The Historians: Albany Ales and The 1957 Chevy


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The Historians LogoThis week on “The Historians”, Craig Gravina discusses Albany ale, the Albany political machine’s favorite beer (Hedrick’s) and other sudsy topics. Gravina, from Albany, and Alan McLeod of Canada, are co-authors of Upper Hudson Valley Beer, published by History Press.

In the second half hour of the show, I talk with Earl Swift, author of Auto Biography: A Classic Car, An Outlaw Motorhead and 57 Years of the American Dream, the story of a 1957 Chevy.

Listen to the whole program at “The Historians” online archive at http://www.bobcudmore.com/thehistorians/

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This Week’s Top New York History News


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Battle of Plattsburgh: A Pivotal Naval Battle


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Saratoga (left) and Eagle (right) engaging Confiance at Battle of PlattsburghThey were headed this way. British troops had done that before, without success, but these were not just any British troops. They were 11,000 troops fresh from their victory over Napoleon.

By that third summer of the War of 1812, British shore raiding parties were taking a great toll in the Chesapeake Bay. Supported by a fleet of more than 30 warships, they would put troops ashore near a town, and either burn it, or demand ransom from the inhabitants. Continue reading

Remembering 9/11: Visiting the Memorial Plaza


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9-11 Memorial MuseumOver the past few weeks, I have had two occasions to visit the 9/11 Memorial Plaza. The first was at the invitation of City Wonders Tours, a tour company seeking to promote its tour.

The second was following the memorial service to Alexander Hamilton by the Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society at nearby Trinity Church, the final stop of the City Wonders tour. The following comments are based on these visits. Continue reading

Mount Vernon Hotel Museum Names New Director


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Mount Vernon Hotel Museum and GardenThe Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden at 421 East 61st Street in Manhattan has announced the promotion of Acting Director Terri Daly to Museum Director.

A graduate of Xavier University in Cincinnati, Daly holds an M.B.A. from the Leonard N. Stern School of Business, New York University. She joined the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden in 2003 and has held positions as Interpreter, Educator, and most recently Marketing Manager. Continue reading

The Battle of Plattsburgh: 200 Years Of Forgetting


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1816 BaltimoreBOPDisplay“The naval battle of Lake Champlain was probably the greatest feat of arms that our navy achieved in the War of 1812,” said Franklin D. Roosevelt.

From Secretary of Navy William Jones on Oct. 3, 1814: “To view it in abstract, it is not surpassed by any naval victory on record. To appreciate its result, it is perhaps one of the most important events in the history of our country.”

According to Penn University historian John B. McMaster, it was “the greatest naval battle of the war,” and Thomas Macdonough was “the ablest sea-captain our country has produced.”

Like McMaster, author and historian Teddy Roosevelt called it “the greatest naval battle of the war,” and praised Commodore Thomas Macdonough thusly: “Down to the time of the Civil War, he is the greatest figure in our naval history. … he was skillful and brave. One of the greatest of our sea captains, he has left a stainless name behind him.” And one more: looking back, Sir Winston Churchill said it “was a decisive battle of the war.” Continue reading

Encampment Marks Battles of Saratoga Anniversary


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130921_BAR_crown_hike_smOn Saturday and Sunday, September 20th and 21st, Saratoga National Historical Park, located on Routes 32 and 4 in Stillwater, will present an 18th century living history encampment marking the 237th anniversary of the world’s “most important battle of the last 1,000 years.”

This two-day encampment will offers visitors with the sights, smells, and sounds of military camp life from the American Revolution. Dozens of re-enactors portray American and British officers, soldiers, and camp followers from the Battles of Saratoga. Continue reading

Madison County Civil War Series Begins September 18th


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114th Recruiting Poster Greenhagen 8-28-14In recognition of the last year of the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War, Sue Greenhagen (Village of Morrisville Historian), Matthew Urtz (Madison County Historian) and Dot Willsey (23rd Annual Peterboro Civil War Weekend committee member) are planning a Madison County Civil War Series of programs that feature New York State’s role in the Civil War with particular attention to Madison County’s connection to the War Between the States.

Called “The Banner County” in the mid-1800s because of its voting support of anti-slavery measures, Madison County was a hot-bed of activities that were critical to the outbreak of the war. Continue reading

Catskills Resorts: The Beginning of the End


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NewRoxy1964Many of the 75 or so people at the recent 13th Annual Catskills History and Preservation Conference at the Liberty Museum & Arts Center were shocked to hear that the Sullivan County’s heralded resort industry has been in decline since 1965.

That’s not unusual. Most newcomers– and even some old timers who should know better– find it hard to believe that the county’s heyday was over by the mid-1960s. Many cite the existence of dozens of hotels in the 1970s as proof that it couldn’t possibly be so.

And yet these days most historians who have done any research at all agree that the Golden Age of Sullivan County’s tourism industry, which began around 1940, came to an end around 1965, and they cite a number of reasons for choosing that particular year. Continue reading

Immigration: Where Do You Come From Art Exhibit


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Schenectady County Historical SocietyThe 2014-2015 series Exploring Schenectady’s Immigrant Past at the Schenectady County Historical Society will celebrate the rich cultural heritage of Schenectady County and will explore the history and significance of immigration in the region.

