Category Archives: Books

An Idea Whose Time Has Come: Civil Rights Act of 1964


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Civil Rights Act of 1964 AnniversaryIn this 50th anniversary year of the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a new book by Vanity Fair editor and Politico senior writer Todd Purdum, An Idea Whose Time Has Come (Henry Holt & Co., 2014) recounts the dramatic political battle to pass this important law that in many ways helped create modern America.

Pardum’s book revisits a turbulent time in America, a time of sit-ins, freedom rides, and the March on Washington. During this time, John F. Kennedy sent Congress a bill to bar racial discrimination in employment, education and public accommodations. Continue reading

New Book: The 1929 Bunion Derby


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Bunion DerbyOn March 31, 1929, seventy-seven men began an epic 3,554-mile footrace across America that pushed their bodies to the breaking point. Nicknamed the “Bunion Derby” by the press, this was the second and last of two trans-America footraces held in the late 1920s.

The men averaged forty-six gut-busting miles a day during seventy-eight days of nonstop racing that took them from New York City to Los Angeles. Among this group, two brilliant runners, Johnny Salo of Passaic, New Jersey, and Pete Gavuzzi of England, emerged to battle for the $25,000 first prize along the mostly unpaved roads of 1929 America, with each man pushing the other to go faster as the lead switched back and forth between them. Continue reading

Women’s Rights NHP Issues Administrative History


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Seneca Falls HistoryWomen’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls, NY, has announced the release of its first ever administrative history. “All Men and Women are Created Equal”:  An Administrative History of Women’s Rights National Historical Park was researched and written by Dr. Rebecca Conard, Professor of History and Director of the Public History Program at Middle Tennessee State University.

Conard concluded that significant trends in historic preservation, interpretation and partnerships within the National Park Service affected park decisions and actions.  She also found that legislation creating the park provided limits and opportunities that shaped decision-makers development of sites in Seneca Falls and Waterloo, N.Y. related to the nation’s first women’s rights convention in 1848.  Continue reading

New York City 1964: A Cultural History


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NYC 1964 Cultural HistoryLawrence R. Samuel’s New York City 1964: A Cultural History (McFarland, 2014), connects the events of a single year in the city to the cultural threads of American life in the 1960s and beyond.

Five seminal events occurred in New York City in the pivotal year 1964: the “British Invasion” arrival of the Beatles in February; the murder of Kitty Genovese in Queens in March; the World’s Fair in Queens between April and October; the “race riots” in Brooklyn and Harlem in July; and the World Series in the Bronx between the New York Yankees and the St. Louis Cardinals. Continue reading

New Book: Hudson River Steamboat Catastrophes


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Hudson River Steamboat AccidentsBeginning in the mid-1800s, steamboats carried people between New York City and the Albany area on the Hudson River. Romantic images lull us into believing it was a quiet means of travel, but a crowded river, faulty equipment and the bravado of the captains resulted in at least one major catastrophe every year. Night boats collided and sank, carelessness caused boiler explosions, races put passengers at risk and fires would quickly swallow the wooden vessels.

The grand Empire of Troy suffered many collisions. The Swallow broke in two on a rock, Reindeer’s explosion took forty lives at once and the Oregon and C. Vanderbilt entered into an epic and dangerous race. Collected from eyewitness accounts, these are some of the most exciting and frightening stories of peril aboard steamboats on the Hudson River. Now, local historian J. Thomas Allison has written Hudson River Steamboat Catastrophes: Contests and Collisions (History Press, 2013). Allison provides an entertaining look at the romantic but perilous age of steamboat travel on the Hudson River, including tales of reckless captains racing each other and passengers’ eyewitness accounts of collisions, crashes, explosions, and fires. Continue reading

New History of Hobart NY Published


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Hobart NY BookThe Hobart Historical Society in the Village of Hobart, Delaware County, New York has recently published a new book about the history of the Village. It is the most useful local history book published in New York State that has ever come across the desk of The New York History Blog, and It should serve as a model for historic preservationists and other historians of smaller communities and neighborhoods.

A Look Back at Hobart, NY – On the 125th Anniversary of the Village Incorporation – 1888-2013 was compiled during the past two years by James G. Meagley, who grew up in the Village. The book has 372 pages, with 650 photos, including a photo of every building currently in the Village and is a significant update and expansion of A Century of Hobart 1888-1988, published twenty-five years ago. Gerald Stoner and his wife, Ellen, of Stamford, NY, assisted with the layout and publishing of the new book.

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New Book: Capital Region Radio 1920-2011


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9780738598468John Gabriel and Rick Kelly, two cousins who grew up together listening to radio in the Capital Region, have written one of Arcadia Publishing’s popular Images of America series books entitled Capital Region Radio 1920-2011. The book tells the history of Albany region radio programs and personalities from its early days to recent years through more than 200 vintage images.

