CultureAID Connects NYC Orgs During Disasters


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Culture Aid LogoThe recent two year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy serves as a reminder of how vulnerable cultural organizations can be when confronted by natural disasters.

CultureAID (Culture Active in Disasters) was established to keep New York City’s arts and cultural communities better connected in time of disaster – whether natural or manmade. The network is a volunteer-based communication system, designed to systematize messages about preparedness as well as recovery-related information and resources. Continue reading

Electric City: General Electric in Schenectady


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The Historians LogoThis week on “The Historians”, retired history professor and Schenectady County native Julia Kirk Blackwelder discusses her most recent book Electric City: General Electric in Schenectady. Blackwelder is an emerita professor at Texas A&M University, where she previously served as head of the history department. She currently lives in Ballston, New York.

Listen to the interview 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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Kirk Douglas: Amsterdam Native’s 1960 African Safari


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Kirk Douglas in the navyAmsterdam native and movie star Kirk Douglas, who will turn 98 next month, killed a leopard and other big game during a 1962 African safari.

According to an article in the men’s magazine True, Douglas, 46 at the time, said at the end of the trip, “I’m hooked. I don’t know how I got along all those years without hunting.”

History enthusiast Emil Suda, who lives in Amsterdam’s East End where Douglas grew up as Issur Danielovitch or Izzy Demsky, provided a copy of the magazine’s account of Douglas’s safari written by Ralph Daigh. True folded in 1975. A chapter called “Killer Douglas” is devoted to the actor’s hunting trip in his 1988 autobiography The Ragman’s Son. Continue reading

Outstanding Museum Programs, People Sought


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MANY LogoThe Museum Association of New York is seeking nominations for it Awards of Merit program, which acknowledges outstanding programs and individuals who have made the state’s museum community richer and more relevant.

They reward the innovative efforts of staff and volunteers and they provide encouragement for the development of new and remarkable projects. Nominations are sought for contributions made in 2014. The deadline for submissions is December 12, 2014 and awards will be presented on Monday, April 13, 2015 at the luncheon of the Museums in Action Conference at the Corning Museum of Glass. Nominations may be submitted in the following categories (for yourself or others): Continue reading

Museum President: Susan B. Anthony Being ‘Defamed’


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FeministsforlifeposterThe recent activities of the Susan B. Anthony List, a 501(c)(4) organization, and its affiliated political action committee, the SBA List Candidate Fund, have raised concerns at Rochester’s Susan B. Anthony Museum & House, part of an ongoing dispute over anti-abortion activists and social conservatives using Anthony’s name.

“We can make room for a different interpretation of history, and we certainly support political engagement,” says Deborah L. Hughes, President and CEO of the Anthony Museum, “but their tactics repeatedly cross a line that is outrageous and inconsistent with who Susan B. Anthony was. Her good character is being defamed by their actions. People are outraged by their actions, causing harm to Anthony’s name and the mission of our Museum.” Continue reading

Exhibits: Marisol Escobar at El Museo del Barrio


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7_portrait-of-marisol-jack-mitchellThe artist Marisol Escobar sculpts figures that are big and blunt, or bright and shiny, or whimsical and eerie. She has been called a New Realist, a surrealist and a Pop artist. Born in 1930 of Venezuelan parents, her friends and companions and mentors have included Hans Hofman, Andy Warhol and Willem de Kooning.

The current exhibition at New York’s El Museo del Barrio is on view till January. Traveling from the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art in Tennessee, the exhibit features some terrific portraits, juxtaposed with works on paper that reveal a slanted take on the family. Curator Marina Pacini has selected a brilliant sample of Marisol works to reveal the streak of pain underpinning the dazzling surfaces.  Continue reading

Little-Known Basquiat Notebooks Headed To Exhibit


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_98644 Hoffman.tifEight rarely seen notebooks created by Jean-Michel Basquiat between 1980 and 1987 that have never before been presented to the public form the core of a new exhibition, Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks, on view at the Brooklyn Museum from April 3 through August 23, 2015.

The exhibition features 160 unbound notebook pages, filled with the artist’s handwritten texts and sketches, along with thirty related paintings, drawings, and mixed-media works drawn from private collections and the artist’s estate.
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1931: Tammany Hall, Voter Fraud, and Sullivan County


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james-a-farleyOf all the fascinating races in Sullivan County’s colorful political history, none has had a greater statewide impact than the 1931 contest for the New York State Assembly.

And the significance of the election had only a little to do with its outcome.

William Whittaker, a South Fallsburg (Sullivan County) Democrat, was the Assembly incumbent in 1931, having won the seat the year before in a contest decided by fewer than 200 votes. His opponent in both races was John T. Curtis of Monticello, owner and editor of the Sullivan County Republican newspaper. As Election Day approached, Republican party officials in the county became suspicious of an unusually large number of absentee ballots, and asked for an investigation. Continue reading

Grave of 1st North Dakota Gov Marked in NY


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Miller Grave - North Dakota First GovernorThe only mausoleum in Green Hills Cemetery in Dryden Village, Tompkins County, the resting place of the first governor of the state of North Dakota John Miller, has been restored and marked.

