About This Conference


Scholars encounter early America through its traces, the vestiges and fragments left behind. And in reconstructing the fleeting and ephemeral, scholars also attempt to trace early American encounters. This conference will bring together graduate students from a wide variety of disciplines to explore the various meanings of traces—as material objects, cultural representations, and academic practices. Presentations and discussions will explore how people deliberately and unwittingly left traces as they moved through space and time; what traces or remnants of the past get privileged while others are marginalized or occluded; how written, visual, and other texts are both material objects and traces of lives and experiences; and where we look for the traces of different communities and conflicts in early America. More generally, this conference seeks to address tracing as a method of historical inquiry, one that both uncovers and constitutes objects and archives, as well as the methodological traces that have reconfigured early American studies, such as Atlantic history, diaspora studies, hemispheric studies, and circum-Caribbean and Latin American studies.


Inquiries can be directed to:


Traces of Early America Conference
University of Pennsylvania
3355 Woodland Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104-4531




Hosted by

The McNeil Center for Early American Studies, University of Pennsylvania


Sponsored by:

The Barra Foundation


The McNeil Center
for Early American Studies


The Library Company of Philadelphia


Department of History,
University of Pennsylvania


Special thanks to:

Amy Baxter-Bellamy and Barbara Natello for their tireless support and assistance, and to the following individuals whose contributions helped make this conference possible: Adam Lewis, Christopher Parsons, Matthew Kruer, Nenette Luarca-Shoaf, Nicole Joniec, Nicole Scalessa, and Daniel K. Richter.


Illustrations courtesy of The Library Company of Philadelphia


Header left: Thomas Holloway, A Sure and Convenient Machine for Drawing Silhouettes, in Johann Caspar Lavater, Essays on Physiognomy (London, 1792)


Header right: Raphaelle Peale (attr.), Moses Williams, Cutter of Profiles, ca. 1803