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
Prior to the Revolutionary War, everything west of Albany was mostly wilderness. Safer travel and the promise of land opened this frontier.
The remnants of that frontier on the landscape today from Albany to Buffalo are chronicled in a new book by Lorna Czarnota, Native American & Pioneer Sites of Upstate New York: Westward Trails from Albany to Buffalo (History Press, 2014). Continue reading
Once known as “the Queen City of the Hudson,” Yonkers, New York, was an industrial powerhouse until the aftermath of World War II, when companies moved away and the city saw an increase in poverty.
The city built public housing to address the needs of its low-income Yonkers in the Twentieth Century residents, resulting in a nearly thirty-year court case that, for the first time in United States history, linked school and housing segregation. Continue reading
The Adirondack 102 Club: Your Passport and Guide to the North Country has just been published by Martin Podskoch. The 102 Club encourages travelers to visit all of the towns and villages of the Adirondack Park.
The idea for the 102 Club began after Podskoch read about Dr. Arthur Peach’s story in Vermont Life magazine suggesting an informal group, the 251 Club, “to discover the secret and lovely places that main roads do not reveal.” He felt that every part of Vermont had its beauty, history, attractions, traditions, and interesting people. Continue reading
In 1951, Dr. Roger D. Freeman found himself sharing a lean-to camp at Indian Falls in the Adirondack High Peaks of Essex County with none other than legendary Noah John Rondeau.
“I remember descending from Mt. Marcy to Indian Falls and I remember the rainstorm” that evening, said Doctor Freeman, who was taking a break from his studies at Colby-Swarthmore Summer School of Languages in Maine to traverse the Great Range in the Adirondacks. Freeman wished he had known the old woodsman he shared the shelter with was the famed Cold River hermit. “I didn’t learn that until much later,” he said. “He was friendly. He was an expert at building and keeping a fire going on a day when it rained.”
Freeman’s is just one of the stories in The Hermit and Us: Our Adventures with Noah John Rondeau (2014) by William J. O’Hern, which recalls the experiences of backpackers who visited Rondeau’s Cold River hermitage where he lived for over 30 years. Continue reading
The Clinton County Historical Association (CCHA) has announced the publication of a new book, Clinton County Civil War Record: 1861-1865.
In 2010, the Clinton County Historical Association formed a committee to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. Since its formation, the committee has planned numerous lectures and programs at the Museum, and also took on a research project to culminate in the publication of a book. Continue reading
There’s a new book out that is a must for lovers of Nyack and for anyone who enjoys a well told story of a town. For the past few years, Nyackers have looked forward every Tuesday to the Nyack Sketch Log by Bill Batson on the website Nyack News and Views.
Each week Bill explores an aspect of Nyack’s past or present through an original pen and ink sketch and a written essay. Now the best of Nyack Sketch Log is available in book form, and the individual entries coalesce into something even better – an illustrated biography of the community. Continue reading
Taming Manhattan: Environmental Battles in the Antebellum City (Harvard Univ. Press, 2014) details the environmental history of the city of New York in the years before and during the Civil War, when pigs roamed the streets and cows foraged in the Battery.
On Tuesday, November 25th, at an event at NYU, author Catherine McNeur will discuss nineteenth-century New York City’s long forgotten shantytowns, the people living in the communities, and how outsiders viewed the architecture and communities developing on the metropolitan periphery. Continue reading
As a reporter, I spend a lot of time reaching out to people who’d rather not talk to me. It’s not necessarily that they have something to hide. It’s more that their best default strategy is insipidity, to say nothing that jeopardizes their jobs or, especially, their boss’s.
That’s yet another reason I’m grateful for the opportunity to write about history. Historians, archivists, curators and librarians, as a group, are not only generous with their time, but also magnanimous about sharing their accrued wisdom, their collections and to steer me to resources I never imagined even existed. Continue reading
Mixing food and history in a celebration of Dutch and American Christmas traditions, award-winning food historian Peter G. Rose’s new book, Delicious December: How the Dutch Brought Us Santa, Presents, and Treats: A Holiday Cookbook (Excelsior Editions/State University of New York Press, 2014), provides more than one hundred tried-and-true recipes. For planning purposes, complete menus and recipes for the parties that might happen between the feast days are also provided.
Rose draws on traditions that date back to the Middle Ages as well as her own reminiscences of her native country, and she suggests many ways to incorporate these true Dutch treats into American celebrations. The public is invited to join the Friends of Fort Crailo and Crailo State Historic Site at the Rensselaer Public Library for their Annual Meeting and lecture on Sunday November 16 at 4:30 pm. After a brief business meeting, Peter Rose will present “Joyful Traditions: How the Dutch Brought Us Santa, Presents and Treats.” Continue reading
Special Delivery: From One Stop to Another on the Underground Railroad (North Country Books, 2014), is Rose O’Keefe’s latest effort to show what daily life was like in the 1850s, and what life was like in Rochester for families active on the Underground Railroad.
