UVM History professor Felicia Kornbluh was recently interviewed about her new book, Ensuring Poverty: Welfare Reform in Feminist Perspective. To read more about this and to hear the interview, please use the following link:https://fair.org/home/felicia-kornbluh-on-welfare-reform/

Professor Kornbluh’s work reminds us that a historical perspective on issues of contemporary relevance is vitally important.


Professor Susanna Schrafstetter’s current research on Germans Jews who fled their home country for Italy during the Nazi era was the subject of a piece in a leading German newspaper, Sueddeutsche Zeitung. The article  summarizes the findings of Professor Schrafstetter’s most recent essay in Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte, one of Germany`s leading journals in the field of 20th-century history. It discusses the question of why German Jews fled to fascist Italy by analyzing the fate of the roughly 400 Jews from Munich who left for the Italian peninsula between 1933 and 1940. The article about the Munich Jewish refugees is a first case study in Professor Schrafstetter’s research about German Jewish refugees in fascist Italy. Her focus is on the experiences of the refugees, rather than on official policy. Using a broad range of  sources, she traces the life stories of individuals, conveying a multitude of experiences across time and in different regions of Italy.

The article in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung focuses  on a few biographies that Professor Schrafstetter discusses in her article in the Vierteljahrshefte. One of them is the lawyer Max Hirschberg ,who fled his hometown of Munich in 1934. Politically, Hirschberg, who was close to the Social Democratic Party, was a known opponent of Nazism and had been imprisoned for a while in 1933. Hirschberg was able to find work in a law office in Milan, where he advised other refugees about emigration matters. Hirschberg considered the Italian people to be absolutely immune against “chauvinism, militarism and antisemitism,” despite the fact that he was observed by fascist informers and heard from many refugees whom he advised about appalling treatment by fascist authorities or police. To him, all this paled in comparison to what he had seen in Germany. However, after the promulgation of the antisemitic racial laws in Italy in the fall of 1938, he and his family left Milan for New York. Hirschberg, like other German Jews who came to Italy in the early 1930s, had managed to rebuild a life for himself and his family in exile but the Italian racial legislation forced him to emigrate a second time.

Others were less lucky. Samuel and Adele Obarzanek and their two children did not leave Munich until the summer of 1939. They boarded a train from Munich to Milan with no more than a few Reichmarks and four suitcases. Like thousands of other Jewish refugees in Italy, they were unable to arrange for their emigration to a third country. Once the Germans started to occupy most of the Italian peninsula in the fall of 1943, the Obarzaneks went into hiding in a small village in the Italian Alps. However, they were discovered, arrested, and eventually deported to Auschwitz. Samuel Obarzanek and his son Emanuel were murdered in Auschwitz and Mauthausen. Adele Obarzanek and her daughter Thea survived.

Professor Schrafstetter’s sobering and important work reflects the broad reach of her interests in the history of modern Germany and the Department of History is proud to celebrate her accomplishments as a scholar.

For those of you who read German, please follow the link below for the article about Schrafstetter’s work.


Lecture by Michael Bailey

On Thursday November 15, at 5:30PM, Professor Michael D. Bailey (Iowa State) will give a public lecture at UVM, entitled “Preacher, Reformer, Witch-Hunter:  Johannes Nider and the Religious World of the Late Middle Ages.”  The talk will be in the Marsh Room of Billings Library. Prof. Bailey’s lecture is part of the 2018-2019 CAS Medieval Studies Lecture, and is sponsored by the UVM Humanities Center, the UVM
Department of History, and UVM Silver Special Collections. Please come!



Professor Abby McGowan delivered a fascinating lecture on 10/24 on the topic of:

At Home with the World: Globalization, Fashion, and the 19th-Century Home

The description of this talk follows:

Snug parlors, lavishly ornamented bonnets, and cozy cottages: although all evoke particularly EuroAmerican ideals and experiences, all were equally influenced by global forces. In this talk, McGowan explores the global ideas, products, fashions, and styles shaping home lives in the nineteenth century.

Developments in History

Dear History Readers,

I hope that you are all well. It’s raining heavily here in Burlington as I write. As always, the history department is busy with activity.

Our own Professor Bogac Ergene, co-author (with Febe Armanios) of a recent book on Halal food, was quoted just this week in the Washington Post. Follow this link for the story: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/why-halal-meat-generates-so-much-controversy-in-europe/2018/10/08/e58fd16a-9439-11e8-818b-e9b7348cd87d_story.html?utm_term=.e87108268af2

Professor Jonathan Huener, in his role as a Director of the Miller Center for Holocaust Studies, has been working hard to prepare for the Center’s triennial Miller Symposium which, this year, is on the topic of “Poland Under German Occupation, 1939-1945”. For more details view this link: https://www.uvm.edu/cas/holocauststudies/events/events-calendar

Finally, the history department has a social media intern this semester, History and Political Science double major Kaleigh Calvao. Kaleigh is compiling all sorts of interesting information about UVM history alums. If you have a story you’d like to share about post graduate life, please e-mail it to her at kaleigh.calvao@uvm.edu.

