Category Archives: History

New York History

Bob Cudmore: How ‘The Historians’ Came to WVTL Radio


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Bob Cudmore on WVTLWhat follows is a guest essay by Bob Cudmore, who writes “Focus on History” every Saturday in Schenectady’s Gazette newspaper and also hosts the morning radio show on WVTL AM-FM in Amsterdam which includes weekly interviews about history called “The Historians”. The New York History Blog asked Bob to explain how ‘”The Historians” was developed.

My first foray into local history was in 2000 when Steve Dunn and I co-produced the WMHT television documentary “Historic Views of the Carpet City: Amsterdam, N.Y.” Amsterdam is my home town. That same year my first book came out, self published. “You Can’t Go Wrong: Stories from Nero, N.Y. and Other Tales” was a compilation of satirical newspaper columns I had written for the Troy Record and Daily Gazette of Schenectady about Nero, a mythical Upstate New York city settled after all the good classical names such as Troy, Utica and Syracuse had been taken. Nero is a place so negative that “I don’t blame you” is a compliment.

In 2000 I pitched the Daily Gazette on doing “Focus on History”, stories from Montgomery and Fulton Counties. The column ran every other week until 2004 when it became a weekly fixture of the Saturday paper. Until his death last year, the column was edited by the Gazette’s incisive city editor Irv Dean. Continue reading

Famous Log Cabin Headed to Adirondack Museum


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AdirondackMuseum-AnneLaBastilleCabinThe Adirondack Museum has announced that the institution will receive into the museum’s collection the wilderness cabin Anne LaBastille, famous worldwide from her Woodswoman series of books, built and lived in, along with many of her personal effects.

An accompanying gift of $300,000 will support the costs of moving the cabin to the museum and incorporating it into a new exhibition, The Adirondack Experience, expected to open in 2017. The gifts were made by the Estate of LaBastille, an author, ecologist, environmental advocate, and former Adirondack Park Agency Commissioner, who passed away in 2011. Continue reading

Adirondack Architectural Heritage Announces Tours


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AARCH color logo IIAdirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) invites you to discover the diverse and rich architectural heritage that exists throughout the Adirondack Park.

Guided trips this August to Wanakena’s Knollwood, Raquette Lake’s Long Point, and Plattsburgh’s historic landmarks are filling up quickly, yet openings still remain for two favorites, The Legacy of William and Alice Miner in Chazy on August 5th, and Lyon Mountain on August 12th. Continue reading

150 Years Ago A NY Man Languished In Andersonville


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Rollin O. Sanford, farmerRollin O. Sanford died on July 29, 1864 while a prisoner of war at the infamous Andersonville prison in Georgia. His only son, Rollin J, was born that very same day in Hopkinton NY, twelve hundred miles to the north, in what is now the Adirondack Park. While there are countless stories of tragedy and heartache that occurred during the Civil War, this story seemed especially poignant, since it involved our family.

Rollin O. Sanford, described as a large and powerful man, was the tenth child and youngest son of Jonah and Abigail Greene Sanford. He was a farmer in Hopkinton, married to Ermina Roberts, with whom he had two daughters, Lillian and Jeanette. “Nettie”, the younger daughter, died in November 1863 at age two, one month before Rollin went off to war. Years later Lillian wrote about the death of her little sister and how her father “held Nettie in his arms as her little life went out”. Continue reading

MANY Museum Institute To Focus On Advocacy


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MANY Museum Institute“Museums are Essential! Let people know!” – that’s the message the Museum Association of New York (MANY) is sending in its invitation to this year’s Museum Institute at Great Camp Sagamore in Raquette Lake, NY, taking place September 21st to 24th, 2014.

“Advocacy helps museums and other cultural institutions communicate what they do, why they do it and how it is of value – culturally, socially and economically,” MANY’s invitation says. “It offers a way to impart information and develop other people’s understanding. In doing this, it increases the visibility and profile of museums, which increases visitor numbers and funding!” Continue reading

The Fight in New York State for Weekly Pay


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1890 Headline NY WorldNYHRemember the hit song, “Sixteen Tons,” taken to #1 by Tennessee Ernie Ford many decades ago? Most people are familiar with the famous line, “St. Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go, I owe my soul to the Company Store,” meaning, “Hey, I can’t die … I’ve got debt to pay.”

