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
Questions about the authenticity and authorship of Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave have been raised in the past, and have resurfaced following the release of the recent film version of his book.
Though an expert on Solomon Northup, his book, the contemporary reactions to his book in the 1850s, and his later life (which included several years spent traveling to talk about his experiences), I am not a scholar of slave narratives. I have consulted some of them in connection with my work on Northup, as necessary. I leave it for others to draw detailed comparisons between Northup’s narrative and the others. Continue reading
When modern media is used to brand a product, it routinely addresses the subject matter directly, trying to draw attention immediately to the product. The advertisements found in old newspapers sometimes achieved the same goal in quite different fashion, using unusual or outrageous lines in large print to trick the reader. The blaring lead demands attention, and is followed quickly with odd or unexpected segues to information on a product.
Archived North Country newspapers contain plenty of examples of the old bait-and-switch, often executed with subtle humor. A number of stores advertised wallpaper by simply stating what was available, but a Watertown firm used the catch-line “Odd Things for Walls”. Continue reading
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has released the draft unit management plans (UMPs) for the Hurricane Mountain Fire Tower Historic Area and the Saint Regis Mountain Fire Tower Historic Area. The UMPs contain management proposals for the fire observation towers located on the summit of Hurricane Mountain in the Town of Keene, Essex County, and the summit of Saint Regis Mountain in the Town of Santa Clara, Franklin County. Continue reading
It’s not often that a person is the focus of a sculptor’s attention. In the mid-1920s, a North Country woman found herself in just that position. The sculptor’s name was Pompeo Coppini, a noted artist who won several awards and whose works were featured from coast to coast. Many of his 128 principal creations are prominent in the state of Texas, including The Spirit of Sacrifice, the large monument at the Alamo honoring those who died within the fort’s walls. It has been viewed by millions.
Coppini sculpted many historical figures of great accomplishment, including Robert E. Lee, Woodrow Wilson, Stonewall Jackson, Sam Houston, and George Washington. Add to that list Mrs. Ethel Dale, chosen as a sculpture subject for her great achievement in the field of … well, doing nothing. Continue reading
What you see here is one of the most recognizable trademarks ever, a logo that has been used by many companies around the world. The dog in the image is not fictional. His name was Nipper, and a few years after his death, Nipper’s owner sold a modified painting of his dog to a recording company. The rest is history, and part of that history includes a heretofore unknown North Country native.
From humble beginnings, he became famous for his wide-ranging knowledge of recording and his ability to invent. Perhaps most important of all, he traveled the world and was the first person to record the music of a number of countries, saving it for posterity. Continue reading
An attack led by patriot Colonel John Brown will take British troops garrisoning Fort Ticonderoga by surprise (again) 236 years later during an upcoming event at Fort Ticonderoga on Saturday and Sunday, September 14-15, from 9:30am- 5pm. The living history weekend and battle re-enactment will for the first time ever recreate what has become known as Brown’s Raid.
Out of the hazy twilight before dawn on September 18, 1777 rushed Colonel John Brown’s men, catching the British and Brunswick garrison around Fort Ticonderoga completely by surprise. John Brown, no stranger to dangerous missions, helped engineer the first capture of Ticonderoga in 1775. With the stakes even higher, he would test his luck again. Continue reading
A gleaming wooden Adirondack guide boat, made from pine and cherry, and sporting original cane seats and graceful oars along with a history that dates to Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency, is again gliding through the waters of the Central Adirondacks where it was crafted at the turn of the 20th century. Continue reading
Minerva in Essex County, primitive and remote in the early 1800s, hardly would have seemed a likely birthplace for a man who would write a book which would attract national attention, make the author a household name, and, to some degree, help start a civil war. But indeed, it was there that Solomon Northup, author of Twelve Years A Slave, was born.
Technically the town of Minerva did not exist at the time of Solomon’s birth on July 10, 1807 (though his book gives 1808 as his year of birth, more official documents have it as 1807); the town of Minerva was not formed until 1817. In 1807 the area, not yet known as Minerva, would have been part of the Town of Schroon. Continue reading
The Adirondack History Center Museum is offering the third lecture in the Elizabeth HW Lawrence Summer Lecture Series tonight, Tuesday, July 23 at 7pm. The lecture features author and historian, Morris Glenn, presenting On the Trail of the USS Monitor about the Crown Point iron mining industry and its role in the Civil War.
On Tuesday evenings the museum remains open until 7pm and all are invited to view The Human Face of the Adirondacks in the Civil War exhibit, the Worked/Wild exhibit, and the updated Fire Tower exhibit. Admission to the exhibits is free with the purchase of a lecture ticket. Continue reading
Fort Ticonderoga will hold a two-day battle re-enactment highlighting the 1758 Battle of Carillon when the British amassed the largest army in North American history to date, but was stunningly defeated by a French army a quarter of its size.
