Tag Archives: Immigration

2012 Ellis Island Family Heritage Awardees Announced


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The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation has announced the recipients of its annual Ellis Island Family Heritage Awards, which honor distinguished Americans who trace their ancestry through Ellis Island, and the B.C. Forbes Peopling of America Award recognizing individuals who themselves immigrated to America. The Awards will be presented on April 19th at a ceremony to be held in the historic Great Hall on Ellis Island. The 2012 honorees are:

Angela Lansbury – The B.C. Forbes Peopling of America Award – Entertainment

This London-born actress, who returns to Broadway this year in Gore Vidal’s The Best Man, began her ascendancy up the ranks of American entertainment ladder shortly after her family evacuated to New York City in 1940, just days before the London blitz. Her first of over 50 films, Gaslight, won her an Oscar nomination. Since then, she has been a star of film, stage and television for seven decades, garnering her five Tonys, six Golden Globes, three Oscar nominations, and over 15 Emmy nominations. In 1994, Queen Elizabeth II appointed her Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to the dramatic arts. She is also a recipient of the National Medal of Arts and the Kennedy Center Honors in 2000. Lansbury became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1951.

Richard Meier – Ellis Island Family Heritage Award – The Arts/Architecture

Born in Newark, New Jersey, Richard Meier is a Pritzker Prize-winning architect who designed the Getty Center in Los Angeles. His distinct minimalist style of has garnered him 10 honorary degrees, numerous design awards as well as the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal in 1997. He has taught at many universities including Princeton, Harvard and UCLA. With current projects underway in Asia, Europe, Latin America, North America and his hometown, he serves on the Board of Directors of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum and the American Academy in Rome. His maternal grandfather – a leather tannery owner – Joseph Kaltenbacher, emigrated from Germany through Ellis Island in 1896.

Anthony “Tony” La Russa, Jr. – Ellis Island Family Heritage Award – Sports

Tony La Russa was born in Tampa, Florida, where his paternal grandparents had settled after arriving from Sicily thru Ellis Island in 1906. As an infielder, La Russa began his career with the Kansas City Athletics in 1963. Turning to managing in 1979, he became one of the longest tenured managers in the history of Major League Baseball. He spent 32 years at the helm of the Chicago White Sox, Oakland Athletics, and St. Louis Cardinals, where he topped the Cards’ managerial win list with 1,408 victories. He ranks third in all-time major league wins by a manager, holding six league championships and three World Series titles, most recently with the Cardinals in 2011. A staunch advocate for animal rescue, La Russa, his wife Elaine and their daughters founded ARF (Animal Rescue Foundation) in 1991, which aids homeless and abandoned animals and uses them to help people in need.

The ceremony will be hosted by journalist Meredith Vieira and will mark the 120th anniversary of the opening of Ellis Island on New Year’s Day 1892. Until it closed in 1954, Ellis would process 17 million immigrants. Forty percent of Americans today can trace their roots to an ancestor who was among them.

Throughout its 10 year history, the Ellis Island Family Heritage Awards have recognized more than 40 individuals, among them Dr. Madeleine Albright, Irving Berlin, Yogi Berra, Lee Iacocca, Jerry Seinfeld, Mike “Coach K” Krzyzewski, Mary Higgins Clark, General Colin Powell, Martin Scorsese, and Bruce Springsteen.

More information can be found online.

1st Jewish Congregation Torah Scroll Exhibition


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Rare and centuries-old liturgical objects, manuscripts, maps and other historic artifacts—including a Torah scroll rescued from the hands of British troops during the American Revolution — will be on loan to the New-York Historical Society beginning November 11, 2011, for the installations The Resilient City and Treasures of Shearith Israel.

The presentations of Treasures of Shearith Israel and The Resilient City at the renovated and transformed New-York Historical highlight the history of religious freedom in New York City and honor the first Jewish congregation to have been established in North America—a congregation that remains vibrant and active today, and is a neighbor of New-York Historical.

Congregation Shearith Israel, the Spanish-Portuguese Synagogue, was founded in 1654 by the first Jews to settle in North America: a group of 23 immigrants who came to New Amsterdam from their previous place of residence in Recife, Brazil. From 1654 through 1825, Shearith Israel was the only Jewish congregation in New York City. The congregation met in rented quarters until 1730, when it constructed its first building, which was located in downtown Manhattan on Mill Street (now known as South William Street). Many of the furnishings from the 1730 building are now installed in an intimate chapel, called the Little Synagogue, in Shearith Israel’s current home, consecrated in 1897, on the Upper West Side.

The Torah Scroll will be on display in the Judith and Howard Berkowitz Sculpture Court in the Rotunda of the New-York Historical Society, where it will be surrounded by four late-20th-century views of the New York cityscape by artist Richard Haas. This installation will establish a dialogue between the city’s past and present and help reinforce the underlying themes of diversity, tolerance and resilience that are also addressed in inaugural installations presented in New-York Historical’s new Robert H. and Clarice Smith New York Gallery of American History, where visitors may explore the history of the United States as seen through the lens of New York. The many other significant objects on loan to New-York Historical from Shearith Israel will be displayed in the Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture.

These loans have been facilitated Norman S. Benzaquen.

Photo: Congregation Shearith Israel, (founded 1655) New York, 1897 building. Courtesy Wikipedia.

Ellis Island Museum Unveils New Galleries


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The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation and the National Park Service have opened the first phase of the Peopling of America Center, a major expansion of the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, which will explore arrivals before the Ellis Island Era. This 10,000 square foot experience focuses on the history of immigration from the Colonial Era to the opening of Ellis Island in 1892.

