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Conversations at the Washington Library is a weekly podcast about early American history and the people who teach it.

Previous episodes in the podcast series can be found below. Please be sure to subscribe to the program so that you do not miss an episode! New content is released every Thursday. 

Entering a World of Paine with Harlow Giles Unger

On today’s show, veteran journalist and biographer Harlow Giles Unger talks to Jim Ambuske about revolutionary radical Thomas Paine, one of his predecessors in the newspaper business.

He is the author of the new book, Thomas Paine and the Clarion Call for American Independence. It is the latest in a long line of Unger biographies about the founding generation.

Unger reveals a fascinating character in Paine, a man who never met a revolution he didn’t like.

He also shares with Ambuske about how his previous life as a journalist informs his approach to biography. 

You’ll get as much of a lesson in twentieth-century journalism as you will in eighteenth-century political radicalism.

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Simulating 1793 and the Fate of the Republic with Trey Alsup and Sadie Troy

Imagine you lived in the year 1793. The United States has recently suffered its worst military defeat in its history at the hands of the Miami-Shawnee Confederacy. The French Revolution has turned horrifically violent and France is now at war with most of Europe. And both the British and the French are pressuring the United States to choose a side. 

Now imagine that you are one of the American, European, or indigenous leaders whose voices will shape how the U.S. responds to these events.

Well, now you can be.

On today’s show, Game designer Trey Alsup and Mount Vernon Student Learning Specialist Sadie Troy give you a sneak peak at The Situation Room Experience: Washington's Cabinet. It's a new Live Action Role Playing Game for students, and it's a remarkable way to teach young people about the early history of the United States. The game will debut in the coming months at the Washington Library. 

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The Power Broker and the King Maker: The Life of Elizabeth Willing Powel with Samantha Snyder

In this episode of Conversations at the Washington Library, Samantha Snyder speaks to Jim Ambuske about the life of Elizabeth Willing Powel. Powel was a prominent Philadelphian who became close to the Washington family. Although her loyalties were unclear in the early years of the American War for Independence, she eventually embraced the Revolution. Powel was at the center of Philadelphia politics, but her influence reached beyond the city to the banks of the Potomac and places further afield. In an era in which women could not vote or hold elected office, Powel was a power broker and king maker in Early American society. 

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Tracing the Rise and Fall of Light-Horse Harry Lee with Ryan Cole

You may know him as Robert E. Lee’s father, but Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee was so much more. Born into a Virginia dynasty, the man who would become one of George Washington’s protégés came of age with the American Revolution itself. Lee was a graduate of Princeton University, a cavalry commander in the war’s brutal southern theater, and he later served two terms as Virginia’s governor. He was a dashing figure who romanticized the ancient world and aspired to be one of the new nation’s great slave-holding planters and businessmen. But death and despair undercut the life that Lee imagined for himself. On today’s program, Ryan Cole joins us to discuss Lee’s tragic story. Cole is a journalist and former member of the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. He is the author of the new book, Light-Horse Harry Lee: The Rise and Fall of a Revolutionary Hero.

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Making Sense of Murder in the Shenandoah with Jessica Lowe

On July 4, 1791, fifteen years after Americans declared independence, two men walked into a Virginia field. Only one walked out alive. John Crane, the son of an elite Virginia family, killed a man named Abraham Vanhorn after the two exchanged some heated words.

Crane was arrested in the name of the law, but two decades earlier he would have been detained in the name of the king.

Why does this change matter? And what does it have to tell us about how Virginians and other Americans remade their British identity into an American one in the years after independence?

Today's episode features Dr. Jessica Lowe of the University of Virginia School of Law. In her new book, Murder in the Shenandoah: Making Law Sovereign in Revolutionary Virginia, Professor Lowe unpacks the case of Commonwealth v. Crane and what it meant to create a republic of laws and not kings.

This episode concludes our four-part mini-series on the history of early American law. Check out previous episodes at www.mountvernon.org/podcast. You can support this podcast as well as new research into George Washington and his world by becoming a Mount Vernon member. 

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Meeting Alexander Hamilton, Attorney at Law, with Kate Brown

We all know Alexander Hamilton for his service during the Revolutionary War, his tenure as the first Secretary of the Treasury, and his death at the hands of Aaron Burr. But have you met Alexander Hamilton, Attorney at Law? In Part 2 of our four-part exploration of early American law, Dr. Kate Elizabeth Brown of Western Kentucky University introduces us to a man who was as ferocious in the court room as he was battling Thomas Jefferson over the National Bank. And as Dr. Brown argues in her book, Alexander Hamilton and the Development of American Law, you can't separate the one Hamilton from the other. Hamilton's law practice in the 1780s shaped his approach to federal power in the 1790s. His time representing American Loyalists and other clients in New York state courts informed his thinking about the law, the Constitution, and the young republic's place in the world. It may also surprise you to learn that Hamilton was as concerned with individual rights as he was creating a more powerful national government. 

