Tectonic forces and global cooling and warming set the stage for the dawn of New York State history. The stage was not a barren one and long before King Kong climbed the Empire State Building that scrapped the sky, giants walked the ground that would become the Empire State. These giants would be called “mastodons” and they became important in religion and nationalism in ways that before their discovery no one could have imagined.
The story of mastodons and New York begins in 1705 in Claverack, Columbia County. A Dutch tenant farmer picked up a five-pound tooth that had rolled down a hill and landed at his feet. Being a sensible sort of person, he naturally traded the tooth to a politician for a glass of rum. The tooth thereupon made its way up the political food chain until it arrived in London. Continue reading
With my 100th post to The New York History Blog, I embark on a new venture. I have been asked to write a 4,000-word history of New York. That is a lot of history to cover in very few words. I am not sure if it is even possible…at least for me. I have decided to divide the subject into a series of topics and to post these shorter pieces to New York History.
Unfortunately the number of topics seems to mushroom so it is not quite as simple as writing seven 500-word posts. I expect when all is done is to have vastly exceeded my assigned allotment and to require substantial pruning if not outright dismemberment. Continue reading
SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry’s Northern Forest Institute is inviting submissions for its third annual symposium of interdisciplinary scholarship in land use and ethics to be held in Newcomb June 6 – 8, 2014.
Submissions from a range of disciplines and professional fields are encouraged. Topics include a variety of approaches to land use, the moral implications of these approaches, and their impacts on social and environmental justice. See the 2013 program on their website. Submission deadline is December 16, 2013. More information can be found on their website.
Here’s a quick look at some of the latest New York history resources to hit the web:
The Bronx Zoo is digitizing three dozen scrapbooks of its first director, William Temple Hornaday (from 1896 to 1926). The work is being done with a grant from the Leon Levy Foundation. The zoo director promoted habitat preservation worldwide, and the scrapbooks include letters, postcards, legal briefs, newspaper clippings and pamphlets. His involvement in the infamous Ota Benga scandal in 1906 is not recorded. Hornaday died in 1937. The collection can be found at the Wildlife Conservation Society Library and Archives website. Continue reading
Catamount Mountain, the one rising from the shores of Taylor Pond north of Whiteface, has always been one of my favorite climbs.
Exposed rock can be so alluring, just one of the many elements that draws in people who love the outdoors. And Catamount has it all for the average hiker/climber―beautiful woods, a conical peak with great views, a dike to climb through, and lots of open, rocky expanses. Continue reading
Drifting: Two Weeks on the Hudson (SUNY Press, 2011) is a candid account of the author Mike Freeman’s two-week canoe trip down the Hudson River which offers an introspective and humorous look at both the river and recession-era America.
New to fatherhood and fresh from ten years in an Alaskan village, Freeman sets out to relearn his country, and realizes it’s in a far greater midlife crisis than he could ever be. With an eye on the Hudson’s past, he addresses America’s present anxieties—from race, gender, and marriage to energy, labor, and warfare—with empathy and honesty, acknowledging the difficulties surrounding each issue without succumbing to pessimism or ideology. Continue reading
Robert Sayre, a retired English professor at the University of Iowa, has spent nearly every summer on Fire Island since 1934. Drawing on his deep interest in Fire Island environmental history Sayre has written Fire Island, Past, Present, and Future: The Environmental History of a Barrier Beach (Oystercatcher Books, 2013).
Syre’s book, which began as an exhibit at the Point O’ Woods Historical Society in 2007 is a concise and readable environmental history of Fire Island from its post-glacial origins to its human uses and its prospects in the age of global warming. Continue reading
A new exhibit opening at the New York State Museum in Albany on Saturday, “Weather Event,” focuses on Charles E. Burchfield’s depictions of the weather south of Lake Erie, where the artist lived for most of his life. Individual weather events are examined through both an artistic, historic, and scientific lens.
Burchfield’s representations of weather, wind, skies and sounds are unique historical records of the environment near Lake Erie. In 1915, Burchfield made a series of sketches that show the changing weather and position of the sun over the course of several hours, which he called all-day sketches. Decades later, a 1950 journal entry recounts “The Day the Sun Disappeared over Western New York.” Continue reading
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has released the draft unit management plans (UMPs) for the Hurricane Mountain Fire Tower Historic Area and the Saint Regis Mountain Fire Tower Historic Area. The UMPs contain management proposals for the fire observation towers located on the summit of Hurricane Mountain in the Town of Keene, Essex County, and the summit of Saint Regis Mountain in the Town of Santa Clara, Franklin County. Continue reading
Historian and art enthusiast Jim Mackin will present “Artists of Taconic State Park” at a lecture and slide show on Saturday, October 26th at 1pm at the Roeliff Jansen Historical Society, Corner of Route 344 and Miles Road in Copake Falls. Admission is free.
