Tag Archives: Geology

Circle of Vines: The Story of New York Wine


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New York State Wine HistoryWinegrower and journalist Richard Figiel, who established Silver Thread Vineyard on the eastern shore of Seneca Lake in 1982, offers a short history of New York wine in Circle of Vines: The Story of New York Wine (SUNY Press, 2014).

Figiel follows the state’s wine industry from its turbulent evolution in various regions as it emerged as a dynamic player in the world of fine wine. He begins by examining New York’s distinctive viticultural roots and the geologic forces that shaped the state’s terrain for winegrowing. Starting with early efforts to grow grapes for wine in the Hudson Valley, the story moves west to the Finger Lakes and Lake Erie, circles around the state from Long Island to the North Country, and, finally, to contemporary New York City. Continue reading

Lecture: Thomas Cole, Frederic Church And Science


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unnamed(2)The Hudson River School artists worked at a time when great revolutions were sweeping through science. This Sunday January 12, at 2 pm at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill, The husband and wife science team Johanna (biologist) and Robert (geologist) Titus will offer an in-depth look into the interactions of Thomas Cole and Frederic Church with the scientists of their time.

Highlights include the Titus’ discovery of the local mountain that Cole used as a model for the famous centerpiece of his series “The Course of Empire.” The Titus’ will sign copies of their new book, The Hudson Valley in the Ice Age, after the talk. Continue reading

On The New York State Museum’s Sunday Hours


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Beginning January 1, 2011 the New York State Museum will have new hours of operation, including being closed on Sundays. The Museum will be open Monday – Saturday 9:30am – 5:00pm.

During the one weekend in February when the museum hosts NY in Bloom and the Annual Gem and Mineral Show. That weekend the Museum is open on Sunday. It’s also the only weekend when Admission is charged, as a fundraiser for the Museum’s after school program.

New York in Bloom – 20th Anniversary
Friday, February 25 -Sunday, February 27 ▪ 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
1st Floor Exhibition Halls ▪ Adults ▪ Children ▪ Admission Fee:
Friday-$5/Adult; Saturday and Sunday-$6/Adult. Children age 12 and under FREE

Experience the sights and scents of the approaching spring during this 20th annual fund-raising weekend benefiting Museum Club and Discovery Squad, the Museum’s award-winning after-school programs for children and teens. Free parking available next to the Museum on Saturday and Sunday. $6 entrance fee to the Museum on Saturday and Sunday includes admission to the 18th Annual James Campbell Memorial Gem, Mineral, and Fossil Show and Sale on the 4th Floor. For information, call 518-474-5877.

18th Annual James Campbell Memorial Gem, Mineral, and Fossil Show and Sale
Saturday, February 26 and Sunday, February 27 ▪ 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 4th Floor ▪ Adults ▪ Children ▪ Admission Fee: $6/Adult; Children age 12 and under FREE

Vendors from throughout the Northeast display and sell gems, jewelry, minerals, lapidary equipment, fossils, and much more. Meanwhile on the 1st Floor, staff members conduct guided tours of the mineral and fossil exhibitions and are on hand to identify visitors’ own minerals and fossils. Call 518-474-5877 for information about times and locations. $6 entrance fee to the Museum on Saturday and Sunday includes admission to all New York in Bloom activities on the 1st Floor. For information, call 518-474-5877.

Historic Civil War Coastal Survey Documents Online


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In honor of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War in 2011, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has assembled a special historical collection of maps, charts, and documents prepared by the U.S. Coast Survey during the war years. The collection, “Charting a More Perfect Union,” contains over 400 documents, available free from NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey website.

Coast Survey’s collection includes 394 Civil War-era maps, including nautical charts used for naval campaigns, and maps of troop movements and battlefields. Rarely seen publications include Notes on the Coast, prepared by Coast Survey to help Union forces plan naval blockades against the Confederacy, and the annual report summaries by Superintendent Bache as he detailed the trials and tribulations of producing the maps and charts needed to meet growing military demands.

