Category Archives: Books

Adirondack Philosophers’ Camp Talk In Saratoga Springs


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The Story of the Philosophers CampIn 1858 some of the leading lights of American art, literature, and science camped together on Follensby Pond near Tupper Lake at what is now known as the Philosophers’ Camp.

The gathering was organized by Willam James Stillman, artist and editor of acclaimed art magazine of the time, The Crayon. It included transcendental philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, the poet James Russel Lowell, Harvard scientist Jean Louis Agassiz, and others.

The meeting at Follensby was widely covered in the popular press of the time and fueled an interest in the Adirondacks and retreating into the wilderness to write, make art and discuss the issues of the day. Continue reading

George Whitefield: Race and Revivalism


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The Historians LogoThis week “The Historians” podcast features an interview with Jessica Parr, author of Inventing George Whitefield: Race, Revivalism, and the Making of a Religious Icon (Mississippi, 2015). Whitefield was a founding father of American evangelicalism in the 1700s. Parr looks at his missionary career and his effort to reconcile his disdain for some plantation owners with his belief that slavery was an economic necessity in the American South. Listen at “The Historians” online archive here. Continue reading

Magna Carta & North America


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ben_franklins_world2015 marks the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. Its four key principles continue to influence and inspire the governments of English-speaking countries around the world, including the United States and Canada.

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, we explore Magna Carta and its long legacy with Carolyn Harris, author of Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada: Democracy, Law, and Human Rights (Dundurn Press, 2015). You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/038.

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Wilder Homestead Named Literary Landmark


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WilderThe Wilder Homestead in Burke, NY, will be designated a Literary Landmark during a celebration on Saturday, July 11. The Homestead is the setting for Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy (1933), and is where Laura’s husband Almanzo grew up from 1857 until his family moved to Minnesota in 1875.

A bronze plaque will be unveiled during the celebration in conjunction with the Homestead’s Children’s Art Event (10 am to 4 pm). There will be art activities for children and 19th century games, along with an awards ceremony for the children’s art show. The public is invited to hear author and historian William Anderson speak about the Ingalls/Wilder family homes. Museum admission applies to this event. 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

Spectacle: The Life of Ota Benga


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Ota BengaIn Pamela Newkirk’s Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga (Amistad / Harper Collins, 2015) the award-winning journalist reveals a little-known and shameful episode in American history, when an African man was used as a zoo exhibit — a shocking story of racial prejudice, science, and tragedy in the early years of the twentieth century.

Ota Benga, a young Congolese man, was featured as an exhibit at the St. Louis World’s Fair. Two years later, in 1906, the Bronx Zoo displayed him in its Monkey House, caging the slight 103-pound, four-foot eleven-inch man with an orangutan. The attraction became an international sensation, drawing thousands of New Yorkers and commanding headlines from across the nation and Europe. Continue reading

Upstate Cauldron: Eccentric Spiritual Movements in Early NYS


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Upstate Cauldron - Eccentric Spiritual Movements in Early New YorkJoscelyn Godwin’s Upstate Cauldron: Eccentric Spiritual Movements in Early New York State (SUNY Press, 2015) is an outstanding guide to the phenomenal crop of prophets, mediums, sects, cults, utopian communities, and spiritual leaders that arose in Upstate New York from 1776 to 1914.

Along with the best known of these, such as the Shakers, Mormons, and Spiritualists, Upstate Cauldron explores more than forty other spiritual leaders or groups, some of them virtually unknown. Continue reading

Bourbon Empire: America’s Whiskey Past, and Future


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Boubon EmpireBorn of necessity in the colonies, fine-tuned and perfected over the centuries – witnessing civil war, Prohibition, and the marketing genius of Madison Avenue – bourbon continues to this day to be one of the most popular and iconic spirits of America.

