Category Archives: Books

New Book: Thomas Edison and the Rise of Innovation


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EdisonCoverThomas Alva Edison, one of the leading innovators of all time comes alive like never before in Edison and the Rise of Innovation (Sterling, 2013) by Leonard DeGraaf.  Perhaps America’s first business celebrity, Edison was more than history’s most prolific inventor.

Edison pursued more than a thousand patents by combining scientific knowledge, well-equipped laboratories, talented collaborators, investment capital and a bit of showmanship, according to DeGraaf, who argues that in the process Edison changed the way we innovate new technologies. Continue reading

New Book: New Netherland in a Nutshell


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books-fabendAlthough the role of the Dutch in Early American history has been largely ignored, the facts are that New Netherland antedates New England, and religious toleration and ethnic diversity in the United States began with the Dutch.

Why isn’t this better known and taught in our schools? Because, until now an easy to read, short introduction to the history of New Netherland has been lacking. Firth Haring Fabend of Montclair, NJ, a recognized historian of the field, was commissioned by the New Netherland Institute to write New Netherland in a Nutshell (New Netherland Institute, 2012) to fill the gap.  Continue reading

Remarkable Women in New York State History


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image001(5)The significant events in New York State history are well known to educators, students and New Yorkers alike. But often, the role that women played in these events has been overlooked.

In Remarkable Women in New York State History (History Press, 2013), Edited by Helen Engel and Marilynn Smiley, members of the American Association of University Women in New York State have meticulously researched the lives and actions of more than 300 of New York’s finest women. Continue reading

Jeanie Johnston: The Legendary Irish Famine Ship


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Iimage002(3)n All Standing: The Remarkable Story of the Jeanie Johnston, The Legendary Irish Famine Ship (Free Press, 2013), Kathryn Miles recounts the dramatic tale of a legendary ship, the Jeanie Johnston, that ran between Ireland and North America during the height of the Irish famine. During this time, the people of Ireland emigrated to North America in search of job opportunities and a better life, crowding onto aptly named “coffin ships,” whose gruesome conditions rivaled those of slave transports.

But unlike every other coffin ship, the Jeanie Johnston never lost a passenger. While over 100,000 people died aboard other coffin ships, the combined efforts of the Jeanine Johnston’s crew allowed thousands of individuals to find safety and fortune throughout the United States and Canada. Continue reading

New Book Explores Life On A Putnam County Farm


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Life on a rocky farmLife on a Rocky Farm (SUNY Press, 2013) is a folksy look at farm life in rugged Putnam Valley (Putnam County) just as it was being transformed by industrialization and mechanization. The book couples Lucas C. Barger’s (1866–1939) eye for detail with a folksy, anecdotal style to provide an interesting depiction of both the traditional ways of farm life, and the challenges farmers faced as times changed.

Previously unpublished, Barger’s first-hand account of farm life near New York City begins in the late nineteenth century. Little had changed for well over a century in the hilly and rugged terrain of Putnam Valley, where Lucas grew up as a member of the sixth generation of Barger farmers. But as the nineteenth century gave way to the twentieth, industrialization and mechanization decreased the demand for farm labor and farmers had to come up with alternate ways to make money. Continue reading

Montgomery Co. Hosting ‘Twelve Years a Slave’ Discussion


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Solomon Northup in a Sketch from Twelve Years a SlaveThe Montgomery County Department of History & Archives will host a book discussion on Solomon Northrup‘s Twelve Years a Slave.

Northup was born a free man in what is now Minerva, Essex County, NY, in 1808. While working as a cabbie and violinist in Saratoga Springs in 1841, he was abducted, held in a slave pen in Washington, DC, and sold into slavery in Louisiana for 12 years before regaining his freedom. Continue reading

Local Documentary Filmmakers’ New Book Published


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Pepe_Filmmaking300dpi_CoverLeft Coast Press, a nationally renowned California publishing company, has released their new book, Documentary Filmmaking for Archaeologists, written by two New York documentarians, Peter Pepe and Joseph W. Zarzynski.

