Category Archives: Books

Lost Ski Areas of the Southern Adirondacks


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The Adirondack region has long been a favorite of skiers, as its mountains and snow cover provided a perfect landscape for downhill ski areas to develop during the Great Depression, when New Yorkers looked for an affordable escape to beat the winter blues. Over the decades, ski areas expanded with new lifts, lodges and trails. Despite the popularity of the sport, many ski areas have disappeared, yet countless people still hold fond memories of them.

Ski historian Jeremy Davis, the founder of the New England Lost Ski Areas Project (NELSAP), has released a new book on the subject. Lost Ski Areas of the Southern Adirondacks (History Press, 2012). A lost ski area is “a ski area that once offered lift-served, organized skiing, but is now abandoned and closed for good. For NELSAP’s purposes it had to have a lift – it could be a simple rope tow or multiple chairlifts, but it had to have a lift. The size of the area or number of lifts isn’t important,” Davis told Adirondack Almanack‘s Jeff Farbaniec in an interview last year. Continue reading

Louis Hensel: My Life in America


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Details of mid-19th-century life come alive in the letters of a German immigrant, translated by Sigrid Wilshinsky and recently published as My Life in America Before, During and After the Civil War.

Louis Hensel was born in 1817 and lived a life of travel and adventure, as colorfully described in letters to his granddaughter back in Germany. Wilshinsky translated them from Suderlein German into modern English. Continue reading

Adirondack Trails with Tales: History Hiking Guide


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Adirondack Trails with Tales: History Hikes through the Adirondack Park and the Lake George, Lake Champlain & Mohawk Valley Regions (Blackdome Press, 2009) is by Albany writers Barbara Delaney and Russell Dunn, licensed guides and authors of books on the great outdoors of eastern New York and western New England. This guide is an effort to connect hikers with the history around them. The guide includes detailed directions, maps, photographs, and vintage postcards. Continue reading

Books: What Would Mark Twain’s Tale Of Today Be?


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Samuel Clemens, known to most as the popular author and humorist Mark Twain, was also an astute observer of American politics-he just believed that the stark truth about corruption in government would go down more smoothly with a dose of humor. Robed in a white suit, white cravat, and white shoes, crowned with unruly white hair and smoking an ever-present cigar, Mark Twain became one of America’s first global celebrities.

Over 100 years later, Twain’s insightful commentary retains an uncanny relevance to the challenges facing contemporary America. His views are as fresh and provocative as those of any contemporary cable TV “talking head,” Sunday morning roundtable debater, political blogger, or radio talk show host. Continue reading

Mabee Farm: Len Tantillo Lecture, Book Signing


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On November 10th at 2 pm historic artist Len F. Tantillo will speak about his new book, The Edge of New Netherland, at the Mabee Farm Historic Site’s George E. Franchere Education Center. The book, a uniquely illustrated history of New Netherland, New Sweden, early North American fortification design, and the construction of Fort Cashmir (New Castle, Delaware) has been published for the New Netherland Institute.

The book explores life in the Dutch colony and competition between European powers by focusing on the construction of regional forts, and the trade they engendered. Tantillo’s work has appeared in books, periodicals, and television documentaries in the US and abroad and exhibited in numerous galleries across the country. Continue reading

Tomorrow’s Houses: New England Modernism


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The Schenectady County Historical Society will host photographer Geoffrey Gross as he discusses his latest book, which features hidden jewels by the masters of twentieth-century modernist architecture in New England.

Tomorrow’s Houses is a richly photographed presentation of the best modernist houses in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, built during the early twentieth century through the 1960s. Continue reading

New Book: The Impeachment of Governor Sulzer


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In The Impeachment of Governor Sulzer (SUNY Press, 2012), Matthew L. Lifflander brings to life the dramatic story of a forgotten incident in New York State political history. When William Sulzer was elected to the office of governor of New York State in November 1912, it represented the culmination of a long and successful career in politics.

