Bruce Dearstyne: Leadership and NYS History Month


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New York State History MonthNew York State History Month (November) is just over half through. November was designated in statute in 1997 as State History Month but it has been mostly ignored, until this year.

Last year, State Historian Bob Weible wrote a post in these pages entitled “Is NYS History Month Dead?” which suggested using the month for public history events. Thanks to Bob’s leadership and initiative, State History Month now has a higher visibility and momentum, as described in his recent follow-up. Continue reading

NYC ‘Evacuation Day’ Celebration Planned


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Evacuation_of_New_York_by_the_BritishThe Lower Manhattan Historical Society, the Sons of the Revolution of the State of New York, and the Manhattan Borough President have announced a number of events to celebrate Evacuation Day — November 25, 1783 – the day the British left New York City finally ending the American Revolution.

On that day George Washington’s troops marched down Broadway to Bowling Green Park, and the American flag was raised over the City for the first time since the City had fallen to the English in 1776. There was an elaborate dinner with Governor George Clinton and Washington and many of his officers at Fraunces Tavern where there were thirteen toasts to the new government. Continue reading

Ben Haynes: Deacon Builder of the North Country


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1BWH 1st Presb ChurchNo matter how long a life lasts, the residue left behind is often fleeting, and within a generation or so, most of us are largely forgotten. But it’s also true that every life has a story, and many are worth retelling. I often glean subject matter from obituaries, or from gravestones as I walk through cemeteries. A tiny snippet of information stirs the need to dig for more, perhaps revealing unusual or remarkable achievements and contributions.

A fine example involves Benjamin Wood Haynes, a native of Westford, Vermont, who lived and worked in northern New York in the latter half of the 1800s. Intriguing to me was a reference to him as a “builder,” and so the digging began, yielding some impressive nuggets. Continue reading

Antebellum NYC Envrionmental Battles


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Taming ManhattanTaming Manhattan: Environmental Battles in the Antebellum City (Harvard Univ. Press, 2014) details the environmental history of the city of New York in the years before and during the Civil War, when pigs roamed the streets and cows foraged in the Battery.

On Tuesday, November 25th, at an event at NYU, author Catherine McNeur will discuss nineteenth-century New York City’s long forgotten shantytowns, the people living in the communities, and how outsiders viewed the architecture and communities developing on the metropolitan periphery. Continue reading

Sam Roberts On ‘The History of New York in 101 Objects’


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History of New York in 101 ObjectsAs a reporter, I spend a lot of time reaching out to people who’d rather not talk to me. It’s not necessarily that they have something to hide. It’s more that their best default strategy is insipidity, to say nothing that jeopardizes their jobs or, especially, their boss’s.

That’s yet another reason I’m grateful for the opportunity to write about history. Historians, archivists, curators and librarians, as a group, are not only generous with their time, but also magnanimous about sharing their accrued wisdom, their collections and to steer me to resources I never imagined even existed. Continue reading

Personal Radio History with Bob Cudmore


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The Historians LogoThis week on “The Historians”, Jamie Bologna, a graduate student at Boston University, interviews me about my years in radio, including a stint in the 1960s at B.U.’s WBUR-FM. My career took me from WCSS in Amsterdam to WBEC in Pittsfield, Mass., WGY in Albany and WVTL in Amsterdam. I retired from my job as morning host at WVTL on November 14, 2014. I will continue to do a regular podcast on history on my Web site.

Listen at “The Historians” online archive at http://www.bobcudmore.com/thehistorians/
Continue reading

This Week’s Top New York History News


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Resilience and History: 2 Years After Superstorm Sandy


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BigULeveeSince 2013 the Rockefeller Foundation has been celebrating its 100th Anniversary with a focus on resilience, a theme devised to match its mission of global engagement with big problems. Judith Rodin, the president of Rockefeller Foundation has even found time to write a whole book, The Resilience Dividend: Being Strong in a World Where Things Go Wrong. Mayor de Blasio has an Office of Resilience and Recovery run by Daniel Zarrilli, and New York has won a place in the 100 Resilient Cities Project which is trying to build stronger urban systems to resist catastrophes before they happen. But the waters are rising, and New York has been drenched again and again. Can human actions defy the cycle of damage and the predictions of future devastation proclaimed with every conference on climate change and disaster’s aftermath? Continue reading

After 21 Yrs Jeff County Historical Cancels Victorian Faire


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Jefferson County Historical SocietyThe Watertown Daily Times is reporting that the Jefferson County Historical Society (JCHS) has cancelled it’s annual Victorian Faire after holding the event for more than 20 years. JCHS Executive Director Jessica M. Phinney told the newspaper that a fall in the number of vendors from 20 to 30 in 2012, to 23 last year and just seven this year.

“We reached out to all prior vendors and the feedback was nothing bad – we are fairly priced,”  Phinney told the paper. “This year the committee decided to opt for quality. We didn’t want to put the vendors we had through (a low turnout).” Continue reading

Helen Rich And St. Lawrence County Suffrage


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younghelenrich(1)When most people discuss the American woman’s suffrage movement they think of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.  However, Helen Hinsdale Rich was the first woman to embrace the idea of woman’s suffrage in the North Country.

