Tag Archives: Labor History

Adirondack Civilian Conservation Corps Event


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The Adirondack Museum will offer its fifth event in the 2012 Cabin Fever Sunday series, the “Adirondack Civilian Conservation Corps: History, Memories and Legacy of the CCC,” in North Creek, (Warren County) on Sunday, March 11, 2012.

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a public works program that operated from 1933 to 1942 as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. In the Adirondacks, enrollees built trails, roads, campsites and dams, they stocked fish, built and maintained fire towers, observers’ cabins and telephone lines, fought fires, and planted millions of trees. Learn about camp life and Adirondack projects with author Marty Podskock.

Marty Podskoch, a retired reading teacher, is the author of three other books: Fire Towers of the Catskills: Their History and Lore (2000); Adirondack Fire Towers: Their History and Lore, the Southern Districts (2003); Adirondack Fire Towers: Their History and Lore, the Northern Districts (2005). While gathering stories of the forest rangers and fire tower observers, he became fascinated with other aspects of the Adirondacks such as the logging and mining industries, the individualistic men who guided sportsmen, the hotels they stayed in, the animals, railroads, etc. Marty and his wife, Lynn, live in Colchester, CT where they are close to their family and two granddaughters, Kira and Lydia. He enjoys hiking in the nearby Salmon River Forest and is doing research on the CCC camps of the Adirondacks and Connecticut. For more information, visit http://www.cccstories.com/index.html.

This program will be held at the Tannery Pond Community Center, North Creek, N.Y., and will begin at 1:30 p.m. Free to members and children; $5 for non-members. For additional information, please call (518) 352-7311, ext. 128 or visit www.adirondackmuseum.org.

Peter Feinman: The Debate Rages Over History Jobs


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The American Historical Association (AHA) held its annual conference on January 5-8, 2012, in Chicago. One of the non-academic issues it addressed was the employment situation in the history profession. The impetus for the last-minute session at the conference on the subject was an essay by Jesse Lemisch, Professor Emeritus of History at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York titled “History is Worth Fighting For, But Where is the AHA?“. Continue reading

Radical Schenectady:Industrial Workers of the World at G.E.


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Dr. Gerald Zahavi, professor of History and Director of the Documentary Studies Program at the University at Albany and also Director of the Schenectady General Electric in the 20th Century Oral History and Documentation Project, will present a talk entitled “Radical Schenectady: Industrial Workers of the World at G.E.” on Thursday, February 2, 2012 at 6:00 p.m., at the Schenectady County Historical Society, 32 Washington Avenue, Schenectady, NY 12305.

The cost of the program is $5.00, free for Schenectady County Historical Society members. For more information, please contact Librarian Melissa Tacke at 518-374-0263, option 3, or by email at librarian@schist.org.

The Schenectady County Historical Society is wheelchair accessible, with off-street parking behind the building and overflow parking next door at the YWCA.

New Book on Adirondack CCC Camps


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Marty Podskoch’s newest book Adirondack Civilian Conservation Corps Camps: Its History, Memories and Legacy of the CCC, is now available. The 352-page large-format book contains 185 interviews, over 50 charts and maps, and over 500 pictures and illustrations.

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) began on March 31, 1933 under President Roosevelt’s “New Deal” to relieve the poverty and unemployment of the Depression. Camps were set up in many New York towns, state parks, and forests. Workers built trails, roads, campsites and dams, stocked fish, built and maintained fire tower observer’s cabins and telephone lines, fought fires, and planted millions of trees. The CCC disbanded in 1942 due to the need for men in World War II.

“My book is not a comprehensive history of the Civilian Conservation Corps, but the history of the 26 Adirondack CCC camps and the stories of the young men who left their homes to earn $25 a month to help their families survive during the Great Depression,” Podskoch notes in the book’s preface. “The reader will see how these young men developed a sense of worth. Many had only an eighth grade education and were wandering the countryside and city streets in search of a job. Once in the CCC they felt important, learned how to take orders, developed a love of nature, and learned a trade, all of which gave them a sense of self-worth. They knew they were helping their country and their families.”

