Ticonderoga’s Whitney Armstrong Had It All


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NYH01WhArmstrongIf you’re just a regular Joe or Jane, you’ve probably at some point—say, while lying back in an office chair, or doing the dishes, perhaps mowing the grass—entertained a number of Walter Mitty-like fantasies. You know … stuff like, “What’s it like to be that guy or girl?” For men, that guy could be anything. What’s it like to be the smartest kid in school? The star center on a school basketball team? The ace pitcher on the baseball team? A great running back in football? Better yet, how about doing all that in college? Wow … BMOC, plenty of attention from the girls, the coolest among the guys. Might as well toss in a professional baseball contract … what sports-loving boy doesn’t dream of that? Continue reading

NY History and Upstate Tourism Development Awards


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REDC RegionsThis post brings to a conclusion the series on the awards granted by the Regional Economic Development Councils in December 2014. The purpose of the series is to provide the history community with information about what actually is occurring in New York State funding.

It provides readers of these posts with the opportunity to draw on the primary source documents about what really is being done. It examines furthermore what Empire State Development is doing with the new money it has received and to determine if the Path through History has substance. Continue reading

2015 Preservation Week Begins April 26


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Preservation Week 2015New York Times best-selling author, television host and library advocate Brad Meltzer will serve as 2015 Honorary Chair of Preservation Week, April 26 – May 2, 2015, a time when libraries throughout the country will provide information and expertise on how to archive and preserve individual and institutional treasures.

During Preservation Week, themed “Pass it on,” participating libraries will offer special programs and services to help connect library users with preservation tools; promote the importance of preservation; and enhance knowledge of preservation issues among the general public. Continue reading

Lincoln Featured in 2015 Peterboro Programs


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Lincoln Rhodes 1-6-14 2crpThe National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum (NAHOF) in Peterboro, NY has suspended its two year cycle of inductions and commemorations in 2015 in order to address President Abraham Lincoln as The Great Emancipator.

During this Sesquicentennial year of Lincoln’s death, the end of the Civil War, and the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, NAHOF and its Peterboro heritage partners will provide public programs on Lincoln from March to October 2015. Continue reading

New Book Traces America in the 1930s


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america-thirtiesAs the newest addition to the America in the Twentieth Century series, America in the Thirties (Syracuse Univ. Press, 2015) explores the complexity of America in what is considered its darkest era of the century.

The decade stood in stark contrast to the carefree, happy-go-lucky days of the Roaring Twenties when prosperity appeared endless. The Stock Market Crash in October 1929 and the economic collapse it unleashed threatened the very foundations of America’s economic, political, and social institutions. The ecological disaster produced by the Dust Bowl ravaging the Great Plains only added to the suffering and misery. Continue reading

Rise and Fall of NY’s Taylor Wine Company


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NY Taylor wineDrawing on archival research as well as interviews with many of the principal players, Thomas Pellechia’s Over a Barrel: The Rise and Fall of New York’s Taylor Wine Company (SUNY Press, 2015) traces the economic dynamism of the Finger Lakes wine region, the passion and ingenuity of the Taylor family, and the shortsighted corporate takeover scenario that took down a once-proud American family company.

In addition to providing important lessons for business innovators, Over a Barrel is a cautionary tale for a wine region that is repeating its formative history. Continue reading

This Week’s New York History Web Highlights


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‘French Louie Day’ Recalls Adirondack Folk Hero


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young-louie-300The Herkimer County Legislature has named Friday “French Louie Day” in honor of the noted French-Canadian Adirondacker Louis Seymour. A celebration is planned for Saturday in the Town of Inlet.

Friday marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Seymour, who made the wilderness between Inlet and Lake Pleasant his home from the 1860s until his death in Newton’s Corners (now Speculator) on February 27, 1915. Seymour’s name became legend after the 1952 biography Adirondack French Louie: Life in the North Woods by Utica author Harvey Dunham, which portrayed him as a man of hard work, determination and humor. Continue reading

This Week’s Top New York History News


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50 Yrs of NYC Landmarks Exhibit Planned


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Astor Place, NYCThe Museum of the City of New York will present a new exhibit, Saving Place: 50 Years of New York City Landmarks, a comprehensive exhibition exploring the roots and impact of a landmark preservation movement and its impact on New York City. The exhibit will run Tuesday, April 21 through September 13, 2015.

