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Scots in the American West

8 August 2013
9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Warner Bros. Theatre
National Museum of American History
14th Street and Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC

The Smithsonian Institution’s Consortium for Understanding the American Experience and the Buffalo Bill Center of the West hosted a symposium on August 8, 2013 to discuss the Scottish diaspora and Scots in the American West. In the late 1600s, Glasgow was the European center for the Virginia tobacco trade, and Scots Presbyterian dissenters in search of religious freedom established their own colonies in South Carolina and New Jersey. In the 1700s, population growth, agricultural modernization, and political upheaval in Scotland were the driving forces behind more than 50,000 Scots crossing the Atlantic. As the new American Republic looked westward, many of the earliest pioneers settling the Ohio and Tennessee valleys were of Scots or Scots-Irish descent. It is little wonder then that in the 1800s as the United States expanded into the Trans-Mississippi American West, Scottish immigrants and their descendants contributed and greatly shaped all phases of this movement.

This symposium examined the Scottish immigrant experience in the Trans-Mississippi West in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the substantial contributions made by Scots and Scots-Americans. What compelled Scots to leave their homeland and settle in America? How did their Scottish culture and past shape their experiences in the American West? Finally, what was the particular lure of the American West for Scots of that period? Not only will this symposium offer insight into the immigrant experience, it will also examine the multifaceted forces shaping western expansion and how it shaped American culture and society today.

The Smithsonian Consortium for Understanding the American Experience would like to thank the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, the Alliance for Scottish Roots Music, the National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA, and Ms. Naoma Tate for their support of the event.

The symposium was webcast live, and has been archived for later viewing, on this page. An event program is available for download.

Program:

Introduction
Michelle Delaney, Smithsonian Consortium for Understanding the American Experience

Welcome
John Gray, National Museum of American History

 

Morning Session Presentations: Scottish Diaspora
Moderated by Jeremy Johnston, Buffalo Bill Center of the West

 

Revisiting the Conundrum of Scottish Emigration
Angela McCarthy, University of Otago, New Zealand

Romance, Rhetoric and Reality: Scottish Settlers and Sojourners in the American West
Marjory Harper, University of Aberdeen

 

Scots on the Move: The Historical Context of Scottish Migration in the Medieval and Early Modern Periods
John Young, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow

 

Questions & Answers – Morning Session

 

Musical Performance and Clinic by Atlantic Seaway
Introduced by James Hare and Featuring Artist-in-Residence Maureen McMullan, National Trust for Scotland USA

 

Afternoon Session Presentations: Scots and the American West
Moderated by Michelle Delaney, Smithsonian Consortium for Understanding the American Experience

Scots and Indians on the American Frontiers
Colin Calloway, Dartmouth College

Scots and Indians: Shaping Nationalism within the Nation States
Margaret Connell-Szasz, University of New Mexico

Boom, Blizzard and Bust: Small Scottish Investors, Insider Information, and the Collapse of Western U. S. Cattle Companies, 1886-87
Phil Roberts, University of Wyoming

(Skip to 7:50 to begin presentations)

 

Questions & Answers – Afternoon Session
Reflections and Closing Remarks by Bruce Eldredge, Buffalo Bill Center of the West