Podskoch is also the author of five other books: Fire Towers of the Catskills: Their History and Lore, two volumes of Adirondack Fire Towers: Their History and Lore covering the Southern and Northern districts, and two other books, Adirondack Stories: Historical Sketches and Adirondack Stories II: 101 More Historical Sketches from his weekly illustrated newspaper column.

You can by the book in local stores for $20.00. It can also be purchased by contacting the author at (860-267-2442) or at 43 O’Neill Lane, East Hampton, CT 06424. Include $3 for shipping.

If you have information or pictures of relatives or friends who worked at one of the CCC camps, contact Marty Podskoch at: 36 Waterhole Rd., Colchester, CT 06415 or 860-267-2442, or podskoch@comcast.net

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers.

NYC Landmarks of Labor Films, Lectures, Discussions


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The Historic Districts Council has announced a series of Films, lectures and discussions on NYC’s sites Associated with the Labor Movement. The series of programs will explore New York City’s 19th and 20th century buildings where laborers and organizers lived, worked, and staged notable events related to the labor movement. Participants will learn about the history and future of New York’s labor buildings – including homes, factories, and public squares – and discover the preservation efforts currently underway to save some of these spaces.

Tickets for the entire series are available for $55/$35 for Friends, seniors & students. Advance reservations are required. Tickets can be ordered by visiting or contacting www.hdc.org, 212-614-9107 or hdc@hdc.org.

Remembering the Spatial History of Labor: Where Are Our Landmarks?
Wednesday, November 2, 6:30pm, Seafarers and International House, 123 East 15th Street, 2nd Floor, Manhattan

Fee: $15 for general public/$10 for Friends, seniors & students

This panel will examine the built environment of the labor movement, discussing how and why to preserve significant buildings and sites associated with labor history. Panelists will delve into both cultural and social history such as waterfront laborers and the labor movement among different immigrant groups. Speakers include historians Joyce Mendelsohn and Richard A. Greenwald; and novelist and essayist Peter Quinn, chronicler of Irish-America.

Resistance in Film: Screening of On the Waterfront with discussion

Tuesday, November 8, 6:30pm, Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Avenue, Manhattan

Fee: $15 for general public/$10 for Friends, seniors & students

The industrial history of New York City dominated the city’s commerce for more than three centuries. Elia Kazan’s acclaimed film, On the Waterfront, depicts midcentury working conditions along the mob-controlled piers of the Hudson River. The film is based on a 24-part Pulitzer prize-winning series in the New York Sun exposing corruption and racketeering characterizing operations on the water. Noted architectural historian Francis Morrone will speak after the film about its significance in New York City history and culture.

Greenwich Village: Labor History in Bohemia Walking Tour

Sunday, November 13, 10:30am, the exact location for the tour will be announced upon registration.Tour lasts approximately two hours.

Fee: $35 for general public/$25 for Friends, seniors & students
Greenwich Village has a long and distinguished involvement in American Labor History. This walking tour will address the 10,000 marchers in the first Labor Day Parade (1882), the Socialist-led Rand School of Social Science, the founding site of the ILGWU, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, the Uprising of 20,000, the Catholic Worker, Cooper Union, and sites associated with Emma Goldman, John Reed, Margaret Sanger, Clara Lemlich, and Samuel Gompers. Come learn from Justin Ferate, one of New York City’s foremost tour guides, about these significant sites.

Landmarks of Labor is sponsored in part by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the New York City Council and by the New York State Council on the Arts. HDC also wishes to thank New York City Council Members Inez Dickens, Daniel Garodnick, Stephen Levin and Rosie Mendez for their support of this series.

Power in a Union: The Story of American Labor


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There Is Power in a Union: The Epic Story of Labor in America by Philip Dray is an epic, character-driven narrative that moves between picket lines, union halls, jails, assembly lines, corporate boardrooms, the courts, the halls of Congress, and the White House.

Dray (NPR Interview) presents an urgency of the fight for fairness and economic democracy for working people — a struggle that remains especially urgent today, when ordinary Americans are so beset by economic troubles.

