The indictment of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on federal corruption charges is the latest manifestation of corruption in the New York State legislature. Since 2000, about 25 state lawmakers have left office because of criminal or ethical issues. U. S. Attorney Preet Bhahara, who brought the charges against Silver, says the legislature is a “cauldron of corruption.” Governor Andrew Cuomo established a controversial, short-lived Moreland Commission to deal with corruption and has inserted an ethics package in his proposed budget to force the legislative reform.
Bhahara’s sweeping characterization of the legislature is exaggerated. Over the years, the New York’s legislature has been one of the most important in the nation, usually keeping our state at the forefront of minority rights, social reform, and progressive policies. Throughout history, though, there have always been a few corrupt legislators who violate the laws and public trust. But legislative wrongdoing is probably no worse today than it was many times in our history. Continue reading
In a book titled Aristocrats of Color: The Black Elite, 1880-1902, author Willard B. Gatewood includes a few sentences about Albany, NY’s Home Social Club. According to Gatewood, it “represented the pinnacle of the city’s black social structure.”
Portraying the club as an aristocratic, elitist organization seems unfair, based on my research. Yes, the club’s membership included some black professionals over the years, but among its long-term adherents were waiters, barbers, and railroad porters. Continue reading
Opening day comes early to the Capital Region as the Albany Institute of History & Art presents Triple Play! Baseball at the Albany Institute, three exhibitions celebrating the history of baseball.
The exhibits include nationally and regionally significant materials, such as photographs, signed bats and balls, stadium seats, trophies, pennants, jerseys, and more. In addition, there is a roster of related events with guest speakers, family activity days, creative contests, and free admission opportunities. Continue reading
Often celebrated as a masterpiece of civic architecture and decorative design, the New York State Capitol sits majestically at the head of Albany’s State Street. The story behind the most expensive capitol building ever to be constructed is a fascinating one.
Built between 1867 and 1899, the Capitol was the work of four different architects, who each worked under exasperating conditions – geological, structural, and political – with hundreds of highly skilled masons and exceptional stone carvers. After completion, the building attracted controversy – seen by some as an atrocity of jumbled architecture and by others as a successful blending of architectural forms. Continue reading
This week “The Historians” podcast features an interview with Richard Norton Smith who has spent 14 years writing On His Own Terms: A Life of Nelson Rockefeller (Random House, 2014).
Rockefeller was Republican governor of New York State from 1959 to 1973, vice president of the United States from 1974 to 1977, and part of one of America’s most wealthy and influential families. In this interview Smith discusses Rockefeller’s role in destruction of Albany neighborhoods and creation of the Empire State Plaza. He describes Rockefeller’s service as an adviser to three Presidents (two Democrats), his expansion of the state university, his dyslexia, his love of modern art, his failed Presidential bids, the Attica prison uprising and the cover-up surrounding Rockefeller’s death while alone with a female intern. Listen at “The Historians” online archive at http://www.bobcudmore.com/thehistorians/
This is not a story about Diamond Jim Brady (1856‒1917), who, during America’s Gilded Age, was a flamboyant, legendary businessman and philanthropist with an appetite for diamonds and other jewels. It is instead about Big Jim Brady, who, during America’s Gilded Age, was known for his own type of philanthropy, had an affinity for jewels, and was a legendary figure – as the handsomest and coolest of crooks. Continue reading
Twelfth Night was one of the traditional holidays celebrated by the Dutch and English colonists of early New York. Twelfth Night was the final holiday of the season and was marked with unsurpassed feasting and revelry.
On Saturday January 10, 2015 Crailo State Historic Site in Rensselaer, NY, will welcome visitors for its annual Twelfth Night Celebration from 4 until 7 pm. Continue reading
The New York State Museum has opened a new exhibition featuring contemporary Native American artwork. “Represent: Contemporary Native American Art” features twenty-one artworks created by eighteen artists from Native American Nations in New York State.
On display through September 20, 2015, the exhibition features a variety of contemporary Native American artwork. From baskets and beadwork to modern art, the artwork celebrates the traditional roots of Native American artistry through modern expression. Continue reading
The Board of Directors of the New Netherland Museum has announced that the Half Moon, a replica of the ship sailed by Henry Hudson in 1609, will leave New York State for a new home port in the City of Hoorn, The Netherlands in 2015.
The City Council of Hoorn voted Tuesday to adopt the Half Moon for inclusion in a 17th century historic site under the management of the Westfries Museum. The Half Moon is expected to remain the property of the New Netherland Museum, but it will lose its long-time captain, William T. “Chip” Reynolds. Continue reading
The Irish American Heritage Museum in Albany will celebrate the tradition of Seanichie, the traditional Irish Storyteller, at an event about the Irish in the Adirondacks featuring musician Dan Berggren and storyteller Joe Doolittle.
