Tag Archives: Cultural History

The Vegetarian Crusade: An American Reform Movement


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ben_franklins_worldIn this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, Adam Shprintzen, Assistant Professor of History at Marywood University and author of The Vegetarian Crusade: The Rise of an American Reform Movement, 1817-1921 (University of North Carolina Press, 2013), takes us on a journey through the origins of vegetarianism and the Vegetarian reform movement in the United States. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/044

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Caniskek: The Meeting of Worlds in Athens NY


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entranceImagine it is 1665. The place is the wilderness along the banks of the river whose “waters flow both ways.” The native inhabitants are the Mohicans, the newcomers wishing to settle and trade are the Dutch. Exactly 350 years ago a deed was signed for the land the Mohicans called Caniskek, a place that would change forever and evolve into the present day town called Athens, New York. Continue reading

Charles M. Dickinson: Lowville Poet and Diplomat


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CMDickinson02Among the foreign issues America has dealt with many times is hostage taking. Kidnappers have claimed various motives, but it was frequently done to extort money in support of a cause. Extortion kidnappings have often involved seizing of American missionaries and threatening to kill them unless ransom was paid. More than a hundred years ago, there occurred what is referred to as “America’s First Modern Hostage Crisis,” which is actually the subtitle of a 2003 book by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Teresa Carpenter.

“The Miss Stone Affair” is the title, referring to Protestant missionary Ellen Maria Stone. A North Country man was a key player in her story, which riveted the nation for half a year. Continue reading

The Birth of ‘The Nation': A New York Story


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Nation Founding ProspectusJust across Union Square from The Nation’s headquarters on Irving Place there stands a hole-in-the-wall falafel joint that some of the magazine’s employees— including, rumor has it, the author of this blog post — are known to frequent. Habitually. Like, every day. Sometimes twice. Like salmon swimming home.

Until recently, this behavior had long puzzled scholars — defying, it seems, all we think we know about the instinct to self-preservation. But actually it makes eminent good sense: the falafel joint’s address — 26 East 17th Street — once belonged to the first headquarters of the Union League Club, and it was there, one fateful night in the early summer of 1863, just days before the Battle of Gettysburg, at a clap of divine lightning, at the end of an eternal drum-roll, for good or for ill, depending on whom you ask, the magazine now known the world over as America’s oldest weekly was summoned from the ether and was born. Continue reading

Rondout National Historic District: A Walking Tour


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Church steeple with Mary Power steamship weathervane, seen from President's Place.A walking tour of The Rondout-West Strand National Historic District in Kingston, sponsored monthly by Friends of Historic Kingston, contrasts the results of a heartbreaking 1960’s urban renewal project with the gentrification that followed in an area that escaped the wrecking ball.

After the entire east side of Lower Broadway was demolished in 1967 vintage 19th century buildings on the opposite side stood empty, awaiting what seemed their inevitable fate. Luckily, federal funding ran out and what is today the Rondout – West Strand National Historic District was spared. New structures were built part-way up the east side of the hill. The restored neighborhood brings to my mind the painful image of a one-winged bird. Continue reading

Robert Henry Perkins: Glens Falls Opera Star


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01A RPerkinsImagine the drama of the moment: in a courtroom, Edward Perkins battling against the city of Beacon, New York, desperate to win on behalf of his poor family. The charge? They had been cold-heartedly evicted from their apartment by city officials, and for several chilly, rainy June days, he had searched for new housing.

Meanwhile, Edward’s wife and son suffered and his daughter fell ill, presumably from the terrible living conditions. The damages sought (in 1915) were $15,000 from the city, along with $30,000 from the police chief who had deposited all the family’s belongings on the sidewalk. The $45,000 total was equal to $1.1 million in 2015. Continue reading

Upstate Cauldron: Eccentric Spiritual Movements in Early NYS


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Upstate Cauldron - Eccentric Spiritual Movements in Early New YorkJoscelyn Godwin’s Upstate Cauldron: Eccentric Spiritual Movements in Early New York State (SUNY Press, 2015) is an outstanding guide to the phenomenal crop of prophets, mediums, sects, cults, utopian communities, and spiritual leaders that arose in Upstate New York from 1776 to 1914.

Along with the best known of these, such as the Shakers, Mormons, and Spiritualists, Upstate Cauldron explores more than forty other spiritual leaders or groups, some of them virtually unknown. Continue reading

Gilded Age Scandals, World War I at Staatsburgh


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Tea-Talk--6-9-15 (139)Two special theme tours this summer at Staatsburgh State Historic Site will explore very different aspects of the Gilded Age. “World War I and the End of the Gilded Age” will focus on the impact of the war on the social elite and their way of life. “Gilded Age Scandals” will share historic gossip about turn-of-the-century celebrity scandals.

Staatsburgh was the home of prominent social hostess Ruth Livingston Mills and her husband, financer Ogden Mills. The 79-room mansion showcases the opulent lifestyle enjoyed by the wealthy elite of the early 20th century. Continue reading

Bourbon Empire: America’s Whiskey Past, and Future


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Boubon EmpireBorn of necessity in the colonies, fine-tuned and perfected over the centuries – witnessing civil war, Prohibition, and the marketing genius of Madison Avenue – bourbon continues to this day to be one of the most popular and iconic spirits of America.