From the textile mills of Lowell, Massachusetts, the first real factories in America, to the triumph of unions in the twentieth century and their waning influence today, the con­test between labor and capital for their share of American bounty has shaped our national experience. Dray’s ambition is to show us the vital accomplishments of organized labor in that time and illuminate its central role in our social, political, economic, and cultural evolution.

Philip Dray is the author of At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America, which won the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award and made him a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and Stealing God’s Thunder: Benjamin Franklin’s Lightning Rod and the Invention of America, and the coauthor of the New York Times Notable Book We Are Not Afraid: The Story of Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney, and the Civil Rights Campaign for Mississippi. He lives in Brooklyn.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

‘Shades of Gentility’ Saturday Lecture in Albany


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Historic Cherry Hill and Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site will present “Shades of Gentility”, a lecture on refinement given by Historic Cherry Hill’s curator, Deborah Emmons-Andarawis. Emmons-Andarawis will explore the homes and possessions of three of 18th century Albany’s leading citizens – Philip Van Rensselaer, Stephen Van Rensselaer III, and Philip Schuyler – in order to uncover the subtleties of class in early New York. This lecture is part of the special series: Got Class? Status and Power in Early America, a collaborative effort between Historic Cherry Hill and Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site. The Got Class? Series is funded by the New York Council for the Humanities.

This free event will be held on Saturday, October 15th at 3:00pm at First Church in Albany. For more information about this event or the Got Class? Series call Historic Cherry Hill at (518) 434-4791 or email mary@historiccherryhill.org.

Historic Cherry Hill, located at 523 ½ South Pearl Street in Albany, NY, is a non-profit historic house museum built in 1787 and was lived in continuously by five generations of the same family until the death of the last family member in 1963. The museum is currently undergoing a large restoration project and offers a Behind-the-Scenes Restoration tour from April through December, on Wednesday afternoons at 1, 2 and 3pm and Saturday afternoons at 2 and 3pm. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and college students and $2 for children between the ages of 12 and 18. An Architecture Hunt for Families is also offered on Saturdays between 1 and 2pm at the admission price of $2 for adults and $1 for children ages 6-11. Visit Historic Cherry Hill’s website at www.historiccherryhill.org for more information.

Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site, located at 32 Catherine Street in Albany, NY, was once the home of Philip J. Schuyler, the renowned Revolutionary War General, US Senator and business entrepreneur. He and his wife Catharine Van Rensselaer descended from affluent and powerful Dutch families. Together they raised eight children in this home. Throughout the Schuyler family occupancy from 1763-1804, the mansion was the site of military strategizing, political hobnobbing, elegant social affairs, and an active family life. Guided tours are available mid-May through October 31st, and are offered on the hour, Wednesday through Sunday, 11:00am to 4:00pm. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and college students. Children under 12 are free. Visit www.schuylerfriends.org for more information about Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site.

Behind the Scenes Servants Tour at Vanderbilt Mansion


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The Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site is offering a unique opportunity on weekends through the end of October. On the “Servants to Stewards Tour” participants will be assigned the role of a servant and learn about the running of the Vanderbilt household as you tour the home from behind the scenes, meet your supervisor, catch a glimpse of your living quarters and get a list of your daily duties.

While no manual labor is actually involved, this tour requires climbing 74 steps. Comfortable shoes and a willingness to participate are essential. The tours are available Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 AM through October 30th.

Standard tour fees apply. Participants must be over the age of ten. This program is not handicap accessible. Reservations required – call 845-229-7770 daily from 9:00 to 4:00 to inquire and reserve.

Photo: The Butler’s Pantry at Vanderbilt Mansion.

Albany: Got Class? Status and Power in Early America


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Historic Cherry Hill and Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site present the first of six events in a special series funded by the New York Council for the Humanities called: Got Class? Status and Power in Early America. Dr. Tamara Plakins Thornton, history professor at the State University of New York, Buffalo, will explore the nuances of class in 18th century America in her lecture, Status and Power in Early America, the opening program of the Got Class? series. The lecture takes place on Saturday, September 17th at 2pm at the Carole F. Huxley Theater at the New York State Museum. A reception will follow the lecture.

