The Sinking of The S.S. Normandie At NYC’s Pier 88


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Normandie_posterOn February 9, 1942 crowds gathered at New York City’s pier 88 to witness a spectacle. The largest ocean liner in the world was on fire. Fire fighting efforts successfully contained the fire after five and a half hours of effort, but the effort was in vain. Five hours after the flames were out the stricken vessel rolled onto its side and settled on the bottom of the Hudson.

The S.S. Normandie was a star crossed ship. Intended to be the pride of the French people, she was designed to be the height of shipbuilding technology and modern culture. Her first class passenger spaces were decorated in the trendiest Art Deco style and filled with luxuries. The radical new hull design, with a subsurface bulb beneath a clipper bow, and long, sweeping lines lent her previously untouched speeds while requiring far less fuel. She even had one of the earliest radar sets ever used by a commercial vessel, in order to improve the safety for her passengers. Continue reading

Andrew Dolkart To Receive NYC Preservation Award


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Andrew DolkartThe Historic Districts Council, the citywide advocate for New York City’s historic neighborhoods, will present its annual Landmarks Lion Award on November 19 to Andrew Scott Dolkart, the James Marston Fitch Professor of Historic Preservation and Director of the Historic Preservation Program at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP). Continue reading

Cayuga Museum Opens Iroquois Art Exhibit


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Cayuga Museum Iroquios ExhibitThe Cayuga Museum of History and Art, in Auburn, NY has opened its newest exhibit, A Living Legacy: Arts of the Haudenosaunee, which features original art from more than a dozen artists from the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy.

Among those exhibiting are Tom Huff, Trevor Brant, Eric Gansworth, Richard Glazer-Danay, Alex Hamer, Debra Hoag, G. Peter Jemison, Luis Lee, Penny Minner, Terrill Hooper O’Brien, Erwin Printup, and Marla Skye, and more.  Continue reading

Ground Zero: Cosmic Center for the 21st Century


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citizen-warrior-a-september-11th-event-you-won39t-want-to-missMy quest to come to grips with the legacy of 9/11 in this series of posts draws to a close with this one. So far I have been examining the ways in which we remember those of who have died, the different circumstances in which people do die, and the changing ways through which the legacy of those who have fallen in battle have been remembered and forgotten.

I have been reminded of the loss of memory, or at least its diminishment over time through some recent events. First there have been a series of posts about America’s first 9/11, the Battle of Plattsburgh during the War of 1812. For the British, it is not a war they forgot since it never was one they remembered. For America, especially New York, it shows how easily deaths can be forgotten and even victories can vanish. Continue reading

Fred Kerslake’s Famous Pig Circus, Part 3


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PC1 FK harnessedpigsThere were tough times when a lead pig died suddenly, forcing Fred Kerslake to regroup, find a new leader, and complete the necessary training. But saddest of all was when he spoke of Jennie. In 1909, Rollo was the clown pig and a great performer. Kerslake called him “a wonder that does everything but talk, and after a fashion it actually does that,” referring to Rollo’s human-like responses to his comments. Rollo rose to fame after the death of his mother, Jennie, a very special performer and friend. Said Fred, “She was certainly gifted with the divine light of human intelligence. Not only could she reason, but she could make her wants known with the aid of spelling blocks.” Continue reading

Women’s Rights NHP Opens Secret Richard Hunt Papers


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Plan for Worker Housing  Hunt Family PapersRichard P. Hunt believed in equality.  Though he passed away in 1856, brick buildings scattered through the village and the business block on the NE corner of 96 and Main Street still show that he literally helped build Waterloo.  In his home at 405 E. Main St., part of Women’s Rights National Historical Park, he harbored fugitive slaves and hosted determined women.  Thanks to those women, the United States had a women’s rights movement. Continue reading

This Week’s New York History Web Highlights


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The Historians: The Renaissance and Gold Star Mothers


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The Historians LogoThis week on “The Historians”, popular historian Thomas Cahill discusses his latest book, Heretics and Heroes: How Renaissance Artists and Reformation Priests Created our World.

