Tag Archives: Jefferson County

NY Political History: The 1863 U.S. Senate election


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200px-Preston_King_-_Brady-HandyBefore 1913, when the Seventeenth Amendment requiring the direct election of U.S. Senators went into effect, the state legislature elected them. In the pre-Seventeenth Amendment era, 150 years ago, one of the most tangled and acrimonious U.S. Senate elections took place.

The term of the incumbent Republican U.S. Senator, Preston King of Ogdensburg, St. Lawrence County, was set to expire on March 3, 1863. King sought reelection but powerful forces within the Republican Party led by the aging party boss Thurlow Weed and former U.S. Senator William H. Seward opposed King, as did the Democratic Party. King’s political fate would be decided by the newly elected 1863 legislature after it organized itself for business on January 6, 1863. Continue reading

North Country Oddity: Dr. Dunlap of Watertown


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Out of Europe in 1872 came a cable from Doctor John L.Dunlap of Watertown, informing his hometown friends that Louis Thiers, president of France, had welcomed and befriended the North Country’s most prominent physician and statesman. So impressed was Thiers with Dunlap’s support of the common man that, according to the doctor’s telegram, a statue was to be erected in his honor.

 A detailed description of the sculpture was provided, to be done in the finest Carrara marble and placed in the Capitoline Museum in Paris or “beside that of the Apollo of the Belvidere in the Vatican at Rome.” In keeping with Dunlap’s politics, the sculpture’s inscription was to read, “The will of the people is the supreme law.”
The cost of commissioning Cordier was placed at nearly $70,000 for the five-year job, and the unveiling was scheduled for March 4, 1877the day John Dunlap planned to be sworn in as America’s 19th president. Now that’s advertising.
Yes, it was all starting to sound a bit bizarre. On the other hand, it may have been a clear-minded effort aimed at self-promotion, truly the doctor’s forte.
Raising the bar a bit, Dunlap had begun claiming that he was engaged to Queen Victoria. In July 1873 was held the grand opening of the Thousand Island House, a spectacular hotel at Alexandria Bay. Since it was the social highlight of the summer season, Dunlap informed the media that he would be in attendanceand planned to meet Queen Victoria there.
The event was huge, with an estimated 10,000 visitors. Dignitaries from across New York State and Quebec were invited to the gala, and some did attend. Newspaper coverage humored readers with a report on Dr. Dunlap’s appearance.
“The doctor came down from the city for the purpose of meeting Queen Victoria, who, from some unexplained cause, did not arrive. Several scions of English nobility were introduced to the Doctor and were much pleased with his scholarly attainments, his commanding figure, and splendid personal appearance, as well as the extempore remarks made by him on that occasion. The Doctor wears next to his heart a beautiful likeness of the Queen, presented by her at the time of their betrothal.”
Did this behavior suggest a mental problem, as some have claimed, or was this just an old man (he was 74) having a lot of fun and enjoying the attention?
In early 1874, Dunlap was taken ill, but managed to recover and mount another run for governor. The Watertown Times offered its support, noting that “The Doctor was swindled out of his matrimonial engagement with the British Queen and cheated out of the Presidency, and yet it is said he will accept the office of Governor of the Empire State.”
At the July 4 celebration at Sackets Harbor, General Grant was expected to speak (he had served two stints there). Dr. Dunlap was invited to give another of his stirring talks, this time on Stephen Douglas, Lincoln’s famous debate opponent.
In August of that year, the newspapers had more fun with this report: “We are informed that Alexander, Emperor of Russia, has abdicated in favor of Hon. John L. Dunlap of this city, who will henceforth be known as Emperor John the First.”
At the time, it may have been all in good fun. Dunlap was a likable guy and unabashedly open, providing great copy for newspapermen. After all, his medicinal claims, political forays, decades of seeking the presidency, and supposed connections to foreign leaders were very entertaining.
Viewed 150 years later, they suggest an oddball character, and maybe someone not playing with a full deck. But perhaps the truth lay in his love of attention, his devotion to politics, and his great talent for promotion. What seemed eccentric or erratic may well have been a carefully contrived personal marketing plan.
Whatever the case, it worked. Throughout his life, John Dunlap was prominent in the media, a successful physician, and financially well-off from the sale of his medicines. In December 1875, he died at the home of his son and daughter in Parish (Oswego County). His estate was valued at about $30,000, equal to approximately a half million dollars today. He apparently was doing something right all those years.
Four days after his death, the Jefferson County vote totals from the most recent elections were published. True to form right to the end, Dunlap had received a single vote for Poorhouse Physician, tied for last with “Blank” (representing a blank ballot) behind four other doctors.
There’s no doubt that John Dunlap was an unusual man. His contemporaries referred to his “harmless idiosyncrasy” and his fervent love for and involvement in politics. They smiled at his loquaciousness, his many love letters to the queen, and his insistence that the people truly wanted him as president, but that political parties had constantly foiled his efforts.
Even at his death, there were those who suspected he was perhaps crazy like a fox, as indicated in one writer’s eulogy. “And yet, despite these singular mental aberrations, the doctor was a moneymaker. He would never pay anything to advance his political or marital schemes. Herein was ground for the belief of many that the doctor only feigned his peculiarities, the better to be able to sell his medicines, for no matter with whom he talked on the subject of politics or the like, he was sure before the end of the conversation to pull out a bottle of his medicine, urge its efficacy, and try to make a sale.”

