The Search for the Underground Railroad in Upstate NY


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Underground RR in Upstate NYAs the Civil War loomed and politicians from the North and South debated the fate of slavery, brave New Yorkers risked their lives to help fugitive slaves escape bondage. Because of its clandestine nature, much of the history of the Underground Railroad remains shrouded in secrecy—so much so that some historians have even doubted its importance.

After decades of research, Tom Calarco recounts his experiences compiling evidence to give credence to the legend’s oral history in a new book The Search for the Underground Railroad in Upstate New York (History Press, 2014). Continue reading

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‘ArtoD2′ Robot Featured in Land of Makebelieve Exhibit


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ArtoD2.ADKHISTCTRHow does the much-loved little robot from Star Wars connect with Essex County History? Answer: He is “ArtoD2,” built by Essex County native Arto Monaco, creator of the Land of Makebelieve. Monaco’s work is a featured exhibit running through October 13 at the Adirondack History Center and Essex County Historical Society in Elizabethtown.

Lynda Denton, Monaco’s niece and long-time assistant, says the model was constructed “just for fun” soon after the first Star Wars movie came out.   It was operated with a model airplane remote control and included a tape with sound effects. Continue reading

This Week’s Top New York History News


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Latest New York History News

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The Liberty Highway: Buffalo to New York


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LibertyHighway1928The automobile has long been part of life in Sullivan County.

As far back as 1898, for example, there was a booklet entitled “Road Maps of Sullivan County: Showing the Good Roads.” Of these roads, it was said that “many of the Sullivan County roads are turnpikes, maintained by a chartered company. They are made of shale rock, and are hard and springy.” Continue reading

Old Albany Post Road Named One Of ‘Seven To Save’


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Map of the Old Albany Post Road provided by The Old Road SocietyThe Preservation League of New York State has named a 6-mile section of the Old Albany Post Road in Putnam County to its list of the Empire State’s most threatened historic resources, Seven to Save.

This path between the settlements that would become known as Albany and New York City followed earlier trails established by the Native residents of the region. It provided for movement of troops, supplies and postal mail during the French and Indian and Revolutionary Wars. Connecting homes in a sparsely settled area of Garrison, the Old Albany Post Road still retains landscape features from Colonial times and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Continue reading

28 Sites Nominated To State, National Historic Registers


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unnamedThe New York State Board of Historic Preservation has announced that 28 sites have been nominated to the State and National Registers of Historic Places. The Barge Canal Historic District was one of the properties, resources and districts across the state advanced for the historic designation.

The Barge Canal Historic District includes the four historic branches of the state’s 20th century canal system; the Erie, Champlain, Oswego, and Cayuga-Seneca canals – all much enlarged versions of waterways that were initially constructed during the 1820s. The district sprawls 450 miles over 18 counties and encompasses 23,000 acres. Past and present day photos of sections of the canal can be found hereContinue reading

Boscobel Hosting 1800s Cocktail Party


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9-24-12bDid our early 19th-century ancestors imbibe unusual brews? Find out in Boscobel’s picturesque West Meadow during a presentation by Warwick Winery and Distillery. Warwick Valley Winery and Distillery representative, Ray DeLear, will discuss a variety of spirits and demonstrate how to mix popular 1800s libations with them all.

Boscobel’s 1800s cocktail gathering takes place in the west meadow, under the pavilion at Boscobel on Saturday, June 28, 4-7pm. Music of the period will be performed by Thaddeus MacGregor. Your $35 admission ticket will include the presentation, cocktail samples, light fare and live music. Please drink responsibly; a discounted designated driver rate is available. Continue reading

Peter Feinman: Historical Societies In A Hyphenated Age


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9RegionsOfNorthAmericaCan the United States survive in an age of hyphens? Consider the innocuous comments of a traveler as recently reported in the New York Times:

“I enjoy business travel when it gives me the opportunity to visit with other cultures. Those cultures don’t have to be found in foreign lands. In the United States, there are so many different and wonderful cultural experiences you can have just traveling between Washington, Michigan and Kentucky, for example.” Continue reading

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

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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