New York’s landmark preservation movement developed over many years, but was galvanized by large historic losses in the early 1960s, most notably the demolition of the world famous and architecturally significant Pennsylvania Station in 1963. Continue reading

NYS Museum Opens Shaker Photography Exhibit


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Round Stone Barn, wagon entry levelThe New York State Museum has opened a new exhibition featuring Shaker photographs. A Promising Venture: Shaker Photographs from the WPA features the photography of Noel Vicentini and documents Shaker sites, architecture, craft and people.

On display in Photography Gallery through December 31, 2015, the exhibition is organized by Hancock Shaker Village and features more than 100 photographs. This exhibition complements the State Museum’s 7,000 square-foot exhibition, The Shakers: America’s Quiet Revolutionaries, which explores the history and culture of the Shakers. Continue reading

New Netherland to Empire State: NY Furniture


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New York State ChairSettled by the Dutch and claimed by the English, as writer Russell Shorto has observed, New York was “a Babel of peoples—Norwegians, Germans, Italians, Jews, Africans . . . Walloons, Bohemians, Munsees, Montauks, Mohawks, and many others”. In the landscapes they shaped, buildings and furniture they made, New Yorkers created a place “unlike any other, either in the North American colonies or anywhere else.”

This unique legacy is reflected in New York furniture. The 2015 Winterthur Furniture Forum, March 4 to 7, 2015 at the Winterthur Museum & Country Estate in Winterthur, Delaware, celebrates furniture from the Empire State with lectures, workshops, and tours exploring new discoveries, shedding light on lesser-known cabinetmakers, and highlighting regional and cultural diversity. Continue reading

Sullivan County’s First African American Firefighter


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MontMansionHouse2During the night of April 26, 1874, fire broke out in the livery stables of LeGrand Morris’ Exchange Hotel in Monticello, NY. Village residents were roused from their beds to form a bucket brigade to battle the blaze, but were unable to keep it from spreading to, and destroying, the hotel itself. A number of other businesses, including George Hindley’s saloon, Kent’s Barber Shop, Billing’s Flour and Feed Store, and the printing plant of the George M. Beebe’s Republican Watchman newspaper, were also consumed.

Largely because of that fire, the third major blaze in three years to rock the small village of about 900 residents, Monticello organized its first fire department less than a year later. Continue reading

The Albany African American Home Social Club


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johnson_portraitIn a book titled Aristocrats of Color: The Black Elite, 1880-1902, author Willard B. Gatewood includes a few sentences about Albany, NY’s Home Social Club. According to Gatewood, it “represented the pinnacle of the city’s black social structure.”

Portraying the club as an aristocratic, elitist organization seems unfair, based on my research. Yes, the club’s membership included some black professionals over the years, but among its long-term adherents were waiters, barbers, and railroad porters. Continue reading

Black History Talk Begins Huguenot Street Series


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Augustus Freer in his WWII uniform c 1942Historic Huguenot Street in New Paltz is introducing a new “Fourth Saturday” event series. The first event in the series, on Saturday, February 28, with feature a lecture by Dr. A.J. Williams-Myers, Professor of Black Studies at SUNY New Paltz.

Dr. Williams-Myers will be presenting a lecture entitled “There is a River: Social and Economic Contributions of Africans Along the Hudson, From the Dutch Period to the American Revolution.” In honor of Black History Month, this lecture will focus on the influence of enslaved labor on the economic development of the Hudson River colonies, and the societal impact of African participation in both the French & Indian War and the Revolutionary War. Continue reading

Buffalo History Museum Closing Until April


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Buffalo History MuseumThe Buffalo History Museum will be closed from February 23 until April 16 for exhibit viewing and tours. The ongoing electrical updates and technology improvements necessitates exhibit closings as the project enters the final phase of completion.

All programs, events, rentals, staff offices, visitor services and the Museum Gift Shop will remain open during regular hours from Tuesday- Friday. The Research Library will remain open during regular weekday hours and will be closed on Saturday. Continue reading