This historical fiction is a companion book to O’Keefe’s recent book Frederick and Anna Douglass in Rochester NY: Their Home Was Open to All (History Press, 2013). O’Keefe’s newest book is the story of eleven-year-old Lewis Douglass, who gives a very personal take on the Douglass family’s move from one house to another in Rochester in 1852. Continue reading
Since the 1980s, there has been a renaissance in Upper Hudson Valley craft brewing, including Newman’s, C.H. Evans, Shmaltz and Chatham Brewing. Beer scholars Craig Gravina and Alan McLeod explore the sudsy story in Upper Hudson Valley Beer (History Press, 2014).
The Upper Hudson Valley has a long and full-bodied brewing tradition. Arriving in the 1600s, the Dutch established the area as a brewing center, a trend that continued well into the eighteenth century despite two devastating wars. Continue reading
On Thursday, September 11th from 6 pm to 8 pm, the Albany Institute of History & Art will host a special launch of Craig Gravina and Alan McLeod’s new book Upper Hudson Valley Beer. Author Craig Gravina will give a presentation about the book and Remarkable Liquids, the area’s only craft-focused beer distributor, will be on hand to provide samples of some of the best beer made in our region.
Attendees will savor learning about the Upper Hudson Valley’s long and full-bodied brewing tradition and the opportunity to connect its past with its present. Continue reading
In a new biography being released in October by SUNY Press, The Last Amateur: The Life of William J. Stillman, author Stephen L. Dyson tells the story of William J. Stillman (1828–1901), a nineteenth-century polymath. Born and raised in Schenectady, NY, Stillman attended Union College and began his career as a Hudson River School painter after an apprenticeship with Frederic Edwin Church.
In the 1850s, he was editor of The Crayon, the most important journal of art criticism in antebellum America. Later, after a stint as an explorer-promoter of the Adirondacks, he became the American consul in Rome during the Civil War. When his diplomatic career brought him to Crete, he developed an interest in archaeology and later produced photographs of the Acropolis, for which he is best known today. Continue reading
On August 7th, the US marked the 50th anniversary of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, the basis for the Johnson administration’s escalation of American military involvement in Southeast Asia and war against North Vietnam.
A new book, Vietnam War Slang: A Dictionary on Historical Principles (Routledge, 2014) by Tom Dalzell, outlines the context behind the slang used by members of the United States Armed Forces during the Vietnam War. Continue reading
Winegrower and journalist Richard Figiel, who established Silver Thread Vineyard on the eastern shore of Seneca Lake in 1982, offers a short history of New York wine in Circle of Vines: The Story of New York Wine (SUNY Press, 2014).
Figiel follows the state’s wine industry from its turbulent evolution in various regions as it emerged as a dynamic player in the world of fine wine. He begins by examining New York’s distinctive viticultural roots and the geologic forces that shaped the state’s terrain for winegrowing. Starting with early efforts to grow grapes for wine in the Hudson Valley, the story moves west to the Finger Lakes and Lake Erie, circles around the state from Long Island to the North Country, and, finally, to contemporary New York City. Continue reading
Rouses Point businessman, Mark L Barie, has written the first biography of North Country politician Smith Weed. In The President of Plattsburgh, The Story of Smith Weed (Crossborder Publishing, 2014), Barie paints a portrait of Weed – six feet tall, with piercing black eyes – a man who was said to smoke nine cigars a day.
Smith Weed was instrumental in the establishment of the Champlain Valley Hospital, the YMCA, the Plattsburgh Library, and the Hotel Champlain, but was perhaps best known nationally for his central role in “The Cipher Dispatches” voter fraud controversy during the fiercely disputed presidential election of 1876. Continue reading
Covered bridges are essential pieces of American and Canadian rural history, gracing the countryside from coast to coast and north to eastern Canada. In a new, small, but lavishly illustrated volume Covered Bridges (Shire, 2014), Joseph D. Conwill recounts the rich, romantic history of covered bridges as they developed from early timber examples, born out of the traditions of medieval times, into modern structures designed for motorized traffic in the early twentieth century.
Reflecting on the efforts to keep covered bridges in service as the face of the rural landscape is transformed, and the challenge of preserving their historic character while making them safe for modern traffic, Conwill guides the reader across the diverse range of covered bridges to be found throughout North America. Continue reading
If you’ve spent any time rambling New York’s north country roads, you may have wondered how Eagle Lake got its name, or how little towns like Schroon Lake and Chateaugay and Redford came to be before the north became a tourist haven. Where is that Cold River hermit that your grandfather told you about? What about the weird beliefs of early Adirondack days? Maybe you’re still holding out for the possibility of a sea serpent in Lake Champlain, or hoping you’ll chance upon a legendary lost silver mine while you’re out enjoying a hike in the balsam wood.
This is the sort of interesting and sometimes unusual information that readers of Adirondack Memories and Campfire Stories (2014) will find fascinating. William J. “Jay” O’Hern has compiled first-hand stories from a series of little quarterly magazines that native Adirondack archivist, historian, and folklorist George Glyndon Cole published from 1946-1974. Few complete collections now exist, in less than a handful of North Country libraries, but back then readers eagerly anticipated each new issue. Some readers will remember reading North Country Life, later called York State Tradition, from cover to cover. It was exciting indeed to read about one’s own rural region, especially when the articles came straight from the pens and hearts of one’s neighbors. Continue reading