The General Electric Company, with one of its main plants in Schenectady, began experimental broadcasts in conjunction with Union College in the early 1900s. Using many culled from the miSci Museum in Schenectady, and others, this new pictorial history shares the story of when WGY officially began broadcasting in February 1922 and General Electric started a long and storied history of pioneering radio technology and programming, which ultimately set the pace for worldwide broadcast development. Capital Region Radio pioneer WGY provided entertainment and news nationally during World War II, WTRY kept listeners updated during the blackout of 1965 and WOKO introduced rock and roll to the area. Continue reading

Teddy Roosevelt and Leonard Wood:
Partners in Command


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Teddy-Roosevelt-and-Leonard-Wood-Partners-in-CommandTheodore Roosevelt was a man of wide interests, strong opinions, and intense ambition for both himself and his country. In 1897, when he met Leonard Wood (a physician who served as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, Military Governor of Cuba, and Governor General of the Philippines) Roosevelt recognized a kindred spirit. Moreover, the two men shared a zeal for making the United States an imperial power that would challenge Great Britain as world leader.

For the remainder of their lives, the careers of T.R. and Wood would intertwine in ways that shaped the American nation. The late John S.D. Eisenhower’s Teddy Roosevelt and Leonard Wood: Partners in Command (University of Missouri Press, 2014) is a revealing look at the dynamic partnership of this fascinating pair and will be welcomed by scholars and military history enthusiasts alike. Continue reading

Cohoes in Vintage Images and Postcards


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9781467121293Using vintage images and postcards to highlight history is Arcadia Publishing’s Postcard History Series book Cohoes. The new book by the Spindle City Historic Society is releasing on March 24, 2014. It displays more than 200 vintage images and memories of days gone by.

This new pictorial history is a tour of landmarks of Cohoes through postcard images, taking readers through distinctive sections of the city including downtown, the mill district, the island and the hill. The book also features notable residents of Cohoes who impacted the city, including vaudeville performers, Revolutionary War officers, explores, industrialists, entrepreneurs, sports figures and daredevils. Continue reading

Albany Institute Hudson River Steamboat Event Sunday


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Hudson River Steamboat AccidentsThe Albany Institute of History & Art will host local historian J. Thomas Allison for a lecture about his book Hudson River Steamboat Catastrophes: Contests and Collisions. The lecture will be followed by a book signing. Allison will provide an entertaining look at the romantic but perilous age of steamboat travel on the Hudson River, including tales of reckless captains racing each other and passengers’ eyewitness accounts of collisions, crashes, explosions, and fires.

Hudson River Steamboat Catastrophes: Contests and Collisions focuses on nineteenth-century steamboat travel on the Hudson River. It points out that a crowded river, unreliable boat equipment, and the audacity of some steamboat captains created yearly catastrophes that put passengers and vessels at risk. Researched through eyewitness accounts, the stories are both exciting and frightening and give a real sense of the danger that traveled on the Hudson River. Continue reading

An Evening With Jane Austen: Talk and Tea


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Portrait of Jane Austen, drawn by her sister Cassandra (c 1810)On Thursday, March 13, enjoy the ambiance of the historic Rice House while you sip tea and celebrate the world of Jane Austen. Guest speaker, David Shapard will share fascinating facts about the clothing, architecture, landscapes, homes, and gardens in Austen’s novels, and will answer your most pressing questions. This event will take place at 6PM and is free and open to the public as part of the Institute’s Evenings at the Institute initiative.

Shapard has a PhD in European History from UC Berkley, and is the author of five books on Jane Austen, including The Annotated Pride and Prejudice, The Annotated Emma, and the recently published The Annotated Northanger Abbey. He has taught at several colleges and his specialty is the eighteenth century. He lives in upstate New York. Continue reading

Battle of Trenton: George Washington’s Surprise Attack


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George Washington Battle of Trenton BookLike many historical events, the American Revolution is often shrouded in romantic myth and stubborn stereotypes. Perhaps no event offers a better example than General George Washington’s famous crossing of icy Delaware River on Christmas night to lead the Continental Army’s defeat of the Hessians at Trenton, New Jersey, an event which revived the flickering morale American revolutionaries.

In George Washington’s Surprise Attack: A New Look at the Battle That Decided the Fate of America (Skyhorse Publishing, 2014), Phillip Thomas Tucker attempts to parse fiction from fact. He provides an in-depth look (more than 600 pages, with notes) at the events of the Battle of Trenton, presenting new insights and analysis about a battle that holds a mythical place in American national history. Continue reading

Poltics, War, and Personality:
50 Iconic World War II Documents


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Politics-War-and-Personality-Fifty-Iconic-World-War-II-Documents-That-Changed-the-World-HardcoverAuthor Kenneth W. Rendell has gathered 50 of the most important and iconic documents of World War II in Poltics, War, and Personality: Fifty Iconic World War II Documents that Changed the World (Whitman Publishing; 2014).

With the assistance of more than 150 archival images and photographs, Rendell tells the stories of these documents which foreshadowed, announced, or altered the course of war. The book features a foreword by the late John S.D. Eisenhower, son of Dwight D. Eisenhower. Continue reading

New Book Challanges Vermont’s Abolitionist Reputation


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Vermont slaveryVermonters have always been proud that their state was the first to outlaw slavery in its constitution—but is that what really happened?

