Category Archives: Books

Antebellum NYC Envrionmental Battles


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Taming ManhattanTaming Manhattan: Environmental Battles in the Antebellum City (Harvard Univ. Press, 2014) details the environmental history of the city of New York in the years before and during the Civil War, when pigs roamed the streets and cows foraged in the Battery.

On Tuesday, November 25th, at an event at NYU, author Catherine McNeur will discuss nineteenth-century New York City’s long forgotten shantytowns, the people living in the communities, and how outsiders viewed the architecture and communities developing on the metropolitan periphery. Continue reading

Sam Roberts On ‘The History of New York in 101 Objects’


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History of New York in 101 ObjectsAs a reporter, I spend a lot of time reaching out to people who’d rather not talk to me. It’s not necessarily that they have something to hide. It’s more that their best default strategy is insipidity, to say nothing that jeopardizes their jobs or, especially, their boss’s.

That’s yet another reason I’m grateful for the opportunity to write about history. Historians, archivists, curators and librarians, as a group, are not only generous with their time, but also magnanimous about sharing their accrued wisdom, their collections and to steer me to resources I never imagined even existed. Continue reading

Peter Rose Authors New Cookbook, Crailo Event Planned


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Peter Rose CookbooksMixing food and history in a celebration of Dutch and American Christmas traditions, award-winning food historian Peter G. Rose’s new book, Delicious December: How the Dutch Brought Us Santa, Presents, and Treats: A Holiday Cookbook (Excelsior Editions/State University of New York Press, 2014), provides more than one hundred tried-and-true recipes. For planning purposes, complete menus and recipes for the parties that might happen between the feast days are also provided.

Rose draws on traditions that date back to the Middle Ages as well as her own reminiscences of her native country, and she suggests many ways to incorporate these true Dutch treats into American celebrations. The public is invited to join the Friends of Fort Crailo and Crailo State Historic Site at the Rensselaer Public Library for their Annual Meeting and lecture on Sunday November 16 at 4:30 pm.  After a brief business meeting, Peter Rose will present “Joyful Traditions: How the Dutch Brought Us Santa, Presents and Treats.” Continue reading

Special Delivery: Traveling the Underground Railroad


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Special Delivery Front CoverSpecial Delivery: From One Stop to Another on the Underground Railroad (North Country Books, 2014), is Rose O’Keefe’s latest effort to show what daily life was like in the 1850s, and what life was like in Rochester for families active on the Underground Railroad.

This historical fiction is a companion book to O’Keefe’s recent book Frederick and Anna Douglass in Rochester NY: Their Home Was Open to All (History Press, 2013). O’Keefe’s newest book is the story of eleven-year-old Lewis Douglass, who gives a very personal take on the Douglass family’s move from one house to another in Rochester in 1852. 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

Upper Hudson Beer Book Launch, Beer Tasting


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9781626195127On Thursday, September 11th from 6 pm to 8 pm, the Albany Institute of History & Art will host a special launch of Craig Gravina and Alan McLeod’s new book Upper Hudson Valley Beer. Author Craig Gravina will give a presentation about the book and Remarkable Liquids, the area’s only craft-focused beer distributor, will be on hand to provide samples of some of the best beer made in our region.

Attendees will savor learning about the Upper Hudson Valley’s long and full-bodied brewing tradition and the opportunity to connect its past with its present. Continue reading

The Last Amateur: The Life of William J. Stillman


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The Last Amatuer - Life of William StillmanIn a new biography being released in October by SUNY Press, The Last Amateur: The Life of William J. Stillman, author Stephen L. Dyson tells the story of William J. Stillman (1828–1901), a nineteenth-century polymath. Born and raised in Schenectady, NY, Stillman attended Union College and began his career as a Hudson River School painter after an apprenticeship with Frederic Edwin Church.

In the 1850s, he was editor of The Crayon, the most important journal of art criticism in antebellum America. Later, after a stint as an explorer-promoter of the Adirondacks, he became the American consul in Rome during the Civil War. When his diplomatic career brought him to Crete, he developed an interest in archaeology and later produced photographs of the Acropolis, for which he is best known today. Continue reading

New Book: A Dictionary Of Vietnam War Slang


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Vietnam War Slang DictionaryOn August 7th, the US marked the 50th anniversary of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, the basis for the Johnson administration’s escalation of American military involvement in Southeast Asia and war against North Vietnam.

