Local History And The Power of Place


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teaching geographyThere is lots of discussion these days about the “power of place” – the importance of geography and the influence of locales and surroundings. The concept dovetails naturally with local history, which explores the historical development of communities.

New York is in an excellent position to explore the connection between the power of place and local history. Our state has hundreds of local historical societies and other public history programs and is the only state in the nation with officially designated local historians. Continue reading

‘Live Free Or Die': The Life And Wars Of John Stark


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John Stark BiographyFew men contributed as much to the American victory in the Revolutionary War, yet have been as little recognized, as a New Hampshire farmer and lumberman by the name of John Stark. Although he is not well known outside of New Hampshire, a few words he wrote live on there today: Live Free or Die. A new biography by John F. Polhemus and Richard V. Polhemus, Stark, The Life and Wars of John Stark: French & Indian War Ranger, Revolutionary War General (Black Dome Press, 2014) should help bring this remarkable man’s life into appropriate perspective.

Stark served as a captain of rangers with Robert Rogers in the French and Indian War, and as a colonel and general in the Revolution at Bunker Hill, Trenton, Princeton, Westchester, Springfield, Saratoga, Ticonderoga and West Point. His greatest achievement however, was at the Battle of Bennington. The Battle of Saratoga and the surrender of Burgoyne on October 17, 1777 was the turning point of the American Revolution, but the Battle of Bennington on August 16th set the stage. Continue reading

New Book Considers Origins Of The Name Wyckoff


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Wyckoff Family HistoryIn What’s In A Name? History And Meaning Of Wyckoff (2014), M. William Wykoff offers evidence that the origin of the surname Wyckoff is Frisian and refers to a household or settlement on a bay, despite widespread belief of American descendants of Pieter Claessen Wyckoff that the name is Dutch.

Frisian was only one of the many languages spoken by early settlers of New Netherland. There are many spelling variants of the surname in the Northern Germanic linguistic area of Europe, Wykoff argues, but it now occurs principally in the Lower Saxony area of Germany which includes East Frisia from where Pieter Claessen Wyckoff emigrated. Continue reading

This Week’s New York History Web Highlights


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Podcast: Nelson Rockefeller With Richard Norton Smith


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The Historians LogoThis week “The Historians” podcast features an interview with Richard Norton Smith who has spent 14 years writing On His Own Terms: A Life of Nelson Rockefeller (Random House, 2014).

Rockefeller was Republican governor of New York State from 1959 to 1973, vice president of the United States from 1974 to 1977, and part of one of America’s most wealthy and influential families. In this interview Smith discusses Rockefeller’s role in destruction of Albany neighborhoods and creation of the Empire State Plaza. He describes Rockefeller’s service as an adviser to three Presidents (two Democrats), his expansion of the state university, his dyslexia, his love of modern art, his failed Presidential bids, the Attica prison uprising and the cover-up surrounding Rockefeller’s death while alone with a female intern. Listen at “The Historians” online archive at http://www.bobcudmore.com/thehistorians/
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This Week’s Top New York History News


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The REDCs, History and the NYS Council on the Arts


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REDC RegionsThis posts is the third in a series of posts examining the awards approved by the Regional
Economic Development Councils (REDC) from the perspective of the Path through History.

Below is a list of projects which were found based on the term “history” for the search criteria. Although there are not many grants with a specifically historical-focus, the ones that do tend to be funded by New York State Council on the Arts as part of its Culture & Heritage Project Grant. Below are the awards for 2014 by the Council of Arts that are relevant to the history community. Continue reading

Saranac: Life and Times of an Adirondack Town


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Clinton County Historical SocietyThe Clinton County Historical Association (CCHA) will open a new exhibit from 12 to 3 pm on Saturday, January 24th: Saranac: Life and Times of an Adirondack Town.  Since 2010, the CCHA has invited Clinton County Historians to take part in the Museum’s I Love Clinton County Exhibition Series.  The Town of Saranac is being highlighted in this year’s series focusing on town history.

Jan Couture, Town of Saranac Historian and the Seney family of the Saranac Family History and Research Group curated the exhibit which highlights Saranac’s history as a mining, manufacturing, logging and farming town. The exhibit which will be on display at the Museum until October 2015.  Continue reading

Poestenkill Lion: Unique Folk Art On Exhibit


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Poestenkill Lionk In December, the Rensselaer County Historical Society (RCHS) unveiled a new addition to the museum. The Poestenkill Lion returned to the museum after some conservation work and for the first time was displayed on the museum’s walls.

The lion first came to RCHS in 2011, when long-time RCHS supporters Hughes and Eva Gemmill donated the painting, which dates to about 1840 and is by an unknown artist. The lion was thinly painted with milk paint on four wide unfinished wood boards. Continue reading

New York History’s Most Famous Nurse?


