Gregory M. Pfitzer was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and grew up in various midwestern towns, primarily Cincinnati, Ohio. He attended Colby College, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in American Studies and History, summa cum laude, and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He did graduate work at Harvard University, where he was a teaching associate in the Literature and the Arts program as well as a tutor in the departments of History and the History of Science. He was a Danforth Fellow at Harvard where he earned an M.A. degree in History and a Ph.D. in the History of American Civilization.
After brief teaching stints at Colby and Knox College he arrived at Skidmore College in 1989. Pfitzer is currently a professor in the American Studies department and teaches a wide variety of courses, including “Introduction to American Culture,” “Hudson River Culture,” “The Machine in the Garden,” “The 1960s,” and “Psychohistory.” Professor Pfitzer is the recipient of the Harvard University CUE Guide Award for Excellence in Teaching, the Knox College Philip Green Wright-Lombard Prize for College Teaching, and the Skidmore College Ralph A. Cianco Award for Excellence in Teaching.
His primary intellectual interest is in the field of the history of historical writing. On this topic, in addition to Popular History and the Literary Marketplace, 1840-1920, he has published Samuel Eliot Morison's Historical World (Northeastern University Press, 1991) and Picturing the Past: Illustrated Histories and the Role of Visual Literacy in the American Imagination, 1840-1900 (Smithsonian Institution Press, 2002). Professor Pfitzer has written a number of journal articles on Thoreau, Melville, Hawthorne, Henry James, Charles Francis Adams, Jr., Mark Twain, and the painter Winslow Homer. He is also the author of a piece on science fiction literature entitled “The Only Good Alien is a Dead Alien: The Metaphysics of Indian-Hating on the High Frontier.”
Pfitzer has done research on visual history in the archival collections at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, the Columbia University Libraries, the New York Public Library, the Pierpont Morgan Library, the Olin Library at Cornell University, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the Bancroft Library at the University of California at Berkeley, the Princeton University Archives, the Harvard University Archives, and the American Antiquarian Society among other places. He has presented professional papers on various aspects of this work to annual conferences associated of the Great Lakes Association of Colleges and Universities, the Mid-Atlantic Popular Culture Association, the American Historical Association, and the American Studies Association.
When he is not in the classroom or overseeing departmental matters in his office, he can be found at the gym, where he swims, plays basketball, and works out in preparation for the Roy Hobbs baseball season. When he injures himself, as he frequently does, he is cared for by his wife, Mia, an X-ray technician, and his two children, Michael and Sally.
He would like to acknowledge the Smithsonian Institution Press for permission to cite from his book Picturing the Past: Illustrated Histories and the Role of Visual Literacy in the American Imagination, 1840-1900.
Photo of Gregory Pfitzer by Emma Dodge Hanson.