We are always interested in hearing from interested students, faculty, alumni/ae/x, and members of the public.

Best wishes,

Paul Deslandes

Chair, Department of History

Hi History Readers,

I’m writing to draw your attention to the Historic Preservation Internship Presentations, which will take place tomorrow morning. Details are included below:

UVM Historic Preservation Graduate Internship Presentations 

Wednesday, October 10 from 9 to 11 AM

Marsh Room, Billings Library, University of Vermont

9:00 – Welcome, Professor Thomas Visser, director, UVM Historic Preservation Program

9:10 – Danielle Allen, Robert Hull Fleming Museum, University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont

9:30 – Timothy Henderson, Central Park Conservancy, New York, New York

10:00 – Maureen McCoy, International Council on Monuments & Sites, Paris, France

10:20 – Alexander Tolstoi, Historic Sites Program, Vermont Division for Historic Preservation, Montpelier, Vermont

You are cordially invited to attend this public event!


Best wishes,

Paul Deslandes


Dear UVM History Students,

Please see the message below about an upcoming UVM History Club meeting from that organization’s executive body.

Paul Deslandes

Chair, History


Hello All,

Greetings from the History Club! This is an announcement that we will be having our first meeting of the year Tuesday the 18th of September at 6:00 pm. The meeting will be in the Lafayette Hall in room L302. We would love to see you there and plan to go over a variety of things about the club and more. If you are interested or have any questions whatsoever, feel free to email me at cdcarlin@uvm.edu with any questions, concerns, etc.


Thank you and we hope to see you there,

The Executive Committee of the History Club

Nathan Raike, President

Evan Haley, Vice-President

Cameron Carlin, Treasurer

A New Academic Year

Dear History Friends, Colleagues, and Students,

I am writing to welcome you back to the start of a new academic year. In my role as Chair, I will be taking on a primary role reaching out to those readers of our blog with an interest in history (and the history department at UVM). There have been a number of exciting developments and accomplishments in recent months, some of which I want to share with you below.

The Department has recently appointed a social media intern. Filling this position is undergraduate Kaleigh Calvao (a double major in history and political science). Kaleigh has a broad range of experience working in both politics and at the New London (CT) Historical Society. She will be helping the department, in the weeks and months ahead, to develop a social media strategy, revise its website, and reach out to alumni so that we can better showcase their achievements and help them connect with our current students.

In recent months, our faculty and students have had a number of great successes. In the space below, I want to highlight just a few of these:

— Lauren Fedewa (a 2018 graduate of our M.A. program) received a Fulbright U.S. Program Award to Germany in history for 2018-2019. During the award period, Fedewa will be conducting research on the establishment and operation of German foreign child-care facilities during the Second World War. During her time in Germany, she will be affiliated with the Historisches Seminar at Leibniz University in Hannover. Lauren was also awarded a fellowship from the Kosciuszko Foundation to study Polish at Jagiellonian University. The latter award she had to decline, though, to pursue the Fulbright.

—The following are just a few of our recent graduates pursuing advanced study at other institutions (Sarah Jauris, B.A. 2017–M.A. in History, Boston College; Maria Koutsouris, B.A. 2018–M.A. in Theology, Boston College; John Marchinkoski B.A. 2016–Ph.D. in English at Harvard University; and Franco Paz, M.A. 2018–Ph.D. in history at Harvard University).

–Current M.A. student Courtney Smith attended a week long workshop on medieval manuscripts in Montreal during the final week of August.

–Professor Felicia Kornbluh recently had a  piece in the New York Times Book Review in which she not only reflected on a new history of the Vietnam War for young people but also her work, from the ages of 9-13, with the Children’s Express Advocacy and News Service. At age 13, she was part of a team of western journalists who reported from Cambodia following the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime. Kornbluh was promoted to the position of senor editor at the age of 16 and reported (with others) on children’s fears of nuclear war, a story that was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in Commentary.

–In spring 2018, the following history students were elected to membership in Phi Beta Kappa (Maria Koutsouris, Jack Roberts, Emily Thibodeau, and Lisa Wood)

–Professor Susanna Schrafstetter is the Judith B. and Burton P. Resnick Invitational Scholar for the Study of Anti-Semitism at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum during the fall 2018 semester. While in residence at the Mandel Center in Washington, D.C. she will be working on her project “Seeking Survival in the South: German-Jewish Refugees in Italy, 1933-1950.”