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Portrait_of_Lillian_WaldThere are several claimants to the title of New York’s most famous nurse. That distinction probably can be laid at the feet of Long Island native Walt Whitman, though it was not his nursing skills during the Civil War that garnered him his fame. Some might argue it is the still not positively identified nurse who was photographed in Times Square celebrating the surrender of Japan in 1945 through a passionate kiss from a sailor. Again, though, it was not her skills as a nurse that earned her recognition. Another contender was Mary Breckinridge, whose Frontier Nursing Service brought healthcare to poor rural America. While her fame came about as a result of her nursing, she was born in Tennessee and gained her fame in Kentucky, only acquiring her nursing education in New York.

I happen to believe the title of New York’s most famous nurse belongs to Lillian Wald. Though born in Cincinnati, her family brought her to New York as a girl. She would spend the rest of her life there, gaining fame for her work in bringing healthcare to the poorest of New York’s immigrant population. Even after her death in 1940 her impact on New York continued to be felt, and her legacy lives on to this day. Continue reading

Lecture: Dating Photos By Fashion


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Lake Placid Library 145The Lake Placid-North Elba Historical Society has announced the first program of its 2015 “Odds and Ends” Winter Lecture Series on Wednesday, January 28 at Howard Johnson’s Restaurant in Lake Placid, NY.  The program is Dating Photos by Fashion” presented by Margaret Bartley, Trustee of the Essex County Historical Society.

“Dating Photos by Fashion” is a slide/lecture program designed to teach anyone who is interested in learning how to date old photos by the style of dress and fashion.  It will cover the period 1840 to 1920 and uses old photos to show how styles changed over a period of 80 years.  Dating old photos is a great help to anyone interested in history, genealogy or simply has old family photos that are unidentified or undated. Continue reading

Early United States Trade with China


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ben_franklins_worldA mercantile partnership led by Robert Morris sent the Empress of China, a 360-ton ship to Canton, China one month and eight days after the Congress of the United States ratified the Treaty of Paris, 1783.

Why did these merchants look so far east to secure a profitable trade? And why did they attempt such a venture not long after the United States secured its independence from Great Britain?

In this episode of the “Ben Franklin’s World” podcast, Dane Morrison, Professor of History at Salem State University and author of True Yankees: The South Seas and the Discovery of American Identity, helps us discover the answers to these questions and more as he leads us on an exploration of the early American trade with China. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/012

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Remembering Treasury Secretary Albert Gallatin


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245px-AlbertGallatinJanuary 29th is the birthday of Albert Gallatin. The Lower Manhattan Historical Society will hold a brief ceremony at 4:30 pm in which students from New York University will lay a wreath on Gallatin’s grave in Trinity Church Cemetery. The ceremony will be followed by a lecture on Gallatin at 5:30 at the Museum of American Finance at 48 Wall Street in Manhattan.

Although not as well known as some of the more famous residents of Trinity’s cemetery, Albert Gallatin, was an important figure who fought for regular Americans and a more democratic society. Continue reading

The Saga of Albany Jim Brady


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NYH1ABigJimBradyThis is not a story about Diamond Jim Brady (1856‒1917), who, during America’s Gilded Age, was a flamboyant, legendary businessman and philanthropist with an appetite for diamonds and other jewels. It is instead about Big Jim Brady, who, during America’s Gilded Age, was known for his own type of philanthropy, had an affinity for jewels, and was a legendary figure – as the handsomest and coolest of crooks. Continue reading

New Netherland: Book Award Submissions Sought


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New-France_2_6_Map-of-New-Belgium-or-New-NetherlandThe annual Hendricks Award for 2015 will be given this year to the best book relating to any aspect of New Netherland and its legacy. The Award carries a prize of $5,000 as well as a framed print of a painting by L. F. Tantillo.

In 2015, the designated category for submission is recently published books. Three copies of a published book must be submitted on or before February 1, 2015, with a letter of intent to enter the contest. Copies cannot be returned. Continue reading

Martin Luther King In The Catskills, 1968


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king-concordOn March 25, 1968 Dr. Martin Luther King delivered the keynote address at the annual Rabbinical Assembly Convention at the renowned Concord Hotel in Kiamesha Lake in the Sullivan County Catskills.  Ten days later he was dead.

King had come to the Concord to address the gathering of conservative rabbis to honor his long-time friend, Rabbi Abraham Heschel, who had accompanied King and others in the historic 1961 march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, and who was being feted that might by his colleagues as a belated 60th birthday celebration. As he took the podium following his introduction, King was greeted warmly by those in attendance, who sang the civil rights song, “We Shall Overcome” in Hebrew. Continue reading

New Book: Wood, Whiskey and Wine


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Wood Whiskey WineBarrels – we rarely acknowledge their importance, but without them we would be missing out on some of the world’s finest beverages – most notably whiskies and wines – and of course for over two thousand years they’ve been used to store, transport, and age an incredibly diverse array of provisions around the globe.

In the new wide-ranging book Wood, Whiskey and Wine (Reaktion, 2014), Henry Work tells the intriguing story of the significant and ever-evolving role wooden barrels have played during the last two millennia, revealing how the history of the barrel parallels that of technology at large. Continue reading