The River


High Res Parties
“Diagram of the Rise and Fall of American Political Parties, from 1789 to 1880, inclusive,” from Conspectus of the History of Political Parties and the Federal Government, by Walter R. Houghton, 1880. Currently on display at the National Museum of American History.

Disclaimer: This is a work in progress site, but feel free to explore! Links to posts without subtitles are in the works. Please excuse our dust.

What this site is:

This website presents a unique artifact from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. The visual medium conveys the dozens of political parties by color coding them, using the thickness of the line to indicate the parties’ strength, and depicting the party in power by whether it is above or below the center line of the page. More information can be viewed on the Smithsonian website by clicking here.

This site hopes to facilitate the close-reading of a unique historic document by encouraging non-linear exploration to capture an overview of American political history in a fun (and maybe funny?) way.

Who it’s for:

The articles themselves are intended to provide an overview of segments of the document, with an assumption the reader has a basic grasp of American history. The perfect audience would be older students using the site as a classroom activity. Ongoing development on suggested questions and classroom activities can be found by clicking here. Everyone is welcome to explore the website, and hopefully the tone will provide an entertaining refresher on early American history.

How it works:

Below, readers will find links to individual pages that are related to specific segments of the document. A Further Reading page is available to direct curious readers to deeper dives into subject areas, such as Chris DeRose’s Presidents’ War or Ellis’ The Quartet.

An ongoing project:

The vision for the site would be more interactive, letting players click around the image itself and navigate motivated by curiosity. This early stage is focused on writing and refining the text, and working on the design and flow of the site itself. The ultimate goal is to have a fully interactive version of the image, either on a site or a touch-screen table, that would let users explore the river at their own pace and inclination, while the activities and questions page could help create a more focused experience.

So please, feel free to explore the site. Feedback and suggestions are always welcome.

Colonial-1783: Whigs, Tories, and Confederates (not those Confederates)

1783-1789: The Second American Revolution

1789-1796: Two Parties, One President


















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