Lincoln’s Boys: John Hay, John Nicolay, and the War for Lincoln’s Image (Viking, 2014) by Joshua Zeitz is an intimate look into Abraham Lincoln’s White House through the lives of two men. But more than that, it tells the story of the aftermath of Lincoln’s assassination, and how we have to come receive the idea of who Lincoln was that we have today.
Zeitz argues that Lincoln’s official secretaries, John Hay and John Nicolay, enjoyed more access, witnessed more history, and knew Lincoln better than anyone outside of the president’s immediate family, in short, they were Lincoln’s closest confidantes. They read poetry and attended the theater with the President, commiserated with him over Union army setbacks, and plotted electoral strategy in the darkest and loneliest days of the war. They were present at every seminal event, from the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation to Lincoln’s delivery of the Gettysburg Address. After his death, they took control of his papers, his biography, and his image. Hay and Nicolay were the gatekeepers of the Lincoln’s legacy. Continue reading
Ever wonder what pristine runs of migratory fish in Atlantic rivers looked like to early colonists? Some saw so many salmon, shad, alewives and other species that they said the waters “ran silver” with fish as they swam upstream to spawn.
John Waldman’s Running Silver: Restoring Atlantic Rivers and their Great Fish Migrations (Lyons Press, 2013) covers the biology, history, and conservation of shad, salmon, striped bass, sturgeon, eels and the others that complete grand migrations between fresh and salt waters. Continue reading
Blowing snow, freezing rain, and bitterly cold temperatures – sound familiar? Find out what people did for winter fun during “Old Fashioned Winter,” the Second Saturday Children’s Program at the St. Lawrence County Historical Association at the Silas Wright House, 3 East Main St., Canton on Saturday, February 8th at 11 a.m. This is another in the SLCHA’s series of fun and free monthly educational programs for kids ages 4-10.
On February 8th kids can learn how to make a 3-dimensional snowflake and sample “Wax on Snow.” The 2014 Second Saturday Children’s Programs feature the Treasures from the Attic series, which begins each session with a mysterious old trunk that belonged to “Grandma Moody” (Clarissa Wright’s ancestor) and had been forgotten in the Silas Wright House attic. Each time the trunk is opened the magic begins, as a new object or objects are “discovered” in the trunk. Continue reading
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Big Data is a controversial subject featured in the news almost daily, from the NSA spying programs to the rise of corporate data brokers. For better or worse this data exists, and the high value of information to both governments and private interests alike, make it look as though the practice is here to stay in one form or another. But, it is not the entry of data collection into the many aspects of our lives that I am exploring here; rather it is how this data can be mined in the future by historians. Continue reading
Every archaeological excavation breaks new ground. Even sites like Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England – one of the most extensively studied archaeological sites in the world – continually yield fresh discoveries. The 20th-century excavators of Stonehenge, William Hawley and Richard Atkinson, recognized the value of earth that had not been disturbed by archaeologists. As a result, they purposefully excavated only half of the stone circle and the surrounding earthworks. The other half they left untouched, and it is mostly untouched to this day, for the sake of preserving the privilege of “breaking new ground” for future archaeologists.
It is worth noting that archaeologists do not always break new ground in the literal sense. Even sites that have been completely excavated or destroyed can yield new information through new interpretations or new scientific testing of the evidence. However, as Hawley and Atkinson knew, the experience of excavating untouched ground is incredibly powerful. Even with extensive documentation, it can never be replicated. That is why archaeologists must be careful, focused, and above all, conservative in their approach to a site. Continue reading
If one is to see a frozen landscape as something other than absence or nothingness, one must have a mind of winter, the poet Wallace Stevens said. Or the mind of an American artist.
That, at any rate, is what one will conclude from the American Impressionist paintings that will be exhibited in “Winter Light: Selections from the Collection of Thomas Clark,” which opens at The Hyde Collection on January 25.
There is nothing empty or void in any of these twenty paintings, most of which have been acquired by Clark since the Hyde’s 2009 exhibition, “An Enduring Legacy: American Impressionist Landscape Paintings from the Thomas Clark Collection.” Continue reading
The Sesquicentennial for the Civil War honors a war which still rages on in America. An example of the ongoing nature of the war was seen in the dispute over a memorial to northern troops at Olustee, Florida, the site of the largest and bloodiest battlefield in the state.
The issue of a memorial to the northern troops who died there has been compared to the reopening of a 150-year-old wound. According to a report on the front page of the New York Times, John W. Adams, commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Florida division, said “Old grudges die hard. And feelings run deep.” Another person with ancestors who fought on both sides said, “There are some, apparently, who consider this to be a lengthy truce and believe the war is still going on.” Continue reading
You may be able to add a few more branches to your family tree thanks to “Green-ealogy” – a new genealogical research program launched by the Green-Wood Historic Fund and historic Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.