John L. Dunlaptireless salesman, dyed-in-the-wool patriot, presidential aspirant, and Watertown legendtruly a man of the people.
Photo: Notice of Dunlap’s appearance at Alexandria Bay (1873).

Lawrence Gooley has authored eleven books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 24 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing

John L. Dunlap: A Jefferson County Eccentric


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Eccentricsthey’re part of virtually every community, and, in fact, are usually the people we remember best. The definition of eccentricbehavior that is odd, or non-customarycertainly fit Watertown’s John L. Dunlap. 

Historians noted his “peculiar kinks of mind,” and referred to him as “a person of comic interest,” but they knew little of the man before he reached the age of 50. His peculiarities overshadowed an entertaining life filled with plenty of substance. And he just may have been pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes.

Dunlap’s story began more than 200 years ago, rooted in the American Revolution. In 1774, his father (John) and grandfather emigrated from Scotland to Washington County, N.Y. In 177778 they fought in the War of Independence and saw plenty of action. According to a payroll attachment from his regiment, Dunlap served at Ticonderoga.
 Years later, he became a Presbyterian pastor in Cambridge, New York, and in 1791 married Catherine Courtenius. It took time for the reverend to see the light about the rights of manrecords indicate that he freed Nell, his slave, in September 1814, not long after several of his parishioners had liberated their own slaves.
Among the children born to John and Catherine Dunlap was John L., who arrived in the late 1790s. He was reared on stories of his dad and grand-dad battling for America’s freedom. While his father ministered to the spiritual needs of several Washington County communities for many decades, John L. became a doctor in 1826 and likewise tended to their physical needs for more than 20 years, serving in Cambridge, Salem, and Shushan.
Dunlap focused on two passions in life: his line of self-developed remedies for all sorts of illnesses, and a consuming interest in politics on both the state and national level.  He pursued both with great vigor and developed a reputation as an orator in the Albany-Troy area.
On July 4, 1848, John delivered a stirring oration at the courthouse in Troy, an event so popular that reportedly “thousands were unable to find admission.” Repeat performances were so in demand that for the next two years he gave the same speech in Troy, Utica, and elsewhere, at the same time marketing and selling his various medicines. Dunlap’s Syrup was claimed to cure Consumption, Dyspepsia, Scrofula, Liver Complaints, and other ills.
Just as his father had left Washington County decades earlier to help establish churches in several central New York towns, Dunlap took his speech on the road to Schenectady, Utica, and other locales. Crowds gathered to hear his famous lecture and purchase his line of medicines.
He had sought public office in the past, but his increasingly high profile and passion for politics presented new opportunities. At the 1850 state Democratic Convention in Syracuse, Dunlap’s name was among those submitted as the party candidate for governor. Horatio Seymour eventually won the nomination.
Shortly after, Dunlap settled in Watertown and announced his Independent candidacy as a Jefferson County representative. He was as outspoken as alwayssome viewed him as eccentric, while others saw in him a free thinker. Fearless in taking a stand, he called for the annexation of Cuba and Canada, and was a proponent of women’s rights.
Viewed from more recent times, those stances might sound a little off-the-wall, but there was actually nothing eccentric about the annexation issues. The Cuban idea was a prominent topic in 1850, and the annexation of Canada was based in America’s Articles of Confederation, which contained a specific clause allowing Canada to join the United States. And as far as women’s rights are concerned, he proved to be a man far ahead of his time.

