Author Archives: Peter Feinman

Peter Feinman

About Peter Feinman

Peter Feinman is founder and president of the Institute of History, Archaeology, and Education, a non-profit organization which provides enrichment programs for schools, professional development program for teachers, public programs including leading Historyhostels and Teacherhostels to the historic sites in the state, promotes county history conferences, the development of Paths through History, and a Common Core Curriculum that includes local and state history.

Peter Feinman: Resurrecting the NY Freedom Trail


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freedur1The wheel is about to be reinvented. In response to an earlier post on the State Tourism Advisory Council, Rosemary Vietor wrote the following comment:

Peter – Perhaps you saw the article in yesterday’s WSJ NY section on the underground railroad (not precise title) tourism sites proposed for Manhattan. It is an effort to link those sites (most of which no longer exist) into a walking tour. There has been for a number of years a similar effort in Flushing, the Flushing Freedom Mile. It links sites such as the Quaker Meeting House, Bowne House and others. There are markers so one can do this tour. Here is a great example of what might be done to increase history tourism – link both sites and others around the city. Why is this not done? It’s so obvious. As for Mystic Seaport, I can tell you from involvement there that CT has long recognized the importance of history and tourism and has devoted substantial funds to those efforts. New York seems indifferent at best. NY Culture. Continue reading

Peter Feinman: The Brooklyn State of History


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Currier and Ives print of Brooklyn, 1879What is the Brooklyn story and if there is one, is it being told?  In December, I wrote a post here about the Dutch heritage. That led to two responses from people who can claim a direct connection to that heritage in Brooklyn.

“My mother’s family ‘way back’ (1638) was Dutch, and helped found what is now Brooklyn. As I understand, they owned part of what is now Prospect Park. (I shocked a very family-proud great-aunt by saying ‘They should have held on to it; it would be worth a lot of money today!’ I was probably about 10 years old at the time and not impressed by family background!” – Celin Schoen Continue reading

Peter Feinman: State of the New York State Historian


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New York State CountiesNew York State Historian Bob Weible recently asked if New York State History Month was dead. History Month was born in 1997 by an act of the New York State Legislature as an addition to the Arts and Cultural Affairs Law. It designated November as the month and defined the purpose of the event to celebrate state history including to recognize state and local historians.

In addition, the Education Department was authorized to promote the month although no specific suggestions were made beyond having student essay contests. The program limped along on a scattered and haphazard basis until 2002 when it apparently died without even the benefit of a funeral. Continue reading

History And The Superbowl Sense of Place


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new york city-thumb-570x379-28128Where was the Superbowl played? It was played at the home of the New York Giants and the New York Jets. The media center was in Manhattan. Super Bowl Boulevard, a 13-block extravaganza dedicated to Superbowl activities was located in Manhattan on Broadway at Times Square, crossroads of the universe and was said to have drawn 1,000,000 fans in one week.

The corporate fans on expense accounts tended to stay in Manhattan hotels and eat at Manhattan restaurants. The game itself was played in East Rutheford, New Jersey, but as the New York Times reported: “in the last week, it seems, the Hudson River dried up and New York City extended westward by dozens of miles to claim selective glory.” Sinatra’s not singing “Here’s to you, New Jersey, New Jersey.” These are the facts of tourist life. Continue reading

Peter Feinman: A Buffalo Bill And History Tourism


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Thurman Tomas Sports IllustratedThurman Thomas, Buffalo Bills Hall-of-Fame running back (on Twitter), has been named to the state Tourism Advisory Council by Governor Cuomo. He is being recommended for the position of Vice Chair on the Council.  I confess that I was not aware that there was such a council. But there is, eighteen members strong.

The members are appointed by the Governor with recommendations from the temporary president of the senate, the minority leader of the senate, the speaker of the assembly, and the minority leader of the assembly. The chairs of the senate and assembly committees on tourism, recreation and sports development are non-voting, ex-officio members of the council. There is no compensation to the council members who meet five times annually. Continue reading

Peter Feinman: How Historians Can End The Civil War


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The Monument at Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park was dedicated October 23, 1912The Sesquicentennial for the Civil War honors a war which still rages on in America. An example of the ongoing nature of the war was seen in the dispute over a memorial to northern troops at Olustee, Florida, the site of the largest and bloodiest battlefield in the state.

