Cover image for America's public holidays, 1865-1920
Title:
America's public holidays, 1865-1920
Author:
Litwicki, Ellen M.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Washington, [D.C.] : Smithsonian Institution Press, [2000]

©2000
Physical Description:
ix, 293 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Language:
English
Contents:
Memorial days -- Emancipation days -- Labor's days -- Ethnic holidays -- Patriotic holidays and civic education - Holidays and the progressive search for community.
ISBN:
9781560988632

9781588340610
Format :
Book

Available:*

Library
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Status
Central Library GT4803 .L57 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Summary

Summary

Between the close of the Civil War and the end of World War I, Americans invented more than twenty-five holidays. A few, such as Memorial and Labor Days, assumed permanent places on the nation's calendar, while others, such as Constitution and Bird Days, never caught on. Driven primarily by voluntary associations of native-born, middle-class citizens who hoped to forge a unified civic culture in an increasingly fragmented nation, this burst of holiday invention was augmented by African Americans, ethnic Americans, and labor unions, who celebrated national festivities on their terms -- and created new holidays of their own.

Investigating a wide array of secular holidays, Ellen M. Litwicki argues that their invention and celebration provided various American groups with the opportunity to recast the story of the United States with themselves in the pivotal roles. She shows how competing commemorations reflected both the diversity of the nation's populace and the fragility of the sponsors' visions of unity. She explains that holidays such as Memorial Day, Emancipation Day, Lincoln's Birthday, Labor Day, May Day, Flag Day, and Veterans' Day originated in efforts to commemorate soldierly valor, to assert black citizenship rights, to proclaim workers' centrality to America, to forge a multicultural nation, and to define patriotism as the supreme American virtue.

Although many of the public holidays created between 1865 and 1920 seem to have devolved into little more than three-day weekends, Litwicki demonstrates that their celebrations still have the potential not only to convey American ideals but also to expose tensions in American society.


Summary

From the revered Memorial Day to the forgotten Lasties Day, America's Public Holidays is a timely and thoughtful analysis of how the civic culture of America has been fashioned. By analyzing how holidays became a forum for expressing patriotism, how public tradition has been invented, and how the definition of America itself was changed, Ellen Litwicki tells the intriguing story of the elite effort to create new holidays and the variety of responses from ordinary Americans.


Author Notes

Ellen M. Litwicki is an associate professor of history at the State University of New York College at Fredonia.


Ellen M. Litwicki is an associate professor of history at the State University of New York College at Fredonia


Reviews 2

Choice Review

This examination of the holidays created between the end of the Civil War and the close of WWI began as part of a more wide-ranging investigation attempting to answer "why and how various Americans sought to establish a unifying national culture at the turn of the twentieth century." Because she found so much material that clearly addressed the issues in which she was interested, Litwicki never got past holidays. A relatively small number of these holidays, such as Memorial Day, became fixtures on the nation's calendar, while many others, such as Bird Day, passed out of existence. Voluntary associations of native-born, middle-class citizens seeking to create a unified civic culture in what seemed to them an increasingly fragmented nation were behind the invention of many of these holidays. Various ethnic and cultural groups, however, created new holidays of their own, enabling them to recast the story of the US with themselves in prominent roles. Litwicki demonstrates that study of these holidays provides information about American values as well as tensions in American society. The very small type makes for somewhat difficult reading, but it is very much worth the effort. Upper-division undergraduates and above. W. K. McNeil; Ozark Folk Center


Choice Review

This examination of the holidays created between the end of the Civil War and the close of WWI began as part of a more wide-ranging investigation attempting to answer "why and how various Americans sought to establish a unifying national culture at the turn of the twentieth century." Because she found so much material that clearly addressed the issues in which she was interested, Litwicki never got past holidays. A relatively small number of these holidays, such as Memorial Day, became fixtures on the nation's calendar, while many others, such as Bird Day, passed out of existence. Voluntary associations of native-born, middle-class citizens seeking to create a unified civic culture in what seemed to them an increasingly fragmented nation were behind the invention of many of these holidays. Various ethnic and cultural groups, however, created new holidays of their own, enabling them to recast the story of the US with themselves in prominent roles. Litwicki demonstrates that study of these holidays provides information about American values as well as tensions in American society. The very small type makes for somewhat difficult reading, but it is very much worth the effort. Upper-division undergraduates and above. W. K. McNeil; Ozark Folk Center


Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. vii
Introductionp. 1
1. Memorial Daysp. 9
2. Emancipation Daysp. 50
3. Labor's Daysp. 70
4. Ethnic Holidaysp. 113
5. Patriotic Holidays and Civic Educationp. 148
6. Holidays and the Progressive Search for Communityp. 191
Conclusionp. 239
Notesp. 249
Indexp. 287
Acknowledgmentsp. vii
Introductionp. 1
1. Memorial Daysp. 9
2. Emancipation Daysp. 50
3. Labor's Daysp. 70
4. Ethnic Holidaysp. 113
5. Patriotic Holidays and Civic Educationp. 148
6. Holidays and the Progressive Search for Communityp. 191
Conclusionp. 239
Notesp. 249
Indexp. 287

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