The first Saturday in February, people from across New York bundle up and head to Hanford Mills Museum for its annual Ice Harvest Festival. Using historic tools, children and adults can walk out on the frozen mill pond to cut and maneuver blocks of ice. The ice blocks are pushed up a ramp and then loaded onto sleds, which are hauled to a traditional ice house. Continue reading
Barrels – we rarely acknowledge their importance, but without them we would be missing out on some of the world’s finest beverages – most notably whiskies and wines – and of course for over two thousand years they’ve been used to store, transport, and age an incredibly diverse array of provisions around the globe.
In the new wide-ranging book Wood, Whiskey and Wine (Reaktion, 2014), Henry Work tells the intriguing story of the significant and ever-evolving role wooden barrels have played during the last two millennia, revealing how the history of the barrel parallels that of technology at large. Continue reading
Anthony J. Connors’ Ingenious Machinists: Two Inventive Lives from the American Industrial Revolution (SUNY Press, 2014) recounts the early development of industrialization in New England and New York through the lives of two prominent innovators whose work advanced the transformation to factory work and corporations, the rise of the middle class, and other momentous changes in nineteenth-century America.
Paul Moody chose a secure path as a corporate engineer in the Waltham-Lowell system that both rewarded and constrained his career. David Wilkinson was a risk-taking entrepreneur from Rhode Island who went bankrupt and relocated to Cohoes, New York, where he was instrumental in that city’s early industrial development. Continue reading
A man who started in the knitting business in Amsterdam built the lavish structure now known as Villa Balsamo restaurant off Route 50 between Ballston Spa and Saratoga Springs.
According to historian David Fiske, Floyd J. Shutts was stymied by Amsterdam officials in 1918 when he tried to add on to his factory on Wall Street. Turned down in Amsterdam, Shutts bought property on Saratoga Avenue in Ballston Spa and opened the Ballston Knitting Company in 1920. Continue reading
Friends of Taconic State Park, the organization working to preserve and stabilize the 19th century Copake Iron Works, are seeking historic photos for its interpretative signage project.
Anyone with access to, or possession of, images of the site (especially the centerpiece blast furnace and any houses or other buildings located nearby) is encouraged to contact them at info@FriendsofTSP.org. Continue reading
An old photo album of the Fairview Home For Friendless Children was recently rediscovered while beginning an inventory process of materials in the Collection of the Town of Colonie Historian’s Office and Historical Society.
In the album were these three photos depicting a deep gorge with either a train or trolley trestle in the background, and a view of a very interesting mill complex that may have existed in the Capital District area. Continue reading
This week on “The Historians”, retired history professor and Schenectady County native Julia Kirk Blackwelder discusses her most recent book Electric City: General Electric in Schenectady. Blackwelder is an emerita professor at Texas A&M University, where she previously served as head of the history department. She currently lives in Ballston, New York.
Listen to the interview at “The Historians” online archive at http://www.bobcudmore.com/thehistorians/
Friends of Taconic State Park invites history lovers to have a blast at “Furnace Fest at the Copake Iron Works” on Saturday, November 8th from noon to 2pm. This year’s celebration will feature a display of 19th century ironmaking artifacts from the group’s museum project, a scavenger hunt on the Iron Works history trail, and lunch at the Iron Bar and Grill.
Since its establishment in 2008, Friends of Taconic State Park has carried out several preservation and stabilization projects at the Copake Iron Works including the construction of a protective shelter for the 19th century blast furnace, and extensive masonry repairs to the Engine House and Machine Shop. Continue reading
On November 9, 2014, the Friends of the State Historic Sites of the Hudson Highlands will host a talk on Newburgh’s manufacturing history at Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site.
Industrial Historian Russell Lange, former President of the Newburgh Historical Society, will deliver his popular talk titled, “Made in Newburgh”. For 150 years manufacturing drove the economy of Newburgh providing jobs for over 8,000 men and women. Open to members and the general public, this free talk will take place during their annual meeting starting at 3 pm. Continue reading
The Schenectady County Historical Society will present a talk, “Electric City: General Electric in Schenectady”, which explores the history of General Electric in Schenectady from the company’s creation in 1892 to the present.
Julia Kirk Blackwelder draws on company records as well as other archival and secondary sources and personal interviews to produce an engaging and multi-layered history of General Electric’s workplace culture and its effects on community life. Her research demonstrates how business and community histories intersect, and her nuanced look at race, gender, and class sets a standard for corporate history. Continue reading
The National Park Service has announced that it has listed the New York State Barge Canal on the National Register of Historic Places. The designation recognizes the New York State Canal System as a nationally significant work of early twentieth century engineering and construction that affected transportation and maritime commerce for nearly half a century.
