Journal of American History


Impossible Hermaphrodites: Intersex in America, 1620–1960

Image courtesy ProQuest Information and Learning Company. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission
Courtesy ProQuest Information and Learning Company.

Elizabeth Reis explores the changing definitions and perceptions of “hermaphrodites” (now called intersex) from the colonial period to the mid-twentieth century. Over the course of three centuries, most medical observers agreed that true hermaphrodites did not exist in the human species, and that patients with ambiguous reproductive organs were simply cases of “mistaken sex.” The stubborn reality of hermaphrodism, however, challenged the ideal polarity of two sexes and raised questions about what it meant to be male or female. Reis describes the changing ways Americans, particularly physicians, have understood and treated nonconforming bodies to uncover the hidden history of intersex and to explain how Americans naturalized the norms of sex and gender. (pp. 411–41) Read online >

Did Democracy Cause the Recession That Led to the Constitution?

Courtesy Library of Congress.

Revising questions that Charles Beard raised in 1913, Woody Holton offers a new economic interpretation of the adoption of the U.S. Constitution. He connects debate about the Constitution with disputes about the political causes of the recession of the 1780s. One line of thought blamed the recession on an excess of democracy, manifested in state legislatures’ willingness to forgive debts and taxes. Such policies discouraged investment, proponents of limiting popular rule argued. Critics of this explanation excoriated the high state taxes intended to pay interest to owners of government bonds for discouraging economic effort by artisans and farmers. Holton uses this nearly forgotten labor-based analysis to challenge assumptions that the tumult of the 1780s shows the dangers of democracy. (pp. 442–69) Read online >

“The Bourgeoisie Will Fall and Fall Forever”: The New-York Tribune, the 1848 French Revolution, and American Social Democratic Discourse

Courtesy Library of Congress.

Adam-Max Tuchinsky surveys the antebellum history of Horace Greeley’s New-York Tribune to explore the social unease and contradictory impulses that gave rise to an American liberal tradition. The Tribune was both an organ for Republican champions of bourgeois property rights and America’s most influential reform newspaper. In its pages some writers formulated a social democratic ideology that showed a profound ambivalence toward the spread of market individualism and industrial capitalism. Tuchinsky uses the Tribune’s two-decade-long discussion of socialism, class, property, and the right to labor to illuminate the nature, origin, and complexity of Republican ideology on the eve of the Civil War. (pp. 470–97) Read online >

From Tuskegee to Togo: The Problem of Freedom in the Empire of Cotton

Courtesy Bundesarchiv Koblenz, Deutsches Ausland-Institut Collection.

Cotton was central to the economy, culture, and politics of the United States and the Western world throughout the long nineteenth century. Sven Beckert shows how cotton linked the United States to the world by telling an unlikely story that brings together cotton, civilization, and colonialism. In 1901, four cotton experts chosen by Booker T. Washington traveled from Tuskegee, Alabama, to the German colony of Togo, where German textile manufacturers and the colonial government wanted them to teach American agricultural techniques to local peasants. Detailing the tense relationship of German colonialists, African American cotton experts, and Ewe farmers, the article explores both changes in world cotton production after emancipation in the United States and the emergence of new ideas about Africa, Africans, and people of African heritage in a transnational space. (pp. 498–526) Read online >

Westbrook Pegler and the Anti-union Movement

Image courtesy Roy W. Howard Archive, School of Journalism, Indiana University.
Courtesy School of Journalism, Indiana University.

In the late 1930s, Westbrook Pegler, a controversial and popular columnist, dramatically unmasked the organized-crime ties of two top union leaders. He used those revelations to justify a campaign against union corruption, which he attributed to the Wagner Act. Pegler’s arguments led the Republican party to adopt opposition to union abuses as a central campaign theme and helped place anti-unionism at the center of the conservative response to the New Deal. David Witwer uses Pegler’s exposé of union corruption to offer a new perspective on modern American conservatism and to highlight the role of the news media in shifting the political landscape and shaping the public agenda. (pp. 527–52) Read online >


History in the Professional Schools

Perhaps more than any other academic field, history is practiced all across the campus. Nearly every college and university has a history department, but few of those departments contain all the historians in their institutions. The social sciences, the language departments, and the arts and humanities pay serious attention to history. Even professional schools, which are physically, bureaucratically, and intellectually far removed from colleges of arts and sciences, always pay some attention to history and often have a historian or two on their faculties. The experience of those historians, the scholars and teachers who practice history in professional schools, is the subject of this edition of “Interchange.” (pp. 553–76)

Participants: James L. Baughman, Catherine Brekus, Mary L. Dudziak, Nancy F. Koehn, Susan E. Lederer, and Jonathan Zimmerman Read online >

Book Reviews

Sept. 2005, Vol. 92 No. 2

Alphabetical by the last name of the book's first author or editor.


Web site Reviews

Web site reviews are available without a subscription.

  • Digital Early American Imprints: Series I. Evans (1639–1800), by Richard Cullen Rath (p. 707) Read online >
  • Divining America: Religion and the National Culture, by James T. Fisher (p. 708) Read online >
  • Raid on Deerfield: The Many Stories of 1704, by Richard Rabinowitz (p. 709) Read online >
  • Washington as It Was: Photographs by Theodor Horydczak, 1923–1959, by Zachary M. Schrag (p. 710) Read online >
  • The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, by Michael O’Malley (p. 711) Read online >

Editor’s Annual Report, 2004–2005


Recent Scholarship

Browse “Recent Scholarship,” Read online >

Sept. 2005 JAH cover

On the cover:

In a popular pamphlet about the autopsy performed on his body on June 5, 1838, words and images portrayed the “hermaphroditic” James Carey as monstrous but human. Drawings of hermaphrodites typically highlighted the genitals, without depicting the entire person. The depiction of Carey was unusual, combining the older sense of hermaphrodites as beings outside the natural order with a newer, would-be scientific approach to their condition. Image from James Akin, Facts connected with the Life of James Carey . . . , 1839. Courtesy American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts. See Elizabeth Reis, “Impossible Hermaphrodites: Intersex in America, 1620–1960,” p. 411.

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