In early America, wealthy southern planters, northern merchants and Hudson River families like the Schuylers and Van Rensselaers liked to think of themselves as American aristocrats even though they lived in a land with no real dukes and earls. Dr. Thornton’s talk will explore the many ways in which America’s upper classes strove to distinguish themselves from common folk, imitate Old World aristocrats, and establish themselves as an elite. Dr. Thornton is the author of the book Cultivating Gentlemen: The Meaning of Country Life among the Boston Elite, 1785-1860.

This is a ticket-only event and tickets must be purchased prior to September 17th. The registration deadline for the lecture is September 10th, 2011. The cost of tickets are $10.00 per person which includes the lecture and reception following. To register please call Mary at Historic Cherry Hill at 518-434-4791 or email mary@historiccherryhill.org.

Historic Cherry Hill, located at 523 ½ South Pearl Street in Albany, NY, is a non-profit historic house museum built in 1787 and was lived in continuously by five generations of the same family until the death of the last family member in 1963. The museum is currently undergoing a large restoration project and offers a Behind-the-Scenes Restoration tour from April through December, on Wednesday afternoons at 1, 2 and 3pm and Saturday afternoons at 2 and 3pm. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and college students and $2 for children between the ages of 12 and 18. An Architecture Hunt for Families is also offered on Saturdays between 1 and 2pm at the admission price of $2 for adults and $1 for children ages 6-11. Visit Historic Cherry Hill’s website at www.historiccherryhill.org for more information.

Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site, located at 32 Catherine Street in Albany, NY, was once the home of Philip J. Schuyler, the renowned Revolutionary War General, US Senator and business entrepreneur. He and his wife Catharine Van Rensselaer descended from affluent and powerful Dutch families. Together they raised eight children in this home. Throughout the Schuyler family occupancy from 1763-1804, the mansion was the site of military strategizing, political hobnobbing, elegant social affairs, and an active family life. Guided tours are available mid-May through October 31st, and are offered on the hour, Wednesday through Sunday, 11:00am to 4:00pm. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and college students. Children under 12 are free. Visit www.schuylerfriends.org for more information about Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site.

New Collection of Union Labels Available Online


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In 1889, in response to growth in the number of labor unions, New York State passed a law offering unions an opportunity to register their labels, names, brands, or other devices with the Secretary of State. It was thought that this procedure of officially recognizing the uniqueness of each labor association or union logo would help avoid the confusion that might result from similar designs.

The law was amended in 1943 to substitute the Department of Labor as the registering agency. Hundreds of labels were registered during the period from 1901 to 1942, the time period represented by a new collection of online images hosted by the New York State Archive [link].

Most union labels were made of paper and usually fairly simple in design; a few were colorful and elaborate. One of the devices registered was a branding iron designed to literally “make an impression.” However, the labels were intended to do more than just identify an association of people who made a particular product or service; all projected, explicitly or implicitly, the pride that members had in their trade, while encouraging solidarity with workers everywhere.

In Wilimington: ‘Adirondack Tools and Tales’


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The Wilmington Historical Society will host a program with historian and author Don Williams entitled “Adirondack Tools and Tales” on Friday, July 15th at 7 pm at the Wilmington Community Center on Springfield Road in Wilmington (Essex County). Early Adirondack settlers had to live and survive in a rugged mountain environment with a harsh climate. Mr. Williams will explain how the tools they used were critical to that survival.

Don Williams grew up at the ingress of the Northville-Lake Placid Trail and on Route 30. He has authored nine books of Adirondack and local history and has written over 250 articles for magazines including Adirondack Life and the Journal of Outdoor Education. He served as Adirondack regional editor for New York Sportsman Magazine for twenty years. His “Blueline” newspaper column has appeared weekly in four newspapers since 1989. He also hosted the television program Inside the Blueline in Gloversville and Glens Falls for a total of six years.

Don Williams has appeared regularly as an Adirondack lecturer and storyteller at schools and organizations throughout the northeast for over forty years. He appears in the PBS documentary, The Adirondacks. A former school principal and licensed Adirondack guide, he has taught “The Adirondacks” at grade schools, libraries, high schools, colleges and elderhostel. Don lives in his “replicated Great Adirondack Camp” with his wife, Beverly, in Gloversville.