In late 1851, Dunlap went on a speaking tour, including stops in Syracuse and Rochester, and announced his candidacy for President. The Syracuse Star said, “We suspect he is just as fit a man for president as Zachary Taylor was.”
From that point on, Dunlap was a perennial candidate for office, always running but never winning. In 185556, he announced for the US Senate; not gaining the nomination, he announced for the Presidency (he was promoted as the “Second Old Hickory of America”); and not winning that nomination, he announced for the governorship of New York. And he did all of that within a 12-month span.
All the while, Dunlap continued selling his medicines and seeing patients in his office at Watertown’s Hungerford Block. An 1856 advertisement noted: “His justly celebrated Cough and Lung Syrup, to cure asthma and bleeding of the lungs, surpasses all the preparations now in use in the United States.”
Another of his concoctions was advertised in verse:
“Let me advise you ’ere it be too late,
And the grim foe, Consumption, seals your fate,
To get that remedy most sure and calm,
A bottle of Dr. Dunlap’s Healing Balm.”
His vegetable compounds were claimed as cures for dozens of ailments ranging from general weakness to eruptions of the skin to heart palpitations. There was no restraint in his advertisements, one of which placed him in particularly high company.
It read: “Christopher Columbus was raised up to discover a new world. Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, captivated by her charms two Roman Generals, Julius Caesar, and Marc Antony. Napoleon Bonaparte was raised up to conquer nearly all of Europe and put down the Inquisition in Spain. George Washington was raised up to be the deliverer of his country. Dr. John L. Dunlap of Watertown, N.Y. was raised up to make great and important discoveries in medicine, and to alleviate the sufferings and prolong the lives of thousands of human beings.”
Next week: Part 2Dunlap gains a national reputation.
Photo: Official handbill of the People’s Convention promoting the candidacy of Dunlap and Grant (1864).
Lawrence Gooley has authored eleven books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 23 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

Civil War of 1812: A Sackets Harbor Perspective


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In this first-year observance of the War of 1812 Bicentennial, the Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site will host noted author and historian Alan Taylor. In a presentation of his current work, The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels & Indian Allies, Taylor will offer his perspective on Sackets Harbor’s role in the War of 1812 as it evolved along the northern frontier.

Alan Taylor is the author of six books, including Liberty Men and Great Proprietors: The Revolutionary Settlement on the Maine Frontier; The Divided Ground: Indians, Settlers, and the Northern Borderland of the American Revolution; and William Cooper’s Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early Republic for which he was awarded both a Pulitzer Prize in History and the Bancroft Prize. Continue reading

Sackets Harbor War of 1812 Bicentennial Kick-Off


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Sackets Harbor will kick-off the commemoration of the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 with two great events on Saturday, June 16, 2012. The commemoration will begin at 1:00 P.M. with the dedication of the War of 1812 Bicentennial Peace Garden in Market Square Park on West Main Street in Sackets Harbor.

The dedication of the Peace Garden is one of many such dedications that will occur throughout the Great Lakes Region in Canada and the United States to celebrate two hundred years of peace and longstanding friendship between two countries that share the world’s longest undefended border.

