Tag Archives: Albany County

NYS Museum Opens Civil War Exhibit


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The exhibit “An Irrepressible Conflict: The Empire State in the Civil War” has opened at the New York State Museum, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

The pivotal role New York State played in the war is the focus of the 7,000-square-foot exhibition. As the wealthiest and most populous state, the Empire State led all others in supplying men, money, and materiel to the causes of unity and freedom. New York’s experience provides significant insight into the reasons why the war was fought and the meaning that the Civil War holds today. An Irrepressible Conflict will be open through September 22, 2013 in Exhibition Hall. Continue reading

Lecture: The Excavations of Fort Orange


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Dr. Paul Huey, now retired as archeologist for the New York State Historic Sites system (Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation) who will present a talk on the history of Fort Orange and the excavation in 1970 and 1971 of archeological remains of the fort ahead of the construction of Interstate 787, an event which inspired a revival of interest in the history of Albany in the Dutch period.

Fort Orange was a trading center built by the Dutch West India Company in 1624. The fort was located outside of Beverwijck (present-day Albany), to the south and near the river bank. In 1647, Petrus Stuyvesant, representing the West India Company as director of New Netherland, began to allow private traders to build houses inside the fort. Other traders built houses close to and outside the fort, which Stuyvesant considered to be illegal.

Consequently, Stuyvesant established the settlement of Beverwijck as a town at what he considered a satisfactory distance away from the fort. The fort and all of New Netherland were taken by the English in 1664 during peacetime. The fort was retaken briefly by the Dutch who then returned it to the English, and it was finally abandoned in 1676 by the English. The English then built a new fort on the State Street hill in Albany.

The event is hosted by The Friends of the New York State Library and will take place on September 26 2012 from 12:15pm – 1:15pm at the 7th floor Librarians Room, at the New York State Library, Madison Avenue, Albany, NY. To register for the program, go to: http://www.forms2.nysed.gov/nysl/trngreg.cfm

Illustration: Location of Fort Orange on today’s Albany’s riverfront from Len Tantillo’s Visions of New York State. Digital copy courtesy The People of Colonial Albany Project.

Waterford Tugboat Roundup This Weekend


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More than two dozen boats are expected to participate in this year’s Tugboat Roundup in Waterford. The Roundup, cancelled last year due to damage caused by the storms Irene and Lee, is organized by the town of Waterford and runs from Friday, September 7 through Sunday, September 9.

Working tug boats from along the Hudson River including Kingston, Albany and Troy, from the Canal System, the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River are expected to converge in Waterford in time for Friday afternoon’s parade. The parade starts at the Port of Albany at 2:45 on Friday with boats arriving in Waterford as early as 5pm.

Live music will be performed throughout the event with at least nine different groups booked to play on board one of the tugs, the Grand Erie, docked in front of the Visitor’s Center along the canal at the foot of Tugboat Alley in the village.

Boat tours will be offered on both the Hudson River and the Waterford locks and kids activities will include face-painting, clown performances, puppet theaters, a bouncy-bounce, pony rides. and more throughout the weekend.

On Sunday, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) will be dedicating the Waterford flight of locks as a significant engineering achievement in America. This dedication will take place on Sunday.

A full schedule of performances and activities can be found on the Roundup’s website, www.tugboatroundup.com or on their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/tugboatroundup.com

Photo: The 2008 Tugboat Round-Up, Courtesy Duncan Hayes, NPS  (Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor).

John L. Dunlap: America’s Second ‘Old Hickory’


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In 1863, urged by New York’s 35th Regiment to run for President, Watertown’s John L. Dunlap consented and was again promoted as the Second Old Hickory of America. He wanted Ulysses Grant as his running mate (Grant was busy at the time, leading the North in the Civil War), and he received impressive promises of political support at the Chicago convention.
A poll of passengers on a train running from Rochester to Syracuse yielded surprising results: For Abraham Lincoln, 50 votes; George B. McLellan, 61; John C. Fremont, 6; and Dr. John L. Dunlap, Watertown, 71!

