The first Western-trained Chinese physician to practice in the U.S. lived most of his life in Brooklyn, where he established America’s first modern hospital for Chinese patients. A strong civil rights advocate at a time when his community could boast few of them, he spoke out frequently and forcefully against the injustices to which Chinese in America were subjected.
China-born Joseph Chak Thoms (1862-1929), known in his native Cantonese dialect as Tom Ah Jo, arrived in California as a teenager in the mid-1870s. He had a gift for language and soon mastered English with hardly an accent. After being baptized by a Presbyterian missionary – which earned him a beating from his uncle – he took a job as a cabin boy and sailed around the world on a steamer, visiting Japan and India before returning to America. Continue reading
Philipse Manor Hall State Historic Site is designing an exhibit about the rise of Yonkers as an immigrant city, set for a phased opening beginning in September 2016. From its start as a Lenape fishing village and Dutch patroonship, to the industrious peak of the 1900s, and into modern times, the growth of Yonkers can be attributed to the various ethnic groups that have settled in the area.
The site is seeking local first- and second-generation immigrants to assist with the creation of this exhibit. Interviews will be conducted on an ongoing basis through the remaining months of 2015. Continue reading
On July 8-9, New York City-based auction house Guernsey’s will be conducting an unreserved auction of an extraordinary collection of patriotic posters relating to World War I, believed to be the largest such collection known to exist.
The collection is that of Brooklyn-born Edward H. McCrahon, who joined the French Army two years before the United States entered the war. Once the U.S. became involved, McCrahon returned home, joined the U.S. Army, rising to the rank of Colonel. During his stint in France he became interested by war poster art. At the end of the war, McCrahon began assembling his collection and by the mid-1930s his collection was widely exhibited. Continue reading
In Pamela Newkirk’s Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga (Amistad / Harper Collins, 2015) the award-winning journalist reveals a little-known and shameful episode in American history, when an African man was used as a zoo exhibit — a shocking story of racial prejudice, science, and tragedy in the early years of the twentieth century.
Ota Benga, a young Congolese man, was featured as an exhibit at the St. Louis World’s Fair. Two years later, in 1906, the Bronx Zoo displayed him in its Monkey House, caging the slight 103-pound, four-foot eleven-inch man with an orangutan. The attraction became an international sensation, drawing thousands of New Yorkers and commanding headlines from across the nation and Europe. Continue reading
The 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
Those of us in the local history museum business sometimes struggle to connect with the large segment of the general population that doesn’t see the relevance of history. They are busy with their everyday lives; schedules of work, family and leisure time. Trying to get their attention and then bring them to a history based event can be challenging.
A few years ago at a Fenton History Center Board of Trustee meeting (Fenton History Center is in Jamestown, Chautauqua County, NY) we were brainstorming about how to collect and disseminate more local Italian genealogy and the stories that go with the families involved. One of the Fenton History Center Trustees suggested we hold a pizza judging event. We tabled the idea until last year when we started the “Slice of History Pizza Challenge”. Continue reading
Modestly but eloquently, Sue Fraczek described her life as an Amsterdam mill worker, “When I went to work, I was scared to death. It was my first time in a carpet mill. It was hot. It was noisy.”
Fraczek was surprised to see herself as a young mill worker in a still picture prominently featured in “Historic Views of the Carpet City,” the WMHT-TV documentary on Amsterdam first shown in 2000. Co-producer Steve Dunn chose the picture of the young woman at a yarn twisting machine to symbolize the documentary that he and I produced. Continue reading
On Saturday, May 9 and Sunday May 10, the Old Stone Fort Museum Complex in Schoharie, NY will host an encampment and interactive program on the 1866 Fenian Raids.
The Fenian Raids of 1866 were conceived by a faction of the Fenian Brotherhood, organized in America to fight for the independence of Ireland from Britain. Many of the men were Irish-Americans who had fought in the Civil War. Continue reading
The Irish-American contribution to Ireland’s 1916 Revolution will be the subject of a lecture presented by Dr. Ruan O’Donnell on Wednesday at the Irish-American Heritage Museum in Albany.
Ruan O’Donnell is a Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Limerick. Continue reading
“Breathtaking”, “awe inspiring”, “feel the power!” These are just a few of the comments on Trip- Advisor’s entry for the New Croton Dam, yet many who live nearby have never visited one of the Hudson Valley’s signature engineering feats.
Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct and Teaching the Hudson Valley want to change that and invite the public to visit the dam for special walking tours Thursday, April 23, at 4 pm and Saturday, April 25, at 11 am. Laura Compagni-Sabella will lead both tours, highlighting the stories of the hundreds of immigrant workers who risked life and limb to build the dam between 1892-1905. Continue reading
Presented by Robert Pascucci, Ph.D., will present “Electric City Immigrants: Italians and Poles of Schenectady, 1880-1930”, on Saturday, March 28, 2015 at 2 pm at the Schenectady County Historical Society, 32 Washington Avenue, Schenectady.