Mackin will share with the audience his quest to find artists who have painted in Taconic State Park since the early 1800s. His presentation will include related local and park history as well as stories about some of the renowned artists whose works found their way into prominent museums. The presentation will feature many images that illustrate how inspiring Taconic State Park has been to artists for nearly two centuries. John Frederick Kensett, Asher B. Durand and David Milne are among the artists expected to be featured. Continue reading
The hill that separates the outlet of Lake George from the creek that opens into Lake Champlain is among the oldest portages in continuous use in North America.
The Native Americans gave it a name: Ticonderoga, “the place between waters.”
Up and down its slope have passed explorers and naturalists such as Isaac Jogues and Peter Kalm, travelers such as Thomas Jefferson and, of course, the armies of the French, the British and the Americans as supremacy over North America and its strategic waterways shifted from one nation to another. Continue reading
The only living witness to Susan B. Anthony’s life is a 150 year-old Horse Chestnut Tree that still shades her family’s front yard in Rochester, N.Y. It personifies the gutsy woman people called Aunt Susan who loved her home and devoted her life to fighting for women’s rights and suffrage. The Tree has received a “Hero of Horticulture” award from The Cultural Landscape Foundation (http://tclf.org). “Hero” Trees are associated with great people and significant moments in American history.
Back when the vision of women voting seemed an impossible dream, Susan B. Anthony endured hardship and ridicule while waging a tireless campaign for gender equality. Her heart stayed home, however, along with her roots. Anthony personally defended the Horse Chestnut Tree against threats from a road project. Now its rustling leaves resonate in the hearts of visitors to the National Susan B. Anthony Museum and House. (www.susanbanthonyhouse.org) Continue reading
In 1869, alarming news about the dangers of drinking absinthe swept north from New York City, through Albany, all the way to Malone, near the Canadian border. A “brilliant writer” from the New York press and a “talented lady” had ruined themselves physically and mentally by drinking absinthe.
Comparing the drink to opium and morphine, the article warned readers that absinthe “obtains an all-powerful control over its votaries, deadens the sensibilities, and is, indeed the guillotine of the soul.” Continue reading
In a lawsuit filed by two public interest groups and four individuals, Judge Alexander Carver of the New Jersey Superior Court yesterday upheld the grant of a variance to LG Electronics that would allow it to construct a 143-foot tower atop the Hudson River Palisades, four times higher than the 35-foot height limit respected for decades by all other companies.
The variance, approved by the Borough of Englewood Cliffs in February 2012, authorizes construction of a building that would rise 80 feet above the tree line, ending an unbroken natural sweep of the Palisades north of Fort Lee. Despite this, the court ruled that the Englewood Cliffs Planning Board had not abused its authority in granting the variance that exempted the LG tower. Continue reading
What follows is a guest essay by William Keating about the opening of the rehabilitated Mount Beacon Fire Tower in June.
The colonials used the 1,400 foot north peak of Mount Beacon along the Hudson River during the Revolutionary War to set warning fires to alert General Washington at his headquarters on the western side of the river of any British presence in the valley below. From this activity, the City of Beacon got its name. Continue reading
A gleaming wooden Adirondack guide boat, made from pine and cherry, and sporting original cane seats and graceful oars along with a history that dates to Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency, is again gliding through the waters of the Central Adirondacks where it was crafted at the turn of the 20th century. Continue reading
This year marks fifty years since the passing of John S. Apperson, Jr., a celebrated Lake George conservationist. To honor his memory and accomplishments, the Lake George Land Conservancy (LGLC) held a gathering on July 21 hosted by LGLC Director Debbie Hoffman and her husband Bill, at their Bolton Landing home in the heart of “Apperson Territory”.
Over 60 people joined together for the casual event. Guests were able to walk around the property, which neighbored Bill and Kathleen Horne’s home known as the Annex, and enjoy the lakefront views. Continue reading
If you like horses (and who doesn’t?) and some funny grammatical errors, check out these two sentence segments from regional newspapers. From 1927: “Mounted on his favorite and favored horse wearing a white broad-brimmed hat … ; and from 1980: “Fans hurled confetti at third baseman George Brett, who was atop a horse wearing a grey cowboy hat.” Both excerpts contain misplaced modifiers: it’s a pretty safe bet that neither horse was wearing a hat.
But as silly as it sounds, it’s an idea that was actually once in vogue. About a century ago, many of northern New York’s horses were sporting the latest craze―hats for horses.
In parts of Europe and the West Indies, it had long been a practice for operators of hacks―horse-drawn taxis, carriages, and the like―to bedeck their horses with hats, which minimized the wearing effects of the hot sun during long days of strolling the streets. Continue reading