Scott Sandage

Associate Professor
Ph.D.: Rutgers University, 1995
Department Member Since: 1995


Professor Sandage is a cultural historian who specializes in the nineteenth-century United States and in the changing aspects of American identity. He is the author of Born Losers: A History of Failure in America (Harvard University Press, 2005), on which playwright Arthur Miller commented, “I found Born Losers a confirmation of an old belief that in American history there is a crash in every generation sufficient to mark us with a kind of congenital fear of failure. This is a bright light on a buried strain in the evolution of the United States.”

Born Losers was selected as an “Editor’s Choice” book by the Atlantic Monthly magazine and was awarded the 34th Annual Thomas J. Wilson Prize, for the best “first book” accepted by Harvard University Press. Three translations of the book came out in 2007, in Japan, Taiwan, and the People’s Republic of China. Also in 2007, HarperCollins published Professor Sandage’s abridgement (with new introduction and annotations) of Alexis de Tocqueville’s classic Democracy in America.

As a teacher, he regularly teaches an undergraduate lecture survey of United States history, small courses on the rise of individualism and on political humor, and “The Roots of Rock & Roll, 1870-1870” which combines lecture and discussion to explore the social and cultural history of converging black and white musical traditions after the Civil War. At the graduate level, Professor Sandage teaches historiography and research courses and is currently advising four doctoral dissertations.

Active as a public historian, he has been a consultant to the Smithsonian Institution, the National Archives, the National Park Service, the Kentucky Historical Society, an off-Broadway play, and film and radio documentaries. In 1999-2000, Professor Sandage chaired a panel of scholars to recommend an inscription for the “wheelchair” sculpture belatedly added to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C. In 2004, he was invited to contribute an essay on loserdom to the catalog of the Whitney Biennial Exhibition. Since 1998, he has been an elected member of the board of directors of the Abraham Lincoln Institute, in Washington, D.C. In 2006, he was elected to membership in the American Antiquarian Society. He is co-editor of the “American History and Culture” book series for New York University Press.

Professor Sandage has been interviewed in The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, Business Week, Fast Company Magazine, Cabinet and the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette, among other mainstream periodicals, and has been a guest on National Public Radio, Public Radio International, Radio Hong Kong, Radio New Zealand, Radio National Australia, Wisconsin Public Radio, Minnesota Public Radio, “The Tavis Smiley Show” (PBS), “History of Book TV” (C-Span), and other radio and television programs.

Professor Sandage was selected for Carnegie Mellon’s Elliot Dunlap Smith Award for Distinguished Teaching and Educational Service in 2006. He has also received a 2007-2008 senior faculty fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the 1998 Jameson Fellowship from the Library of Congress and the American Historical Association, and the 1995-1996 Dissertation Prize from the Northeastern Association of Graduate Schools. His study, “A Marble House Divided: The Lincoln Memorial, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Politics of Memory, 1939-1963” (Journal of American History, June 1993) won best article prizes from the Organization of American Historians and from the Eugene V. Debs Foundation.

In 2007, he was named one of America’s “Top Young Historians” by the History News Network.

Professor Sandage’s next book project, Half-Breed Creek: A Tall Tale of Race on the Frontier, 1804-1941, centers on a Nebraska reservation established for “half-breeds” (families with Native American and white or African-American ancestry), to explore how the law, the federal government, field anthropology, folklore, popular culture, and science have fostered conflicting narratives that have shaped racial identity in the United States.

selected Publications

Born Losers: A History of Failure in America (Cambridge: Mass., Harvard University Press, 2005); paperback, 2006.
失敗萬歲 [Chinese translation (complex characters) of Born Losers], paperback, (Taiwan: New Century Publishing Co., 2007).
天生失败者:从小人物身上汲取失败的教训 [Chinese translation (simplified characters) of Born Losers], paperback (Beijing: China Social Sciences Press, 2007).
「負け組」のアメリカ史―アメリカン・ドリームを支えた失敗者たち [Japanese translation of Born Losers], hardcover, (Tokyo: Seidosha, 2007).
Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville, abridgement with annotations and introduction (New York: HarperPerennial, 2007).
“The Gilded Age,” in A Companion to American Cultural History, ed. Halttunen (London: Blackwell, 2008).
“The L on Your Forehead,” thematic essay about art and failure, Catalog of the 2004 Biennial Exhibition, Whitney Museum of American Art (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2004), 94-101.
James Longhurst and Scott Sandage, “Appropriate Technology and Journal Writing: Structured Dialogues that Enhance Learning,” College Teaching 45 (Spring 2004): 1-6.
“Gender and the Economics of the Sentimental Market in Nineteenth-Century America,” Social Politics vol. 6, no. 2 (Summer 1999), 105-130.
“The Gaze of Success: Failed Men and the Sentimental Marketplace, 1873-1893,” in Sentimental Men: Masculinity and the Politics of Affect in American Culture, ed. Chapman and Hendler (University of California Press, 1999).
“A Marble House Divided: The Lincoln Memorial, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Politics of Memory, 1939-1963,” Journal of American History, vol. 80, no. 1 (June 1993), pp. 135-167; reprinted in Race and the Production of Modern American Nationalism, ed. Scott-Childress, (Garland Press, 1998), 273-311; and Charles Payne and Adam Green, eds., Time Longer than Rope: A Century of African-American Activism (NYU Press, 2003), 492-535.
“Sorting the War Dead into Winners and Losers,” History News Network, 11 September 2006.
“Dead End for the Freedom Trail” (2002), National Coalition to Save Our Mall, Washington, D.C.
“Old Rags, Some Grand,” Cabinet Magazine (Summer 2002): 88-89.
“'Help' Wanted: Begging Letters to John D. Rockefeller,” Research Reports from the Rockefeller Archive Center (Spring 2000)
“Why One Gay Professor Would Leave Pennsylvania,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, OpEd Section, 21 November, reprinted in Philadelphia Gay News 3-9 December 1999, pp. 10, 12.
“Marian Anderson” and “Abraham Lincoln,” in The Oxford Companion to African American Literature, ed. Andrews (Oxford, 1997); both selected for inclusion in The Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature (Oxford, 2001).
“From Puritan to Yankee Doodle Dandy,” review essay on Richard L. Bushman, The Refinement of America, American Quarterly, vol. 46, no. 4 (December 1994), 605-611.

Courses Taught

The Development of American Culture
Abraham Lincoln at 200: From 1809-2009
The Roots of Rock and Roll, 1870-1970
Culture and Identity in American Society

Contact Info

Department of History
Baker Hall 236-B
P: 412.268.2878
F: 412.268.1019