Interpretative graphics and poignant audio stories tell first-hand accounts of the immigrant’s journey—from making the trip and arriving in the United States to their struggle and survival after they arrived and efforts to build communities and ultimately a nation.

“Until now, our exhibits have centered on the years when Ellis Island was open,” said Stephen A. Briganti, the Foundation’s President and CEO. “Of course the history of migration to America goes back to our nation’s beginnings right up to today, so there were many people whose stories weren’t told. The Peopling of America Center will fill an enormous gap in America’s understanding of its past, present, and future.”

Also recently unveiled was the American Flag of Faces, a large interactive video installation filled with a montage of images submitted by individuals of their families, their ancestors, or even themselves which illustrates the ever-changing American mosaic. A living exhibit, Flag of Faces accepts photo submissions and can also be viewed at www.FlagofFaces.org.

The Center’s second phase, which will open in Spring 2013, will present a series of interactive multi-media exhibits that focus on the immigration experience from the closing of Ellis Island in 1954 to the present day, including a dynamic radiant globe that illustrates migration patterns throughout human history. The Peopling of America Center was designed by ESI Design and fabricated by Hadley Exhibits, Inc.

Alcatraz Island Exhibit at Ellis Island Museum


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Every year only 1.5 million people can visit Alcatraz Island, but the demand to see the historical landmark is twice that. New Yorkers now have the chance to see what “The Rock” was like with the opening of Alcatraz: Life on The Rock, a traveling exhibit that tells the legendary story of Alcatraz Island, at the Liberty National Monument’s Ellis Island Museum of Immigration. The 2,800 square-foot modular exhibit of artifacts and interactive displays runs until Jan. 12, 2012 on the third floor of the Grand Hall.

Created by Alcatraz Cruises in partnership with the National Park Service (NPS), the 2,800 square-foot modular exhibit features authentic artifacts and recreated areas of the prison. Visitors enter the exhibit through a Civil War Sally Port to a touchable model of the island and can then explore four eras of the island’s history: “Preserving the Rock,” “Strength: The Native American Occupation,” “Life on the Inside,” and “Military History.” Murals, video clips and memorabilia help bring to life other historical elements of the island such as its role as a military prison, the Native American occupation of 1969–71, Alcatraz’s depiction in pop culture and the island’s lush flora and fauna. Visitors can also get an inside look at the infamous federal prison, operated from 1934–1963.

Guests can visually experience life inside the prison by looking through a mock tunnel, similar to the one dug by prisoners attempting escape, and by searching for Civil War era etchings in a recreated prison wall. The exhibit features several rare, authentic artifacts, including an original letter written by Robert “Birdman” Stroud, a blood-smeared baseball from the Alcatraz exercise yard, a butter knife turned weapon and a cookbook that the Alcatraz Women’s Club sold to families on the island.

Admission is included with all Statue Cruises tickets to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and is only accessible by ferry during operating hours.

To purchase tickets, visit www.statuecruises.com. Museums interested in booking the Alcatraz: Life on the Rock exhibit can learn more by calling Denise Rasmussen at (415) 438-8320.

New iPhone Tours Relate Immigrant Experiences


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Past Preservers and Crimson Bamboo have launch two new historical walking tours related to New York History for Rama, an app for the iPhone. The first explores the construction of the Statue of Liberty; the second that takes you through the immigrants’ ordeal of Ellis Island. Both were written by Hannah Murray.

“From disembarkation to medical inspection to entrance into the land of opportunity (or, for the unlucky or politically unpalatable few, deportation back home), Hannah Murray’s Ellis Island shows this place as the hopeful immigrants who arrived her experienced it,” stated Michael Carroll, co-founder of Crimson Bamboo, the creator of the Rama app. “The tour recreates on your iPhone the history of this point of entry for the aspiring immigrants to whom over 40% of Americans trace their ancestry.”

Ellis Island is the sequel to Murray’s Land of Liberty tour, which captures the history and idealism behind the construction of the nearby Statue of Liberty. For $1.99 the tour continues to explore the theme of distinctive sites symbolic for Americans and their heritage, and the stories of the thousands of individuals who left the Old World for the New. It is illustrated with thought provoking and evocative contemporary archival photographs.

“I have been captivated by Ellis Island ever since I visited New York nine years ago,” explained Murray, who has previously worked as a volunteer at the Benjamin Franklin House in London, as well as at the British Museum. She describes history as her passion above all others and will shortly be taking a Masters degree in Public History at Royal Holloway. “I have studied the immigrant experience at university and the impact that it had on American society is what drew me to Ellis Island – the myth of an inclusive environment is somewhat dented by the restriction of Asian and eastern European immigrants, however. Photographs from the early 1920s show immigrants in detention pens, waiting to be sent back home, a part of Ellis Island which has been downplayed in contrast to the thousands leaving its shores to pursue the American Dream — a life which, for some, was never that smooth in reality.”

Rama can be downloaded from iTunes and was named as one of the ten best new travel apps by BBC Travel in 2010.

Irish History: Eamon De Valera in America


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A new book by Irish journalist and commentator Dave Hannigan, De Valera in America: The Rebel President and the Making of Irish Independence, illuminates an interesting period in New York Irish history when de Valera, born in New York City in 1882, made an important return trip to convince Americans to recognize the newly proclaimed Irish Republic.

Eamon de Valera is one of the most famous characters in Irish history. He commanded troops during the 1916 Easter Rising, co-authored the Irish constitution, and in 1926 founded Fianna Fáil, which continues to be the largest political party in Ireland today. De Valera was head of the Irish government from 1932–48, 1951–54 and 1957–59 and President of Ireland from 1959–73.

