Modestly but eloquently, Sue Fraczek described her life as an Amsterdam mill worker, “When I went to work, I was scared to death. It was my first time in a carpet mill. It was hot. It was noisy.”
Fraczek was surprised to see herself as a young mill worker in a still picture prominently featured in “Historic Views of the Carpet City,” the WMHT-TV documentary on Amsterdam first shown in 2000. Co-producer Steve Dunn chose the picture of the young woman at a yarn twisting machine to symbolize the documentary that he and I produced. Continue reading
This week “The Historians” podcast features Victoria Tokarowski of the National Museum of Racing in Saratoga Springs describing their new exhibit on the horse breeding Sanford family of Amsterdam. Sam Hildebrandt, son of Sanford jockey Lou Hildebrandt, has more on efforts by the Friends of Sanford Stud Farm to restore remaining buildings at the historic farm, which once covered 1,000 acres. The Sanfords bred many horses that won at Saratoga plus a 1916 Kentucky Derby winner and a horse that won England’s prestigious Grand National in 1923. Listen at “The Historians” online archive at http://www.bobcudmore.com/thehistorians/
Bobby Stewart of Tribes Hill won the National Golden Gloves Tournament as a light heavyweight in 1974, beating Mike Dokes in Denver, Colorado. It was the high point of Stewart’s amateur boxing career and was preceded by numerous regional bouts. His amateur record was 45 wins and 5 losses.
Amsterdam had a lively boxing scene years ago. Stewart was raised in Amsterdam on McDonnell Street and Chapel Place. His father was a New York State Police officer and his mother worked in local doctors’ offices. Continue reading
Mark 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
Samuel L. Kupferberg’s ancestors were in the fabric trade so it was only logical that he pursued that line of work. Born in Romania in 1893, Sam had 17 siblings. Two of his older brothers had started fabric businesses in New York City. Getting to America from Codaesti, Romania was an issue for Sam. During World War I Romanian Jews were confined to their villages. After the war Sam left the old country in 1920 for New York City where he worked with his oldest brother, Jacob.
In 1926 Amsterdam’s People’s Silk Store, which sold fabrics and draperies, was for sale. Sam took the train upstate, bought the business and kept the name. Continue reading
When William Aloysius Scully was bishop of Albany, six new Roman Catholic high schools were established in the diocese. The school that opened on a 62-acre lot on upper Church Street in Amsterdam in 1966, three years before Scully’s death, was named in his honor.
St. Mary’s Institute on Forbes Street, which dates back to 1881, had been the city’s previous Catholic high school. It was adjacent to St. Mary’s Church in the heart of the city. Bishop Scully High school was built near the city’s outer limits. Continue reading
In 1988, a small leather-bound diary was bequeathed to Schoharie Crossing State Historic site by Clarke Blair, who received it from Gertrude Ruck – a descendent of Michael Brown. Brown was one of the brothers that owned and operated the Brown Cash Store located at Lock 30 in Fort Hunter, NY from the mid-19th to early 20th century.
The diarist is unknown – nonetheless, it is obviously a personal journal of a Fort Hunter resident, and references to notable local families, places and events of 1869 fill its yellowed pages. Continue reading
The cover of Historic Amsterdam League’s 2015 calendar is a picture of the former Mohawk Teepee restaurant, built in an abandoned rock quarry adjacent to a waterfall in Amsterdam’s East End.
The Mohawk Teepee was the brainchild of Myron and Lidia Bazar, both natives of Ukraine. Myron was born in Ternopil and Lidia in Boryslav, according to Ukrainian Weekly. Continue reading
This week “The Historians” podcast features an interview with Christina Baker Kline, author of the novel Orphan Train (William Morrow, 2013).
Kline’s book is the 2015 book selection of Amsterdam Reads, based at the Amsterdam Free Library. The orphan trains transported destitute children from New York and other Eastern cities to foster homes located largely in rural areas of the Midwest. Some of the children were placed on farms in upstate New York, according to Kline. The orphan trains operated between 1853 and 1929, relocating about 250,000 children.
Listen at “The Historians” online archive at http://www.bobcudmore.com/thehistorians/
A man who started in the knitting business in Amsterdam built the lavish structure now known as Villa Balsamo restaurant off Route 50 between Ballston Spa and Saratoga Springs.
According to historian David Fiske, Floyd J. Shutts was stymied by Amsterdam officials in 1918 when he tried to add on to his factory on Wall Street. Turned down in Amsterdam, Shutts bought property on Saratoga Avenue in Ballston Spa and opened the Ballston Knitting Company in 1920. Continue reading
This week’s episode on “The Historians” podcast includes a story about Christmas in the declining mill town of Nero, NY from my book You Can’t Go Wrong. I’ll also read a recent Daily Gazette column on Christmas through the years in Amsterdam, NY. Listen at “The Historians” online archive at http://www.bobcudmore.com/thehistorians/
Coming up next week, will be Adirondack historian Phil Terrie. Also coming in January an interview with the author of the book Orphan Train (Harper Collins, 2013) and a conversation with Maria Riccio Bryce about the re-issue of the CD of her musical production Hearts of Fire, the story of the 1690 Schenectady massacre.
