Virtual Conference - 1946 Reconsidered: The Ohio Valley in the Post-World War II Era

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October 22, 2021 to October 23, 2021
Kentucky, United States
Subject Fields: 
American History / Studies, Contemporary History, History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, Urban Design and Planning

The Filson Historical Society, supported by the C.E. and S. Foundation and an anonymous friend of the Filson will host its 2021 biennial conference, 1946 Reconsidered: The Post-WWII Ohio Valley, on Zoom on October 22 and 23, 2021. Click here for free registration.

In 1950, WWII veteran and Louisville architect Stratton Hammon wrote to a colleague at Better Homes & Gardens magazine:

Before the war, Louisville was one of the lowest building cost markets in the country because its economy was largely based on agriculture, horses, corn for whiskey and tobacco. The war, however, changed all this. Because we have a hydroelectric dam here, a tremendous number of large plants located here—rubber, aircraft, aluminum, International Harvester, etc. This at once changed our non-union town to a union town and the price of building is, I believe, much above the balance of the country because of the high wages and because we have never yet caught up with the industrial building program.

Hammon accounted for the sea changes he had seen in his professional field, but the social, demographic, spatial, institutional, and environmental changes wrought by the war went beyond the recounting of any one individual. What changes did the soldiers, defense workers, and families notice when they returned home to the Ohio Valley—or came for the first time? What new ideas and perspectives did they bring home, and what would come of them? What new promises and hidden dangers did the factories, suburbs, and highways of the postwar landscape hold? In what visible and subtle ways have the years immediately after WWII shaped life in Louisville and its region for the past 75 years?

Like in 1946, we are struggling to find paths forward after a world-historical event. We have experienced grief and loss on a catastrophic scale. The foundations of our economy have been disrupted and need reassessment. We have experienced both transnational unity and deep, internal division. We have been here before. History gives us the capacity to reflect, learn, and grow. The Filson is committed to using its perspective on the past to empower those in our community who seek to create a healthier, more equitable, and more prosperous future.

The Filson is committed to ensuring that this conference has a long afterlife with diverse audiences. The editors of Ohio Valley History will produce a thematic special issue from some selected papers given at this conference.


The FREE sessions are offered on Zoom. Registration for the individual sessions is required. To see all of the Filson’s upcoming events, click here. Registration links for individual sessions are included below. All times Eastern. Recordings of each session will be made available later on the Filson’s YouTube channel.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Higher Education in the Ohio Valley Roundtable, 3:00-4:00
John McNay, Moderator, University of Cincinnati-Blue Ash
Terry Birdwhistell, University of Kentucky
Carrie Daniels, University of Louisville
John Hardin, Western Kentucky University
David Stradling, University of Cincinnati

The Year of Peril: America in 1942, 6:00-7:00
Tracy Campbell, University of Kentucky

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Heart of the American Bomb: Building the Atomic Valley, 10:00-11:00
Jason Krupar, University of Cincinnati

Rubbertown, 11:30-12:30
Austin Hall, University of Cincinnati

Childhood of Kentucky’s Countercultural Authors, 1:00-2:00
Richard Bailey, Canisius College

Contact Info: 

Patrick A. Lewis, Ph.D.
Director of Collections & Research
Filson Historical Society