The issue of a memorial to the northern troops who died there has been compared to the reopening of a 150-year-old wound. According to a report on the front page of the New York Times, John W. Adams, commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Florida division, said “Old grudges die hard. And feelings run deep.” Another person with ancestors who fought on both sides said, “There are some, apparently, who consider this to be a lengthy truce and believe the war is still going on.” Continue reading

Andrew Cuomo And The State of History Tourism


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Path Through historyIn October 2012, a few months after the kickoff of the Path though History program, a New York Daily News headline noted: “Unhappy with the state’s tourism performance, Gov. Cuomo has ordered a restructuring of the state’s efforts, with an eye toward attracting more visitors upstate.”

“He wants to do a better job with promoting, marketing and branding,” the paper reported a source in the Cuomo administration as saying. The Governor was appealing for you, the paper said, to visit the home of Uncle Sam in Troy, see Niagara Falls, visit the Finger Lakes wineries, or even the Herkimer County Cheese Museum .” Continue reading

New York History And The American Revolution


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AWI_battles_in_Upper_New_York_stateIn the first continental war, the French and Indian War, America fought with the British and against the French. That war was then followed by two others where “We the People” were not good, proud, loyal subjects of British king. We even allied with France against England. Imagine that!

The initial focus was on New York City. At that time, it was limited to southern Manhattan There the statue of King George would be toppled following a reading of the new Declaration of Independence in one of the iconic moments of the war. The remains of the statue would be smelted into bullets to be used against the King’s troops. Later, the sudden appearance of the British armada was a true “shock and awe” experience for the city. The Revolution was nearly nipped in the bud as a providential fog enabled Washington to cross the East River on August 29, 1776. Continue reading

New York History and the Birth of the Nation


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A portion of the 1768 Fort Stanwix Treaty line showing the boundary in New YorkScholars divide time into periods in an effort to make history comprehensible, but when to draw the diving line can be problematical and historians often disagree where one period ends and another begins.

For the birth of the nation, I am using the end of the colonial period, roughly from the French and Indian War to the end of the War of 1812. The colonial era for me was the time of the settlement of the 13 colonies which would become the United States. That process began in Jamestown and ended approximately 130 years later in Georgia. Up until then individual colonies, notably New York, Massachusetts / New England, and Virginia, dominate the curriculum, scholarship, and tourism, with only passing references to the Quakers in Pennsylvania and the Dutch in New York. Continue reading

The Mixed Multitudes of the Mohawk Valley


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mohawk-valley-plaquePeacefully sharing a space-time continuum does not come easily to our species. The challenge of doing so was played out in colonial New Amsterdam/New York in the 17th and 18th centuries especially from Albany and Schenectady westward throughout the Mohawk Valley.

There, and north to the Champlain Valley and Canada, multiple peoples who had not yet become two-dimensional cliches struggled to dominate, share, and survive in what became increasingly contentious terrain. Battles were fought, settlements were burned, and captives were taken, again and again.

By the 19th century, much of that world had vanished save for the novels of James Fenimore Cooper. By the 20th century, that world existed in state historic sites, historical societies and local museums, Hollywood, and at times in the state’s social studies curriculum. Continue reading

It’s a Wonderful Life: The Bedford Falls Historical Society


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bedford-fallsThe film “It’s A Wonderful Life,” is an apt metaphor I frequently return to and during this holiday season, it’s useful to reflect on the Bedford Hills Historical Society. What role should the Bedford Falls Historical Society have played?

I’ve offered my view of the role of historical societies in communities here at The New York History Blog before. My contention has been, among other things, that historical societies fall into a dangerous and unsupportable trap if they think of their primary function is to support tourism. Quite the contrary, they are community organizations, part of the social fabric like schools and libraries which also are chartered by the New York State Education Department. Continue reading

Oral Tradition in Historical Scholarship:
The Dutch, The Iroquois, and The Two Row Wampum


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13220774-largeThe challenge of contact in the 17th century between the Dutch and the Iroquois was brought to life in the 21st century with a symbolic summer journey from western New York to the United Nations to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Two Row Wampum and its message.