History reveals that Lincoln did, in fact, triumph, but Dunlap didn’t lose for lack of trying. He secured the nomination of the Peoples’ Party at their convention in Columbus, Ohio, and none other than Ulysses S. Grant was selected as his vice-presidential running mate. Dunlap received congratulations from New York Governor Horatio Seymour for winning the nomination.
The widely distributed handbill (poster) for Dunlap/Grant used the slogan, “Trust in God, and keep your powder dry,” and promised, “Clear the track, the two Great War Horses of the North and West are coming! The one will suppress the rebellion with the sword, and the other will heal the nation with his medicines and his advice.”
Among Dunlap’s early campaign stops in the 1864 election were Troy, Albany, and Washington, D.C. He was handicapped by having to campaign alone since Grant was still pursuing Lee on the battlefield. But as always, Dunlap gave it his best effort. Known as a fierce patriot and a man of the people, he was very popular at many stops.
Two years later, he sought the nomination for governor and also received 12 votes for representative in the 20th Congressional Districtnot a lot, but higher than four of his opponents.
In 1868, Dunlap again pursued the presidency, this time seeking General Philip Sheridan as his running mate. Had the effort been supported, he would have squared off against two familiar faceshis former running mate, Grant, was the Republican nominee, while his former opponent for governor, Horatio Seymour, won the Democratic nomination.
Shortly after President Grant’s inauguration, he received a special congratulatory gift: a case of medicines from Dr. John L. Dunlap. In a related story (from the Watertown Daily Times in the 1920s), the Scott family of Watertown claimed that Dunlap once sent a bottle of cough syrup via Judge Ross Scott to Secretary of State William Seward (in Auburn, New York).
Seward delivered the bottle to Lincoln, who reportedly said, “Tell Dr. Dunlap I’ve tried it on my buckwheat pancakes and it’s the best substitute for maple syrup I know of.”
In 1870, Watertown’s John L. Dunlap was named as a candidate for Congress, and in 1872 he declared once again for the presidency. When General William Tecumseh Sherman toured the North Country, Dunlap met with him and suggested they become running mates. Included in his proposed platform was a single term of only four years for any president, and the elimination of electors in favor of counting the people’s votes.
An Ogdensburg newspaper supported his candidacy with these words: “Dr. Dunlap is a staid and conservative old gentleman. If elected, he would lend honor, virtue, dignity, and character to the party.” The Watertown Re-Union added, “Whatever may be said of the other candidates, Doctor Dunlap is a genuine Jackson Democrat, one of the real old stock.”
Of eight candidates, the Ogdensburg Journal said Dunlap was “the most consistent, if not the ablest, of all named. … If the people should be so fortunate as to elect him as their President, they will find him a true man.”
In Albany (the doctor’s old haunts prior to 1850), a Dunlap Club of 6,000 members was organized, and in Vermont, adjacent to his longtime home in Washington County, New York, he enjoyed strong support. For a campaign with meager resources, things were going quite well.
But then, as if to legitimize his candidacy, the unthinkable happened: an assassination attempt. The Troy Weekly Times reported that an effort to shoot Dr. Dunlap had failed, and that he had also been offered money in exchange for withdrawing his candidacy. Other newspapers denied the bribe story.
Meanwhile, the good doctor continued giving speeches in major cities (including his old July 4th oration from two decades earlier, which was ever-popular) and continued selling his medicines. He sought the nomination at several different party conventions, but was unsuccessful.
Just weeks after the 1872 election, Dunlap was off to Europe. It was at this point in his life that certain events occurred, events that would somewhat cloud his career and paint him as truly eccentricand for good reason.
Through his decades as a Washington County physician, his years of selling medicines to anyone that he met, and a lifetime of politics, Dunlap had always been a vigorous self-promoter. He loved the limelight, and it seemed to love him as well. The media was more than happy to offer the latest news on Dunlap’s unusual life. Yes, he was different, but he was clearly an intelligent man who enjoyed living life to the fullest.
Next week: The conclusionDunlap rises to the international stage.
Photo: Advertisement for one of Dunlap’s syrups (1863).
Lawrence Gooley has authored eleven books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 24 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

Albany County Hall of Records to Celebrate 30 Years


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Albany County Hall of Records will celebrate its 30th anniversary on Wednesday, October 17, 2012 from 10AM-2PM. All interested chroniclers of history are invited to the open house at 95 Tivoli Street, Albany, New York.

