Cover image for Red, white, and blue letter days : an American calendar
Red, white, and blue letter days : an American calendar
Dennis, Matthew.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Ithaca, N.Y. ; London : Cornell University Press, 2002.
Physical Description:
xii, 338 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GT4803.A2 D46 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



The Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Columbus Day, Labor Day, Martin Luther King's Birthday, and other celebrations matter to Americans and reflect the state of American local and national politics. Commemorations of cataclysmic events and light, apparently trivial observances mirror American political and cultural life. Both reveal much about the material conditions of the United States and its citizens' identities, historical consciousness, and political attitudes. Lying dormant within these festivals is the potential for political consequence, controversy, even transformation. American political fetes remain works in progress, as Americans use historical celebrations as occasions to reinvent themselves and their nation, often with surprising results. In six engaging chapters -- assaying particular political holidays over the course of their histories, Red, White, and Blue Letter Days examines how Americans have shaped and been shaped by their calendar.

Matthew Dennis explores this vast political and cultural terrain, charting how Americans defined their identities through celebration. Independence Day invited African Americans to demand the equality promised in the Declaration of Independence, for example, just as Columbus Day -- celebrating the Italian, Catholic explorer -- helped immigrants proclaim their legitimacy as Americans. Native Americans too could use public holidays, such as Thanksgiving or Veterans Day, to express dissent or demonstrate their claims to citizenship. Merchants and advertisers colonized the American calendar, moving in to sell their products by linking them, often tenuously, with holiday occasions or casting consumptionas a patriotic act.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Dennis (Univ. of Oregon) explores how various US ethnic groups have identified with Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Columbus Day, Presidents' Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day, and Martin Luther King's birthday to express their particular group's distinctiveness. Independence Day led various groups, notably blacks, to demand the rights proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence. Thanksgiving gave American Indians an outlet for expressing disapproval of their treatment by the US government and people. Columbus Day enabled Italians, Catholics, and Hispanics, among others, to claim the admiral as their own, but the holiday also elicited controversy about who actually discovered the New World. Scandinavians and Chinese, for example, argued for a discoverer from their own cultural heritages. Merchants and advertisers utilized the various holidays as occasions for marketing, thereby often making consumption seem like a patriotic act on such celebrations as Presidents' Day. Distinguished by good writing and extensive research, the resulting book is an informative, readable history that goes beyond mere synthesis to demonstrate relationships between rival partisan causes. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. All levels and collections. W. K. McNeil Ozark Folk Center