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The Art of Collaboration

up week To help celebrate University Press Week, the University of Virginia Press is proud to take part in a blog tour that will also include posts from the University Press of Colorado, the University of Georgia Press, Duke University Press, the University of California Press, McGill-Queen’s University PressTexas A&M Press, Project MUSE, Yale University Press, and the University of Chicago Press.

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When a theme of University Press Week turned out to be “collaboration,” we naturally thought of Chasing Shadows: The Nixon Tapes, the Chennault Affair, and the Origins of Watergate, a publication that originated in the research done at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center and would go on to involve not only the print side of the UVa Press but its electronic imprint, Rotunda.

Among the many programs at the Miller Center, perhaps the best known is its Presidential Recordings Program. Its epic task is to transcribe the nearly 5,000 hours of recordings made by American presidents, beginning with a handful of tapes by FDR. This is an enormously valuable contribution to presidential history. In 2011, the Miller Center collaborated with Rotunda on The Presidential Recordings of Lyndon B. Johnson Digital Edition, an online collection of Johnson’s tapes, many of which had never before been released to the public. This archive went on to win the PROSE Award for eResources in the Humanities.

From the beginning, the intention was to expand on the Johnson recordings in Rotunda by bringing in additional presidents such as Nixon, but the approach of Watergate’s 40th anniversary put the process on the fast track. The looming anniversary also presented an opportunity for the print side of the Press. In listening to the Nixon tapes, Miller Center researcher Ken Hughes had uncovered a pattern of covert activity beginning long before Watergate, stretching all the way back to Nixon’s presidential campaign of 1968. It was decided that Hughes would author a book on his findings; the material could be the basis for a powerful ebook and, at the same time, help expand Rotunda’s already-existing digital edition of the presidential recordings. This was in 2013. Watergate’s August 2014 anniversary would impose on the project a non-negotiable deadline.

Over the next several months, Ken worked, as they say, furiously. When the manuscript began to arrive, the Press’s editors worked fairly furiously themselves to create a book that met its strict deadline while keeping the highest editorial and scholarly standards. Staff at Rotunda set to work creating an ebook edition that linked to complete transcriptions and audio files of the conversations referenced in the book. These contents would also be available on a dedicated web site,, and would become the cornerstone of the expanded Presidential Recordings Digital Edition.

Just in time for the Watergate anniversary, we published the finished book. We were rewarded for all our hard work by a whirlwind round of publicity that included excerpts of the book on Salon and ABC News, more interviews with Ken than we can count, positive reviews in the Washington Post, Kirkus, and the Atlantic, and a special event at the Washington Post offices in which Ken joined Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein to reflect on the famous break-in and the historic downfall of the president. get-img

Marc Selvertsone, Chair of the Miller Center’s Presidential Recordings Program, on the conception of the project and the teamwork that followed: “(UVa Press director) Mark Saunders and I had been talking about doing projects like this for awhile, and we thought it’d be a great way to leverage the Presidential Recording Program’s expertise in transcribing, annotating, and interpreting the recordings, and the Press’s ability to present and offer access to that material in novel and engaging ways. We worked under incredibly tight deadlines, but everyone involved in the project recognized, I’m pretty sure, how valuable these kinds of publications could be and how exciting it would be to pull it off, particularly in time to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Nixon’s resignation. And I think the reason we were so successful is that our core relationship was so strong, we had real faith in each other, that we could all pull together to make it happen. It was pretty special, I think.”

Chasing Shadows author Ken Hughes: “I marveled at the way Mark Saunders and Marc Selverstone managed to overcome all the organizational challenges of coordinating separate institutions and media into a seamless whole. Not only were the Press and the Miller Center able to pull off the feat of producing a book in just a few months time, together we were able to help readers delve deeper into the book’s subject by seamlessly accessing the White House tapes and transcripts at the touch of a fingertip. Many people worked behind the scenes at both institutions to make it all work for the reader simply and intuitively. For an author, it was great to be able to give readers the opportunity to move instantly from reading history to experiencing history. It was a chance to share the best part of studying Nixon and Watergate.”

