Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




The vast majority of local historical societies in operation today opened in the decades following World War II. These organizations are common fixtures in cities, towns, and neighborhoods across the United States, and their members continue to support the mandate to protect and share the local past set by their society founders forty, fifty, and sixty years ago. Despite the ubiquity of the local historical society, however, few scholars have considered the ways historical society founders and members used these organizations to do anything beyond explore an interest in local history. €œMobilizing the Past€ investigates how and why residents formed local historical societies in postwar metropolitan Chicago, as well as how the actions they took in the name of their organizations shaped social, political, and economic conditions in their homeplaces. Ultimately, this project argues that residents formed historical societies to protect entrenched local interests during a period of significant population flux and demographic change. They certainly shared an interest in the local past, but they also mobilized history in ways that limited outsider access to their towns and neighborhoods, reinforcing racial, ethnic, and economic barriers eroded by urban disinvestment, population migrations, and suburban growth.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.