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
There have long been stories – most of them unsubstantiated – about the activities of the German American Bund in Sullivan County in the years leading up to World War II.
While the activities of that particular pro-Nazi organization in the region may be debatable, there is no question that a small group of men charged with plotting to overthrow the U.S. government and replacing it with a Nazi style dictatorship spent much of the summer of 1939 in Sullivan County. Continue reading
During the summer of 1939, a small group of men from out of the area rented a camp just outside Narrowsburg, a small community on the Delaware River in Sullivan County, where they spent most of their time shooting rifles. Their need for such extensive practice was understandable; locals who observed the target practice described the men’s aim as “plumb awful.” Continue reading
Written more than eighty years ago, Fifty Years in Sing Sing: A Personal Account, 1879-1929 (SUNY Press, February, 2015) is the personal account of Alfred Conyes (1852–1931), who worked as a prison guard and then keeper at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York, from 1879 to 1929.
This unpublished memoir, dated 1930, was found among his granddaughter’s estate by his great-granddaughter Penelope Kay Jarrett. Continue reading
This week on “The Historians” podcast, an interview with Gloversville Leader Herald columnist and former Fulton County historian Peter Betz on murders most foul. Betz says his readers react the most to crime tales in his bi-weekly history column. In a 1934 murder, a nurse kept her wits about her, but her friend, a popular Gloversville shoe salesman, died anyway. Listen at “The Historians” online archive at http://www.bobcudmore.com/thehistorians/
One hundred years after the Declaration of Sentiments was discussed and ratified at the 1848 Women’s Rights Convention, Eleanor Roosevelt and others were adopting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a charter document for the new United Nations. The global proclamation was signed on December 10, 1948 now celebrated as Human Rights Day.
A new exhibit “A Declaration” is now open at Women’s Rights National Historical Park to highlight this and sixteen other Declarations from around the world from 1776 through 2014. Continue reading
When the night train to Montreal set out from Utica on April 29, 1931, James E. Smith had already been toiling over the needs and wants of his passengers for many hours. At 29 years old, Smith had been a Pullman porter for about three years. He had done a stint in Pennsylvania and now was employed on the New York Central line of the Pullman Company.
The experience of the Pullman porter was both uncommon yet ordinary. The Pullman Palace Car company hired black men almost exclusively as porters. This practice began under the direction of the founder of the company, George Pullman, after the Civil War. On board a luxurious and comfortable Pullman Car, Pullman porters were expected to be the ideal servants to their well off white passengers. Continue reading
The first national observance of the “Night of Terror” will be held November 15, 2014 by the Turning Point Suffragist Memorial Association, an organization raising money to build a national memorial honoring women who were arrested and imprisoned during the 72-year campaign to win voting rights for women. Lorton, Virginia is the planned site for the suffragist memorial, not far from Occoquan Workhouse where the “Night of Terror” on arrested suffrage picketers was carried out in 1917.
November 14-15, 1917 is recognized in history as the night when a total of 31 suffrage activists were targeted with violent attacks in an effort to break the spirit of the activists. The “Night of Terror” occurred at the Occoquan Workhouse (then part of the District of Columbia’s prison complex) in Lorton, Virginia, not far from Washington, DC. Continue reading
Of all the fascinating races in Sullivan County’s colorful political history, none has had a greater statewide impact than the 1931 contest for the New York State Assembly.
And the significance of the election had only a little to do with its outcome.
William Whittaker, a South Fallsburg (Sullivan County) Democrat, was the Assembly incumbent in 1931, having won the seat the year before in a contest decided by fewer than 200 votes. His opponent in both races was John T. Curtis of Monticello, owner and editor of the Sullivan County Republican newspaper. As Election Day approached, Republican party officials in the county became suspicious of an unusually large number of absentee ballots, and asked for an investigation. Continue reading
This week on “The Historians” radio program, David Fiske of Saratoga County with stories of two 19th century hangings in Ballston Spa. In the second half of the show I talk with pianist Stan Wiest who has tales about life on the road as a musician in the 20th century.
Listen to the whole program at “The Historians” online archive at http://www.bobcudmore.com/thehistorians/
Edward H. Rulloff was one of the most famous American criminals of the 19th century, believed responsible for multiple murders and sundry other crimes, and eventually being publicly hanged in Binghamton, New York. He was also a brilliant savant, obsessively seeking respectability and the approval of what he deemed “good society.”
And if not for this obsession, his crime spree would have without a doubt included the National Union Bank in Monticello, the County Seat of Sullivan County. Continue reading
This week on “The Historians”, Pulitzer Prize winner Edward Larson, author of The Return of George Washington: 1783-1789 (Harper Collins-Wm. Morrow, 2014).
