Civil War Albany Rises To Action


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Shipment of Guns and Ammunition from the Watervliet ArsenalAs had happened during the French and Indian War and later the Revolutionary War, from the first days of the Civil War Albany was converted into a military camp. Lincoln’s original request for troops designated Albany, New York City and Elmira as military marshaling points. Troops from the entire northeast, including upstate New York as far west as Buffalo, east to Vermont, New Hampshire and western Massachusetts reported to Albany. Continue reading

Historic Hudson Valley & Washington Irving


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ben_franklins_worldWashington Irving was an historian and writer. Some historians and biographers have called him the first great American author.

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, Michael Lord, Director of Education at Historic Hudson Valley, joins us to explore the life of Washington Irving, his home, Sunnyside, and the historic Hudson Valley region he immortalized in stories such as Diedrich Knickerbocker’s History of New York, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” and “Rip Van Winkle.” You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/035

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Robert Henry Perkins: Glens Falls Opera Star


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01A RPerkinsImagine the drama of the moment: in a courtroom, Edward Perkins battling against the city of Beacon, New York, desperate to win on behalf of his poor family. The charge? They had been cold-heartedly evicted from their apartment by city officials, and for several chilly, rainy June days, he had searched for new housing.

Meanwhile, Edward’s wife and son suffered and his daughter fell ill, presumably from the terrible living conditions. The damages sought (in 1915) were $15,000 from the city, along with $30,000 from the police chief who had deposited all the family’s belongings on the sidewalk. The $45,000 total was equal to $1.1 million in 2015. Continue reading

Voodoo Opera from Harlem Renaissance


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Barry Robinson as Fojo, the voodoo priest and Janinah Burnett as Lolo, a thwarted lover who resorts to voodoo rites.Magic rites in the jungle seal the fate of a love triangle in the long-forgotten opera of H. Lawrence Freeman restaged on Friday and Saturday at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre. Voodoo was composed in 1914 and had its last performance in 1928. The music and libretto come from a composer who was a friend of Scott Joplin. author of more than 20 operas, and founder of the Harlem Renaissance’s Negro Grand Opera Company. The revival features Gregory Hopkins of Harlem Opera Theatre conducting in a production that drew on collaboration with the Harlem Chamber Players and the Morningside Opera. Continue reading

Historic Site Seeks Yonkers Immigration Stories


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Philipse Manor HallPhilipse Manor Hall State Historic Site is designing an exhibit about the rise of Yonkers as an immigrant city, set for a phased opening beginning in September 2016. From its start as a Lenape fishing village and Dutch patroonship, to the industrious peak of the 1900s, and into modern times, the growth of Yonkers can be attributed to the various ethnic groups that have settled in the area.

The site is seeking local first- and second-generation immigrants to assist with the creation of this exhibit. Interviews will be conducted on an ongoing basis through the remaining months of 2015. Continue reading

Stonewall Inn Named Historic Landmark


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Stonewall Inn circa 1965On June 23, the New York City Landmark Preservation Commission (LPC) voted unanimously to designate the Stonewall Inn an Individual Historic Landmark. The site is the location of the Stonewall riots of June 1969, an event that helped spark the current LGBTQ Pride Movement.

The building is already protected as part of the Greenwich Village Historic District and its significance derives entirely from its historical, social and cultural importance, rather than architectural, marking it a unique designation for the LPC. Continue reading

Civil War Anniversary Effort A Mockery Of Sacrifice


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Civil War 150th New York StateA recent post here at the New York History Blog by regular contributor Bruce Dearstyne caught my attention.  Dr. Dearstyne, a tireless advocate of this state’s history, was considering New York’s celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War.

“New York has not had an official state office or commission to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the war and the state’s role in it,” Dr. Dearstyne noted. “Of course, there have been many notable ceremonies, exhibits, and public events in our state during the past four years. The New York State Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee provided leadership and a focal point for publicizing events. The New York State Military Museum did outstanding work.”

I was taken aback a bit by this notion that the New York State Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee provided leadership, or publicized events – I couldn’t recall ever hearing of them. Continue reading

2015 Common Core Conference Planned


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State Education BuildingThe 2015 New York State Education Department/Office of Cultural Education Uncommon Approaches to the Common Core Conference will take place August 11 and 12, 2015. The Uncommon Approaches to the Common Core annual conference has a target audience of classroom teachers, school, public and academic librarians, public historians and representatives from museums, archives, public television, NYS historic sites, performing arts and other cultural institutions.

The purpose of the conference is to develop an understanding of the Common Core with the goal to create collaboration among classroom teachers and cultural institutions. Continue reading

Erie Canalway Tourism Itineraries Announced


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ErieCanalway-FYP_600pxThe Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor has paired national parks and canal sites to create five itineraries that introduce people to some of the historic, cultural, and natural sites and recreational experiences within the Erie Canalway Corridor.