Peter Pepe, President of Pepe Productions, a Glens Falls video production company, and Joseph W. Zarzynski, a Wilton-based underwater archaeologist and author, teamed up to write the book. Previously, Pepe and Zarzynski collaborated on producing three feature-length award-winning documentaries about historic shipwrecks as well as creating several “mini-docs” for screening in museums, art galleries, and visitor centers. Continue reading

Books: The Civil War in Color


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The-Civil-War-in-Color-New-York-Infantry-colorThe Civil War comes alive as never before in an extraordinary collection of colorized photographs from the era in The Civil War in Color (Sterling Books, November 2012) by John C. Guntzelman.

Not only does it feature portraits of famous leaders and ordinary soldiers but also vignettes of American life during the conflict: scenes from urban and plantation life; destroyed cities; contested battlefields. The 200+ photographs, from the Library of Congress’s archives, include both well-known and rarely seen images. Also inside–a fine art ready-to-frame photographic print of a stunning colorized Civil War photograph. Continue reading

Books: The Encyclopedia of Local History


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Encyclopedia of Local History 2nd EditionThe Encyclopedia of Local History (AltaMira Press, 2012) addresses nearly every aspect of local history, including everyday issues, theoretical approaches, and trends in the field. This encyclopedia provides both the casual browser and the dedicated historian with adept commentary by bringing the voices of over one hundred experts together in one place. Authoritative, accessible, and comprehensive, Carol Kammen & Amy H. Wilson’s volume is a deep resource for historical organizations of any size. Continue reading

Louis Marshall: The Rise of Jewish Ethnicity in America


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louisIn Louis Marshall and the Rise of Jewish Ethnicity in America: A Biography (Syracuse University Press, 2013) M. M. Silver provides the first scholarly treatment of a the sweeping influence of Louis Marshall’s career through the 1920s. A tireless advocate for and leader of an array of notable American Jewish organizations and institutions, Marshall also spearheaded civil rights campaigns for other ethnic groups, blazing the trail for the NAACP, Native American groups, and environmental protection causes in the early twentieth century. Continue reading

Bruce Dearstyne: Reaffirming the Power of Place


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02floor-googleicon-blog480Many people in New York’s history community work every day to affirm, interpret, and present the stories of the distinctiveness of their communities and their histories. Local history is very powerful. “Local history allows many interpretations,” write Carol Kammen and Amy H. Wilson in the introduction to the second edition of The Encyclopedia of Local History (2013). “It is flexible and it is not just national history writ small as some have suggested. Local history is the study of past events, or of people or groups, in a given geographic area – a study based on a wide variety of documentary evidence and placed in a comparative context that should be both regional and national.”

There is considerable recent evidence of the continuing power of place. Continue reading

Twelve Years A Slave:
North Country Native Solomon Northup


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northup45aMinerva in Essex County, primitive and remote in the early 1800s, hardly would have seemed a likely birthplace for a man who would write a book which would attract national attention, make the author a household name, and, to some degree, help start a civil war. But indeed, it was there that Solomon Northup, author of Twelve Years A Slave, was born.

Technically the town of Minerva did not exist at the time of Solomon’s birth on July 10, 1807 (though his book gives 1808 as his year of birth, more official documents have it as 1807); the town of Minerva was not formed until 1817. In 1807 the area, not yet known as Minerva, would have been part of the Town of Schroon. Continue reading

North Country Poet Benjamin Franklin Taylor


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BF Taylor 1863Benjamin Franklin Taylor is regarded as one of the greatest poets, writers, and lecturers in North Country history. Born in Lowville (Lewis County) in 1819, Taylor was a precocious child whose writing abilities were evident at a young age. He attended Lowville Academy (his father, Stephen William Taylor, also attended LA and later became principal), and then entered Madison University in Hamilton, New York (where his father was a mathematics professor and would later become college president). Madison was renamed Colgate University in 1890.

