As 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
What 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
Brian 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
What 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
A 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
The 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
Elmira 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
A 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
Bordered 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
Since 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
Discussing 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
From 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
A 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
Joseph E. Fahey’s James K. McGuire: Boy Mayor and Irish Nationalist (Syracuse Univ. Press, 2014) is the story of a self-educated, charismatic leader who overcame personal tragedy in childhood and was elected the youngest mayor of a major city in America at age 26.
A reformer with a knack for politics, James McGuire (1868–1923) was elected mayor of Syracuse three times as a Democrat in a Republican bastion. Fahey argues that as a candidate for governor in 1898, McGuyire nearly derailed the rise of Theodore Roosevelt and that his ideas and positions informed the candidacy of William Jennings Bryan in his quest for the presidency and the platform of the Democratic Party in those elections. Continue reading
In a new pictorial history from author William Alan Morrison, Images of America: Waldorf Astoria (Arcadia Publishing, 2014), honors the world-renown grand hotel.
Vintage images take readers on a journey through the magnificent history of the hotel and the many glamorous guests that it housed. The Waldorf Astoria has been host to emperors, rajahs, potentates and plutocrats — not to mention every US president since Grover Cleveland — its name has become synonymous with the epitome of glamour, luxury and sophistication. Continue reading
In this 50th anniversary year of the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a new book by Vanity Fair editor and Politico senior writer Todd Purdum, An Idea Whose Time Has Come (Henry Holt & Co., 2014) recounts the dramatic political battle to pass this important law that in many ways helped create modern America.
Pardum’s book revisits a turbulent time in America, a time of sit-ins, freedom rides, and the March on Washington. During this time, John F. Kennedy sent Congress a bill to bar racial discrimination in employment, education and public accommodations. Continue reading
On March 31, 1929, seventy-seven men began an epic 3,554-mile footrace across America that pushed their bodies to the breaking point. Nicknamed the “Bunion Derby” by the press, this was the second and last of two trans-America footraces held in the late 1920s.
The men averaged forty-six gut-busting miles a day during seventy-eight days of nonstop racing that took them from New York City to Los Angeles. Among this group, two brilliant runners, Johnny Salo of Passaic, New Jersey, and Pete Gavuzzi of England, emerged to battle for the $25,000 first prize along the mostly unpaved roads of 1929 America, with each man pushing the other to go faster as the lead switched back and forth between them. Continue reading
Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls, NY, has announced the release of its first ever administrative history. “All Men and Women are Created Equal”: An Administrative History of Women’s Rights National Historical Park was researched and written by Dr. Rebecca Conard, Professor of History and Director of the Public History Program at Middle Tennessee State University.
Conard concluded that significant trends in historic preservation, interpretation and partnerships within the National Park Service affected park decisions and actions. She also found that legislation creating the park provided limits and opportunities that shaped decision-makers development of sites in Seneca Falls and Waterloo, N.Y. related to the nation’s first women’s rights convention in 1848. Continue reading
Lawrence R. Samuel’s New York City 1964: A Cultural History (McFarland, 2014), connects the events of a single year in the city to the cultural threads of American life in the 1960s and beyond.
Five seminal events occurred in New York City in the pivotal year 1964: the “British Invasion” arrival of the Beatles in February; the murder of Kitty Genovese in Queens in March; the World’s Fair in Queens between April and October; the “race riots” in Brooklyn and Harlem in July; and the World Series in the Bronx between the New York Yankees and the St. Louis Cardinals. Continue reading
Beginning in the mid-1800s, steamboats carried people between New York City and the Albany area on the Hudson River. Romantic images lull us into believing it was a quiet means of travel, but a crowded river, faulty equipment and the bravado of the captains resulted in at least one major catastrophe every year. Night boats collided and sank, carelessness caused boiler explosions, races put passengers at risk and fires would quickly swallow the wooden vessels.
The grand Empire of Troy suffered many collisions. The Swallow broke in two on a rock, Reindeer’s explosion took forty lives at once and the Oregon and C. Vanderbilt entered into an epic and dangerous race. Collected from eyewitness accounts, these are some of the most exciting and frightening stories of peril aboard steamboats on the Hudson River. Now, local historian J. Thomas Allison has written Hudson River Steamboat Catastrophes: Contests and Collisions (History Press, 2013). Allison provides an entertaining look at the romantic but perilous age of steamboat travel on the Hudson River, including tales of reckless captains racing each other and passengers’ eyewitness accounts of collisions, crashes, explosions, and fires. Continue reading