Date of Award

Fall 2011

Document Type


Terms of Use

© 2011 Jeff Nagle. All rights reserved. This work is freely available courtesy of the author. It may only be used for non-commercial, educational, and research purposes. For all other uses, including reproduction and distribution, please contact the copyright holder.

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


History Department

First Advisor

Bruce Dorsey

Second Advisor

Shane Minkin


There is an increasingly sophisticated literature on the role played by museums in reaffirming social norms of examination in the antebellum United States. This literature has largely focused on the way museums presented this knowledge to the public, not how audiences reacted to claims of scientific authority. Popular reaction to pseudoscientific claims demonstrated to the public in the scientific context of museums, in this case Charles Redheffer's 1812 perpetual motion device and P. T. Barnum's Fejee Mermaid, shed light on the close relationship between early popular scientific observation and ways of judging authenticity and deception in the commercial and social realms of the antebellum period.


Co-recipient of the Robert S. DuPlessis Prize, awarded in 2012.

Included in

History Commons