While researching a pair of books on North Country iron mining, I unexpectedly became privy to tragedies that many families faced. Mining accidents were frequent and involved excessive violence, often resulting in death. Victims were sometimes pancaked — literally — by rock falls, and their remains were recovered with scraping tools. Others were blown to pieces by dynamite explosions, usually as the result of, in mining parlance, “hitting a missed hole.”
The “missed hole” nomenclature refers to unexploded dynamite charges accidentally detonated later by another miner when his drill made contact with the material or caused a spark. The resulting blast was often fatal, but not always. Those who survived were usually blinded, burned badly, or maimed in some fashion.
In 1878, in Crown Point’s iron mines at Hammondville, near Lake Champlain, a young laborer, Billy Richards, was tasked with holding a star drill (basically a hand-held chisel with a star point) against the ore face while his partner — his step-father, Richard George — struck it with a sledge hammer. Through this commonly used teamwork method, a cadence developed whereby the star drill was struck and the holder then turned it slightly before it was struck again. Continue reading
The many controversies that surrounded Robert Moses during his long career as New York’s “Master Builder” were sharpened by his long battle with Jane Jacobs and by Robert Caro’s 1974 biography, The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York (1974).
But his least contentious achievements are also the most unknown: the construction of the New York Power Authority’s hydroelectric plants along the St. Lawrence and Niagara Rivers. Continue reading
Abraham Van Santvoord, a descendent of one of the earliest Dutch settlers in Albany, was born in Schenectady on December 18, 1784. At the age of 14, he worked with his granduncle John Post who owned a shipping business in Utica. Since, at the time, there were few roadways, and the ones they had were snow covered in the winter and mud bogs in the spring, most shipping was done by water.
Van Santvoord successfully ran a shipping business on the Mohawk River. During the War of 1812, he contracted with agents of General Stephen Van Rensselaer of Albany to store and ship provisions westward on the Mohawk to support Van Rensselaer’s troops planning to invade Canada. Continue reading
A walk around the Pergamena warehouse in Montgomery, NY in Orange County, is a step back in time. Rows upon rows of animal skins, of all kinds, are carefully laid on shelves, in piles and are in various stages of processing.
Some will turn into leather, some into parchment, some will become covers for drums and books, some will be made into shoes, handbags, dog collars, and the list goes on.
Pergamena – Italian for “parchment” – is a tanning business, and Jesse Meyer, co-owner with dad Karl and brother, Stephen, is providing this tour in a cold warehouse off of Montgomery’s Route 211. Continue reading
The Copake Iron Works historic site in Taconic State Park has been designated a Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area Site.
The recognition, awarded through the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area, in partnership with the National Park Service, recognizes the Copake Iron Works as a nationally-significant cultural and natural resource of the Hudson River Valley. Continue reading
Bruce Jackson’s new book American Chartres: Buffalo’s Waterfront Grain Elevators (Excelsior Editions. 2016) documents Buffalo’s surviving grain elevators, capturing these monumental buildings in all seasons and in various light; from the Buffalo River, the Ship Canal, and Lake Erie; from inside and from the top floors and roofs; in detail.
Invented in Buffalo by Robert Dunbar and Joseph Dart, the city’s first grain elevator went operational in 1843. By the mid-1850s, Buffalo was the world’s largest grain port, and would remain so well into the twentieth century. Grain elevators made Buffalo rich, and they were largely responsible for the development of the Port of New York. Continue reading
Hanford Mills Museum will hold a family-friendly Woodsmen’s Festival on Saturday, October 15 from 10 am to 5 pm. The daylong event, included with regular Museum admission, features lumberjack skills, woodworking demonstrations, exhibits, local vendors, live music, BBQ, kids’ activities, and the historic water-powered mill. Continue reading
The Roosevelt Island Historical Society begins its Fall Lecture Series with a presentation on the commercial and cultural significance of the river and channel that surround Roosevelt Island and separate Manhattan and Queens.
Bob Singleton, Executive Director of the Greater Astoria Historical Society, will cover the East River from Governors Island to Fort Totten in a lecture at the New York Public Library Branch on Roosevelt Island, on Thursday, September 8, 2016, at 6:30 pm. Continue reading
Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor was awarded a $5,000 grant by the National Trust for Historic Preservation from the John E. Streb Fund for New York. These grant funds will be used to conduct a feasibility and master planning study of Matton Shipyard, a threatened early 20th century facility important to the story of New York’s Erie Canal. The project will result in plans for re-purposed structures, interpretation, and community space open to the public. Continue reading
This week on “The Historians” podcast Radio Boston news producer Jamie Bologna of WBUR-FM interviews Bob Cudmore about Cudmore’s years as a radio reporter in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, when GE was starting to downsize there. Listen to the podcast here. Listen to WBUR’s finished reports on the story here. Continue reading