Title page for ETD etd-04122009-231335

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Cook, Emily Katherine
URN etd-04122009-231335
Title Colonizing the Mind: The Library as a Site for Colonial American Identity Formation
Degree Master of Arts
Department History
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Shifflett, Crandall A. Committee Chair
Ekirch, A. Roger Committee Member
Purcell, Aaron Committee Member
  • Library Company
  • Colonial Libraries
  • becoming American
  • Philadelphia
Date of Defense 2009-04-02
Availability unrestricted
The Library Company of Philadelphia, founded in 1731 by Benjamin Franklin and his Junto, served as the impetus for society libraries across colonial America. While inspiring ubiquitous learning, the Library Company also reinforced the English language in linguistically diverse Philadelphia. Furthermore, the Company emblematically displayed ownership of a new land and developed an idealized concept of what it meant to be a Pennsylvanian society through their cabinet of curiosities—all while cultivating the organization’s reputation within the colonial press. The Library Company, therefore, utilized language and material/visual culture to navigate individual and community identity in a decidedly unstructured atmosphere—the period shortly before the complete onset of American nationalism. The process of “becoming American,” the development of an identity tied to a specific location that emphases class mobility and self creation while also differentiating itself from other societies, is enumerated through the study of these linguistic and cultural manipulations.
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