Friends Speaker Series
As part of the Friends mission to provide interesting and compelling programming for the public, the annual Speaker Series is held in cooperation with the Washington Memorial Chapel. This series, which runs from October through May, gathers an array of historians, scientists, authors, archeologists, actors and performers to share with the public their multiple points of view on history, the natural world and the ongoing commemoration of Valley Forge.
October to April presentations are free and held at Washington Memorial Chapel, on Route 23 in Valley Forge, on Tuesdays at 7 pm. The May presentation will be held in the theater at Valley Forge. A complimentary reception follows each talk.
For directions to the Chapel, visit wmchapel.org.
The tragedy at Valley Forge during George Washington’s military encampment in the winter of 1777–1778 provides a vivid lesson in economics. Trade disruptions and price controls—mistaken policies of the nascent republic, consistent with the political philosophy of the times—were contributing factors to the death of nearly two thousand soldiers camped at Valley Forge. Tonight we will employ a fundamental supply and demand analysis, and then illustrate a price ceiling and subsequent shortage. The glitter of British entertainments in Philadelphian society and the harshness of the Continental soldiers’ meager existence twenty miles away provide a sharp contrast and sparks the imagination for any student of economics.
About the Speaker
Dr. Susan Christoffersen is an associate professor of economics at Philadelphia University in the Kanbar College School of Business Administration. She earned her Ph.D. in Economics with distinction in 1990 from NYU. Her extensive publication record includes theoretical work on international innovation races and the impact of research subsidies; the focus of her applied work is the textile industry and most currently the economic history of Colonial America and the tragedy at Valley Forge. Her paper, “Unintended Consequences of Trade Distortions and Price Controls: A National Tragedy provides a Teaching Moment”, can be found in the Journal for Economic Educators Vol. 13 no. 1, Spring 2014.
Mount Vernon during the American Revolution
On June 18, 1775, soon after learning that he had been chosen to lead the Continental Army, George Washington sat down to write a difficult letter to his wife, Martha, telling her about this unexpected change in circumstances and what it would mean for her. “I therefore beg, that you will summon your whole fortitude,” he wrote, “and pass your time as agreeably as possible. Nothing will give me so much sincere satisfaction as to hear this, and to hear it from your own pen.” Five days later, as he left Philadelphia to take command of the army near Boston, Washington wrote a quick note to his wife, assuring her of his love and noting his “full confidence of a happy Meeting with you sometime in the Fall.” Neither of them knew that it would be more than eight years before the war was over, that his wife would spend half her time in those years in camp with her husband, and the other half helping to manage Mount Vernon, their beloved Virginia plantation. In the latter role, she and another relative, George Washington’s distant cousin, Lund Washington, the estate manager, would try to complete the building program started by her husband, while facing a multitude of problems, including shortages of basic supplies, escapes by both indentured and enslaved servants, a looming smallpox epidemic, and threats from British forces.
About the Speaker
Mary Thompson has a B.A. in History, with a minor in Folklore, from Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, and an M.A. in History from the University of Virginia, where her thesis dealt with the relationship between colonists and Native Americans in Georgia and the Carolinas in the mid-eighteenth century. Mary has been on the staff at George Washington's home, Mount Vernon, since 1980, where she has gone from giving tours to 8,000 people per day, to managing the curatorial collection, to serving as the staff historian. Among her proudest accomplishments were curating the travelling exhibition "Treasures from Mount Vernon: George Washington Revealed" (1998-2000); doing background research for the 1999 re-enactment of George Washington's funeral; and ensuring that the enslaved community at Mount Vernon is remembered. She received the 2009 Alexandria History Award from the Alexandria Historical Society and the 2013 award from the George Washington Memorial Association Award for her first book, "In the Hands of a Good Providence: Religion in the Life of George Washington" (University Press of Virginia, 2008). Mary is currently putting the finishing touches on a book focused on slave life at Mount Vernon.
Mary lives in the Tauxemont Historic District in Alexandria, Virginia, with her husband, Tony Bates, an artist and poet. They have four "children": a West Highland White Terrier and three cats.
Free Admission for Friends Members and WMC Heritage Donors.
As the only mass media during the American Revolution, newspapers fanned the flames of rebellion, sustained loyalty to the cause and ultimately aided in the outcome. Dr. Benjamin Rush wrote in 1781 that a newspaper “in the present state of affairs would be equal to at least two regiments.” David Ramsay, who twice served as a delegate in the Continental Congress, wrote that “in establishing American independence, the pen and the press had merit equal to that of the sword.” This presentation explores eighteenth-century journalism, reportage of specific events and battles, and helps participants realize what many historians claim: Without newspapers, there would have been no American Revolution.
About the Speaker
Todd Andrlik is the primary author and editor of Reporting the Revolutionary War: Before It Was History, It Was News (Sourcebooks, 2012), named one of the Best Books of 2012 by Barnes & Noble, and Best American Revolution Book of the Year by the New York American Revolution Round Table. Featuring hundreds of newspaper images and analysis from dozens of historians, Reporting the Revolutionary War is a one-of-a-kind single volume that lets readers experience the American Revolution the way the colonists did—as it unfolded in their very own town newspapers. “This is 'you are there' history at its best,” according to American History magazine. Andrlik is also founder and editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American Revolution, an online magazine with more than 100 writers and 185,000 monthly readers. The Journal also produces annual printed volumes of its most resourceful articles as well as a nonfiction book series dedicated to new research about the American Revolution. A full-time marketing and media professional, Andrlik has written or ghost-written thousands of published articles on various business topics. His history-related work has been featured by CNN, NPR, TIME, Mount Vernon, Smithsonian, and many others.
Mount Vernon during the Revolutionary War
The research librarian at Mount Vernon gives us a behind-the-scenes look at what was happening at Washington’s Virginia home during America’s long fight for freedom.
Reporting the Revolutionary War
Revolutionary War news coverage, as reported in the eighteenth century newspapers of Britain and the United States, and shared by the award-winning author of Reporting the Revolutionary War.
Special Location: Park Theater • Tickets required