Following the Peace Garden dedication ceremony, everyone is encouraged to proceed to Harold W. Townsend American Legion Post 1757 on Ambrose Street in Sackets Harbor for a traditional pork barbeque, starting at 2:00pm. The barbeque is being hosted by the Sons of the American Legion, in conjunction with the Sackets Harbor Battlefield Alliance.

The program at the Legion will include tributes to those who sacrificed their lives during the War of 1812 from both sides of the conflict.

The cost of the meal is $5.00 per person. Seating is limited and tickets can be purchased in advance by contacting the American Legion at (315) 646-3530.

For more information about the events, call Dave Altieri at (315) 489-3642.

War of 1812 Naval Bases at Sackets Harbor and Kingston


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The Annual Meeting of the Sackets Harbor Battlefield Alliance, Sackets Harbor Historical Society, and the Sackets Harbor Area Cultural Preservation Foundation will feature a talk by John R. Grodzinski entitled “A Tale of Two Dockyards: The Naval Bases at Sackets Harbor and Kingston in the War of 1812.”

The War of 1812 witnessed the unprecedented employment of naval power on Lake Ontario. From their humble pre-war beginnings, the dockyards at Sackets Harbor and Kingston grew in scale and by the end of the conflict, were producing ships of a scale intended more for the open ocean than inland seas. This presentation will examine the naval commitment made by Great Britain and the United States on Lake Ontario during the War of 1812 and the legacy of those efforts.

This free event will be held on Tuesday, May 29th, 2012 at the Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site’s Barn on Hill Street, off Washington Street in Sackets Harbor. The annual meeting begins at 6 pm; the program at 7 pm. Light refreshments will be served.

John R. Grodzinski teaches military history at the Royal Military College of Canada at Kingston, Ontario. He is author of  Sir George Prevost: Defender of Canada in the War of 1812 (forthcoming, University of Oklahoma Press) and several articles examining various topics related to the War of 1812. Grodzinski is also the editor of the on-line War of 1812 Magazine and conducts staff rides and battlefield tours that consider the Seven Years’ War, the American War of Independence, the War of 1812 and the development of fortifications in Canada from 1608 to 1871.

Illustration: The Kingston (now Ontario) naval yard at Point Fredrick in 1815 by E. E. Vidal (watercolor)  now hanging in the Massey Library at the Royal Military College of Canada.

Honors Awarded at Great Lakes Trail Quilt Event


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A regiment of Canadian quilters and a Pennsylvania woman have won Viewer’s Choice honors from the Great Lakes Seaway Trail War of 1812 Bicentennial Quilt Show. The show featured 1812 period-correct and pictorial quilts from 18 U.S. states and from across Canada.

The favorite quilt of the more than 1,000 visitors to the show hosted by three early 19th century historic sites in Sackets Harbor, a New York State 1812 Heritage Community, was made by nine of the living history interpreters at Upper Canada Village, Morrisburg, Ontario.


Janice Toonders, who demonstrates spinning and weaving at the Village, designed the quilt using an Irish chain pattern. Toonders, Martina Bols, Linda Brown, Mary Casselman, Christine Christie, Ivah Malkin, Marjorie Munroe, Judy Neville, and Sharon Shaver used wool cloth, silk thread and cotton fabrics to fashion symbols from the 1812 time period for the colorful pictorial. Sharon Shaver, the quilting demonstrator at Upper Canada Village, added the binding and quilting.

“British Major Sir Isaac Brock is front and center. Lieutenant General Sir George Prevost is aside as he navigates his horse home in shame for not advancing his troops at Plattsburgh. We have the First Nation’s Confederacy leader Tecumseh and Joseph Brant, the Mohawk Chief who was working with the British to create a nation in the west,” Toonders explains.

The Upper Canada Village quilters also included the sloop “Wolf” that fought in one of the Battles of Sackett’s Harbour. A bear, a moose, a First Nation’s symbol, a British sailor and Laura Secord who notified the British of a U.S. attack are also among the quilt’s storytelling images.

Quilts from four Canadian provinces made up approximately 30 percent of the show’s quilts.

