Unless otherwise indicated, all OI books are distributed by The University of North Carolina Press.

The Strange Genius of Mr. O

The World of the United States' First Forgotten Celebrity

Carolyn Eastman

Cloth: 978-1-4696-6051-6 ($29.95)

Copyright 2021
University of North Carolina Press


"Who was James Ogilvie? In a page-turning book that reads more like a mystery novel than the work of a professional historian, Carolyn Eastman Reconstructs not just a forgotten life of celebrity but a forgotten world of early United States. Through her artful telling, we learn how a young public's earnest desire for self-improvement combined with a singular man's oratorical genius and media talent to fuse education, religion, politics, and hucksterism into an indistiguishable cultural brew. With a keen eye--and with great wit and archness--Eastman pulls these and other strands apart even as she shows their impossible interconnections in American culture. It is a rare work of history that speaks to both past and present."

--Francois Furstenberg, author of When the United States Spoke French: Five Refugees Who Shaped a Nati

"Eastman's stunning archival research brings James Ogilvie, a melancholy man once celebrated as a stage orator, back to life. With deft analysis and lovely prose, she offers new insights into the aspirations of Americans who lives through the republic's first tumultuous decades"

--Ann Fabian, author of The Skull Collectors: Race, Science, and America's Unburied Dead

"In her highly imaginative and richly documented work, Carolyn Eastman takes us through the early Repulic's towns and cities as she explores an itinerant lecturer's talent for eloquence. Traveling a nation in the midst of self-invention. Mr. O spoke on behalf of a republic bound together by democratic deliberations. His experience began with the popularity and fae that came to define celebrity and concluded abruptly with the public disenchantment that ended Mr. O's career. A tour de force, Stange Genius is a tale for our own time."

--Mary Kelley, author of Learning to Stand and Speak: Women, Eudcation, and Public Life in America's R