A new book, Vietnam War Slang: A Dictionary on Historical Principles (Routledge, 2014) by Tom Dalzell, outlines the context behind the slang used by members of the United States Armed Forces during the Vietnam War. Continue reading

Circle of Vines: The Story of New York Wine


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New York State Wine HistoryWinegrower and journalist Richard Figiel, who established Silver Thread Vineyard on the eastern shore of Seneca Lake in 1982, offers a short history of New York wine in Circle of Vines: The Story of New York Wine (SUNY Press, 2014).

Figiel follows the state’s wine industry from its turbulent evolution in various regions as it emerged as a dynamic player in the world of fine wine. He begins by examining New York’s distinctive viticultural roots and the geologic forces that shaped the state’s terrain for winegrowing. Starting with early efforts to grow grapes for wine in the Hudson Valley, the story moves west to the Finger Lakes and Lake Erie, circles around the state from Long Island to the North Country, and, finally, to contemporary New York City. Continue reading

A New Biography of Plattsburgh’s Smith Weed


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Smith Weed BiographyRouses Point businessman, Mark L Barie, has written the first biography of North Country politician Smith Weed. In The President of Plattsburgh, The Story of Smith Weed (Crossborder Publishing, 2014), Barie paints a portrait of Weed – six feet tall, with piercing black eyes – a man who was said to smoke nine cigars a day.

Smith Weed was instrumental in the establishment of the Champlain Valley Hospital, the YMCA, the Plattsburgh Library, and the Hotel Champlain, but was perhaps best known nationally for his central role in “The Cipher Dispatches” voter fraud controversy during the fiercely disputed presidential election of 1876. Continue reading

New Book Highlights Covered Bridges


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image001(11)Covered bridges are essential pieces of American and Canadian rural history, gracing the countryside from coast to coast and north to eastern Canada. In a new, small, but lavishly illustrated volume Covered Bridges (Shire, 2014), Joseph D. Conwill recounts the rich, romantic history of covered bridges as they developed from early timber examples, born out of the traditions of medieval times, into modern structures designed for motorized traffic in the early twentieth century.

Reflecting on the efforts to keep covered bridges in service as the face of the rural landscape is transformed, and the challenge of preserving their historic character while making them safe for modern traffic, Conwill guides the reader across the diverse range of covered bridges to be found throughout North America. Continue reading

Adirondack History And Campfire Stories


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Layout 1If you’ve spent any time rambling New York’s north country roads, you may have wondered how Eagle Lake got its name, or how little towns like Schroon Lake and Chateaugay and Redford came to be before the north became a tourist haven. Where is that Cold River hermit that your grandfather told you about? What about the weird beliefs of early Adirondack days? Maybe you’re still holding out for the possibility of a sea serpent in Lake Champlain, or hoping you’ll chance upon a legendary lost silver mine while you’re out enjoying a hike in the balsam wood.

This is the sort of interesting and sometimes unusual information that readers of Adirondack Memories and Campfire Stories (2014) will find fascinating. William J. “Jay” O’Hern has compiled first-hand stories from a series of little quarterly magazines that native Adirondack archivist, historian, and folklorist George Glyndon Cole published from 1946-1974. Few complete collections now exist, in less than a handful of North Country libraries, but back then readers eagerly anticipated each new issue. Some readers will remember reading North Country Life, later called York State Tradition, from cover to cover. It was exciting indeed to read about one’s own rural region, especially when the articles came straight from the pens and hearts of one’s neighbors. Continue reading

Inside Ocean Hill–Brownsville: A Teacher’s Education


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Inside Ocean Hill BrownsvilleIn 1968 the conflict that erupted over community control of the New York City public schools was centered in the black and Puerto Rican community of Ocean Hill–Brownsville. It triggered what remains the longest teachers’ strike in US history.

That clash, between the city’s communities of color and the white, predominantly Jewish teachers’ union, paralyzed the nation’s largest school system, undermined the city’s economy, and heightened racial tensions, ultimately transforming the national conversation about race relations. A new memoir, Inside Ocean Hill–Brownsville: A Teacher’s Education, 1968-69 (SUNY Press, 2014) has been written by Charles S. Isaacs, a teacher who crossed the picket lines. Continue reading

War of 1812: The New Brunswick Regiment of Foot


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The 104th (New Brunswick) Regiment of Foot in the War of 1812Best known for its perilous Winter March through the wilderness of New Brunswick to the battlegrounds in Upper Canada, the 104th (New Brunswick) Regiment of Foot was a British unit originally raised to defend the Maritimes, with members drawn from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Upper and Lower Canada, and the British Isles.