The line referred to Company Towns of the coal-mining industry, where the company owned everything: coal, land, and houses. Workers were paid with scrip―coupons redeemable only at the Company Store, where prices were artificially inflated. Continue reading

The Negro National And Eastern Colored Leagues


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Negro National and Eastern Colored LeaguesAs the companion volume to Black Baseball Entrepreneurs, 1860–1901: Operating by Any Means Necessary, Michael E. Lomax’s new book, Black Baseball Entrepreneurs, 1902-1931: The Negro National and Eastern Colored Leagues (Syracuse Univ. Press, 2014), continues to chronicle the history of black baseball in the United States.

The first volume traced the development of baseball from an exercise in community building among African Americans in the pre–Civil War era into a commercialized amusement and a rare and lucrative opportunity for entrepreneurship within the black community. In this book, the author takes a closer look at the marketing and promotion of the Negro Leagues by black baseball magnates. Continue reading

The Shadow of Kinzua: The Seneca Since World War II


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Shadow of KinzuaKinzua Dam has cast a long shadow on Seneca life since World War II. The project, formally dedicated in 1966, broke the Treaty of Canandaigua of 1794, flooded approximately 10,000 acres of Seneca lands in New York and Pennsylvania, and forced the relocation of hundreds of tribal members.

In Laurence M. Hauptman’s In The Shadow of Kinzua: The Seneca Nation of Indians Since World War II (Syracuse Univ. Press, 2013), he presents presents both a policy study, namely how and why Washington, Harrisburg, and Albany came up with the idea to build the dam, as well as a community study of the Seneca Nation of Indians in the postwar era. Sold to the Senecas as a flood control project, the author argues that major reasons for the dam were the push for private hydroelectric development in Pennsylvania and state transportation and park development in New York. Continue reading

This Week’s New York History Web Highlights


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‘Sagamore Songbook’ Performance At Camp Sagamore


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Andrea Marcovicci photo by Daniel Reichert (2)Noted cabaret vocalist Andrea Marcovicci will be visiting Great Camp Sagamore to perform a special program celebrating the noted American Songbook composers who stayed at Sagamore Lodge: Richard Rogers, Jerome Kern and Hoagy Carmichael.

Marcovicci’s performance will be part of the camp’s 2014 benefit for historic preservation. Proceeds from the benefit help with the ongoing restoration of the Sagamore’s 27 National Historic Landmark structures. The benefit will be on Saturday, August 2nd and will include cocktails and a silent auction at the camp’s play house, followed by Andrea Marcovvici’s performance and a catered sit down dinner and live auction. The evening will be capped with cigars, port, and a camp fire. Continue reading

This Week’s Top New York History News


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Latest New York History News

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Sullivan County: The Corpse In The Grey Suit


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sagenew_edited[1]Saturday, July 31, 1937 dawned sunny and warm in Sullivan County, a nearly perfect summer day. A light breeze stirred the cooling waters of Swan Lake as dozens of vacationers rowed about in the bright morning sunshine. Two of those vacationers, convinced that it was their lucky day, rowed enthusiastically over to a strange shape they saw bobbing on the surface of the lake. What they discovered instead was grisly and gruesome. It was the body of a man, all trussed up and tied to a rock and a slot machine frame. Continue reading

Paul Bray: Troy’s Union History Is Coming Alive


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The First Lady presenting the Kate Mullany House with a National Historic Landmark plaque, with Josephine Sano, member of the Albany Central Labor CouncilThe nation’s first bona-fide all-female union was formed in Troy 150 years ago under the leadership of a young Irish immigrant, Kate Mullany, and her colleague, Esther Keegan, in reaction to low wages, 12- to 14-hour workdays and unsafe conditions in the collar factories.

Local writer and director Ruth Henry dramatizes the story in a new musical, “Don’t Iron While the Strike is Hot.” Continue reading

Lecture: Lincoln’s Secret Visit to West Point


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West Point 1860sPresident Abraham Lincoln made a clandestine trip to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in June 1862, during the Civil War. It was his longest journey away from the White House and his only trip to New York State during his Presidency.