In a new book, The Problem of Slavery in Early Vermont, 1777-1810 (Vermont Historical Society, 2014), historian Harvey Amani Whitfield challenges this myth by showing that the enslavement of African Americans continued in Vermont for another 30 years, even as anti-slavery sentiment continued to swell.

The Problem of Slavery in Early Vermont, 1777-1810 will be enlightening to Vermont teachers and students, scholars of the early national and antebellum periods of U.S. history, and anyone interested in the history of Vermont.  The book can be purchased at the website of the Vermont Historical Society. Continue reading

A New Warrensburgh History Published


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Book cover frontFollowing five years of planning, research, writing and design, the Warrensburgh Historical Society has released Warrensburg, New York: 200 Years of People, Places and Events (2014) in honor of the town’s Bicentennial Celebration.

Spearheaded by Town Historian Sandi Parisi, the effort involved more than 20 volunteers. The 184-page soft-cover book, laid out as an encyclopedia of Warrensburg history, contains more than 300 photographs and a 19-page index with over 2,300 listings. Continue reading

Gotham Unbound:
The Ecological History of Greater New York


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Gotham Unbound Ecological HistoryGotham Unbound: The Ecological History of Greater New York (Simon & Schuster, June 2014) is Ted Steinberg’s sweeping ecological history of one of the most man-made spots on earth, from Mannahatta to Hurricane Sandy.

This is a heavily researched and well-written book that recounts the four-century history of how hundreds of square miles of open marshlands became home to six percent of the nation’s population – that’s 64,464 people per square mile.

Steinberg brings a unique view of the metropolitan area, not just one of a dense urban goliath but as an estuary once home to miles of oyster reefs, wolves, whales and blueberry thickets. That world gave way to an onslaught of humanity managed by thousands of ecological actors from Governor John Montgomerie, who turned water into land, and John Randel, who imposed a grid on Manhattan, to Robert Moses, Charles Urstadt, Donald Trump, and Michael Bloomberg. Continue reading

How Jazz Age Manhattan Gave Birth to Modern America


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Supreme CityThis spring Simon & Schuster will publish Supreme City: How Jazz Age Manhattan Gave Birth to Modern America by Donald L. Miller, the John Henry MacCracken Professor of History at Lafayette College and author of several books about World War II. Miller also wrote the bestseller City of Century about Chicago, and his book Masters of the Air is currently in production with Spielberg and Hanks at HBO.

As its subtitle proclaims, the book examines how midtown Manhattan rose to become the nation and world’s capital of commerce and culture via mass communication – radio, film, music, printing – as well as architecture, spectator sports, and organized crime during the roaring 1920s. Continue reading

TRAIN: Riding the Rails That Created the Modern World


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train-zom-zoellnerTRAIN: Riding the Rails That Created the Modern World-from the Trans-Siberian to the Southwest Chief (Viking, 2014) takes a global inventory of railroads while weaving a light history of this important mode of transportation and telling an entertaining story of an around-the-world rail journey by author Tom Zoellner.

From the birth of the locomotive in Cornwall, England, to traveling along the frozen trans-Siberian railroad with a past as dark as the arctic sky, and crisscrossing the antiquated yet magnificent Indian Railways, the world’s eighth largest employer, TRAIN examines the mechanics of these grandiose machines, and the impact on the societies through which they run. Continue reading

Bruce Dearstyne: Creativity and Leadership


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Creativity in Museum PracticePosts here on The New York History Blog reveal a lot about the creativity and leadership of the individuals who direct the programs that comprise New York’s historical enterprise. Creativity, broadly defined, refers to derivation of new ideas that help organizations do existing work better or take on new things. Leadership is mostly about strengthening programs and guiding them into the future.

Creative leaders, said an IBM study a few years ago, “embrace the dynamic tension between creative disruption and operational efficiency… encourage others to drop outmoded approaches and take balanced risk.” They “embark on transforming tomorrow into what was once never thought possible.”

Many of our programs could benefit from that kind of boost.

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John Hay and John Nicolay:
Gatekeepers of Lincoln’s Legacy


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9781101638071_p0_v4_s260x420Lincoln’s Boys: John Hay, John Nicolay, and the War for Lincoln’s Image (Viking, 2014) by Joshua Zeitz is an intimate look into Abraham Lincoln’s White House through the lives of two men. But more than that, it tells the story of the aftermath of Lincoln’s assassination, and how we have to come receive the idea of who Lincoln was that we have today.

Zeitz argues that Lincoln’s official secretaries, John Hay and John Nicolay, enjoyed more access, witnessed more history, and knew Lincoln better than anyone outside of the president’s immediate family, in short, they were Lincoln’s closest confidantes. They read poetry and attended the theater with the President, commiserated with him over Union army setbacks, and plotted electoral strategy in the darkest and loneliest days of the war. They were present at every seminal event, from the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation to Lincoln’s delivery of the Gettysburg Address. After his death, they took control of his papers, his biography, and his image. Hay and Nicolay were the gatekeepers of the Lincoln’s legacy. Continue reading