Tag Archives: Cultural History

American Exceptionalism: The History of an Idea


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ben_franklins_worldWhat is the underlying ideological current that links Americans together regardless of their ancestral or regional diversity?

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, we explore “American Exceptionalism” and the ideas it embodies with John D. Wilsey, author of American Exceptionalism and Civil Religion: Reassessing the History of an Idea (IVP Academic, 2015)You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/054

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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