American History Up Close class starts Jan 29

Marian University Assoc. Prof. Richard Whaley and local historian Herman Bender will offer a university history course free to the public at the Fond du Lac Public Library. Enrolled university students who sign up for History of America from 1400 to 1865 in Objects and Artifacts will receive three credits, but the public is invited to sit in on as many of the classes as they like at no charge.

The offsite class is a first for Marian University.

“The class will have a strong hands-on component,” Whaley said. “Herman and I will provide artifacts and objects that provide visual context” for the nation’s history.

Bender will bring items from his collection that illustrate America’s history through textiles, furniture, ceramics, household accessories and trade goods. For one of the classes on colonial America, Bender will show a treasured candlestick originally owned by John Hancock. How the soapstone candlestick came to rest in Fond du Lac is an interesting story that includes 1940s-era Fond du Lac library worker, a debt and a paper route.

“I assure you,” Whaley said. “The class with be neither dry nor boring.”

The class will meet weekly starting Wednesday, January 29, at 6 p.m. in the library’s McLane Meeting Room in the lower level. The final class will be April 30, and there will be no class on March 12 and March 19, during spring break.

But spring break brings a bonus: Whaley and Bender will lead the Historic Triangle Tour, a history-dense nine-day trip – open to students and the public – to Colonial Williamsburg, the
Jamestown Settlement and Historic Jamestown, Yorktown Victory Center and Yorktown Battlefield, the Gettysburg Battlefield and the French and Indian War site Fort Ligonier in Pennsylvania. Information about the trip, expenses and registration, is available by calling (920) 924-7400.

Whaley received his master’s and doctorate in history from the University of North Dakota. He has 41 years of teaching experience, with the last 20 years in Marian’s History Dept., where he has taught American history, geography, American government and honors classes. Whaley’s particular interests include American history and the Civil War. He’s traveled extensively in the United States and Europe.

Bender is an independent researcher, writer and editor. His professional background includes geology and a technical field in industry. He is internationally published in the fields of applied geophysics, cultural landscape studies, prehistoric trails and archeoastronomy (prehistoric astronomy beliefs and site investigations) as a recognized specialist in Plains and Woodland Native American astronomy traditions. He collects American antiques, rare and historic maps and prints, Indian artifacts and antique Oriental ceramics.

Coverlet photo: A detail shot shows a signed corner of a jacquard woven coverlet woven by Archibald Davidson for Esther Hudson in 1836. Likely a wedding gift, it is blue and white in what is known as reversible or summer/winter weave. Davidson worked weaving fancy coverlets in the Ithaca, N.Y., area.

Hancock candlestick photo: This mid-18th Century soapstone candlestick originally is from John Hancock's Boston home. It was purchased from his house in 1805 by one of Alice Cameron's ancestors on her mother's side. Cameron was an amateur historian hired by the Fond du Lac Library Board in the 1940s. Written in faded ink on the underside of the base is, "John Hancock's Home, Boston 1805."


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