In the nation’s early years, the United States lost more ships to accidents than to war. In 1807, President Thomas Jefferson established the Survey of the Coast to produce the nautical charts necessary for maritime safety, defense and the establishment of national boundaries. By 1861, Coast Survey was the government’s leading scientific agency, charting coastlines and determining land elevations for the nation. Today, the Office of Coast Survey still meets its maritime responsibilities as a part of NOAA, surveying America’s coasts and producing the nation’s nautical charts.

In his annual report on Dec. 15, 1861, Coast Survey Superintendent Alexander Bache wrote, “it has been judged expedient during the past year to suspend usual foreign distribution” of reports on the progress of maps and charts. Distribution of maps, charts, and sketches almost tripled in the 1861 “due to the demands of the War and Navy Departments.” However, because the Coast Survey could not easily ascertain the loyalties of private citizens, private distribution of maps was severely restricted among “applicants who were not well known having been referred to the representative of the congressional district from which the application had been mailed.”

The Civil War special collection is accessible through a searchable online database.

Illustration: Map of the Battlefield of Chickamauga. U.S. Coast Survey cartographers traveled with Union forces to produce battlefield maps during the Civil War. Courtesy NOAA.

Passing as Black: A Pioneer of American Alpine Climbing


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There was an interesting review of Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line by Martha A. Sandweiss in the New York Times Book Review yesterday. The book is about Clarance King, first director of the United States Geological Survey (USGS), American alpine climbing pioneer and author who passed as black, married a former slave, and lived two lives from his home base in New York City.

Passing Strange meticulously — sometimes too meticulously; the book can be plodding — recounts the unlikely convergence of two lives: King was born in 1842 in Newport, R.I., to parents of longstanding American stock, and Ada Copeland was born a slave in Georgia, months before Confederate guns fired on Fort Sumter. Copeland, like most slaves, is woefully underdocumented; we know that she somehow became literate, migrated to New York in the 1880s and found a job in domestic service. King, by contrast, is all but overdocumented; after schooling, he went west as a surveyor, summing up 10 years of work in two books, including the 815-page “Systematic Geology,” which told, one historian said, “a story only a trifle less dramatic than Genesis.”

The pair met sometime around 1888, somewhere in bustling New York. By telling Copeland he was “James Todd,” a Pullman porter from Baltimore, King implied his race; a white man could not hold such a job. They married that year (though without obtaining a civil license), settling in Brooklyn and then, as Copeland had five children, Flushing, Queens. All the while King maintained residential club addresses in Manhattan, where colleagues knew him as an elusive man about town. Living a double life is costly, and King’s Western explorations never quite delivered returns, so the Todds were always broke.

King was among the first to climb some of the highest peaks of the Sierra Nevada range in the late 1860s and early 1870s and wrote Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada, which includes accounts of his adventures and hardships there.

According to The Literature of Mountain Climbing in America (1918):

The beginnings of mountaineering in America have to be looked for mainly in early histories and narratives of travel, though the first ascent in the Canadian Rockies is chronicled in the supplement to a botanical magazine. The first magazine article upon American mountains seems to be Jeremy Belknap‘s account of the White Mountains, printed in the American Magazine in Philadelphia in February, 1788. The first book was Joel T. Headley’s The Adirondack, published in 1849. The Alpine Journal of England, the earliest of such magazines, had a short account of a climb in Central America in its first volume, 1864, and in the third volume, 1867, there was an account of an ascent of Mt. Hood. The first book devoted to alpine climbing in America was Clarence King’s Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada.

As an aside, among the men who were associated with Clarence King was his good friend, artist John Henry Hill. Hill accompanied King on two expeditions west (1866 and 1870) as a staff artist but his New York claim to fame is his work on the Adirondacks which he first visited in the 1860s. He camped and sketched throughout the Adirondacks, and from 1870 to 1874, lived in a cabin he dubbed “Artist’s Retreat” that he built on Phantom Island near Bolton’s Landing, Lake George. During one winter, Hill’s brother, a civil engineer, visited and the two men set out on the ice to survey the narrows and make one of the first accurate maps of the islands which Hill than made into an etching “surrounding it with an artistic border representing objects of interest in the locality.” On June 6, 1893 Phantom Island was leased by the Forest Commission to prominent Glens Falls Republican Jerome Lapham.

