PhD'17 (US history) University of Chicago


Research Interests

United States history; material culture; military history; gender; race; politics of everyday life; consumer history; museums


The Fabric of War: Clothing, Culture, and Violence in the American Civil War Era


Sarah Jones Weicksel is currently a research associate at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. She received her PhD in history with distinction in June 2017. Her dissertation, “The Fabric of War: Clothing, Culture and Violence in the American Civil War Era,” weaves together material, visual, and textual sources to explore the shifting politics of clothing production, consumption, and destruction in American society and culture in the 1860s and 1870s. The project focuses on the intimate, visceral nature of the Civil War and claims a central place for material culture’s role in shaping experiences and understandings of war and its aftermath. Clothing was a key instrument for soldiers, civilians, and the government to wage war—not only as a critical element of wartime supply, but also as a means of fostering loyalties, shaping identities, and making people into citizens.

In 2015–16 Weicksel was a Committee on Institutional Cooperation–Smithsonian Institution research fellow at the National Museum of American History and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. She has also held fellowships at the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture (2016–17) and the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality (2013–15) at the University of Chicago. Her research has been supported by the American Antiquarian Society, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the Newberry Library, and the Clements Library at the University of Michigan. In 2013 she was a National Endowment for the Humanities summer scholar and received the Wilhelm-Keiffer Student Research Award for her work on material culture by the International Society for Landscape, Place, & Material Culture.

As a Hermann von Holst Prize Lecturer in the Department of History, she designed and taught “A House Divided: The Civil War in American Culture and Everyday Life” (2017). She also designed and taught “Gendered Bodies in the Material World” (2017). As a Bessie Pierce Prize Preceptorship in the Department of History (2012–14 and 2016–17), she served as the preceptor for twenty-nine BA theses and taught the Senior Seminar and BA Seminar I. Weicksel has lectured in the America in World Civilization sequence and taught for the University of Chicago Writing Program. In 2016–17 she was a teaching fellow at the Chicago Center for Teaching, where she developed programming and workshops on teaching history.

Weicksel holds a PhD in history with distinction from the University of Chicago, an MA in American material culture from the Winterthur Program at the University of Delaware, and a BA in history with distinction from Yale University.


"'Peeled' Bodies, Pillaged Homes: Looting and Material Culture in the American Civil War Era." In Objects of War: The Material Culture of Conflict and Displacement. Edited by Leora Auslander and Tara Zahra. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, forthcoming 2018.

"Fitted Up for Freedom: The Material Culture of Refugee Camps." In Objects of War: Material Culture in the Civil War Era. Edited by Joan Cashin. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, forthcoming 2018.

"The Dress of the Enemy: Clothing and Disease in the Civil War Era." Civil War History 63, no. 2 (June 2017): 133–50.

"Armor and Honor: Technology, Manhood, and the Politics of Mortality." In Astride Two Ages: Technology and the American Civil War. Edited by Barton C. Hacker. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2016.

Quand l'uniforme fait l'homme libre: Les soldats noirs dans la Guerre civile américaine, 1861–1865 [To Look Like Men of War: Visual Transformation Narratives of African American Union Soldiers]." Clio: Femmes, Genre, Histoire 40, no. 2 (Aut. 2014): 137–52.


Discusses her research with The University of Chicago Magazine
Chicago Alumni Serve AHA
Dissertation Awards for 35 students in 2016–17
—Interviewed for Process, OAH (blog)
Awarded CIC/Smithsonian Institution Fellowship