texas

Mexican Refugees Flee to TexasIn January 1914, the town of Ojinaga in northern Mexico was the site of a battle between the forces of Pancho Villa and those loyal to Mexican president Victoriano Huerta. This photo depicts refugees from the fighting making the sixty-mile journey to Marfa, in Texas. Refugees such as these made up a large portion of early twentieth-century Mexican immigration to the southwestern United States.

Slaves Waiting for Sale, Richmond, Virginia, 1861

Slaves Waiting for Sale, Richmond, Virginia, 1861During the 1850s, hundreds of thousands of enslaved African Americans were sold by owners in the upper South (Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee) to owners in the lower South (Louisiana, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi). This forced migration painfully disrupted slave families by separating husbands from wives and children from their parents. This painting by the British artist Eyre Crowe, based on a sketch made by him when touring the U.S. in 1853, shows a scene at a slave auction in Richmond, Virginia. Slave markets, where such auctions took place, were located throughout the South; the largest was in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Seal of the National Women’s Trade Union League

Seal of the National Women’s Trade Union LeagueFounded in 1903, the Women’s Trade Union League (WTUL) was an organization that brought together working-class women, reformers, and women from wealthy and prominent families. League members believed that working women needed help to gain better wages and working conditions, and that all women shared important values and goals. This seal represented the WTUL’s attitudes and goals; it appeared on their letterhead, publications, and pins.

The American Frankenstein

The American FrankensteinSupported by government funds, railroad building boomed after the Civil War. There were only 2,000 miles of track in 1850; by 1877 there were nearly 80,000 miles in use. Railroad owners controlled tens of thousands of employees and hundreds of millions of dollars in assets. Larger than some state governments, railroad companies were the largest, most powerful companies Americans had ever known. This cartoon, published in a New York newspaper in 1873, reflects the concerns that many Americans had about the unprecedented political and economic power of the railroads.

Women Workers Protest the Loss of Jobs at Ford Motor Co.

Women Workers Protest the Loss of Jobs at Ford Motor Co.When World War II ended, Ford Motor Company's Highland Park plant, like industrial manufacturers across the country, laid off thousands of women workers and replaced them with inexperienced men. In Highland Park, women members of the United Auto Workers Local 400 organized active protests against the policy, including this picket by 150 women workers outside of the plant's employment office. Eventually, after the issue became part of contract negotiations with the union, several hundred women workers were recalled to the plant.

Boston Abolitionists Warn of Slave Catchers

Boston Abolitionists Warn of Slave CatchersIn 1850, Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act, which required police officers everywhere in the country to capture escaped slaves and return them to their owners. Anyone who was caught helping escaped slaves could also be arrested and face large fines. As a result of the law, many free African Americans who were not escaped slaves were still captured and sent into slavery in the South.

Recent Podcast Episodes

In this presentation, John Nieto-Phillips provides an overview of the ways that Latinos and Latinas figure into global Hispanism, or Hispanidad. 

In this panel discussion, moderated by Stephen Brier, former student and faculty activists who led the fight on CUNY campuses to open the University to all NYC high school graduates discuss this transformative historical moment.

In this panel presentation, scholars Sarah Burns (emerita, Indiana University), Josh Brown (CUNY Graduate Center), and Greg Downs (UC Davis) discuss the visual culture of the post-Civil War era in the fine arts and the illustrated press. 

Richard Samuel West, historian of cartoons and popular publications and founder of New England's Periodyssey, discusses the range of topics in and formats of political cartoons published during the Civil War and delineates how the medium changed over the course of the conflict.