Speakers will talk about the history of the Hall of Records, there will be exhibits on display, and tours of the facility will be available. Light refreshments will be included.

The Hall of Records includes the County Archives, Micro-Imaging and Records Center and currently holds over 22000 thousand cubic feet of inactive records and 9000 cubic feet of archival records in its two locations. You can read their latest newsletter here.

Replica Ship Half Moon Opportunities Announced


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William T. (Chip) Reynolds, Director, New Netherland Museum and Captain, Replica Ship Half Moon has announced that work is proceeding on fall programming and regular ship-board projects, and the ship will be holding an upcoming sail training opportunity.

On July 21-22 crew old and new alike will come together on the Half Moon to train in sail handling and ship operations. The two day program will depart from and return to Peckham Wharf in Athens, NY while anchoring out on the evening of the 21st. Crew will board 8am Saturday and depart late afternoon on Sunday.  No prior experience necessary; all training will be provided. Preference will be given to those who have volunteered with the Half Moon this season.

If you would like to participate in the sail training weekend, send an email with your name, phone number, location and the information for an emergency contact to: hmvolunteer@gmail.com

Dockside work continues on the Half Moon as they prepare for sail training and other programming through the summer and Fall of 2012. Crew have been working around the ship on various projects. Doug Lyke has been working on rewiring bilge pumps and radio wires; Gene Tozzi repaired the decorative anchor on the front of the ship; Woody Woodworth and Bob Hansen have installed new water pumps and other elements for the ship’s generator.

In addition to work around the ship, they’ve also said goodbye to bo’sun Wesley Jasper who spent three months living and working aboard the Half Moon, and who is headed to the Rotterdam Maritime Academy in the fall.

Work will continue weekdays throughout the summer. If you are interested in joining in and assisting with maintenance work around the ship, contact them at 518.443.1609 or by email at: hmvolunteer@gmail.com

This season, the Half Moon will be open for school and public tours in Albany NY Sept 22 & 23 and Sept 29 & 30 and public viewing in Connecticut.

Half Moon also offers school class tours. Educators looking to sign-up their class Sept 21, Sept 24-28 and Oct 1-4, should contact Carol Ann Margolis at the Albany Convention and Visitor’s Bureau: 518.434.0405

The 85-foot replica of the ship Henry Hudson sailed while exploring the Hudson River in 1609 has a volunteer crew of 15 and was built in Albany, N.Y. in 1989 to commemorate the Dutch role in exploring and colonizing America. The Half Moon replica has six sails on three masts, sporting 2,757 square feet of canvas. It’s equipped with six cannons and four anchors.

The original ship, called the Halve Maen, was commissioned on March 25, 1609 for the Dutch East India Company. The company hired Hudson, an Englishman, to search for a passageway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. He thought he had found that passage when he sailed up the river that now bears his name. In making his trip up the river, Hudson claimed the area for the Dutch and opened the land for settlers who followed. His voyage came 10 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. 

For general information about the replica Half Moon check their website.

Photo provided.

Seneca Ray Stoddard Exhibit Opens at NYS Museum


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A new exhibition has opened at the New York State Museum showcasing the works of Adirondack photographer and conservationist Seneca Ray Stoddard.

Seneca Ray Stoddard: Capturing the Adirondacks is open through February 24, 2013 in Crossroads Gallery and includes over 100 of Stoddard’s photographs, an Adirondack guideboat, freight boat, camera, copies of Stoddard’s books and several of his paintings.

There also are several Stoddard photos of the Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island. These and other items come from the State Museum’s collection of more than 500 Stoddard prints and also from the collections of the New York State Library and the Chapman Historical Museum in Glens Falls.

Born in Wilton, Saratoga County in 1844, Stoddard was no doubt inspired by the Adirondacks at an early age. A self-taught painter, he was first employed as an ornamental painter at a railroad car manufacturer in Green Island, across the Hudson River from Troy in Albany County. He moved to Glens Falls (Warren County) in 1864, where he worked with sketches and paintings until his death there in 1917.

Early on he sought to preserve the beauty of the Adirondacks through his paintings but then became attracted to photography’s unique ability to capture the environment. He was one of the first to capture the Adirondacks through photographs. He used the then recently introduced wet-plate process of photography. Though extremely cumbersome by today’s standards, the technique was the first practical way to record distant scenes. It required Stoddard to bring his entire darkroom with him into the Adirondack wilderness.

