Category Archives: Books

Smugglers, Bootleggers and Scofflaws:
Prohibition and New York City


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Smugglers BootleggersUsing previously unstudied Coast Guard records from 1920 to 1933 for New York City and environs, Ellen NicKenzie Lawson’s Smugglers, Bootleggers, and Scofflaws: Prohibition and New York City (SUNY Press, 2013) examines the development of Rum Row and smuggling via the coasts of Long Island, the Long Island Sound, the Jersey shore, and along the Hudson and East Rivers.

With the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment, “drying up” New York City promised to be the greatest triumph of the proponents of Prohibition. Instead, the city remained the nation’s greatest liquor market. Continue reading

Munsee Indian Trade in Ulster County


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Munsee Indian Trade in Ulster CountyMunsee Indian Trade in Ulster County, New York 1712-1732 (Syracuse Univ Press, 2013), edited by Kees-Jan Waterman and J. Michael Smith offers the full, annotated translation of a recently discovered Dutch account book recording trade with Native Americans in Ulster County, New York, from 1712 to 1732.

The ledger contains just over two-thousand transactions with about two-hundred native individuals. Slightly more than one-hundred Indians appear with their names listed. The volume and granularity of the entries allow for detailed indexing and comparative analysis of the people and processes involved in these commercial dealings in the mid-Hudson River Valley. Continue reading

Books: A Memoir of Ticonderoga in Great Depression


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Stubing Rist coverUp on a Hill and Thereabouts: An Adirondack Childhood (SUNY Press, 2013) by Gloria Stubing Rist is a memoir of growing up in Chilson near Ticonderoga, during the Great Depression. In the 1930s, life for kids tucked away in the quiet woodlands of the Adirondacks was rich with nature and filled with human characters.

This memoir contains the recollections of one woman who spent her childhood on the hillsides and in the woods near Ticonderoga. Rist served as Newcomb Central School’s school nurse for five years. Her father-in-law was Ernest Rist, a Newcomb politician in the 1920s through the 1950s. Following his death, New York State honored him by naming a previously unnamed peak after him, Rist Mountain in the southeast corner of the Marcy quadrangle. Continue reading

New Political Biography: The Kennedy Half-Century


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The Kennedy Half-CenturyThe Kennedy Half-Century: The Presidency, Assassination, and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy (Bloomsbury, 2013) is an an original and illuminating narrative revealing John F. Kennedy’s lasting influence on America, by the acclaimed political analyst Larry J. Sabato.

John F. Kennedy died almost half a century ago — yet because of his extraordinary promise and untimely death, his star still resonates strongly. On the anniversary of his assassination, celebrated political scientist and analyst Larry J. Sabato — himself a teenager in the early 1960s and inspired by JFK and his presidency — explores the fascinating and powerful influence he has had over five decades on the media, the general public, and especially on each of his nine presidential successors. Continue reading

Hell’s Kitchen and the Battle for Urban Space


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Hell's KicthenHell’s Kitchen and the Battle for Urban Space: Class Struggle and Progressive Reform in New York City, 1894-1914 by Joseph J. Varga (Monthly Review Press, 2013) considers how urban spaces are produced, controlled, and contested by different class and political forces through an examination of the famous Manhattan neighborhood during the “Progressive Era.”

Hell’s Kitchen is among Manhattan’s most storied and studied neighborhoods. A working-class district situated next to the West Side’s middle- and upper-class residential districts, it has long attracted the focus of artists and urban planners, writers and reformers. Now, Joseph Varga takes us on a tour of Hell’s Kitchen with an eye toward what we usually take for granted: space, and, particularly, how urban spaces are produced, controlled, and contested by different class and political forces. Continue reading

Books: Murder and Mayhem in Ulster County


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image001(6)In 1870, the New York Herald proclaimed that Ulster County was New York’s “Ulcer County” due to its lawlessness and crime. The columnist supported his claim by citing that in only six months, “it has been the scene of no less than four cold blooded and brutal murders, six suicides and four elopements.”