In the second half of the show I talk with novelist April Smith about the novel A Star for Mrs. Blake. The novel is based on a federal program in the early 1930s that offered Gold Star Mothers an opportunity to go to Europe to visit the graves of their sons killed in World War One.

Listen to the whole program at “The Historians” online archive at http://www.bobcudmore.com/thehistorians/

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In Change of Course, Finger Lakes Museum Relocates


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Finger Lakes MuseumIn an unexpected change in direction, the Finger Lakes Museum’s board of trustees voted to move the project from its proposed location in Keuka Lake State Park to the site of its Discovery Campus in Branchport.

The resolution was unanimously adopted at a special board meeting on August 12th. According to a statement issued to the press Thursday, the public announcement was delayed while museum administrators discussed the change in plans with government officials, state agencies already funding the project, and current and potential benefactors. Continue reading

This Week’s Top New York History News


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Latest New York History News

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A First Lady’s Failed Adirondack Cure


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cottageIn the summer of 1892, the wife of President Benjamin Harrison, Caroline Scott Harrison, became extremely ill. She primarily suffered from tuberculosis, but experienced complications from pleurisy and the accumulation of fluid in her chest. Medical treatment of T. B. at the time mainly amounted to having the patient rest. For this reason, it was felt that a stay in the Adirondacks offered the best chance for restoring the First Lady’s health.

Early in July, the journey from Washington, D.C. to Loon Lake was undertaken, via a special train. The Troy Daily Times dutifully reported on the train’s progress. It arrived in Troy in the wee hours of the morning on July 7, then proceeded to White Creek, Rutland, Vermont, Rouse’s Point, and Malone, reaching the latter place at 10:30 am. There, a crowd that included some local officials met the two-car train, but the President asked that they refrain from cheering, so as not to disturb his sick wife. Continue reading

Erie Canal-Related Grants Available


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ErieCanalwayGrants_RexfordSunset_DebbieKrohlThe Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor is accepting applications through Friday, October 17, 2014 for 2014-2015 Erie Canalway Grants. Grants ranging from $2,000 to $7,000 will be awarded for projects that serve to advance the goals of the Erie Canalway Preservation and Management Plan.

“We are looking for strong partners who can mobilize the Corridor’s extraordinary heritage assets to create long-term value for our communities and locally-based economies,” said Erie Canalway Executive Director Bob Radliff. Continue reading

NYC Exhibit: Mac Conner, One of New York’s Original ‘Mad Men’


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Detail from How Do You Love Me in Womans Home Companion, 1950The Museum of the City of New York announces Mac Conner: A New York Life – the first exhibition of more than 70 original artworks by illustrator McCauley (“Mac”) Conner, one of New York’s original “Mad Men.” In the 1940s – 60s, Conner’s captivating advertising and editorial illustrations graced the pages of major magazines, including Cosmopolitan, Redbook, and The Saturday Evening Post, helping shape the popular image of postwar America.

The latest in an ongoing series of exhibitions that examines the lives and influence of New Yorkers, Mac Conner: A New York Life explores one man’s prolific career in New York as the world’s media capital and the country’s publishing center in the pivotal years after World War II. The exhibition will remain on view through Sunday, January 19, 2015Continue reading

The Catskills Conference That Changed The World


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shawanga (1)In the middle of September of 1959, more than160 of the world’s most prominent scientists– eight of whom would go on to earn a Nobel prize– gathered at a remote mountain lodge for three days of discussions that have become known as “the conference that changed the world.”

The remote mountain lodge that played host to this groundbreaking get together was not in the Swiss Alps or the Himalayas of Tibet, but in Sullivan County, New York. Continue reading

Fort Ticonderoga Names New Board Members


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Aug 2014 morningFort Ticonderoga named four members to its Board of Trustees: Dr. Eliot Cohen, Washington, DC; Dr. John Macionis, Mount Vernon, Ohio; Craig Treiber, Long Island, New York; and Susan Darrin, Hague, New York.

