Category Archives: History

New York History

Basketball History Scholarship Contest Winners


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Winning original photo entry by Douglas KossanThe New-York Historical Society has announced the winners of its recent scholarship contest, which invited high school students to submit original essays, videos or photographs on the theme of breaking barriers in sports and making history.

The contest was held in conjunction with New-York Historical’s exhibition on pioneering African American basketball players—The Black Fives—on view now through July 20, 2014. Continue reading

Before The Twerk, There Was The Tango


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04iht-retrospective-tango-art-blog480About 100 years before some New Yorkers were shocked by the sexually-provocative twerk during the 2013 MTV Music Awards show on television, other New Yorkers were shocked by the tango.

After it first appeared in Paris, London, and Berlin from its starting place in Argentina, the tango soon came to New York where it became wildly popular in 1913. The tango’s rhythm has been described as “exciting and provocative” and the dance steps as “hot, passionate and precise.” Women often wore slit skirts when they danced the tango and there was full body contact with their partners, upwards from their upper thighs and pelvis. Routinely, the dancers’ hips were thrust forward and sometimes their legs were intertwined and hooked together. Continue reading

East Side Stories:
Plays About the History of the Lower East Side


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MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAThe OBIE Award winning Metropolitan Playhouse will present the fifth annual East Village Theater Festival, a three-week celebration of the life and lore of New York City’s East Village.

The festival features four different evenings of new plays and solo-performances, as well as the work of local artists, and a panel discussion on the neighborhood’s changing identity. Continue reading

The Life of Anne Northup, Wife of Solomon Northup


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anne northupSolomon Northup of Saratoga was lured into slavery in 1841, and was a slave in Louisiana for 12 years before being rescued. What impact did Northup’s kidnapping have on his wife and family? In Solomon’s absence, the Northup family became a one-income household.

At 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 10, 2014, David Fiske will offer a presentation that describes how his wife Anne carried on and saw to the needs of their children. Information on her later life will also be provided. Continue reading

375th Anniversary of The Bronx Celebration Planned


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Jonas Bronck CenterOver the years much has been written about Pieter and Jonas Bronck.  Pieter is responsible for the erection of the Bronck House in Coxsackie, Greene County, NY, 351 years ago.  Jonas is considered the founder of  the Bronx.

Over the years there has been much confusion about the relationship of these two individuals – father and son, brothers or cousins.  Both were Swedish and there is strong evidence that they were related.  I prefer to accept research done by Shelby Mattice, Curator of the Bronck Museum.  Ms. Mattice has concluded that the two men were first cousins and shared the same grandfather.  Today I would like to focus a bit on Jonas Bronck because this year the Bronx is commemorating the 375th anniversary of the year Jonas first settled there. Continue reading

New Book: The 1929 Bunion Derby


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Bunion DerbyOn 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

This Week’s New York History Web Highlights


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Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey To Present Jay Lecture


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Rose HarveyThe John Jay Lecture, jointly sponsored by Pace Law School and the Jay Heritage Center, will be held on April 29th at the Jay Estate in Rye, NY, the National Historic Landmark property where Jay grew up as a child and which he owned and managed from 1813 to 1822 before passing it on to his eldest son Peter.

The speaker this year is Hon. Rose Harvey, Commissioner of New York State’s Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation (OPRHP) of the State of New York. Harvey will speak on the topic “Stewardship of New York’s Cultural & Natural History”. Continue reading

This Week’s Top New York History News


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Great Nyack House Tour: Houses with a Secret


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Watercolor by Beverley Bozarth ColganThe Great Nyack House Tour: Houses with a Secret, will be hosted by the Historical Society of the Nyacks on Saturday, May 3, 2014.

“Houses with a Secret,” the Society’s sixth biennial house tour, invites visitors  to explore houses that have mysteries hiding behind the doors. In case your speculation does not unlock the secrets in each amazing home, volunteer docents will be there to demystify the local history surrounding each property. Continue reading

Drums Along the Mohawk Expands Season, Launches Kickstarter


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DAMOFollowing its debut at Gelston Castle Estate in 2013, Drums Along the Mohawk Outdoor Drama, based on the book by Walter D. Edmonds, is expanding its performance schedule to four shows. The show opens Saturday, August 2, and Sunday, August 3, 2014 at Gelston Castle Estate (980 Robinson Road in Mohawk, NY). It continues the following weekend (August 9-10). Performance times are: Saturdays at 5:00 pm and Sundays at 2:00 pm.