His renown as a photographer quickly grew once he settled in Glens Falls, which also became his base camp for his explorations of the Adirondacks. He studied the Adirondacks intensely over a 50-year period.

Stoddard’s photos showed the challenges travelers faced in getting to the still undeveloped wilderness, along with their enjoyment of finally reaching their destination. His writings and photographs indicate that he was especially skilled at working with people from diverse economic backgrounds in a variety of settings. This was especially important as he used his photos to capture the changing Adirondack landscape as railroads were introduced and the area became an increasingly important destination for the burgeoning middle-class tourist, but also for the newly wealthy during the “Gilded Age.”

His work stimulated even further interest as he promoted the Adirondacks through his photographs and writings on the beauty, people and hotels of the region. Stoddard’s photographs showed the constancy of the natural beauty of the Adirondacks along with the changes that resulted from logging and mining, to hotels and railroads. As unregulated mining and logging devastated much of the pristine Adirondack scenery, Stoddard documented the loss and used those images to foster a new ethic of responsibility for the landscape. His work was instrumental in shaping public opinion about tourism, leading in part to the 1892 “Forever Wild” clause in the New York State Constitution.

The State Museum purchased over 500 historic Stoddard prints in 1972 in the process of acquiring historic resources for the Museum’s Adirondack Hall. They included albumen prints from Stoddard’s own working files, many with penciled notes. Nearly all are of the landscapes, buildings and people of the Adirondacks taken primarily in the 1870s and 1880s.

An online version of the exhibition is also available on the State Museum website at http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/virtual/exhibits/SRS/ .

The State Museum will present several programs in conjunction with the Stoddard exhibition. There will be guided tours of the exhibition on September 8 and December 8 from 1-2 p.m. Stoddard will also be the focus of Family Fun Day on September 15 from1-4 p.m.

Established in 1836, the New York State Museum is a program of the State Education Department’s Office of Cultural Education. Located on Madison Avenue in Albany, the Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. except on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Admission is free. Further information can be obtained by calling (518) 474-5877 or visiting the Museum website at www.nysm.nysed.gov.

Photo: Stoddard’s “Indian Encampment, Lake George, 1872″.

Guided Tours at the Shaker Heritage Society


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The Shaker Heritage Society is offering guided tours of America’s first Shaker Settlement. Tours will run every Saturday beginning May 5th through September 29th. Participants will learn the story of the Shakers, a group that played important roles in shaping local and national history. The grounds also house a historic herb garden, chickens, turkeys, and oxen, the grave of Shaker founder Mother Ann Lee and other important Shakers in the Shaker cemetery.

Guided tours begin the 1848 Shaker Meeting House at the site of America’s first Shaker settlement. The historic site is adjacent to Albany International Airport off of Heritage Lane. Tours begin at 1:00pm. There is a suggested donation of $5.

For more information visit www.shakerheritage.org or call 518-456-7890.

Civil War Legal Issues Conference Planned


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A conference entitled “Civil War on Trial-Legal Issues That Divided A Nation” will feature a three-day program over June 7-9, 2012, include some of the foremost Civil War and Constitutional scholars in the nation on the subjects of the Civil War and the law, and will look at this iconic period in American history in a way unique from virtually all other conferences nationwide. The conference is being chaired by nationally prominent Civil War scholars Paul Finkelman and Harold Holzer.

The conference will be held on the campus of Albany Law School in Albany, New York from June 7-9, 2012. For more information on the conference agenda and registration, go to www.nysarchivestrust.org or call (518) 473-7091.

The New York State Archives Partnership Trust and the Government Law Center at Albany Law School, in cooperation with the Historical Society of the Courts of the State of New York, the New York State Bar Association, and the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation are organizing the conference. Principal financial support has been provided by History Channel and the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation.

CFP: 12th Mohican / Algonquian People’s Seminar


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The Native American Institute of the Hudson River Valley and The New York State Museum are inviting papers or other presentation to be given at the 12th Mohican/Algonquian Peoples Seminar held at the NYS Museum in Albany on September 15, 2012. Topics can be any aspect of Northeastern Native American culture from prehistory to present. Presentations are allotted 20 minutes speaking time.

