Information & Communication in the Early American South


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ben_franklins_worldWe live in an age of information. The internet provides us with 24/7 access to all types of information—news, how-to articles, sports scores, entertainment news, and congressional votes.

But what do we do with all of this knowledge? How do we sift through and interpret it all?

We are not the first people to ponder these questions.

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, Alejandra Dubcovsky, an Assistant Professor at Yale University and author of Informed Power: Communication in the Early South (Harvard University Press, 2016), takes us through the early American south and how the Native Americans, Europeans, and enslaved Africans who lived there acquired, used, and traded information. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/082

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The Commissioner of Education and the NYS Historian


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Cultural Education Center State Museum ArchivesAt present the position of the New York State Historians lies deep within the bowels of the state bureaucracy, starved for resources, and scarcely able to see the light of day through all the bureaucratic levels above it.

Formerly, the State Historian reported to the Director of the New York State Museum, who reports to the Deputy Commissioner for the Office of Culture and Education, who reports to the Executive Deputy Commissioner of Education, who reports to Commissioner of Education, who answers to the Board of Regents.

But what does that mean? Continue reading

Land of the Heathens: The Wildest Adirondacks Ever!


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BishopRHNelsonFervent pleas for aid to missionaries around the world are common, and by no means a recent phenomenon. Take, for instance, the effort led by Episcopalian Bishop Richard H. Nelson in the Albany area in 1913. Said the Glens Falls Daily Times, “It is the intention of Bishop Nelson to organize a missionary league in the diocese for the purpose of raising sufficient money to carry on the work of building up parishes in the neglected sections.” Nelson displayed a map of those neglected sections, where, he said, “The condition is almost unbelievable.”

When I was much younger, one of the most beloved and respected teachers in our local school left to work in the missions in Africa. She described many of the same problems voiced by Nelson: poverty, illiteracy, poor spiritual condition, and a disturbing lack of morals. In both cases (Nelson’s and the teacher’s), the viewpoint was from a devout Christian perspective (our teacher was a Catholic nun). Continue reading

Theodore Roosevelt On Popular And Scholarly History


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theodore roosevelt pugilist and presidentNew York has had several history-minded governors, including Andrew Cuomo, who often cites the Erie Canal and other historical achievements as evidence of our state’s historical greatness and resilience. Levi P. Morton signed the law that created the office of the State Historian. Alfred E. Smith signed the statute that created the network of official local government historians. Franklin D. Roosevelt served for a while as the official historian of the Town of Hyde Park.

But Theodore Roosevelt, governor from 1899 to 1901 and president, 1901-1909, was a notable historian in his own right. He read extensively in history and his home at Sagamore Hill on Long Island reportedly contained about 12,000 books, many of them on history, at the time of his death in 1919.Roosevelt’s own books “The Naval War of 1812” and “The Winning of the West” were best-sellers in their day. His History of New York City is still interesting. Continue reading

After Yorktown: The Final Struggle for Independence


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ben_franklins_worldWhen did the fighting of the American War for Independence end?

In school we learn that the war came to an end at Yorktown. But, this lesson omits all of the fighting that took place after Charles, Earl Cornwallis’ surrender in October 1781.

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, Don Glickstein, author of After Yorktown: The Final Struggle for American Independence (Westholme Publishing, 2015), takes us on a whirlwind and global tour of the fighting that took place after Yorktown. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/081

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Aviation History: Air Marking The North Country (Conclusion)


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AMP2A 1951CiceroNYShortly after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, it was realized that airmarks could be used by enemy planes, so the order was given to remove 2,500 airmarks that stood within 150 miles of the nation’s coasts. Six weeks later, those marks were obliterated, undoing six years of labor—but shortly after, the blanket order was modified. Why? The absence of airmarks was causing military pilot trainees to become lost. The new order allowed airmarks within 50 miles of flight training airfields.

The national program resumed after the war, with improved methods (including government-supplied plywood templates for lettering) and greater participation, but it’s truly remarkable that despite historic advances in communications and airplanes, the airmark system remained in use into the 1970s.

If you’re old enough to have flown locally back then, you might recall some North Country rooftop markings, some of which are listed below with their year of origin. Most were maintained until the system became outdated. Continue reading

Report Tracks Erie Canalway Trail Progress


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cyclist on the erie canalwayParks & Trails New York (PTNY) and the Canalway Trails Association New York (CTANY) have released their sixth annual report – Closing the Gaps: A Progress Report on the Erie Canalway Trail 2015  – detailing progress made in completing the statewide Erie Canalway Trail as a continuous, off-road route. With 288 of 360 miles open to the public, the Canalway Trail is 80% complete and well on its way to becoming the longest trail of its kind in the United States, and a significant tourist destination for Upstate New York.

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The Erie Canal Marks A 200th Anniversary


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aqueduct bridge at rochesterOn May 17, 1816, the State’s Canal Commissioners met in New York City. This was their first meeting since being reauthorized by the legislature on April 17th, just a few weeks earlier. Five commissioners were appointed by the legislature – Stephen Van Rensselaer, DeWitt Clinton, Samuel Young, Joseph Ellicott and Myron Holley. Several of them had been canal commissioners since 1810. During that period they had surveyed much of the route in person and had kept the dream of the waterway alive during the intervening dismal years of war on their frontier (War of 1812). At the May 17th meeting the commissioners initiated actions that ensured that construction of the Erie Canal would begin a year later. Continue reading