Chasing Shadows was originally going to cover a longer period of history, taking the reader into Nixon’s second term. As the manuscript grew, however, it was decided it would be split up into two books. And so, in spring 2015, with the fall of Saigon approaching its 40th anniversary, we will bring out Ken’s follow-up book, Fatal Politics: The Nixon Tapes, the Vietnam War, and the Casualties of Reelection. Telling a story that, if anything, is even more explosive than the one in Chasing Shadows, Fatal Politics reveals how Nixon postponed the the inevitable end of American involvement in the Vietnam War until he had achieved reelection in 1972. Like Chasing Shadows, this sequel is the result of an examination of the secret White House tapes that is unprecedented in its depth. Also like its predecessor, Fatal Politics will be released as both a print book and as a special ebook with links to the recorded conversations’ full transcriptions and audio files.

Just a few short weeks ago, Ken emailed several of us at the Press and at the Miller Center to announce the Fatal Politics manuscript was done. And so we begin again…

Posted in Featured, History and Political Science, Rotunda

The Politics of Emancipation

AL The Emancipation Proclamation strikes us now as not only necessary but one of the most inevitable acts in American history. In his new book, Lincoln’s Dilemma: Blair, Sumner, and the Republican Struggle over Racism and Equality in the Civil War Era, historian Paul Escott shows that emancipation was no foregone conclusion and was a balancing act among many interests. In other words, it was politics. Professor Escott agreed to answer a few questions about this pivotal chapter in American history.

Q: There are various options for a historian who wants to look at the evolution of Lincoln’s thought and policies regarding slavery. You chose to approach it through Lincoln’s relationships with men like Charles Sumner and Montgomery Blair. What is it about this approach that provides a particularly good window for the modern reader on this process?

Escott: The Republican Party before the Civil War was both a brand-new organization and an amalgam of very different elements.  Former Democrats like Montgomery Blair and his influential family were anti-slavery but also anti-black and pro-states’ rights.  They insisted that black people should be removed from the United States; any emancipation had to be accompanied by colonization.  Former Whigs were usually more positive toward reform and equal rights, and some Republicans, like Charles Sumner, were ardent abolitionists.  When I discovered how close Abraham Lincoln was to both Montgomery Blair and Charles Sumner, I realized that his relationship with them would allow me to analyze more clearly the evolution of his thought and policies on both emancipation and equality.  The story of his connections with them illustrates the struggle within the Republican Party over racism and equality.

Q: Our history is full of men who were extremely powerful and influential but no longer widely known because they were never actually presidents. There are only a handful of non-presidents in American politics whose names are familiar to most people. Hamilton and Franklin come to mind; mabe Henry Clay would sneak in. It seems strange that Franklin Pierce, say, should be more remembered than Montgomery Blair, who was an absolute dynamo of 19th-century American politics. Can presidency, or the lack of it, be an arbitrary criterion for passage into the popular canon?

Escott: Yes, using the presidency as the criterion for importance can be arbitrary and misleading. We remember Franklin Pierce, when we remember him at all, for mistakes made during his administration.  Montgomery Blair, on the other hand, played a major role in the establishment of the Republican Party and had a powerful influence on President Lincoln’s policies toward slavery from the beginning of the war until well into 1864.  Blair wrote an impressive brief for Dred Scott’s freedom in that celebrated case, influenced Republican politics in both Missouri and Maryland, and was a potent voice in the Cabinet.  He worked hand-in-glove with Abraham Lincoln in all of the President’s initiatives for gradual emancipation and colonization.  When one considers that his father was also a trusted adviser to the President and that his brother was a powerful congressman and general in Sherman’s army, the influence of the Blairs on our history was much greater than that of Franklin Pierce.

Q: One of the things your book explains is that racism was very real even in the North and that some opponents of slavery in Lincoln’s party were motivated by racist sentiments rather than a belief in racial equality. Blair, for example, wished to do away not only with slavery but the presence of African Americans altogether—to send them back to Africa. Lincoln is widely perceived as a crusader for equality, but was he at all sympathetic to these racist sentiments? Did his own feelings evolve throughout his presidency?

Escott: Lincoln’s feelings did evolve throughout his life and his presidency, and he became far more empathetic toward African Americans than were the Blairs.  But initially he came to the issue of race from a mindset similar to that of the Blairs.  He had many close ties, both personal and familial, to Kentucky and to the very mild anti-slavery sentiment there that was willing to consider gradual emancipation.  As a practical politician he never forgot or underestimated the depth of racist sentiment in the North as well as the South.  Another reason that he was never a bold advocate for complete racial equality was that he saw preserving the Union, and bringing white southerners back into it, as his primary responsibility. By following Lincoln’s relationship with the Blairs and with Charles Sumner, I am able to trace the evolution of his ideas and policies on emancipation, colonization, and the status of African Americans.

