Current Research

My work examines the intersection of images, the law, and society in the United States, with a particular focus on fraud and the history of capitalism.  My first book, Branding Trust: Advertising and Trademarks in the Nineteenth-Century United States, is currently under contract with the University of Pennsylvania Press (expected in 2023).  This book examines the problem of counterfeit goods that ransacked the American market in the nineteenth century, the strategies used by advertising experts to combat the problem, and the effects of these on American consumers.  Tracing the development of American trademark law, it reveals early strategies to build goodwill in the visual and textual appeals used by advertisers before 1920.

I’m also working on several new projects, which collectively interrogate the interplay between visual culture and concepts of belonging / exclusion, on the one hand, and between visual media, commerce, and authenticity on the other.  One current project examines how visual media helped configure popular and legal constructions of citizenship from c.1760-1968, looking at both disparaging and uplifting depictions of classed, racial, and gendered Others in American visual culture.  A second project expands my work on the history of commodities and consumer culture, looking at the history of counterfeit consumer goods in the US in order to uncover the cultural and economic that propelled the production and purchase of fakes.  Each of these projects depend heavily upon examinations of visual and material culture to understand the ways in which culture, commerce, and the law intertwine.

Books, Articles, and Public Writing 

“Teaching Public History Online” (with Abigail Gautreau, Will Stoutamire, and Katie Stringer Clary), History@Work: An Online publication of the National Council on Public History (2 October 2020).

“Autograph Albums and the Commercialization of Memory in the United States,” in Cultures of Memory in the Nineteenth Century: Consuming Commemoration, ed. Katherine Haldane Grenier and Amanda R. Mushal (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2020), 39-60.

Gender in the Academy: Recovering the Hidden History of Women’s Scholarship on Scrapbooks and Albums,” Material Culture 50, no. 2 (2018): 38-52.

Exchange Cards: Advertising, Album-making, and the Commodification of Sentiment in the Gilded Age,” Winterthur Portfolio 51, no. 1 (2017): 1-53.

Teaching Uncomfortable Narratives in Public History Courses,” History@Work: An Online publication of the National Council on Public History (27 September 2017).

Historical Memory and Contemporary Politics,” The Junto: A Group Blog on Early American History (9 Aug 2017).

“Citizenship and Caricature: Teaching the American Past with Images,” in Art & Public History: Approaches, Opportunities, and Challenges, ed. Rebecca Bush & K. Tawny Paul (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017).

Investing in Public History Students,” History@Work (8 Sept 2015).

Machines that Made History: Landmarks in Mechanical Engineering (New York: ASME Press, 2014).

“‘The Mark of Honor’: Trademark Law, Goodwill, and the Early Branding Strategies of National Biscuit,” in We Are What We Sell: How Advertising Shapes American Life…and Always Has, ed. Danielle Sarver Coombs and Bob Batchelor (Denver: Praeger / ABC-CLIO, 2014), 262-284.

“Corporate Calling Cards: Advertising Trade Cards and Logos in the US, 1876-1890.”  Journal of American Culture 32, no. 4 (2009): 291-306.

Public History Projects & Lectures

Dr. Black Responds to Viewers’ Questions,” COVID-19 and the Humanities (lecture series), Medical and Health Humanities Program, Misericordia University, Dallas, PA; July 2020. This lecture has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities CARES grant, “Humanities in the Time of COVID-19: Fostering Community Dialogue,” Award Number: AH-274885-20.

Freedom in the Time of COVID-19,” COVID-19 and the Humanities (lecture series), Medical and Health Humanities Program, Misericordia University, Dallas, PA; July 2020. This lecture has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities CARES grant, “Humanities in the Time of COVID-19: Fostering Community Dialogue,” Award Number: AH-274885-20.

Co-Curator (with Bode Morin and John Fielding), Anthracite Photographers: Photographers of Anthracite (opened December 1, 2018), Semi-permanent Exhibit, Anthracite Heritage Museum (Scranton, PA).

Anthracite Photographers: Photographers of Anthracite Exhibit Catalog (with Bode Morin, John Fielding, and Sarah Sporko), (Scranton, PA: Anthracite Heritage Museum, 2018).

Editor (with Allan Austin), Ambassadors of Goodwill: The American Friends Service Committee Abroad (May 2017), Online Exhibit, Misericordia University in Partnership with the American Friends Service Committee (Philadelphia).

Editor, Main Street Pittston and Mapping Historic Pittston (August 2016). Online Exhibits, Misericordia University in Partnership with the Greater Pittston Historical Society,

Editor, Mining the Past: Family, Faith & Industry in Postwar Pittston (August 2015). Online Exhibit, Misericordia University in Partnership with the Greater Pittston Historical Society.

Book Reviews

Rachel N. Klein, Art Wars: The Politics of Taste in Nineteenth-Century New York (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2020), in Journal of American History 108, no. 3 (2021): 589-590.

