The Worlds of the Seventeenth-Century Hudson Valley


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Jacobs_Worlds_9781438450971What follows is a guest essay by Jaap Jacobs and L.H. Roper, authors of the newly published
The Worlds of the Seventeenth-Century Hudson Valley.

As the proverbial schoolchildren know, the Englishman Henry Hudson (c. 1570–1611) conducted his 1609 exploration of the river that bears his name on behalf of the Dutch East India Company. In the same year that Hudson sailed north up the river, trading, fighting, drinking, and negotiating with Native Americans on the way, a Frenchman named Samuel Champlain made his way south from the St. Lawrence River. His trip was not a voyage of exploration and Champlain was not the leader of the expedition. Yet it too involved interaction with Native Americans, culminating in an armed encounter on what later became to be called Lake Champlain between Huron and Algonquian Indians and their French friends on the one side and the Haudenosaunee of the Iroquois Confederacy on the other side. Continue reading

Gerrit Smith’s 1845 Abolition North Country Tour


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Gerrit Smith in the 1840sLate spring of 1845 found , a leader of the Liberty Party, touring the North Country in search of disaffected “Whigs and Democrats, whose intelligence and Christian integrity will not permit them to remain longer in their pro-slavery connections.”

Smith, from Peterboro, in Madison County, traveled from Saratoga Springs, through Glens Falls and then into Essex and Clinton counties on his quest to build a credible third party, a devoted anti-slavery party. His report, printed in the Albany Patriot in late June, details the villages his visited, the people he met, and the difficulties he faced. Continue reading

New Exhibit Showcases Newburgh Manufacturing


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Kilmer Wire WorksSunday, June 22nd, marks the opening of a new exhibit by the Historical Society of Newburgh Bay and the Highlands entitled “Made in Newburgh”.

The exhibit, which shares its title with the theme of this year’s Newburgh Illuminated Festival, aims to highlight the manufacturing history of Newburgh. Between 1:00 P.M. and 4:00 P.M. visitors can expect to be welcomed by the Society’s members as they glimpse into the history of the city’s industries and how they shaped Newburgh. Continue reading

1920s: The North Country Rises Against the KKK


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KKK hdline1924NYHLast week in this space, I addressed the subject of cross-burnings in the North Country, which became common in the 1920s during a resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan. Throughout the region, meetings were conducted by Klan leaders, and thousands of followers were added to their ranks. For many of us, it’s an uncomfortable part of Adirondack history, but there is another side to the story. Despite widespread intimidation spawned by secret meetings, robed figures, and fiery crosses, New York’s citizenry rose in opposition to the Klan policies of bigotry and exclusion.

Speaking out against the KKK carried inherent risks for average folks, and for politicians as well. Between 1915 and 1922, more than a dozen senators and government officials in Washington were acknowledged members of the Klan, and the organization played a role in the national elections of 1924 and 1928. But in spite of their rise to power behind claims of patriotism and “Americanism,” the KKK was judged by many as a blight on society and distinctly un-American. Continue reading

Revolutionary War Spies:
The Lower Hudson Valley’s “TURN”


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Turn American Revolution TV ShowThe Revolutionary War spy drama “Turn” on the AMC cable TV network is a much fictionalized version of the activities of a real life American patriot, Ben Tallmadge who headed the “Culper Spy Ring” based on Long Island.

However, Westchester and the surrounding counties of Dutchess, Orange and Putnam have their own connection to Revolutionary War espionage story in the persons of John Jay, Elijah Hunter, and Enoch Crosby. Continue reading

Uptown Kingston House Tour On Sunday


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image003(6)Tucked away in the Mid-Hudson Valley’s Ulster County is one of New York’s oldest communities – Uptown Kingston.  Also known as the Stockade District, a nod to the protective fence that the early Dutch and Walloon settlers built around their settlement, uptown Kingston is a charming, walkable neighborhood of stunning houses dating from the early 1700s to the turn of the 20th century.