Interested parties are encouraged to submit a one page abstract that includes a brief biographical sketch and notes any special scheduling and/or equipment needs. For presentations other than traditional papers, please describe content and media that will be used to make the presentation. Deadline for abstract submission is June 1, 2012.

 
The Selection Committee, made up of Board members, will notify presenters no later than June 10, 2012. The final paper should meet common publication standards. The paper should be foot noted “author-date” style; sources are cited in the text in parentheses by author’s last name and date, with a reference to a list of books or sources at the end of the paper. Also, a disc containing the article, bibliography, illustrations (referred to as figure 1, figure 2 etc.) and captions for the illustrations should be submitted to the Board at the Seminar.

Send abstracts to:

Native American Institute of the Hudson River Valley (NAIHRV)
c/o Mariann Mantzouris
223 Elliot Rd.
East Greenbush, NY 12061
Email : marimantz@aol.com
Telephone: 518-369-8116

Suffrage Campaign Wagon on Display at Capitol


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A horse-drawn suffrage campaign wagon used by suffragist Edna Buckman Kearns to organize for Votes for Women is on exhibit at the state capitol in Albany, through May 2012. The artifact of the suffrage movement is representative of the tens of thousands of women nationwide who participated in the 72-year movement to win the right to vote for women.

The story of the Edna Kearns suffrage campaign wagon is detailed in a blog and web site called Suffrage Wagon News Channel (suffragewagon.org), which for the past two years has been publishing news and stories of the Votes for Women movement. Suffrage Wagon News Channel is published by Marguerite Kearns, the granddaughter of Edna Buckman Kearns, and it features the writings and organizing of Edna Kearns who worked on Long Island and New York City as an writer and editor of suffrage news as well as an on-the-ground organizer for the state and national campaigns.

“All types of people are amazed when they hear stories of the suffrage movement,” says Marguerite Kearns, who said she grew up listening to family stories about Grandmother Edna, but she didn’t learn about the suffrage movement in school.

“My grandmother died in 1934, so what I know is from the papers my grandmother saved. As I read my grandmother’s writings and news clippings, I am touched by the dedication and persistence of her generation. We stand on strong shoulders, and this type of strength is something we don’t have to reinvent. It’s part of a collective memory that comes alive when stories of the movement are shared.”

Suffrage centennials have been celebrated in the western states where women first won the right to vote. Oregon, for example, has numerous events scheduled for its centennial in 2012. And New York State is putting preliminary plans in place to celebrate its centennial in 2017. The national centennial for Votes for Women is set for 2020 in the United States.

The exhibit is sponsored by NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo at the state capitol to recognize women’s accomplishments and as a way to make history more real for his three daughters.

Great, Strange and Rarely Seen: Objects from the Vault


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The Albany Institute of History & Art has unlocked its vault to present some of the little-known objects in the new exhibition Great, Strange and Rarely Seen: Objects from the Vault opening Saturday, April 14, 2012. A special exhibition opening reception will be hosted on April 12.

The exhibition reveals the cosmopolitan breadth of the Institute’s holdings with stunning Chinese lacquer, intricately carved Japanese netsuke, and 18th-century English porcelain statuettes. Other collections, like patent models and human hair jewelry, demonstrate the ingenious and quirky sides of human creativity. Also to be included are panoramic photographs, unusual clocks, a chronology of mirrors, women’s bonnets and hats, British and American fortepianos, and riches from the Library.

Individuals are invited to celebrate the opening of the exhibition with a special reception on Thursday, April 12 from 5-7 PM at the Albany Institute. Guests will enjoy a preview of Great, Strange and Rarely Seen followed by wine and light hors d’oeuvres. This event is free of charge.

Great, Strange and Rarely Seen is on display in the Main Floor Galleries of the Albany Institute of History & Art, located at 125 Washington Avenue, Albany. This exhibition has been generously funded by the Buchman Foundation and Elle Shushan, and will be on view through August 26, 2012.

