History Lecture Series

History Lecture Series

The History Lecture Series is an annual collaboration between the Wilton Library and the Wilton Historical Society. Each year a theme is developed, and respected scholars are engaged to provide a lively, thought-provoking talk on their specialty subject. The lecture is followed by a question and answer period and reception. Generous sponsors make it all possible; each lecture is individually sponsored.

The 2022 History Lecture Series

‘Tycoons: Bane or Benefactors?’

In the fifteenth year of the collaboration between Wilton Library and the Wilton Historical Society, the scholarly lecture series will focus on the theme, “Tycoons: Bane or Benefactors”. In light of the ongoing health concerns, the five-part series will be held virtually on Sunday afternoons, beginning on Feb. 27, from 4 to 5 p.m., with every session requiring a separate registration.

Registration is required separately for each of the lectures.  Zoom links will be sent to registrants in advance of the programs. There is no charge however a $10 suggested donation can be made to the hosting institution right from the individual registration pages.

The five lectures are as follows:


Sunday, February 27, 4 to 5 p.m.

“The bank is trying to kill me, but I will kill it!”: Nicholas Biddle’s War with Andrew Jackson – Dr. Matthew Warshauer

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During this kick-off program, Dr. Matthew Warshauer, Professor of History at Central Connecticut State University, will discuss the battle between President Andrew Jackson and financier Nicholas Biddle over the fate of the Second Bank of the United States. The Bank War of 1832 rocked the American political system and the economy. Was the Bank of the United States the many-headed hydra that Jackson warned about, or was he just plain crazy?

Dr. Warshauer received his B.A. in history from Central Connecticut State University in 1990. He completed his M.A. (1993) and Ph.D. (1997) in American Studies at Saint Louis University. He joined the faculty at CCSU in the fall of 1997 and served as editor of Connecticut History from 2003 to 2011. In 2007 Dr. Warshauer won the Connecticut State University Trustees Research Award and in 2012 he was awarded the Kidger Award for Inspiring Scholarship and Teaching by the New England History Teachers Association. In 2015 he received a Connecticut Preservation Trust Award for saving and relocating an important Civil War monument (the Forlorn Soldier) to the State Capitol and in that same year was recognized by both the governor and the General Assembly for his efforts on behalf of Connecticut in commemorating the 150th anniversary of the state’s role in the Civil War. Dr. Warshauer’s book publications include: Andrew Jackson and the Politics of Martial Law; Andrew Jackson in Context; Connecticut in the American Civil War; and Inside Connecticut and the Civil War: Essays on One State’s Struggles.

This program is sponsored by Mary Gail and Jerry Gristina. The moderator is Steve Hudspeth. This program is being hosted by Wilton Library. No charge to attend, but a $10 donation to the hosting institution is suggested. Click here to donate.


Sunday, March 6, 4 to 5 p.m.

J.P. Morgan: An American Aristocrat – Susan Berfield, Bloomberg Businessweek and Bloomberg News

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During this program, Susan Berfield will discuss J.P. Morgan, the most influential financier of the Gilded Age. He wasn’t the richest, but that didn’t matter; he was commanding in a way none could match. He had an aristocrat’s disdain for public sentiment and the conviction that his actions were to the country’s advantage, no explanations necessary. We’ll examine those actions and the legacy of “the boss of bosses.”

Susan Berfield is an award-winning investigative reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek and Bloomberg News where she has covered some of America’s largest corporations. She has been interviewed on PBS NewsHour, NPR’s All Things Considered, Marketplace, On Point, and elsewhere. The Hour of Fate: Theodore Roosevelt, J.P. Morgan, and the Battle to Transform American Capitalism was the winner of the 2021 Theodore Roosevelt Association Book Prize, a finalist for the Presidential Leadership Book Award, and an Amazon Best Book of the Year.

This program is sponsored by Sue Sherwood. The moderator is Stephen Hudspeth. This program is being hosted by the Wilton Historical Society. No charge to attend, but a $10 donation to the hosting institution is suggested. Click here to donate.


Sunday, March 13, 4 to 5 p.m.

Henry Ford’s Borrowed Humanity: How the Same Man Lifted and Then Lost America – Julie Fenster, Author and Historian

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During this program, Julie Fenster will discuss Henry Ford, possibly the first American tycoon who was considered “beloved” but who turned darker in the years after the success of the famous Model T.

During the first ten years of Model T production, 1908-1918, Henry Ford was a homegrown hero to the working class. He offered a sturdy car at an affordable price, an astonishing feat at the time. Moreover, as the Model T became wildly popular and demand increased, the price went down — by a wide margin nearly every year. A businessman wasn’t supposed to do that. Next, Henry Ford was credited with suddenly raising wages for his workers to a minimum of five dollars per day. The $5 Day upended centuries of accepted economic theory because it gave workers far more than the going rate. A businessman wasn’t supposed to do that, either. Due to the $5 Day, Henry Ford was regarded as an unwelcome radical by big business, but as a favorite by everyone else. In fact, he was very probably the first tycoon in American history who could be described as “beloved.” After the first decade of the Model T, though, Ford became a darker and yet darker presence, fanning Fascism and anti-Semitism, while provoking bitter labor disputes at his company. It became sadly apparent that Henry Ford’s success in the economics of benevolence had never really been his. The liberal thinking in business, the revolutionary ideas and populist attitudes had all come from someone else: James Couzens. He was forced out of Ford Motor in 1919 and on either side of his departure lay before-and-after pictures of Henry Ford as a hero of the people.

