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
In What’s In A Name? History And Meaning Of Wyckoff (2014), M. William Wykoff offers evidence that the origin of the surname Wyckoff is Frisian and refers to a household or settlement on a bay, despite widespread belief of American descendants of Pieter Claessen Wyckoff that the name is Dutch.
Frisian was only one of the many languages spoken by early settlers of New Netherland. There are many spelling variants of the surname in the Northern Germanic linguistic area of Europe, Wykoff argues, but it now occurs principally in the Lower Saxony area of Germany which includes East Frisia from where Pieter Claessen Wyckoff emigrated. Continue reading
This week “The Historians” podcast features an interview with Richard Norton Smith who has spent 14 years writing On His Own Terms: A Life of Nelson Rockefeller (Random House, 2014).
Rockefeller was Republican governor of New York State from 1959 to 1973, vice president of the United States from 1974 to 1977, and part of one of America’s most wealthy and influential families. In this interview Smith discusses Rockefeller’s role in destruction of Albany neighborhoods and creation of the Empire State Plaza. He describes Rockefeller’s service as an adviser to three Presidents (two Democrats), his expansion of the state university, his dyslexia, his love of modern art, his failed Presidential bids, the Attica prison uprising and the cover-up surrounding Rockefeller’s death while alone with a female intern. Listen at “The Historians” online archive at http://www.bobcudmore.com/thehistorians/
A mercantile partnership led by Robert Morris sent the Empress of China, a 360-ton ship to Canton, China one month and eight days after the Congress of the United States ratified the Treaty of Paris, 1783.
Why did these merchants look so far east to secure a profitable trade? And why did they attempt such a venture not long after the United States secured its independence from Great Britain?
In this episode of the “Ben Franklin’s World” podcast, Dane Morrison, Professor of History at Salem State University and author of True Yankees: The South Seas and the Discovery of American Identity, helps us discover the answers to these questions and more as he leads us on an exploration of the early American trade with China. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/012
The annual Hendricks Award for 2015 will be given this year to the best book relating to any aspect of New Netherland and its legacy. The Award carries a prize of $5,000 as well as a framed print of a painting by L. F. Tantillo.
In 2015, the designated category for submission is recently published books. Three copies of a published book must be submitted on or before February 1, 2015, with a letter of intent to enter the contest. Copies cannot be returned. Continue reading
Barrels – we rarely acknowledge their importance, but without them we would be missing out on some of the world’s finest beverages – most notably whiskies and wines – and of course for over two thousand years they’ve been used to store, transport, and age an incredibly diverse array of provisions around the globe.
In the new wide-ranging book Wood, Whiskey and Wine (Reaktion, 2014), Henry Work tells the intriguing story of the significant and ever-evolving role wooden barrels have played during the last two millennia, revealing how the history of the barrel parallels that of technology at large. Continue reading
Tim O’Brien’s short story collection, The Things They Carried (1990), is in part about the culture and life experience American soldiers brought with them to Vietnam, and how this past helped shape identity and action in a foreign environment. And though many have heard of the Huguenots, being French and protestant as a prerequisite, few know their story until they became one of the largest groups of emigrants in European history.
The Huguenot diaspora would spread to lands considered old and new, and would go on to found communities across the Atlantic like New Paltz and New Rochelle most prominently in the colony of New York. This unique people and their pre-refugee history are treated with clarity and depth in The Huguenots (Yale University Press, 2013) by Geoffrey Treasure. Treasure, who has written book length biographies on Louis XIV and Cardinal Mazarin, brings his expertise on the history of France to bear on this often overlooked and underrepresented early modern French community. Continue reading
The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society’s new book, New York Family History Research Guide and Gazetteer, was featured on the “Forget-Me-Not Hour” podcast on January 7th. NYG&B President McKelden Smith explained what this monumental work is all about – the first of its kind ever for New York. Founded in 1869, the NYG&B it is the largest genealogical society in New York and the only one that is state-wide.
Listen listen to the podcast online here. Order the book online here.
The history of North America is in many ways encapsulated in the history of her covered bridges. The early 1800s saw a tremendous boom in the construction of these bridges, and in the years that followed as many as 15,000 covered bridges were built. Today, fewer than a thousand remain.