Historic Cherry Hill Opens, Fundraiser Planned


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Historic Cherry Hill in Albany, a non-profit historic house museum built in 1787 and lived in continuously by five generations of the same family until the death of the last family member in 1963, opens for the public season on Wednesday April 4th. The museum has 20,000 objects, 30,000 manuscripts, 7,500 textiles, 5,000 books and 3,000 photographs in its collection and offers a behind-the-scenes restoration tour exploring the large restoration project currently underway on Wednesday afternoons at 1, 2 and 3pm and on Saturday afternoons at 2 and 3pm.

A special fundraiser to benefit the museum will be held on Saturday, April 14th from 5:00pm to 7:30pm. Participants will join Van Rensselaer family member Elsie Whipple and Cherry Hill hired hand Jesse Strang on the 185th anniversary of their romantic rendezvous at Hill’s Tavern, explore the historic tavern building and learn about their tryst that led to murder. The fundraiser is hosted by The Tailored Tea at the Historic Hills House, formerly known as Hill’s Tavern and will include wines and specialty teas as well as homemade sweet and savory treats. Tickets are $50.00 per person. For more information or to order tickets, call Historic Cherry Hill at (518) 434-4791.

Admission to Cherry Hill is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and college students and $2 for children between the ages of 12 and 18. The museum also offers an Architecture Hunt for Families on Saturdays between 1 and 2pm. Admission for the Hunt is $2 for adults and $1 for children ages 6-11. The museum is open from April through December for tours on these days. For more information visit the museum’s website.

Albany Institue Annouces Spring Lecture Lineup


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The Albany Institute of History & Art has announced its 2012 Spring Lecture lineup. From April through June, visitors are invited to attend lectures given by local authors and nationally recognized scholars. Topics will range from United States presidents to New York’s French history to Japanese netsuke.

All of the lectures listed are with museum admission. Lectures are presented in the Key Cultural Center at the Albany Institute of History & Art, located at 125 Washington Avenue, Albany. The schedule is as follows:

* Susan Leath, “Bethlehem: Stories beyond the Book”
SUNDAY, APRIL 15 | 2 PM

* Dennis Gaffney, “The Presidents”
SUNDAY, APRIL 22 | 2 PM

* Eloise A. Brière “J’Aime New York”
SUNDAY, APRIL 29 | 2 PM

* Rob Naborn, “Memories of Eilardus Westerlo”
SUNDAY, MAY 6 | 2 PM

* Elle Shushan, “The Albany Influence: Portrait Miniatures in Federal New York”
SUNDAY, MAY 20 | 2 PM

* Sam Aldrich, “Dancing with the Queen, Marching with the King”
SUNDAY, JUNE 3 | 2 PM

* Jeffrey Klotz, “Netsuke: Function and Decoration”
SUNDAY, JUNE 10 | 2 PM

For more information on any of these lectures, visit albanyinstitute.org or call (518) 463-4478.

William Kennedy’s Prohibition Story:
An Interview with Exec Producer Dan Swinton


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The passage of the Volstead Act and prohibition against intoxicating liquor caused a profound change in American culture by breaking the traditional mold of heroes and anti-heroes. Popular media has romanticized the anti-hero “gangster” role, and some of the greatest actors of the movie-making era have portrayed names like Al Capone, “Bugs” Moran, “Bugsy” Siegal and “Machine Gun” Kelly on the silver screen. In many instances, thugs, authorities and officials become the puppets of the crime boss, or the authorities become as violent as the criminals do.
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Irish American Museum Presents Erie Canal Exhibit


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The Irish American Heritage Museum presents its newest exhibit “The Irish and the Erie Canal” at its new galleries at 370 Broadway in Albany. The new exhibit, wholly developed by its staff and volunteers, is open to the public from Wednesdays through Fridays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on Saturdays and Sundays from 12 noon to 4 p.m.

“In keeping with our mission of education, ‘The Irish and the Erie Canal’ reveals the historical contributions of the Irish to the planning, designing, engineering, funding and construction of the famed achievement that transformed early America, and in particular New York City, into a world economic power, linking the Great Lakes and the interior of the young nation to the Atlantic Ocean,” stated Ed Collins, Chair of the Museum’s Board Of Trustees.

“Our exhibit expands the common perception that the Irish were limited to only the actual construction of the canal,” Mr. Collins further stated. “The Irish were involved from start to finish, from originally proposing the concept a hundred years before a shovel was even put into the ground, to the routing, to its design, to securing support from elected officials, to the elected officials themselves, to its construction and finally to its navigation and transportation services once it opened.”