In June 1919, he arrived at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel pronouncing himself the “President of Ireland.” He was on a mission to convince the United States to recognize Ireland as an independent nation, and also to fund the independence movement, which would be a clear affront to Britain. De Valera went on to give speeches in some of America’s largest venues, including Madison Square Garden and Fenway Park, where he drew crowds of 60,000 people. Over the course of that year, he accumulated fame and scandal, but more importantly, he gained essential financial support for the fledgling Irish Republic.

For the first time, a book follows de Valera on his controversial trip across America, exploring his personal and political relationships, and the costs and benefits of his perilous crusade. From newspaper headlines to cloak and dagger antics, Hannigan delivers a truly unique slice of Irish Americana, bringing to life this pivotal moment in history.

Dave Hannigan is a columnist at The Sunday Tribune in Dublin, the Evening Echo (Cork) and The Irish Echo. A former Irish young journalist of the year, he is also an adjunct professor of history at Suffolk County Community College on Long Island. He lives in Rocky Point, New York.

July 4th at Saratoga National Historical Park


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Independence Day on Monday, July 4 will be celebrated at Saratoga National Historical Park on Routes 4 and 32 in Stillwater, with a 10:00am Citizenship Ceremony and traditional readings of the Declaration of Independence with free lemonade toasts at 1 and 3pm.

At 10:00 am, on the anniversary of our nation and upon the grounds where independence was won, 20 immigrants from countries all over the world will become new citizens of the United States of America. Fife and drums, color guard, musket and cannon firings frame this special event organized by Sons of the American Revolution, Daughters of the American Revolution, Friends of Saratoga Battlefield and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

At 1 and 3 pm, as a messenger from 1776, park ranger Joe Craig reads from the Declaration of Independence with authentic 18th century toasts reflecting the insightful wit of the document signers. Enjoy free lemonade to share in the toasts, followed by celebratory musket and cannon firings.

Saratoga Monument in Victory and the General Philip Schuyler House in Schuylerville, both located 8 miles north of Saratoga Battlefield, will also be open from 9:00am to 4:45pm. The Battlefield is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm.

Saratoga National Historical Park, located on Routes 4 and 32 in Stillwater, offers a variety of special events throughout the season. For further information, please call (518) 664-9821 ext. 224, or visit www.nps.gov/sara.

Photo: John Neilson Farmhouse — mid-level headquarters for the American Army at the Battle of Saratoga (Photo: Saratoga National Historical Park)

Live Theater Returns to Ellis Island


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Sing a Song of Freedom: The Story of Emma Lazarus and the Statue of Liberty, a new play celebrating Lady Liberty’s 125th year, dramatizes how the writer’s poem “The New Colossus” transformed the beloved Statue into a symbol of welcome. The show opens at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum’s intimate Living Theater for a limited run beginning April 16 through Labor Day weekend. Written by playwright/director Ken Urban, the 30-minute play also features stories of immigration.

Produced and funded by The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, the show will be presented April 16 through June 27 on Monday and Wednesday through Saturday. Beginning June 28, the show will run Thursday through Monday. Show times are 10:45; 11:30; 12:15; 1:00; 2:30; 3:15; and 4:00. Admission is $6.00.

A gift from France to the American people, the Statue of Liberty was dedicated October 28, 1886. In 1982, President Ronald Reagan appointed Lee Iacocca to head up a private sector effort to restore the Statue of Liberty for her centennial. Fundraising began for the $87 million restoration under a public/private partnership between the National Park Service and The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc., and on July 5, 1986 the newly restored Statue re-opened to the public during Liberty Weekend. The famous sonnet written by poet and essayist Emma Lazarus (shown here) in 1883 is engraved on a bronze plaque which has been affixed to the inner walls of the pedestal since the early 1900′s.

Ellis Island Living Theater performances, which are both educational and entertaining, are especially popular with students, scout troops, day campers, religious groups, senior clubs, and families. Reservations for Sing a Song of Freedom: The Story of Emma Lazarus and the Statue of Liberty are accepted for groups of 10 or more. Since the theater seats 56 people, some groups may have to schedule multiple shows. Please note that the National Park Service, which administers Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, requires one chaperone for every ten children. Individuals without reservations are encouraged to purchase their tickets upon entering the museum.

For more information or to make reservations, contact The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation at 212-561-4500, ext. 0 or theater@ellisisland.org. More on Sing a Song of Freedom: The Story of Emma Lazarus and the Statue of Liberty can be found online.

For ferry tickets and schedules, call Statue Cruises at 1-877-LADY TIX or go online.

The Actors employed in this production are members of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

Irish Heritage Museum Moving to Albany


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The Irish American Heritage Museum has announced that it is moving into a new home at 370 Broadway in downtown Albany, NY. The Museum is completely modernizing the ground floor of the historic 19th century Meginniss Building in what has been a gutted century-old space to transform it into a state-of-the art, year-round exhibit and educational facility that also will house its O’Dwyer Research Library.

“In celebration of our 25th year of meeting our educational goals and the vision of our late founding Chair of the Board of Trustees Joseph J. Dolan, Jr., the Museum is moving into a new year-round, multi-faceted and expansive exhibit facility that will allow us to host large numbers of visitors as well as school and public groups for exhibit viewing, lectures, and other presentations throughout the year,” stated Edward Collins, Chair of the Museum’s Board of Trustees. “Further, our new Museum facility will be more accessible to the general public and provide downtown Albany with new vitality.”

