Friday, July 30, 2021

7 Questions with Ronald Duquette, AKA Albert Gallatin, Historic Portrayer


Ronald Duquette is a native of New England, growing up in Massachusetts, college educated in Vermont (Middlebury College).  He spent 20 years in the Army as an intelligence officer and analyst.    Retired in 1994, he started a recording company (RonArt associates Recordings), and spent time singing and directing choirs in the area.  In 2008, he started portraying the Marquis de La Fayette, again in 2009 and 2010. Now, as part of The League of Most Interesting Gentlemen ( ), he portrays Albert Gallatin, a politician, diplomat, and linguist who lived from 1761 to 1849.

1.          How and when did you get  hooked on history?  


My father had always had an interest in history, was an avid reader, and I had books around me all the time, especially books of history.  Even works of historical fiction were not "off-limits," because my father (and I) had very vivid "historical imaginations," finding ourselves carried along with the stories.  We both had a passionate of epic movies - "Ben-Hur," "The Ten Commandments," "Lawrence of Arabia," and these just whetted my appetite for diving more and more into history.

2.          What role does history play or has it played in your personal life? 

 I think the realization that one is living in the midst of history was the clarifying moment for me.  In addition, reading French literature of a previous period (the time of Louis XIV, the early 19th century Romantics) also gave me a taste for time and circumstance.

3.          How does history play  a part of your professional life/career?   

I think it should be quite clear that, having portrayed Harry Truman in 1987, de La Fayette from 2008-2010, and since 2011 Albert Gallatin, these are all aspects of a part of my life that has become increasingly professionally directed.

4.          Why is studying/knowing history important?  

 Ignorance is death.  So much of our present travails are the consequence of people not bothering to know and to understand what has happened, and when confronted by the realities of that, they can't handle it.  We cannot, as a society, succeed by deliberately ignoring reality - and a clear understanding of history leads us to a clear understanding not only of what has been, but where that past may be leading us.

5.          What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?   

What period ISN'T my favorite?  I read broadly - ancient Greece and Rome and Israel; the medieval developments of nations, especially France (the home of my ancestors) and England (my "second home" in so many ways).  The early American Republic from 1770-1850.  The Civil War.  World War II.


6.         How did you become a professional Albert Gallatin interpreter?  

 In 1984, shortly after having been posted to Grenada for our invasion of that island, I was sent as part of a six-person team to the Defense Intelligence Agency for a 6-week temporary duty to provide an ex post facto justification for our invasion of Grenada.  While there, my boss, who was a part of that team, asked if I wished to go have dinner at Gadsby's Tavern in Alexandria Old Town.  While there, there was a gentleman dressed in period dress, with a guitar, a pleasant voice, singing songs of the period, and giving the "news of the day" as of 200 years ago that day.  I was enthralled; it was the perfect nexus of theater (which I love) and history (which I love).  I got his contact info, bought a cassette tape of his singing; when I returned home, I promptly forgot about him.  Go forward 26 years to 2010, and he was portraying James Madison at Gadsby's Tavern, while I had been invited to portray the Marquis at the Tavern Museum - and I asked him if he'd been the fellow 26 years before, and indeed, he was.  The next year (2011) he asked if I would be interested in portraying Gallatin for a symposium hosted by the Swiss Consulate General and the International Bundesbrief Society in Philadelphia at the National Constitution Center.  What did I know of Gallatin?  Finances, Jefferson Administration....????  So, because I can do the French accent (he was from Geneva), I said yes, thinking I would do this perhaps one or two times at the most.  And here I am, 10 years later, having portrayed him in various circumstances from Bozeman, MT to New York City to the State Department to Friendship Hill (his home in southwest PA) to Col. Monroe's Ashlawn-Highland - easily over 100 times in that period.

7.  Why Is Albert Gallatin relevant today?  

Gallatin was a man who did not let party overwhelm fact.  While he was a faithful follower of Jefferson, he also did not fear speaking his mind plainly when he felt that Mr. Jefferson, or Mr. Madison, or the "received wisdom" of the day was anything but wise.  He was, as well, an excellent example of how immigrants have benefited this country through their service and hard work.