The New York State Barge Canal National Register Historic District spans 450 miles and includes the four branches of the state’s canal system: the Erie, Champlain, Oswego, and Cayuga-Seneca canals– all much enlarged versions of waterways that were initially constructed during the 1820s. The nomination evaluated 791 features and included 552 contributing structures and buildings. Continue reading
Even those who are not particularly astute observers of the current battle for casino licenses have recognized that the struggle has devolved into one in which some of those in the running have resorted to pointing out how desperate they are.
Sullivan and Ulster Counties seem to be in the lead in this dubious category, and although it will likely be worth it if it lands a casino for one or both, it remains to be seen what the long term impact of such reverse promotion will be, especially if no casinos are forthcoming. Continue reading
This week on “The Historians”, Craig Gravina discusses Albany ale, the Albany political machine’s favorite beer (Hedrick’s) and other sudsy topics. Gravina, from Albany, and Alan McLeod of Canada, are co-authors of Upper Hudson Valley Beer, published by History Press.
In the second half hour of the show, I talk with Earl Swift, author of Auto Biography: A Classic Car, An Outlaw Motorhead and 57 Years of the American Dream, the story of a 1957 Chevy.
Listen to the whole program at “The Historians” online archive at http://www.bobcudmore.com/thehistorians/
Since the 1980s, there has been a renaissance in Upper Hudson Valley craft brewing, including Newman’s, C.H. Evans, Shmaltz and Chatham Brewing. Beer scholars Craig Gravina and Alan McLeod explore the sudsy story in Upper Hudson Valley Beer (History Press, 2014).
The Upper Hudson Valley has a long and full-bodied brewing tradition. Arriving in the 1600s, the Dutch established the area as a brewing center, a trend that continued well into the eighteenth century despite two devastating wars. Continue reading
SUNY Albany History Professor David Hochfelder will explore the 19th century economic and transportation innovations that positioned the U.S. as a power house on the world stage, with New York at the forefront in a talk presented this Saturday, September 6, 2014 at 2 pm at the Schenectady County Historical Society, 32 Washington Ave., Schenectady, NY. Continue reading
Hard history is great, but while conducting research, I’m constantly collecting odd and unlikely stories on a variety of subjects. I like to think of them as the offbeat side of history (stretching the definition of history to include all news items from the past) … of little value to historians, but certainly entertaining. Collecting them helps relieve the (sometimes) tedious job of searching hundreds of pages for a few nuggets of information.
Take, for instance, the subject of North Country linemen, those workers who climb utility poles to make connections or repairs. Their daily routine might be as boring as any other job most of the time, but linemen have a measure of danger built into their profession, beginning with working high above the ground. When something goes wrong, the results can be spectacular. Continue reading
The Rensselaer County Historical Society (RCHS) will debut a new, rotating exhibit, Prospect of America: Selections from the Edgar Holloway Art Collection, on Monday, September 8th at 7pm at the 87th Annual Meeting. The exhibit series runs through December 20, 2014. The exhibit is sponsored in part by the McCarthy Charities.
In the early 1970s, Rev. Thomas Phelan was inspired to raise awareness of Troy and the surrounding area’s amazing architectural and industrial heritage. Valuing the power art has to move people to action, Rev. Phelan commissioned English artist Edgar Holloway to spend three summers, from 1973 to 1975, in Troy to document the historic buildings and street scenes. His three years in New York resulted in over 80 watercolors and 15 etchings that have become a historical record themselves of the way Troy, Cohoes, and other outlying areas looked in the mid-1970s. Through Holloway’s art, people began to see the inherent beauty in these often neglected buildings. Advocacy groups formed and several buildings were preserved through the actions of individuals inspired by art. Continue reading
Winegrower 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
Remember the hit song, “Sixteen Tons,” taken to #1 by Tennessee Ernie Ford many decades ago? Most people are familiar with the famous line, “St. Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go, I owe my soul to the Company Store,” meaning, “Hey, I can’t die … I’ve got debt to pay.”
The line referred to Company Towns of the coal-mining industry, where the company owned everything: coal, land, and houses. Workers were paid with scrip―coupons redeemable only at the Company Store, where prices were artificially inflated. Continue reading
The nation’s first bona-fide all-female union was formed in Troy 150 years ago under the leadership of a young Irish immigrant, Kate Mullany, and her colleague, Esther Keegan, in reaction to low wages, 12- to 14-hour workdays and unsafe conditions in the collar factories.
Local writer and director Ruth Henry dramatizes the story in a new musical, “Don’t Iron While the Strike is Hot.” Continue reading