Collins said of the Museum’s decision to move into downtown Albany from its part-time, summer seasonal exhibit facility in East Durham, Greene County: “The Irish have played such a central role in the history of this great city and region, from literally building Albany – and surrounding cities, villages and towns – from the earth up to protecting these areas and their people, to leading the people in every aspect of life in Albany and the surrounding region. Name a profession, occupation, leadership position or community service, and the Irish have had a central role in Albany’s life and the lives of those throughout the great northeast. The Museum’s Trustees, especially the late Joe Dolan, value greatly this rich legacy and seek to pass it forward to new generations of New Yorkers and Americans.”

The Museum expects to formally open its new, renovated facility at 370 Broadway, Albany, in September. It will move from The Michael J. Quill Irish Cultural and Sports Centre in East Durham, Greene County, which owns the summer seasonal exhibit facility previously leased by the Museum on Rt. 145 in that hamlet; the Quill Center will assume residency in that facility. The Museum will continue to partner with the Quill Center through loans of its exhibits to the Quill Center.

Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings joined in lauding the Irish American Heritage Museum’s move to the city. In a statement, Mayor Jennings said, “This museum is an important part of our community, inspiring countless residents and visitors to discover the story and may contributions of the Irish people and their culture in America, and even learn a bit about their own heritage along the way.”

Museum to Launch New Fundraising Campaign

The Museum will be launching a new fundraising campaign to help it sustain its mission and to provide future Capital Region generations a sense of the importance of their own heritage compass – whatever their heritage legacy might be – to help guide them in their lives. “In an age when we are all connected to each other through the internet, cell phones and so many other electronic devices, we would serve younger generations well by helping them stay connected to their heritage,” Collins explained. “The Museum is committed to the basic tenet that preserving one’s heritage is vital to providing a cultural and historical foundation to future generations of Americans. To paraphrase the Pulitzer Prize winning historian David McCullough, ‘Our heritage is who we are, and why we are who we are.’“

CCNY Historian Edits Book on Pakistan


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Since its inception 64 years ago, Pakistan’s quest for democracy has been tenuous. In Pakistan: From the Rhetoric of Democracy to the Rise of Militancy, edited by Dr. Ravi Kalia, professor of history at The City College of New York, readers get an idea of why.

Published by Routledge (2011), the book comprises essays by scholars and diplomats from three continents. They reflect on the political, social, military and urban history of Pakistan with focus on its search for democracy as well as its pivotal role in the global war on terror. It is the only non-NATO country aligned with the United States in the war on terror.

Pakistan was carved out of British India in 1947 as a homeland for Indian Muslims and has alternated between military and civilian rule since. While the political rhetoric by successive leaders from both sides has indicated a desire for democracy, liberalism, freedom of expression and other such progressive concepts, the reality has been starkly different.

Instead, the world’s sixth most populous nation, nuclear-armed with a population exceeding 170 million, has continued to drift towards increasing authoritarianism, religious extremism and intolerance against minorities.

“This chasm between animated political rhetoric and grim political reality has baffled the world as much as Pakistanis themselves,” said Professor Kalia, an expert in South Asian studies. “In this volume, scholars and practitioners of statecraft from around the world have sought to explain the dichotomy that exists between the rhetoric and the reality.”

A major obstacle to democracy highlighted by Professor Kalia is a society based on powerful tribal loyalties and kinship associations.

“Pakistani institutions operate on the premise of tribal loyalty and kinship and while these help keep the country together, they hinder its transition into the 21st century. The military is the only entity that bares any resemblance to a western institution,” he said.

Contributors to the book are:

Dr. Gilles Boquerat, head of the South Asia program at the French Institute of International Relations in Paris.

Ainslie T. Embree, professor emeritus of history, Columbia University

Frederic Grare, charge de mission for Asian Perspectives, Department of Strategic Affairs, Ministry of Defense, France.

J. Andrew Greig, retired Foreign Service Officer, U.S. Department of State and United States Information Agency.

Annie Harper, social anthropologist, Trinity College, Conn.

Nazir Hussain, associate professor, Department of International Relations, Quaidi-i-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan.

Zafar Iqbal, sociologist, political activist, Pakistan.

T.C.A. Rangachari, retired Indian diplomat, visiting professor, Academy of Third World Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi.

Tahmina Rashid, associate professor, International Studies, Faculty of Arts & Design, University of Canberra, Australia.

Oskar Verkaaik, associate professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Amsterdam.

About Professor Ravi Kalia

A graduate of the University of Delhi (BA Hons., MA) and University of California-Los Angeles (MBA, PhD), Professor Kalia specializes in South Asian studies. His focus is urban-architectural history in colonial and post-colonial India. His books include “Chandigarh: The Making of an Indian City” (Southern Illinois Univ. Press & Oxford Univ.Press, 1987; revised, 1999), “Bhubaneshwar: From a Temple Town to a Capital City” (Southern Illinois Univ. Press & Oxford Univ. Press, 1994), and “Gandhinagar: Building National Identity in Postcolonial India” (Univ. of South Carolina Press & Oxford Univ. Press, 2004). Professor Kalia has been published in numerous journals including “Habitat International,” “India Quarterly,” “Journal of Urban History,” “The Encyclopedia of Conflicts Since World War II” (2006), as well as many international newspapers. He’s the recipient of three Fulbright scholarships and numerous other research awards.

Buffalo: Through Their Eyes Exhibit


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In collaboration with Journey’s End Refugee Services and CEPA Gallery, Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society presents “Buffalo: Through Their Eyes,” photography by international refugees living in Buffalo.