The son of a German immigrant father and a Scotch-Irish American mother, Sulzer (1863–1941) rose through the powerful Tammany Hall machine to become the youngest man ever to serve as speaker of the New York State Assembly. In 1894, he was elected to Congress, where he served with distinction for eighteen years, rising to chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. When he became governor, it was with the support of the Tammany Hall machine, and everyone expected that he would duly perform his duties under the direction of Tammany boss Charles F. Murphy. Continue reading

New Washington Irving Treasury Box Set Published


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Three time-honored stories by Washington Irving, classic tales told again and again, have been released together in the cloth-bound box set A Washington Irving Treasury (Universe Publishing, 2012). The high-spirited stories of Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow present memorable folk characters that have become part of America’s literary lexicon, while Old Christmas preserves the nostalgia, warmth, and joy of English Christmas traditions. Continue reading

Wicked Ulster County: Tales of Desperadoes


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Situated in the scenic Hudson Valley, Ulster County is a lovely location to make a home and raise a family, but it wasn’t always so pleasant. Unsavory characters and immoral events have sullied its name.

In the 1870s, the Shawangunk Mountains inspired fear rather than awe, as groups like the Lyman Freer and Shawangunk gangs robbed and terrorized locals, descending from the protection of the wooded peaks. Kingston was torched, arson blazed in Kerhonkson and even the Mohonk Mountain House was threatened by flames. In 1909, the Ashokan Slasher’s bloody crimes and sensational trial captured headlines across the country. A.J. Schenkman’s Wicked Ulster County: Tales of Desperadoes, Gangs and More features these and other salacious stories buried in Ulster County’s history. Continue reading

Sailor Twain, or The Mermaid in the Hudson


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One hundred years ago. On the foggy Hudson River, a riverboat captain rescues an injured mermaid from the waters of the busiest port in the United States. A wildly popular–and notoriously reclusive–author makes a public debut. A French nobleman seeks a remedy for a curse. As three lives twine together and race to an unexpected collision, the mystery of the Mermaid of the Hudson deepens.

Sailor Twain, or The Mermaid in the Hudson by Mark Siegel is a new graphic novel of the webcomic of the same name serialized online in the tradition of a nineteenth century novel. A mysterious and beguiling love story with elements of Poe, Twain, Hemingway, and Greek mythology, drawn in moody black-and-white charcoal, Sailor Twain is a study in romance, atmosphere, and suspense set in 1887 on board the Hudson River steamboat Lorelei. Continue reading

William Seward Biographer Visting Seward’s Hometown


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Walter Stahr, author of a new biography on one of America’s greatest statesmen, William Henry Seward, will be visiting Florida, NY (Orange County) on October 14. The visit will include a lecture and book signing at the school founded by William Henry’s father, Samuel Sweezy Seward, which today still bears his name, the SS Seward Institute.

This will be Stahr’s third visit to Florida. His first two visits took place while he was researching his latest book, Seward: Lincoln’s Indispensable Man, which took four years to complete. The biography, released in September, has already received highly favorable reviews. Continue reading

The Railroad Wars of New York State


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New York’s railroads were born of the cutthroat conflict of rate wars, bloody strikes and political graft. The railroad wars began as soon as the first line was chartered between Albany and Schenectady when supporters of the Erie Canal tried to block the new technology that would render their waterway obsolete.

After the first primitive railroads overcame that hurdle, they began battling with one another in a series of rate wars to gain market share. Attracted by the success of the rails, the most powerful and cunning capitalists in the country—Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jay Gould, Daniel Drew and other robber barons—joined the fray. Continue reading

New Guide: Exploring Historic Dutch New York


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Exploring Historic Dutch New York has been co-published by the Museum of the City of New York and Dover Publications (2012). The easy-to-read guide is filled with hundreds of historic facts and anecdotes about the greater New York area. Exploring Historic Dutch New York is the only travel guide and reference book currently in print that encompasses the historic Dutch elements of the former New Netherland colony in present-day New York, New Jersey and Delaware.

Edited by Gajus Scheltema and Heleen Westerhuijs with an introduction by Russell Shorto, this guide tours important sites and also serves as a cultural and historical reference. Seventeen international scholars explore topics such as Dutch art and architecture, Dutch cooking, immigration during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, furniture and antiques, and more. Color photographs and maps are included throughout the guide. Continue reading

Say Cheese: When New York Cheese Was King


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It’s a little known fact that the cheese industry in America owes a lot to New York State. Milton Stewart has set out to set the record straight with Say Cheese! The Story of the Era When New York State Cheese Was King, the story of the era when the premier cheesemaking region of the United States was in Central New York, chiefly in the Mohawk Valley.

