When Halley’s comet, that star with the quetzal’s tail, flared across Mexican skies in 1910, it heralded not only the centennial of Independence, but a deeply transformative episode, the Revolution launched by Francisco I. Madero on November 20, what Javier Garciadiego calls “the true beginning of a process, the birth of the modern Mexican state.” The great chorus of Mexican historians agrees. And yet, almost unknown and curious as it may sound, a vital taproot of this revolution lies in the Burned-Over District of New York State.
As a writer of both fiction and nonfiction, I have learned to appreciate that fact can be stranger than anything one might imagine. Before returning to the Burned-Over District, a word about Francisco I. Madero and how I came upon his Manual espírita, this until now obscure and yet profoundly illuminating book – at the very least for understanding Madero himself, why and how he led Mexico’s 1910 Revolution, and the seething contempt of those behind the overthrow of his government and his assassination. Continue reading
What follow is an guest essay by Mark Castiglione – Acting Executive Director, Hudson River Valley Greenway and Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area, and Path Through History Workgroup Liaison; and Ross D. Levi – Vice President, Marketing Initiatives, Empire State Development
Even though few states have had as much impact on history or are home to as many authentic historic attractions, New York State has not always come to mind for history lovers as quickly as places like Boston, Philadelphia, and Virginia. In an effort to help change this perception, Governor Cuomo created the Path Through History [PTH] initiative to draw attention to New York’s unparalleled history and grow heritage tourism throughout the state, and through it promote economic development and create jobs. As we conclude the busy summer travel season, it’s worth noting how far we have come in promoting heritage tourism in New York as well as the future opportunities that exist to expand the effort. Continue reading
Fort Nassau: the first Dutch trading house built in North America, was constructed on Castle (Westerlo) Island on the Upper Hudson where Albany is. It was but a small redoubt, yet deemed the acorn from which sprouted the American Middle States. This trading post lasted only three years and was badly damaged by a spring freshet and abandoned. Eventually even its ruins were silted over and forgotten.
In 1796, Albany contemplated a plan to acquire patents for water lots and extend South End streets opposite the north end of Castle Island, out into the Hudson River. It was similar, on a smaller scale, to the way Manhattan expanded out into the Hudson and East Rivers. In the course of finally implementing this in the 1840s, dredging was found necessary to adjust the upper end of Castle Island and Island Creek to accommodate the plan. Continue reading
Rollin O. Sanford died on July 29, 1864 while a prisoner of war at the infamous Andersonville prison in Georgia. His only son, Rollin J, was born that very same day in Hopkinton NY, twelve hundred miles to the north, in what is now the Adirondack Park. While there are countless stories of tragedy and heartache that occurred during the Civil War, this story seemed especially poignant, since it involved our family.
Rollin O. Sanford, described as a large and powerful man, was the tenth child and youngest son of Jonah and Abigail Greene Sanford. He was a farmer in Hopkinton, married to Ermina Roberts, with whom he had two daughters, Lillian and Jeanette. “Nettie”, the younger daughter, died in November 1863 at age two, one month before Rollin went off to war. Years later Lillian wrote about the death of her little sister and how her father “held Nettie in his arms as her little life went out”. Continue reading
On the morning of June 10, 1723, just before the break of dawn, a British warship stationed out of New York spotted two sloops sailing less than 50 miles south of Long Island. The captain of the warship, Peter Solgard, was all but certain the sloops were trouble. Three days before, he had been warned by a sea captain about a pirate crew under the command of a notoriously violent captain, Edward Low. But in the HMS Greyhound that morning, Solgard did not attack. Instead, Solgard tacked and set a southerly course, keeping the pirates in view but not approaching, “to encourage them to give him chase.” Continue reading
What follows is a guest essay by Jaap Jacobs and L.H. Roper, authors of the newly published
The Worlds of the Seventeenth-Century Hudson Valley.
As the proverbial schoolchildren know, the Englishman Henry Hudson (c. 1570–1611) conducted his 1609 exploration of the river that bears his name on behalf of the Dutch East India Company. In the same year that Hudson sailed north up the river, trading, fighting, drinking, and negotiating with Native Americans on the way, a Frenchman named Samuel Champlain made his way south from the St. Lawrence River. His trip was not a voyage of exploration and Champlain was not the leader of the expedition. Yet it too involved interaction with Native Americans, culminating in an armed encounter on what later became to be called Lake Champlain between Huron and Algonquian Indians and their French friends on the one side and the Haudenosaunee of the Iroquois Confederacy on the other side. Continue reading
What follows is a guest essay by Eastchester, NY Town Historian Rich Forliano.
In the spring of 2011, a letter was sent to the Town Supervisor of the town of Eastchester (in Westchester County, NY) and the villages of Bronxville and Tuckahoe requesting them to send representatives to a committee to start planning for the 350th anniversary of the town of Eastchester. Continue reading
Over the years much has been written about Pieter and Jonas Bronck. Pieter is responsible for the erection of the Bronck House in Coxsackie, Greene County, NY, 351 years ago. Jonas is considered the founder of the Bronx.
Over the years there has been much confusion about the relationship of these two individuals – father and son, brothers or cousins. Both were Swedish and there is strong evidence that they were related. I prefer to accept research done by Shelby Mattice, Curator of the Bronck Museum. Ms. Mattice has concluded that the two men were first cousins and shared the same grandfather. Today I would like to focus a bit on Jonas Bronck because this year the Bronx is commemorating the 375th anniversary of the year Jonas first settled there. Continue reading
I value the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). I have been a grant review panelist and recipient of grants. Indeed Acting NEH Director Andrea Anderson was the program officer I worked with 30 years ago on “The Great River: Art & Society of the CT Valley” (1985). Without NEH, that project would have been impossible.