Friday, July 23, 2021

7 questions with the History Dame


The History Dame is a civil servant at heart, holding a Master's in Public Administration and Public Management. She doesn't call herself a historian, but happily labels herself a History Nerd! She volunteers for The Pursuit of History  ( ) and The History List ( ), both are organizations that work towards making history more accessible for all ages. Follow her on Instagram  @history_dame1776 and  on Twitter @dame1776

1.      How and when did you get  hooked on history?

I've been interested in history for as long as I can remember.  My father was very interested in history, particularly in the Civil War.   I grew up in the Washington DC Metro area, which is surrounded by ample museums and historical sites. So I was able to experience and explore frequently.  All of these factors to include my natural personality created a deep love for history. 

2.      What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?

I'm a first generation American on my mother's side and my father's side, who has been here for several generations, has several veterans. Additionally, I come from a family with many civil and public servants.  History has played such an important role understanding my family's personal and professional motivations. Understanding my family's story has provided me with the tools and empathy to understand other stories, which is what history is made of--stories.

3.      How does history play  a part of your professional life/career?

History plays an indirect role in my professional career by allowing  a solid foundation on how and why government policies have been created over the course of history.  It plays a major role in my volunteer life, however, as I volunteer for historical organizations where I help develop historical content. 

4.      Why is studying/knowing history important?

Our present life is a direct result of history. Studying and understanding history are the bread crumbs to ones present life, knowing those bread crumbs provides much needed context.  History and Civics go hand in hand as government policies are typically the response to events and generational pressures.  Studying history allows you to know what those events and pressures were, how they built upon each other, and ultimately how their ripple effects created our present life.   Studying history also allows us to change the trajectory of present day in hopes of a better tomorrow.  For me, History is learning the motivations of people, and that is truly fascinating.

5.      What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?

My favorite aspect  is the late 19th century through 20th century. This is for a few reasons, the amount of growth the United States saw in innovation, policies, historical events, and societal changes is massive.  I find it fascinating to follow those bread crumbs, learn of the personal stories that helped shape modern America, and how all these aspect converged creating complex layers. It's a puzzle that is never ending.

If I had to choose a very specific period, I would say WWII.  My interest is a combination of my personal family ties and the tremendous leap WWII caused in politics, technology, and culture.

6.         How did you become the History Dame?

I became History Dame in 2018. I had stayed off social media for a while and when I finally joined, I was frustrated to see that I had to subscribe to numerous history pages.  I wanted to see history of all eras in one place.  This caused me to create my own social media that would focus on all eras and topics of American history. 

I also enjoy breaking through stereotypes within the history community, because I don't have a history degree and that always surprises people.  As a woman who truly loves history for the sake of loving it, I enjoy sharing my enthusiasm and hope I can show just how diverse history is!

7.      What is History in Under a Minute ?

One thing I've noticed over time was the misconception that history was not fun and/or one had to be an academic to be knowledgeable. I wanted to dispel both of those and I do that with my History in Under a Minute.  These videos are packed with bite size historical information, each video having a dedicated topic.  The topics range from military history, historical events, people, etc.  My hope is viewers will be inspired to learn more and begin their own journey into studying history--for fun!

Friday, July 16, 2021

7 Questions with Michael Troy, host of the American Revolution Podcast


    Michael Troy is host of the American Revolution Podcast ( ) and a member of the American Revolution Round Table.  He lives in southern New Jersey and works in Philadelphia.  He is also a former Associate General Counsel for the Center for Individual Rights.

    1.          How and when did you get hooked on history?

I’ve loved history my whole life.  I remember reading a children’s biography of Christopher Columbus at age 4.  My parents took me to visit Mount Vernon a couple of years later and I was completely hooked.

2.          What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?

History has always been a source of enjoyment.  I devour historical nonfiction as much as I can.  I love the stories and understanding how human history has progressed.  Schools usually just cover the bare bones facts about history.  I am more interested in the stories about people and their lives.  History, for me, is more interesting than fiction.  Sometimes the plots of some stories are unbelievable, and yet they really happened.

3.          How does history play a part of your professional life/career?

My professional career has been in the law and IT.  So history plays relatively little role there.  Unfortunately, I’ve never found a way to make a living in the history field.

4.          Why is studying/knowing history important?

I like the saying that history doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.  We see many recurring themes in history.  Many conflicts and resolutions to past problems have very real precedential value to many issues we experience today.  We can learn from and adapt the historic solutions of what worked or not, unless we forget those earlier lessons.

