Tag Archives: Labor History

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.

Rensselaer County Historical to Offer Walking Tours of Troy


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The Rensselaer County Historical Society will offer walking tours of historic downtown Troy on Saturday mornings, leaving from the Market Table at the Troy Farmer’s Market at 10:30 am. “Our walking tours are a fun way to stretch your legs, and learn about the history that surrounds us,” explains Mari Shopsis, Director of Education for the Rensselaer County Historical Society. Each week brings a different theme for the tours, which are led by Historical Society staff and frequently incorporate historic photographs and readings from letters and diaries. The tours last approximately an hour. Cost: $5 for not-yet-members of the Historical Society/members free.

HISTORY WALK: Troy’s Great Fire of 1862
Saturday, May 8, 2010, 10:30 – 11:30 am

One of the most formative events in Troy’s history happened on May 10th, 1862 when within just a few hours a major bridge over the Hudson and more than 500 buildings in the city were destroyed by a huge conflagration known even today as “The Great Fire.” Using excerpts from newspapers and the letters and recollections of people who lived through this event, you will walk back into history as you retrace the progress of this fire and see what impacts this disaster had – not only locally, but nationally.

HISTORY WALK: People, Place & Progress
Saturday, May 15, 2010; 10:30 – 11:30 am

This introduction to Troy history and architecture looks at how the city evolved from its initial founding in 1789 as a village to its 19th century heyday and on into the 20th century. The sites of many important events will be discussed along with some of the people who made the name Troy known around the world.

HISTORY WALK: Underground Railroad Walking Tour
Saturday, May 22, 2010, 10:30 – 11:30 am

Troy was a hotbed of abolitionist activity in the 19th century. This walking tour will highlight the sights associated with the African American community in the first half of the 19th century. Included will be sites associated with the famous rescue of escaped slave Charles Nalle by thousands of Trojans and the now famous Harriet Tubman.

FAMILY HISTORY WALK: History Underfoot and Overhead
Saturday, June 5, 2010; 10:30 – 11:30 am

History is everywhere in Troy. Families with kids ages 5 and up will enjoy this interactive walk through Troy’s past. We’ll look at the buildings around us for clues that tell us about the past and get hands-on with history. You’ll come away saying “I never knew that about Troy!”

HISTORY WALK: People, Place & Progress
Saturday, June 12, 2010; 10:30 – 11:30 am

This introduction to Troy history and architecture looks at how the city evolved from its initial founding in 1789 as a village to its 19th century heyday and on into the 20th century. The sites of many important events will be discussed along with some of the people who made the name Troy known around the world.

HISTORY WALK: Spiritual Troy
Saturday, June 19, 2010; 10:30am – 12:00 pm

This special 1.5 hour walking tour looks at the history of Troy through the history of its houses of worship. Early settlers, increasing diversity, changing populations – all these stories are illustrated by the development of Troy’s religious institutions.

HISTORY WALK: Who Worked Where
Saturday, June 26, 2010; 10:30 – 11:30 am

From night soil removers to buttonholers, night watchmen to steamboat captains – the occupations of 19th century Trojans will surprise and intrigue you. For this walking tour we explore the streets of downtown Troy to see who worked where – and why.

Early American Industries Grants Program


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The Early American Industries Association (EAIA) has announced a $6,000 Research Grants Program to provide grants to individuals or institutions engaged in research projects that relate to historic trades, crafts, and tools and their impact on our lives. The numbers and amount of each grant is to be given at the discretion of a committee, with no one grant to exceed $2,000.

The 2009 grant supported a project on 18th and 19th century coopering in Virginia and New England. Previous grants have supported a wide variety of projects, and normally three or more grants are made each year. A complete list may be found on the EAIA web site.

The Early American Industries Association, established in 1933, preserves and presents historic trades, crafts and tools and interprets their impact on our lives. The Association comprises collectors, curators, historians, antiquarians, librarians, material culturists, and anyone who shares our interests.