Learn more about Helen Rich when Bryan Thompson speaks at the St. Lawrence County Historical Association’s next Patricia Harrington Carson Brown Bag Lunch Series at noon on Thursday, November 20th at the Silas Wright House, 3 East Main St., Canton.  Brown Bag Lunches are free and open to the public.  Bring your own lunch and enjoy a beverage and dessert provided by SLCHA. Continue reading

Researching New York Conference Details Announced


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Researching NY ConferenceThe 2014 Researching New York conference, “Identities in New York: Imagining, Constructing, Exploring,” will be held November 20-21, 2014 at the University at Albany.

This year’s conference will feature Richard Norton Smith who will present “On His Own Terms: A Life of Nelson Rockefeller” on Thursday evening. The keynote luncheon address on Friday will be “The Making of a Myth: Seneca Falls Unraveled” by Lisa Tetrault of Carnegie Mellon University. On Friday afternoon a live performance by the Capital Repertory Theatre of “The Workers of the Erie Canal: They Built America” will take place in UAlbany’s Performing Arts Center. Continue reading

Shaker Exhibition Opening At NYS Museum


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ModeofWorshipThe New York State Museum will open a new major exhibition about the history and culture of the Shakers on November 15, 2014. The Shakers: America’s Quiet Revolutionaries will feature over 150 historic images and nearly 200 Shaker artifacts, including artifacts from three Shaker historical sites: the Shaker Heritage Society, Hancock Shaker Village and the Shaker Museum | Mount Lebanon.

In the late 1700s, the Shakers sought religious freedom in America, but their unique culture and spiritual practices set them apart from society. Their devotional routines as well as their product innovations and views towards gender equality seemed revolutionary. Continue reading

Amsterdam and the Flu Pandemic of 1918


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newyork001When the world-wide influenza pandemic struck in 1918, Amsterdam had its share of disease and death.

The flu became more deadly in the fall of that year, near the end of World War I. From October 1918 through January 1919 there were 176 deaths in Amsterdam from flu or pneumonia, half of one percent of the city’s population.

Amsterdam had 23 cases of influenza in September and eight people had pneumonia. In October the number of flu cases jumped to an astounding 3,386; 255 people had pneumonia. Amsterdam had 43 flu deaths in October and 77 deaths from pneumonia, which often followed the flu. Both St. Mary’s and City Hospital were filled to capacity. Continue reading

World War II Home Front Exhibit In Seneca Falls


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Washington-Public-schools-go-to-war-1943It was a time of G. I. Joe and Rosie the Riveter, and the era of the big band sound.  World War II changed the American way of life as the war economy ended the Great Depression and millions mobilized joining the armed forces, working in factories, and conserving in every aspect of life. Families grew victory gardens. Children collected scrap metal. Women flew war planes to air bases. For African-Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, and Japanese-Americans though, the war did not bring the same opportunities but rather discrimination and continued hardship.

A special exhibit, World War II Home Front, exploring all aspects of the American home front, from the contributions and legacies to the challenges and struggles, will open at Women’s Rights National Historical Park on Saturday, November 15, 2014, and run through January 31, 2015. Continue reading

Chaos On An Adirondack Train: The Case Against Pullman Porter Smith


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Pullman Porter Helping Woman circa 1880sWhen the night train to Montreal set out from Utica on April 29, 1931, James E. Smith had already been toiling over the needs and wants of his passengers for many hours.  At 29 years old, Smith had been a Pullman porter for about three years.  He had done a stint in Pennsylvania and now was employed on the New York Central line of the Pullman Company.

The experience of the Pullman porter was both uncommon yet ordinary.  The Pullman Palace Car company hired black men almost exclusively as porters. This practice began under the direction of the founder of the company, George Pullman, after the Civil War. On board a luxurious and comfortable Pullman Car, Pullman porters were expected to be the ideal servants to their well off white passengers.   Continue reading

Women’s Rights Park Marks American Indian Heritage Month


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nah_home_bannerLong before Europeans arrived in the Americas, native peoples lived, worked, and played in thriving cultures. Their stories bring multiple perspectives to our local and national histories.

Learn about the “First Americans” during National American Indian Heritage Month with children’s craft activities and special talks at Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls from November 19th to November 29th.  Continue reading

Bill Bray: Standing Strong to the End


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NYH03AMWBrayAfter years of loyal service to his party and resisting against the most powerful men in American politics, M. William Bray was unceremoniously dumped from the New York State Democratic ticket in 1938. The strategy was questionable at best, considering the support he enjoyed in 40 upstate counties.

It was Bray’s growing influence that they feared. For years, Roosevelt, Farley, and others had tried to erode his power base but were unable to do so. In fact, by all measures, Bray was more popular than ever. In 1936, during his third run for lieutenant governor, he had outpolled Governor Lehman by nearly 60,000 votes (3,028,191 to 2,970,595). Continue reading