In the second half of the show I talk with Leader Herald history columnist Peter Betz on the White Cap vigilantes in late nineteenth century Northville. Listen to the whole program at “The Historians” online archive at http://www.bobcudmore.com/thehistorians/
On Friday, October 24 and Saturday, October 25, Historic Cherry Hill will present a dramatic tour reliving the infamous 1827 murder that occurred at the Cherry Hill mansion, one-time home of the Van Rensselaer family.
The public is invited to step into the experiences of the Cherry Hill household on the evening of May 7, 1827, when a hired hand murdered a household member. The dramatic tour will investigate the scene of the crime and the differing perspectives of those who were there on that fateful evening. Actor James Keil will appear as Jesse Strang, bringing to life the murderer whose violent act was motivated by romantic attachment to his victim’s wife. The murder resulted in two sensational trials and Albany’s last public hanging. Continue reading
The Fulton County Sheriff’s Association will offer a public review of the case of convicted Adirondack serial killer Robert Garrow tomorrow, Thursday, October 2 at the Johnstown Eagles Club, 12 S. William St., at 7 pm. The presentation will be given by regular New York History Blog contributor Lawrence P. Gooley, who is the author of Terror in the Adirondacks: The True Story of Serial Killer Robert F. Garrow.
Garrow, an abused Dannemora child turned thief, serial rapist, and killer who admitted to seven rapes and four murders (although police believed there were many more). Among his victims were campers near Speculator where Garrow escaped a police dragnet and traveled up Route 30 through Indian Lake and Long Lake and eventually made his way to Witherbee where he was tracked down and shot in the foot. Claiming he was partially paralyzed, Garrow was shot and killed during an attempted prison escape in September 1978 – he had faked his paralysis. Continue reading
“Traitors & Spies: An American Revolutionary War Experience” is the theme of a Sunday, September 14th educational program sponsored by the Friends of the Fishkill Supply Depot at the Hyatt House in Fishkill from 2 until 4 pm. “This community program,” explained Lance Ashworth the Friends’ president, “will support our mission to keep the history of the American Revolutionary War alive in the Hudson Valley and to bring the heritage of the Fishkill Supply Depot to more and more people.”
Speakers include Stephen Case, author of Treacherous Beauty: Peggy Shippen, the Woman behind Benedict Arnold’s Plot to Betray America; Damien Cregeau, an independent historian, who will discuss spying in and around New York City during the war; and Rachel Smith from the State Historian’s office at the University of Connecticut who will shed light on Nathan Hale’s legacy. Moderator for the program is Dr. Colonel James M. Johnson from Marist College. Continue reading
There may be no more despicable person in Sullivan County’s history than Lizzie Brown Halliday. She was known to have murdered at least five persons, and was suspected of killing many more. When she died in 1918, the New York Times described her as “the worst woman on earth.”
And much of the country believed, at least for a short time, that she was the notorious murderer known as Jack the Ripper, responsible for the grisly Whitechapel murders in London. Continue reading
Saturday, July 31, 1937 dawned sunny and warm in Sullivan County, a nearly perfect summer day. A light breeze stirred the cooling waters of Swan Lake as dozens of vacationers rowed about in the bright morning sunshine. Two of those vacationers, convinced that it was their lucky day, rowed enthusiastically over to a strange shape they saw bobbing on the surface of the lake. What they discovered instead was grisly and gruesome. It was the body of a man, all trussed up and tied to a rock and a slot machine frame. Continue reading
A year ago, I wrote about a regional writer of fiction and nonfiction who had passed away. At the time, he was among the elder statesmen of Adirondack authors. His books include One Cop’s Story: A Life Remembered, which details his service in New York State Police Troops B and D. To share one person’s perspective and to help preserve his memory, here is what I wrote about a man whose presence is missed by many. A year after his passing, I still occasionally receive contacts from people who recall him fondly.
The Adirondacks lost a longstanding member of the regional writers’ community when John Briant of Old Forge, known far and wide for his Adirondack Detective series of books, passed away on May 14, 2013. I’m not a religious person, and I can’t say to what extent John was, but if he was devout, he probably looked forward to reuniting with his beloved wife, Margaret, who passed away the previous June. Continue reading
It was in October of 1887 that itinerant laborer Abel John Allen was arrested for the brutal murder of Ursula Ulrich in Jeffersonville, NY. Nine months later he became the last man ever hanged in Sullivan County.
His murder of the widow Ulrich notwithstanding, the man known as Sailor Jack was a complicated fellow who packed a lot of living into his 34 years. He spent his time in the Sullivan County jail – awaiting first his trial and then his execution – writing about forgiveness, redemption, and having a “right heart.” Those writings reveal a world traveler, an astute observer of the passing parade, a philosopher. Continue reading