Staffed by five trained researchers, “Green-ealogy” provides unprecedented access to Green-Wood’s institutional records and historical collections of documents and photographs dating back to 1840. Launched on a trial basis almost a year ago, the initiative helps family members, genealogists, and others discover documents and images that have not seen the light of day for generations. Continue reading
The New-York Historical Society has acquired a first edition of Jacob Riis’s How the Other Half Lives: Studies among the Tenements of New York.
The newly acquired volume is heavily annotated by the author with pages scrawled with moral indignation towards slumlords, asides about tenement residents, and copyedits. Continue reading
The National Susan B. Anthony Museum and House’s annual major event, the Annual Susan B. Anthony Birthday Luncheon, will be held Wednesday, February 12, 2014, at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center.
The keynote speaker is Louise W. Knight, author, lecturer, and historian. The theme for this year’s luncheon is “Up and Doing,” inspired by a statement Susan B. Anthony once made as she called people into leadership and active citizenship: “We woman must be up and doing. I can hardly sit still when I think of the great work waiting to be done…” We may well include a surprise or two in the program this year to help the audience understand what Miss Anthony meant by “Up and Doing.” Continue reading
New York State offers a special window into African American history and American culture. It was a center for 19th century anti-slavery organizations, and home to Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and many other Abolitionist and Underground Railroad leaders.
Nevertheless, anti-black discrimination remained an issue well into the 20th century, and the National Association of Colored People (NAACP) actually has its roots in the Niagara Movement, whose first meeting in 1905 took place on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls because members were turned away from hotels on the U.S. side. Continue reading
The New Netherland Institute will offer an annual $1000 prize for the best published article relating to the Dutch colonial experience in the Atlantic world, with a special sensitivity to New Netherland or its legacy.
A committee of scholars will consider entries in the fields of history, archaeology, literature, language, geography, biography, and the arts. Entries must be based upon original research. Articles must be written in English and be published for the first time in 2013. Chapters from a monograph, works of fiction, and encyclopedia entries will not be considered. Only one submission per author will be accepted. Both academic and independent scholars are invited to participate. Continue reading
The New York Lottery announced a new campaign Monday reminding the public that Lottery provides aid for education across New York State. As part of this program, a new television commercial was created featuring students singing “Thank You For Being A Friend,” written by Andrew Gold and made popular as the theme to the television show “The Golden Girls,” to unsuspecting people who buy Lottery tickets in a convenience store.
The Lottery has also launched a statewide contest to provide students with an opportunity to win $10,000, $5,000 or $2,500 to benefit their school’s music education program. Named “New York Sings” the contest offers students the opportunity to film themselves singing their own interpretation of “Thank You For Being A Friend.” Continue reading
A few weeks ago, I wrote here about old-time weather forecaster Billy Spinner. As a follow-up on that theme, here is some interesting information on our own weather history from forty years ago, taken from one of my old journals. Continue reading
The Chapman Historical Museum has opened a new exhibit of fourteen S.R. Stoddard original albumen photos featuring local winter scenes.
Included are views of snow-covered streets in Glens Falls as well as two stereo views of Lake George. Titled “Frost Work,” a term used by Stoddard, the small exhibit features images of the 1870s — a time when winter transportation consisted of sleds and sleighs. Even the horse drawn trolley ran on runners. Continue reading
How can educators meaningfully incorporate the wealth of local and regional cultural resources into our Common Core-based curricula?
The South Central New York State Regional Library Council is hosting a conference that hopes to provide opportunities for public school teachers, librarians, administrators, local and regional museums, art centers, historic sites, and other cultural institutions to get to know and interact with each other over Common Core. The keynote will be presented by Kate Gerson, Senior Fellow for Common Core and Educator Engagement for the NY State Department of Education. Continue reading
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After six years research, retired genealogist, one-time teacher, and journalist Alethea “Lee” Connolly has published The Seceders: Religious Conviction & the Abolitionist Movement in the Town of Manlius, 1834-1844 (2013). The book makes a significant contribution to our knowledge of the very early abolitionist movement in Onondaga County, and its interactions with similar movements in Madison, Cayuga, and Oneida counties.
Motivated by deep religious values of justice and human dignity, the men and women covered in this book defied local resistance and social pressures. They refused to be silenced in their anti-slavery beliefs. Town of Manlius Historian, Barbara S. Rivette, has called the book “an amazing feat of research.” Continue reading