For their silver anniversary, Journey’s End asked recently arrived refugees to document the experience of adjusting to life as Buffalo’s newest residents. The participants received disposable cameras and training from CEPA Gallery. Their resulting images, reminiscent of early photographs of the ancestors of fellow Buffalonians, capture intimate moments in their homes, workplaces, communities; in essence the details of “their” Buffalo.

Twenty-five images from the “Buffalo: Through Their Eyes” project will be displayed from Friday, April 1 to Sunday, June 26, in the Historical Society’s Community Gallery. Admission to the gallery is free with paid museum admission.

There will be an opening reception, which is free and open to the public, on Sunday, April 3 from 12 to 5 pm.

Coverage of 1911 Triangle Factory Fire


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The New York Times City Blog has been running a series of posts commemorating the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, which happened 100 years ago today on March 25, 1911.

There are links to the posts below, but first, here’s a brief description of what happened from Wikipedia: “[The Triangle Fire] was the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of the city of New York and resulted in the fourth highest loss of life from an industrial accident in U.S. history. The fire caused the deaths of 146 garment workers, who either died from the fire or jumped to their deaths. Most of the victims were recent immigrant Jewish and Italian women aged sixteen to twenty-three.”

“Many of the workers could not escape the burning building because the managers had locked the doors to the stairwells and exits. People jumped from the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors. The fire led to legislation requiring improved factory safety standards and helped spur the growth of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, which fought for better working conditions for sweatshop workers.”

Here is a round-up of the City Room’s outstanding coverage:

Liberating Clothing Made in Confinement

A Half Hour of Horror

A Frontier in Photojournalism

Editorial Cartoons

One Woman Who Changed the Rules

New Leaders Emerge

Labor Laws and Unions in the Fire’s Wake

In a Tragedy, a Mission to Remember

Garment Work in New York 100 Years After the Triangle Fire

The Building Survives

Remembering the Triangle Fire, 100 Years Later

Remembering Triangle Fire’s Jewish Victims

Clinging to Memories

In Search of Today’s Sweatshops

Labor Event: 1911 Triangle Factory Fire


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FIRE! PLEASE HELP US WE ARE TRAPPED! These were the words screamed on Saturday afternoon on March 25, 1911. It was the horrific Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York’s Greenwich Village that took the lives of 146 mostly young immigrant women and changed the course of history.

To mark the centennial anniversary and recognize the significance of the Triangle tragedy, members of the public are invited to a special free program, which will be presented at the New York State Museum Friday, March 25, at 4 p.m. to coincide with the date and time of the fire. Sponsored by the Capital District Triangle Fire Centennial Coalition, the event will honor those who lost their lives and focus on the wide range of labor, health and safety laws that required better worksites in the aftermath of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire.

State Assemblyman John McEneny will emcee the event. U.S. Representative Paul Tonko, WCNY – Syracuse News Director Susan Arbetter and Dr. Christopher Breiseth, a Frances Perkins scholar and former president of Wilkes University, and Paul Cole, Executive Director of the American Labor Studies Center will all be part of the program.

Albany Roman Catholic Diocese Bishop Howard J. Hubbard is also scheduled to participate and help close the New York State Labor-Religion Coalition annual 40-hour fast for social justice, as part of the Triangle Commemoration.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was the greatest work place tragedy New York has seen, prior to the World Trade Center attacks in 2001. This tragedy changed the course of history by shining a bright light on the injustices that occur in the work place. It paved the way for the unyielding efforts to protect workers on the job and reminds us that we must not take work place safety for granted.

Frances Perkins was the first woman to hold a U.S. cabinet post when she served as secretary of labor under President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s. Perkins witnessed the Triangle fire, which galvanized her commitment to reforming labor laws. She later served on the New York State Factory Investigating Commission, which recommended reforms in the aftermath of the Triangle fire.

The Capital District Centennial Coalition includes the NYS Department of Labor, NYS Department of Education (NYS Museum, NYS Library, NYS Archives), NYS Archives Partnership Trust, American Labor Studies Center, Catherwood Library-Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations, University at Albany, Capital District NY National Association of Women in Construction Chapter, Coalition of Labor Union Women-Kate Mullany Chapter Capital District, NYS Labor-Religion Coalition, Occupational and Environmental Health Center of Eastern NY, OSHA-Albany Office, NYS AFL-CIO, New York State United Teachers, Public Employees Federation, and CSEA.

NYSUT, PEF, CSEA, the New York State Department of Labor and the American Labor Studies Center provided support for the program.

Olana to Host Irish History Themed Tours


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Events such as the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s and 1850s led to a major influx of Irish immigrants to the United States in the mid-nineteenth century. Like many other families in this area, the Churches hired numerous Irish immigrants for their staff at Olana during the years Frederic Church lived on this property (1860-1900).

Two of the longest-serving employees were the Churches’ coachman and head cook, Michael and Jane McKenna – a brother and sister – both of whom were employed here for over a quarter-century. Olana will present special Irish-themed tours Friday-Sunday, March 11-13 & 18-20, at 10 and 11AM, 12, 1, 2 & 3PM.


Photo: Frederic Church’s coachman Michael McKenna is shown here with one of the Church’s horses. Collection Olana State Historic Site, NYS OPRHP.

New Genealogy Tools at NY State Archives


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The New York State Archives recently announced the creation of two tools, called “pathfinders,” to help genealogists and researchers locate naturalization and probate records created throughout New York, from the colonial period to the present.

