Forests – and the trees within them – have always been a central resource for the development of technology, culture, and the expansion of humans as a species.
Examining and challenging our historical and modern attitudes toward wooded environments from a European perspective, Charles Watkins’ Trees, Woods and Forest: A Social and Cultural History (Reaktion Books, 2014) explores how our understanding of forests has transformed in recent years and how it fits in our continuing anxiety about our impact on the natural world. Continue reading
A Most Glorious Ride: The Diaries of Theodore Roosevelt 1877-1886 (SUNY Press, 2015) covers the formative years of TR’s life, and show the transformation of a sickly and solitary Harvard freshman into a confident and increasingly robust young adult. He writes about his grief over the premature death of his father, his courtship and marriage to his first wife, Alice Hathaway Lee, and later the death of Alice and his mother on the same day.
The diaries also chronicle his burgeoning political career in New York City and his election to the New York State Assembly. With his descriptions of balls, dinner parties, and nights at the opera, they offer a glimpse into life among the Gilded Age elite in Boston and New York. Continue reading
The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society has published the New York Family History Research Guide and Gazetteer (2015), a comprehensive, 856-page reference book for researchers of not just genealogy, but any type of history in the State of New York.
The book massive volume, considered unprecedented in its breadth and depth, covers New York State records for all the major ethnic and religious groups, and each county. Continue reading
Every city has its ghosts. From Manhattan and Brooklyn’s trendiest neighborhoods to the far-flung edges of the outer boroughs.
Will Ellis’ haunting photography in Abandoned NYC (Schiffer Publishing, 2015) brings readers 200 eerie images of urban decay, through crumbling institutions, defunct military posts, abandoned factories, railroads, schools, and waterways. Continue reading
Do you know who authored the Declaration of Independence?
If you answered “Thomas Jefferson,” you would be wrong. Jefferson merely wrote the first draft of a document others created.
In this episode of the “Ben Franklin’s World” podcast, Danielle Allen, Foundation Professor at the Institute of Advanced Study and author of Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality (Liveright, 2014), leads us on an exploration of the Declaration of Independence. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/018
As the newest addition to the America in the Twentieth Century series, America in the Thirties (Syracuse Univ. Press, 2015) explores the complexity of America in what is considered its darkest era of the century.
The decade stood in stark contrast to the carefree, happy-go-lucky days of the Roaring Twenties when prosperity appeared endless. The Stock Market Crash in October 1929 and the economic collapse it unleashed threatened the very foundations of America’s economic, political, and social institutions. The ecological disaster produced by the Dust Bowl ravaging the Great Plains only added to the suffering and misery. Continue reading
Drawing on archival research as well as interviews with many of the principal players, Thomas Pellechia’s Over a Barrel: The Rise and Fall of New York’s Taylor Wine Company (SUNY Press, 2015) traces the economic dynamism of the Finger Lakes wine region, the passion and ingenuity of the Taylor family, and the shortsighted corporate takeover scenario that took down a once-proud American family company.
In addition to providing important lessons for business innovators, Over a Barrel is a cautionary tale for a wine region that is repeating its formative history. Continue reading
In this episode of the “Ben Franklin’s World” podcast, François Furstenberg, Associate Professor of History at Johns Hopkins University and author of When the United States Spoke French: Five Refugees Who Shaped a Nation (Penguin, 2014), joins us to explore how and why the United States spoke French during the 1790s. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/017
The cadets of the United States Military Academy, West Point, are intimately twined with the country’s history. The graduating class of 1915, the class the stars fell on, was particularly noteworthy. Of the 164 graduates that year, 59 (36%) attained the rank of general, the most of any class in. Michael Haskew’s West Point 1915: Eisenhower, Bradley, and the Class the Stars Fell On (Zenith Press, 2014) explores the achievements of this remarkable group.
Although Dwight Eisenhower and Omar Bradley, both five-star generals, are the most recognizable, other class members contributed significantly to the Allied victory in World War I, World War II and played key roles either in the post-war U.S. military establishment or in business and industry after World War II, especially in the Korean War and the formation of NATO. Continue reading
A new pictorial history authored by Lisa LaMonica, Hudson (Arcadia Publishing, 2014) features over 200 images depicting scenes of the City of Hudson and it’s surroundings’ history.
In vintage photographs, Hudson covers a history that includes the story of the Mohicans, whaling, and the multitude of factories in the Industrial Age, as well as the city’s modern-day transformation. Continue reading
The United States claimed victory in the War of 1812, but did you know that the British nearly won the war by promising freedom to escaped slaves in Virginia and Maryland?
In this episode of the “Ben Franklin’s World” podcast, Alan Taylor, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize in United States history and author of The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832 (W.W. Norton, 2014), will reveal how Virginia’s “internal enemy” almost cost the United States the War of 1812. You can listen to this podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/016
A compelling story about three murders in Brooklyn between 1872 and 1873 and the young women charged with the crimes is told in a new book by Robert E. Murphy, Three Graces Of Raymond Street: Murder, Madness, Sex, and Politics in 1870s Brooklyn (SUNY Press, 2015).