The Seanichie were travelers, carrying stories and news between hamlets and families. For the price of a warm meal, they’d share stories of the old ones and lively tales of romance and blarney. Continue reading
Recent excavations and research on the grounds of Ten Broeck Mansion in Albany have revealed outbuildings likely used as summer kitchens and/or slave quarters.
On Sunday, December 7 at 2 pm, the Albany Institute of History & Art will host Matthew J. Kirk, Principal Investigator and Cultural Resource Specialist at Hartgen Archeological Associates, for a special lecture focused on these findings and the insight they provide into slave/master relationships shortly before abolition. They suggest we reconsider our modern concepts of slavery in the north at the end of the eighteenth century. Continue reading
New York State History Month (November) is just over half through. November was designated in statute in 1997 as State History Month but it has been mostly ignored, until this year.
Last year, State Historian Bob Weible wrote a post in these pages entitled “Is NYS History Month Dead?” which suggested using the month for public history events. Thanks to Bob’s leadership and initiative, State History Month now has a higher visibility and momentum, as described in his recent follow-up. Continue reading
The 2014 Researching New York conference, “Identities in New York: Imagining, Constructing, Exploring,” will be held November 20-21, 2014 at the University at Albany.
This year’s conference will feature Richard Norton Smith who will present “On His Own Terms: A Life of Nelson Rockefeller” on Thursday evening. The keynote luncheon address on Friday will be “The Making of a Myth: Seneca Falls Unraveled” by Lisa Tetrault of Carnegie Mellon University. On Friday afternoon a live performance by the Capital Repertory Theatre of “The Workers of the Erie Canal: They Built America” will take place in UAlbany’s Performing Arts Center. Continue reading
The New York State Museum will celebrate New York State History Month (November) with a variety of free, public programs for children, families and adults.
The Museum will also open a new exhibition that explores the history of the Shaker community on November 15, The Shakers: America’s Quiet Revolutionaries. Continue reading
The University Club of Albany is presenting a series of 10 events to celebrate New York State History Month – all are open to the public.
The events will be held at the University Club, 141 Washington Avenue at Dove Street, in Albany, NY. Programs are listed below; reservations may be made online at www.universityclubalbany.com or by calling (518) 463-1151. Continue reading
The Albany Institute of History & Art has announced that it will install a special exhibition of Thomas Cole materials to coincide with Dr. Paul Schweizer’s lecture and book signing at the Albany Institute on Sunday, November 2, 2014, at 2 pm.
Dr. Schweizer is Director Emeritus of the Munson-Williams-Proctor Art Institute’s Museum of Art and will speak about his new book Thomas Cole’s Voyage of Life as part of the Institute’s Making it American lecture series. The Albany Institute owns Cole’s original oil studies for the Voyage of Life series as well as the first concept drawing for his painting, “Youth.” This event is open to the public and free with museum admission. Continue reading
The Irish American Heritage Museum in Albany will honor Pulitzer Prize winning author William Kennedy and Sister Katherine Graber, RSM, and the Religious Sisters of Mercy as the 2014 Governor Hugh L. Carey Award recipients at 6 pm on Saturday, November 1, 2014, at The Desmond Hotel in Albany.
Joining the Museum for the Gala are Honorary Co-Chairs Ambassador Consul General of Ireland Barbara Jones and Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan. The Honorable Gerald Jennings will preside as the Master of Ceremonies. Continue reading
To commemorate its 50th anniversary as a museum, Historic Cherry Hill will offer Behind-the-Scenes Restoration Tours free during the rest of the month of October.
Tours will highlight the ongoing restoration of the 1787 historic structure, including factors that contributed to the building’s deterioration and how the building is being stabilized. Guides will also discuss the house’s intact original fabric, its “layers of history,” and the Van Rensselaer family that occupied Cherry Hill from 1787 to 1963. Tours are offered on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 1:00, 2:00 and 3:00 pm. No reservations are required. Continue reading
November is New York State History Month, designated by Section 52.04 of the Arts and Cultural Affairs Law as the time “to celebrate the history of New York state and recognize the contributions of state and local historians.”
This is the perfect time to get some well-deserved recognition for officially designated local government historians, historical societies, and others who are preserving, interpreting, and presenting state and local history. It should be a particularly good opportunity for local government historians — their appointments are authorized by law and State History Month is designated by law. Continue reading
The Navy traces its origins to the Continental Navy, which the Continental Congress established on October 13, 1775, by authorizing the procurement, fitting out, manning, and dispatch of two armed vessels to cruise in search of munitions ships supplying the British Army in America.
In 1972, Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, authorized recognition of October 13 as the Navy’s Birthday. Since 1972, each Chief of Naval Operations has encouraged a Navy-wide celebration of this occasion “to enhance a greater appreciation of our Navy heritage, and to provide a positive influence towards pride and professionalism in the Naval Service.” Continue reading