Naturalizations grant the full legal rights and privileges held by native-born individuals to someone born in another country. Legal jurisdiction over naturalization has changed repeatedly since the colonial period, so the records can be found in various locations. They may be in the county clerk’s office, the New York State Archives, the National Archives branch in New York City, or U.S. District Court clerk’s office. The pathfinder highlights books, links to indexes, and directories where researchers can find more information about an ancestor and the places that may hold these naturalization records.

Probate records include wills, estate inventories, letters of administration, and other documents relating to the administration and settlement of a deceased person’s estate. The State Archives holds probate records created or compiled by predecessor courts that had legal jurisdiction over probate matters prior to 1787. A limited number of probate records after 1787 are held by the Archives because they are filed and retained by the Surrogate’s Court in each county. For that reason, the probate pathfinder is divided into two chronological sections: before 1787 and after 1787. This pathfinder identifies collections within the State Archives as well as books and links to guides and locations that may help researchers.

The pathfinders can be found on the State Archives’ website.

New York State Historic Preservation Awards Announced for 2010


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The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has announced the recipients of the 2010 New York State Historic Preservation Awards. Established in 1980, the State Historic Preservation Awards are given each year to honor excellence in the protection and rejuvenation of New York’s historic and cultural resources.

“The Historic Preservation Awards honor the efforts and achievement of individuals, organizations and municipalities that make significant contributions to historic preservation objectives throughout New York State,” said Ruth Pierpont, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Historic Preservation. “The range of awards this year reflects the many ways that historic preservation serves as an important tool for economic development, creating affordable housing, and providing an effective approach to sustainable building design while preserving the unique character and heritage of our communities.”

The awards follow:

OUTSTANDING NATIONAL REGISTER NOMINATION:

New York City’s Chinatown and Little Italy Historic District

Presented to: Two Bridges Neighborhood Council (Victor Papa, president and director) and architectural consultant Kerri Culhane, for a project that illuminates the common heritage and shared future of New York

New York City’s Chinatown and Little Italy Historic District was listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places in February 2010 as being nationally significant in the history of immigration. The project’s success was due to the inspired leadership of the sponsor, the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council; exemplary scholarship of their consultant – architectural historian Kerri Culhane; and the support of Chinese-American and Italian-American organizations. Key to the process was educating the public about the significance of two ethnic groups whose 150 years of interwoven immigrant experiences had been previously overlooked. This nomination has proven to be a catalyst for a planning process aimed at enhancing economic development opportunities while respecting the important history of these neighborhoods.

PROJECT ACHIEVEMENT:

The Montour House, Village of Montour Falls, Schuyler County, 1850

For Outstanding Adaptive Use and Commitment to Community Revitalization

Presented to: Bruce Nelson, Nelson Development, Village of Montour Falls and Schuyler County Partners for Economic Development

Set in motion by a Restore New York grant and assistance from the Schuyler County Partners for Economic Development (SCOPED), the Village of Montour Falls hired developer Bruce Nelson to bring the 1850 Montour House back to life. Nelson, of Nelson Development in Vestal, worked closely with SHPO staff to determine the best approach to adapting the former hotel for apartments and commercial spaces while adhering to historic preservation standards. Over 20 years of neglect had caused severe water damage and other deterioration, and the village was in danger of losing the central landmark. A mason employed on the job for 18 months and a millwright who restored 118 historic wood windows were joined by other team members who restored and replaced decorative plaster elements. The project fulfilled the Village’s goals of attracting new and long-time residents as tenants, and helped inspired other local rehabilitation projects.

PROJECT ACHIEVEMENT:

257 Lafayette Center (The Former Annunciation School), Buffalo, 1928

For Outstanding Adaptive Use and Commitment to Community Revitalization

Presented to: Karl Frizlen, The Frizlen Group Architects and Paul Johnson, Johnson and Sons Contractors

After having served as an integral part of the community for over 80 years, the school closed and the building stood vacant for several years. Karl Frizlen, of The Frizlen Group Architects, and Paul Johnson, of Johnson & Sons General Contractor, recognized that the well-designed school would be ideal for an adaptive, mixed-used development that would incorporate green building design and historic preservation. The partners attracted tenants for the commercial portion of the building before beginning the project, including a day-care center and several firms for the incubator offices. In converting former school rooms, the work exhibits a high degree of creativity in reusing historic elements in place, such as pivoting blackboards, or recycling materials for new uses in the building. The project is an outstanding example of how historic tax credits can be used for a mid-sized rehabilitation project. Having obtained LEED certification, the project demonstrates that historic preservation and sustainable design are mutually supportive approaches to development.

PROJECT ACHIEVEMENT:

44 West 87th Street, New York City, 1910

For Outstanding Adaptive Use and Commitment to Community Revitalization

Presented to: The West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing, Inc. and Red Top Architects

In adapting the 1910 townhouse at 44 West 87th Street in New York City for senior and transitional housing and program services, the West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing, Inc. and Red Top Architects needed to upgrade the building to meet accessibility requirements; provide affordable rental units and smaller, transitional housing units; and also insert meeting and office space. Project partners worked through a highly collaborative process to solve design challenges. Preservation tax credits helped make the difference in the remarkable quality of workmanship and historic character preserved by the adaptive use project on a tight budget.

PROJECT ACHIEVEMENT:

P. S. 124, High School of Telecommunication Arts & Technology, Brooklyn, 1917

For an Outstanding Rehabilitation Project and Commitment to Community Revitalization

Presented to: New York City School Construction Authority and STV Group, Inc.

In planning a new wing for the overcrowded school building, the School Construction Authority staff and STV Group architects had to design a structure that would fit on the limited land available, would be compatible with the materials, massing and scale of the existing building and that would also meet with the approval of both SHPO and the community. The end result included a well-designed new wing and restoration of the school’s original auditorium, portions of which had previously been converted to classroom space. In returning the auditorium to its former grandeur, the team recreated missing decorative elements and restored stained glass windows.