Dr. Brown was in town to lecture as part of Mount Vernon's Teacher's Institute and she stopped by after class to talk about Hamilton and the law. If you'd like more information about our teacher programs, please click the link above. 

Be sure to check out Part 1 of this mini-series on early American law featuring Dr. Nicola Phillips and her research into Thomas Erskine, and tune in next week for Part 3 when we talk to Dr. Lindsay Chervinsky about George Washington's Constitution. 

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The Transatlantic Reach of Thomas Erskine and the Law in the Age of Revolutions

In what ways did the United States remain bound to Great Britain in the decades after American Independence? As it turns out, the law and legal ideas served as a connection between Americans and their former British brethren. In today's episode we talk to Dr. Nicola Phillips of Royal Hollway, University of London, about the life and career of Thomas Erskine. The Scottish-born Erskine was a member of an elite family whose ranks included Henry, Lord Advocate of Scotland, and David, 11th Earl of Buchan and correspondent of George Washington. Thomas, who practiced law in England, championed ideas on freedom of the press and trial by jury that resonated with Americans as they remade their laws to suit the new republic. 

This episode is part one of a four-part miniseries on the history of early American law featuring Drs. Nicola Phillips, Kate Brown, Lindsay Chervinsky, and Jessica Lowe.   

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Finding George Washington in Scotland with Rachel Hosker

How did a George Washington letter find a home Scotland? In this episode of Conversations at the Washington Library, Jim Ambuske talks with Rachel Hosker, deputy head of special collections and archives manager at the University Edinburgh Library about a document that connects Washington to Adam Ferguson, one of the major figures of the Scottish Enlightenment. Recorded in Edinburgh at the library's Centre for Research Collections, Ambuske and Hosker also look over Washington's Political Legacies, a book published in New York in the months just after Washington's death. They also discuss Hosker's early fascination with manuscripts and rare books and the university library's amazing collections. Haste ye back!

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Resilience in a Time of War with LTC Matthew Kutilek, USMC

In this episode, Jim Ambuske chats with LTC Matthew Kutilek, USMC, a 2001 graduate of The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. Kutilek is a United States Marine Special Operations Officer with 18+ years of active duty service with multiple combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. He is this year's featured speaker at Mount Vernon's Purple Heart Commemoration Day on August 10th. In this podcast, Kutilek discusses his passion for history, service in the Marine Corps, and the 2010 combat wound that changed his life.

Kutilek closes the episode with a quote from George Washington to George Steptoe Washington, dated December 5, 1790. Read the full letter here.

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Welcome Jim Ambuske!

In this episode, Dr. Kevin Butterfield sits down with Dr. Jim Ambuske the Washington Library's new Digital Historian and future podcast host.

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Aboard the USS George Washington

In this episode, Dr. Douglas Bradburn sits down with Captain Glenn Jamieson, Captain Daryle D. Cardone, and Command Master Chief Maurice Coffey of the USS George Washington on location at the aircraft carrier.

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Pen Versus Plow

In this episode, Dr. Kevin Butterfield sits down with King's College-Georgian Papers Fellow Dr. James Fisher to discuss his latest findings on the topic titled, George Washington and the Transatlantic Circulation and Reception of Agricultural Literature and Knowledge.

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Birthing a Nation

In this episode, Associate Curator Jessie MacLeod sits down with Library research fellow Sara Collini to discuss her latest findings on the topic titled, Birthing a Nation: Enslaved Women and Midwifery in Early America, 1750-1820.

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Valley Forge

In this episode, Dr. Joseph Stoltz sits down with Tom Clavin to discuss his new book titled, Valley Forge.

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The British Are Coming

In this bonus-sized episode, Dr. Douglas Bradburn sits down with bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Atkinson to discuss volume one of his new Revolution Trilogy titled, The British are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777.

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In the Hurricane's Eye

In this episode, Dr. Kevin C. Butterfield sits down with world-renowned author and 2016 George Washington Prize winner Nathaniel Philbrick to discuss his latest book, In the Hurricane's Eye: The Genius of George Washington and the Victory at Yorktown.

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Buried Lives

In this episode, Dr. Kevin C. Butterfield sits down with Carla McClafferty, author of the book, Buried Lives: The Enslaved People of George Washington's Mount Vernon.

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Young Benjamin Franklin

In this episode, Dr. Kevin C. Butterfield sits down with Nick Bunker, author and 2015 George Washington Prize winner, to discuss his new book, Young Benjamin Franklin: The Birth of Ingenuity.