The “Adirondack Tools and Tales” program on July 15th is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served. For further information, contact Karen Peters at (518) 524-1023 or Merri Peck at (518) 946- 7627.

Women’s Rights: Race, Class and Ethnicity


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This Saturday, April 9th, at 7:00 pm, Historic Huguenot Street will host another in its Second Saturdays Lecture Series. The featured speaker will be Harriet Davis-Kram, Professor of American History at Queens College in New York City. The title of her talk is “Women’s Rights: A Struggle of Race, Class and Ethnicity.”

The quest of American women for equal rights dates back to the 18th century. One need only read the letters Abigail Adams sent to her husband John at the Constitutional Convention, warning him, “You’d better not forget the ladies.”

By the early 19th century, women’s voices were often heard in the debate over the abolition of slavery, and a number of educated women began to see similarities between their own social, economic, and political status, and that of the slaves they were fighting to emancipate. A small group of abolitionists would go on to found the movement for women’s equality. Davis-Kram will explore this history and the internal tensions that were part of the fight for women’s equality.

New York women were very much a part of this movement. Sojourner Truth is well known for her leading role in advocating for the end of slavery. Less well known is the key role she played as an African-American woman in the later struggle for women’s rights. She was a contemporary of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, among others. So too was Lydia Sayer Hasbrouck, the Middletown woman who made her mark as a dress reformer and as the publisher of “The Sybil,” a 19th century women’s rights periodical. Saturday’s talk is a prelude to the reinterpretation of the Abraham Hasbrouck House at Historic Huguenot Street. When this house reopens in 2012, the story told will focus on the lives on women in early New Paltz.

Davis-Kram, who has been teaching for over 30 years, specializes in the areas of American Women’s History, American Labor History, Immigration, and New York City History. Dr. Davis-Kram also guides walking tours in New York City focusing mostly on the 19th-century up through 1920. Her talk is made possible through Speakers in the Humanities, a program of the New York Council for the Humanities. Speakers in the Humanities lectures are made possible with the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the New York State Legislature, and through funds from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation.

The talk will be held in the LeFevre House, located at 54 Huguenot Street in downtown New Paltz. There is a suggested donation of $5. For more information, call 845.255.1660 or visit www.huguenotstreet.org.

Coverage of 1911 Triangle Factory Fire


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The New York Times City Blog has been running a series of posts commemorating the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, which happened 100 years ago today on March 25, 1911.

There are links to the posts below, but first, here’s a brief description of what happened from Wikipedia: “[The Triangle Fire] was the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of the city of New York and resulted in the fourth highest loss of life from an industrial accident in U.S. history. The fire caused the deaths of 146 garment workers, who either died from the fire or jumped to their deaths. Most of the victims were recent immigrant Jewish and Italian women aged sixteen to twenty-three.”

“Many of the workers could not escape the burning building because the managers had locked the doors to the stairwells and exits. People jumped from the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors. The fire led to legislation requiring improved factory safety standards and helped spur the growth of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, which fought for better working conditions for sweatshop workers.”

Here is a round-up of the City Room’s outstanding coverage:

Liberating Clothing Made in Confinement

A Half Hour of Horror

A Frontier in Photojournalism

Editorial Cartoons

One Woman Who Changed the Rules

New Leaders Emerge

Labor Laws and Unions in the Fire’s Wake

In a Tragedy, a Mission to Remember

Garment Work in New York 100 Years After the Triangle Fire

The Building Survives

Remembering the Triangle Fire, 100 Years Later

Remembering Triangle Fire’s Jewish Victims

Clinging to Memories

In Search of Today’s Sweatshops

Labor Event: 1911 Triangle Factory Fire


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FIRE! PLEASE HELP US WE ARE TRAPPED! These were the words screamed on Saturday afternoon on March 25, 1911. It was the horrific Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York’s Greenwich Village that took the lives of 146 mostly young immigrant women and changed the course of history.