“The Irish and the Erie Canal” was researched, written and composed by James Zibro, a Cohoes, NY, resident of Irish descent who is completing his PhD at Catholic University in Washington D.C. after earning Masters degrees in both American History and Irish Studies at the same university and a dual Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degree at Union College, Schenectady, NY. Museum Director Krisy O’Connor produced the exhibit and Museum volunteer Adele O’Connell served as the exhibit’s editor.

The suggested donations for admission are: $3 adults, $2 seniors and free for children 14 years of age and younger. Museum Memberships are also available upon entry. Donations and memberships help fund the Museum’s educational programs.

The Museum is unique in the United States, where almost 40 million people claim Irish ancestry. The Museum is committed to the tenet that preserving one’s heritage is vital to providing a cultural and historical foundation to future generations of Americans.

The Irish American Heritage Museum was created by New York State Legislation in 1986 and permanently chartered by the New York State Education Department in 1992 as a 501c3 non-profit educational institution. The Museum’s mission is to preserve and tell the story of the contributions of the Irish people and their culture in America, inspiring individuals to examine the importance of their own heritage as part of the American cultural mosaic.

Canal Life: Near Tragedy on the George W. Lee


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In November 1886, Captain John Frawley of the canal boat George W. Lee reached the eastern terminus of the Mohawk River at Cohoes. Before him was the Hudson River intersection: south led to Albany and New York City, and north was the path of the Champlain Canal, which ran from Waterford to Whitehall, at Lake Champlain’s southern tip. Access to the Champlain Canal was on the north bank at the Mohawk’s mouth, opposite Peeble’s Island.

At the mouth of the river was a dam, maintaining calm water so the boats could cross the river, and about 500 feet upstream from the dam was a bridge. Canal boats were pulled by tow ropes linked to teams of mules or horses. To cross from the south bank of the Mohawk to the north, towing teams used the bridge, which is what Frawley did.

Sounds simple, and usually, it was. But the Mohawk was badly swollen from several days of rain. Traveling at night, Frawley was perhaps unaware that the normally strong current had intensified. Water was fairly leaping over the nine-foot-high dam.

Accompanying the captain were his mother, around 60 years old; his ten-year-old son; and the boat’s steersman, Dennis Clancy. To help ensure that things went okay, Frawley left the boat to assist the team driver during the crossing of the 700-foot-long bridge. They moved slowly—the rope extended sideways from the bridge downstream towards the boat, an angle much more difficult than pulling a load forward along the canal.

Below them, the George W. Lee lay heavy in the current, straining against the rope. All went well until the bridge’s midpoint was reached, when, with a sound like a gunshot, the rope snapped. Horrified, they watched as the boat swung around, slammed sideways into the dam, and plunged over the edge. Nothing was left but darkness.

Shock and grief enveloped them at such a sudden, terrible loss. Within minutes, though, a light appeared on the boat’s deck. It had held together! At least one person had survived, but no one knew how many, or if any were injured. The roar of the river drowned out any attempt at yelling back and forth. With the boat aground, there was nothing to do but sit and wait until morning.

With daylight came great news. All were okay! But, as had happened the previous evening, great elation was followed by great uncertainty. How could they be saved? The river remained high and dangerous. The boat, resting on the rocks below the dam, could not be reached. And the November chill, heightened by cold water pouring over the dam all around them, threatened the stranded passengers with hypothermia.

A rescue plan was devised, and by late afternoon, the effort began. The state scow (a large, flat-bottomed boat), manned by a volunteer crew of seven brave men, set out on a dangerous mission. Connected to the bridge by a winch system using two ropes, the scow was slowly guided to the dam, just above the stranded boat.

The men began talking with the passengers to discuss their evacuation. Then, without warning, disaster struck. Something within the winch mechanism failed, and again, with a loud cracking sound, the rope snapped. Over the dam went the scow, fortunately missing the canal boat. Had they hit, the results would have been catastrophic.

Briefly submerged, the scow burst to the surface. A safe passage lay ahead, but the drifting scow was instead driven towards nearby Buttermilk Falls by the swift current. Two men leaped overboard and swam for shore in the icy water. The rest decided to ride it out.

