Category Archives: Natural History

New York’s War on Animals (Conclusion)


By on

1 Comment

Vermin02 WhiteList1919After a “Black List” of animals was promulgated by New York State officials and an all-out war against these “vermin” was launched in the early 20th century, a competition grew among fish and game clubs across the state. Some clubs were founded for the specific purpose of complying with the state’s plea for help in eradicating unwanted animals.

Many clubs held contests, applying point systems to each animal on the list and awarding prizes to the winners. “Contest” was in some cases a misnomer: in many cases, it was a year-round process punctuated by periodic awards. Continue reading

A Century Ago: New York’s War on Animals


By on

3 Comments

Vermin01 BlackList1919Beware! Pictured here are your adversaries – the official enemies of the state. Don’t be distracted by the pretty colors, lovely feathers, or furry critters. These are vermin, and citizens are urged to kill them at every opportunity. The poster, by the way, represents only the top nine targets from a group of notorious killers, presented here alphabetically: bobcat, Cooper’s hawk, crow, English sparrow, goshawk, gray fox, great gray owl, great horned owl, house rat, “hunting” house cat, lynx, porcupine, red fox, red squirrel, sharp-shinned hawk, snowy owl, starling, weasel, and woodchuck. Kingfishers and a number of snakes were later added, and osprey were fair game as well.

While some of the phrases used above – “official enemies … kill them at every opportunity … new job requirement” – might sound like exaggerations, they were, in fact, official conservation policies of New York State a century ago. Continue reading

Greene Smith: Peterboro’s Avid Outdoorsman


By on

0 Comments

Smith BirdhouseThe important contributions to the field of ornithology of citizen-scientist Greene Smith have been obscured by the Underground Railroad and abolition fame of Smith’s father Gerrit Smith. As important and well-known as are the Underground Railroad sites on the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark in Peterboro NY, it is Greene’s Ornithon that most piques visitors’ curiosity about the builder and collector of that bird museum.

This public fascination prompted Norm Dann to turn the focus of his Smith research to Greene Smith and his Birdhouse. Dann’s study of family letters, military records, Greene’s personal Catalogue of Birds, the pursuit of Greene’s hunting apparatus, and the ownership and investigation of the Birdhouse site, have culminated in the March printing of Greene Smith and the WildLife: The Story of Peterboro’s Avid Outdoorsman – the first publication on this absorbing story. Continue reading

Roosevelt-Vanderbilt Site Seeks Garden Volunteers


By on

0 Comments

Val-Kill garden volunteersThe Roosevelt Vanderbilt National Historic Site seeks volunteer gardeners to assist with the restoration and maintenance of the landscape at the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site (Val-Kill). Volunteers will work under the direction of the national parks’ horticulturist on projects throughout the landscape and gardens. The volunteer gardening program takes place on Wednesdays from 9 am – 12 pm. Continue reading

Birds in History: New York’s Snoring Eagles?


By on

0 Comments

Bald EaglegovFrom a lifetime of experiences, and reading nature books since childhood, it’s true that I should know a little more about wildlife than the average Joe, but I lay no claim to being an expert. Learning something new is a principal reason for reading books, and of late, I’ve had occasion to indulge in several excellent Adirondack-related titles written between 1840 and 1920.

In one of them, a particular passage caused me to stop, backtrack, read it again, and then one more time in disbelief. Since other animal behavior described in the book held true, I supposed this one should as well, but I had reservations. Above all, one thing was certain: confirmation would be hilarious, at least to my thinking. The claim was that bald eagles snore. And not only that: they snore LOUDLY. Experienced guides and hunters claimed it to be true. Continue reading

The Albany-Montréal Fur Trade, 1700-1754


By on

0 Comments

ben_franklins_worldThe smuggling trade between Albany and Montréal presented a large problem for the imperial governments of Great Britain and France between 1700 and 1754.

In this episode of the “Ben Franklin’s World” podcast, Dr. Eugene Tesdahl, an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, joins us to discuss the infamous Albany-Montréal Trade and the business of smuggling in colonial North America. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/021

Continue reading

A New History Of Trees, Woods and Forests


By on

0 Comments

Trees Woods and Forests BookForests – and the trees within them – have always been a central resource for the development of technology, culture, and the expansion of humans as a species.

Examining and challenging our historical and modern attitudes toward wooded environments from a European perspective, Charles Watkins’ Trees, Woods and Forest: A Social and Cultural History (Reaktion Books, 2014)  explores how our understanding of forests has transformed in recent years and how it fits in our continuing anxiety about our impact on the natural world. Continue reading

The Diaries of Theodore Roosevelt 1877-1886


By on

0 Comments

Theodore Roosevelt DiariesA Most Glorious Ride: The Diaries of Theodore Roosevelt 1877-1886 (SUNY Press, 2015) covers the formative years of TR’s life, and show the transformation of a sickly and solitary Harvard freshman into a confident and increasingly robust young adult. He writes about his grief over the premature death of his father, his courtship and marriage to his first wife, Alice Hathaway Lee, and later the death of Alice and his mother on the same day.

The diaries also chronicle his burgeoning political career in New York City and his election to the New York State Assembly. With his descriptions of balls, dinner parties, and nights at the opera, they offer a glimpse into life among the Gilded Age elite in Boston and New York. Continue reading

Shoveling and Plowing in the Good Ol’ Days


By on

3 Comments

ShovelingSnow01Earlier this winter, our forecast in Clinton County was light rain and temps in the upper 30s, conditions that were expected to last a couple of days. Forty-eight hours later, 23 inches of the heaviest, wettest snow imaginable covered everything in sight. Tree collapsed, power outages were frequent, and roads were a slushy mess. Removal of the stuff from driveways was best done by machine, but for some of us, manual effort was the only way to go. As I toiled, my mind wandered to similar jobs I’ve endured in decades past. Continue reading

The Woodlands Historic Site of Philadelphia


By on

0 Comments

ben_franklins_worldWilliam Hamilton built The Woodlands mansion in Philadelphia in the 1760s. The estate stands as a tribute to the significant architectural and botanical contributions Hamilton made to Philadelphia and the young United States, including a part in the Lewis and Clark expedition.

