Tag Archives: Industrial History

The Untold Story of Jeremiah G. Hamilton


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prince of darkness_MECH_01.inddShane White’s book Prince of Darkness: The Untold Story of Jeremiah G. Hamilton, Wall Street’s First Black Millionaire (St. Martin’s Press, 2015) is the story of 19th century business man Jeremiah Hamilton, who overcame adversity and discrimination to become one of the wealthiest men of his time, earning a fortune of $2 million, valued at $250,000 million in today’s world.

This is a historical account of an African American man who held his own in the business world, bought a mansion in rural New Jersey, and owned railroad stock on trains he wasn’t legally allowed to ride. Cornelius Vanderbilt, America’s first tycoon, came to respect, grudgingly, his one-time opponent. Continue reading

Brooklyn Heights: An Industrial History


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brooklyn heights book coverRobert Furman’s book Brooklyn Heights: the Rise, Fall and Rebirth of America’s First Suburb (The History Press, 2015) is a substantial illustrated history of Brooklyn. The book takes a look at the moving forces of history, and shows that technology is the great creator and destroyer, especially in the rise and fall of cities.

Brooklyn was once a great industrial city, like many others. It was enabled by transportation technology: steam ferries, railroads, canals. It was once the largest freight port in the world, in particular in Red Hook’s Atlantic and Erie Basins. They were the discharging end of the Erie Canal, and later expanded into international shipping. Continue reading

A Short History of the Finger Lakes Wine Country


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finger lakes wine countryThe new book Finger Lakes Wine Country (2015 Arcadia Publishing), by Finger Lakes local author Sarah S. Thompson, is a photographic journey covering 150 years of viticulture and winemaking in New York’s Finger Lakes region, and its pivotal role in American wine history.

The book is a regional history of the wine industry, told through more than 200 vintage images from collections of area wineries, museums, historical societies, archives and passionate residents. Continue reading

Early Upper Hudson Valley Beer Event


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upper hudson valley beerThe Waterford Historical Museum and Cultural Center presents the last of their Winter Lecture Series on Tuesday, March 8th from 7 pm – 8 pm. The featured speaker is Craig Gravina, co-author of the book Upper Hudson Valley Beer and co-founder of the Albany Ale Project.

Brewing in the Hudson Valley has a long and rich history dating back to the first Dutch settlers of 17th century Beverwyck – now present day Albany. An integral part of society, brewing was a major trade in Dutch New York. Since brewery equipment was expensive, many of the brewers were wealthy and many were appointed to positions of authority, becoming the city’s founding fathers. Many of the original Dutch brewer’s families continued beer making well into the 18th Century. Gravina will also be signing and selling his book Upper Hudson Valley Beer. Continue reading

Antique Engine Event at Hanford Mills Museum


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hanaford mills museumAntique tractors, Model A Fords, outboard motors, a 1956 Chevy Belair and a variety of gas and steam-powered engines will be featured at the 32nd Annual Dan Rion Memorial Antique Engine Jamboree and Powerfest at Hanford Mills Museum on Saturday, September 12 from 10 am until 5 pm.

The Museum’s wood-fired steam boiler plant will power horizontal and vertical steam engines. The event also will feature Mill tours, renewable energy exhibits, children’s activities, and live music with the Stoddard Hollow String Band. Continue reading

Schenectady Suds: Historic Stockade Beer Tour


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unnamedThe Schenectady County Historical Society will host walking tours of the Historic Stockade District to examine the history of brewing in the area from the colonial era to today’s craft brew revival.

Each tour begins with a look at the SCHS exhibit Hops & Hogsheads: Beer from Colonial to Craft Brew, and concludes with a tasting and tour at Mad Jack Brewery at the Van Dyck Restaurant and Lounge. Continue reading

Early Years Of Steamboating On The Hudson


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800px-Robert_R_Livingston,_attributed_to_Gilbert_Stuart_(1755-1828)In 1798, Robert R. Livingston, Jr. (1746-1813) requested and obtained a monopoly from the New York State Legislature granting him the exclusive right to operate passenger steamboats on the Hudson River.

The Livingston family was very wealthy and owned the large estate, Clermont, just south of Albany. They ran an iron foundry and machine shop for many years where they had installed a steam engine to power the equipment. Continue reading

Rondout National Historic District: A Walking Tour


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Church steeple with Mary Power steamship weathervane, seen from President's Place.A walking tour of The Rondout-West Strand National Historic District in Kingston, sponsored monthly by Friends of Historic Kingston, contrasts the results of a heartbreaking 1960’s urban renewal project with the gentrification that followed in an area that escaped the wrecking ball.

After the entire east side of Lower Broadway was demolished in 1967 vintage 19th century buildings on the opposite side stood empty, awaiting what seemed their inevitable fate. Luckily, federal funding ran out and what is today the Rondout – West Strand National Historic District was spared. New structures were built part-way up the east side of the hill. The restored neighborhood brings to my mind the painful image of a one-winged bird. Continue reading

A Short Biography of Engineer Benjamin Prescott


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Pipes of the Albany Water Works excavated by Wolfert Roost CC circa late 1980s002The Wolfert’s Roost Country Club in Albany maintains a small dam, pond, and pump house to provide water for their golf course. In the 1980s workers excavating the pond, which is fed by the Maezlandtkill, discovered several sections of ancient wooden and very early cast iron pipe along with iron bands. The pipe and other artifacts were placed in the woods near the club’s tennis courts and forgotten.

Benjamin Prescott, engineer of Albany’s first municipal water system and the man responsible for those pipes, is all but equally forgotten, despite an illustrious career in engineering.  Prescott served as an Engineer in the American Revolution, Superintendent of the Springfield Armory, and was the designer of several notable projects, including one of this nation’s first inclined planes (on the Connecticut River). He also conducted a 1790s survey of Niagara Falls, consulted on the Erie Canal, designed the Troy Sloop Lock (the Federal Dam) and more. Continue reading

Bourbon Empire: America’s Whiskey Past, and Future


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Boubon EmpireBorn of necessity in the colonies, fine-tuned and perfected over the centuries – witnessing civil war, Prohibition, and the marketing genius of Madison Avenue – bourbon continues to this day to be one of the most popular and iconic spirits of America.

In Bourbon Empire: The Past and Future of America’s Whiskey (Viking, 2015), Reid Mitenbuler provides a popularly accessible history of this unique industry and a personal commentary on how to taste and choose your bourbon. Continue reading