Julie M. Fenster is an author and historian. After college, she worked for Automobile Quarterly, which led to an association with American Heritage. In its magazine of business history, Audacity, Fenster explored such topics as the well-meaning trouble with company towns, the effect of sewing machines on self-employment, especially that of women, and in a series of articles, a comparison of the management of Ford Motor and General Motors, under Henry Ford and Alfred P. Sloane Jr., respectively. She has since written many books on the American story, including two with a direct relationship to Connecticut: the award-winning Ether Day, which describes the uncoordinated efforts of Horace Wells of Hartford and two men from Boston in developing the first surgical anesthetic; and, the New York Times bestseller Parish Priest, a biography of Father Michael McGivney, who founded the Knights of Columbus in New Haven.

This program is sponsored by Moira and Kevin Craw. The moderator is Stephen Hudspeth. This program is being hosted by Wilton Historical Society. No charge to attend, but a $10 donation to the hosting institution is suggested. Click here to donate.


Sunday, April 3, 4 to 5 p.m.

Mark Zuckerberg: Poster Child for Promise and Peril in the Tech Sector – Professor Drew Harris, Central Connecticut State University

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In this program, Professor Drew Harris will discuss Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook. “College drop-out becomes a billionaire” is the story of great hope for many would-be entrepreneurs. His flagship product, Facebook, has provided vital social connections for billions of people, but it is also at the heart of public controversies ranging from exploitation of personal data to rapid, widespread dissemination of false information and conspiracy paranoia. At the launch into the Metaverse (the latest Zuckerberg venture), let’s take stock of Zuckerberg, his leadership as a tech tycoon, and the consequences for business and society.

Drew Harris, Ph.D., Professor of Management & Organization teaches entrepreneurship, business strategy, and leadership. He leads the CCSU entrepreneurship program. Previously, Dr. Harris taught at the Stern School of Business at New York University, Teacher’s College at Columbia University, the College of Business and Economics at Longwood University and the College of Business Administration at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Before his career in higher education, Drew was owner and president of HAAS Partners, Ltd., a management consulting firm, and held positions related to information systems at Arthur Young & Company, Morris Decision Systems, Harper & Row, and Digital Systems of Florida. He and his wife, Teresa Twomey, currently provide consulting and training on improving organizational performance and success for new and established firms. Dr. Harris has written numerous articles published in leading national and international business journals focusing on quality, organizing systems for stability and sustainability, and pedagogy. He authored the book Managing Quality: A Primer for Middle Managers and a chapter on strategy in The Portable MBA: Human Resource Management. He speaks frequently at educational and professional conferences, symposia and community events and has received several national honors. He holds a Doctorate in Management and an MBA in Statistics and Operations Research from New York University’s Stern School of Business and a BA in Mathematics from University of West Florida

This program is sponsored by Elaine Tai-Lauria and Phil Lauria. The moderator is Max Gabrielson. This program is being hosted by Wilton Library. No charge to attend, but a $10 donation to the hosting institution is suggested. Click here to donate.


Sunday, April 24, 4 to 5 p.m.

The Perils of Great Men, Business, Ideology, and Questions about Capitalism – Professor Matthew Warshauer, Central Connecticut State University

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In the final “capstone” lecture of the series, Dr. Matthew Warshauer, Professor of History at Central Connecticut State University, will pull together some of the important questions raised by the series’ speakers. All center around the role of “tycoons” in American society, whether their visions for business correspond with benefits to workers and the people. In essence, do the nation’s leading capitalists “owe” anything to society?

Dr. Warshauer received his B.A. in history from Central Connecticut State University in 1990. He completed his M.A. (1993) and Ph.D.(1997) in American Studies at Saint Louis University. He joined the faculty at CCSU in the fall of 1997 and served as editor of Connecticut History from 2003 to 2011. In 2007 Dr. Warshauer won the Connecticut State University Trustees Research Award and in 2012 he was awarded the Kidger Award for Inspiring Scholarship and Teaching by the New England History Teachers Association. In 2015 he received a Connecticut Preservation Trust Award for saving and relocating an important Civil War monument (the Forlorn Soldier) to the State Capitol and in that same year was recognized by both the governor and the General Assembly for his efforts on behalf of Connecticut in commemorating the 150th anniversary of the state’s role in the Civil War. Dr. Warshauer’s book publications include: Andrew Jackson and the Politics of Martial LawAndrew Jackson in ContextConnecticut in the American Civil War; and Inside Connecticut and the Civil War: Essays on One State’s Struggles.

This program is sponsored by Nancy and Bill Brautigam. The moderator is Max Gabrielson. This program is being hosted by Wilton Library. No charge to attend, but a $10 donation is suggested. For this final lecture, the Wilton Library and Wilton Historical Society are sharing the proceeds. Click here to donate.

Past History Lecture Series:

 

How the History Lecture Series Began

In 2008 Louise Herot, then President of the Wilton Library, Owen Williams and Dr. Greg Chann, Co-Presidents of the Wilton Historical Society – met up at the Kiwanis Roast Beef Dinner. There they hatched a plan to draw on the synergistic relationship and collaborative spirit that exists between the Society and the Library.
They characterized this project as one which:
Stimulates the minds of our fellow citizens,
Reminds us that history needs to be studied so that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past,
Educates in a way that makes history come alive,
And one that brings new energy and facets to our organizations.

And thus began the History Lecture Series.