PROJECT ACHIEVEMENT:

Dunderberg Creek Walls and NY Route 51 Stone Arch Bridge over Dunderberg Creek, Village of Gilbertsville, Otsego County

For an Outstanding Rehabilitation Project and Commitment to Community Revitalization

Presented to: Village of Gilbertsville and New York State Department of Transportation, Region 9

The historic Village of Gilbertsville’s picturesque setting was threatened in June 2006, when storm waters overflowed the Dunderberg Creek banks and came roaring through the village. The historic stone walls lining the creek were washed away, debris carried by the waters destroyed one of the piers supporting the historic Gilbert Building, and the NY Route 51 Bridge was damaged. Village officials, committed to preserving the historic character of the village, worked closely with the NYSDOT to coordinate repairs to the 1919 bridge and creek walls in a manner that retained the historic pattern of the stonework.

INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENT:

Anne H. Van Ingen, former director of the Architecture, Planning and Design and Capital Program of the New York State Council on the Arts.

Recently-retired as director of the Architecture, Planning and Design (APD) and Capital Aid Programs at the New York State Council on the Arts, Anne Van Ingen was recognized for her extraordinary leadership in and commitment and contributions to the field of historic preservation, both as a public servant and a private citizen.

For 27 years, she served as NYSCA’s representative on the New York State Board for Historic Preservation, reviewing and approving nominations to the State and National Registers for Historic Places. Her focus as APD director was on what quality planning and design work – including historic preservation – could do for arts organizations and the communities they serve. She is a founding director of the Deborah J. Norden Fund of the Architectural League, established in memory of a talented NYSCA colleague, the Lower Manhattan Emergency Preservation Fund, and is president of the St. Regis Foundation, a land trust in the Adirondacks.

More recently, she purchased a traditional “shotgun” house in New Orleans’ Hurricane Katrina-ravaged Ninth Ward and invited friends and family down to help undertake the extensive rehabilitation needed to turn the property into affordable housing.

Recognition for OPRHP Agency Best Practices in Historic Preservation

Taconic Regional Headquarters Adaptive Use Project

The Preservation awards program initiated a new component this year to recognize projects undertaken within the OPRHP agency that demonstrate best practices in historic preservation. Ruth Pierpont, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Historic Preservation explained, “by highlighting high-quality rehabilitation and restoration projects, we hope to encourage similar approaches throughout all state parks.” The project chosen this year was the adaptive use of the former Staatsburg School for the OPRHP Taconic Regional Headquarters.

The project was initiated with a gift from Dr. Lucy R. Waletsky, chair of the New York State Council of Parks, who stipulated that the project use sustainable, green building practices and become LEED certified. In order to retain the proportions of the 1930 school, the wide corridors were retained and glass walls were inserted in former classrooms to divide the work spaces and allow the distribution of natural light. On the exterior, instead of separating the accessible entrance from the main door, a “universally accessible” entry was created by redesigning the building site and locating the main entrance at the former rear of the building. This approach also avoided alterations to the stately, historic façade which was restored.

The State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), which is part of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, helps communities identify, recognize, and preserve their historic resources, and incorporate them into local improvement and economic development activities. The SHPO administers several programs including the state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credit program, state historic preservation grants, the Certified Local Government program, and the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places, which are the official lists of properties significant in the history, architecture, and archeology of the state and nation.

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees 178 state parks and 35 historic sites.. For more information on any of these recreation areas, call 518-474-0456 or visit www.nysparks.com.

Walking Tour Explores the Mafia in America


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A new walking tour examines the roots of the Mafia in America including the often overlooked early lives of such criminal heavyweights as Charles “Lucky” Luciano, Al “Scarface” Capone, Giuseppe Morello, Joe “The Boss” Masseria, Meyer Lansky, “Bugsy” Siegel, and more.

The weekly walking tour with guide Eric Ferrara is hosted by the Lower East Side History Project and runs every Saturday and Thursday at 2:00 pm, through March 2011. The cost is $20 per person.

The tour details the Sicilian and Italian immigrant experience and conditions which led to organized gangsterism in America. From the arrival of Sicilian Black Handers and Neapolitan Camorra to New York in the 1890s, to the forming of the Mafia Commission in 1931, tour participants visit the early homes, headquarters, hangouts and assassination locations of some of the most powerful criminals in American history, and explore the wars which shaped the future of organized crime.

Sites visits include “Black Hand Block,” headquarters of the “first family” of the American Mafia; the headquarters of Paul Kelly’s notorious Five Points Gang, the gang responsible for breeding the likes of Al Capone, Johnny Torrio, “Lucky” Luciano, and hundreds more; the home of prohibition era’s “Boss of Bosses;” and the childhood homes and teenage haunts of “Lucky” Luciano, “Bugsy” Siegel and Meyer Lansky.

Ferrara deciphers the myths and realities of the Mafia in Hollywood, including Boardwalk Empire and The Godfather series. Ferrara is a published author, educator, and founder of the Lower East Side History Project and the first museum in America dedicated to gangsterism. He is a fourth generation native New Yorker with Sicilian roots in Little Italy dating back to the 1880s, and has assisted several movie, tv, and media projects world wide, including HBO, SyFy, History Channel and National Geographic.

Ferrara says that he has consulted the families and estates of crime figures discussed on the tour, as well as law enforcement agents, collectors, authors and historians to provide unique first-hand accounts, images and documents in over five years of research.

