Youth citizenship in the golden age of periodicals, 1870-1910

Philip Keirle

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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In this thesis, I explore the ideational contours and performative dimensions of ‘youth citizenship’ in the late-nineteenth century. The identity was a complex one, with myriad voices – editors, physicians, rhetoricians, sanitary engineers, moral reformers, politicians, and psychologists – contributing to its articulation as a composite set of habits, behaviors, character traits and ideological commitments. Not surprisingly, the various projects that sought to mobilize youth in the performance of this identity were varied in their aims and foci. Some sought to promote patriotism through participation in patriotic rituals, while others sought to enlist students in the hygienic revitalization of their schoolhouses. Whatever the focus, correctly socialized youth were portrayed as a safeguard against a range of threats to social stability. For those interested in the civic socialization of youth, these included urban vice, immigration, individualism, the corruptive influence of the marketplace, and the scourge of contagious disease. Throughout, I emphasize the importance of youth periodicals as sites through which a wide range of civic visions and ideals were formulated and presented to young Americans, particularly those of the middling sort. While I draw on a wide range of source materials – elocution manuals, conduct of life books, success manuals, and periodicals – my primary focus throughout is on the Youth’s Companion, the nation’s most popular and influential youth periodical. As with a host of other texts, the Companion conveyed the civic hopes and fears of various experts and moral reformers to its readers.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2012


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