The Application deadline for 2010 is March 15. For further information on the EAIA and the Research Grants Program, and to print the four-page application visit their web site, www.EAIAinfo.org or contact Ms. Justine Clerc, Lorleton Assisted Living, 22 West 14th Street, Apt. 129, Wilmington, DE 19805 (302) 652-7297.

Send all inquiries to Research Grants Program c/o Ms. Justine Clerc.

US Cultural History Fellowships Announced


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The Library Company of Philadelphia and Historical Society of Pennsylvania have announced research fellowships in Colonial and U.S. History and Culture for 2010-2011. The fellowships, outlined below, include generally orientated one-month visiting fellowships, and long term dissertation fellowships, and a dissertation fellowship for the study of Early American Literature and Material Texts.

One-Month Visiting Research Fellowships

These two independent research libraries will jointly award approximately thirty one-month fellowships for research in residence in either or both collections during 2010-2011. The two institutions, adjacent to each other in Center City Philadelphia, have complementary collections capable of supporting research in a variety of fields and disciplines relating to the history of America and the Atlantic world from the 17th through the 19th centuries, as well as Mid-Atlantic regional history to the present. For information on the collections, visit www.hsp.org and www.librarycompany.org.

One-month fellowships carry a stipend of $2,000 and are tenable for any one-month period between June 2010-May 2011. Two Barra Foundation International Fellowships, each for $2,500 plus a travel allowance, are reserved for foreign national scholars resident outside the U. S. Some of the short-term fellowships provide for study in specific fields, such as ethnic and immigrant history; history of the book; African American History; visual culture; and economic history (through the Library Company’s Program in Early American Economy and Society). For more detailed information about all of these fellowships, go to www.librarycompany.org/fellowships. We invite inquiries about the appropriateness of proposed topics to jgreen@librarycompany.org. The Library Company’s Cassatt House fellows’ residence offers rooms at reasonable rates.

The deadline for receipt of one-month fellowship applications is March 1, 2010, with a decision to be made by April 15. To apply, visit www.librarycompany.org/fellowships, fill out an electronic cover sheet, and submit one portable document format (PDF) containing a résumé and a 2-4 page description of the proposed research. One letter of recommendation should arrive under separate cover in PDF format as well. Please email materials to fellowships@librarycompany.org. If you wish you apply for more than one fellowship, simply check more than one box on your electronic cover sheet.

Library Company Long-term Dissertation Fellowships

The Library Company also supports dissertation research in residence through the Albert M. Greenfield Foundation Fellowship (on any subject relevant to its collections) and the Program in Early American Economy and Society Fellowship (for research in economic history). The term of these fellowships is from September 2010 to May 2011, with a stipend of $20,000. The awards may be divided between two applicants, each of whom would spend a semester in residence. The application deadline and procedures are the same as for the one-month fellowships as described above, with the addition of a second letter of reference and a writing sample of about 25 pages.

Dissertation Fellowships in Early American Literature and Material Texts

The McNeil Center for Early American Studies, in collaboration with the Library Company, offers two dissertation fellowships in early American literature and material texts, supported by a new grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Fellows will be in residence from July 2010 through July 2011. The stipend for a 13-month term will be at least $28,000. To apply go to www.mceas.org. Deadline, March 1, 2010.

North Creek: Songs and Stories of Loggers, Miners


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Begin the New Year with an afternoon of engaging tunes and tales. Join the staff of the Adirondack Museum for “Working for the Man: Songs and Stories of Adirondack Lumberjacks and Miners.” The special program will be held at the Tannery Pond Community Center in North Creek, New York on Sunday, January 10, 2010 at 3:30 p.m. There will be no charge for museum members and children of elementary school age or younger. The fee for non-members is $5.00.

The historic work of loggers and miners was framed by dangerous conditions, back breaking work, long hours, and low pay. Although daily life was hard and often heartbreaking, it was also filled with music, laughter, stories, and strong community ties.