Between January 1872 and September 1873, the city of Brooklyn was gripped by accounts of three murders allegedly committed by young women: a factory girl shot her employer and seducer, an evidently peculiar woman shot a philandering member of a prominent Brooklyn family, and a former nun was arrested on suspicion of having hanged her best friend and onetime convent mate. Continue reading
The new book, Secret Lives of the Underground Railroad in New York City (McFarland, 2015), offers first person accounts of the clandestine efforts to help escaping slaves. Drawing on never-before-published Record of Fugitives kept by newspaper editor and abolitionist Sydney Howard Gay, the book provides vivid detail of the lives of Underground Railroad agents, and the harrowing journey that African-Americans undertook to free themselves from slavery.
The co-authors are steeped in this history. Don Papson was founding president of the North Star Underground Railroad Museum in Ausable Chasm, responsible for much of the research that brought the Champlain Line of the freedom trail to light. Tom Calarco is author of three other books on the topic, including The Underground Railroad in the Adirondack Region. Continue reading
In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue as part of the great European quest to find new routes and shortcuts to the spice islands and territories of Asia.
Spain and Portugal led this quest during the 15th and 16th centuries and their race to access the Asian spice trade caused Columbus to sail unwittingly into the Caribbean and North America.
Remembering Inez: The Last Campaign of Inez Milholland, Suffrage Martyr (American Graphic Press, 2015), edited by Robert P. J. Cooney, Jr. , honors a prominent New York attorney and woman suffrage leader who died of pernicious anemia at age 30 while campaigning for votes for women.
The book includes intimate first-person accounts, stirring speeches, and heartfelt memorials that appeared in 1916 issues of The Suffragist, the weekly publication of the National Woman’s Party in Washington D.C. Continue reading
On April 14, 1865, the night of President Lincoln’s assassination, Booth’s conspirator Lewis Powell attempted to assassinate Secretary of State William Seward in his home just blocks from Ford’s Theatre.
The attack, which left Seward and his son seriously wounded, is recounted in poignant detail in Fanny Seward’s diary. Fanny, the beloved only daughter of Seward, was a keen observer, and her diary entries from 1858 to 1866 are the foundation of Trudy Krisher’s Fanny Seward: A LIfe (Syracuse Univ. Press, 2014), a vivid portrait of the young girl who was an eyewitness to one of the most tumultuous periods in American history. Continue reading
Often celebrated as a masterpiece of civic architecture and decorative design, the New York State Capitol sits majestically at the head of Albany’s State Street. The story behind the most expensive capitol building ever to be constructed is a fascinating one.
Built between 1867 and 1899, the Capitol was the work of four different architects, who each worked under exasperating conditions – geological, structural, and political – with hundreds of highly skilled masons and exceptional stone carvers. After completion, the building attracted controversy – seen by some as an atrocity of jumbled architecture and by others as a successful blending of architectural forms. Continue reading
In Dolph Schayes and the Rise of Professional Basketball (Syracuse Univ. Press, 2014), Dolph Grundman presents readers with a portrait, the first of its kind, of the star of the Syracuse Nationals basketball team during the 1950s and 1960s.
Dolph Schayes may not have one of the most recognizable names in basketball history, but his accomplishments are staggering. He was named one of the fifty greatest players of all time by the NBA, and he held six NBA records, including one for career scoring, at his retirement. Continue reading
Did you know that some early Americans lived openly in same-sex marriages?
In this episode of the “Ben Franklin’s World” podcast, Rachel Hope Cleves, an Associate Professor of History at the University of Victoria in British Columbia and author of Charity and Sylvia: A Same-Sex Marriage in Early America, will reveal the story of Charity Bryant and Sylvia Drake, women who lived openly as a married couple in Weybridge, Vermont between 1807 and 1851. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/013 Continue reading
Few men contributed as much to the American victory in the Revolutionary War, yet have been as little recognized, as a New Hampshire farmer and lumberman by the name of John Stark. Although he is not well known outside of New Hampshire, a few words he wrote live on there today: Live Free or Die. A new biography by John F. Polhemus and Richard V. Polhemus, Stark, The Life and Wars of John Stark: French & Indian War Ranger, Revolutionary War General (Black Dome Press, 2014) should help bring this remarkable man’s life into appropriate perspective.
Stark served as a captain of rangers with Robert Rogers in the French and Indian War, and as a colonel and general in the Revolution at Bunker Hill, Trenton, Princeton, Westchester, Springfield, Saratoga, Ticonderoga and West Point. His greatest achievement however, was at the Battle of Bennington. The Battle of Saratoga and the surrender of Burgoyne on October 17, 1777 was the turning point of the American Revolution, but the Battle of Bennington on August 16th set the stage. Continue reading