Featured Fellow: Jack Weaver (2023-2024 Swan Foundation Fellow for Revolutionary Material Culture)

The Library & Museum at the American Philosophical Society supports a diverse community of scholars working on a wide-range of projects in fields including early American history, history of science and technology, and Native American and Indigenous Studies, among others. Read on to learn more about some of our fellows and their research at the APS. Additional information about our fellowship programming and other funding opportunities can be found here.

Briefly describe your research project.

My dissertation examines the relationship between the development of the American long rifle, its economic and military role in colonial and revolutionary North America, and the formation of American identity.

What collections did you use while working at the APS?

A whole lot! I looked at the papers of Richard Henry Lee, the Sol Feinstone Collections of the American Revolution, the Timothy Horsfield papers, and a variety of journals and travelogs. I was also excited to look at original artifacts in the Swan Foundation collections, including rifles and other pieces of material culture associated with 18th-century riflemen such as tomahawks, shot pouches, and powder horns.

What’s the most interesting or most exciting thing you found in the collections?

I was fascinated by the journals from the Lewis and Clark expedition. Because they relied on hunting to sustain themselves, and they were organized as part of the American military, their journey stood at the intersection of one of the most important themes of my dissertation: the role of the rifle in the expansion of the United States. The Swan Foundation also has in its collections a very early rifle, built in Pennsylvania in the 1750s. Late 18th- and early 19th-century examples of rifles are much more common, and examining earlier pieces informs how I think about later developments.

Do you have any tips or suggestions for future fellows or researchers?

Enjoy your time at the APS, and be sure to participate in any activities the Society puts on! Research can be lonely work, but making connections can make that time easier, and helps your work become more collaborative.

Any suggestions for must-see places or things to do in Philadelphia?

Philadelphia is a great city, and the location of the APS near Independence Hall and Market Street makes it a great starting point for exploration. There are a lot of well-known spots in the city, like the Museum of Art, but one of my favorite places is down Market Street on the Delaware River: the Independence Seaport Museum, which interprets the cruiser Olympia and the submarine Becuna. Also towards the river end of Market Street is the Franklin Fountain, which has some of the best ice cream I think I’ve ever had. 

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