The event takes place Saturday and Sunday, July 20-21, 9:30am to 5 pm. Continue reading
The 15th annual Solomon Northup Day: A Celebration of Freedom will be held on Saturday, July 20th from noon to 4 pm at Filene Hall, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York.
Solomon Northup Day was founded in 1999 by Saratogian Renee Moore to honor and to bring awareness to the life of Solomon Northup, a local free-born Black man who was kidnapped into slavery in 1841.
Northup was born a free man in Minerva, Essex County, NY, in July 1808. He was a literate man who worked on the Champlain Canal. While working as a cabbie and violinist in Saratoga Springs, he was abducted, held in a slave pen in Washington, DC, and sold into slavery in Louisiana for 12 years before regaining his freedom. Continue reading
In an eight-month span in the 1930s, two Ticonderoga canines made headlines for something dogs are known for in general: loyalty. Few relationships are more rewarding in life than the human-canine experience, as anyone reading this who shares a dog’s life can attest. For those who have children as well … some might be loathe to admit it, but dogs provide many of the same positives without all the complicated baggage.
Humans in dire circumstances react in two ways—save themselves or save others. We part company there with dogs, whose devotion compels them to maintain the relationship to the sweet or bitter end. Continue reading
Limited space is still available to attend Fort Ticonderoga’s Eighteenth Annual War College of the Seven Years’ War May 17-19, 2013.
This annual seminar focuses on the French & Indian War in North America (1754-1763), bringing together a panel of distinguished historians from around the country and beyond. The War College takes place in the Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center and is open to the public; pre-registration is required. Continue reading
FBI agents described Ticonderoga’s Bernard Frederick Champagne as “a prolific impersonator,” but the true extent of his success is unknown. Because so much of his fakery escaped detection, it’s unclear how many identities Bernard actually assumed. One agent said he had “at least 50 aliases,” and at one point, there were 34 names documented. It was the list of professions, however, that really impressed them.
Among his successful impersonations were: a graduate of Columbia University; a doctor employed by the US Public Health Service; a secret service agent; an FBI agent; a member of the US diplomatic corps; and the nephew of noted politician Hamilton Fish, a ruse that allowed him to pass $600 worth of bogus checks ($8,300 in 2013). Continue reading
After impersonating Walter W. Baker, heir to the Baker chocolate fortune, and bilking his Richmond fiancée’s mother out of $15,000 in 1928 (equal to $197,000 in 2013), Ticonderoga’s Bernard Frederick Champagne was sentenced to ten years in a Virginia prison. He was paroled after serving more than six years, but the gates had hardly closed behind him when Champagne was at it again.
Shortly after his release, the US Department of Justice was tracking him across the North Country. As he had done for years in the past, Bernard managed to move quickly and stay a step ahead of his pursuers. Continue reading
Fort Ticonderoga’s connection to the world of chocolate has been well documented over the years. Several additions and improvements were funded by Forrest Mars, Jr., husband of Deborah Adair Clark of Ticonderoga (they are now divorced). Forrest is worth approximately $10 billion as one of the heirs of the Mars candy company.
Eighty years ago, another famous name in chocolate—Baker—was bandied about in Ticonderoga, and it again involved mention of great wealth ($80 million at the time, equal to $1 billion in 2013). But for the village, the story left in its wake an embarrassment as bitter as the company’s most famous product (Baker’s bittersweet chocolate). Continue reading
The Adirondack Correctional Facility at Raybrook is hosting a series of special Black History Month programs for inmates that focus on 19th Century stories of African-Americans in the North Country.
“Dreaming of Timbuctoo,” the display put together by John Brown Lives! back in 2001, reveals the story of families that came to the Lake Placid area in the years before the Civil War, to establish farms and gain voting rights. Continue reading
Heroes are defined in many ways—strong, brave, quick to act, selfless—and for the most part, we expect those traits to be found among the ranks of mature, responsible adults. But in 1927, in a span of less than thirty days, the North Country played host to two acts of heroism by local youths. Added together, the age of this remarkable pair of courageous children comes to just 19. Continue reading
The King’s Garden at Fort Ticonderoga is presenting its second Garden and Landscape Symposium: “Enhancing Life through Gardening” on Saturday, April 13. The day-long symposium, geared for both beginning and experienced gardeners, provides insights from garden experts who live and garden in upstate New York and Vermont. This springtime event takes place in the Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center and is open by pre-registration only.
The walled King’s Garden was originally designed in 1921 by leading landscape architect Marian Coffin. The formal elements – a reflecting pool, manicured lawn and hedges, and brick walls and walkways – are softened by a profusion of annuals and perennials, carefully arranged by color and form. Heirloom flowers and modern cultivars are used to recreate the historic planting scheme. Continue reading