Category Archives: Books

Bronx Stories of Courage, Commitment


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Bronx Faces and VoicesIn Bronx Faces and Voices: Sixteen Stories of Courage and Commitment (Texas Tech University Press, 2014) sixteen men and women – religious leaders and activists, elected officials and ordinary citizens tell their personal, uncensored stories of the New York City borough — before, during, and after the troubled years of arson, crime, abandonment, and flight in the 1970s and 1980s.

The interviews are drawn from the Bronx Institute Archives Oral History Project’s interviews with hundreds of Bronx residents in the early 1980s, now held in the Special Collections division of the Leonard Lief Library of Lehman College, CUNY. Continue reading

Spectacle: The Life of Ota Benga


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Ota BengaIn Pamela Newkirk’s Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga (Amistad / Harper Collins, 2015) the award-winning journalist reveals a little-known and shameful episode in American history, when an African man was used as a zoo exhibit — a shocking story of racial prejudice, science, and tragedy in the early years of the twentieth century.

Ota Benga, a young Congolese man, was featured as an exhibit at the St. Louis World’s Fair. Two years later, in 1906, the Bronx Zoo displayed him in its Monkey House, caging the slight 103-pound, four-foot eleven-inch man with an orangutan. The attraction became an international sensation, drawing thousands of New Yorkers and commanding headlines from across the nation and Europe. Continue reading

Upstate Cauldron: Eccentric Spiritual Movements in Early NYS


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Upstate Cauldron - Eccentric Spiritual Movements in Early New YorkJoscelyn Godwin’s Upstate Cauldron: Eccentric Spiritual Movements in Early New York State (SUNY Press, 2015) is an outstanding guide to the phenomenal crop of prophets, mediums, sects, cults, utopian communities, and spiritual leaders that arose in Upstate New York from 1776 to 1914.

Along with the best known of these, such as the Shakers, Mormons, and Spiritualists, Upstate Cauldron explores more than forty other spiritual leaders or groups, some of them virtually unknown. Continue reading

Bourbon Empire: America’s Whiskey Past, and Future


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Boubon EmpireBorn of necessity in the colonies, fine-tuned and perfected over the centuries – witnessing civil war, Prohibition, and the marketing genius of Madison Avenue – bourbon continues to this day to be one of the most popular and iconic spirits of America.

In Bourbon Empire: The Past and Future of America’s Whiskey (Viking, 2015), Reid Mitenbuler provides a popularly accessible history of this unique industry and a personal commentary on how to taste and choose your bourbon. Continue reading

Grain Dust Dreams: A Short History Of Grain Elevators


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Grain Elevator HistoryGrain Dust Dreams (SUNY Press, 2015) tells the story of terminal grain elevators – concrete colossi that stand in the middle of a deep river of grain that they lift, sort, and send on.

From their invention in Buffalo through a present-day operation in Thunder Bay, Ontario, David W. Tarbet examines the difficulties and dangers of working in a grain elevator – showing how they operate and describing the effects that the grain trade has on the lives of individuals and cities. Continue reading

Podcast: One Colonial Woman’s World


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ben_franklins_worldWhat was everyday life like for average men and women in early America?

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, Michelle Marchetti Coughlin, author of One Colonial Woman’s World: The Life and Writings of Mehetabel Chandler Coit (University of Massachusetts Press, 2012), joins us to explore the life of an average woman who lived in early New England. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/032

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Bruce Dearstyne Talk At Albany Institute Sunday


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Bruce Dearstyne Spirit of New YorkThe Albany Institute of History & Art will host historian (and regular New York History Blog contributor) Dr. Bruce W. Dearstyne for a lecture and book signing on Sunday, June 7 at 2 pm for his recently published book The Spirit of New York: Defining Events in the Empire State’s History.

