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Virtual seminar: From the Wobblies to the Grateful Dead: The Long, Strange Posthumous Journey of Casey Jones with Dr. Scott Huffard, Lees-McRae College

From the Wobblies to the Grateful Dead: The Long, Strange Posthumous Journey of Casey Jones,

A Research in Progress seminar with Dr. Scott Huffard, Lees-McRae College 
An event hosted by the History of Capitalism program at the University of Florida (more information)

February 19, 2021, at noon EST

Casey Jones is one of America’s more beloved folk heroes, but he was a real engineer who died when his train crashed while trying to make up lost time in 1900. The circumstances of his fateful final run may be straightforward, but Casey’s legacy is far from a simple story. He is at the same time a working-class hero, a union scab, and has served as inspiration for both labor organizers and conservative politicians.

This paper will trace how the memory of Casey Jones has shown up in unexpected places like a communist funeral, an IWW songbook, a Grateful Dead album, and a campaign rally for George H.W. Bush. Though these meanings may seem contradictory, I suggest that the twists and turns in the legend of Casey Jones reveal broader cultural shifts in America and speak to our collective memory of the nation’s industrial era. Perhaps the saga of Casey Jones gives us insight into how professions that once harbored radical critiques of American political economy – like coal miners, steelworkers, and railroad men – have turned into stalwart defenders of conservativism and repositories of traditional values.

For a copy of Dr. Huffard’s essay and to receive the Zoom invitation, contact Sean Adams at Reading the pre-circulated essay is not required, but it is recommended in order to facilitate discussion. For any questions, please contact Sean Adams at

This event is sponsored by the Hyatt and Cici Brown Chair of History.

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