Category Archives: History

New York History

Should the History Community Lobby?


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nycapitolShould the New York State history community lobby in Albany and if so, for what? These questions occurred to me as I recently participated in two days of lobbying. The events were arranged by Parks & Trails New York and the Open Space Institute’s Alliance for New York Parks on Park Advocacy Day, and by the Tourism Industry Coalition for Tourism Action Day.  The former is works essentially on behalf of NYS Office Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation (NYSOPRHP) while the latter consists of 23 organizations including 9 counties, 2 cities, New York and Syracuse, one region, the Finger Lakes, and hospitality organizations. Continue reading

New York City 1964: A Cultural History


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NYC 1964 Cultural HistoryLawrence R. Samuel’s New York City 1964: A Cultural History (McFarland, 2014), connects the events of a single year in the city to the cultural threads of American life in the 1960s and beyond.

Five seminal events occurred in New York City in the pivotal year 1964: the “British Invasion” arrival of the Beatles in February; the murder of Kitty Genovese in Queens in March; the World’s Fair in Queens between April and October; the “race riots” in Brooklyn and Harlem in July; and the World Series in the Bronx between the New York Yankees and the St. Louis Cardinals. Continue reading

New Book: Hudson River Steamboat Catastrophes


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Hudson River Steamboat AccidentsBeginning in the mid-1800s, steamboats carried people between New York City and the Albany area on the Hudson River. Romantic images lull us into believing it was a quiet means of travel, but a crowded river, faulty equipment and the bravado of the captains resulted in at least one major catastrophe every year. Night boats collided and sank, carelessness caused boiler explosions, races put passengers at risk and fires would quickly swallow the wooden vessels.

The grand Empire of Troy suffered many collisions. The Swallow broke in two on a rock, Reindeer’s explosion took forty lives at once and the Oregon and C. Vanderbilt entered into an epic and dangerous race. Collected from eyewitness accounts, these are some of the most exciting and frightening stories of peril aboard steamboats on the Hudson River. Now, local historian J. Thomas Allison has written Hudson River Steamboat Catastrophes: Contests and Collisions (History Press, 2013). Allison provides an entertaining look at the romantic but perilous age of steamboat travel on the Hudson River, including tales of reckless captains racing each other and passengers’ eyewitness accounts of collisions, crashes, explosions, and fires. Continue reading

This Week’s New York History Web Highlights


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New Exhibit: Wilderstein And The White House


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WildersteinWilderstein house museum in Rhinebeck, New York, has announced that its 2014 exhibition will explore the connections between the Wilderstein estate and American Presidents over two centuries. The exhibit will feature costumes, textiles, decorative arts, photographs, books, and more – all from the Wilderstein collections.  Many of these objects will be on public display for the first time.

The exhibit opens with their regular tour season on May 1 and will run through the end of October, Thursday to Sunday, from noon until 4 pm.  A preview party will be held on Saturday, April 26 from 4 to 6 pm. Tickets are $25. Please RSVP to 845.876.4818 or wilderstein@wilderstein.org. Continue reading

This Week’s Top New York History News


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Latest New York History News

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Questions about contributions should be directed to editor John Warren.

Met Museum of Art Archives Opens Two Collections


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MetThe Metropolitan Museum of Art Archives has announced the availability for research of two collections of records of 20th century museum officials.

These are among 15 collections being arranged, described, and cataloged over 27 months with funding from the Leon Levy Foundation. Work on the approximately 300 linear feet of records by two full-time archivists began in January 2013. Finding aids are now available online for: Continue reading

New Windsor Revolutionary War Encampment Set


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new winsor encampmentNew Windsor Cantonment State Historic Site will host a weekend of Revolutionary War military firing demonstrations and period activities on Saturday April 26 and Sunday April 27, presented by the Brigade of the American Revolution, an international organization dedicated to recreating the life and times of the common soldier of the War for Independence, 1775-1783.

A battle demonstration takes place at 2:00 PM each day with colorfully uniformed soldiers firing muskets, a cannon and maneuvering to the music of fifes and drums.  The soldiers will also set up tents, prepare cooking fires and demonstrate other aspects of 18th century life.   Continue reading

New York’s Highest Museum Exhibit Wins MANY Award


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MANY Award - Whiteface ExhibitThe highest museum exhibit in New York won an Award of Merit in the ‘Innovation in Interpretation’ category from the Museum Association of New York (MANY). Awarded at MANY’s annual conference on March 31st, Whiteface Mountain: The Exhibit was recognized for its engaging programs that enlivened participation in the community. There was a large and diverse pool of nominations this year. Other winners include The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology and the Museum of Modern Art, both in New York City.