His journal and much of his work is held by the Adirondack Museum, and additional works can be found at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Brooklyn Museum of Art, New-York Historical Society, and the Columbus Museum of Art.

Strange Maps to Strange Ideas


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One of the blogs we follow here at the New York History Blog, is Strange Maps, a blog of some of the weirdest, wackiest, and thought provoking maps in the world. Here is are some samples of some recent posts you may not have seen, they are not all New York History related, but they do point to unique uses of mapping that NY historians can appreciate:

Federal Lands in the US
The United States government has direct ownership of almost 650 million acres of land (2.63 million square kilometers) – nearly30% of its total territory. These federal lands, which are mainly used as military bases or testing grounds, nature parks and reserves and indian reservations, are managed by different administrations, such as the Bureau of Land Management, the US Forest Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the US Department of Defense, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the US Bureau of Reclamation or the Tennessee Valley Authority. [New York is tied with Iowa for 2nd from last at .8%; Connecticut and Rhode Island are tied for last with just .4% – of course they don’t count New York’s state lands (Adirondack, Catskills, and more), so the map is not really reflective of actual government ownership.]

Where News Breaks

Researchers extracted the dateline from about 72,000 wire-service news stories from 1994 to 1998 and modified a standard map of the Lower 48 US states (above) to show the size of the states in proportion to the frequency of their appearance in those datelines. New York is the largest news provider of the country, of course nearly all originating in New York City (pop. 8.2 million; metro area 18.8 million). Compare this to Illinois, home of the the nation’s third largest city, Chicago (pop. 2.8 million; metro area 9.5 million). Especially when considering metropolitan areas, Chicago/Illinois should be half the ‘news size’ of New York City/New York, while in fact it seems to be less than one fifth. Could this underrepresentation be down to another ‘capital effect’ (i.e. New York being the ‘cultural capital’ of the US)?

Area Codes in Which Ludacris Claims to Have Hoes
“In [the song “Area Codes”] Ludacris brags about the area codes where he knows women, whom he refers to as ‘hoes’,” says Stefanie Gray, who plotted out all the area codes mentioned in this song on a map of the United States. She arrived at some interesting conclusions as to the locations of this rapper’s preferred female companionship:

Ludacris heavily favors the East Coast to the West, save for Seattle, San Francisco, Sacramento, and Las Vegas.

Ludacris travels frequently along the Boswash corridor.

There is a ‘ho belt‘ phenomenon nearly synonymous with the ‘Bible Belt’.

Ludacris’s ideal ‘ho-highway’ would be I-95.

Ludacris has hoes in the entire state of Maryland.

Ludacris has a disproportionate ho-zone in rural Nebraska. He might favor white women as much as he does black women, or perhaps, girls who farm.

A World Map of Manhattan
This map celebrates that diversity by assembling Manhattan out of the contours of many of the world’s countries. Danielle Hartman created the map based on data from the 2000 US Census. In all, 80 different countries of origin were listed in the census. The map-maker placed the country contours near the census area where most of the citizens of each country resided.

The Comancheria, Lost Homeland of a Warrior Tribe
Under the presidency of Sam Houston (1836-’38, 1841-’44) the then independent Republic of Texas almost came to a peace agreement with the tribal collective known as the Comanche. The Texas legislature rejected this deal, because it did not want to establish a definitive border with the Comanche; for by that time, white settlers were pushing into the Comancheria, the homeland of one of the most fearsome Native American peoples the Euro-Americans ever had to deal with.

Thomas Jefferson’s Plan for the division of the Northwest Territory into 10 new states.

Regionalism and Religiosity

A Map of the Internet’s Black Holes

A Diagram of the Eisenhower Interstate System

Birthplaces of Mississippi Blues Artists

Ancient Mississippi River Courses