New Exhibit On Albany’s Walter Launt Palmer


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image008Artist Walter Launt Palmer (1854–1932), the son of Albany sculptor Erastus Dow Palmer, has enjoyed a revival of interest in the art world over the last several years. It’s now common to see his paintings in art magazines and at major auctions across the country, bringing record prices for his oils and watercolors.

As an artist who preferred living and working in his home community of Albany, rather than New York City, Palmer carried forward the creative genius that emerged in the region generations earlier with the Hudson River School and his father’s own sculpture. Continue reading

The Dutch Wars of Independence, 1570-1680


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Dutch wars of independenceIn The Dutch Wars of Independence: Warfare and Commerce in The Netherlands, 1570-1680 (Routledge, 2014), Marjolein ’t Hart assesses the success of the Dutch in establishing their independence through their eighty years struggle with Spain – one of the most remarkable achievements of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Other rebellions troubled mighty powers of this epoch, but none resulted in the establishment of an independent, republican state. Continue reading

Indian Basketry of the Northeastern Woodlands


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image001(14)With hundreds of vivid and detailed color photographs and an easy narrative style enlivened by historical vignettes, Sarah Peabody Turnbaugh and William A. Turnbaugh bring overdue appreciation to a centuries-old Native American basketmaking tradition in the Northeast in Indian Basketry of the Northeastern Woodlands (Schiffer Publishing, 2014).

The authors explore the full range of vintage Indian woodsplint and sweetgrass basketry in the Northeastern U.S. and Canada, from practical “work” baskets made for domestic use to whimsical “fancy” wares that appealed to Victorian tourists. Continue reading

This Week’s New York History Web Highlights


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An Interview With Historian, Reporter Paul Grondahl


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The Historians LogoThis week “The Historians” podcast features author and Albany Times Union Reporter Paul Grondahl. Grondahl has an update on his biography-in-progress of CBS news commentator Andy Rooney. Plus he discusses the career of long-time Albany promoter Ed Lewi. Grondahl collaborated with Lewi on the book A Wild Ride: Bears, Babes and Marketing to the Max. Grondahl has also written books on longtime Albany Mayor Erastus Corning and Theodore Roosevelt. Listen at “The Historians” online archive at http://www.bobcudmore.com/thehistorians/
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Andrew Jackson Downing At Newburgh’s Crawford House


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CrawfordHousePainting_HSNBH_001The Newburgh Historical Society invites the public to celebrate 200 years of Newburgh’s favorite son, Andrew Jackson Downing, as it kicks off its 2015 season on Sunday, April 12th, between 1 and 5 pm.

This opening day event will begin with a presentation introducing Downing and how the memorial urban park in his name came to be. Following the talk members offer guided tours of the historic Captain David Crawford House and an opening reception for the Artist’s Choice exhibition featuring the work of fifty local artists. Continue reading

This Week’s Top New York History News


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Report: Erie Canalway Trail ‘Closing The Gaps’


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Erie Canalway Trail Progress 2014Parks & Trails New York (PTNY) and the Canalway Trails Association New York (CTANY) have released their fifth annual report, Closing the Gaps: A Progress Report on the Erie Canalway Trail 2014.

The report is intended to update canal corridor communities and national, state, and local decision makers on recent progress and current trail status as well as underscore the need for the resources and political support to ensure the 360-mile Erie Canalway Trail is finished. Continue reading

Kurt Vonnegut in Schenectady Talk Saturday


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Kurt VonnegutKurt Vonnegut, the renowned author of Slaughterhouse-Five, Breakfast of Champions, and Cat’s Cradle, spent an important part of his life in Schenectady. The region influenced his work, and Schenectady appears as the setting for many of his stories, including the novel Player Piano.

K.A. Laity will discuss Vonnegut’s time in Schenectady – as a PR man for General Electric, and as a volunteer fire fighter – and the region’s legacy in his work on Saturday, April 11th at 2 pm at Mabee Farm Historic Site in Rotterdam Junction. The vent is part of the “It Came From Schenectady: Science Fiction in the Capital Region” exhibit series. Continue reading

Greene Smith: Peterboro’s Avid Outdoorsman


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Smith BirdhouseThe important contributions to the field of ornithology of citizen-scientist Greene Smith have been obscured by the Underground Railroad and abolition fame of Smith’s father Gerrit Smith. As important and well-known as are the Underground Railroad sites on the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark in Peterboro NY, it is Greene’s Ornithon that most piques visitors’ curiosity about the builder and collector of that bird museum.

This public fascination prompted Norm Dann to turn the focus of his Smith research to Greene Smith and his Birdhouse. Dann’s study of family letters, military records, Greene’s personal Catalogue of Birds, the pursuit of Greene’s hunting apparatus, and the ownership and investigation of the Birdhouse site, have culminated in the March printing of Greene Smith and the WildLife: The Story of Peterboro’s Avid Outdoorsman – the first publication on this absorbing story. Continue reading

Life At Night In The 18th Century


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Highwaymen rob carriageNighttime in the past was different than today-far darker and more hazardous.  In the Middle Ages night was seen as a sort of anti-time, the very negative of day, when all things bad happened and only people with evil intent were found on the street.