Based upon new and original research, Anthony J. Czarnecki, past president of the Lincoln Society in Peekskill, will reveal why Lincoln came to West Point, what he did during his three-day stay in the Lower Hudson Valley, and how history changed as a result of his visit to the Academy. Continue reading

Search On For Plane Missing In Champlain Since 1971


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George Nikita, the pilot of a corporate jet that is believed to have crashed into icy Lake Champlain in January, 1971New search efforts have begun for the missing private jet that disappeared into Lake Champlain in the winter of 1971 that was carrying two crew members and three passengers.

A new high-tech search using modern techniques, sophisticated side-scanning sonars, underwater vehicles and a submarine will take place.  This search will be a combined effort between the New York State Police, New York Department of Environmental Conservation, and Vermont State Police.  Boating traffic in the search area will be restricted during search operations. Continue reading

Updated Model Preservation Law For NY Municipalities


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New York State ParksThe New York State Historic Preservation Office (OPRHP) and New York State Department of State, in partnership with the Preservation League of New York State, have developed an updated model local preservation law to help municipalities preserve historic resources in their communities. The model law is available on the agency’s website here.

The new model law details procedural steps for local landmarking decisions and review of proposed alterations to historic properties, and new standards for municipal process and public participation in the protection of historic resources. New York Secretary of State Cesar A. Perales said that the Department of State has worked closely to ensure that the Model Law can be used by towns, villages and cities of any size. Continue reading

Emancipation Days Features Solomon Northup Family


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Scripter Gala 12YAS Poster brIn November 2013 when Melissa Howell, descendent of Solomon Northup was asked to speak at the 2014 Peterboro Emancipation Days, little did anyone suspect that her great, great, great grandfather’s 160 year old biographical book Twelve Years a Slave would win the 2014 Academy Award for Best Motion Picture of the Year.

With five producers, including Steve McQueen and Brad Pitt (who also acted in the film) the film, and people associated with it, won many other awards, scooping up members of the current Northup family in the momentum. At 2 p.m. Saturday, August 2 at the Smithfield Community Center (5255 Pleasant Valley Road, Peterboro NY) Howell, her mother Shirley Howell, and her aunt Irene Northup-Zahos will discuss the film, the effects it had on the Northup family, and other experiences and opportunities that have come forth from the film. Howell will proudly display the University of Southern California Scripter Award conferred on Northup as the author of the written work upon which the Academy Award winning screenplay was based. Howell is also the founder of The Solomon Northup Legacy 1808. Continue reading

Washington Irving and the (Re)Creation of Dutch NY


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KnickerbockerThe history of Kinderhook is rich with the lore of headless horsemen, love-struck schoolmasters and a sleepy small town. This is primarily due to Washington Irving, his wild imagination, and the short-story “Legends of Sleepy Hallow.”

On August 2, New York Times bestselling biographer Brian Jay Jones will speak on the life of Irving and his habit of using artistic license when it came to the history of the area. At 4:00 pm at the Kinderhook Reformed Church (21 Broad St in Kinderhook), Jones will address the historical myths plucked from Irving’s satirical history The History of New York written in 1809 in his talk, “Washington Irving and the (Re)Creation of Dutch New York” as part of the Columbia County Historical Society’s Dutch New York: Fact and Fiction lecture series. Continue reading

Presentation On Clark Art Institute’s New Campus


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Clark Art InstituteThe Albany Institute of History & Art will host Michael Conforti, Director of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, to share his insights into the creation of the Clark’s newly expanded campus.

The campus, which was designed by architects Tadao Ando, Annabelle Selldorf, and Reed Hilderbrand,  opened its doors on July 4, 2014.  The renovations and expansions at the Clark were completed to enhance sustainability and energy efficiency, and increase exhibition and event space. Continue reading

Lecture: Perfectionism in Antebellum New York


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unnamed(2)Robert W. Arnold III, a career public historian now retired from the New York State Archives, will give a talk entitled “Leaning into the Storm: Perfectionism in Antebellum New York” on Saturday, August 9, 2014 at the Schenectady County Historical Society.

New York State was a place of rapid change in the antebellum era, the epicenter of perfectionist religious and social reform movements, inspired largely by Yankee immigrants from New England and spread as those immigrants themselves settled along the routes of turnpikes and canals. Uncertainties associated with ongoing revolutions in transportation, finance, communications and industry were reflected in popular movements such as temperance, abolition, women’s rights, dress-, prison- and educational reform. Continue reading