James Ogilvie is the most important early American celebrity you’ve never heard of. As a performer and public speaker, he wowed American audiences with his grace and eloquence, allowing him to travel to virtually every corner of the United States before 1820. And yet after his death, he was forgotten. This talk examines the period he spent in Kentucky, giving lectures and serving with the Kentucky militia during the War of 1812. Based on her new book, The Strange Genius of Mr. O: The World of the United States’ First Forgotten Celebrity (2021), the author speaks about how collections at the Filson and other Kentucky archives allowed her to flesh out this remarkable story.
Carolyn Eastman is a professor of history at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her research focuses on the cultural and intellectual history of early America and the Atlantic world, political culture, gender, and the history of print, oral, and visual media. She is the author of the prizewinning A Nation of Speechifiers: Making an American Public after the Revolution (Chicago, 2009), and is currently a National Endowment for the Humanities fellow at the New-York Historical Society.
This program is presented through the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities and its Sustaining the Humanities through the American Rescue Plan initiative. With this support, the Filson will present a series of public programs and launch Resurrecting the First American West, a digital exhibit on the diverse Ohio Valley frontier.