A total of 15 projects, ranging from exhibitions to educational programs, received recognition. Eight of these received an Award of Merit, the highest honor, given to institutions or individuals whose projects represent outstanding contributions to the field and overall innovation and excellence. Continue reading

Bill Hosley: A Call To Localize Humanities Funding


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Peale The Artist in His MuseumI value the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). I have been a grant review panelist and recipient of grants. Indeed Acting NEH Director Andrea Anderson was the program officer I worked with 30 years ago on “The Great River: Art & Society of the CT Valley” (1985). Without NEH, that project would have been impossible.

I have always had a passion for local history and small museums and especially house museums. I started out in one in Vermont in the 1970s. I am not one who thinks there are “too many house museums.” I think there is too little equity in the way public funds and private foundations involved in the arts and humanities are distributed. I am concerned that too little of that support reaches down to that half of the museum industry comprised of organizations that are small. Continue reading

Civil War: The Four Tupper Brothers


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Tupper1918NYHAmong the interesting stories to review during this sesquicentennial of the Civil War are those of North Country families who paid an unusually high price. In covering such tragic tales, the principal difficulty lies in getting it right―no small task when the main event occurred 150 years ago. In many cases, we may never be sure exactly what happened, but the availability of digitized records has changed the game. The truth sometimes emerges to replace embellishments that appeared in the long-accepted, oft-repeated version of a story.

The Tupper family of Pierrepont in St. Lawrence County offers a fine example. There’s no question they suffered tragic losses during the Civil War, but parts of their story may well have been juiced up by reporters hoping to inspire deep empathy or poignancy. Continue reading

Slavery and the Underground Railroad Conference Set


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Underground Railroad ConferenceThe Underground Railroad History Project of the Capital Region will present the 13th Public History Conference on the Underground Railroad Movement on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, April 11-13, 2014 at Russell Sage College and the Rensselaer County Historical Society in Troy, NY.

For thirteen years, the Underground Railroad History Project of the Capital Region has been contributing to awareness and historical understanding of abolitionists and freedom seekers and their activity, emphasizing the participation of African American abolitionists and relating the movement to our experiences today. Continue reading

Our Women’s History Experiment, And An Opportunity


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Womens History MonthAt the end of February we asked for contributions of essays highlighting the role of women in New York State History in celebration of Women’s History Month. The response was excellent and The New York History Blog published 14 pieces, many from writers who have never contributed here before. Several of those related to the Adirondacks and were also published in the online journal Adirondack Almanack.

Over the course of the month thousands of people were introduced to the stories of New York women, but we shouldn’t stop here. I’m hoping readers will see this as an opportunity to bring forth their own stories about the role of women in the history of New York. Whatever aspect of history you are interested in, women played a role. Take the time to let us know about that history by contributing, not just in March, but throughout the year. Here’s how.

I’ve provided links to the stories and editorial commentary below: Continue reading

Peter Feinman: Bring Back the Mastodons!


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Peale's Exhuming the MammothIt is time for New York State to boldly go where no state has gone before and go back to the future to resurrect the now extinct mastodon. The effort to bring the mammoth back from extinction recently was the cover article in the New York Times Sunday Magazine.

Russia and Japan are working to create mammoths. New York should not be left behind in the de-extinction race. I hereby challenge Governor Cuomo to launch a new “Manhattan Project” so we are the first to bring the paleolithic era to life through the creation of Mastodon Park, our own Ice Age animal, the mastodon. Continue reading

Ladies’ Mile Historic District: Plan Will Demolish Buildings


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unnamed(10)Today, the owner of 51 and 53 West 19th Street in the Ladies’ Mile Historic District in New York City will request the Landmarks Preservation Commission for permission to demolish two buildings and to construct a 14-story building in their place. Unfortunately, this is not an April’s Fool joke.