For more information visit the Lower East Side History Project online.

A Progressive History of Union Square, NYC


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Even in the supersized world of New York City, Union Square stands out for its astonishing legacy. Yet most of that rich history was lost in the square’s descent from a city showplace to an area approached only at personal peril.

Union Square’s 300-year story is finally told by author/photographer James Isaiah Gabbe in The Universe of Union Square, a coffee-table book and companion DVD (Visions & Voices) that marks the first time the history of the square has been captured from a progressive cultural perspective.

The book relates the people, places and events that shaped so much of America’s progressive tradition while the DVD brings the chronicle up to the moment through 60 lively interviews with city officials, business owners, artists, activists, clergy and others whose lives are intertwined with this remarkable place. More information about the book and a full list of interviewees can be found online.

Gabbe, a former journalist and historian is a longtime resident of Union Square and was for many years the president of the Union Square Partnership – the nation’s first business improvement district.

As president of the Union Square Partnership Gabbe thought he knew the area’s history well enough to create a nicely illustrated brochure, but wherever he turned, Gabbe heard stories that led him through a warren of intrigue and Dickensian characters.

Three years, hundreds of interviews and site visits later, The Universe of Union Square spans 265 pages of fascinating vignettes and nearly 1000 archival images and contemporary photographs. Visions & Voices, the companion DVD, brings the chronicle up to the moment through 60 lively conversations with city officials, community activists, business leaders, academics, clergy, artists and others whose lives are intertwined with this remarkable place.

Gabbe’s exploration extends to an eight-block radius beyond the confines of the park, touching nine adjacent neighborhoods that together form Union Square’s “Universe.”

“Who knew that such a small area of land would become a cauldron in which an unprecedented diversity of people would shape America’s restless, progressive soul,” Gabbe said. “By turns violent and peaceful, with triumph and dismay, Union Square was witness and party to the growth of a nation.”

The Universe of Union Square explores the area’s people, architecture, institutions and happenings through eight thematic chapters – highlights include:

* Peter Stuyvesant’s Harvest: From the Lenape Nation and European Walloons to “blue bloods” and immigrants, a look at the area’s changing populations, including the criminal fringe, from prosperity through hard times between World War I and the 1980s. Includes notable architectural landmarks, the Greenmarket and acts of violence.

* Democracy’s Stage: The “universe’s” history – and legacy – as New York’s center of free public expression. From Civil War protests and Lincoln proclaiming “right makes might” to serving as headquarters for the nascent labor movement and political activists of all persuasions – through to providing the world a haven to mourn and heal after 9/11.

* Creative Cauldron: Celebrating the impresarios, actors, writers, artists and musicians who have made their mark here. Covers the area’s role as the original “heart” of Broadway and the Yiddish theater; the earliest center for American opera; the birthplace of American vaudeville and the modern nightclub; and home to many famed arts clubs and enterprises that founded the film industry.

* Inventive Ventures: This is where gutsy entrepreneurs built the peerless Ladies’ Mile, a collection of urban shopping emporiums that set the stage for modern department stores but have never been equaled. And where scores of other fascinating enterprises were fostered, including world-famous Strand Book Store, Blatt Billiards and the landmarked Bowlmor bowling alley.

* Fibers of the Future: Past and present, individuals and organizations exemplifying compassionate and visionary citizenship, from the selflessness of baker Charles Fleischmann, who fed anyone willing to wait in line for bread, to Tammany Hall, which began as a noble civic and political service to immigrants but ended in infamy. This was also home to Peter Cooper, Helen Keller, Teddy and Eleanor Roosevelt, Ida Tarbell, Margaret Sanger and Bill Wilson – all of whom changed society in momentous ways.

The Universe of Union Square also covers the area’s 60 institutions from preschools to universities, libraries to museums – many like NYU, New School, Cooper Union, Stuyvesant and Washington Irving High Schools – created to serve the working class, immigrants and women, who had no access to education. And Gabbe recounts tales of Emma Goldman, Andy Warhol and the Mad Bomber among scores of other famous and infamous characters as it documents the area’s modern resurrection from decades of urban decay.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

Travel Channel to Feature Ellis Island Museum


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Travel Channel’s new series, Mysteries at the Museum, will be featuring New York tonight at 9 EST. The show will be highlighting the Ellis Island Immigration Museum.

The episode will feature literacy tests given to all new arrivals at Ellis Island. In theory the test should have prevented thousands of poor, illiterate immigrants from gaining entry into the U.S., but what many immigrants lacked in literacy, they made up for in cunning and guile. How could they possibly have beat the test that was designed to keep them out of America?

Troy’s Little Italy Midwife Records Online


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Troy area researchers will be interested in the almost 200 midwife records covering 600 surnames that have just been added to the Troy Irish Genealogy Website. These records mostly are for infants born to Italian immigrants who lived in the little Italy section of South Troy. A number of the records, however, are for Syrian immigrants. The records, which range from 1909 to 1923, were completed by the midwife Alesandra Matera, a nurse who lived at 250 Fourth Street in Troy.

The Rensselaer County Historical Society in Troy, New York provided the Troy Irish Genealogy Society access to their copies of these records to develop this on-line database.

You can view these records by going to the Troy Irish Genealogy website at www.rootsweb.com/~nytigs/ and click on PROJECTS and then click on MATERA MIDWIFE RECORDS. There are three separate files for the records covering the child’s name, the father’s name and the mother’s name. Clicking on the alphabetical listing of names on the left side of the page will bring up the individual record for that name.

Illustration: 1880 Map of Troy’s Little Italy Neighborhood.