Category Archives: Books

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

Lawrence Gooley: Advice for Aspiring History Authors


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RegionalBookImageNYHMany self-publishers offer plenty of encouragement to both capable and less-than-capable writers, and for good reason. Their business plan is not unlike the NYS Lottery’s “Hey, you never know” program: highly successful by playing your emotions against overwhelming odds. I’m not saying the lottery isn’t fun, but here’s a heads-up: they do know. Both the lottery people and publishers know that nearly everyone who pays into their systems will receive no return other than a few anxious moments.

To begin with, e-book publishers would rather we didn’t know that the great majority of e-titles sell only a few copies—usually to the writer’s family and friends. Several years ago, self-publisher Lulu’s average book sold 1.8 copies. Obviously, sales statistics provided by such companies are skewed by the occasional breakout title that sells hundreds or maybe thousands of copies. Most of them don’t. Continue reading

West Kill Creek: History Meets Post-Apocalyptic Fiction


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wkcfrontcoverWest Kill Creek by Shawn Purcell (Troy Book Makers, 2014) is a contemplative work of post-apocalyptic fiction set in upstate New York and shot-through with local history.

A particularly lethal virus has rapidly wiped out most of civilization. A hardy band of survivors does what it takes to stay alive, but the novel also reverberates with the echoes of local history and deep time, the beauty and terror of nature, the power and glory of books, current environmental and political issues, and actual events and places. Continue reading

The Search for the Underground Railroad in Upstate NY


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Underground RR in Upstate NYAs the Civil War loomed and politicians from the North and South debated the fate of slavery, brave New Yorkers risked their lives to help fugitive slaves escape bondage. Because of its clandestine nature, much of the history of the Underground Railroad remains shrouded in secrecy—so much so that some historians have even doubted its importance.

After decades of research, Tom Calarco recounts his experiences compiling evidence to give credence to the legend’s oral history in a new book The Search for the Underground Railroad in Upstate New York (History Press, 2014). Continue reading

The Worlds of the Seventeenth-Century Hudson Valley


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Jacobs_Worlds_9781438450971What follows is a guest essay by Jaap Jacobs and L.H. Roper, authors of the newly published
The Worlds of the Seventeenth-Century Hudson Valley.

As the proverbial schoolchildren know, the Englishman Henry Hudson (c. 1570–1611) conducted his 1609 exploration of the river that bears his name on behalf of the Dutch East India Company. In the same year that Hudson sailed north up the river, trading, fighting, drinking, and negotiating with Native Americans on the way, a Frenchman named Samuel Champlain made his way south from the St. Lawrence River. His trip was not a voyage of exploration and Champlain was not the leader of the expedition. Yet it too involved interaction with Native Americans, culminating in an armed encounter on what later became to be called Lake Champlain between Huron and Algonquian Indians and their French friends on the one side and the Haudenosaunee of the Iroquois Confederacy on the other side. Continue reading

Fact And Fiction In Brian Kilmeade’s ‘Secret Six’


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george washingtons secret sixBrian Kilmeade has done historians on Long Island a great favor. With his latest book, George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution (Sentinel, 2013), co-authored by Don Yaeger and currently one of the top-selling non-fiction books in the country, he has focused national attention on the role played by the Culper Spy Ring that operated between New York City and Setauket, bringing information about British plans and troop movements across Long Island Sound to Connecticut and on to General Washington.

Using his bully pulpits on Fox & Friends, carried on Fox News Channel daily from 6 AM to 9 AM, and his nationally syndicated radio program, Kilmeade & Friends, from 9 AM to noon, he has elevated the nation’s awareness of the significance of Long Island to the outcome of the American Revolution.

Their story unfolds seamlessly, with well-written descriptions of General Washington’s loss of New York after the Battle of Long Island that set the stage for Washington’s desperate need for information, and ending with Morton Pennypacker’s handwriting analysis that identified Robert Townsend as the key information gatherer. But there’s the rub: Kilmeade and Yaeger have spun more than one story here. This non-fiction book hovers dangerously close to the side of fiction. Continue reading

New Book On Kingston’s IBM Years


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9781883789763What happens when a giant high-tech corporation opens a massive new plant on the outskirts of a small, rural, historic city? And what happens when it just as suddenly leaves?

In Kingston: The IBM Years (Friends of Historic Kingston, 2014), three prominent college professors, an award-winning novelist, a longtime Ulster County journalist, and two former IBM Kingston employees examine the history of the IBM complex and the work that was conducted there, the impact the facility had on Kingston and its surroundings, what life was like as an “IBMer,” how it influenced regional architecture and thrust a colonial city into the modern age, and the effect of a “boom and bust” cycle on a rural, traditional community. Continue reading

New Book Explores the History of the Hudson Valley


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Jacobs_Worlds_9781438450971A new book with essays by prominent scholars takes a fresh look at the history of the Hudson Valley during the seventeenth century. Edited by Jaap Jacobs and L. H. Roper, The Worlds of the Seventeenth-Century Hudson Valley (SUNY Press, 2014) provides an in-depth introduction to the issues involved in the expansion of European interests to the Hudson River Valley, the cultural interaction that took place there, and the colonization of the region.