In one reporter’s words, “The scow sped like an arrow toward Buttermilk Falls. It seemed to hang an instant at the brink, and then shot over the falls. It landed right side up and soon drifted ashore.” Incredibly, everyone survived intact. Chilled, wet, and shaken, but intact.

Meanwhile, still stuck at the base of the dam was a canal boat with cold, hungry, and frightened passengers. A new plan was needed, but darkness was descending. The stranded victims would have to spend another night on the rocks.

On the following day, Plan B was tried. According to reports, “A stout rope was stretched from the Waterford bridge, over the dam, to a small row boat at Peeble’s Island [a distance of about 1800 feet.] Two men stood on the bridge and pulled the skiff upstream until it came alongside the canal boat Lee. The party embarked and the boat was allowed to drift back to the island.”

What an amazing, fortuitous outcome. Two boats (one at night) over a dam; three people trapped for more than 36 hours in a raging river; two men swimming for their lives in icy water; and five men and a boat over a waterfall. All that potential for tragedy, and yet all survived unscathed.

Photos: The dam at Cohoes, looking west from Peeble’s Island; A canal boat scene at Cohoes.

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

NYS Museum Research in Archaeology Lectures


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Research findings on a 200-300-year-old skull found in a wall in Coeymans – the subject of recent news accounts – will be one of the topics discussed during a series of lectures on “Research in Archaeology” at the New York State Museum. The lectures will be held Wednesday through March 28 at 12:10 p.m. in the Huxley Theater. Lecture topics and dates are:

● March 14 – “Learning from Pottery.” Broken pieces of pottery, or sherds, are one of the most common artifacts recovered from archaeological sites younger than 3,000 years old. Dr. John P. Hart, director of the State Museum’s Research & Collections division, will
discuss recently completed research on sherds that provides information on how Native Americans interacted across what is now New York state.

● March 21 – “The Skull in the Wall: The Case of the Coeymans Lady.” The discovery of a human skull during repairs to the stone foundation at the historic Coeymans House in southern Albany County raised many questions about the person’s identity and manner of death.
Lisa Anderson, curator of bioarchaeology, will take a closer look at the skeletal evidence and historical context of the case.

● March 28 – “Cache and Carry: New Insights on Ice Age Technology of New York Paleoindians.” New York’s first people colonized the state at the end of the Ice Age. Ranging widely across New York and beyond, many have wondered how these hunter gatherers
created a portable stone technology compatible with their mobile way of life. Dr. Jonathan Lothrop, curator of archaeology, describes new insights from the study of a Paleoindian stone tool cache discovered in the upper Susquehanna Valley.

Founded in 1836, the State Museum is a program of the New York State Education Department’s Office of Cultural Education. Located on Madison Avenue in Albany, the Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New
Year’s Day. Admission is free. Further information can be obtained by calling (518) 474-5877 or visiting the museum website at www.nysm.nysed.gov.

Photo: Coeymans House from LOC Historic American Building Survey Digital Collection.

Lincoln Author Harold Holzer Event to Focus on NYS


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Abraham Lincoln Scholar Harold Holzer will be visiting the Albany Institute of History & Art to present the lecture “Lincoln and New York” on Sunday, February 26 at 2 PM. Following the lecture, listeners will have a pre-publication date opportunity to purchase and receive a signed copy of Holzer’s newest book, Emancipating Lincoln: The Proclamation in Text, Context, and Memory.

As visitor, President-elect, and later as President and iconic martyr, Abraham Lincoln had an unusual and ongoing relationship with New York State. In turn, the Empire State forged a unique and important relationship with its wartime leader. Holzer examines the 16th President’s dealings with the nation’s most populous and important state, and the role New York played in the social, military, economic and technological upheavals of the Civil War.

Holzer will be available after the lecture to sign copies of his newest book, Emancipating Lincoln, which will be available for early sale prior to its publication on February 27. The book focuses on Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, and how its meaning has changed over time. It has received early acclaim from critics, being deemed “highly recommended for anyone wanting to learn about how freedom came to be” by the Library Journal.

Admission to this event is $10.00 per person. Seating is limited, so please purchase tickets ahead of time at albanyinstitute.org or in person at the museum Front Desk.