51 and 53 West 19th Street are five-story, residential buildings built in 1854 which were converted to commercial and/or manufacturing use in the 1920s. Such a history is very much in keeping with the Ladies’ Mile Historic District. In fact, the designation report lists “converted dwellings” as a building type in the district along with “residential construction”, “office buildings”, “store and loft buildings”, and “retail stores/department stores.” The report points out that after World War I, the shopping district had moved north and the area’s focus shifted to manufacturing. The 1916 zoning resolution had prohibited the construction of tall buildings on mid-block sites, and so instead the surviving residential buildings were converted. Converted dwellings are obviously a part of the fabric of the district, and these two nicely-designed buildings are good examples of this typology. Continue reading

Kate Field: “A Babe in the Woods” of the Adirondacks


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kate profileAt the height of her career in mid-1873, Kate Field was said to be “a more prominent journalist than Clemens [Mark Twain].” The Washington Post said she was “one of the foremost women of America,” and the Chicago Tribune called her the “most unique woman the present century has produced.” Yet in her tales of adventure in the Adirondacks, she called herself “a babe in the woods.”

She wrote, “To be a babe in the woods watched over by a human robin redbreast, is as near an approach to Eden before the fall as comes within the ken of woman.” Continue reading

Thomas Chambers to Speak About Battlefield History


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Memories of War Visiting Battlegrounds and Bonefields in the Early American RepublicOn Sunday, April 6, at 2pm, Saratoga National Historical Park hosts Dr. Thomas Chambers as he discusses his new book, Memories of War: Visiting Battlegrounds and Bonefields in the Early American Republic.

In this free program, Dr. Chambers addresses the progression of early American battlefields from places of conflict to places of tourism and remembrance. Fields and forests, once green and serene, became witness to great privation, suffering, tragedy, and triumph. After, they gave way to relative obscurity, falling back to quiet agricultural use, and sometimes passing into aging ruins. Yet in time, as better mobility and leisure time encouraged tourism, a growing romanticizing of the past breathed new life in these sites and called forth many people to experience their own connections with these bygone battlefields. Continue reading

Winnie LaRose: An Informal Tribute


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Winnie LaroseEditor’s Note: This tribute to Lake George’s Winnie LaRose was written by the late Robert F. Hall and republished in his 1992 collection of essays, Pages from Adirondack History. He included this piece in the collection because, he wrote, “Winifred S. LaRose, who died on December 6, 1979, was the very embodiment of the environmentalist – a person whose love of her own native place and whose determination that its beauty would not be spoiled led her to the forefront of the environmental movement, not only in Lake George, but throughout New York State.”

Governor Hugh Carey proclaimed August 21, 1980, as Winnie LaRose Day, but any day would have served because that lady was busy every day of the year for the past 30 years in battling for the environment.

The governor chose that date because it coincided with a memorial service to the late Mrs. LaRose at the Fort George Battleground Park on the Beach Road at Lake George. This was an appropriate site for the service because Winnie, more than anyone else, was responsible for turning this swampy piece of ground into a park for people to enjoy. But it was done not only for people. As Victor Glider, a good friend and now retired as director of Environmental Conservation Field Services, told the gathering, Winnie insisted on clearing away the brush so that the statue of the martyred Father Jogues would have a good view of the lake where he served his mission in the 17th century. Continue reading

New History of Hobart NY Published


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Hobart NY BookThe Hobart Historical Society in the Village of Hobart, Delaware County, New York has recently published a new book about the history of the Village. It is the most useful local history book published in New York State that has ever come across the desk of The New York History Blog, and It should serve as a model for historic preservationists and other historians of smaller communities and neighborhoods.

A Look Back at Hobart, NY – On the 125th Anniversary of the Village Incorporation – 1888-2013 was compiled during the past two years by James G. Meagley, who grew up in the Village. The book has 372 pages, with 650 photos, including a photo of every building currently in the Village and is a significant update and expansion of A Century of Hobart 1888-1988, published twenty-five years ago. Gerald Stoner and his wife, Ellen, of Stamford, NY, assisted with the layout and publishing of the new book.

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New Book: Capital Region Radio 1920-2011


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9780738598468John Gabriel and Rick Kelly, two cousins who grew up together listening to radio in the Capital Region, have written one of Arcadia Publishing’s popular Images of America series books entitled Capital Region Radio 1920-2011. The book tells the history of Albany region radio programs and personalities from its early days to recent years through more than 200 vintage images.

The General Electric Company, with one of its main plants in Schenectady, began experimental broadcasts in conjunction with Union College in the early 1900s. Using many culled from the miSci Museum in Schenectady, and others, this new pictorial history shares the story of when WGY officially began broadcasting in February 1922 and General Electric started a long and storied history of pioneering radio technology and programming, which ultimately set the pace for worldwide broadcast development. Capital Region Radio pioneer WGY provided entertainment and news nationally during World War II, WTRY kept listeners updated during the blackout of 1965 and WOKO introduced rock and roll to the area. Continue reading