Written in accessible language by leading scholars, these essays incorporate the latest historical insights as they explore the new world in which American Indians and Europeans interacted, the settlement of the Dutch colony that ensued from the exploration of the Hudson River, and the development of imperial and other networks which came to incorporate the Hudson Valley. Continue reading

Manhattan Classis: New York City’s Prewar Apartments


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Manhattan ClassicThe Dakota. The Apthorp. The San Remo. The names of these legendary New York apartment buildings evoke images of marble-lined lobbies, uniformed doormen, and sunlit penthouses with sweeping Central Park views. Built from the 1880s through 1930s, classic prewar apartments were designed to lure townhouse dwellers reluctant to share a roof with other families.

Billed as private mansions in the sky, they promised a charmed Manhattan lifestyle of elegance and luxury. A new large format book, Manhattan Classic: New York’s Finest Prewar Apartments (Princeton Architectural Press, 2014) takes readers on a lavishly illustrated guided tour of eighty-five of the most coveted buildings in New York. Continue reading

A New Photo History of Elmira Reformatory


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Elmira Reformatory historyElmira Reformatory (Arcadia Publishing, Images of America series, 2014) from local authors Dr. William G. Hinkle and Bruce Whitmarsh contains more than 200 images of this well-known facility in Chemung County, NY.

The Elmira Reformatory, established in 1876, is an important part of both local and national history, especially in the history of prisons and prison reform.  Archival images, the majority of which were provided by the Chemung County historical Society, depict scenes of everyday life at the reformatory that remains in use today as the Elmira Correctional Facility. Continue reading

Swords in Their Hands:
George Washington and the Newburgh Conspiracy


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Swords In Their HandsA new book by Dave Richards, Swords in Their Hands: George Washington and the Newburgh Conspiracy (Pisgah Press, 2014) is being hailed as the first book-length account of a plot that can be described as the closest thing to a coup that the United States has ever experienced.

In late 1782, many Revolutionary War officers in the Hudson Highlands had grown angry and frustrated that they had not been paid—for months or even years. With victory in sight, they feared they might never get their back pay and promised pensions, because the Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia under the Articles of Confederation, had no authority to raise money. Nationalists wanted Congress to have direct taxation authority, while their opponents insisted that only individual states should have that power. Continue reading

Hidden History of Columbia County, NY


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Columbia County NY HistoryBordered by the Hudson River and the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts, few know Columbia County is noted for a mastodon tooth that rolled down a farmer’s hill in Claverack changing the world’s understanding of prehistoric times. President Martin Van Buren lost his wife, Hannah, in Kinderhook and hardly mentioned her again. Hudson’s gallows were the scene of New York’s last hanging, as hundreds of ticket holders looked on. “Pondshiners” in the hills of Taghkanic made fantastic baskets.

Local author Allison Guertin Marchese explores these little-known stories of people and places in
Hidden History of Columbia County, New York (History Press, 2014). Continue reading

Empire State Building: The Making of a Landmark


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Empire State Building HistorySince its publication in 1995, John Tauranac’s The Empire State Building: The Making of a Landmark, focused on the inception and construction of the building, has stood as the most comprehensive account of the structure.

Moreover, it is far more than a work in architectural history; Tauranac tells a larger story of the politics of urban development in and through the interwar years. In a new epilogue to the Cornell University Press edition (2014), Tauranac highlights the continuing resonance and influence of the Empire State Building in the rapidly changing post-9/11 cityscape. Continue reading

New Photo History of Bridgeport, NY


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Bridgeport Ny historyDiscussing the importance of the history of Bridgeport, NY, is the newest addition to Arcadia Publishing’s popular Images of America series. The book titled Bridgeport from local author Judy Barrett boasts a collection of more than 200 archival images.

“Bridgeport is still a hamlet, which is another factor in the continuance of the uniqueness of our community,” writes author Judy Barrett. In her new book, Barrett celebrates the history of this unique hamlet, which lies in both the towns of Cicero, in Onondaga County, and Sullivan, in Madison County. It is divided only by Chittenango Creek, which was the main attraction for settlement in the early years. Continue reading

Fighting Westway:
The Regulatory War That Transformed NYC


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Fighting Westway NYC DevelopmentFrom 1971 to 1985, battles raged over Westway, a multibillion-dollar highway, development, and park project slated for construction New York City. It would have projected far into the Hudson River, including massive new landfill extending several miles along Manhattan’s Lower West Side.

The most expensive highway project ever proposed, Westway also provoked one of the highest stakes legal battles of its day, the subject of Fighting Westway: Environmental Law, Citizen Activism, and the Regulatory War that Transformed New York City (Cornell University Press, 2014), by William W. Buzbee. Continue reading

New Sullivan County Book: Cutters to Motor Coaches


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Cutters to Motor Coaches coverA new book, Cutters to Motor Coaches: Pioneering Commercial Transportation in the Catskills (Fast Pencil, 2014) by Michael W. Duttweiler explores the evolution of commercial motorized transportation in rural Western Sullivan County, New York through the story of a family business.

Along the way, it outlines major phases in the history of Sullivan County tourism, influences of the Ontario and Western Rail Road, and changes brought about by increased regulation of commercial transportation, the Great Depression, and World War II. Continue reading