The lecture is open to the public and is free with museum admission. Books will be available for purchase and signing. Continue reading

Second Great Awakening in Northern New England


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ben_franklins_worldIn this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, Shelby M. Balik, author of Rally the Scattered Believers: Northern New England’s Religious Geography (Indiana University Press, 2014), joins us to explore the New England town-church ideal, how it helped New Englanders organize their towns, and why the post-Revolution migration into northern New England forced New Englanders to change and adapt how they maintained civic and moral order within their communities. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/030 Continue reading

The Native American Defeat of the First American Army


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ben_franklins_worldIn this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, Colin Calloway, Professor of History and Native American History at Dartmouth College, joins us to discuss how American settlement in the Ohio Valley led to The Victory with No Name: The Native American Defeat of the First American Army (Oxford University Press, 2014). You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/029

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Freedom Journey: Westchester Co Black Civil War Soldiers


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Freedoms Journey Black Civil War SoldiersAlmost 200,000 black men served in the Army during the Civil War, but only 34,000 were from the North. An underrepresented segment in Civil War studies, the stories of some of these Northern soldiers are told in Edythe Ann Quinn’s Freedom Journey: Black Civil War Soldiers and the Hills Community, Westchester County, New York (SUNY Press, 2015).

Freedom Journey presents in-depth, personal histories of thirty-six free black men from New York State who fought in the war. The book is both an African-American community history and a Civil War history of three regiments of the United States Colored Troops (USCT). Continue reading

Bruce Dearstyne On The Historians Podcast


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The Historians LogoThis week “The Historians” podcast features Bruce Dearstyne discussing his new book The Spirit of New York: Defining Events in the Empire State’s History (SUNY Press, 2015) From the first state constitution to the New York Fire Department response to the 9-11 attacks, Dearstyne takes a look at 16 key events. Dearstyne is a history professor emeritus,  a former director of the New York State archives, and a regular contributor to The New York History Blog. Listen at “The Historians” online archive at http://www.bobcudmore.com/thehistorians/
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A History of Stepfamilies in Early America


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ben_franklins_worldLike many 21st-century Americans, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Abraham Lincoln all had to navigate the world of blended and stepfamilies.

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, Lisa Wilson, the Charles J. MacCurdy Professor of American History at Connecticut College and author of A History of Stepfamilies in Early America (University of North Carolina Press, 2014), leads us on an investigation of blended and stepfamilies in early America. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/027

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George Washington’s Revolution


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ben_franklins_worldWhat drove George Washington to become a Patriot during the American Revolution?

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, Robert Middlekauff, Professor Emeritus of colonial and early United States History at the University of California, Berkeley and author of Washington’s Revolution: The Making of America’s First Leader (Knopf, 2015), reveals the answer as we explore George Washington the man and leader. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/026

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The Reverend George Whitefield


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ben_franklins_worldGeorge Whitefield stood as one of the most visible figures in British North America between the 1740s and 1770. He was a central figure in the trans-Atlantic revivalist movement and a man whose legacy remains influential to evangelical Christians today.

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, Historian Jessica Parr, author of Inventing George Whitefield: Race, Revivalism, and the Making of a Religious Icon (University of Mississippi Press, 2015), introduces us to the Reverend George Whitefield. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/025.

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The Dutch Wars of Independence, 1570-1680


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Dutch wars of independenceIn The Dutch Wars of Independence: Warfare and Commerce in The Netherlands, 1570-1680 (Routledge, 2014), Marjolein ’t Hart assesses the success of the Dutch in establishing their independence through their eighty years struggle with Spain – one of the most remarkable achievements of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Other rebellions troubled mighty powers of this epoch, but none resulted in the establishment of an independent, republican state. Continue reading

Indian Basketry of the Northeastern Woodlands


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image001(14)With hundreds of vivid and detailed color photographs and an easy narrative style enlivened by historical vignettes, Sarah Peabody Turnbaugh and William A. Turnbaugh bring overdue appreciation to a centuries-old Native American basketmaking tradition in the Northeast in Indian Basketry of the Northeastern Woodlands (Schiffer Publishing, 2014).

The authors explore the full range of vintage Indian woodsplint and sweetgrass basketry in the Northeastern U.S. and Canada, from practical “work” baskets made for domestic use to whimsical “fancy” wares that appealed to Victorian tourists. Continue reading

Religion and Society in Early New York City


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Religion played a large role in why some Europeans settled in British North America.

In episode 20 of the “Ben Franklin’s World” podcast, Kyle T. Bulthuis, author of Four Steeples over the City Streets: Religion and Society in New York’s Early Republic Congregations (NYU Press, 2014), takes us on an exploration of early American religious life. Religion played a large role in why some Europeans settled in British North America. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/020

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A New History Of Trees, Woods and Forests


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Trees Woods and Forests BookForests – 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

The Diaries of Theodore Roosevelt 1877-1886


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Theodore Roosevelt DiariesA 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