Without covered bridges to span the rivers and provide access to vast swaths of the interior that had previously been difficult to access – America never would have developed the way she did. In America’s Covered Bridges (Tuttle Publishing, 2014), authors Terry E. Miller and Ronald G. Knapp tell the fascinating story of these bridges, how they were built, and the technological breakthroughs required to construct them. Continue reading
With its delicious food and warm hospitality, the Red Apple Rest was a legendary pit stop on the trek from New York City to the Catskills starting in the 1930s. Reuben Freed’s restaurant, staffed primarily by family and friends – or strangers who eventually became family – was in operation for more than fifty years.
Reuben’s daughter Elaine grew up in the Red Apple, and she brings the restaurant back to life in Stop At The Red Apple: The Restaurant on Route 17 (SUNY Press, 2014) of vignettes, interviews, photos, and memorabilia. It’s a memoir, yes, but also an immigrant success story, love story, and memorial to a slice of bygone New York history and popular culture. Continue reading
This week “The Historians” podcast features an interview with Christina Baker Kline, author of the novel Orphan Train (William Morrow, 2013).
Kline’s book is the 2015 book selection of Amsterdam Reads, based at the Amsterdam Free Library. The orphan trains transported destitute children from New York and other Eastern cities to foster homes located largely in rural areas of the Midwest. Some of the children were placed on farms in upstate New York, according to Kline. The orphan trains operated between 1853 and 1929, relocating about 250,000 children.
Listen at “The Historians” online archive at http://www.bobcudmore.com/thehistorians/
Slavery’s origins lie far back in the mists of prehistoric times and have spanned the globe, two facts that most history texts fail to address.
A comprehensive 2nd Edition of Martin A. Klein’s Historical Dictionary of Slavery and Abolition (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014) provides a historical overview of slavery through the ages, from prehistoric times to the modern day, while detailing the different forms, the various sources, and the circumstances existing in different countries and regions. Continue reading
Throughout their 54-year marriage, John and Abigail Adams enjoyed hearty, diverse cuisine in their native Massachusetts, as well as in New York, Philadelphia, and Europe. Raised with traditional New England palates, they feasted on cod, roast turkey, mince pie, and plum pudding.
These recipes, as well as dishes from published cookbooks settlers brought from the Old World, such as roast duck, Strawberry Fool, and Whipt Syllabub, are included in this new historical cookbook by Rosana Y. Wan, The Culinary Lives of John and Abigail Adams: A Cookbook (Schiffer, 2014). Continue reading
Written more than eighty years ago, Fifty Years in Sing Sing: A Personal Account, 1879-1929 (SUNY Press, February, 2015) is the personal account of Alfred Conyes (1852–1931), who worked as a prison guard and then keeper at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York, from 1879 to 1929.
This unpublished memoir, dated 1930, was found among his granddaughter’s estate by his great-granddaughter Penelope Kay Jarrett. Continue reading
Author William J. “Jay” O’Hern has once again shown himself to be a tireless researcher. While letters, journals and old newspapers and magazines are valuable to his work, Jay favors a more hands-on approach. A seasoned Adirondack adventurer himself, he has always preferred interviewing people with knowledge of his subjects. He likes to visit the places he writes about.
So it was that he and his wife Bette backpacked to the Cold River Valley for a trip that provides the framework for Adirondack Wilds: Exploring the Haunts of Noah John Rondeau (2014). Jay serves as a guide to who followed the same trails decades before. Continue reading
Undoubtedly, you have heard or read Clement Moore’s famous poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (1822), but have you ever wondered where the traditions of stockings, presents, and cookies come from? And what about jolly old Saint Nick? Who was he and why do we call him Santa Claus?
In this episode of the “Ben Franklin’s World” podcast, Peter G. Rose, culinary historian of Dutch foodways in North America and author of Delicious December: How the Dutch Brought Us Santa, Presents, and Treats (SUNY Press, 2014), joins me to discuss the origins of Santa Claus, cookies, and more in the United States. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/009 Continue reading
An Irrepressible Conflict: The Empire State In the Civil War (SUNY Press, 2014) documents the pivotal role New York State played in our nation’s bloodiest and most enduring conflict. As the wealthiest and most populous state in the Union, the Empire State led all others in supplying men, money, and material to the causes of unity and freedom. New York’s experience provides significant insight into the reasons why the war was fought and the meaning that the Civil War holds today. Continue reading