In 1851, Jesse William set up what is considered the first cheese factory in America in Oneida County. It was also in New York that Professor Xerxes A. Willard became the nation’s most respected spokesman for the “associated dairies” concept in his drive to create higher standards in cheese making. Continue reading

Mark Twain and the Colonel: Samuel Clemens, Theodore Roosevelt


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Around 1900 two celebrated figures with close ties to New York rivaled each other in the love of their countrymen: Mark Twain and Theodore Roosevelt. Theodore Roosevelt dominated the politics of the era the way the author of Huckleberry Finn dominated its culture.

As national celebrities, Roosevelt and Mark Twain were well acquainted, and neither spoke ill of the other in public. Yet Philip McFarland, author of five works of non-fiction, reveals a behind-closed-doors rivalry in his new book, Mark Twain and the Colonel: Samuel L. Clemens, Theodore Roosevelt, and the Arrival of a New Century (2012, Rowman & Littlefield).
The book chronicles in-depth a relationship so prickly that it led Roosevelt privately to comment that he “would like to skin Mark Twain alive” and the humorist to assert that Roosevelt was “far and away the worst President we have ever had.” Continue reading

World On Fire: Britain’s Role in Civil War


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Amanda Foreman’s New York Times bestseller A World On Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War  (Random House Paperback, 2012) uncovers the pivotal role Britain and its citizens played during the Civil War. The book was named one of the Best Books of the Year in 2011 by The New York Times and The Economist, and has won the Fletcher Pratt Civil War Prize, and was named as a finalist for the PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize, the Lincoln Prize, the Jefferson Davis Prize, the Lionel Gelber Prize, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Continue reading

Adirondack Museum Dog Days Features ‘Marley and Me’ Author


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New York Times Bestselling Author John Grogan will headline the Adirondack Museum’s annual Dog Days of Summer event with a public program called “Marley &Me: What Man’s Best Friend Can Teach Us About Being Human.” The program will begin at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, August 4 the museum’s center campus. Dogs are welcome. In addition to the public program, there will be a question and answer session, and a book signing. Copies of Grogan’s bestselling books will be available at the Museum Store. Continue reading

Civil War of 1812: A Sackets Harbor Perspective


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In this first-year observance of the War of 1812 Bicentennial, the Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site will host noted author and historian Alan Taylor. In a presentation of his current work, The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels & Indian Allies, Taylor will offer his perspective on Sackets Harbor’s role in the War of 1812 as it evolved along the northern frontier.

Alan Taylor is the author of six books, including Liberty Men and Great Proprietors: The Revolutionary Settlement on the Maine Frontier; The Divided Ground: Indians, Settlers, and the Northern Borderland of the American Revolution; and William Cooper’s Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early Republic for which he was awarded both a Pulitzer Prize in History and the Bancroft Prize. Continue reading

New Concise History of the Battles of Plattsburgh


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Battle of PlattsburghLake Champlain was a corridor for warfare beginning with Samuel de Champlain’s exploration, but perhaps no moment in the Champlain Valley was as important as the Battle of Plattsburgh, something recognized by both Roosevelt and Churchill.

Although other, more famous, engagements of the War of 1812 were ruses meant to divert U.S. troops away from the prize – Plattsburgh. The Chesapeake Campaign for example, which included the British capture of Washington, DC, the bombardment of Fort McHenry captured in the National Anthem, was intended, as Donald Graves notes, “as a large raid to draw off American troops from the northern theatre of the war.” Continue reading

Roxy Rothafel: Legendary American Showman


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American Showman chronicles the life of Samuel “Roxy” Rothafel (1882–1936), the prolific movie palace showman and radio star who helped transform the moviegoing experience, radio broadcasting, and American popular culture to become an international celebrity.

Ross Melnick’s American Showman: Samuel ‘Roxy’ Rothafel and the Birth of the Entertainment Industry (2012, Columbia University Press) is the first book devoted to Rothafel’s multifaceted entertainment career. Among Roxy’s notable popular culture contributions include the first showings of Robert Flaherty’s documentary “Nanook of the North” and the German film that reinvigorated the a genre, “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” – oh, and there was also those Rockettes, and that mention in Cole Porter’s “You’re On Top.”

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