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Articles Tagged with Hugh Hefner

Treasure Troves from the Past

An interview with Steven Watts, Professor, History

“That’s where it all started,” begins Steven Watts, pointing to the bust on his bookshelf. “I was born and grew up in Springfield, Illinois, in the shadow of Abraham Lincoln.” Inspired at such a young age, the MU professor of history pursued his interest in American history. Concerned with the emergence of capitalist culture, Watts’ early research explored ideas about profit, success, and “the shaping of Victorian culture in the 19th century.” About 15 years ago, however, Watts became more interested in modern American history and eventually completed a series of biographies on issues related to consumer capitalism in a culture obsessed with self-fulfillment, entertainment, and leisure.

Audio and Video Tagged with Hugh Hefner

Overview of Watts’ Research

From an interview with Steven Watts, Professor, History

Originally specializing in American cultural and intellectual history, Steven Watts’ first books addressed aspects of the American republic in the late 18th and early 19th century. He later became more interested in modern American history and began a series of biographies on issues related to consumer capitalism in a culture obsessed with self-fulfillment, entertainment, and leisure.

On Hugh Hefner: Bogeyman for the Reagan Era

From an interview with Steven Watts, Professor, History

Watts’ most recent research resulted in a biography of Hugh Hefner—Mr Playboy: Hugh Hefner and the American Dream (2008). “Hefner has been a very significant historical figure in American popular culture.” At the front edge of the sexual revolution in the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, Hefner signified liberation—sexual and otherwise. “In that sense,” explains Watts, “in the 1980s and ‘90s, Hefner became a kind of foil for the Reagan administration; the Meese Commission on pornography went after him very strongly. He became the bogeyman in the age of Reagan.”

Choosing Topics and Gathering Data

From an interview with Steven Watts, Professor, History

Selecting history research projects, according to Watts, is a combination of careful assessment and serendipity. For this historian, gathering data is sometimes like hunting for treasure. Watts has had a string of good luck, as it turns out, since Henry Ford, Walt Disney, and Hugh Hefner all compiled archives through which Watts was allowed to dig.