As part of the series, SCHS is has announced a Call for Submissions for its upcoming community-curated art exhibit, Where Do You Come From. The exhibit, made possible in part by a grant from the Schenectady County Initiative Project, will explore the wide range of cultures that makes up Schenectady County today. Community members, local artists, and students are all invited to submit their artwork, including but not limited to paintings, collages, photography, sculpture, or whichever medium best answers the title question. Continue reading

Sylvia Roth: A Nyack House Haunted by Art


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NSL155_Featured-ImageWhen printmaker Sylvia Roth moved into her home in South Nyack in 1977, she had no idea it was the birthplace of a major figure in American art, Joseph Cornell. This house on Piermont Avenue seems to have its own designs, selecting artistic occupants for over a century.

Emily Dickinson, Cornell’s enduring muse, wrote that “nature is a haunted house, but art is a house that tries to be haunted.” As Roth describes the creative output of subsequent generations of her family, one begins to suspect that this is a house haunted by art. Continue reading

Debunking The ‘French Fort’ On Albany’s Castle Island


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the 1614 Block mapThe 400th anniversary of Albany’s first documented European settlement gives us an opportunity to clear up some inaccuracies surrounding its history. In particular, it is time to roundly debunk the stubborn myth that the French built the first European structure in Albany.

Several Wikipedia pages—”Albany“, “Castle Island,” “Fort Nassau“—claim that Albany’s first European structure was a fort on Castle Island built by French traders in 1540. The “Castle Island” page calls it a chateau and claims that the Dutch rebuilt the French fort, “which they called a castle[,] giving rise to the name of the island.” This is silly. There is no credible evidence of a French fort on Castle Island or anywhere in the region, and any account of a structure resembling a chateau is particularly absurd. So where did this myth come from? Continue reading

Fort Ti Living History Weekend Features Hut Building


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Hut BuildingVisitors to Fort Ticonderoga this weekend can discover how soldiers of the Continental Army built huts at Ticonderoga in 1776 and try their hand at colonial construction techniques. This living history weekend, entitled “Lodging as the Nature of Campaign will Admit”, takes place Saturday and Sunday, September 13-14, 9:30 am to 5 pm.

The Ticonderoga peninsula was already an old battlefield and encampment site by the summer of 1776 when American soldiers began digging in to block a British invasion southward. For soldiers, such as the Fourth Pennsylvania Battalion, their first priority was to erect earthworks with which to hold this vital ground. Continue reading

Working the Waters: Maritime Culture of Long Island


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Joey ScavoneLong Island Traditions will present “Working the Waters: Maritime Culture of Long Island” in collaboration with the NY Marine Trades Association “Tobay Boat Show” in Massapequa, New York on September 26 through September 28, 2014. “Working the Waters: Maritime Culture of Long Island” will present to the public first-hand accounts about the contemporary and historic traditions of commercial and recreational fishermen, the factors affecting these traditions and their future on Long Island in the wake of Superstorm Sandy and the decline of the bays.

The program is the culminating event of ongoing documentation by Long Island Traditions folklorist and executive director Nancy Solomon. Since 1987 Solomon has been documenting the culture and traditions of Long Island maritime tradition bearers, ranging from decoy carvers and driftwood painters to trap builders, boat model makers and net menders. Continue reading

Historic Tax Credit Named ‘Threatened Resource’


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Franklin-Bldg_ExtThe Preservation League of New York State has named the federal Historic Tax Credit to its list of the Empire State’s most threatened historic resources, Seven to Save.

One of the most powerful tools in the preservation tool box, the federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit is at risk of elimination as part of an effort to cut federal spending. New York State needs this economic development and job creation incentive. Losing it would threaten more than $1.2 billion in historic property redevelopment projects pending statewide. Continue reading

New Book Traces History Of Upper Hudson Valley Beer


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9781626195127Since the 1980s, there has been a renaissance in Upper Hudson Valley craft brewing, including Newman’s, C.H. Evans, Shmaltz and Chatham Brewing. Beer scholars Craig Gravina and Alan McLeod explore the sudsy story in Upper Hudson Valley Beer (History Press, 2014).

The Upper Hudson Valley has a long and full-bodied brewing tradition. Arriving in the 1600s, the Dutch established the area as a brewing center, a trend that continued well into the eighteenth century despite two devastating wars. Continue reading

This Week’s New York History Web Highlights


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Waterford Tugboat Roundup Turns 15 This Weekend


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Ben TugIt’s been called one of the largest maritime festivals in New York State. For three days, September 5th through the 7th, the Waterford waterfront (just north of Albany) will host the 15th Annual Tugboat Roundup.

A gathering and show place of both working and historic tugs of the Hudson River and New York State Canal system, the Roundup has evolved into a festival of boating at the Gateway to the Canal System. More than 35 boats are expected to be along the wall in Waterford this year, according to Tom Beardsley, Marine Event Coordinator. Continue reading