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Rice, Stephen Patrick 1963–

Rice, Stephen Patrick 1963–


Born September 19, 1963. Education: Gonzaga University, B.A., 1986; Yale University, M.A., 1993, Ph.D., 1996.


Office—Ramapo College, 505 Ramapo Valley Rd., Mahwah, NJ 07430. E-mail—[email protected]


Writer and scholar. Ramapo College, Mahwah, NJ, associate professor of American Studies, 1996—.


Minding the Machine: Languages of Class in Early Industrial America, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 2004.

Contributor to Common-place.


Writer and scholar Stephen Patrick Rice was born September 19, 1963. In 1986, Rice received his B.A. from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. He then attended Yale University, graduating in 1993 with his M.A. and again in 1996 with his Ph.D. Rice accepted a professorial position at Ramapo College, in Mahwah, New Jersey, in 1996. Rice's academic interest lies in the field of American history, particularly in the period between 1800 and 1920. He has taught courses in American studies and U.S. history, and his professional contributions include an article titled "Photography in Engraving on Wood," detailing the history of photography and its inevitable replacement of traditional wood engravings, which he contributed to Common-place in April 2007.

Rice's Minding the Machine: Languages of Class in Early Industrial America was published in 2004 by the University of California Press. The text provides what a writer for Bookwatch called an "inherently fascinating … new interpretation of class formation in America" prior to the Civil War. Rice delivers a history of American industrialization and economy, and he attempts to answer questions about human equality and economic drift during the nineteenth century. David R. Meyer, in the Historian, observed that "Rice organizes his discussion into four chapters: head and hand (the mechanics institute movement), hand and head (the manual labor school movement), mind and body (popular physiology and the nation's health), and human and machine (steam boiler explosions and the emerging profession of engineering)." Meyer called Rice's effort "a lucidly written, logically organized argument."

The text includes perspectives representative of the pre-1860 burgeoning American middle class and provides a dialogue illustrative of class relations within an industrial context. Rice uses the "hand" and "head" as signifiers and as a literary tool to illustrate the departure of workers from manual labor to a more analytical, sometimes managerial, role that constituted middle-class status in the factory setting. Moreover, the text asserts that professional knowledge, along with the opportunity to apply this knowledge to public problems, gave a measure of social status to occupations such as engineering, which were formerly viewed with little regard. In other words, the combination of manual and mental skill bestowed a new authority to a formerly powerless working class. Rice also employs several forms of historical evidence to reinforce his thesis, such as graphic illustrations, including "The Chess Player" image from The History and Analysis of the Supposed Automaton Chess-Player of M. De Kempelen.

Daniel J. Walkowitz, in a review for the Journal of Social History, reported: "Rice's book is a welcome read that offers considerable insight … into the conservative thinking that celebrates the ‘middle’ in opposition to the working class. Against the analytic mishmash that dominates contemporary journalism, the book is also part of an emerging historiographic cottage industry that seeks to understand the formation of the American middle class in the first half of the nineteenth century." Walkowitz added that "Rice is most inventive and convincing," referring to the author's use of actual events as a metaphor in which to describe larger societal misgivings and fears regarding instability caused by industrialization. Labour/Le Travail contributor David A. Zonderman wrote: "Rice's book takes the reader on a whirlwind tour of strange and wondrous sights in antebellum America. Manual labour schools, health reform schemes, steam boiler explosions, and even a chess-playing automaton fill the pages of his monograph." Although Zonderman remarked that Rice "raises rather basic methodological questions" and that "the temporal parameters of this study remain uncertain at times," he acknowledged that the "study is clearly focused on middle-class formation" and that the "presentation is often rich, complex, subtle, and nuanced."



American Historical Review, April 1, 2005, Lawrence A. Peskin, review of Minding the Machine: Languages of Class in Early Industrial America, p. 480.

Bookwatch, February 1, 2005, review of Minding the Machine.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, April 1, 2005, J. Rogers, review of Minding the Machine, p. 1480.

Historian, December 22, 2005, David R. Meyer, review of Minding the Machine, p. 767.

Internet Bookwatch, February 1, 2005, review of Minding the Machine.

Journal of American History, December 1, 2005, David E. Nye, review of Minding the Machine, p. 970.

Journal of Social History, June 22, 2006, Daniel J. Walkowitz, review of Minding the Machine, p. 1211.

Journal of the Early Republic, September 22, 2005, Paul A. Gilje, review of Minding the Machine, p. 491.

Labour/Le Travail, March 22, 2006, David A. Zonderman, review of Minding the Machine, p. 232.

New England Quarterly, September 1, 2005, Christopher Lukasik, review of Minding the Machine, p. 498.

Reviews in American History, June 1, 2005, John Lauritz Larson, "The Unmaking of an American Working Class," p. 177.

Technology and Culture, April 1, 2005, Angela Lakwete, review of Minding the Machine, p. 441.


Common-place, (June 30, 2008), Stephen P. Rice, "Photography in Engraving on Wood."

Ramapo College Web site, (June 30, 2008), faculty profile.

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