Paul Escott’s Lincoln’s Dilemma: Blair, Sumner, and the Republican Struggle over Racism and Equality in the Civil War Era is available now.

Posted in History and Political Science, Main

2014 Press Warehouse Sale

Attention, book lovers, bargain hunters, and history buffs! Don’t miss the great deals at the University of Virginia Press Warehouse Sale. Thousands of first-quality books in Virginiana, history, literature, African American studies, founding fathers, the Civil War, and more will be on sale. Hours are Friday, October 31, from 10 am to 6 pm, and Saturday, November 1, from 10 am to 2 pm at the Press Warehouse, 500 Edgemont Road, three blocks west of McCormick and Alderman (driveway located off McCormick Road). For more information, please email or call 434-924-6070.

Posted in Art and Architecture, Caribbean and African Studies, Environmental Studies, History and Political Science, Literary and Cultural Studies, Main, Philosophy and Religion

Bernard Mayes

glasses We are remembering Bernard Mayes, who passed away on October 23 at the age of 85 after one of the most engaged lives imaginable. A survivor during his childhood of the London blitz, Mayes went on to become an ordained priest in the Anglican church. His many accomplishments included broadcasting with the BBC, his founding of the Suicide Prevention movement in his adopted America, and serving as first chairman of NPR. Mayes joined the faculty of the University of Virginia in 1981 and created the university’s media studies program. He was also a valuable activist for gay rights, and his memoir, Escaping God’s Closet: The Revelations of a Queer Priest, is a fascinating look at the how a gay priest resolves his sexuality with his faith.

The Daily Progress has published an excellent look at Mayes’s life here. We should all bring this much courage and passion to our lives.

Posted in Philosophy and Religion, Press News

The Civil War Comes to Vermont

One hundred and fifty years ago, on October 19, 1864, a band of Confederate raiders attacked the small Vermont town of St. Albans in Franklin County. To mark the anniversary, we’re pleased to post the historic overview of the city and its architecture, together with one of the associated building entries, drawn from the award-winning Buildings of Vermont volume by Glenn Andres and Curtis Johnson and from SAH Archipedia, which features online entries here and here.

City of St. Albans

St. Albans has been justly celebrated for the beauty of its setting along Lake Champlain, for its status as a major port of entry to the United States, and as the nation’s greatest nineteenth-century rail center east of Chicago. Not surprisingly, St. Albans is also a place of notable architecture. In Norwood, his novel of 1867, Henry Ward Beecher proclaimed that “the picturesque scenery of New England reaches a climax at St. Alban’s [sic], a place in the midst of greater variety of scenic beauty than any other that I can remember in America.” St. Albans’s town stretches from St. Albans Bay on the west to hills that rise toward the Green Mountains on the east. It was first settled on the bay, affording water access north to Canada and south to the emerging communities of New York, which established early ties with Franklin County as witnessed in the millwork and joinery of Whitehall, New York–based William Sprats. These ties became most evident almost three miles to the east in what would become the City of St. Albans. Here Ira Allen, soon to be a major proprietor in the town, surveyed the stagecoach road that became U.S. 7 (Main Street) to run adjacent to the common as mandated by the town’s New Hampshire Grant charter. While the bay was the early commercial center for St. Albans, its docks and boatyards retaining importance through the era of lake steamers, the inland village at the junction of Lake Street and the north–south stagecoach road served as the political center for town and county. By 1793 the common had been cleared, and in 1799 land for a courthouse was donated by Colonel Halloway Taylor. Eventually, the common developed into a handsomely appointed park named after the colonel.

By the 1830s, while the St. Albans Steamboat Company was booming at the bay, village-area proprietor and former U.S. congressman John Smith used his Washington contacts to promote St. Albans as a railroad center. By the 1850s Smith was president of the Vermont and Canada Railroad, bringing trains from Boston to Montreal via St. Albans, and had laid the groundwork for a St. Albans–based family railroad dynasty. His successor and son, John Gregory Smith (governor of Vermont 1863-1864 and president of the Northern Pacific Railroad 1866-1872), engineered a series of mergers that produced the Central Vermont Railroad, and facilitated the transfer of administration and shops from Northfield to the western side of St. Albans village in 1860. Between 1860 and 1870 the town’s population almost doubled to 7,014 residents.