Dr. Pascucci’s presentation will focus on the two largest immigrant groups, Italian and Polish, that settled in Schenectady during its period of rapid economic growth that was fueled largely by General Electric and the American Locomotive Company. How these two immigrant groups adjusted to the city will be examined, as well as the impact that the new arrivals had on Schenectady. Continue reading
The Herkimer County Legislature has named Friday “French Louie Day” in honor of the noted French-Canadian Adirondacker Louis Seymour. A celebration is planned for Saturday in the Town of Inlet.
Friday marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Seymour, who made the wilderness between Inlet and Lake Pleasant his home from the 1860s until his death in Newton’s Corners (now Speculator) on February 27, 1915. Seymour’s name became legend after the 1952 biography Adirondack French Louie: Life in the North Woods by Utica author Harvey Dunham, which portrayed him as a man of hard work, determination and humor. Continue reading
Historian Craig Williams will present a program entitled “The Impact of the Erie Canal on Immigration to Schenectady” at Mabee Farm Historic Site in Rotterdam Junction on Saturday, February 28, 2015 at 2 pm.
With the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, some Schenectadians falsely believed that users of the canal would bypass the city without stopping. Instead, the Erie Canal brought Schenectady and other cities across New York State waves of new settlers, immigrants, and workers. The Erie Canal attracted new communities from foreign lands to Schenectady, helping to establish its ethnically diverse heritage. Continue reading
There are several claimants to the title of New York’s most famous nurse. That distinction probably can be laid at the feet of Long Island native Walt Whitman, though it was not his nursing skills during the Civil War that garnered him his fame. Some might argue it is the still not positively identified nurse who was photographed in Times Square celebrating the surrender of Japan in 1945 through a passionate kiss from a sailor. Again, though, it was not her skills as a nurse that earned her recognition. Another contender was Mary Breckinridge, whose Frontier Nursing Service brought healthcare to poor rural America. While her fame came about as a result of her nursing, she was born in Tennessee and gained her fame in Kentucky, only acquiring her nursing education in New York.
I happen to believe the title of New York’s most famous nurse belongs to Lillian Wald. Though born in Cincinnati, her family brought her to New York as a girl. She would spend the rest of her life there, gaining fame for her work in bringing healthcare to the poorest of New York’s immigrant population. Even after her death in 1940 her impact on New York continued to be felt, and her legacy lives on to this day. Continue reading
January 29th is the birthday of Albert Gallatin. The Lower Manhattan Historical Society will hold a brief ceremony at 4:30 pm in which students from New York University will lay a wreath on Gallatin’s grave in Trinity Church Cemetery. The ceremony will be followed by a lecture on Gallatin at 5:30 at the Museum of American Finance at 48 Wall Street in Manhattan.
Although not as well known as some of the more famous residents of Trinity’s cemetery, Albert Gallatin, was an important figure who fought for regular Americans and a more democratic society. Continue reading
There is a neighborhood in Manhattan that some of its old timers call “España Chica” – Little Spain. From the late 19th century to the present time it served as the social and cultural nerve center of Spanish immigrants who settled in New York City.
Little Spain sits just above the West Village, mostly along West 14th Street, but the casual non-Spanish pedestrian would hardly know they were in a Spanish ethnic enclave. If this stroller were a vexillologist (or a fan of the Real Madrid Soccer team) she would no doubt know that the flag hanging in front of the nondescript brownstone at 239 West 14th Street, home of the Spanish Benevolent Society, was that of Spain. Continue reading
The remarkable saga of the Chinese in America is one of prejudice and progress, marked with fierce struggles against injustice and precedent-setting legal cases. An ongoing exhibition at the New-York Historical Society (through April 19, 2015) excavates intriguing materials to document the history of these conflicts, drawing on cartoons, adversarial proceedings in immigration offices and family archives to tell heart-rending stories.
Opinions from period voices track the evolution of attitudes. The African-American statesman Frederick Douglass summons the ultimate American vision of inclusion formulated shortly after the end of slavery: “The voice of civilization speaks an unmistakable language against the isolation of families, nations and races, and pleads for composite nationality as essential to her triumphs.” Continue reading
What are the dynamics of cultural equity and how does a community encourage its own cultural arts? Ellen McHale, Executive Director of the New York Folklore Society, will speak about the 21st century demographics of Schenectady and the Mohawk Valley and will provide some thoughts towards a culturally inclusive community on December 13th, at the Mabee Farm historic Site. Continue reading
The 2014-2015 series Exploring Schenectady’s Immigrant Past at the Schenectady County Historical Society will celebrate the rich cultural heritage of Schenectady County and will explore the history and significance of immigration in the region.
As part of the series, SCHS is has announced a Call for Submissions for its upcoming community-curated art exhibit, Where Do You Come From. The exhibit, made possible in part by a grant from the Schenectady County Initiative Project, will explore the wide range of cultures that makes up Schenectady County today. Community members, local artists, and students are all invited to submit their artwork, including but not limited to paintings, collages, photography, sculpture, or whichever medium best answers the title question. Continue reading
There are just two weeks left to see Palaces for the People: Guastavino and the Art of Structural Tile – a major exhibition examining the engineering and architectural beauty of spaces designed and built by Spanish immigrant Rafael Guastavino and his son, Rafael Jr. Continue reading