Scott A. 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 (2005) and an abridgement of Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America (2007). His current book project, "Laughing Buffalo: A Tall Tale of Race and Family on the Half-Breed Rez," focuses on mixed-blood families to show how federal Indian policy, court decisions, early anthropologists, folklore, and family traditions have shaped racial identity in the United States. Active as a public historian, he has been a consultant to the Smithsonian Institution, the National Archives, the National Park Service, and the Andy Warhol Museum as well as to the creators of an off-Broadway play, film and radio documentaries, and the 2009 exhibition, "Lincoln in New York: A Bicentennial Celebration." In 1999–2000, he chaired a scholarly panel to recommend inscriptions for the wheelchair sculpture belatedly added to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial.
12/16 - replacing “The History of Failure and the Failure of History”: How does a culture obsessed with success make sense of failure? Scott A. Sandage contends that failure is the very foundation of the American Dream. Drawing upon examples from the nineteenth century, his work charts the transformation of failure from a business loss to a personality deficit. In this talk, he will discuss the origins and changing meanings of the American habit of labeling ourselves and each other “losers,” his 13-year struggle to complete a book on the subject, and his ultimate acceptance that failure is an inevitable part of everything we do – especially as historians.