Mar 15, 2022
Spurred by Abraham Lincoln’s campaign stop in Hartford in March 1860, the Wide Awake movement spread from Connecticut throughout the North like wildfire. In this episode of Grating the Nutmeg, the Connecticut Historical Society’s Natalie Belanger takes a look at this pivotal youth movement of the Civil War era. Listen to find out how this home-grown political movement and their signature torchlit parades helped to redefine American democracy on the eve of the Civil War.
This topic was inspired by “Albert’s Odd Jobs,” an exhibition on view at the CT Historical Society through April 16, 2022. It covers the life of Glastonbury’s Albert Walker, a farmer, skilled artisan, amateur magician, and, of course, a Wide Awake. You can take a virtual 3D tour of “Albert’s Odd Jobs” on the museum’s website, chs.org.
Special thanks to guest Jon Grinspan, the Curator of Political History at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Grinspan studies the deep history of American democracy, especially the wild partisan campaigns of the 1800s. He frequently contributes to the New York Times, and his work has been featured in The New Yorker, the Washington Post, The Atlantic, and elsewhere. His most recent book is The Age of Acrimony: How American Fought to Fix Their Democracy 1865-1915.
Learn more about Connecticut and the Civil War here:
This episode of Grating the Nutmeg was produced by Natalie Belanger and engineered by Patrick O’Sullivan.
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Image credit: Wide Awake Flag, 1889. This flag was reportedly carried by the Wide Awakes during an excursion to Washington, D.C. for the Presidential inauguration parade of Benjamin Harrison on 4 March 1889. CHS Collection, 1950.530.0