All this began to change in the 18th century. Street lighting in big cities became more common and medieval curfews were abandoned.  Less a source of fear than in the past people were more likely to see beauty in a starry sky and to seek out nightly entertainment instead of hiding behind locked doors.  Yet the 18th century was still very much a period of transition. Continue reading

Computer Punch Cards And Amsterdam Carpets


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mohawkmillsMark Thomann, who has spent much of his working life on restorations of classic carpets, is skeptical of the idea that paper cards used to control carpet weaving in Amsterdam and other places directly foreshadowed development of the computer.

Thomann said, “I have heard that but always thought it a stretch. There is the similarity of the use of punch cards, with a binary system, no hole or hole which would determine position of a strand of yarn. But I have never seen evidence that someone familiar with that industrial technology was at all involved in making computers.” Continue reading

A Discussion About Early American History


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ben_franklins_worldHave you ever wondered what happens when four historians get together to talk about early American history?

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, we chat with three young and promising historians of early America: Michael Hattem, Roy Rogers, and Ken Owen. All three scholars discuss history at The Junto: A Group Blog on Early American History and podcast as regular panelists on The JuntoCast: A Monthly Podcast about Early American History. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/023

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Historical Records Grants Available


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archives 2The New York State Archives has announced the application period for the Documentary Heritage Program grants for 2015-2016 is now open.

The Documentary Heritage Program (DHP) is a statewide program established by law to provide financial support and guidance to not-for-profit organizations that hold, collect and make available New York’s historical records. Funding is available to support projects that relate to groups and topics traditionally under-represented in New York’s historical record. Continue reading

Peter Feinman: Create Pathfinders In Your Region


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The PathfinderI attended The New York Times Travel Show at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City in January, as a member of the press for The New York History Blog. The event included a special session, “Focus on New York State Destinations,” moderated by Tim Lewis, of Viator Inc.

The company apparently has been hired by ILoveNY to promote tours in New York State. Its website lists 19 tours in New York at present: 16 in Manhattan and three to Niagara Falls, including one-day trips from the New York City. There is a two-day bus trip to Niagara Falls from New York with a “Bargain shop at one of the large outlet malls on the way back to New York.” New York State history does not appear to be a prominent part of its tour packages at present. Again, it should be noted, the company was hired to promote New York State tourism not history tourism in New York State. Continue reading

USS Slater Opens For The Season In Albany


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USS SLATER 2015USS Slater has opened to the public for the ship’s 18th season in Albany.  A National Historic Landmark, the Slater is the only remaining World War II Destroyer Escort afloat in America.

Destroyer Escorts originally were conceived to battle Nazi U-Boats while escorting convoys across the Atlantic. However, their versatility proved useful in the Pacific defending task forces from Kamikaze attacks. Many Destroyer Escorts continued to serve during the Korean and Viet Nam Wars. The current US Navy Fleet’s frigates are descendants of these small ships. Continue reading

Arnold Or Gates: Who Was The Hero of Saratoga?


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Saratoga October 1777  - L to R Sir John Burgoyne, Benedict Arnold and Horatio GatesOn Saturday, April 11, 2015, from 2 to 3 pm, the NYS Military Museum at 61 Lake Ave in Saratoga Springs will host a debate on an old question: Horatio Gates or Benedict Arnold…who is the real hero of the Battles of Saratoga?

National Park Rangers Joe Craig and Eric Schnitzer will present this structured discussion on the strengths and weaknesses of American Generals Horatio Gates and Benedict Arnold and how each helped, or hindered, the American victory in the world-changing Battles of Saratoga, called the “most important battle of the last 1,000 years.” Continue reading

Historic Steamboat Planned For Hudson River


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ss columbiaIn the years between 1807 and 1971, the Hudson River was alive with boat traffic. The great Hudson River Day Liners were perhaps the best known of all the vessels – famous for their elegance and speed. New Yorkers and visitors alike experienced the river and magnificent landscapes from their decks and plush salons.

Now, a New York City nonprofit is planning to restore the S.S. Columbia, believed to be America’s oldest surviving excursion steamship, for service on the Hudson River between New York City and Albany, with stops at Bear Mountain State Park, Poughkeepsie, Kingston, and Hudson. Continue reading

Fort Ticonderoga Teacher Institute Seeks Applicants


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teacher instituteFort Ticonderoga in Essex County, NY is now accepting applications from teachers to participate in the 2015 Fort Ticonderoga Teacher Institute, June 28 through July 3, 2015.

The focus of this year’s institute is “The French & Indian War: Ticonderoga at the Center of a Global Conflict” and will accommodate 12 teachers for a week-long exploration of the pivotal role that Ticonderoga and the Champlain-Hudson corridor played in the global contest for empire. Continue reading