To mark the centennial anniversary and recognize the significance of the Triangle tragedy, members of the public are invited to a special free program, which will be presented at the New York State Museum Friday, March 25, at 4 p.m. to coincide with the date and time of the fire. Sponsored by the Capital District Triangle Fire Centennial Coalition, the event will honor those who lost their lives and focus on the wide range of labor, health and safety laws that required better worksites in the aftermath of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire.

State Assemblyman John McEneny will emcee the event. U.S. Representative Paul Tonko, WCNY – Syracuse News Director Susan Arbetter and Dr. Christopher Breiseth, a Frances Perkins scholar and former president of Wilkes University, and Paul Cole, Executive Director of the American Labor Studies Center will all be part of the program.

Albany Roman Catholic Diocese Bishop Howard J. Hubbard is also scheduled to participate and help close the New York State Labor-Religion Coalition annual 40-hour fast for social justice, as part of the Triangle Commemoration.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was the greatest work place tragedy New York has seen, prior to the World Trade Center attacks in 2001. This tragedy changed the course of history by shining a bright light on the injustices that occur in the work place. It paved the way for the unyielding efforts to protect workers on the job and reminds us that we must not take work place safety for granted.

Frances Perkins was the first woman to hold a U.S. cabinet post when she served as secretary of labor under President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s. Perkins witnessed the Triangle fire, which galvanized her commitment to reforming labor laws. She later served on the New York State Factory Investigating Commission, which recommended reforms in the aftermath of the Triangle fire.

The Capital District Centennial Coalition includes the NYS Department of Labor, NYS Department of Education (NYS Museum, NYS Library, NYS Archives), NYS Archives Partnership Trust, American Labor Studies Center, Catherwood Library-Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations, University at Albany, Capital District NY National Association of Women in Construction Chapter, Coalition of Labor Union Women-Kate Mullany Chapter Capital District, NYS Labor-Religion Coalition, Occupational and Environmental Health Center of Eastern NY, OSHA-Albany Office, NYS AFL-CIO, New York State United Teachers, Public Employees Federation, and CSEA.

NYSUT, PEF, CSEA, the New York State Department of Labor and the American Labor Studies Center provided support for the program.

Broadcast Marks 100th Anniversary of Triangle Factory Fire


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On March 25th, 1911, a deadly fire broke out in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York’s Greenwich Village. The blaze ripped through the congested loft as petrified workers — mostly young immigrant women — desperately tried to make their way downstairs. One door was blocked by fire and the other had been locked by the factory owners to prevent theft.

Some workers managed to cram onto the elevator while others ran down an inadequate fire escape which soon pulled away from the masonry and sent them to their deaths. Hundreds of horrified onlookers arrived just in time to see young men and women jumping from the windows, framed by flames. By the time the fire burned itself out, 146 people were dead. All but 23 of the dead were women and nearly half were teenagers.

The harrowing story of an event that changed labor laws forever, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE Triangle Fire is directed and produced by Jamila Wignot (Walt Whitman, The Rehnquist Revolution) and will premiere on Monday, February 28, 2011 at 9:00 PM (check local listings.)

A Progressive History of Union Square, NYC


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Even in the supersized world of New York City, Union Square stands out for its astonishing legacy. Yet most of that rich history was lost in the square’s descent from a city showplace to an area approached only at personal peril.

Union Square’s 300-year story is finally told by author/photographer James Isaiah Gabbe in The Universe of Union Square, a coffee-table book and companion DVD (Visions & Voices) that marks the first time the history of the square has been captured from a progressive cultural perspective.

The book relates the people, places and events that shaped so much of America’s progressive tradition while the DVD brings the chronicle up to the moment through 60 lively interviews with city officials, business owners, artists, activists, clergy and others whose lives are intertwined with this remarkable place. More information about the book and a full list of interviewees can be found online.

Gabbe, a former journalist and historian is a longtime resident of Union Square and was for many years the president of the Union Square Partnership – the nation’s first business improvement district.

As president of the Union Square Partnership Gabbe thought he knew the area’s history well enough to create a nicely illustrated brochure, but wherever he turned, Gabbe heard stories that led him through a warren of intrigue and Dickensian characters.