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Remember The Ladies!

In this episode, Dr. Kevin C. Butterfield sits down with Dr. Woody Holton to discuss the 10th anniversary of his Bancroft Prize winning book, Abigail Adams.

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The National Bank Controversy

In this episode, Dr. Kevin C. Butterfield sits down with Dr. Eric Lomazoff, an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Villanova University, to discuss his new book, Reconstructing the National Bank Controversy: Politics and Law in the Early American Republic.

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Listener Questions!

In this episode, Anthony King sits down with Dr. Joe Stoltz, Co-Director of the George Washington Leadership Institute at Mount Vernon, and Dr. Dana Stefanelli, Assistant Editor for the Papers of George Washington Project for to answer submitted listener questions about George Washington, the Revolutionary War, and the founding era.

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Jefferson's Daughters

In this episode, Dr. Kevin C. Butterfield sits down with Dr. Catherine Kerrison, a Professor of history at Villanova University, to discuss her book, Jefferson's Daughters: Three Sisters, White and Black, in a Young America.

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A Toast To George Washington

In this episode, Dr. Joseph Stoltz sits down again with Steve Bashore, the Director of Historic Trades at George Washington's Mount Vernon, to further discuss the whiskey production on-site.

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The Return of the Harpsichord

In this episode, Access Services Librarian Samantha Snyder sits down with Library research fellow Dr. Joyce Lindorff to discuss her research on Nelly Parke Custis as well as the newly restored harpsichord that has been recently brought back to Mount Vernon in honor of our "Year of Music" celebration.

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Frontier Rebels

In this episode, Dr. Kevin C. Butterfield sits down with Dr. Patrick Spero, Librarian and Director of the American Philosophical Society Library, to discuss his latest book, Frontier Rebels: The Fight for Independence in the American West, 1765-1776.

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Researching at the Washington Library

In this episode, Anthony King sits down with Samantha Snyder, Access Services Librarian at the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon, to discuss the research operations at the Library as well how people can visit for their own research purposes.

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Don't Just Lead, Revolutionize

In this episode, Anthony King sits down with Dr. Joe Stoltz, Co-Director of the George Washington Leadership Institute at Mount Vernon, to discuss leadership-based programs on-site.

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Growing Up At Mount Vernon

In this episode, Dr. Joseph Stoltz sits down with Cassandra Good, former Library research fellow and Assistant Professor of History at Marymount University, to discuss her latest research on George Washington's step-grandchildren and their lives at Mount Vernon.

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Funding Mount Vernon

In this episode, Dr. Joseph Stoltz sits down with Joe Bondi, the Senior Vice President of Development at George Washington's Mount Vernon. The two discuss the challenges and processes behind fundraising for the various projects that keep Mount Vernon running.

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Lives Bound Together

In this episode, Dr. Joseph Stoltz sits down with Jessie MacLeod, Associate Curator here at George Washington's Mount Vernon. The two discuss the behind-the-scenes details that went into creating the acclaimed exhibition, Lives Bound Together: Slavery at George Washington's Mount Vernon.

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School's (In) For Summer

In this episode, Dr. Joseph Stoltz sits down with Alissa Oginsky, Manager of Teacher Programs and 2016 Mount Vernon History Teacher of the Year award winner. The two discuss the residential programs for teachers at the estate as well as the various forms of outreach and resources the education department produces for those outside of the region.

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Inspiring Tomorrow's Leaders

In this episode, Access Services Librarian Samantha Snyder sits down with Julie Almacy, Manager of the Mount Vernon Leadership Fellows program, to discuss the impact of this life changing experience for students as well as the process for how to apply for future fellowship classes.

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Thanks-Giving

In this episode, Dr. Joseph Stoltz sits down with Anthony King, Library Projects Assistant at George Washington's Mount Vernon and co-producer/sound engineer of the Conversations at the Washington Library Podcast. The two reflect on the previous year recording the podcast since they took administrative and creative control over the series. From all of us here at Mount Vernon, have a happy Thanksgiving!

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Woodland Washington

In this episode, Dr. Joseph Stoltz sits down with Peter Stark, author of Young Washington: How Wilderness and War Forged America's Founding Father, to discuss Washington's early career and its impact on his life.

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How Uncle Tom Came To Be

In this episode, Dr. Kevin C. Butterfield sits down with Washington Library research fellow Dr. Daniel Livesay to discuss his recent book, Children of Uncertain Fortune: Mixed-Race Jamaicans in Britain and the Atlantic Family, 1733-1833, as well as his new research topic about the treatment of elderly slaves in the Chesapeake region.

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Happy Birthday Washington Library!