–Professor Alan Steinweis is holding the Ina Levine Invitational Senior Fellowship at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum during the fall 2018 semester.  During the time that he is in residence at the Mandel Center in Washington, D.C. he will be working on several research and writing projects related to Nazi Germany and the Holocaust.

In the weeks and months to come, I will continue to share information with blog readers about events in the history department, accomplishments of our students, faculty, and alumni, and interesting stories about the value of history and its study in the contemporary world.

If you are a UVM student, faculty member, or alum, with news to share, please feel free to pass it along by responding to this post or writing to me directly at paul.deslandes@uvm.edu.

Best wishes,

Paul Deslandes

Chair, Department of History

61 Summit Street: The History of a Home

By Jesse Keel and Evan Haley

Click here for a PDF version with images!


The Hill Section of Burlington is crowded with beautiful homes built at the turn of the 19th century by Burlington’s most prominent citizens. 61 Summit Street is the crown jewel of this eclectic collection. Built in 1892 by a wealthy Burlington business man, Edward Wells, it stands today as a portal to over 126 years of local history.

As interns shifting through this history, we were faced with a unique set of challenges that were completely unexpected. Uncovering the lives of the people who built the house was our first goal and, as it turned out, our hardest. It took almost a month to even find a picture of Edward Wells, which we finally discovered in a book of prominent Vermont men from the era. We never found pictures of Edgar Allen Poe Newcomb, the architect of the house, or Alfred Fisher, the contractor. In the search for information about their lives, we discovered that Alfred Fisher served in the Civil War and that Newcomb died in Hawaii and enjoyed writing operas.

What was not a struggle was uncovering information about Wells, Richardson and Company, the patent medicine business through which Mr. Wells made his fortune. The company not only produced patent medicine like Paine’s Celery Compound, an internationally dispersed cure-all, but also butter color, diamond dyes, and lactated food. Part of their business model involved diverse and aggressive advertisements. UVM’s Special Collections served as our primary resource for the information and visuals we were searching for and that was doubly true for their collection of Wells, Richardson and Co. adverts.

After the Wells family left the house, it was purchased by a local fraternity, Delta Psi. The Fraternity was founded in 1850 by J.E. Goodrich and in 1924, when they purchase the house, they dedicated it to him. In this case, we were interested to learn that they hired James Sykes, the son-in-law of Edward Wells, to do the redecoration of the house. While Special Collections holds a great number of files pertaining to Delta Psi from photos to rush pamphlets and a few money ledgers, we spent a lot of time tracking the brothers and the house through their yearbook pages in Ariel. The pictures they often included of their house reflected the physical changes the house went through and the events the brothers hosted around and inside the house. At the same time, the photos truly demonstrated the everlasting nature of the property that stood true through the ages, through war, through hard use by college men, through everything.

However, without a national organization to fall back on, Delta Psi’s numbers slowly declined from once being the largest UVM fraternity to a defunct one. Of course, 61 Summit remained a beautiful house ready for a new chapter and thankfully the UVM Alumni Association saw that possibility, as well. Not only were able to raise the money needed for the enormous restoration all through private donation, but they then took that money began a careful and conscious restoration of the historic home. In this way, they were able to restore 61 Summit Street to preserve its historical features such as the wood carved fireplaces and original light fixtures as well as seamlessly update the house to have offices and high-end event spaces.

With much wrangling, we managed to find the direction and scope of this exhibit within the research we spent months on. Eventually the story we wanted to tell became clear. 61 Summit Street is a fixed address with a one-of-a-kind house that, through three transformations, tells a story about what it means to be a home. As it turned out, designing the exhibit was only half the battle. For two history majors, the physical (and mathematical) hanging of the exhibit was a newfound challenge. With the assistance and patience of the staff at both The Fleming Museum and UVM Print and Mail, we were able to slowly but surely, piece by piece, hang the images. It was satisfying to see the sketches and ideas we held in our mind take shape on the wall. Of course, it didn’t look exactly how we pictured it. For example, The Vermont State Almanac published by Wells, Richardson and Company was originally supposed to be hung on the first wall as part our explanation of Victorian Vermont. However, it fit the spacing and color themes of the wall about Wells, Richardson and Company.

The text was a whole other story. It is hard to condense over 100 years of history into a dozen short paragraphs that are both self-explanatory, interesting, and educational. Next to hanging the exhibit crafting the text to fully express our ideas without covering the walls in text, was our biggest challenge. Perhaps especially because it can feel like a task that never fully seems completed. In the end, we reduced our words to the most critical and interesting facts and hoped that the exhibit might find a way to fill in the gaps and speak for itself. Though the wall text still is about 3000 words all together.

In a space that was used over 100 years ago as a parlor to entertain guests, we successfully captured a series of snapshots that give insight into the diverse history of this house, a house that went from a home for a family, to a home for a fraternity, to finally a home for alumni and perhaps even a home for us.



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