In this month’s episode, Ken Owen, Michael Hattem, and Roy Rogers pick apart the notion of “founders,” including the individualism that forms the foundation of our cultural memory of the Revolution, the idea of “second-tier” or “forgotten” founders and how those tiers are constructed, and the recent redefinition of what constitutes a “founder” and its impact on how we understand the American Revolution.
A large part of the American cultural inheritance is our collective memory of the American Revolution. This memory began to be shaped almost as soon as the Revolution ended. And though it has changed over time, individualism is one of the fundamental constants. From that emerged and developed the prominence of the “founding fathers” not only in our collective memory of the Revolution but in American culture, in general. Over the last twenty years, there has been a sustained interest in the founders by the reading public. But one can only read so many biographies of George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin. This has led to the emergence of a spate of biographies of “second-tier” or “forgotten” founders. And, while it has broadened the popular notion of who might be called a founder, it is still very much within the individualist tradition. At the same time, work by academic historians over the last few decades has uncovered the lives and contributions of individuals and groups previously left out of our cultural memory of the Revolution.
- What is a “founder?”
- What earns someone the title of “founder?”
- How does the idea of “founders” shape our collective memory of the Revolution?
- What is a “second-tier” founder?
- What qualifies someone to be a “first-tier” founder? What disqualifies them?
- Can only politicians be considered “founders?”
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