Tag Archives: Labor History

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and NYC’s Minority Plumbers


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01Minority PlumbersShifting alliances can make strange bedfellows and surprising adversaries. The push to integrate the New York City Plumbers Union as the Civil Rights Act was cobbled together 50 years ago shows how our perceptions and expectations can change with time.

Not long before the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, construction began on what is now the Hunt’s Point Food Distribution Center, the largest food distribution complex in the world. Full integration of the union workers at Hunts Point, supported by many, might have derailed or undermined this important legislation. Continue reading

Special Downton Abbey Tours at Staatsburgh


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image003Fans of the popular PBS television series can enjoy a “Downton Abbey experience” at Staatsburgh State Historic Site (also known as Mills Mansion) this fall.

The site will present two different tours that compare Staatsburgh to Downton Abbey. Staatsburgh, the turn-of-the-century home of socialite Ruth Livingston Mills and her husband, industrialist Ogden Mills, was a real-life American version of the British drama. Continue reading

Competing Visions of the British Empire


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ben_franklins_worldHow and where did the North American and Caribbean colonies fit within the British Empire?

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, Abigail Swingen, professor of history at Texas Tech University and author of Competing Visions of Empire: Labor, Slavery, and the Origins of the British Atlantic Empire (Yale University Press, 2015), leads us on an exploration of how colonists and British imperial officers viewed the colonies and their place within the British Empire during the late 17th and early 18th centuries. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/036

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Building the Erie Canal


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ben_franklins_worldA “little short of madness.” That is how Thomas Jefferson responded when two delegates from New York approached him with the idea to build the Erie Canal in January 1809.

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, Janice Fontanella, site manager of Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site in Fort Hunter, New York, joins us to discuss the Erie Canal, its construction, and the impact that this waterway made on New York and the United States. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/028

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Women Workers In Amsterdam’s Carpet Mills


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Amersterdam Mill WorkerModestly but eloquently, Sue Fraczek described her life as an Amsterdam mill worker, “When I went to work, I was scared to death. It was my first time in a carpet mill. It was hot. It was noisy.”

Fraczek was surprised to see herself as a young mill worker in a still picture prominently featured in “Historic Views of the Carpet City,” the WMHT-TV documentary on Amsterdam first shown in 2000. Co-producer Steve Dunn chose the picture of the young woman at a yarn twisting machine to symbolize the documentary that he and I produced. Continue reading

Walking Tours of New Croton Dam Planned


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New_Croton_Dam_from_below wikipedia user Matthiasb“Breathtaking”, “awe inspiring”, “feel the power!” These are just a few of the comments on Trip- Advisor’s entry for the New Croton Dam, yet many who live nearby have never visited one of the Hudson Valley’s signature engineering feats.

Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct and Teaching the Hudson Valley want to change that and invite the public to visit the dam for special walking tours Thursday, April 23, at 4 pm and Saturday, April 25, at 11 am. Laura Compagni-Sabella will lead both tours, highlighting the stories of the hundreds of immigrant workers who risked life and limb to build the dam between 1892-1905. Continue reading

African-American History: Seeking Fortune In The North


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BrickmanAerial[1]When Harvey Griffin became a member of the Monticello Fire Department in 1875, he was the only African-American living in the village, and one of just a handful in all of Sullivan County.

In 1930, when the population of the county was just over 35,000, and the area stood poised on the brink of its Golden Age, census figures reveal there were 91 African-Americans living here. That’s just over one-quarter of one percent of the population. Continue reading

Schenectady Immigrants: Italians and Poles


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Schnectady ImmigrantsPresented by Robert Pascucci, Ph.D., will present “Electric City Immigrants: Italians and Poles of Schenectady, 1880-1930”, on Saturday, March 28, 2015 at 2 pm at the Schenectady County Historical Society, 32 Washington Avenue, Schenectady.

Dr. Pascucci’s presentation will focus on the two largest immigrant groups, Italian and Polish, that settled in Schenectady during its period of rapid economic growth that was fueled largely by General Electric and the American Locomotive Company.  How these two immigrant groups adjusted to the city will be examined, as well as the impact that the new arrivals had on Schenectady. Continue reading

Amsterdam: Short History of People’s Silk Store


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Peolple's Silk Store Amsterdam NYSamuel L. Kupferberg’s ancestors were in the fabric trade so it was only logical that he pursued that line of work. Born in Romania in 1893, Sam had 17 siblings. Two of his older brothers had started fabric businesses in New York City. Getting to America from Codaesti, Romania was an issue for Sam. During World War I Romanian Jews were confined to their villages. After the war Sam left the old country in 1920 for New York City where he worked with his oldest brother, Jacob.

In 1926 Amsterdam’s People’s Silk Store, which sold fabrics and draperies, was for sale. Sam took the train upstate, bought the business and kept the name. Continue reading

Unseen Hand: An 1869 Fort Hunter Diary


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003 - SXSHS In 1988, a small leather-bound diary was bequeathed to Schoharie Crossing State Historic site by Clarke Blair, who received it from Gertrude Ruck – a descendent of Michael Brown. Brown was one of the brothers that owned and operated the Brown Cash Store located at Lock 30 in Fort Hunter, NY from the mid-19th to early 20th century.

The diarist is unknown – nonetheless, it is obviously a personal journal of a Fort Hunter resident, and references to notable local families, places and events of 1869 fill its yellowed pages. Continue reading