Virtual Author Talk with Cameron Blevins
Cameron Blevins, former Thomas D. Dee II Graduate Fellow, will stop by to the Lane Center to discuss his new book, Paper Trails: The US Post and the Making of the American West. Blevins will be joined in conversation by Richard White, co-founding director of the Bill Lane Center for the American West, and Charlotte Hull, current Thomas D. Dee II Graduate Fellow.
About the Book:
Paper Trails argues that the US Post wove together two of the era’s defining projects: western expansion and the growth of state power. Between the 1860s and the early 1900s, the western United States underwent a dramatic reorganization of people, land, capital, and resources. As millions of settlers moved into the region, they relied on letters and newspapers, magazines and pamphlets, petitions and money orders to stay connected to the wider world. Paper Trails maps the spread of the US Post using a dataset of more than 100,000 post offices, revealing a new picture of the federal government in the West.
The western postal network bore little resemblance to the civil service bureaucracies typically associated with government institutions. Instead, the US Post grafted public mail service onto private businesses, contracting with stagecoach companies to carry the mail and paying local merchants to distribute letters from their stores. These arrangements allowed the US Post to operate what Blevins has termed a “gossamer network,” rapidly spinning out a vast and ephemeral web of postal infrastructure to thousands of distant places. The postal network’s sprawling geography and localized operations forces a reconsideration of the American state, its history, and the ways in which it exercised power.
About the Author
Associate Professor Clinical Teaching Track, History Department, University of Colorado, Denver
Blevins teaches United States history and digital humanities at the University of Colorado Denver. Prior to this, I was an assistant professor of history at Northeastern University and core faculty member of the NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks.
About the Panelists
Margaret Byrne Professor of American History, Emeritus, Stanford University
Co-founding Director, The Bill Lane Center for the American West
Richard White is an historian of the United States specializing in the American West, the history of capitalism, environmental history, history and memory, and Native American history. His work has occasionally spilled over into Mexico, Canada, France, Australia and Ireland.
He is a MacArthur Fellow and a recipient of the Mellon Distinguished Professor Award. His work has won numerous academic prizes, and he has twice been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
Charlotte S. Hull
Ph.D. Candidate, Department of History, Stanford University
Thomas D. Dee II Graduate Fellow, 2020-2021
Charlotte Hull is a Ph.D. candidate in the Stanford Department of History where she researches the intersection of space, politics, and power in nineteenth-century North America. She earned her undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley, double majoring in English and history where she studied poetry, the Atlantic world, and colonial America.
At Stanford, Charlotte has investigated connections between the Atlantic and Pacific worlds as well as the creation of social and political institutions in California and the Hawaiian Islands. Her current research investigates how and why California became part of the United States in the mid-nineteenth century. This project tracks how the idea of California’s promise changed in the minds of U.S. statesmen over the course of multiple administrations.