The Fort Ticonderoga Association preserves North America’s largest 18th-century artillery collection, 2,000 acres of historic landscape on Lake Champlain, the Carillon Battlefield, and the largest series of untouched 18th-century earthworks surviving in America. Continue reading

Talk Marks Battle of Plattsburgh Bicentennial


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taylor_alan_1812Author and historian Alan Taylor will present a lecture entitled “The Civil War of 1812: A Continent Divided” on Friday, September 19, at 7:30 p.m. at the Whallonsburg Grange Hall, 1610 NYS Route 22 (at Whallons Bay Road) as part of the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Plattsburgh.

A leading historian of early United States history, Alan Taylor won a 2014 Pulitzer Prize for his book The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832.  He was also a Pulitzer Prize recipient in 1996 for William Cooper’s Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early American Republic.  Taylor currently teaches at the University of Virginia. Continue reading

Two Historians Among 2014 MacArthur Fellows


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2014 macarthur fellowsRecognizing 21 exceptionally creative individuals with a track record of achievement and the potential for significant contributions in the future, the The MacArthur Foundation today named its 2014 MacArthur Fellows, including two historians: Tara Zahra, 38, or the University of Chicago, and Pamela O. Long, 71, of Washington, DC.

Fellows will each receive a no-strings-attached stipend of $625,000 with no stipulations or reporting requirements, allowing recipients maximum freedom to follow their own creative visions. Continue reading

Ignoring New York’s 350th Birthday


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Articles about the Transfer of New Netherland on the 27th of August, Old Style, Anno 1664One of the news items in a recent summary of “This Week’s Top New York History News” here at The New York History Blog had a link to an article from the Albany Times Union (reprinted from the New York Times), entitled “New York Won’t Celebrate 350th Birthday.” The article noted that neither the city nor the state was commemorating the takeover of New Netherland by the British in August, 1664.

The writer suggested that “a dispassion for the past” among the public was a basic explanation. Continue reading

American Revolution Authors At Fort Plain Museum


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Fort Plain MuseumThe Fort Plain Museum will be hosting authors Don Hagist and Todd Andrlik to talk about their recent books about the American Revolution this Thursday, September 18th at 7 pm. Hagist will be speaking about his book British Soldiers: American War which details the lives of British soldiers during the American Revolution. Also scheduled is author Todd Andrlik who will speak on his book Reporting the Revolution. The book is a collection of newspaper articles written and published in the colonial newspapers both here in America and in Great Britain. The articles offer insights on the war in America and how these events were viewed by the common people.

Additionally Hagist will offer a glimpse of a new book he is writing based on an 1864 publication Last Men of the Revolution. Recently the Fort Plain Museum, working in cooperation with the Hagist, uncovered research on a 2nd New Hampshire soldier stationed at Fort Plain. The soldier, Samuel Downing was photographed at the age of 102 with what was then a relatively new technology. Hagist is revisiting the topic and exploring the lives of these early veterans who lived well into the middle of the 19th century. Continue reading

Africa Center Event, Chelsea Clinton Elected Co-Chair


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9-9-meet-the-africa-centerThe Africa Center, Africa’s Embassy to the World, will open its doors to the public for the first time on Saturday, September 20th, with an all-day “Meet The Africa Center” festival from 10:00 am until 6:00 pm. A private concert performance will follow from 8:00 pm until midnight.

Once known as The Museum for African Art, The Africa Center, is located less than 20 minutes from the United Nations, at One Museum Mile, and plans to permanently open in late 2016. The Africa Center has also announced that Chelsea Clinton, Vice Chair of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, has been elected as the new co-chair of the Board of Trustees for The Africa Center. Continue reading