In Bourbon Empire: The Past and Future of America’s Whiskey (Viking, 2015), Reid Mitenbuler provides a popularly accessible history of this unique industry and a personal commentary on how to taste and choose your bourbon. Continue reading

Grain Dust Dreams: A Short History Of Grain Elevators


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Grain Elevator HistoryGrain Dust Dreams (SUNY Press, 2015) tells the story of terminal grain elevators – concrete colossi that stand in the middle of a deep river of grain that they lift, sort, and send on.

From their invention in Buffalo through a present-day operation in Thunder Bay, Ontario, David W. Tarbet examines the difficulties and dangers of working in a grain elevator – showing how they operate and describing the effects that the grain trade has on the lives of individuals and cities. Continue reading

Podcast: One Colonial Woman’s World


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ben_franklins_worldWhat was everyday life like for average men and women in early America?

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, Michelle Marchetti Coughlin, author of One Colonial Woman’s World: The Life and Writings of Mehetabel Chandler Coit (University of Massachusetts Press, 2012), joins us to explore the life of an average woman who lived in early New England. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/032

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Bruce Dearstyne Talk At Albany Institute Sunday


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Bruce Dearstyne Spirit of New YorkThe Albany Institute of History & Art will host historian (and regular New York History Blog contributor) Dr. Bruce W. Dearstyne for a lecture and book signing on Sunday, June 7 at 2 pm for his recently published book The Spirit of New York: Defining Events in the Empire State’s History.

The lecture is open to the public and is free with museum admission. Books will be available for purchase and signing. Continue reading

Second Great Awakening in Northern New England


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ben_franklins_worldIn this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, Shelby M. Balik, author of Rally the Scattered Believers: Northern New England’s Religious Geography (Indiana University Press, 2014), joins us to explore the New England town-church ideal, how it helped New Englanders organize their towns, and why the post-Revolution migration into northern New England forced New Englanders to change and adapt how they maintained civic and moral order within their communities. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/030 Continue reading

The Native American Defeat of the First American Army


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ben_franklins_worldIn this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, Colin Calloway, Professor of History and Native American History at Dartmouth College, joins us to discuss how American settlement in the Ohio Valley led to The Victory with No Name: The Native American Defeat of the First American Army (Oxford University Press, 2014). You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/029

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Freedom Journey: Westchester Co Black Civil War Soldiers


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Freedoms Journey Black Civil War SoldiersAlmost 200,000 black men served in the Army during the Civil War, but only 34,000 were from the North. An underrepresented segment in Civil War studies, the stories of some of these Northern soldiers are told in Edythe Ann Quinn’s Freedom Journey: Black Civil War Soldiers and the Hills Community, Westchester County, New York (SUNY Press, 2015).

Freedom Journey presents in-depth, personal histories of thirty-six free black men from New York State who fought in the war. The book is both an African-American community history and a Civil War history of three regiments of the United States Colored Troops (USCT). Continue reading

Bruce Dearstyne On The Historians Podcast


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The Historians LogoThis week “The Historians” podcast features Bruce Dearstyne discussing his new book The Spirit of New York: Defining Events in the Empire State’s History (SUNY Press, 2015) From the first state constitution to the New York Fire Department response to the 9-11 attacks, Dearstyne takes a look at 16 key events. Dearstyne is a history professor emeritus,  a former director of the New York State archives, and a regular contributor to The New York History Blog. Listen at “The Historians” online archive at http://www.bobcudmore.com/thehistorians/
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A History of Stepfamilies in Early America


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ben_franklins_worldLike many 21st-century Americans, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Abraham Lincoln all had to navigate the world of blended and stepfamilies.

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, Lisa Wilson, the Charles J. MacCurdy Professor of American History at Connecticut College and author of A History of Stepfamilies in Early America (University of North Carolina Press, 2014), leads us on an investigation of blended and stepfamilies in early America. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/027

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George Washington’s Revolution


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ben_franklins_worldWhat drove George Washington to become a Patriot during the American Revolution?

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, Robert Middlekauff, Professor Emeritus of colonial and early United States History at the University of California, Berkeley and author of Washington’s Revolution: The Making of America’s First Leader (Knopf, 2015), reveals the answer as we explore George Washington the man and leader. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/026

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