A special house tour on Sunday, June 22nd, highlights this “best kept secret” and features some of the neighborhood’s most stunning homes. Continue reading

Brooklyn Cemetery Celebrates Amusement Park Pioneer


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William F Mangles Carousal CompanyIf you’ve ever squealed with delight on legendary amusement park rides like the Whip, Tickler, Wave Pool and Human Roulette Wheel, or enjoyed a gallop on a beautifully carved carousel horse, you can thank William Mangels (1866-1958) – German immigrant, mechanic and permanent resident of Brooklyn’s Historic Green-Wood Cemetery.

To honor this man who played a key role in the creation of great turn-of-the-century American amusement parks, Green-Wood has announced today that it will mount a major exhibition, William F. Mangels: Amusing the Masses on Coney Island and Beyond, funded, in part, by a Kickstarter campaign. Continue reading

Fact And Fiction In Brian Kilmeade’s ‘Secret Six’


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george washingtons secret sixBrian Kilmeade has done historians on Long Island a great favor. With his latest book, George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution (Sentinel, 2013), co-authored by Don Yaeger and currently one of the top-selling non-fiction books in the country, he has focused national attention on the role played by the Culper Spy Ring that operated between New York City and Setauket, bringing information about British plans and troop movements across Long Island Sound to Connecticut and on to General Washington.

Using his bully pulpits on Fox & Friends, carried on Fox News Channel daily from 6 AM to 9 AM, and his nationally syndicated radio program, Kilmeade & Friends, from 9 AM to noon, he has elevated the nation’s awareness of the significance of Long Island to the outcome of the American Revolution.

Their story unfolds seamlessly, with well-written descriptions of General Washington’s loss of New York after the Battle of Long Island that set the stage for Washington’s desperate need for information, and ending with Morton Pennypacker’s handwriting analysis that identified Robert Townsend as the key information gatherer. But there’s the rub: Kilmeade and Yaeger have spun more than one story here. This non-fiction book hovers dangerously close to the side of fiction. Continue reading

This Week’s New York History Web Highlights


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Hanford Mills Museum Community Celebration Saturday


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Hanford Mills in summerOn Saturday, June 14 from 10 am – 5 pm, Hanford Mills Museum will host a Community Celebration. This new festival, held as part of the statewide Path Through History program, features displays by the Delaware County Historical Association, the Meredith Historical Society, and the Greater Oneonta Historical Association.

Museum staff will be operating the water-powered sawmill, gristmill and woodworking shop. The Fieldstone Pickers will perform and Tickled Pink BBQ will be onsite, offering lunch and snack items. Continue reading

This Week’s Top New York History News


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It’s Civil War Weekend in Peterboro, NY


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Civil War GuysThe 22nd Annual Peterboro Civil War Weekend will feature 1864 Sesquicentennial programs June 14 and 15, 2014, and will also continue many of its popular traditional activities.

The 12th U.S. Infantry Company A (reenacting) military and civilian encampment is an ongoing living museum Saturday, June 14 and Sunday, June 15. Visitors walk among the camps, talk with soldiers, and can participate in some activities with the troops. This educational and entertainment event displays the military techniques, skills, and equipment of Civil War Soldiers. The plan for the daily two o’clock skirmish is worked out beforehand by military company officers. The skirmish uses accurate reproductions of clothing, tactics, and strategies reflecting the conditions of nineteenth century military conflict. A surgeon’s station enlightens the spectator concerning medical techniques at that time. Spectators do not know who is going to be victorious. Before and after the skirmish, re-enactors canvass the crowd answering questions and providing explanatory detail. Continue reading

FDR ‘Fireside Chat’ at Saratoga Battlefield Saturday


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Corps celebrates Bonneville 75th anniversary September 2012On Saturday June 14, 2014 at 7:00 p.m., Saratoga National Historical Park will host actor Gary Stamm as he portrays President Franklin D. Roosevelt in a real “fireside chat” describing a 1939 royal visit from the King and Queen of Britain and the fascinating implications it had for our country and the entire world.

What do you serve to the King and Queen of Britain if they come to visit your home? In 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt took them on a picnic in the scenic Hudson Valley and served the great American treat of hot dogs. Continue reading

Founding Fashion: 18th-Century Military Clothing Exhibit


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Title Image - FinalFort Ticonderoga Museum’s first clothing exhibition in over a quarter century opened in May and brings together a remarkable collection of historical military garments, accessories, and artworks.