Each itinerary features sites, as well as options for side trips, and suggestions for cycling, paddling, walking, and canal tours, as well as nearby places to eat or picnic. Continue reading

Peconic Bay: History on Long Island


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peconic bayBordered on the south by the Atlantic Ocean and on the north by Long Island Sound, the Peconic Bay region, including the North and South Forks, has only recently been recognized for its environmental and economic significance. The story of the waterway and its contiguous land masses is one of farmers and fishermen, sailing vessels and submarines, wealthy elite residents, and award winning vineyards.

Peconic Bay: Four Centuries of History on Long Island’s North and South Forks (Syracuse Univ. Press, 2015) examines the past 400 years of the region’s history, tracing the growth of the fishing industry, the rise of tourism, and the impact of a military presence in the wake of September 11. Continue reading

Bronx Stories of Courage, Commitment


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Bronx Faces and VoicesIn Bronx Faces and Voices: Sixteen Stories of Courage and Commitment (Texas Tech University Press, 2014) sixteen men and women – religious leaders and activists, elected officials and ordinary citizens tell their personal, uncensored stories of the New York City borough — before, during, and after the troubled years of arson, crime, abandonment, and flight in the 1970s and 1980s.

The interviews are drawn from the Bronx Institute Archives Oral History Project’s interviews with hundreds of Bronx residents in the early 1980s, now held in the Special Collections division of the Leonard Lief Library of Lehman College, CUNY. Continue reading

This Week’s New York History Web Highlights


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This Week’s Top New York History News


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A Short Biography of Engineer Benjamin Prescott


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Pipes of the Albany Water Works excavated by Wolfert Roost CC circa late 1980s002The Wolfert’s Roost Country Club in Albany maintains a small dam, pond, and pump house to provide water for their golf course. In the 1980s workers excavating the pond, which is fed by the Maezlandtkill, discovered several sections of ancient wooden and very early cast iron pipe along with iron bands. The pipe and other artifacts were placed in the woods near the club’s tennis courts and forgotten.

Benjamin Prescott, engineer of Albany’s first municipal water system and the man responsible for those pipes, is all but equally forgotten, despite an illustrious career in engineering.  Prescott served as an Engineer in the American Revolution, Superintendent of the Springfield Armory, and was the designer of several notable projects, including one of this nation’s first inclined planes (on the Connecticut River). He also conducted a 1790s survey of Niagara Falls, consulted on the Erie Canal, designed the Troy Sloop Lock (the Federal Dam) and more. Continue reading

New Netherland History Teacher Workshops Set


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New-France_2_6_Map-of-New-Belgium-or-New-NetherlandThe New York State Social Studies frameworks for grades K-8 place a greater emphasis than ever before on the history of the Dutch colonies in the Americas. Teachers and students are being asked to trace colonial history from New Netherland through to the English colonies and to recognize lasting Dutch contributions to American life and history.

But what is that history? And how can it best be taught? Continue reading

Tour an Archaeological Site in Schoharie


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Schoharie Archealogical digThe New York State Museum and the University at Albany are hosting an annual open house of an active archaeological dig site in Schoharie where more than 300,000 artifacts have been uncovered in the past decade.

The site is the home of an eight-week archaeology field school where undergraduate and graduate students preserve and catalog artifacts, which ultimately become part of the Museum’s collections. Continue reading

New York’s Long History of Peace Activism


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Vietnam Veterans Against the War take part in an anti-war march in New YorkAs a scholarly specialist on the American peace movement, I am sometimes telephoned for background information by journalists writing articles about current demonstrations against war or against nuclear weapons. Almost invariably, they have no idea that the American peace movement has a rich history. Or, if they realize that it does have such a history, they have no idea that that history goes back further than the Vietnam War. This is a very big and unfortunate gap in their knowledge. Continue reading

Life And Times of Andrew Jackson, Southerner


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ben_franklins_worldDuring his lifetime, Jackson served as one of the most popular presidents and yet, today we remember him as a controversial figure given his views on slavery, Native Americans, and banks.

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, Mark R. Cheathem, professor of history at Cumberland University and author of Andrew Jackson, Southerner (LSU Press, 2013), leads us on an exploration of the life and times of Andrew Jackson. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/034

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Unique World War Poster Collection Being Auctioned


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image005On July 8-9, New York City-based auction house Guernsey’s will be conducting an unreserved auction of an extraordinary collection of patriotic posters relating to World War I, believed to be the largest such collection known to exist.

The collection is that of Brooklyn-born Edward H. McCrahon, who joined the French Army two years before the United States entered the war. Once the U.S. became involved, McCrahon returned home, joined the U.S. Army, rising to the rank of Colonel. During his stint in France he became interested by war poster art. At the end of the war, McCrahon began assembling his collection and by the mid-1930s his collection was widely exhibited. Continue reading