13 December 2011

“The First Teenage Print Culture” at the AAS, 20 Dec.

The American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts, has just announced this upcoming seminar:
On Tuesday, December 20, at 4:30 PM, Lara Langer Cohen--an assistant professor of English at Wayne State University, and a current American Antiquarian Society-National Endowment for the Humanities Long-term Fellow—will be presenting a regional academic seminar, titled:

Inventing Teenage Print Culture: The Postbellum Amateur Press

In the late 1860s, hobby printing presses for home use appeared on the market, leading to an explosion of amateur newspapers-nearly all written, edited, and printed by teenagers. Although amateur journalists were spread throughout the country, they were enmeshed in a tight-knit virtual community forged through exchanges; local, state, and national associations; and a determinedly insular focus; indeed, many amateur papers consisted of little more than columns of news about other amateur papers. This presentation will explore how the first teenage print culture helped shaped emerging ideas about adolescence, particularly the combination of rebelliousness and conformity we continue to associate with it today.
This seminar will take place in the the Society’s Goddard-Daniels House at 190 Salisbury Street, with refreshments and a dutch-treat dinner to follow. Contact Ann-Cathrine Rapp at AAS by Friday in order to attend.

Why do I post this on Tuesday, which I’ve reserved for stuff about Oz?

Because L. Frank Baum, born in 1856, and his brother Harry were participants in that “first teenage print culture.” In 1871 they wrote and printed a family newspaper called the Rose Lawn Home Journal, named after the family estate in upstate New York. It contained riddles, stories, poems, neighborhood news, and some advertisements for the family firm. (The photo above shows Frank in 1868 during his short career at a military academy.)

Frank went on to publish booklets about stamp-collecting and chicken-raising. Later in life, he used his printing skills to publish the weekly Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer newspaper and a book of his poetry called By the Candelabra’s Glare. For the latter, Baum asked W. W. Denslow to draw some decorative art, and their collaboration led in two years to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

What are the equivalent youth cultures today? One is, I suspect, the young folks who post videos on YouTube, commenting and favoriting back and forth. Networking is so much easier now.

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