The exhibit, entitled Founding Fashion: The Diversity of Regularity in 18th-Century Military Clothing, explores how European military fashion and global commerce influenced American martial appearance throughout the American Revolution.  Continue reading

1920s KKK Recruiting Efforts in Northern New York


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BrthNation posterWhile we often look back fondly on the Roaring 20s for a number of reasons, it was a very dark period in the North Country in at least one regard: bigotry. For several years, the region was a hotbed of Ku Klux Klan activity during a high-profile recruiting effort. The assumption today might be that the effort failed miserably among the good people of the north. But the truth is, the Klan did quite well, signing thousands of new members to their ranks.

The original KKK died out in the 1870s after focusing on racial issues in the post-Civil War period, but the KKK of the 1900s was a different animal. Its resurgence in 1915 was linked to a movie released that same year, Birth of a Nation, based on a book titled The Clansman. While the movie was lauded for groundbreaking filming techniques, it was also highly offensive, featuring blatant racism and the rewriting of history. Continue reading

Nancy Pelosi Visits Women’s Rights NHP


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Nancy Pelosi Visits Women's Rights NHPOn June 1st Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Congresswomen Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), Jackie Speier (D-CA) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Martha Robertson, candidate for New York’s 23rd Congressional District seat, visited Women’s Rights National Historical Park, the site of the First Women’s Rights Convention held in 1848.

Recognizing the importance of this event to the women’s rights movement in the United States, the Congresswomen chose Seneca Falls to kick off their “When Women Succeed, America Succeeds” national tour. Continue reading

Amsterdam to Albany: An Address by Russell Shorto


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800px-Russell_ShortoRussell Shorto, the 2013 New Netherland Research Center Senior Scholar and author of The Island at the Center of the World and Amsterdam: A History of the World’s Most Liberal City, as well as other acclaimed works, will talk about Dutch cultural heritage from Amsterdam and its influence on Albany, New York.

The talk will be followed by a signing of his most recent book Amsterdam: A History of the World’s Most Liberal City, named one of Publisher’s Weekly Best Books of 2013 and described as “an expertly told history of a city of new, shocking freedoms and the tough-minded people that developed them.” Copies of the book will be available for sale. Continue reading

Roebling’s Wire Rope Modernized The D & H Canal


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John A. RoeblingJohn Augustus Roebling celebrated two milestones in June of 1849, his 43rd birthday and the beginning of construction of the Neversink Aqueduct on the Delaware & Hudson Canal. It was the third of the four aqueducts he would design and build for the canal company, and followed the completion of the Delaware and Lackawaxen Aqueducts the previous year.

Roebling (his given name was actually Johann August) was born in Muhlhausen, in Prussia, on June 12, 1806, the youngest son of Christoph Polycarpa Roebling and Fredericke Dorothea Mueller Roebling. He grew up in a world of private tutors, learned the music of Bach and the poetry of Goethe, and according to some sources, built a model of a suspension bridge when he was nine years old that bore a striking resemblance to what would be his most famous work, the Brooklyn Bridge. He gained admission to the prestigious engineering program at the Royal Polytechnic Institute in Berlin, where he studied languages and philosophy as well as architecture, bridge construction and hydraulics. He graduated in 1826, and went to work for the state, as was the requirement at that time, serving three years building roads in Westphalia. Continue reading

45 Years After Stonewall: Gay Pride Rockland


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Gay Pride Rockland CountyOver 1,000 people gathered for the first Gay Pride event in Nyack in 1999. As if to prove the positive force that this public affirmation of sexual identity can have, a Village of Nyack Trustee named John Shields, who would later serve four terms as Mayor, publicly came out of the closet that day.

In the late 1990s, if you lived in Nyack and wanted to attend one of the major Gay Pride celebrations that are held around the country each June, you had to travel to Manhattan. Phyllis B. Frank, Associate Executive Director of VCS, Inc. enjoyed the annual pride pilgrimage to the city, but thought aloud to others that “even if we had just a group walking behind one sign, we needed to do something for Gay Pride here in Rockland.” Continue reading