Category Archives: History

New York History

Peter Feinman:
Unexpected Deaths and Historical Memory


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The General Slocum disaster memorial in Tompkins Square Park, Manhattan, New York City, which was once in Little GermanyHow should we remember 9/11? I began to think about this more as the date for the opening of the 9/11 Museum neared. By coincidence, I was invited by City Wonders to take one of its tours and I chose the 9/11 Memorial Tour. This was just prior to the opening of the museum in May.

9/11 and that tour are responsible for the recent series of posts on remembering the dead. For me, it is important to understand 9/11 in context. That means not only the historical context in which the event occurred but the historical context in which we remember historical events. Our Thanksgivings, Christmases, and Passovers aren’t the same as our ancestors, nor is Memorial/Decoration Day. As a result, I began to write about different ways and circumstances in which we remember those who have died. Continue reading

C.L. Churchill Named ‘Tug of the Year’


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Churchill from lcmm 4 without railingThe C.L. Churchill, a 50 year old wooden tugboat, has been named Tug of the Year for the 2014 Waterford Tugboat Roundup.  The Roundup is an annual three-day event in Waterford, NY highlighting the area’s heritage of waterborne commerce.

The C.L. Churchill is the accompanying tug to the Lois McClure, a replica canal schooner of the type which operated on some of the canals of New York State and Lake Champlain in the 19th century. The Roundup bestows the honorary Tug of the Year title to a different tug each year, typically one that brings its own unique history to the event. Continue reading

World War I And The End Of The Gilded Age


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image001(10)To mark the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I in 1914, Staatsburgh State Historic Site will debut a new tour, “World War I and the End of the Gilded Age.”

Staatsburgh was the home of prominent social hostess Ruth Livingston Mills and her husband, financier Ogden Mills.  The 79-room mansion showcases the opulent lifestyle enjoyed by the wealthy elite of the early 20th century.  This special tour will explore how the cataclysm of World War I brought an end to the extravagant excesses of the Gilded Age. Continue reading

A Monticello Merchant, And A Founder Of The NY Times


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danielbennettst.johnHe was the Supervisor of the Town of Thompson in Sullivan County, a member of the New York State Assembly, a State Senator, member of Congress, and New York’s first Superintendent of Banking, as well as one of Monticello’s most successful merchants. And in 1851 he joined with seven others in founding what would become one of America’s most respected newspapers.

He was Daniel Bennett St. John, and he was one of the original owners of the New York Times. Continue reading

Dump Day: A Little Garbage History


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CasellaO-SortMachNYHHere’s an unusual item that’s part of just about everyone’s personal history if you’re 50 or older. Remember that long-ago weekly ritual, the trip to the dump with Dad? I’m talking about the 1960s, and maybe in some cases the 1970s. If you’re not old enough to look back that far, you’ll be amazed (appalled) at how trash, garbage, and another-man’s-treasures were disposed of by most folks. It was a part of small-town life that we can now be thankful has largely vanished. From a child’s perspective, the dump was a mysterious and somewhat scary place that you couldn’t wait to visit, and soon enough couldn’t wait to leave. Continue reading

An Explosive Musical On The Atom Bomb


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JeremyKushnierSnazzy musical numbers, snappy dialogue and souped-up friction between bureaucrats and scientists make Atomic: The Idea that Shook the World a sizzling treatment of the history of the Manhattan Project.

Leo Szilard is not the best-known maker of the Atomic Bomb but his dramatic story highlights the high-pressure situation from 1936 to 1945. The play’s run off-Broadway at the Acorn Theater ties to a surge of public interest in the Cold War era. This week is the 75th anniversary of the August 2, 1939 Einstein-Szilard letter to Pres. Roosevelt alerting him to the necessity to move quickly to beat the Nazi regime to the development of an awesomely powerful new weapon. Continue reading

Inside Ocean Hill–Brownsville: A Teacher’s Education


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Inside Ocean Hill BrownsvilleIn 1968 the conflict that erupted over community control of the New York City public schools was centered in the black and Puerto Rican community of Ocean Hill–Brownsville. It triggered what remains the longest teachers’ strike in US history.

That clash, between the city’s communities of color and the white, predominantly Jewish teachers’ union, paralyzed the nation’s largest school system, undermined the city’s economy, and heightened racial tensions, ultimately transforming the national conversation about race relations. A new memoir, Inside Ocean Hill–Brownsville: A Teacher’s Education, 1968-69 (SUNY Press, 2014) has been written by Charles S. Isaacs, a teacher who crossed the picket lines. Continue reading

War of 1812: The New Brunswick Regiment of Foot


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The 104th (New Brunswick) Regiment of Foot in the War of 1812Best known for its perilous Winter March through the wilderness of New Brunswick to the battlegrounds in Upper Canada, the 104th (New Brunswick) Regiment of Foot was a British unit originally raised to defend the Maritimes, with members drawn from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Upper and Lower Canada, and the British Isles.

In 1813, the regiment was sent to raid the American naval base in Sackets Harbor, New York, and then moved to the Niagara Peninsula to continue its fight against the invading Americans. Continue reading

This Week’s New York History Web Highlights


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Environmental History:
Prestonia Mann’s Polluted Stream


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The Willey house - Keene NyIn 1896, New York City resident Prestonia Mann purchased an Adirondack estate in Keene and set about to create a summer community based on the 1840s Massachusetts Transcendentalist utopian experiment, Brook Farm. She sent an invitation to her circle of acquaintances – mostly progressive social reformers and educators – describing the place she named Summer Brook in homage to the earlier colony:

It includes a large common hall, a cottage, and about twenty acres of land traversed by a fine trout brook. The region—at the northern end of Keene Valley—is in the noblest part of the great wilderness. The land lies 2,000 feet above the sea, upon a small plateau jutting out from among the foot-hills of Mount Hurricane, in the midst of wild and rugged scenery, commanding a splendid mountain range from Whiteface on the north to Tahawus on the south.

Unfortunately, a hotel upstream, The Willey House, was dumping all of their raw sewage into the same “fine trout brook”, known as Gulf Brook. Continue reading

This Week’s Top New York History News


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Latest New York History News

Follow The New York History Blog via E-mail, RSS, or Twitter or Facebook updates. Make a Contribution! The New York History Blog is supported by you. If you think this site provides a valuable service, please become a recurring contributor – or just make a one-time contribution at our Rally.org page. Questions about contributions should be directed to editor John Warren.

Educators: State Ed Department Needs Your Feedback


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State Education Building by Matt Wade Photography (Wikimedia User UpstateNYer)The Board of Regents adopted the New York State K-12 Social Studies Framework at their April 2014 meeting. Since then, the K-12 Social Studies Resource Toolkit project has begun and the creation of a field guide to provide guidance on the instructional impacts of the Framework is underway.

In addition to this work, the State Education Department (SED) is also thinking about how best to restructure the Global History and Geography and United States History and Government Regents examinations. In tackling this task, SED is looking for help informing their decision making. In order to gain the valuable feedback educators in the field can provide, four questions are being asked: Continue reading

Brooklyn Museum Offers Free ’19 And Under’ Admission


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Brooklyn Museum (provided)Beginning on September 3, 2014, admission to the Brooklyn Museum will be free for visitors ages nineteen and under, according to an announcement made today.

At the same time, the museum will increase its suggested general admission fees to $16, except for ticketed exhibitions and events, and to $10 for adults sixty-two and over and for students with valid I.D. Current school group pricing will remain the same. Continue reading

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