Aston Gonzalez, Visualizing Equality: African American Rights and Visual Culture in the Nineteenth Century (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2020), in Journal of the Civil War Era 11, no. 3 (2021): 410-414.

Jennifer C. Lena, Entitled: Discriminating Tastes and the Expansion of the Arts (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2019), in Journal of American History 107, no. 3 (2020): 723–724.

Laura M. Holzman. Contested Image: Defining Philadelphia for the Twenty-First Century (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2019), in H-Pennsylvania, November 2020.

Lawrence A. Kreiser, Marketing the Blue and Gray: Newspaper Advertising and the American Civil War (Baton Rouge, LA: LSU Press, 2019), Journal of Southern History 86, no. 2 (2020): 483-484.

Amy DeFalco Lippert, Consuming Identities: Visual Culture in Nineteenth-Century San Francisco (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), in H-California, July 2018.

Peter Knight, Reading the Market: Genres of Financial Capitalism in Gilded Age America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016), in H-SHGAPE, November 2016.

Louisa Iarocci, ed., Visual Merchandising: The Image of Selling (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2013), Journal of American Culture 38, no. 2 (2015): 200-201.

“Envisioning Early New England,” review of Martha McNamara and Georgia Barnhill, eds., New Views of New England: Studies in Material and Visual Culture, 1680-1830 (Boston: Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 2012), in H-Material Culture, August 2014.

Teresa Bergman, Exhibiting Patriotism: Creating and Contesting Interpretations of American Historic Sites (Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, 2013), in Journal of American Culture 37, no. 3 (2014): 351.

Donald C. Jackson, Pastoral and Monumental: Dams, Postcards, and the American Landscape (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013), in The Public Historian 36, no. 2 (2014): 142-144.

“Modernity: Ripe with Contradictions,” review of Thomas Welskopp and Alan Lessoff, eds., Fractured Modernity: America Confronts Modern Times, 1890s to 1940s (Munich: Oldenbourg Verlag, 2013), in H-SHGAPE, December 2013.

Inger L. Stole, Advertising at War: Business, Consumers, and Government in the 1940s (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2012), in Journal of American Culture 36, no. 4 (2013): 364.

Selected Presentations

“Collaboration in the Time of COVID-19: Digital Collectives to Support Teaching, Outreach, and Research,” National Council on Public History Conference (held virtually); March 2021

“Visualizing Character: American Advertising Personalities in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era,” Business History Conference Annual Meeting (held virtually); March 2021

“‘The Genius of Pictorial Advertising’: Images and Consumer-Centered Advertising in the US, 1830-1900,” Commercial Pictures and the Arts and Technics of Visual Persuasion, Hagley Museum and Library, Wilmington, DE; November 2019

“Policing Fakes: Early Trademark Regulation in the US,” Spring Research Seminar of the Center for the History of Business, Technology, and Society, Hagley Museum and Library, Wilmington, DE; April 2019

“Using Digital Tools to Bring Hemingway to Twenty-First Century Audiences,” Eighteenth International Hemingway Conference, Hemingway Society / Ernest Hemingway Foundation, Paris, France; July 2018

“‘Shrewd Men of Small Capital’: Leveraging Cultural Capital in the Antebellum Advertising Trade,” Business History Conference Annual Meeting, Baltimore, MD; April 2018

“‘Beware of Counterfeits!’ Using Anxiety to Build Trust in Antebellum Advertisements,” Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, Philadelphia, PA; July 2017

“‘Respectfully Soliciting your Patronage’: The Language of Legitimacy in Antebellum Advertising,” Business History Conference Annual Meeting, Denver, CO; March 2017

“‘Forget-me-not’: Autograph Albums and Memory-Making in the US,” Nineteenth-Century Studies Association Annual Conference, Charleston, SC; February 2017

“Archivists & the Public History Classroom,” Joint Meeting of the National Council on Public History and Society of History in the Federal Government, Baltimore, MD; March 2016.

“Unlikely Partners: Admen and Reformers in the Progressive Era,” Joint Meeting of the European Business History Association and the Business History Conference (US), Miami, FL; June 2015.

“Image or Object? Autograph Albums and the Materiality of Advertisements,” Visual Studies Research Institute, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA; May 2015.

“Teaching Otherness through Images,” National Council on Public History Conference, Nashville, TN; April 2015.

“Deceitful Imitators: The Moral Foundations of the 1905 Trademark Statute,” Organization of American Historians Annual Conference, Atlanta, GA; April 2014.

“‘Speaking By the Pen’: How Epistolary Etiquette Shaped Advertising Practices in the Gilded Age,” Business History Conference, Columbus, OH; March 2013.

“To Trust the Word of Another: Testimonials and Expertise in Patent-Medicine Advertising,” American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, MA; November 2011.

Creative Works

“Small Tokens,” memories in tribute to Okla Elliot, Mayday Magazine 11 (2017).


Download full CV: Black CV for web 2020-21