Back in July, Dr. David Head set off a bit of a social media stir when, after boarding a Southwest Airlines flight to Philadelphia, he tweeted, “Flight #1793 is bringing the yellow fever.”

Dr. Head’s innocuous attempt to amuse his fellow historians with a centuries-old reference to Philadelphia’s yellow fever epidemic of 1793 triggered an immediate response from Southwest: “We don’t like hearing this and it sounds like we need to learn a bit more. Will you DM us more about what’s going on?”

The confusion was quickly resolved, as scholars pointed out that Dr. Head – a 2000 Niagara University graduate – was simply making a “nerdy historian joke” while en route to a conference of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic.

Dr. Head, now a few months removed from social media “fame,” will return to his alma mater Oct. 25 to offer a talk on “Money, Adventure, and the Cause: Spanish American Privateering from the United States in an Age of Revolution.” The presentation will focus on the Spanish American wars of independence, namely why Americans voluntarily broke laws to become privateers – vessels licensed to attack enemies in times of war – to assist in establishing the independence of another country.

The free presentation begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Gallagher Center’s Multi-Purpose Room.

A Western New York native, Dr. Head received his B.A. in history from Niagara University and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University at Buffalo. He is the author of Privateers of the Americas: Spanish American Privateering from the United States in the Early Republic, which won the 2016 John Gardner Maritime Research Award from the Fellows of the G.W. Blunt White Library at Mystic Seaport Museum.

Dr. Head presently serves as a lecturer at the University of Central Florida, where he specializes in early American history, particularly maritime history, the stories of pirates and privateers, and the military and social history of the American Revolution. He is currently working on three new projects: editing an encyclopedia of the Atlantic world; editing a collection of essays on the golden age of piracy; and writing a new book on George Washington, the Newburgh Conspiracy, and the Continental Army.

Questions regarding Dr. Head’s presentation at Niagara University may be addressed to Dr. Stefanie Wichhart at or 716.286.8090.

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