The Perils of North Country Linemen


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1936 ADLinemenNYHHard history is great, but while conducting research, I’m constantly collecting odd and unlikely stories on a variety of subjects. I like to think of them as the offbeat side of history (stretching the definition of history to include all news items from the past) … of little value to historians, but certainly entertaining. Collecting them helps relieve the (sometimes) tedious job of searching hundreds of pages for a few nuggets of information.

Take, for instance, the subject of North Country linemen, those workers who climb utility poles to make connections or repairs. Their daily routine might be as boring as any other job most of the time, but linemen have a measure of danger built into their profession, beginning with working high above the ground. When something goes wrong, the results can be spectacular. Continue reading

Battle Of Brooklyn:
Rare Revolutionary War Map Being Unveiled


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Battle of Brooklyn MapA one-of-a-kind Revolutionary War map used in battle by Lieutenant-General Hugh Percy, a British division commander at the Battle of Brooklyn, will be unveiled at Green-Wood Cemetery on Sunday, August 24, at the Green-Wood Historic Fund’s annual commemoration of the Battle of Brooklyn.  Following its unveiling at Green-Wood Cemetery, General Percy’s Map will travel to the Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS) on August 27, where it will be exhibited through February 2015.

The Battle of Brooklyn, waged on August 27, 1776, was fought across Brooklyn and on land that is now part of Green-Wood.  It was the first battle of the American Revolution fought after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Continue reading

New Exhibit: The Edgar Holloway Art Collection


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Edgar Holloway's Narrowest HouseThe Rensselaer County Historical Society (RCHS) will debut a new, rotating exhibit, Prospect of America: Selections from the Edgar Holloway Art Collection, on Monday, September 8th at 7pm at the 87th Annual Meeting. The exhibit series runs through December 20, 2014. The exhibit is sponsored in part by the McCarthy Charities.

In the early 1970s, Rev. Thomas Phelan was inspired to raise awareness of Troy and the surrounding area’s amazing architectural and industrial heritage. Valuing the power art has to move people to action, Rev. Phelan commissioned English artist Edgar Holloway to spend three summers, from 1973 to 1975, in Troy to document the historic buildings and street scenes. His three years in New York resulted in over 80 watercolors and 15 etchings that have become a historical record themselves of the way Troy, Cohoes, and other outlying areas looked in the mid-1970s. Through Holloway’s art, people began to see the inherent beauty in these often neglected buildings. Advocacy groups formed and several buildings were preserved through the actions of individuals inspired by art. Continue reading

Bruce Dearstyne: New York History And Education


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State Education Building by Matt Wade Photography (Wikimedia User UpstateNYer)How, and how much, should New York’s young people learn about the history of their own state and community?

The answer to the question of what young people learn about history comes down mostly to what they learn in school social studies classes. New York revised its social studies curriculum from 2012 to 2014 and you can review the results, adopted by the Regents last April online. There is more New York history at the 4th grade level than in the older standards, but almost nothing about local history. Continue reading

Women’s Equality Day Program Announced


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WEQD_LogoThe National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum will host its Equality Day Program, “Legacies of Equality,” on Sunday, August 24, 2014 from 2:00 – 3:30 pm at the Smithfield Community Center, 5255 Pleasant Valley Road, in Peterboro, NY.

Established in 1971 through the work of Rep. Bella Abzug, Women’s Equality Day is celebrated August 26 to commemorate the passage of the 19th Amendment, which granted women full voting rights in 1920. Continue reading

September Marks 15th Annual Hudson River Ramble


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2014 Hudson River RambleThe Hudson River Valley Greenway and Hudson River Valley National Heritage have announced that the 15th Annual Hudson River Valley Ramble will feature more than 200 exciting events throughout the Hudson River Valley region.

The Ramble will be held during each weekend in September, and features the events of more than 150 partner organizations. The Hudson River Valley Ramble offers a variety of walks, hikes, paddles, biking tours and other events and is designed to showcase the scenic, natural, historic and cultural resources of the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area . Ramble events are led by naturalists, ecologists, historians, geologists and trained volunteers from participating organizations. Continue reading

Paul Bray: Help Abandoned State Heritage Areas


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Heritage Areas MapA few years ago a delegation of environmentalists and officials from the Adirondack Park visited Lake Baikal in Russia.  So large that it is often mistaken for a sea, Lake Baikal is the deepest and largest (by volume) freshwater lake in the world, and thought to be the world’s oldest as well. Famous for its crystal clear waters and unique wildlife, the lake is under threat by pollution, poaching and development.

An Adirondack lawyer on the trip told me that they had a boat ride with a group of Russians. One of the Russians said to him “Why are we wasting our time with Americans? Russia has a culture that produced great writers like Dostoyevsky, Pushkin, Turgenev and Chekhov, great musicians like Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich, and Rimsky-Korsakov and great dancers like Baryshnikov, Nureyev, and Nijinsky. What has America contributed to the world?” Continue reading

The Upstate Early American History Workshop


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Upstate Early American History WorkshopThe Upstate Early American History Workshop, hosted by Binghamton University, and under the supervision of Doug Bradburn and Andrew Fagal, invites graduate students and scholars to present work in progress on any topic in American history before the mid-19th century.

The workshop meets on Fridays four times per academic semester. Papers are pre-circulated and, if possible, a guest commentator with particular expertise will offer initial thoughts. The organizers invite anyone at all levels who would like to present an essay, dissertation chapter, or portion of a book manuscript for constructive feedback. Continue reading

New Netherland Seminar Set For September 20th


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2014 NNI SeminarThe New Netherland Institute and New Netherland Research Center have announced “1614,” the 37th New Netherland Seminar, which will take place on September 20th at the Carole F. Huxley Theater in the Cultural Education Center in Albany.