Three years, hundreds of interviews and site visits later, The Universe of Union Square spans 265 pages of fascinating vignettes and nearly 1000 archival images and contemporary photographs. Visions & Voices, the companion DVD, brings the chronicle up to the moment through 60 lively conversations with city officials, community activists, business leaders, academics, clergy, artists and others whose lives are intertwined with this remarkable place.

Gabbe’s exploration extends to an eight-block radius beyond the confines of the park, touching nine adjacent neighborhoods that together form Union Square’s “Universe.”

“Who knew that such a small area of land would become a cauldron in which an unprecedented diversity of people would shape America’s restless, progressive soul,” Gabbe said. “By turns violent and peaceful, with triumph and dismay, Union Square was witness and party to the growth of a nation.”

The Universe of Union Square explores the area’s people, architecture, institutions and happenings through eight thematic chapters – highlights include:

* Peter Stuyvesant’s Harvest: From the Lenape Nation and European Walloons to “blue bloods” and immigrants, a look at the area’s changing populations, including the criminal fringe, from prosperity through hard times between World War I and the 1980s. Includes notable architectural landmarks, the Greenmarket and acts of violence.

* Democracy’s Stage: The “universe’s” history – and legacy – as New York’s center of free public expression. From Civil War protests and Lincoln proclaiming “right makes might” to serving as headquarters for the nascent labor movement and political activists of all persuasions – through to providing the world a haven to mourn and heal after 9/11.

* Creative Cauldron: Celebrating the impresarios, actors, writers, artists and musicians who have made their mark here. Covers the area’s role as the original “heart” of Broadway and the Yiddish theater; the earliest center for American opera; the birthplace of American vaudeville and the modern nightclub; and home to many famed arts clubs and enterprises that founded the film industry.

* Inventive Ventures: This is where gutsy entrepreneurs built the peerless Ladies’ Mile, a collection of urban shopping emporiums that set the stage for modern department stores but have never been equaled. And where scores of other fascinating enterprises were fostered, including world-famous Strand Book Store, Blatt Billiards and the landmarked Bowlmor bowling alley.

* Fibers of the Future: Past and present, individuals and organizations exemplifying compassionate and visionary citizenship, from the selflessness of baker Charles Fleischmann, who fed anyone willing to wait in line for bread, to Tammany Hall, which began as a noble civic and political service to immigrants but ended in infamy. This was also home to Peter Cooper, Helen Keller, Teddy and Eleanor Roosevelt, Ida Tarbell, Margaret Sanger and Bill Wilson – all of whom changed society in momentous ways.

The Universe of Union Square also covers the area’s 60 institutions from preschools to universities, libraries to museums – many like NYU, New School, Cooper Union, Stuyvesant and Washington Irving High Schools – created to serve the working class, immigrants and women, who had no access to education. And Gabbe recounts tales of Emma Goldman, Andy Warhol and the Mad Bomber among scores of other famous and infamous characters as it documents the area’s modern resurrection from decades of urban decay.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

New York Anti-Slavery Conference


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In farm fields, artisan workshops, private homes, and brothels then; in fields and orchards, restaurants, factories, private homes and sex-oriented businesses, now—American and foreign-born women, men and children are trafficked and enslaved across New York State.

As the Syracuse Post Standard recently reported, it is as close as the New York State Fair held every summer. According to the Post Standard, a restaurant vendor from Queens was charged earlier this month with allegedly trafficking workers from Mexico to work at the Fair, mistreating and barely paying them, if at all.

“We have both the past and the present to reckon with,” said Martha Swan, Director of the freedom education project John Brown Lives! “Although largely erased from official history and collective memory, New York “promoted, prolonged and profited from” slavery from the 1620s through the 1850s. It continues today, often hidden in plain sight.

“We have organized a two-day Anti-Slavery Convention to put slavery “on the map” as a reality not solely of the South but of New York; and not as a relic but a legacy and crime against humanity still with us today.”

The Convention will be held in Lake Placid, NY, on December 3-4, 2010 and will feature experts on contemporary slavery and human trafficking, scholars, historians, victims advocates, lawyers, artists, and musicians joining with the general public to examine slavery and trafficking in New York State and ways to end it.