The show’s second Viewer’s Choice winner is the “Underhill Tree of Life Whole-Cloth Quilt” made by Jill C. Meszaros of Cambridge Springs, PA, 25 miles south of Erie and the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Pennsylvania. The all-blue quilt is intricately quilted by hand with a dark blue thread.

Meszaros says, “I chose to create a whole-cloth quilt to honor my family heritage and the history of quilting and our nation. My fourth great-grandfather, Major David Underhill traveled to Huron County, Ohio, in 1810. In 1812 he reacted to the news that the British and Indians were landing only to learn they were really soldiers in Hull’s army. As I quilted, my husband was away and I imagined what it would have been like in 1812 to wait for him to come home.”

Meszaros, a stay-at-home mother of six, fashioned her design after the Clarke Family Quilt in the book “Massachusetts Quilts” and used fruit, floral and foliate motifs inspired by “Quilts-Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum.” The quilt’s batting is wool, typical of the 1812 time. She says, “The last stitch went in the I day I shipped the quilt to the show.”

Show manager Lynette Lundy-Beck notes, “This show inspired people to learn more about the War of 1812, its battles, the soldiers and their loved ones, and about the quilters’ own families. This show is indeed a storytelling event that interprets the travel themes for the Great Lakes Seaway Trail in many interesting and personal ways, and that is what makes this quilt show unique among quilt shows and tourism showcases.”

Much of the war was fought along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, a National Scenic Byway in the U.S. The 518-mile leisure driving route parallels the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario, Niagara River, and Lake Erie. Quilting is just one of many travel themes for the byway.

Watch www.seawaytrail.com/quilting for details on the impact of the 2012 show and for guidelines on the Beauty of the Byways theme for the 2013 show.

1812 Reenactor to Exhibit Period Sewing Implements


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Living history reenactor Ted Schofield of Chaumont, NY, makes his own War of 1812 and Civil War uniforms by hand using period reproduction sewing implements. He says, “I do all hand work now to be more authentic in my interpretation of the 1812 period.”

On March 17 and 18 as part of the Great Lakes Seaway Trail National Scenic Byway War of 1812 Bicentennial Quilt Show event, Schofeild will display his collection of tools, iron needles; scissors; buttons; binding; threads; fabric swatches, including linsey-woolsey; and a rose blanket and homespun blanket common to the early 19th century time.


At the show, Schofeild will be dressed in period costume, selecting from his interpretations of a New York State militiaman, a US naval enlistee or an 1812 civilian. He will be joined by living history interpreters from the Fort La Presentation Association of Ogdensburg, NY; Genesee Country Village and Museum, Mumford, NY; the Sackets Harbor Battlefield Alliance and quilters in early 19th century American and English Regency period dress.

The “cot-to-coffin-sized” quilts coming from 18 U.S. states and Canada will be displayed in three 1812-period historic buildings in Sackets Harbor, NY.

The $5 admission benefits the Seaway Trail Foundation. The show is co-sponsored by Orleans County Tourism and the 22-mile Country Barn Quilt Trail loop off the Great Lakes Seaway Trail to barns painted with quilt block patterns.

Quilting is a cultural heritage tourism theme for traveling the 518-mile-long Great Lakes Seaway Trail byway in New York and Pennsylvania. For itineraries and more information, contact Show Manager Lynette Lundy-Beck at 315-646-1000 x203 or visit the web at www.seawaytrail.com/quilting.

Photo: 1812-appropriate sewing implements from reenactor Ted Schofield’s collection.

International War of 1812 Bicentennial Quilt Show Set


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The Great Lakes Seaway Trail National Scenic Byway War of 1812 Bicentennial Quilt Show on March 17 and 18, 2012. The event includes an exhibit of 1812 period-true quilts newly-made made by individuals, quilting guilds, historical societies, and reenactors from 18 US states and from Canada. Three historic sites and living history interpreters and quilters in period dress will lend an historic ambiance to the event.