This week on the “Ben Franklin’s World” podcast we speak with Jessica Baumert, the Executive Director of The Woodlands Historic Site in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/011 Continue reading

An Update On The Finger Lakes Museum


By on

0 Comments

Finger Lakes MuseumIn December, The Finger Lakes Museum was awarded two New York State agency grants through Round IV of the Regional Economic Development Council Initiative. The awards totaled $254,500.

In two separate letters to museum board President John Adamski, Empire State Development President and CEO Kenneth Adams wrote that the Finger Lakes Regional Council had recommended a $200,000 grant award for capital construction work at the museum’s campus in Branchport and an additional $54,500 through its Division of Tourism for marketing and promotion through the state’s I Love New York program. Continue reading

Designate Adirondack Park A National Heritage Area


By on

2 Comments

Entering-Adirondack-ParkI’ve been to the Rockies, and clearly, a visitor can’t help but be awestruck by their height and views. Yet the Adirondack Park is where I prefer to go.

I’ve had decades of pleasurable visits to the Adirondack Park to hike, climb, ski, canoe, enjoy the scenery and go to the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake. Whether my visit is to recreate or debate park management policy, I’m drawn to the region’s history and ongoing politics as well as its lakes, ponds and rivers. Continue reading

Areial Photos: New York Rural History From Above


By on

4 Comments

aerial photograph centered in Syracuse Onondaga County New York 1938Aerial photos can be helpful research tools for historians. Google Earth, which provides access to a vast collection of aerial photography stretching back 20 years, is just a sampling of the many aerial photos that have been made since French balloonist Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, known as “Nadar”, took a photo over Paris, France in 1858.

Much of New York Sate was photographed with the camera pointing straight down, an oblique presentation that is less useful to some historians. An effort to capture all of New York in an orthophotographic perspective (corrected to a uniform scale) started in 1936 with a contract to C.S. Robinson of Ithaca, NY. These images are particularly valuable resources for historians of all stripes. Continue reading

Philip Terrie On Adirondack History


By on

1 Comment

The Historians LogoThis week “The Historians” podcast features an interview with Philip G. Terrie, author of the book Contested Terrain: A New History of Nature and People in the Adirondacks (Syracuse Univ. Press, 2008). Terrie has been researching and writing Adirondack history since 1971. He is an emeritus professor at Bowling Green State University and has been a visiting professor at SUNY Plattsburgh and SUNY Potsdam. He was a consultant to the PBS documentary on the Adirondacks. Listen at “The Historians” online archive at http://www.bobcudmore.com/thehistorians/
Continue reading

The Greatest Adirondack Rescue Story


By on

3 Comments

NYH1A CurtissCondorThis December marks the seventy-ninth anniversary of perhaps the greatest Adirondack rescue story ever. With all the inherent dangers of hiking, rock climbing, and navigating treacherous river rapids by canoe or kayak, this incredible incident, ironically, was unrelated to the most popular mountain pursuits. But when accidents occur while enjoying those pastimes, one factor above all can turn any outing into a life-or-death drama: weather. Continue reading

NYC: Original Central Park Plan On Exhibit


By on

0 Comments

central park map 1863The Museum of the City of New York has put on public display the rarely seen Greensward Plan for Central Park – the original 1858 design by Central Park superintendent and future leading landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted and English-born architect Calvert Vaux that won a public design competition to improve and expand the park.

This four-by-twelve-foot map depicting Central Park’s framework in pen and ink has permanently left its imprint on the park and the visitor experience. On loan from the New York City Parks Department, the Greensward Plan for Central Park is now on view at the City Museum through January 2015. Continue reading

Can You Identify These Photos?


By on

0 Comments

Fairview home album photo 5 uknown mill complex009An old photo album of the Fairview Home For Friendless Children was recently rediscovered while beginning an inventory process of materials in the Collection of the Town of Colonie Historian’s Office and Historical Society.

In the album were these three photos depicting a deep gorge with either a train or trolley trestle in the background, and a view of a very interesting mill complex that may have existed in the Capital District area.  Continue reading

Kirk Douglas: Amsterdam Native’s 1960 African Safari


By on

0 Comments

Kirk Douglas in the navyAmsterdam native and movie star Kirk Douglas, who will turn 98 next month, killed a leopard and other big game during a 1962 African safari.

According to an article in the men’s magazine True, Douglas, 46 at the time, said at the end of the trip, “I’m hooked. I don’t know how I got along all those years without hunting.”

History enthusiast Emil Suda, who lives in Amsterdam’s East End where Douglas grew up as Issur Danielovitch or Izzy Demsky, provided a copy of the magazine’s account of Douglas’s safari written by Ralph Daigh. True folded in 1975. A chapter called “Killer Douglas” is devoted to the actor’s hunting trip in his 1988 autobiography The Ragman’s Son. Continue reading

Memories of the Way We Were and Are


By on

1 Comment

Dont ForgetLong time readers of my posts may recall the importance of Melanie Griffith in “Working Girl.” Her explanation of how she originated the idea for the corporate merger is a classic expression of the serendipity of the unexpected juxtaposition leading to thinking.

The eureka moment occurs not when one expects it but when things click in one’s mind. That’s why I enjoy thumbing through a newspaper rather than simply extracting predetermined information from the web – you never know what connections will be made…nor do the editors of the newspaper who are examining each article in isolation. Continue reading