In this episode, to celebrate the five-year anniversary of the opening of the Washington Library, current Executive Director Dr. Kevin C. Butterfield sits down with Dr. Douglas Bradburn, the former Founding Director of the Library and now President and C.E.O. of George Washington's Mount Vernon. The two discuss the highlights of the Library's history, the important events and acquisitions, as well as the future of the facility. 

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Rain Makes Corn, George Makes Whiskey!

In this episode, Dr. Joseph Stoltz sits down with Steve Bashore, the Director of Historic Trades at George Washington's Mount Vernon. The two discuss the history and operations at the Distillery & Gristmill, including the popular line of whiskey products produced on-site.

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Eatin', Sleepin', Thinkin' George

In this episode, Access Services Librarian Samantha Snyder sits down with Ph.D. candidate at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and Washington Library research fellow Krysten Blackstone to discuss her fellowship experience.

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The Florida We Deserve

In this episode, Dr. Joseph Stoltz sits down with Associate Professor of American History at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and Library research fellow Robert Paulett to discuss his research regarding maps and the Proclamation of 1763.

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Depressions, Recessions, and Panics, Oh My!

In this episode, Dr. Joseph Stoltz sits down with Scott Miller, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Virginia and a former Washington Library research fellow, to discuss his latest findings regarding the economy of the early American Republic.

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The Lakota Values and George Washington

In this episode, Mount Vernon's Vice President of Education Allison Wickens sits down with Valerie Shull, a 23-year veteran teacher of the Douglas School District in Box Elder, South Dakota and current Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings educator for the Rapid City Area Schools in Rapid City, South Dakota. In their conversation, they discuss Shull's time at Mount Vernon as a teacher fellow as well as her main research project, connecting the Lakota Values with George Washington.

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John Jay is Here to Stay

In this episode, Dr. Joseph Stoltz sits down with Associate Professor of History at the University of Northwestern St. Paul and former Washington Library research fellow Dr. Jonathan Den Hartog to discuss his findings on John Jay.

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Confronting Tragic History

In this episode, Dr. Joseph Stoltz sits down with Mount Vernon character interpreter Brenda Parker to discuss the challenges of portraying and articulating the past in a modern setting.

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Feisty Fluid Free Trade

In this episode, Dr. Joseph Stoltz sits down with Washington Library research fellow Dr. Lawrence B.A. Hatter to discuss his topic, Negotiating Independence: American Overseas Merchant Communities in the Age of Revolution.

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Another Badly Behaving Woman

In this episode, Dr. Joseph Stoltz sits down with Washington Library research fellow Dr. Charlene Boyer Lewis to discuss her topic, The Traitor’s Wife: Peggy Arnold and Revolutionary America.

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Patrick Henry and Jefferson Too

In this episode, Dr. Douglas Bradburn, the President and C.E.O. of George Washington's Mount Vernon, sits down with Dr. Jon Kukla to discuss his book, Patrick Henry: Champion of Liberty.

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Battlefield Office Politics

In this episode, Dr. Joseph Stoltz sits down with Washington Library research fellow Dr. Mark Edward Lender to discuss the Conway Cabal and the challenge to General Washington's leadership position.

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Codfish Olé

In this episode, Dr. Joseph Stoltz sits down with Washington Library research fellow Dr. Elisa Vargas to discuss the early diplomatic relationship between Spain and the United States, focusing on the work of Diego María de Gardoqui, Spain’s First Diplomatic Envoy to the United States.

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Revolution Song

In this episode, Dr. Douglas Bradburn, the President and C.E.O. of George Washington's Mount Vernon, sits down with author Russell Shorto to discuss his monumental new book, Revolution Song: A Story of American Freedom

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#SoulClave

In this episode, Dr. Joseph Stoltz sits down with Washington Library research fellow Iris de Rode to discuss the relationship between George Washington and François Jean de Chastellux.

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How to "Be Washington"

In this episode, Dr. Joseph Stoltz sits down with Matt Briney, the Vice President of New Media at George Washington's Mount Vernon, and Joseph Cortina, the founding partner of Cortina Productions, to discuss the new interactive experience, Be Washington: It's Your Turn To Lead.

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Where History Has Never Gone Before

In this episode, Mount Vernon President and C.E.O. Doug Bradburn sits down with the Senior Vice President of Visitor Engagement Rob Shenk to discuss the challenges and opportunities of public history in the age of New Media, focusing on Mount Vernon's newly renovated Revolutionary War Theater.

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Reflections on a Historian's Lifetime

In this episode, Dr. Gordon Wood sits down with Dr. Douglas Bradburn, the President and C.E.O. of George Washington's Mount Vernon, to discuss Dr. Wood's fifty-three year career as a historian of early America.

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