I have always had a passion for local history and small museums and especially house museums. I started out in one in Vermont in the 1970s. I am not one who thinks there are “too many house museums.” I think there is too little equity in the way public funds and private foundations involved in the arts and humanities are distributed. I am concerned that too little of that support reaches down to that half of the museum industry comprised of organizations that are small. Continue reading
Editor’s Note: This tribute to Lake George’s Winnie LaRose was written by the late Robert F. Hall and republished in his 1992 collection of essays, Pages from Adirondack History. He included this piece in the collection because, he wrote, “Winifred S. LaRose, who died on December 6, 1979, was the very embodiment of the environmentalist – a person whose love of her own native place and whose determination that its beauty would not be spoiled led her to the forefront of the environmental movement, not only in Lake George, but throughout New York State.”
Governor Hugh Carey proclaimed August 21, 1980, as Winnie LaRose Day, but any day would have served because that lady was busy every day of the year for the past 30 years in battling for the environment.
The governor chose that date because it coincided with a memorial service to the late Mrs. LaRose at the Fort George Battleground Park on the Beach Road at Lake George. This was an appropriate site for the service because Winnie, more than anyone else, was responsible for turning this swampy piece of ground into a park for people to enjoy. But it was done not only for people. As Victor Glider, a good friend and now retired as director of Environmental Conservation Field Services, told the gathering, Winnie insisted on clearing away the brush so that the statue of the martyred Father Jogues would have a good view of the lake where he served his mission in the 17th century. Continue reading
There would be no Women’s History Month celebration without the life and work of the extraordinary Margaret Fuller. This founding member of the Transcendentalist Club with her friends and colleagues Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and A. Bronson Alcott, father of Louisa May Alcott, was treated as a social equal by these exceptional writers and thinkers. Her colleague Edgar Allan Poe, the only other outstanding literary critic in 1840s America, stated that there were three types of people: Men, Women, and Margaret Fuller. Elizabeth Cady Stanton attended Margaret’s “Conversations” for Women in Boston which allowed women for the first time the opportunity to express their opinions and thoughts in a public forum.
Who was this strong-willed and determined woman who aggressively pursued her dreams of integrating her feminine and masculine aspects of her psyche in the sacred marriage and insisted that men and women everywhere needed to embrace this for their well-being and happiness? Continue reading
The story of Charlotte Friend is a true New York story. Friend was a noted microbiologist who made important contributions to the study of cancer. She was an advocate for women’s rights and worked hard to improve the position of women in science.
Charlotte Friend was born March 11, 1921 in New York City, a city she loved. She received a Bachelor’s degree from Hunter College in 1944 and then entered the Navy, where she was assigned to help direct a hematology laboratory in California. She left the Navy in 1946 and began graduate work in microbiology at Yale University. By the time she received her doctorate in 1950, Dr. Friend already had a position in the laboratory of Dr. Alice Moore at the Sloan-Kettering Institute in New York City. She stayed in New York for the rest of her life. Continue reading
Michael G. Kammen, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Cornell University’s Newton C. Farr Professor of American History and Culture Emeritus, died Nov. 29 in Ithaca at the age of 77.
He arrived at Cornell in 1965 as an assistant professor of history, served on the Department of History faculty until his retirement in 2008, then returned in the fall 2013 semester to teach – all the while writing or editing more than three dozen books in diverse areas of history. Continue reading
What follows is a guest post by Gordon Bonnet, author of the blog Skeptophilia.
If you want to get a near-violent response from 98% of current public school students, about 75% of teachers, and unknown (but probably large) percentage of parents, administrators, and various other folks associated with education, all you have to do is utter two words: Common Core.
It’s a funny thing, really. On the surface, it seems like such a good idea — creating a set of uniform standards, high ones, that establish what students at every level should know and should be able to do. Of course, there’s the immediate knee-jerk reaction from both the Right and the Left — Right-Wingers resent the intrusion by the federal government into what rightfully should be state or local decision-making, and Left-Wingers hate the infringement that the new mandates will have on the freedom of teachers to teach as they see fit and as their students might need. Continue reading
What follows is a guest essay by William Keating about the opening of the rehabilitated Mount Beacon Fire Tower in June.
The colonials used the 1,400 foot north peak of Mount Beacon along the Hudson River during the Revolutionary War to set warning fires to alert General Washington at his headquarters on the western side of the river of any British presence in the valley below. From this activity, the City of Beacon got its name. Continue reading
What follows is a guest essay by F. Daniel Larkin, Thomas D. Beal, and William S. Walker, the new editors of the academic journal New York History. Editorial functions of the quarterly were recently transferred from the New York State Historical Association to the State University of New York at Oneonta.
In the 1919 inaugural issue of the journal New York History, the iconoclastic progressive historian Carl Becker published an article contrasting Patriot John Jay and Loyalist Peter Van Schaack, which, in an accessible style that appealed to both experts and non-experts, explored central questions of our fledgling democracy. Becker wrote that the story of these New Yorkers offered “a concrete example of the State versus the individual, of personal liberty versus social compulsion, of might versus right.” Continue reading