5.          What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?

As you might guess from the theme of my podcast, I’m particularly interested in early US history.  The transition from the medieval world ruled by monarchs to the modern world where democracy took root is particularly fascinating for me.  The growth of the United States from its early colonial roots to world power in a relatively short time is nearly unprecedented in world history.

6.         How did The American Revolution Podcast get started?

Many years ago, I started a blog called “Unlearned History.”  I tried to write about interesting tidbits of history that generally were not taught in school.  After doing that for a couple of years, I thought that doing a deep-dive into the American Revolution would be fun.  Initially, I planned to publish it just as a blog.  Writing about it was a way of sharing with others what I was learning.

The decision to turn it into a podcast was almost an afterthought.  I am a fan of Mike Duncan’s podcasts.  When he began “Revolutions” I was very much looking forward to his coverage of the American Revolution.  But I found that he covered it too briefly and without the detail I wanted.  I decided that if no one else was going to do a detailed review of the American Revolution as a podcast, then I would.

7.      What can listeners expect to hear on The American Revolution Podcast?


I take listeners through the American Revolution chronologically.  I started with an overview of the French and Indian War, then the pre-war protests, then into the war itself.  I’m about half-way through the war at this point.


In each episode, I try to tell an interesting story that can stand on its own.  At the same time, I try to put the war in context, so that people can see all the political, social, economic, and other events that surrounded them as they made their way through the period.  The podcast is really unique because of its focus on the smaller events and lesser known issues, rather than just covering the major battles and political events.  I try to inject a bit of humor at times, but really let the story tell itself.  



Friday, July 9, 2021

7, errr 4, 4 Questions with Tim Harford, Economist, Journalist, and Broadcaster


Tim Harford is an economist, journalist and broadcaster. He is author of “How To Make the World Add Up” / “The Data Detective”“Messy”, and the million-selling “The Undercover Economist”. He is a senior columnist at the Financial Times, and the presenter of BBC Radio’s “More or Less”“How To Vaccinate The World”, and “Fifty Things That Made the Modern Economy”, as well as the podcast “Cautionary Tales” in which he tells "stories of awful human error, tragic catastrophes, daring heists and hilarious fiascos." Tim has spoken at TED, PopTech and the Sydney Opera House. He is an associate member of Nuffield College, Oxford and an honorary fellow of the Royal Statistical Society. Tim was made an OBE for services to improving economic understanding in the New Year honors of 2019. While he's quick to say that he's not a historian by training, he intertwines history and economics to tell great stories. (And it's my first ever conversation - albeit, via email - with a person who is a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Cool. -Jeff Burns)

3. How does history play  a part of your professional life/career?

I studied philosophy and economics, and more recently have worked with statistics and statistical communication too. These are important topics but I've realized that by reading more history and adding historical stories I can bring subjects such as economics and statistics to life. There's a vividness and a truth to describing how ideas or technologies emerged from and shaped a particular time and place - rather than dealing with them purely in abstract.

5. What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?

I often find myself writing about and researching smaller stories from between the two world wars. I'm not exactly sure why, but I suppose it was a time when the modern world was coming at us fast. The economic upheaval was huge, the structure of the economy was changing, but it was also a time that offered plenty of space for heroes and villains. 

6.         What gave you the idea to start the podcast Cautionary Tales?

I wanted to tell stories about things going wrong - but also explore the explanations behind the mistakes. I'm fascinated by errors: why people make mistakes, how organizations or societies get things wrong, and the trajectory of disaster - and sometimes redemption. Mistakes make for good stories but they also make for good lessons, and if you can't learn lessons from history, what can you do?

7. What can listeners expect from listening to your podcast?

A big range of true tales of disaster, some tragic, some comic, and some - just a few - with a happy ending. Amazing music and sound design. Brilliant actors - the latest series has Jeffrey Wright as the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr, and Helena Bonham Carter as Florence Nightingale. And my aim is to keep you hanging on because you just have to know how the story ends.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

7 Questions with Julien Icher, Founder of the Lafayette Trail


Julien Icher is  the founder and president of The Lafayette Trail, Inc., a nonprofit organization with the mission to document, map, and mark General Lafayette's footsteps during his Farewell Tour of the United States in 1824 and 1825. It aims to educate the public about the national significance of Lafayette's Tour and to promote a broader understanding of Lafayette's numerous contributions to American independence and national coherence in preparation for the 2024-2025 tour bicentennial celebrations. 