The seminar will commemorate the 400th anniversary of the construction of Fort Nassau—the first documented European settlement in New York state—on present-day Castle Island in the port of Albany. The seminar speakers and topics are listed below. For registration and additional details, visit the website of the New Netherland Institute. Continue reading

NYS Archives Consolidates Doc Heritage Program


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archives 2The New York State Archivist has announced that the State’s Archives Documentary Heritage Program’s (DHP) regional archival services are being consolidated in a move that critics say will diminish the effectiveness of the popular historical records program.

In a message sent in May, New York State Archivist Christine Ward announced the changes, which eliminated the DHP’s regional administrators at the end of June and will replace them with a single, statewide administrator under a five-year contract. Continue reading

Circle of Vines: The Story of New York Wine


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New York State Wine HistoryWinegrower and journalist Richard Figiel, who established Silver Thread Vineyard on the eastern shore of Seneca Lake in 1982, offers a short history of New York wine in Circle of Vines: The Story of New York Wine (SUNY Press, 2014).

Figiel follows the state’s wine industry from its turbulent evolution in various regions as it emerged as a dynamic player in the world of fine wine. He begins by examining New York’s distinctive viticultural roots and the geologic forces that shaped the state’s terrain for winegrowing. Starting with early efforts to grow grapes for wine in the Hudson Valley, the story moves west to the Finger Lakes and Lake Erie, circles around the state from Long Island to the North Country, and, finally, to contemporary New York City. Continue reading

A New Biography of Plattsburgh’s Smith Weed


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Smith Weed BiographyRouses Point businessman, Mark L Barie, has written the first biography of North Country politician Smith Weed. In The President of Plattsburgh, The Story of Smith Weed (Crossborder Publishing, 2014), Barie paints a portrait of Weed – six feet tall, with piercing black eyes – a man who was said to smoke nine cigars a day.

Smith Weed was instrumental in the establishment of the Champlain Valley Hospital, the YMCA, the Plattsburgh Library, and the Hotel Champlain, but was perhaps best known nationally for his central role in “The Cipher Dispatches” voter fraud controversy during the fiercely disputed presidential election of 1876. Continue reading

Lake Placid – North Elba Heritage Day Saturday


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hdayphotosThe Lake Placid – North Elba Historical Society has announced the Annual Heritage Day to be held Saturday August 16 from 10 am to 2 pm. This is the most important fundraiser of the year for the Historical Society and will feature a flea market, food, live entertainment, book sale, the ever popular bake sale, children’s activities and a silent auction.

The live entertainment includes the Adirondack Saxaphones at 10 am and the Pine Ridge Rounders at 12:00 pm. These local bands will play a variety of music and provide a focal point for the Heritage Day activities. Continue reading

This Week’s Top New York History News


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Latest New York History News

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Make a Contribution! The New York History Blog is supported by you. If you think this site provides a valuable service, please become a recurring contributor – or just make a one-time contribution at our Rally.org page. Questions about contributions should be directed to editor John Warren.

National Park Service Issues Heritage Tourism Report


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164th-anniversary-event-program-6-17-version-web_1A recent National Park Service (NPS) report concludes that 30,137 visitors to the Women’s Rights National Historical Park in 2013 spent over $2.06 million in communities near the park and that spending supported 23 jobs in the local area. The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state.

Park Superintendent Noemi Ghazala says she anticipates increased visitation to the park in 2015 with planned enhanced programming for the 200th anniversary of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s birthday and in 2016 with additional special programming for the celebration of the National Park Service’s centennial birthday. Continue reading

Olmsted Exhibit Celebrates Utica’s Natural Landscape


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Fort-Proctor-Park-Staircase.-Photo-Richard-WalkerIn the early 20th century, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. (1870-1957) and Thomas R. Proctor (1844-1920) led the way in the transformation of the Utica landscape, creating beautiful and naturalistic recreational spaces that provided escapes from the city and enhanced the quality of life for its inhabitants.

“A Century of Olmsted: Utica and Beyond,” on view August 14 through January 4 at the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, is the first exhibition to explore the creation of some of Utica’s most beautiful natural places. Continue reading

A Good Story: The Lifeblood of a Public Historian


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Tell A Good StoryAlmost everyone within sniffing distance of public history these days, in any capacity, is on the lookout for the silver bullet that will somehow “rescue” their particular site, or organization, or even the entire field, from the edge of a financial ruin.

For many boards and staff, technology has become the most sexy aphrodisiac around. Even though I haven’t yet seen it effectively used, partly because it becomes dated so quickly, museum and other sites continue to reach for phone tours, or apps, or touch screens, to add that extra element of engagement that will magically connect to those ever-elusive younger audiences that sites yearn to attract. Continue reading

Call for Entries: 2014 Erie Canalway Photo Contest


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ErieCanalwayPhotoContest_Fairport_KathyEichorn2013Entries are being accepted through August 30, 2014 for the 9th annual Erie Canalway Photo Contest. Winning photos will be featured in the 2015 Erie Canalway calendar, which will be available free of charge in December.

Amateur and professional photographers are invited to submit prints and digital images in four contest categories: Bridges, Buildings and Locks; Fun and Festivities; On the Water; and the Nature of the Canal. Images must be taken within the National Heritage Corridor, which is comprised of the Erie, Oswego, Cayuga/Seneca, and Champlain Canals, their historic alignments, and surrounding communities. Continue reading