“I went out after a Christmas tree and some laurel, through seas of mud,” wrote Jervis McEntee on Christmas eve, 1881, “to the place where I always go on the cross road between the Flat-bush and Pine bush roads. It rained a part of the time and turned into a snow storm on our return.”
Another year, McEntee’s usual places for a tree were so wet that he settled for a small hemlock on the side of the hill where he lived. It was a hill that offered a panoramic view of the entire village as well as the Rondout Creek and the Hudson River. His father James, an engineer who had helped build the nearby Delaware and Hudson Canal, had built the first house on the hill and the family still lived there. Continue reading
This Christmas season the Albany Institute of History & Art will be exhibiting America’s first commercially printed Christmas card. Printed in Albany around 1850, the card is on loan to the Albany Institute from the Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections in England as part of The Capital Region in 50 Objects exhibition. This is the only known copy of the card to survive and this is the first time the card has been on view in the United States. Continue reading
By combining technology with time-honored techniques of interviewing and storytelling, this holiday season can be an ideal time for people to hear and preserve eyewitness accounts of life experiences from loved ones for future generations, says an historian at Baylor University’s Institute for Oral History.
“One thing almost all Americans share is regret that when we were children, we did not listen better when our parents, grandparents and older relatives or friends told stories about people and places alive only in their memories,” said Lois Myers, associate director of the institute. “Such oral traditions may be the most fragile links to our family history.”
With sound or video recordings, people can uncover and preserve the origins of family rituals — such as holiday celebrations, common sayings or even recipes, Myers said. 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
Among the folks who played an important role in Northern New York regional history and personified the traditional Christmas spirit was Willis Wells of Lake Placid.
Long before Willis gained attention, his father, Duran, a native of Peru, New York, had become a North Country fixture, operating a peddler’s cart in the post-Civil War years. From the shores of Lake Champlain to the Paul Smith’s area, he supplied homes and farms with the daily needs of life, an important function in those early days when stores visited many of their customers. 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.
Undoubtedly, you have heard or read Clement Moore’s famous poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (1822), but have you ever wondered where the traditions of stockings, presents, and cookies come from? And what about jolly old Saint Nick? Who was he and why do we call him Santa Claus?
In this episode of the “Ben Franklin’s World” podcast, Peter G. Rose, culinary historian of Dutch foodways in North America and author of Delicious December: How the Dutch Brought Us Santa, Presents, and Treats (SUNY Press, 2014), joins me to discuss the origins of Santa Claus, cookies, and more in the United States. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/009 Continue reading
A jury trial in a real courtroom in Troy on Sunday, December 7th at 2 pm aims to solve a centuries-old controversy over who really wrote one of the most beloved holiday poems in the world: “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.”
Last year “The Trial Before Christmas” was a surprise holiday spectacle that gained national media attention and attracted more than 500 spectators to the Rensselaer County Courthouse – a standing-room-only crowd. But the jury was unable to reach a verdict, so the case will be heard again. Continue reading
In conjunction with the City of Johnstown’s Colonial Stroll holiday activities, Johnson Hall State Historic Site will hold an Open House on Friday, December 5th from 5 pm to 8:30 pm.
Johnson Hall’s first floor will be decorated for the holiday season, where music of the 18th century will be performed by Liaison Plaisantes. Refreshments will be offered in the historic butler’s pantry. The museum shop will offer 20% off for holiday shopping that evening. Horse-drawn wagon rides of the mansion’s south lawn will be available to visitors between 6 pm and 8 pm. Continue reading
Staatsburgh State Historic Site is preparing for its festive Gilded Age Christmas, featuring decorations throughout the mansion and special children’s programs from late November through New Year’s Eve.
The site opens for the holiday season on Friday, November 28, and offers public hours Thursday through Sunday, from Noon to 4 pm (closed Christmas Day) through December 31. Staatsburgh will be open for special evening hours on December 12, from 6-8 pm, so that visitors can experience the decorated mansion after dark, and tour the historic rooms, populated with guides in period costume. Continue reading
The Historic Huguenot Street Curatorial Department has developed a new exhibit in honor of the winter holiday season. On display now in the DuBois Fort Visitor Center, “Gifts of the Past” features a selection of historic children’s toys from the Historic Huguenot Street Permanent Collection.
Holiday gift giving has been a tradition for several centuries. Around the world, Christmas traditions are influenced by the legend of a gift giver rewarding children for their good behavior with toys and treats. Items on display include the first model Teddy Bear, a set of alphabet blocks, handmade wooden dominoes, and a bisque handmade doll. Continue reading
Crailo State Historic Site in the City of Rensselaer will host a St. Nicholas Day Open House on December 6, 2013 from 12:00 pm until 4:00 pm. For the Dutch settlers of this region The Feast of St. Nicholas was a day of celebration with favorite food and treats.
Children checked their shoes, left out the previous night, for presents from Sinterklaas. In Washington Irving’s History of New York (1809), Sinterklaas was Americanized into “Santa Claus” (a name first used in the New York press in 1773) and helped popularize today’s Christmas traditions. Continue reading
The Fort Plain Museum will be hosting its annual “Christmas at the Fort” event on Saturday December 6, 2014 from 10 am to 6 pm. The Museum will present the Grand Opening of their new exhibit “The Children’s Attic”, which features children’s toys used in the Fort Plain area c. 1770-1920 that have been donated by residents of Fort Plain.
In addition to the authentic objects on display, the exhibit will also feature reproduction garments (both male and female) which reflect clothing worn during the colonial and Revolutionary War era. Youngsters visiting the museum will be able to try on these items and pose for a special “Photo-Op” during their visit. Continue reading
The Waterford Historical Museum and Cultural Center is continuing its winter lecture series with a presentation by Sloane Bullough about the origins of the famed Christmas story, “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”, and the well known carol, “Jingle Bells”.
The poem was first published anonymously as “A Visit from St. Nicholas” in the Troy Sentinel on December 23, 1823, having been sent there by a friend of Clement Clarke Moore, and was reprinted frequently thereafter with no name attached. It was first attributed in print to Moore in 1837 and Moore himself acknowledged authorship when he included it in his own book of poems in 1844. By then, the original publisher and at least seven others had already acknowledged his authorship. Continue reading
Among the finest Christmas seasons in America’s long history took place in 1945. We’re constantly bombarded with how special the holidays are, so it’s tough for any one year to stand out as extra special, but 1945 makes the list.
Events across the Adirondacks that year epitomized the nation’s attitude. Surprisingly, it wasn’t all about celebrating, even though the most destructive war in history had just ended a few months earlier. We often mumble mindlessly that we’re proud to be Americans. But the first post-World War II Christmas was the real deal, worthy of the word “pride.”
To set the scene, consider the events that had transpired at that time. After being mired for a decade in the worst financial collapse in our history (the Great Depression), Americans had begun preparing for what seemed inevitable: joining the war in Europe. And then, between the Pearl Harbor attack and the war’s end four years later, hundreds of North Country boys and men were killed in action. Thousands more were injured or missing. Continue reading
The film “It’s A Wonderful Life,” is an apt metaphor I frequently return to and during this holiday season, it’s useful to reflect on the Bedford Hills Historical Society. What role should the Bedford Falls Historical Society have played?
I’ve offered my view of the role of historical societies in communities here at The New York History Blog before. My contention has been, among other things, that historical societies fall into a dangerous and unsupportable trap if they think of their primary function is to support tourism. Quite the contrary, they are community organizations, part of the social fabric like schools and libraries which also are chartered by the New York State Education Department. Continue reading