Category Archives: Public History

History Columnist Dan Weaver on ‘The Historians’ Podcast


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The Historians LogoThis week on The Historians Podcast, Amsterdam (NY) Recorder history columnist Dan Weaver describes actress: Debbie Reynolds’s connection to Amsterdam. Weaver also talks about the Cabbage Patch doll and Coleco and the story of Derby, the blind proprietor of a newsstand in the Amsterdam post office. Weaver owns The Book Hound bookstore in Amsterdam.

Listen to the podcast here. Continue reading

Lecture on the Mohawk Schoharie Indians March 7th


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De Wilden Hoek The second installment of the Old Stone Fort Museum’s winter lecture series will be held on Tuesday, March 7 at 7 pm in the museum’s Badgley Annex.

Local historian Jeff O’Connor will present “The Schoharie Indians – Who Were They and Why Were They Here?” His program will explore the appearance of Mohawk people in the Schoharie Valley before the arrival of the Palatines. Continue reading

Playing the Hand You’re Dealt: Billy Richards, ‘the Armless Wonder’


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While researching a pair of books on North Country iron mining, I unexpectedly became privy to tragedies that many families faced. Mining accidents were frequent and involved excessive violence, often resulting in death. Victims were sometimes pancaked — literally — by rock falls, and their remains were recovered with scraping tools. Others were blown to pieces by dynamite explosions, usually as the result of, in mining parlance, “hitting a missed hole.”

The “missed hole” nomenclature refers to unexploded dynamite charges accidentally detonated later by another miner when his drill made contact with the material or caused a spark. The resulting blast was often fatal, but not always. Those who survived were usually blinded, burned badly, or maimed in some fashion.

In 1878, in Crown Point’s iron mines at Hammondville, near Lake Champlain, a young laborer, Billy Richards, was tasked with holding a star drill (basically a hand-held chisel with a star point) against the ore face while his partner — his step-father, Richard George — struck it with a sledge hammer. Through this commonly used teamwork method, a cadence developed whereby the star drill was struck and the holder then turned it slightly before it was struck again. Continue reading

New York State Unveils New Empire Pass Card


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The Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) has announced the new State Parks Empire Pass Card is now available for purchase. The new Empire Pass Card, accepted at state parks and recreation areas across New York, is a wallet-sized plastic card that can be shared among family members including parents, grandparents, caregivers and more. The card is presented upon vehicle entry and includes QR code and embedded chip technology to allow for easier park access at select facilities. Continue reading

State Museum Creates New York State History Advisory Group


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The New York State Museum has announced the creation of the New York State History Advisory Group. The group is expected to meet, according to an announcement sent to the press, “periodically to advise the New York State Historian on issues related to the history field in New York State, including suggestions pertaining to local and municipal historians, academic history, historic preservation, and heritage tourism.” The Advisory Group’s suggestions and recommendations are “purely advisory in nature and are nonbinding” the announcement said. Continue reading

Convent Life 50 Years Ago


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The Historians LogoThis week on “The Historians” podcast, Mary Lou Reid takes a look at life in the convent fifty years ago when she was a novice in the order of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Reid, who left the religious order for a career in media and financial planning, discusses this topic in the context of her self-help program, The Convent Diet. Listen to the podcast here. Continue reading

Some History of the Famous Red Barn in Keene


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In late December, the rustic red barn that stood at the intersection of Routes 73 and 9N in Keene was taken down by the Department of Environmental Conservation after it became hazardous.

Although not an officially-recognized historic landmark, many who have traveled through Keene saw the barn, with its majestic High Peaks in the background, as a quaint countryside icon.

Since it came down, folks have waxed nostalgic while mourning the abrupt loss of this unassuming structure. I decided to dig into the barn’s history and see if there was more to it than met the eye. Continue reading

Two Horrific Events in New York City


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The Historians LogoThis week on The Historians Podcast, history teacher Doug Kaufman discusses the 1911 Triangle shirtwaist factory fire in New York City. Steve Jankowski of Broadalbin, NY, tells how he escaped from the scene of the 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. They spoke at an event sponsored by Amsterdam Reads on the historical novel “A Fall of Marigolds” by Susan Meissner. Listen to the podcast here. Continue reading