Ermina Pincombe: When Music (Like Food) Was Local


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Ermina PincombeI’ve learned so much about the history and culture of my state (NY) and local communities in which I reside (Buffalo NY and Piercefield NY in the Adirondack Mountains) through the traditional music of these places.

Similarly, my interest in local and state history has informed my understanding and appreciation of the music of our forebears. Before mass media came into the home, you got your music as you got your food – from someplace local, mostly. The newspaper, perhaps. Travelling shows, yes. But also from people in your community. Family members, neighbors, coworkers. What did they sing about? And what can those long-forgotten songs tell us about a community? Continue reading

Rensselaer County Historical Plans Two New Exhibits


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Corner of Second and StateThe Rensselaer County Historical Society (RCHS) will debut a new exhibit, At the Corner of Second & State: Where Troy’s History Intersects, on Monday, September 8th at 7 pm along with the companion exhibit, “Conserving the Welfare and Best Interests of our Depositors”: The Troy Savings Bank.

The main exhibit runs through December 20, 2014, and the companion exhibit runs through November 15, 2014. The exhibits are sponsored in part by the Troy Savings Bank Charitable Foundation and the Lucille A. Herold Charitable Trust. The exhibits are open and free to the public. Continue reading

Historic Adirondack Footbridge Fundraising Underway


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Wanakena Ice Jam BridgeSeveral nonprofits from across the Adirondack region have partnered to raise funds to rebuild the historic and iconic Wanakena Footbridge in the Clifton-Fine community. The suspension bridge was destroyed in January, 2014 when an ice jam on the Oswegatchie River broke and slammed into its side.

Built in 1902 by the Rich Lumber Company, the footbridge provided pedestrian access to residential and commercial areas of Wanakena. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. Estimates put the full cost of construction at $250,000.

The Wanakena Historical Association has already raised nearly $38,000, but to extend the campaign’s, reach the Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) has partnered with other local nonprofits to establish an online Adirondack Gives crowdfunding effort. The Wanakena Footbridge campaign can be found on the Adirondack Gives website. Continue reading

Underground Railroad History: Vigilance Committees


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The Vigilance Committee Flyer courtesy of American Antiquarian SocietyAs the 1830′s drew to a close and the 1840′s began, committees were formed in some cities in the north to protect freedom seekers from re-enslavement, and to assist them in their flight to freedom in the north or in Canada. As slave catchers sought freedom seekers, these “vigilance” committees provided legal assistance, food, clothing, money, employment, and temporary shelter.

Such a committee formed in Albany in the early 1840’s, and one continued to exist up to the time of the Civil War. Albany’s anti-slavery newspaper, Tocsin of Liberty, identifies ten people, Blacks and whites, as members of the executive body of the local Vigilance Committee in 1842. Some are familiar names from the city’s history, such as Thomas Paul and Revolutionary War veteran Benjamin Lattimore. Continue reading

Spirit of 1776: A New Suffragette Anthem


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Spirit of 17776 Suffrage AnthemThe Heritage Museum of Orange County in Santa Ana, CA provided the stage set for a new music video, “Spirit of 1776,” which the production team calls a “suffragette anthem”, scheduled for release in time for Women’s Equality Day celebrations.

Observed on August 26th each year, the occasion commemorates American women’s campaigns to win the vote from 1848 to 1920. The music video is inspired by an actual suffrage campaign wagon called the “Spirit of 1776” used in New York State as a speakers’ platform and in suffrage parades prior to 1920. Continue reading

The Last Amateur: The Life of William J. Stillman


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The Last Amatuer - Life of William StillmanIn a new biography being released in October by SUNY Press, The Last Amateur: The Life of William J. Stillman, author Stephen L. Dyson tells the story of William J. Stillman (1828–1901), a nineteenth-century polymath. Born and raised in Schenectady, NY, Stillman attended Union College and began his career as a Hudson River School painter after an apprenticeship with Frederic Edwin Church.

