J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

Traveling on “Waterways and Byways” in 2009

The Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife will have its next annual conference on 13-14 June 2009, and the topic will be “Waterways and Byways, 1600-1890.”

The call for papers says:

The Seminar is accepting proposals for papers and presentations on the subject of early transportation networks operating within New England and contiguous portions of New York and Canada before 1890.

Based on the premise that New England’s everyday economy, much like its culture, depended on regional interconnectivity, this conference attempts to examine the physical, professional, and cultural networks that facilitated and encouraged this movement.

Specifically, the conference seeks proposals on river and canal life, on tavern circuits, and on the rise of overland stagecoach routes. The conference also seeks papers on packet boats and coaster trades; the evolution of an inland shipbuilding legacy; the introduction of locks to major rivers; and the growth of commercial turnpikes, steamboats, and early railways.

Planners also look for papers on traditional native ferrying points and fords, on bridge and road builders, as well as on entrepreneurs—such as peddlers, entertainers, civil engineers, coach and carriage makers, and travel diarists—who provided or made use of this connectivity.

The Seminar welcomes proposals from authors, academic and museum scholars working in the public humanities, graduate students, teachers, and the general public. Preference will be given to papers based on primary sources such as account books, diaries, reminiscences, personal and business papers, newspapers and artifacts as well as topographic and toponymic data.
Each paper should be about twenty to twenty-five minutes long (that’s 10-12 double-spaced pages), to be read aloud to the assembly. To propose a paper, email the Seminar a one-page prospectus that cites sources and a one-page vita as attachments by 1 February 2009. Selected papers will appear in a proceedings volume issued about a year after the conference.

Why the cut-off date of 1890? This conference is focused on inland travel before the automobile.

The picture above shows the stagecoach that Old Sturbridge Village hosted last summer. I got to see it in action. I also got to see it standing still after one of the horses stumbled and fell. A couple who were visiting the museum knew enough about horses to get that animal and its teammate calm enough for it to scramble back to its feet, and then they and the coach went home for the day. A little too much authenticity, I thought.

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