Jon Grinspan

Jon Grinspan

Curator of Political History

Ph.D.   University of Virginia, History, 2013
M.A.    University of Virginia, History, 2008
B.A.     Sarah Lawrence College, 2006

Research Specialties: 

I’m a historian of politics and youth and comedy and food and booze, in 19th and early 20th century America. I like any subject that makes the past feel human and immediate, and I try to engage both the public and scholars.

My first book, The Virgin Vote: How Young Americans Made Democracy Social, Politics Personal, and Voting Popular in the Nineteenth Century, uncovered the forgotten era when young men and women were the most engaged demographic in American politics. Millions of children, youths, and young adults forced their way into the life of their democracy, while their democracy forced its way into their personal lives.

I’m currently working on a second book: The Rage of Reform: A Father, A Daughter, and the Rise and Fall (and Rise Again) of Political Anger. It is about the period, between 1865 and 1905, when a public, partisan, passionate campaign culture threatened to undermine Americans’ faith in their democracy. It tells this story by following the charismatic, frustrating, fantastically ubiquitous political dynasty of Congressman William “Pig Iron” Kelley and his reforming daughter Florence Kelley, whose rocky personal bond mirrored their nation’s struggle.

Ultimately, The Rage of Reform is the origin story of “normal” politics, explaining how the fight over 19th century democracy created new attitudes towards voting rights, civility, the press, government expertise, and leadership that many have come to consider timeless. In the 21st century, as Americans experience the return of heated, tribal politics, we might look back to this era and ask: how were our abnormal norms created?

I always appreciate feedback, so please feel to contact me.

Publications

"How Generational Divisions Have Driven Down Voter Turnout in the United States," The Atlantic, July 30, 2016.
"America's 'Violent Little Partisans,'" The Atlantic, May 8, 2016.
The Virgin Vote: How Young Americans Made Democracy Social, Politics Personal, and Voting Popular in the Nineteenth Century. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2016.
"Virgins, Booze, and American Elections," New York Times, April 8, 2016.
"When Anger Trumped Progress" New York Times, January 16, 2016
"A Birthday Like None Other: Turning Twenty-One in the Age of Popular Politics" Age in America: The Colonial Era to the Present, Ed. Corinne Field (New York: New York University Press, 2015), 86-102.
"D.I.Y Education Before YouTube" New York Times, July 11, 2015
"Was Abolitionism a Failure?" New York Times, January 30, 2015.
"Don't Throw the Bums Out" New York Times, September 12, 2014
"How Coffee Fueled the Civil War," New York Times, July 9, 2014
"The Wild Children of Yesteryear" New York Times, May 31, 2014
"Anxious Youth, Then and Now" New York Times, December 31, 2013
"When the Civil War Came to New York," New York Times, July 13, 2013
"Riling Up the 'Shrewd, Wild Boys'" New York Times, August 9, 2012
"The Stephen Colbert of the Civil War" New York Times, June 11, 2012
"Laugh During Wartime" New York Times, January 9, 2012
“Sorrowfully Amusing: The Popular Comedy of the Civil War,” Journal of the Civil War Era, (September, 2011), 313-338.
"'Young Men for War': The Wide Awakes and Lincoln's 1860 Presidential Campaign" Journal of American History, 96 (Sept. 2009), 357–78.