In 1989, during the centennial of North Dakota’s statehood, the Cemetery applied to the North Dakota Centennial Commission for funds (about $1,000) to restore the mausoleum. The Cemetery received a certificate with a gold seal from the Commission recognizing the project, but no money. The work was not done. Continue reading

Thomas Jefferson Letters Make Public Debut in NYC


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Thomas_Jefferson_by_John_Trumbull_1788For the first time, the Museum of the City of New York have put on public view more than 20 original letters from Thomas Jefferson to Robert R. Livingston, who served as Chancellor of the State of New York and whom Jefferson appointed resident minister at the court of Napoleon. The personal letters, which span from 1800 – 1803 and have been part of the City Museum’s collection since 1947, will be on public display through Friday, December 5, 2014.

In these documents, Jefferson writes about a number of remarkable and historically important topics, including: the Louisiana Purchase, the Napoleonic Wars, early debates over the Constitution, the unearthing of a buried mammoth skeleton in upstate New York, the technical details of the first steam engine, the development of new codes for delivering secret messages to American diplomats living overseas, and much more. Continue reading

Furnace Fest at the Copake Iron Works on Saturday


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Have a blast Postcard 10-2014_001Friends of Taconic State Park invites history lovers to have a blast at “Furnace Fest at the Copake Iron Works” on Saturday, November 8th from noon to 2pm.  This year’s celebration will feature a display of 19th century ironmaking artifacts from the group’s museum project, a scavenger hunt on the Iron Works history trail, and lunch at the Iron Bar and Grill.

Since its establishment in 2008, Friends of Taconic State Park has carried out several preservation and stabilization projects at the Copake Iron Works including the construction of a protective shelter for the 19th century blast furnace, and extensive masonry repairs to the Engine House and Machine Shop. Continue reading

Heritage Tourism Lessons from the Tappan Zee Bridge


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designOnce upon a time America was known for its building projects, for its infrastructure, for its vision of a better tomorrow. New York was in the forefront of such optimism and achievement. Think of the Erie Canal which helped make us the Empire State, the Croton Aqueduct, the Brooklyn Bridge, the skyscrapers from the Woolworth Building to the Empire State Building to the Twin Towers, and, of course, Robert Moses. Now the new Tappan Zee Bridge bids to join this pantheon of larger than life achievements made in New York.

Besides all the other concerns related to the bridge, there is the issue of tourism. Back in June, Mary Kay Vrba, tourism director for Dutchess County and leader of the Hudson Valley Path region, spoke to 50 people at “Destination Rockland: Blazing New Trails in Tourism.” Visions of jingling cash registers filled the heads of the participants who envisioned tourists by foot, bike, and later a revitalized bus system bringing people from the east side of the river to Rockland County. Alden Wolfe, chairman of the Rockland County Legislature convened the conference as a “launching point” for future discussion on this subject. Continue reading

Historic Ship Museum Hosting First Annual Fundraiser


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LILAC at Pier 25 as the morning fog liftsOn Wednesday, November 12, Lilac Preservation Project will host its first fundraiser at Cercle Rouge Restaurant in Tribeca. The organization is celebrating a record-breaking year of attendance at its public arts and education programs on board the lighthouse tender Lilac at Hudson River Park’s Pier 25.

Lilac Preservation Project’s Museum Director and President, Mary Habstritt will announce plans for 2015, including launch of a capital campaign to restore the steam boilers and overhaul the ship’s systems to operate as a sustainable seafaring vessel. Continue reading

Manufacturing Subject of ‘Made in Newburgh’ Lecture


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ColdwellFactoryOn November 9, 2014, the Friends of the State Historic Sites of the Hudson Highlands will host a talk on Newburgh’s manufacturing history at Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site.

Industrial Historian Russell Lange, former President of the Newburgh Historical Society, will deliver his popular talk titled, “Made in Newburgh”. For 150 years manufacturing drove the economy of Newburgh providing jobs for over 8,000 men and women. Open to members and the general public, this free talk will take place during their annual meeting starting at 3 pm. Continue reading

Political History: Northern NY’s Native Son Bill Bray


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NYH02AMWBray1933Bill Bray’s rise to power in New York State politics was an impressive feat. From a poor farm life within a few miles of the Canadian border, he worked hard at becoming a successful attorney. By the age of 39, he was chairman of the state’s Democratic Party and a close confidant of Governor Franklin Roosevelt. Bray was running the show and FDR was a happy man, reaping the benefits of Bray’s solid connections in upstate New York.

Ironically, his following across central and northern New York is what eventually drove a wedge between Bray and the governor, souring their relationship. The falling out was over patronage, a common political practice. Roosevelt balked at Bray’s request to replace the Conservation Commissioner (a Republican) with a deserving upstate Democrat. It was, after all, the payoff for supporting FDR and helping win the election. A month or so later, Roosevelt finally acceded to Bray’s wishes, but the conflict hurt Bill’s standing within the inner circle. Continue reading