The Convention will include a full-day workshop for educators, teaching artists, and librarians at Heaven Hill Farm on Friday, December 3. Advance registration and a $55 fee are required. Call 518-962-4758 to register.

Later that evening at Lake Placid Center for the Arts, Dr. J.W. Wiley from SUNY Plattsburgh’s Center for Diversity, Pluralism & Inclusion will show film clips and lead a lively conversation on how film has shaped American’s perceptions of slavery and race. The event, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m., is free and open to the public.

From 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 4, the Convention will continue at High Peaks Resort on Main Street in Lake Placid with keynote addresses and panel discussions ranging from historical slavery in New York State to up-to-the-minute reports and analysis on slavery and trafficking today.

Dr. Thomas Hopkins, descendent of Harpers Ferry Raider John A. Copeland, will help bring the Convention to a close with a candlelight wreath-laying ceremony at the John Brown Farm State Historic Site at 5:00 p.m..

Partners in the Convention with John Brown Lives! are John Brown Coming Home, the National Abolition Hall of Fame, SUNY Plattsburgh’s Center for Diversity, Pluralism & Inclusion, and the New York State Archives Partnership Trust.

The Anti-Slavery Convention is funded, in part, with support from the New York Council for the Humanities. For more information or a full schedule of events, call 518-962-4758 or go to www.johnbrowncominghome.org.

Adk Museum Receives NEH Planning Grant


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The Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake, New York has been awarded a grant in the amount of $40,000 by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The funds will be used in the planning and development phase of the museum’s new long-term exhibition “Mining in the Adirondacks,” scheduled to open in 2013.

NEH has designated the Adirondack mining exhibit a National Endowment for the Humanities “We the People” project. Support comes in part from funds the agency has set aside for this special initiative.

The goal of the “We the People” initiative is to encourage and strengthen the teaching, study, and understanding of American history and culture through the support of projects that explore significant events and themes in our nations history and culture, and advance knowledge of the principles that define America.

The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent federal agency created in 1965. It is one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the United States.

The Endowment accomplishes its mission by providing grants for high-quality humanities projects in four funding areas: preserving and providing access to cultural resources, education, research, and public programs.

NEH grants typically go to cultural institutions such as museums, archives, libraries, colleges, universities, public television and radio stations, and to individual scholars.

Photo: Garnet miners at Barton Mines, North River, N.Y.: ca. 1915.


Online: John Timon – Buffalo’s First Bishop



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New York History Review has just published online John Timon – Buffalo’s First Bishop
: His Forgotten Struggle to Assimilate Catholics in Western New York

 by Paul E. Lubienecki. Timon assimilated Catholics and Catholic women into the culture of western New York and established Catholicism while battling the local Protestant clergy and the Catholic hierarchy. You can read more about him here.

Mr. Lubienecki is a doctoral student of History at Case Western Reserve University. His dissertation topic is on the history and influence of the Catholic Church on the American labor movement. The article can be found here on the New York History Review website

Illustration: Bishop John Timon Bust, The Right Rev. John Timon, Bishop of Buffalo, 1847-1867, plaster, A. Pellegrini, Buffalo, 1885. On display in 2002 at Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society.

Yankee Stadium Negro League Anniversary Event


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The Museum of the City of New York will present a program celebrating the 80th Anniversary of the first Negro League baseball game played at Yankee Stadium on Monday, July 26th, at 6:30 pm.

Join Negro League players Bob Scott and Jim Robinson, Dr. Lawrence Hogan, professor and author of Shades of Glory: The Negro Leagues and the Story of African-American Baseball (National Geographic, 2006), and baseball historian John Thorn for a conversation about the game, the times, and what the anniversary tells us about how America has, and hasn’t, changed in the last 80 years.

On July 5, 1930, the first Negro League baseball game was played at Yankee Stadium, ushering in a new era in American professional sports. In addition to its historical importance, the game was also a benefit for the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first African-American labor organization to receive a charter from the American Federation of Labor.

Reservations required. $6, Museum members; $12, non-members; $8, seniors and students.

Photo courtesy the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown, New York.