In the 1850s, he was editor of The Crayon, the most important journal of art criticism in antebellum America. Later, after a stint as an explorer-promoter of the Adirondacks, he became the American consul in Rome during the Civil War. When his diplomatic career brought him to Crete, he developed an interest in archaeology and later produced photographs of the Acropolis, for which he is best known today. Continue reading

New Book: A Dictionary Of Vietnam War Slang


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Vietnam War Slang DictionaryOn August 7th, the US marked the 50th anniversary of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, the basis for the Johnson administration’s escalation of American military involvement in Southeast Asia and war against North Vietnam.

A new book, Vietnam War Slang: A Dictionary on Historical Principles (Routledge, 2014) by Tom Dalzell, outlines the context behind the slang used by members of the United States Armed Forces during the Vietnam War. Continue reading

This Week’s New York History Web Highlights


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ADK 46er History Doc Being Shown In Elizabethtown


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Grace HudowalskiThe Adirondack History Center will conclude its summer lecture series with a showing of the documentary The Mountains Will Wait for You at 7 pm on Tuesday evening, August 26 at the museum in Elizabethtown, NY.

The film tells the story of the first woman to climb the 46 High Peaks and a founder of the Adirondack 46ers hiking club. Grace Hudowalski was born in Ticonderoga and recently East Dix, one of the 46 High Peaks, was renamed Grace Peak in her honor.  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.

Researcher Pinpoints 1614 Albany Fort Location


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dutchalbanymapA local historian believes he has pinpointed the exact location of a 1614 colonial fort in Albany.

“Fort Nassau” was North America’s oldest Dutch trading house, built in 1614 near the present-day Port of Albany. But the precise location of the ruined structure has been largely forgotten over time as the natural and built environment changed during four centuries.

“Fort Nassau is very significant to American, Dutch and Indian history,” said John Wolcott, the researcher who identified the location. “But its exact location had been lost over the years. Not only has the geography changed, but the latitude readings provided by early maps have to be adjusted for problems caused by being inland using instruments of the time.” Continue reading

NYS History, The Common Core, And Social Studies


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State Education Building by Matt Wade Photography (Wikimedia User UpstateNYer)The Common Core continues to be in the news, so recently I attended “Uncommon Approaches to the Common Core 2: Inquiry-based Learning Access across the Disciplines” held August 12-13 at the Office of Education in Albany.

One session included 10 breakout groups by geographic area. In the Mid-Hudson discussion group there were about 13 people, double that number in New York City including 10 people from the Queens Library who were not on the attendance list, and over 60 people at the Capital Region group. Some of the other regions were even less attended than the Mid-Hudson group. Continue reading

Grant Supports Dutchess County Driving Tour


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CESOC2005P4The Hudson River Valley Greenway has announced that it has awarded Dutchess County and the Town of Clinton a $9,500 matching grant to “fund driving tour enhancements that will encourage more tourist activity in the northern reaches of the county.”

“With these improvements, Dutchess County hopes to offer a more complete tourism experience in these rural communities, particularly to motorists already visiting major attractions in the better publicized southern half of the county, such as the Culinary Institute of America, Vanderbilt Mansion, the Roosevelt sites, and the Dutchess County Fair,” the announcement to the press said, adding: Continue reading

MANY Museum Institute To Focus On Advocacy


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Great Camp SagamoreThe Museum Association of New York (MANY), the only statewide organization that works as both a hub for the state’s museum community and a powerful voice for the advancement of art, history, science and children’s museums, as well as zoos, botanical gardens and other cultural organizations, announced today an all-new Museum Institute at Great Camp Sagamore in Raquette Lake, NY.

Taking place September 21-24, this year’s Museum Institute features new reduced rates and a theme that focuses on advocacy. The group of presenters on hand will provide knowledge about what works, and what doesn’t, when it comes to advocating for your institution, from the CFA process to meeting with local, state and federal policy makers. The application deadline has been extended to August 29th. Continue reading

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