Amy S. Greenberg is the George Winfree Professor of History and Women's Studies at Penn State University, where she has taught since 1995. She is the author of five books, including A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln, and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico (2012), which received awards from the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, and the Western History Association, and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, multiple works on the history of U.S. territorial expansion, and, most recently, an award-winning biography of a little-known early female power broker, Lady First: The World of First Lady Sarah Polk (2019), Greenberg has received major fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, and American Philosophical Society, among others; is the winner of Penn State University's George Atherton Award for Teaching; and was named a top young historian by History News Network. She is currently at work on a study of dissent in nineteenth-century U.S. imperialism.
Prior to the 1850s, there was no such thing as a paid fire department in the United States. Plenty of men were willing to fight fires for free in the flammable cities of America, and these volunteer firemen did so, to great popular acclaim. So why, over a very short period of time, did municipal governments unanimously decide that it was worth paying men to fight fires, and why did urban property owners agree to pay taxes for a service they had previously received for free? This talk will explore the rise and fall of the urban volunteer department in nineteenth-century America, and will suggest what was lost in rejection of volunteerism.