That event was the subject of several posts on The New York History Blog. I wrote about the scholarly challenges posed by the Two Row Wampum; Naj Wikoff, an artist active in the Lake Placid region, also wrote about the the Two Row Wampum, acknowledging that there is not a written record of the treaty, nor does the physical object exist, but the oral tradition of the event is valid and its message remains relevant. Continue reading

Capitalizing On Our Dutch Heritage


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you_are_here-optIn cultural studies the cosmic center refers to the meeting point between the heavens and the earth at the center of the universe. It often is associated with a high place perhaps in nature like a mountain or human-built like a ziggurat.

For the United States of America, New York City is the cosmic center, the crossroads of the universe, ground zero.  But as New York prepares to ignore the 350th anniversary of when it became New York, it’s also appropriate to remember that when New York began as New Amsterdam, no one thought of it as a city on a hill. There is a story to tell of how it turned out that way. Continue reading

Saratoga History and Tourism: Opportunities for New York


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Saratoga_Springs_signOnce upon a time many years ago, there was no tourism in America. And then there was. And the place where tourism began was here in New York State especially along the Hudson Valley.

The tourist explosion combined the artistic explosion generated by people like Irving, Cooper, and Cole along with technological developments like the steamship all New York State developments…and peace with England helped too!

Saratoga helped create this tourist boom. Continue reading

Size Matters: New York’s Mastodons


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Peale 1806 painting - The Exhumation of the MastadonTectonic forces and global cooling and warming set the stage for the dawn of New York State history. The stage was not a barren one and long before King Kong climbed the Empire State Building that scrapped the sky, giants walked the ground that would become the Empire State. These giants would be called “mastodons” and they became important in religion and nationalism in ways that before their discovery no one could have imagined.

The story of mastodons and New York begins in 1705 in Claverack, Columbia County. A Dutch tenant farmer picked up a five-pound tooth that had rolled down a hill and landed at his feet. Being a sensible sort of person, he naturally traded the tooth to a politician for a glass of rum. The tooth thereupon made its way up the political food chain until it arrived in London. Continue reading

Peter Feinman: New York and the American Dream


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home_revolutionOver the summer, I wrote a series of posts on the American Revolution Reborn conference. Those posts included segments devoted to the American Dream and American Exceptionalism. In course of writing those posts, I had private communications with Mike Zimmerman, the initiator of the conference.

This led to him writing a post for The New York History Blog. In my opinion, part of that post derived some from immediate and current events in the American political arena, particularly the judgment in the Zimmerman/Martin murder case which seems to be in the news again. Continue reading

The History of New York In 4,000 Words?


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history-of-new-york-cityWith my 100th post to The New York History Blog, I embark on a new venture. I have been asked to write a 4,000-word history of New York. That is a lot of history to cover in very few words. I am not sure if it is even possible…at least for me. I have decided to divide the subject into a series of topics and to post these shorter pieces to New York History.

Unfortunately the number of topics seems to mushroom so it is not quite as simple as writing seven 500-word posts. I expect when all is done is to have vastly exceeded my assigned allotment and to require substantial pruning if not outright dismemberment. Continue reading

History Education and Teaching Social Studies


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SchoolTeaching is in the news. Especially the apparent lack of it. The initial test results under the Common Core standards are abysmal and they are wreaking its havoc in the school systems of America. The Common Core now being implemented may not be garner the same attention as Obamacare, but it has generated considerable vociferous and intense condemnation, including calls to cease and desist here in New York. John King, the Commissioner of Education in NYS, cancelled his original statewide tour of public forums when the first one spun out of control, although he has begun a new round.

The new social studies curriculum is scheduled for 2015, the first update since 1996. That curriculum is sure to be a topic of discussion at the annual conference of the New York State Council of Social Studies in Albany in March.  The theme of the conference is “Linking Communities Together: Academic, Civic and Cultural.” Continue reading

Peter Feinman: Lessons from Connecticut


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map_of_connecticut_1824Our neighbor state has been trying to promote the teaching of history in the schools. The Connecticut League of History Organizations (CLHO), an organization similar to the Museum Association of New York, sent a notice to its members to take a survey with the message: “We NEED your help to get Connecticut history into the hands of Connecticut teachers and students.”

The goal of this effort was stated as “LET OUR TEACHERS KNOW THAT CONNECTICUT HISTORY IS ALIVE AND WELL.”  CLHO asked the question which could be asked in New York as well: “Connecticut’s history rarely ever makes it into the classrooms in our state. Why?” Continue reading