In Bourbon Empire: The Past and Future of America’s Whiskey (Viking, 2015), Reid Mitenbuler provides a popularly accessible history of this unique industry and a personal commentary on how to taste and choose your bourbon. Continue reading

Podcast: One Colonial Woman’s World


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ben_franklins_worldWhat was everyday life like for average men and women in early America?

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, Michelle Marchetti Coughlin, author of One Colonial Woman’s World: The Life and Writings of Mehetabel Chandler Coit (University of Massachusetts Press, 2012), joins us to explore the life of an average woman who lived in early New England. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/032

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Does Your Community Have A Literary Landmark?


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Empire State Center for the Book Literary LandmarksHotels, bars, a lighthouse and a windmill are just some of the sites in New York State that have been declared Literary Landmarks by United for Libraries (formerly known as Friends of Libraries USA). The literary landmark program began in 1986 to encourage the dedication of historic literary sites.

The first literary landmark to be designated in New York was The Algonquin Hotel in 1996, home of the legendary Algonquin Roundtable  There are currently 15 landmarks in New York State with two more planned in the near future.  The Wilder Homestead in Malone, NY was made famous by Laura Ingalls Wilder in her book Farmer Boy will be dedicated this summer and The Robert Louis Stevenson Cottage in Saranac Lake , NY will receive its designation this fall. Continue reading

Schenectady Celtic Heritage Day June 6th


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Schenectady Celtic Heritage DayThe Sixth Annual Schenectady Celtic Heritage Day, presented by a partnership of the Schenectady County Historical Society and the Schenectady Ancient Order of Hibernians, will be held at the Mabee Farm Historic Site in Rotterdam Junction on June 6, 2015 from 11 am to 7 pm.

This year’s event brings live music from regional Celtic favorite Triskele, as well as Dublin Train Wreck, and the Fiddler’s Tour plus Celtic dance performances by the Braemor Highland Dancers and the Farrell School of Irish Dance. Continue reading

A History of Stepfamilies in Early America


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ben_franklins_worldLike many 21st-century Americans, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Abraham Lincoln all had to navigate the world of blended and stepfamilies.

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, Lisa Wilson, the Charles J. MacCurdy Professor of American History at Connecticut College and author of A History of Stepfamilies in Early America (University of North Carolina Press, 2014), leads us on an investigation of blended and stepfamilies in early America. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/027

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The Reverend George Whitefield


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ben_franklins_worldGeorge Whitefield stood as one of the most visible figures in British North America between the 1740s and 1770. He was a central figure in the trans-Atlantic revivalist movement and a man whose legacy remains influential to evangelical Christians today.

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, Historian Jessica Parr, author of Inventing George Whitefield: Race, Revivalism, and the Making of a Religious Icon (University of Mississippi Press, 2015), introduces us to the Reverend George Whitefield. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/025.

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Crises, Problems and Historical Insights


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Dorthrea Lange california migrants escaping the dust bowlHow useful are historical insights in addressing a state’s problems?

California is experiencing a historic drought so severe that Governor Jerry Brown has ordered a 25% reduction in the use of water with some exceptions, e.g., certain types of agriculture. As California endures this crisis, how helpful is historical insight in both understanding it and charting a way forward? So far, the results are mixed. Continue reading

Abenaki History At Adirondack Museum Sunday


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AdirondackMuseum_CabinFeverSundays_Apr19_SabattisSketchNo account of the history of the Adirondacks is complete without a consideration of its Abenaki residents, and the Adirondack Museum houses an impressive collection of artifacts that help illustrate the story of Abenaki culture and its significance in the Adirondack region.

In the final installment of the Adirondack Museum’s Cabin Fever Sundays series, anthropologist Christopher Roy and an Abenaki panel including Andree Newton, Diane Cubit, and James Watsaw, will discuss the experiences of Abenaki families in the Adirondack region and throughout the Northeast for the past several centuries.  Continue reading

Indian Basketry of the Northeastern Woodlands


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image001(14)With hundreds of vivid and detailed color photographs and an easy narrative style enlivened by historical vignettes, Sarah Peabody Turnbaugh and William A. Turnbaugh bring overdue appreciation to a centuries-old Native American basketmaking tradition in the Northeast in Indian Basketry of the Northeastern Woodlands (Schiffer Publishing, 2014).

The authors explore the full range of vintage Indian woodsplint and sweetgrass basketry in the Northeastern U.S. and Canada, from practical “work” baskets made for domestic use to whimsical “fancy” wares that appealed to Victorian tourists. Continue reading

Life At Night In The 18th Century


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Highwaymen rob carriageNighttime in the past was different than today-far darker and more hazardous.  In the Middle Ages night was seen as a sort of anti-time, the very negative of day, when all things bad happened and only people with evil intent were found on the street.

All this began to change in the 18th century. Street lighting in big cities became more common and medieval curfews were abandoned.  Less a source of fear than in the past people were more likely to see beauty in a starry sky and to seek out nightly entertainment instead of hiding behind locked doors.  Yet the 18th century was still very much a period of transition. Continue reading

A New History Of Trees, Woods and Forests


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Trees Woods and Forests BookForests – and the trees within them – have always been a central resource for the development of technology, culture, and the expansion of humans as a species.

Examining and challenging our historical and modern attitudes toward wooded environments from a European perspective, Charles Watkins’ Trees, Woods and Forest: A Social and Cultural History (Reaktion Books, 2014)  explores how our understanding of forests has transformed in recent years and how it fits in our continuing anxiety about our impact on the natural world. Continue reading