Object Lessons in American Culture


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


History of American Civilization


This dissertation traces the impact of Object Lessons on nineteenth-century American life. Starting with everyday objects, educators employed this methodology to teach children to perceive their material worlds and to use their heightened observational skills to learn to reason. This dissertation argues that the systematic study of material things via Object Lessons shaped the ways in which adults and children found meaning in their possessions, considered the connections among science, visual representation, and morality, and viewed and talked about African Americans and Native Americans. Furthermore, this dissertation claims Object Lessons as both an analogue and a prehistory to current material culture scholarship, serving to historicize object-based study.