In 1813, the regiment was sent to raid the American naval base in Sackets Harbor, New York, and then moved to the Niagara Peninsula to continue its fight against the invading Americans. Continue reading

The Negro National And Eastern Colored Leagues


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Negro National and Eastern Colored LeaguesAs the companion volume to Black Baseball Entrepreneurs, 1860–1901: Operating by Any Means Necessary, Michael E. Lomax’s new book, Black Baseball Entrepreneurs, 1902-1931: The Negro National and Eastern Colored Leagues (Syracuse Univ. Press, 2014), continues to chronicle the history of black baseball in the United States.

The first volume traced the development of baseball from an exercise in community building among African Americans in the pre–Civil War era into a commercialized amusement and a rare and lucrative opportunity for entrepreneurship within the black community. In this book, the author takes a closer look at the marketing and promotion of the Negro Leagues by black baseball magnates. Continue reading

The Shadow of Kinzua: The Seneca Since World War II


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Shadow of KinzuaKinzua Dam has cast a long shadow on Seneca life since World War II. The project, formally dedicated in 1966, broke the Treaty of Canandaigua of 1794, flooded approximately 10,000 acres of Seneca lands in New York and Pennsylvania, and forced the relocation of hundreds of tribal members.

In Laurence M. Hauptman’s In The Shadow of Kinzua: The Seneca Nation of Indians Since World War II (Syracuse Univ. Press, 2013), he presents presents both a policy study, namely how and why Washington, Harrisburg, and Albany came up with the idea to build the dam, as well as a community study of the Seneca Nation of Indians in the postwar era. Sold to the Senecas as a flood control project, the author argues that major reasons for the dam were the push for private hydroelectric development in Pennsylvania and state transportation and park development in New York. Continue reading

FDR: The Original Game Changer


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Roosevelts Second Act by Richard Moe.jpgThe famous Riddle of the Sphinx asks, “Which creature has one voice and yet becomes four-footed and then two-footed, and finally three-footed?” To which Oedipus answered: “Man, who crawls on all fours as a child, then walks on two feet as an adult, and then as an elder uses a walking stick.”

This is what crossed my mind as I came across a small sculpture of Franklin D. Roosevelt as the Sphinx, with cigarette holder and all, at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum gift shop. I’d often find myself browsing the store during breaks from my research there, but the oddity of the sculpture stuck with me as I was unable to answer the riddle of FDR as Sphinx until reading Roosevelt’s Second Act: The Election of 1940 and the Politics of War (Oxford Univ. Press, 2013) by Richard Moe. Continue reading

Arcadia Publishing Acquires The History Press


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History Press Arcadia Publishing MergerArcadia Publishing has announced the acquisition of The History Press Inc., a wholly owned US based subsidiary of UK based The History Press Ltd, in a private sale. The deal creates the largest publisher of local and regional books in the U.S. with a combined total of more than 12,000 titles available for sale.

“Arcadia is committed to maintaining the creative aspects of both businesses and will keep existing brands entirely separate,” the company said in a statement issued to the press. Continue reading

NYSHA Annual Publication Awards Announced


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Armory Show BookThe New York State Historical Association will announce the winners of its three annual publication awards at its 111th Annual Meeting on July 17.

The winner of the 2014 Henry Allen Moe Prize for Catalogs of Distinction in the Arts is The Armory Show at 100: Modernism and Revolution by Marilyn Satin Kushner, Curator and Head, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections at New-York Historical Society and Kimberly Orcutt, Henry Luce Foundation Curator of American Art at New-York Historical Society. Continue reading

Remembering an Old Friend: John Briant


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JBriantNYHA year ago, I wrote about a regional writer of fiction and nonfiction who had passed away. At the time, he was among the elder statesmen of Adirondack authors. His books include One Cop’s Story: A Life Remembered, which details his service in New York State Police Troops B and D. To share one person’s perspective and to help preserve his memory, here is what I wrote about a man whose presence is missed by many. A year after his passing, I still occasionally receive contacts from people who recall him fondly.

The Adirondacks lost a longstanding member of the regional writers’ community when John Briant of Old Forge, known far and wide for his Adirondack Detective series of books, passed away on May 14, 2013. I’m not a religious person, and I can’t say to what extent John was, but if he was devout, he probably looked forward to reuniting with his beloved wife, Margaret, who passed away the previous June. Continue reading