Scott E. Casper
Ph.D., Yale University (American Studies), 1992
Office: Mack Social Sciences, MSS 201
Phone: (775) 784-6484
I study and teach nineteenth-century United States history and American cultural history. My History courses include the upper-division sequence in Revolutionary and 19th-century America, the history of the book in America, and a capstone course on the Civil War in American culture. I also teach Core Humanities 203, The American Experience. I’m especially interested in the ways nineteenth-century Americans understood and commemorated the past, both in written texts and at historical sites—and what their understandings can tell us about their own nineteenth-century contexts.
My current book project, Sarah Johnson's Mount Vernon: The Forgotten History of an American Shrine, appeared from Hill & Wang in January 2008. This book reconstructs the story of a community of African Americans who worked at George Washington's estate for the century after he died in 1799. These women, men, and children hadn’t been George and Martha Washington’s slaves. Most of them came to Mount Vernon with the Washington descendants who inherited the estate from 1802 to the 1850s. After the Civil War, some of them returned as free employees of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, which purchased the historic site in 1858 and has owned and operated it ever since. These black people were among the earliest paid workers at an American historic house museum. While they interacted with the white people who ran the estate and with the tourists who visited year-round, they also established their own families and communities there and in the surrounding area. Sarah Johnson’s Mount Vernon reveals both a century and a community that are usually not part of Mount Vernon’s story.
I also work actively in the field of American book history: the study of printing, publishing, authorship, and reading in the United States. In addition to teaching courses in this area, I co-edited Perspectives on American Book History: Artifacts and Commentary (University of Massachusetts Press, 2002), the first major textbook designed for courses in American book history; and A History of the Book in America, Volume 3 (The Industrial Book, 1840-1880), which appeared in the summer of 2007 from the University of North Carolina Press. With the historian Joan Shelley Rubin (University of Rochester), I’m an associate editor of The Oxford Companion to the Book (to be published in 2009), responsible for all the U.S.-related entries in this global reference work. My first book, Constructing American Lives: Biography and Culture in Nineteenth Century America (University of North Carolina Press, 1999), explores what biography meant to Americans—biographers, critics, publishers, and readers—between the founding of the nation and the turn of the 20th century. This book won the SHARP Book Prize from the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing (as the best book published in 1999 on the history of the book).
Finally, over the past decade I’ve become quite involved in collaborations with K-12 education and in the scholarship of teaching and learning more generally. I routinely work with the Northern Nevada Teaching American History Project, and I teach summer and school-year workshops for the We The People: The Citizen and the Constitution program (sponsored by the Center for Civic Education) and for the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. I’m also a contributing editor of the Journal of American History, responsible for its annual “Textbooks and Teaching” section.
Online Article: “Going Dutch,” Common Place 1:1 (September 2000)
- HIST 300: Historical Research and Writing
- HIST 406/606 (Capstone): War, Culture and Society in American History (The Civil War in American Culture)
- HIST 412/612: Revolutionary America, 1750-1815
- HIST 413/613: The United States, 1815-1877
- HIST 484b/684b: History of the Book in America
- HIST 487/687: Topics in American Studies (various topical courses)
- HIST 721: Seminar in 19th Century U. S. History
- CH 203: The American Experience