St. Albans’s strategic importance was signaled in 1864, when Confederate raiders crossed in disguise from Canada in a successful attempt to rob the city’s banks and an abortive attempt to burn its downtown core. In the 1890s John Gregory Smith’s son, Edward Curtis Smith (governor of Vermont 1898-1900), developed the main rail yard (called “Italy yard” because of its construction by Italian work crews) into the most extensive in New England. Railroad operations at their turn-of-the-twentieth-century peak provided 1,799 jobs in a community of 7,954 residents. They also drew businesses that depended on rail–from large tourist hotels to bridge fabricators and foundries. The St. Albans Foundry Company became a worldwide purveyor of horse-powered treadmills and later a pioneer of portable gasoline engines for farm power. Other industry included manufacturers of work clothes and garters, New England’s largest creamery, a packing plant, and cold storage for butter, fruit, and maple sugar.

The railroad and the growth it fostered led to the village being set off from the town, first in 1855 as a fire-prevention district, next in 1859 as an incorporated village, and in 1896 as a city. The railroad yards developed on the flats to the west of Main Street with offices, depots, and shops on Lake Street, and adjacent workers’ neighborhoods. A commercial area grew between the tracks and Main Street, and public and institutional buildings were built along the eastern edge of Taylor Park, which was formalized with a fountain (1887) donated by the Smith family. Beyond Taylor Park rose the houses of merchants, industrialists, and railroad managers on Aldis Hill.

Whereas Federal and Greek Revival houses had lined the Main Street stagecoach road, the area eastward developed during the railroad era with Gothic Revival, Italianate, Second Empire, and Queen Anne buildings. Bank, Congress, High, and Smith streets comprise one of the state’s most stylistically varied and best-preserved Victorian neighborhoods, the houses becoming increasingly grand as they climb the hill, gaining views of the lake and the distant Adirondacks. While the city’s two most extravagant houses, both built by Smiths, no longer stand, the neighborhood is dotted with the homes of their relatives and executives, a veritable catalogue of an ambitious half century of building. The commercial district by contrast is distinguished by striking homogeneity. A fire in 1895 destroyed one hundred and thirty buildings on seventy-five acres along the west side of Main Street. Rebuilt within two years, the new downtown was dense with three- to four-story masonry structures in Queen Anne, Romanesque, and Colonial Revival modes.

Subsequent fires, changing business patterns, and the diminishing importance of the railroad over the course of the twentieth century caused some attrition but also a relatively stable population, lessening the inevitable pressures for change. As a result, the built fabric of nineteenth-century St. Albans remains impressively visible.

FR30 Brainerd House

1853. 107 Bank St., City of St. Albans

Unlike most of Vermont’s Gothic Revival houses, which tended to fall into the Carpenter Gothic cottage category, lawyer Lawrence Brainerd Jr.’s house was a more substantial Gothic villa, reflecting the family’s success in mercantile, banking, steamboat, and railroad enterprises. The house was built on a spacious property at what was then the edge of town, beyond the head of Bank Street. It is large, two-and-a-half stories, and solid, with brick walls on granite foundations. The house is picturesque with an asymmetrical plan topped by an array of gables, cross gables, and clustered corbeled octagonal chimneys. A veranda with a round corner pavilion wraps the west and south faces of the building in Tudor arches with quatrefoil spandrels. The gables are decorated with some of the finest bargeboards in Vermont, cusp-arched with drops. These bargeboards were replicated when the house was expanded to the east later in the nineteenth century. They were duplicated at the Rugg House (c. 1890 or earlier) on the north side of VT 36, 1.7 miles east of town.

Posted in Art and Architecture, Featured, History and Political Science, Rotunda

James Salter

James-Salter James Salter, one of the last men standing from the grand postwar era of American novelists, is the first Kapnick Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at the University of Virginia. What this means for fiction fans in the Charlottesville area is three opportunities in October to see Salter speak on the craft of writing. The first lecture will be Thursday, October 9. Two more lectures will follow on the 14th and the 27th. Each event is at 6:00 p.m. in UVa’s Special Collections Auditorium. On November 11 at 5:00 p.m. Salter will give a fiction reading in Nau Hall. Complete details on all events may be found here.

Richard Ford once rather famously remarked, “It is an article of faith among readers of fiction that James Salter writes American sentences better than anybody writing today.” You may read an excellent profile of Salter here.

Posted in Literary and Cultural Studies, Press News

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