Hannah Markle—the bane of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union—ran a Kingston saloon where murder and violence were served alongside the whiskey. John Babbitt confessed on his deathbed to murdering Emma Brooks, and Wille Brown—reputed member of the Eastman Gang—accidentally shot his best friend. The infamous Big Bad Bill, the “Gardiner Desperado,” lashed out more than once and killed in a drunken rage. Continue reading

New Book: Frederick Douglass’ Family Life in Rochester


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f&acoverMany books have been written about Frederick Douglass’ early life and later accomplishments as a famous abolitionist and orator, but Frederick and Anna Douglass in Rochester New York: Their Home Was Open To All (History Press, 2013), by local historian Rose O’Keefe, is the first book to bring Frederick and Anna’s family side to life. O’Keefe traces the Douglass family’s journey to the rural homestead in what is now the edge of Highland Park in the City of Rochester.

Frederick Douglass – author, orator and former slave – spent twenty-five years with his family in Rochester beginning in 1848. Despite living through some of our nation’s most bitter and terrifying times, Frederick and his wife, Anna, raised five children in a loving home with flower, fruit and vegetable gardens. Continue reading

William Almon Wheeler: North Country Political Star


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Wheeler cover designA new biography is shedding light on an overshadowed North Country political figure, the Nineteenth Vice President of the United States. In William Almon Wheeler: Political Star of the North Country (2013, SUNY Press), author Herbert C. Hallas leaves no doubt that Wheeler was a more significant political figure than the existing literature may lead one to believe.

The book is the first and only complete biography of Wheeler, a man referred to as “the New York Lincoln,” who helped to found the Republican Party and build it into a formidable political force during the Gilded Age. Wheeler’s life is an American success story about how a poor boy from Malone achieved fame and fortune as a lawyer, banker, railroad president, state legislator, five-time congressman, and vice president of the United States. Continue reading

Albany Institute to Host Veteran Newspaperman


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From Kristallmacht to Watergate coverThe Albany Institute of History & Art will host veteran newspaperman and Albany Times Union editor at large, Harry Rosenfeld, for a lecture about his recent book, From Kristallnacht to Watergate: Memoirs of a Newspaperman on Sunday, December 15 at 2PM.

Rosenfeld will recount some of the most compelling moments of his life, from his childhood in Hitler’s Berlin, to his years at the Washington Post. After the lecture, Rosenfeld will be available to answer questions about the historic events he witnessed and he will also sign copies of his book. The lecture and book signing is organized by the Museum Shop at the Albany Institute of History & Art and is free with museum admission. Continue reading

New Book: Greater New York American Indian Place Names


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Manhattan to MinisinkDrivers exiting the New Jersey Turnpike for Perth Amboy, and map readers marveling at all the places in Pennsylvania named Lackawanna, need no longer wonder how these names originated.

Manhattan to Minisink: American Place Names in Greater New York and Vicinity (University of Oklahoma Press, 2013) provides the histories of more than five hundred place names in the Greater New York area, including the five boroughs, western Long Island, the New York counties north of the city, and parts of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut. Robert S. Grumet, a leading ethnohistorian specializing in the region’s Indian peoples, draws on his meticulous research and deep knowledge to determine the origins of Native, and Native-sounding, place names. Continue reading

A New History of the Wallkill Central Schools


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Wallkill SchoolsWhen the Borden family arrived in the nineteenth century, educational opportunities in Ulster County were limited; classes rarely extended beyond the eighth grade. This changed when the philanthropic Bordens established their Borden Condensed Milk Company and gave Wallkill the means to construct one of the area’s first high schools.

That history is presented in detail in A History of the Wallkill Central Schools (2013, History Press) by A.J Schenkman and Elizabeth Werlau. Continue reading

New Adirondack History: When Men and Mountains Meet


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when men and mtns meet 001Glenn Pearsall’s first book, Echoes in These Mountains: Historic Sites and Stories Disappearing in Johnsburg, an Adirondack Community (Pyramid Publishing, 2008), was well received for including the first documentary evidence that famed Civil War photographer Mathew Brady was indeed born in Johnsburg. Now Pearsall has brought forth When Men and Mountains Meet (Pyramid Publishing, 2008), subtitled “Stories of Hope and Despair in the Adirondack Wilderness after the American Revolution.”

“The story of the Adirondacks is more than the history of great camps, guide boats and environmental protectionism. It is, ultimately, the story of a people and their relationship to the land,” Pearsall begins the book. He calls this a book of cultural history, and it is, but it also draws much from environmental history, although more in the vein of “on the ground historians” like William Cronon and Alfred Crosby than the political approaches of Roderick Nash or Frank Graham. Continue reading

An Autobiography: Edward Livingston Trudeau


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BTE Trudeau CoverLast week I received a phone call from a well-known publisher in the Adirondacks. It was in reference to a beautifully written book that we here at Bloated Toe Publishing added to our “Preserving History” collection—public domain books that have long been unavailable in print format. This particular title was written more than a century ago. It was a discovery for me because I had never read it and had never seen it among the genres of history or medicine on area bookshelves.

