Theodore Roosevelt On Popular And Scholarly History


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theodore roosevelt pugilist and presidentNew York has had several history-minded governors, including Andrew Cuomo, who often cites the Erie Canal and other historical achievements as evidence of our state’s historical greatness and resilience. Levi P. Morton signed the law that created the office of the State Historian. Alfred E. Smith signed the statute that created the network of official local government historians. Franklin D. Roosevelt served for a while as the official historian of the Town of Hyde Park.

But Theodore Roosevelt, governor from 1899 to 1901 and president, 1901-1909, was a notable historian in his own right. He read extensively in history and his home at Sagamore Hill on Long Island reportedly contained about 12,000 books, many of them on history, at the time of his death in 1919.Roosevelt’s own books “The Naval War of 1812” and “The Winning of the West” were best-sellers in their day. His History of New York City is still interesting. Continue reading

After Yorktown: The Final Struggle for Independence


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ben_franklins_worldWhen did the fighting of the American War for Independence end?

In school we learn that the war came to an end at Yorktown. But, this lesson omits all of the fighting that took place after Charles, Earl Cornwallis’ surrender in October 1781.

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, Don Glickstein, author of After Yorktown: The Final Struggle for American Independence (Westholme Publishing, 2015), takes us on a whirlwind and global tour of the fighting that took place after Yorktown. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/081

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Aviation History: Air Marking The North Country (Conclusion)


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AMP2A 1951CiceroNYShortly after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, it was realized that airmarks could be used by enemy planes, so the order was given to remove 2,500 airmarks that stood within 150 miles of the nation’s coasts. Six weeks later, those marks were obliterated, undoing six years of labor—but shortly after, the blanket order was modified. Why? The absence of airmarks was causing military pilot trainees to become lost. The new order allowed airmarks within 50 miles of flight training airfields.

The national program resumed after the war, with improved methods (including government-supplied plywood templates for lettering) and greater participation, but it’s truly remarkable that despite historic advances in communications and airplanes, the airmark system remained in use into the 1970s.

If you’re old enough to have flown locally back then, you might recall some North Country rooftop markings, some of which are listed below with their year of origin. Most were maintained until the system became outdated. Continue reading

Report Tracks Erie Canalway Trail Progress


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cyclist on the erie canalwayParks & Trails New York (PTNY) and the Canalway Trails Association New York (CTANY) have released their sixth annual report – Closing the Gaps: A Progress Report on the Erie Canalway Trail 2015  – detailing progress made in completing the statewide Erie Canalway Trail as a continuous, off-road route. With 288 of 360 miles open to the public, the Canalway Trail is 80% complete and well on its way to becoming the longest trail of its kind in the United States, and a significant tourist destination for Upstate New York.

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The Erie Canal Marks A 200th Anniversary


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aqueduct bridge at rochesterOn May 17, 1816, the State’s Canal Commissioners met in New York City. This was their first meeting since being reauthorized by the legislature on April 17th, just a few weeks earlier. Five commissioners were appointed by the legislature – Stephen Van Rensselaer, DeWitt Clinton, Samuel Young, Joseph Ellicott and Myron Holley. Several of them had been canal commissioners since 1810. During that period they had surveyed much of the route in person and had kept the dream of the waterway alive during the intervening dismal years of war on their frontier (War of 1812). At the May 17th meeting the commissioners initiated actions that ensured that construction of the Erie Canal would begin a year later. Continue reading

New World Symphony With Puppets


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DvorAmHorejsLaMama Theatre on East Fourth Street is where puppets, monsters and actors cavort, presenting classic and cutting-edge performance, whooping and hollering in many languages to stage just about any variety of theater from around the globe.

In March, in the space named after the founder, Ellen Stewart, the Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre partnered with Dvorak American Heritage Association to present “The New World Symphony: Dvorak in America,” by Vit Horejs. A jazz trio led by James Brandon Lewis on sax threaded musical commentary on the live and puppet action, adding a contemporary flavor to tales of Dvorak’s musical journeys through American sounds. Continue reading

Historians Podcast: Lincoln And The Jews


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The Historians LogoThis week on “The Historians” podcast Brandeis University history professor Jonathan Sarna has stories from his book Lincoln and the Jews (St. Martin’s Press, 2015). Lincoln worked to have Jewish chaplains recruited for the Union army and countermanded an order that had banned Jewish traders from General Ulysses S. Grant’s military district. You can listen to the podcast here. Continue reading

Larry Wittner: The Distortion of American Politics by the Press


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Bernie SandersEver since the foundation of the American Republic, there has been both praise for and suspicion of the role the press plays in U.S. political life. Thomas Jefferson famously remarked that, if it were left to him “to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I would not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” And yet, Jefferson was also profoundly disturbed by the politically biased and inaccurate articles that he saw published in the press. As he told James Monroe: “My skepticism as to everything I see in a newspaper makes me indifferent whether I ever see one.”

Jefferson’s ambivalence about the press becomes understandable when one considers the distorted reporting that has characterized the current campaign for the U.S. Presidency. Continue reading

Prisons And Prison Life in Early America


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ben_franklins_worldAmerican prisons are overcrowded. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world and nearly 2.5 million Americans are serving prison sentences.

Nearly all politicians agree that we need to reform the American prison system, but they disagree on how to do it.  Can gaining historical perspective on this present-day problem help us solve it?

in this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, we investigate early American prisons and prison life with Jen Manion, an Assistant Professor of History at Connecticut College and author of Liberty’s Prisoners: Carceral Culture in Early America (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015). You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/080

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