Malcolm Atterbury, who later became a well-respected character actor in Hollywood, married an Amsterdam woman and built a summer theater in the Adirondacks in the 1930s.
Kirk Douglas came up with his stage name when, as Isadore Demsky, the Amsterdam native was a stage hand and actor at Atterbury’s Tamarack Playhouse in Lakes Pleasant in 1939 and 1940. Continue reading
This week on “The Historians” podcast, an interview with Jerry Snyder of Historic Amsterdam League (HAL) on bygone eateries ranging from one of the first restaurants in the Mohawk Valley to be recommended by Duncan Hines, to side-by-side diners frequented by Kirk Douglas’s father, to an unusual fine dining restaurant built in an abandoned rock quarry. Pictures of the dining establishments are found in HAL’s 2015 Amsterdam Icons calendar.
Listen at “The Historians” online archive at http://www.bobcudmore.com/thehistorians/
A film called “Mohawk” premiered in Amsterdam in 1956 and used some footage from the 1939 movie “Drums Along the Mohawk.” The 1956 movie was distributed by 20th Century Fox.
The movie tells the story of an artist assigned to the Mohawk Valley to paint frontier scenes. The artist is involved romantically with three women. There is a vengeful settler in the film trying to start a war with local Indian people. The film was directed by Kurt Neumann and starred Scott Brady and Rita Gam. Continue reading
This week on “The Historians” podcast, Jeff Wilkin from the Daily Gazette in Schenectady discusses his long-running Monday morning history picture feature, “Capital Region Scrapbook”. Dan Weaver of Historic Amsterdam League promotes the League’s contest to find the oldest house in Amsterdam that has not been converted to another use. And hear highlights from my final radio show on WVTL in Amsterdam after a ten-year run.
Listen to the program at “The Historians” online archive at http://www.bobcudmore.com/thehistorians/
When the world-wide influenza pandemic struck in 1918, Amsterdam had its share of disease and death.
The flu became more deadly in the fall of that year, near the end of World War I. From October 1918 through January 1919 there were 176 deaths in Amsterdam from flu or pneumonia, half of one percent of the city’s population.
Amsterdam had 23 cases of influenza in September and eight people had pneumonia. In October the number of flu cases jumped to an astounding 3,386; 255 people had pneumonia. Amsterdam had 43 flu deaths in October and 77 deaths from pneumonia, which often followed the flu. Both St. Mary’s and City Hospital were filled to capacity. Continue reading
Amsterdam native and movie star Kirk Douglas, who will turn 98 next month, killed a leopard and other big game during a 1962 African safari.
According to an article in the men’s magazine True, Douglas, 46 at the time, said at the end of the trip, “I’m hooked. I don’t know how I got along all those years without hunting.”
History enthusiast Emil Suda, who lives in Amsterdam’s East End where Douglas grew up as Issur Danielovitch or Izzy Demsky, provided a copy of the magazine’s account of Douglas’s safari written by Ralph Daigh. True folded in 1975. A chapter called “Killer Douglas” is devoted to the actor’s hunting trip in his 1988 autobiography The Ragman’s Son. Continue reading
Two Amsterdam clergymen had concerns and asked Mayor John Dwyer to do something about the situation. The Rose Hill Folly Company was planning to perform on Wednesday, November 6, 1889 at the Potter Opera House on Market Street.
The formidable Reverend John McIncrow of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church and Reverend Donald Sprague of St. Ann’s Episcopal Church told the mayor the company had an “immoral tendency.” The clergymen also asked Dwyer not to allow the “posting of indecent pictorial advertisements of shows” in the city. Continue reading
During the 1920s, Arthur Carter from Amsterdam worked as an auditor for the State Comptroller’s Office in Albany and got to know Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Roosevelt became President in 1933. Later that year, Carter was elected mayor of Amsterdam, defeating incumbent Republican Robert Brumagin by 1,169 votes.
The nation was gripped by the Depression. An estimated ten thousand people turned out in Amsterdam on a raw and windy November 9, two days after the city election, to parade for economic revival. Continue reading
This week on “The Historians”, Jerry Snyder of Historic Amsterdam (N.Y.) League on their Ghosts of the Past Tour; Barry Wygel of Time Warner Cable News on the 100th anniversary of the Glove Theatre in Gloversville; my story of two Congressional Medal of Honor recipients, one black and one white, who fought in the Civil War
In the second half of the show I talk with Angela Cave, author of the book Keeping Time, the remarkable story of 98-year old drummer Fred Randall from Schenectady.
Listen to the whole program at “The Historians” online archive at http://www.bobcudmore.com/thehistorians/