Completion of college ended Taylor’s following in his father’s footsteps. Benjamin graduated at a young age (about 19) and served as principal of Norwich Academy in Chenango County. He married in early 1839, and six years later moved to Illinois, finding employment with the Chicago Evening Journal. His efforts there formed the core of an outstanding literary career. Continue reading

Russell Shorto New Netherland Research Senior Scholar


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Russell-Shorto-Jennifer-MayAward winning author Russell Shorto is the newest Senior Research Scholar in Residence at the New York State Library’s New Netherland Research Center.  The Senior Research Scholar program is a result of a partnership between the State Education Department and the New Netherland Institute (NNI).

Shorto conducted research in the State Archives and Library for his earlier best selling book, The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America. Continue reading

NYSHA Publication Award Winners Announced


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Layout 1The New York State Historical Association (NYSHA) announced the winners of its three annual publication awards at its 110th Annual Meeting in July at Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, New York.

The winner of the 2013 Henry Allen Moe Prize for Catalogs of Distinction in the Arts is Audubon’s Aviary: The Original Watercolors for The Birds of America by Roberta J.M. Olson, the Curator of Drawings at New-York Historical Society. Continue reading

Opposition Vigil Planned at NYPL Fundraising Gala


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New York Public Library (NYPL)The Committee to Save the New York Public Library will hold a vigil in opposition to the plans for the NYPL’s  42nd Street and Mid Manhattan Libraries on Monday, June 3rd, from 6:00 to 7:30 PM at the 5th Avenue entrance to the 42nd Street Library.

The vigil will coincide with the New York Public Library Spring fundraising gala.  The event is co-sponsored by Citizens Defending Libraries, and will feature an appearance by Rev. Billy and his choir. Continue reading

Washington County’s Mysterious Black Migration


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9781479771912_p0_v1_s260x420New York author L. Lloyd Stewart has recently published an extensively researched and documented book on African American history in New York State titled, The Mysterious Black Migration 1800-1820: The Van Vrankens and Other Families of African Descent in Washington County, New York.

The author will be at the Rensselaer County Historical Society (RCHS) during May’s Troy Night Out, on May 31, 2013. Stewart will give a presentation at 6:30 pm and will be available to sign copies of his book afterward. Continue reading

Historian Russell Shorto Events In Albany Friday


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Russell Shorto Jennifer MayRussell Shorto, bestselling historian of the Dutch colonial experience in America, will give a preview of his new book (to be published this coming October), Amsterdam: A History of the World’s Most Liberal City, Friday, May 3, 2013 at 7 p.m. in the Clark Auditorium, New York State Museum, Cultural Education Center, Madison Avenue in downtown Albany.

Earlier that same day at 3:15 p.m., the author will deliver the Fossieck Lecture of the UAlbany History Department, “The Dutch Influence on American Colonial History,” in the Assembly Hall, Campus Center, on the University at Albany’s uptown campus. Continue reading

History Books Featured As 2013 Pulitzer Winners


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LogevallThe 97th annual Pulitzer Prizes in Letters, which includes Nonfiction, History, and Biography, awarded on the recommendation of the Pulitzer Prize Board, were announced today by Columbia University.

In the category of History, for a distinguished and appropriately documented book on the history of the United States, Ten thousand dollars ($10,000) was awarded to “Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam,” by Fredrik Logevall (Random House), a balanced, deeply researched history of how, as French colonial rule faltered, a succession of American leaders moved step by step down a road toward full-blown war. Continue reading

Happy Birthday Washington Irving!


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Erastus Dow Palmer, Washington Irving (1783-1859), 1865. Gift of Mrs. Anna T. E. Kirtland, as a memorial to Mr. Jared T. Kirtland, 1865.4On April 3, 1783 Writer and satirist Washington Irving was born in New York City. He best known for his short stories “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “Rip Van Winkle,” but I will always love him best for coining the name of New York’s basketball team!

In 1809, Irving published his first major book, A History of New-York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, by Diedrich Knickerbocker. Through the Knickerbocker pseudonym, Irving poked fun at the city’s self-important Dutch elite, in which Knickerbocker was a fairly common last name. He also pulled an elaborate prank in anticipation of the book’s release, posting “missing person” adverts in city newspapers, claiming Knickerbocker, a Dutch historian, had gone missing from his hotel room. Continue reading