The former Union Hotel, a three-story limestone structure built in 1817-18 and now the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Discovery Center; the Sackett Mansion built in 1801; and the Samuel F. Hooker House Arts Center, c.1808, will open 10am to 5pm each day with displays of “cot-to-coffin-sized” quilts.


Lynette Lundy-Beck is a project manager with the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, the not-for-profit organization promoting tourism opportunities along the 518 miles of St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes shoreline in New York and Pennsylvania.

The show guidelines for size, fabrics – linsey-woolsey, silk, and fancy cottons, etc., colors, quilt patterns, and embellishments such as broderie perse (Persian embroidery) were developed by Seaway Trail in concert with American quilt historian Barbara Brackman of Lawrence, Kansas.

1812 and English Regency period living history interpreters lending atmosphere in the exhibit buildings and on the village streets will include “President James Madison,” and members of Forsyth’s Rifles with the Fort La Presentation Association of Ogdensburg, NY; MacKay’s Militia from Genesee Country Village and Museum, Mumford, NY; and the Sackets Harbor Battlefield Alliance.

Quilters have been invited to also attend in period dress. 1812 period reenactor Ted Schofield will exhibit his early 19th century reproduction sewing implements. The event’s youngest quiltmaker is a 12-year-old girl from Himrod, NY.

The living history ladies of Upper Canada Village researched and designed a pictorial quilt with embroidery and appliqué depicting soldiers, Natives, moose, and a sailing ship bordered by a traditional Irish Chain pattern.

DeAnne Rosen of Lawrence, Kansas, has dedicated her quilt to her two great-great-great grandfathers and two great-great-great uncles who fought in the war. Her floral work is based on quilts she saw in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England.

A special memorial exhibit of quilts will pay tribute to the late Seaway Trail President and CEO Teresa Mitchell, who developed the concept for the Seaway Trail scenic byway and for quilting as a cultural heritage travel theme along that byway.

The event also features quilting demonstrations and vendors. The $5 show admission benefits the Seaway Trail Foundation. The show is co-sponsored by Orleans County Tourism and the 22-mile Country Barn Quilt Trail loop off the Great Lakes Seaway Trail to barns painted with quilt block patterns.

For more information, call 315-646-1000 x203 or visit the Seaway Trail website.

Canadian Friends of Fort de La Présentation Formed


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A new organization, Canadian Friends of Fort de La Présentation, is partnering with the Fort La Presentation Association in Ogdensburg, New York to advance the education of Canadians in general and students in particular in shared Canadian and American colonial history.

Through seven decades – 1749 to 1813 – encompassing the Seven Years War, the American Revolution and the War of 1812, Canadian and American history intertwined at the mouth of the Oswegatchie River in what is now Ogdensburg, New York.


“The Canadian Friends will develop educational programs and resources, undertake research to advance historical knowledge and widely share these assets through media, local projects and other services,” said Michael Whittaker, president of the Canadian Friends of Fort de La Présentation. “The forts which once stood on Ogdensburg’s Lighthouse Point, La Présentation from 1740 to 1759, Oswegatchie from 1760 to 1796 and Presentation until 1813, are rooted in Canadian history from the last years of New France through the first 50 years of British colonial rule.”

With recognition as a non-profit corporation by the Canada Revenue Agency, the Canadian Friends of Fort de La Présentation is undertaking a campaign to attract members and donations for which charitable tax receipts will be issued. All communications from the Canadian Friends will be in English and French.

They are already working actively with the Fort La Presentation Association to plan the fourth annual War of 1812 Symposium in Ogdensburg April 27 and 28, 2012. The symposium, featuring four speakers from each country, will attract an audience drawn equally from Canada and the USA .

“We hope to fund the Canadian speakers at the War of 1812 symposium,” said Mr. Whittaker. “I live in Bishop’s Mills and know those of us on the Ontario side of the St. Lawrence River look forward to expanding our co-operation with our friends in New York .”

Two of the historians featured in the recent PBS production, “The War of 1812,” are giving seminars at the 2012 symposium. Four other historians who appeared in the production have presented at previous symposia.