Instagram: @thelafayettetrail
Facebook: @thelafayettetrail 
Twitter: @LafayetteTrail

Please, consider joining as a member of the trail: 

  1. How and when did you get  hooked on history?



My dad was a professor of history focusing on the French cathedrals and the Middle Ages craftsmen guilds. History has always been around me since my early childhood. Many different layers of history have captured my attention. I have been exploring in depth the transatlantic world, the French colonial period, and the Franco-American alliance, with an emphasis on the American War for Independence and the Triumphal Return of Lafayette to the United States in 1824-1825.


  1. What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?


I think history is a great key to understanding the mechanisms that have carried over into our modern society and that continue to influence it. History informs why some bilateral relations are more significant than others for a given country. It explains why the global stage is uneven and showcases the road to where we are now. Most importantly, it helps me forge my own understanding of the world.



  1. How does history play a part of your professional life/career?


My full-time job has been to lead The Lafayette Trail, Inc. preparing for the bicentennial of Lafayette’s Farewell Tour in 2024. I am very fortunate to be able to live my passion and contribute my own piece to the Franco-American alliance. I believe the alliance between the U.S. and France is unique and is home to many positive values and significant advances for the world. Studying Lafayette’s embrace of the American experiment and the trust he placed in the institutions of the United States has been very inspiring.



  1. Why is studying/knowing history important?


History reveals where we come from and the journey that led us to that point. Understanding our origin and our journey can help understand our own identity and the point from which we can talk to others. It is true for individuals, but also for nations. A fine understanding of the historical mechanisms relevant to one space or region can lead to great diplomatic assets.


  1. What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?


I have enjoyed studying the period around Lafayette’s 1824 Tour of the United States. Most recently, I have started exploring in more detail the French colonial period in North America, especially the settlement of Louisiana. The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 transferred an enormous amount of land coming from a French background to the government of the United States. It was interesting to me to explore the French background of regions such as the current state of Mississippi and understand the processes leading to their integration into the American family. What fascinated me the most was to try to find out any remnants of the French control in former Louisiana territories when Lafayette returned to the U.S. in 1824-25. Were they visible in any way? Did they influence the receptions in honor of Lafayette? Would they differ from that organized in his honor on the eastern seashore?



  1. How did the Lafayette Trail project begin and what is its goal?


I created The Lafayette Trail, Inc. at the Consulate General of France in Boston in March 2017 as a junior diplomat with the goal of implementing a cultural trail to increase mutual understanding between the peoples of France and of the United States. The success of the project in New England led me to conceive of its nationwide expansion. The Lafayette Trail, Inc. has entered into an exclusive agreement with the William G. Pomeroy Foundation to place up to 175 official Lafayette Trail historic markers in each of the 24 states that Lafayette visited in 1824. You may view our installed markers on our webmap ( To this date, we have had over 40 markers approved in more than 13 states. The latest addition to our content delivery toolkit is a web series hosted on YouTube called Follow The Frenchmen (


    7. Why did Lafayette become such a hero to Americans during the time of his tour and why is he important now?


The tour of Lafayette takes place in a moment of great political divisiveness in the United States. The financial panic of 1819 weakened the country’s confidence in some national institutions, in particular banks. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 deeply polarized the nation around the issue of slavery. The U.S. 1824 Presidential Election revealed deep regional factions. The country’s spread to the west leads to greater diversity in opinion and greater divisiveness. The Revolutionary War generation is dying out. Lafayette is invited by President Monroe and Congress to return to the U.S. for the fourth and last time as the Friend of Washington and the last surviving Major General of the Continental Army. For 13 months, from August 16, 1824, to September 8, 1825, Lafayette was the Nation’s Guest. He epitomized the Revolutionary War Spirit. He expressed his confidence in the American institutions, including the belief that the Republican institutions of the United States were fundamentally superior to that of Europe. Americans looked to Lafayette for a stabilizing presence. In celebrating Lafayette, Americans celebrated themselves and renewed faith in the uniqueness of their nation. Lafayette’s Tour installed the general understanding that the United States fundamentally differed from Europe, a message that the nation needed to hear as it came up on the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Revolutionary War.