In fact, I only came across it as part of our recent venture into reprints. As part of the process, I’m required to read through each one. That’s what led me to An Autobiography: Edward Livingston Trudeau. Continue reading

William Starna’s New History of the Mahican


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Mahican Mohican HistoryThe University of Nebraska Press has published From Homeland to New Land: A History of the Mahican Indians, 1600-1830, by William A. Starna, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the State University of New York College at Oneonta.

This history of the Mahicans begins with the appearance of Europeans on the Hudson River in 1609 and ends with the removal of these Native peoples to Wisconsin in the 1830s. Marshaling the methods of history, ethnology, and archaeology, William A. Starna describes as comprehensively as the sources allow the Mahicans while in their Hudson and Housatonic Valley homeland; after their consolidation at the praying town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts; and following their move to Oneida country in central New York at the end of the Revolution and their migration west. Continue reading

A History of Family Poverty and Homelessness in NYC


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ThePoorAmongUs_frontcoverWith nearly 49,000 people living in city shelters, including almost 21,000 children—a modern-day record that may well be broken—there has never been more of a need to step back and understand how New Yorkers have confronted poverty and homelessness over time.

The Poor Among Us: A History of Family Poverty and Homelessness in New York City (2013, White Tiger Press), puts current policies in perspective through the lens of nearly 300 years of public and philanthropic efforts to alleviate poverty in New York City. Continue reading

Book: Dutch Law and Jurisprudence in Colonial America


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Rosenblatt_Opening_9781438446578.inddNo society can function without laws, that set of established practices and expectations that guide the way people get along with one another and relate to ruling authorities. Although much has been written about the English roots of American law and jurisprudence, little attention has been paid until recently to the legacy left by the Dutch.

The influence of the New Netherland settlement has created enduring characteristics of New York. In Albert and Julia Rosenblatt’s Opening Statements: Law, Jurisprudence, and the Legacy of Dutch New York (2013, SUNY Press), a broad spectrum of eminent scholars examine the legal heritage that the Dutch bequeathed to New York in the seventeenth century. Continue reading

Authenticity and Authorship:
Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave


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Solomon Northup in a Sketch from Twelve Years a SlaveQuestions about the authenticity and authorship of Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave have been raised in the past, and have resurfaced following the release of the recent film version of his book.

Though an expert on Solomon Northup, his book, the contemporary reactions to his book in the 1850s, and his later life (which included several years spent traveling to talk about his experiences), I am not a scholar of slave narratives. I have consulted some of them in connection with my work on Northup, as necessary. I leave it for others to draw detailed comparisons between Northup’s narrative and the others. Continue reading

Women in Long Island’s Past: A History


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Long Island Women HistoryWomen have been part of Long Island’s past for thousands of years but are nearly invisible in the records and history books. From pioneering doctors to dazzling aviatrixes, author Natalie A. Naylor brings these larger-than-life but little-known heroines out of the lost pages of island history in Women in Long Island’s Past: A History of Eminent Ladies and Everyday Lives (History Press, 2012).

Anna Symmes Harrison, Julia Gardiner Tyler, Edith Kermit Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt all served as first lady of the United States, and all had Long Island roots. Beloved children’s author Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote The Secret Garden here, and hundreds of local suffragists fought for their right to vote in the early twentieth century. Continue reading

FDR, La Guardia, and the Making of Modern NYC


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City of AmbitionCity of Ambition: FDR, La Guardia, and the Making of Modern New York (W. W. Norton & Company, 2013) by urban politics historian Mason B. Williams is a loving exploration of the history of the New Deal and its role in the making of modern New York City.

The story of a remarkable collaboration between Franklin Roosevelt and Fiorello La Guardia, this is a case study in creative political leadership in the midst of a devastating depression. Roosevelt and La Guardia were an odd couple: patrician president and immigrant mayor, fireside chat and tabloid cartoon, pragmatic Democrat and reform Republican. But together, as leaders of America’s two largest governments in the depths of the Great Depression, they fashioned a route to recovery for the nation and the master plan for a great city. Continue reading