Category Archives: History

New York History

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 I 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.

Continue reading

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

This Week’s New York History Web Highlights


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New York Times Op-Ed: The Threat to the Palisades


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Palisades LG“The building can be redesigned. The Palisades and the Hudson River cannot.”

This simple statement closed an op-ed by four former New Jersey governors in the New York Times last week. In the piece, the governors — two Democrats and two Republicans — write about the threat LG’s proposed tower in Englewood Cliffs would pose to the Palisades, and they highlight a win-win solution: Continue reading

This Week’s Top New York History News


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Frances Perkins: Secretary of Labor Under FDR


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Frances Perkins meets with Carnegie Steel Workers in 1933Any recognition of influential and famous American women should include Frances Perkins and rank her close to the top of such a list. Perkins was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s secretary of labor during his entire time in office, from 1933 to 1945, and the first woman cabinet member in our history.

Although she is largely unknown to most Americans, many historians credit Perkins as being the architect and driving force responsible for the key achievements of FDR’s New Deal program during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Continue reading

Lectures on Adirondack History Planned in Niskayuna


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People in the WildernessThe Kelly Adirondack Center in Niskayuna, NY has announced an upcoming four-part lunch and learn series, “People in the Wilderness” with Hallie Bond.

Bond was at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake from 1983 until 2012, first as Education Director and then as Curator.

On April 7, the topic will be “Adirondack Life”. Before the automobile and good roads, Adirondack life ran in traditional channels, tied to the seasons and the land. Cash was scarce, and people worked at many different jobs. How Adirondackers used the woods to support themselves is essential to understanding Adirondack life today. Continue reading

Event: St. Lawrence County’s Civil War Veterans


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60th NY Volunteers Band Civil WarSt. Lawrence County’s Civil War Veterans is the topic for discussion at the next St. Lawrence County Historical Association (SLCHA) Civil War Roundtable this Sunday, March 30th, 2 p.m. at the Silas Wright House, 3 East Main St., Canton.

John Austin will tell about his project to document all of St. Lawrence County’s Civil War veterans. The North Country Civil War Roundtable is part of the St. Lawrence County Historical Association’s Commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, which was fought from 1861-1865. Continue reading

NY Women Helped Frame 1930s Preservation Debate


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Women on Lake GeorgeDuring the first decades of the twentieth century, as women first agitated for and then began exercising the right to vote, many became intrigued by the political process and the possibilities for influencing public opinion. One of the topics of great interest and debate concerned the best use of forest lands in the Adirondack Park, and whether to uphold the protections of Article VII, Section 7, the forever wild clause of the New York Constitution. Although little has been written on this subject, I am convinced that women contributed significantly to this debate.

My source of information is a collection of letters saved by John S. Apperson, Jr., an engineer at the General Electric Company in Schenectady. By 1920, he had earned a reputation as a leading preservationist, and was fighting a vigorous campaign to protect the islands at Lake George. His connection to women’s organizations apparently got its start there, as he became friends with Mary Loines, from Brooklyn, New York, who owned land in Northwest Bay. Continue reading

21 Nominations for State, National Historic Registers


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New York State ParksThe New York State Board for Historic Preservation has recommended the addition of 21 properties, resources and districts to the State and National Registers of Historic Places.

State and National Register listing can assist property owners in revitalizing buildings, making them eligible for various public preservation programs and services, such as matching state grants and state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits. According to a press release issued Monday, state and federal commercial historic rehabilitation tax credits administered by the State Historic Preservation Office, have resulted in developers investing $1 billion statewide in 2013 to revitalize properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places, while homeowners using the state historic homeowner rehabilitation tax credit invested more than $14.3 million statewide on home improvements to help revitalize historic neighborhoods. Continue reading

Peter Feinman: The Queens State of History


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270px-Queens_Montage_2012_1Where is the U.S. (Tennis) Open played? The tournament is located in the borough of Queens but people are more likely to think Flushing. The Brooklyn Dodgers and the Bronx Bombers are named or nicknamed for their borough, the Mets and the Jets (when they were in New York) are not. Letters to New York have borough names in the mailing address except for Queens. They are addressed to Forest Hills where the U.S. Open used to be played or to Astoria, Bayside, Long Island City and so on.

At a recent conference on Quintessential Queens held at Queens College, former Queens resident Nicole Steinberg, in a talk entitled “Many a Neighborhood – Astoria to the Rockways”, identified 74 different neighborhoods in the borough. While all of them might not have their own postal address, the large number highlights the problems: people in the borough may identify with their neighborhood the same way someone outside New York City identifies with a village, town or city and not with their county. In other words, Queens has an identity problem. Continue reading

National Park Service Hosting ‘Community Conversation’


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eleanor-rooseveltBeginning in the late 1940s historians with the National Park Service collected stories from friends, neighbors and staff of the Roosevelts and Vanderbilts. The tradition of recording people’s memories and using them to understand our history, and the people who created it carries on to this day.

The National Park Service and the Sound and Story Project have teamed up to offer two special events to be held at the Home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt National Historic Site, in Hyde Parak, NY. Continue reading