Drums Along the Mohawk Outdoor Drama is the story of Gil and Lana Martin, a young couple who settle in the Mohawk Valley of upstate NY to raise a family in 1777, only to find they are in the pathway of the American Revolution. It’s the story of Nicholas Herkimer, a patriot of Palatine German descent who carved out a successful livelihood despite living on the edge of the frontier.  The strife amongst colonial neighbors in the Mohawk Valley of upstate NY was vehement in 1777 and these events set up several flashpoints that spark a conflagration of valley conflict during the American Revolution. Continue reading

Chicken Theives: History’s Low-Down Dirty Crooks


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NYH ChickThief 01 1931Among the several dozen correctional institutions in New York State, Dannemora (officially Clinton Correctional Facility) is the largest maximum-security prison. It is located in northern Clinton County, where the cold winter weather led to a variety of nicknames incorporating the word “Siberia.” It is also known as home to the worst of the worst, housing many of our most dangerous criminals.

For more than 160 years, the North Country’s famous lockup has confined inmates guilty of the most heinous crimes: murder, rape, arson, assault, bank robbery, serial killing … and chicken theft.

Chicken theft? About now, you might find that cool Sesame Street song going through your head: “One of these things is not like the others ….” But any crime is serious, especially if you’re the victim, and the seriousness of stealing chickens was once elevated in stature for a few reasons. Continue reading

Suffrage History: Long Island’s Three Wagon Women


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1-AlbanyMarchWhen New York women won the right to vote in 1917, the national suffrage movement received a huge shot in the arm after the number of women voters doubled nationwide. The state’s 1917 victory can be traced, in part, to how the movement utilized the media, as well as benefitted from sustained and substantial grassroots organizing.

New York’s women organized the state from top to bottom for the vote, and the movement’s visibility and victory paid off when the tide turned nationally. Continue reading

Peter Feinman: An Unanswered Email to Ken Adams of ILoveNY And Path through History


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PathThroughHistoryAs reported in my previous post on lobbying in Albany, I had the opportunity to briefly chat with Ken Adams, President and CEO Empire State Development and Commissioner of New York State Department of Economic Development. This includes ILoveNY and the Path through history.

That chat led to an email, written March 5th, which is posted below. He has not responded. Continue reading

Kelly Adirondack Center:
Adirondack Environmental History Going Online


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Kelly Adirondack CenterGovernor Al Smith helped block the construction of a highway along the shore of Tongue Mountain, but it was Franklin D. Roosevelt who was instrumental in protecting the east shore of Lake George, documents in the Apperson-Schaefer collection at the Kelly Adirondack Center at Union College in Schenectady suggest.

With funding from the bond acts of 1916 and 1926, much of Tongue Mountain and many of the islands in the Narrows were now protected, permanently, as parts of the Adirondack Forest Preserve.

But by 1926, John Apperson, the General Electric engineer who dedicated much of his life to the protection of Lake George, had become concerned about the future of the east side. Continue reading

Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe


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High Heel Shoe ExhibitOne of the most provocative and iconic objects of desire will be explored in the exhibition Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe, on view at the Brooklyn Museum September 10, 2014, through February 15, 2015.

Through more than 160 artfully-crafted historical and contemporary high heels from the seventeenth century through the present, the exhibition examines the mystique and transformative power of the elevated shoe and its varied connections to fantasy, power, and identity. Continue reading

19th Century Saratoga Springs Rooms Refurbished at Brooklyn Museum


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Milligan House Parlor. Courtesy of the Brooklyn MuseumThe Parlor and Library of the Colonel Robert J. Milligan House of Saratoga Springs, New York, have been conserved and refurbished for the first time since the two rooms were installed in the Brooklyn Museum in 1953 as a part of a group of late nineteenth-century American period rooms.

In addition to repainting the rooms and laying bold tartan carpeting on the Library’s previously bare wood floors, the Museum has restored and installed the Parlor’s original chandelier and decorated the rooms with a select group of recently acquired objects and several furnishings original to the rooms but not previously on view in Brooklyn. The two rooms have been on public view throughout their facelift, which was completed on March 28, 2014. Continue reading

Volunteers Sought For Lake George Excavation


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excavatingVolunteers are being sought to help excavate at Wiawaka Holiday House at the southern end of Lake George to help document the early years of the Holiday House by looking at the materials the visitors, staff, and organizers left behind. Wiawaka Holiday House was founded in 1903 to provide affordable vacations for the working women in the factories of Troy and Cohoes, New York. The work is being directed by Megan Springate, a PhD candidate at the University of Maryland working on her dissertation looking at the intersections of class and gender in the early twentieth century.

No previous archaeological experience is necessary. Participants will learn archaeological techniques hands-on at the site. All equipment will be provided. Accommodation and meals are available at Wiawaka Holiday House for a fee.* There is no charge to volunteer. Those without previous archaeological experience are asked to volunteer for three or more days. You must be 18 years of age or older. Excavation Dates: Monday to Friday, June 16 through July 11, 2014. Continue reading