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Susan Branson

Susan Branson

Contact Information:

512 Eggers Hall

Susan Branson

Professor and Chair, History Department

Highest degree earned

Ph.D., Northern Illinois University, 1992


Susan Branson’s training is in the social history of early America. The topics of her dissertation and first two monographs stem from her interest in gender roles and gender relations in American society during the early republic (spanning roughly the years between the 1780s and the 1830s).

Her first book, "These Fiery Frenchified Dames" (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001) examines women’s changing public roles as they resulted from the social, cultural and political forces at work in American society in the last two decades of the eighteenth century. Her second book, "Dangerous to Know: Women, Class and Crime in the Early Republic" (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008) investigates the intersection of crime, class and gender in the early nineteenth century.

Currently, Professor Branson is completing a book entitled "Consuming Science in American Society, 1700-1860," which considers why certain sciences and technologies suited the interests and agendas of American society at crucial moments in the nation’s development. The monograph develops lines of inquiry emerging in historical scholarship regarding three inter-related topics: the promotion of scientific education and practices among non-elites, the place of science and technology in American culture, and the development of nationalism and national identity in the early republic and antebellum eras.

Exploring the ways Americans chose to promote, celebrate and characterize discoveries, inventions and mammoth civic projects explains how Americans expressed a belief that the United States was a rising empire. She places special emphasis on how material culture was integral to how people experienced, interacted with and were introduced to science and technology—often in the guise of entertainment. Professor Branson teaches courses on women in early America, the American frontier, food in American society, and American science and technology.

Areas of Expertise

Early American women, early American society and culture, science and American society

Research Interests

American social and cultural history, 18th and 19th century, science and American popular culture

Research Grant Awards and Projects

National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, 2005-2006

Alumna of the Year, History Department, Northern Illinois University, 2005

Chemical Heritage Foundation Travel Grant, 2002

Isaac Comly Martindale Fund fellowship, American Philosophical Society, 2001

Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship, Library Company of Philadelphia, 2000

Southwest Texas State University Summer Research Grant, 1994

Philadelphia Center (McNeil Center) for Early American Studies fellowship, 1990-1991



"These Fiery Frenchified Damese": Women, Politics, and Culture in Early National Philadelphia (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001).

Dangerous to Know: Women, Class and Crime in the Early Republic (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008).


“Phrenology and the Science of Race in Antebellum America,” Early American Studies (Winter 2017):164-193. 

“’Barnum is undone in his own province’ Science, Race and Entertainment in the Lectures of George Robins Gliddon.” Tom Wright, ed., The Cosmopolitan Lyceum (University of Massachusetts Press, 2013)

“Flora and Femininity: Gender and Botany in Early America,” Vol. 12 Issue No. 2 (January 2012) 

“Sex, Scandal, Violence, and Other Middle-Class Pastimes in The History of the Celebrated Mrs. Ann Carson,” in Class and Class Struggles in Early North America and the Atlantic World, Simon Middleton and Billy G. Smith, editors. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008).

“From Daughters of Liberty to Women of the Republic: Women in the Era of the American Revolution” in Jay Kleinberg, Eileen Boris, and Vicki Ruiz, editors, The Practice of U.S. Women's History: Narratives, Intersections, and Dialogues, (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2007).

“Gendered Strategies for Success in the Early Nineteenth-Century Literary Marketplace: Mary Carr and the Ladies’ Tea Tray,” Journal of American Studies, 40, no.1 (April 2006): 35-51.

“An Outlaw and Her Ghost Writer: Enigmas of Female Celebrity in Early America,” Commonplace (April 2005).

"The Political Education of Elizabeth Drinker," Pennsylvania History Special Issue Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Publication of Elizabeth Drinker's Diary, Pennsylvania History, 68, no.4 (autumn 2001): 465-482.

"Etrangers dans un pays etrange: Saint-Domingan Refugees of Color in Philadelphia," (co-authored with Leslie Patrick) in David Geggus, editor, The Impact of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World, (University of South Carolina Press, 2002).

"American Women and the French Revolution: Gender and Partisan Festive Culture in the Early Republic," (co-authored with Simon Newman) in William Pencak, editor, Riot and Revelry (University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002).

"'He Swore His Life was in Danger From Me': The Attempted Kidnapping of Governor Simon Snyder," Pennsylvania History, 67, no. 3 (summer 2000): 349-360.

"Women and the Family Economy in the Early Republic: The Case of Elizabeth Meredith" Journal of the Early Republic, 16, no.1 (spring 1996): 47-71. *Reprinted in Joseph M. Hawes and Elizabeth Nybakken, editors, American Families in Historical Perspective (University of Illinois Press, 2001).

Recent Papers

"'No steamboat or Sea Serpent': Steam Technology and American Popular Culture.”

Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, Cleveland, Ohio July 2018 

“Flights of Imagination: The Air Balloon as a Symbol of National Promise,” Providence College Seminar on the History of Early America, October 2017

“’Do not, on any account, marry one the back of whose head resembles cut No.4’: The Visual Encoding of Gender Ideology in Nineteenth-century Phrenology texts” Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, Philadelphia, July 2017

“’Do not, on any account, marry one the back of whose head resembles cut No.4’: The Visual Encoding of Gender Ideology in Nineteenth-century Phrenology texts” Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, Philadelphia, July 2017

“History and Empire: Architectural Style and American National Ambitions, 1798-1848,” for European Early American Studies Association biannual conference. University of Paris-Diderot, December 2010

“Egyptomania: American Fashion and Architecture in Transatlantic Context, 1798-1848” for Visual Arts and Global Trade in the Early American Republic conference. Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts, November, 2010

Previous Teaching Appointments

Associate Professor, American History, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University: 2010-present

Associate Professor, American Studies, Syracuse University: 2005-2010

Associate Professor, Historical Studies, University of Texas at Dallas: 2003-2005

Assistant Professor, Historical Studies, University of Texas at Dallas: 1997-2003

Visiting Assistant Professor, University of Texas at Dallas: 1995-1997

Assistant Professor, Southwest Texas State University:1993-1996 (on leave 1995-1996)

Visiting Assistant Professor, University of Texas at Dallas: 1992-1993

Instructor, Southern Methodist University: 1992

Instructor, University of Texas at Dallas: Spring 1992