“Working for the Man” will feature musician Lee Knight singing traditional ballads of logging, mining, and rural life. Museum Educator Christine Campeau will join Knight to share historic photographs, artifacts from museum collections, and stories of work, family, and life in Adirondack logging and mining communities.

Born in the Adirondacks, Lee Knight now lives in Cashiers, North Carolina. He is a singer, storyteller, song collector, and teacher of folklore, folk life, and folk music. He performs regularly at concerts, folk festivals, and summer camps, where he tells stories, sings ballads, and calls dances. He has appeared with Pete Seeger, Jean Ritchie, Bill Monroe, Alan Lomax, and many others. He will play traditional hand-made instruments.

Following the program, Lee Knight will perform at the Copperfield Inn from 4:30 p.m. until 6:00 p.m.

Photo: Ruby Mountain Mine, North River Garnet Company. Collection of the Adirondack Museum.

US Fish Commission Annual Reports Available Online


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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has placed online the annual reports of the United States Fish Commission, also known as the United States Fish and Fisheries Commission, from 1871-1940 and 1947-1979 in PDF format. The Commission was also part of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and these annual reports present comprehensive overview of the U.S. Fish Commission’s activities for each year. The reports are helpful for historians of commercial fishing areas in New York State including Long Island, the lower Hudson River, the St. Lawrence River, and Lake Erie. The entire collection can be found here.

The U. S. Fish Commission was established in 1871. By 1881 the Commission was known as the U.S. Fish and Fisheries Commission. The Bureau of Biological Survey was established in 1885. In 1903 the name was changed to Bureau of Fisheries. The Bureau of Fisheries was transferred on July 1, 1939, from the Department of Commerce to the Department of the Interior. In 1940 the Bureau of Fisheries and the Bureau of Biological Survey were consolidated to form the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Beginning in July 1946, during the transition from war to peace, the Annual Report became a series of Quarterly Reports which presented a summary of bilogical investigations conducted by the Division of Fishery Biology and a general resume of progress of investigations during the entire year. 1957 was the last issue of Annaul Reports of the Fishery Biology, Department of Interior.

The Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956 created the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries and the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife within the Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Interior. The Report of the Bureau of Commerical Fisheries for the Calendar Year 1958… (published in 1962) was the first report for calender year 1957 and reviewed, in detail, the organization of the Bureau, the history of fishery administration and the operation of the Bureau’s predecessor organizations, U.S. Fish Commission and the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries.

The Report of the National Marine Fisheries Service for Calendar Year 1970-1971 covers the period of transition of the Federal fisheries agency from the Deparment of Interior to the newly formed National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Commerce.

Photo: A diagram of a gill net used for Salmon on the St. Lawrence River from the 1871 U. S. Fish Commission annual report.

Presentation On The Poesten Kill Thursday


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John Warren (yours truly) has written the first history of the Poestenkill ­which flows through the center of Rensselaer County and enters the Hudson River at Troy, will offer a book talk and signing this Thursday (October 22nd, 6:30 to­ 8 pm) at the Rensselaer County Historical Society in Troy (57 Second Street, Troy). The event is free and open to the public. Copies of The Poesten Kill will be available for purchase at the event. The Poestenkill has been home to American Indians who hunted, gathered, fished and farmed along its shores, frontier Dutch farmers and traders, colonial tradesmen, merchants, millers, and lumbermen, and nineteenth century iron, steel, textile, and paper workers.

Barrels, Buckets, and Casks: Coopering at Adk Museum


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Coopering is the ancient art of making casks, barrels, vats, buckets, and other circular or elliptical wooden vessels bound together by hoops. Historically, wooden barrels were used for the storage and transportation of all sorts of goods. Coopering was a valuable skill. David Salvetti will demonstrate the art of coopering at the Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake on July 18, 19 and 20, 2009. The demonstration will be held in the Mark W. Potter Education Center from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. and is included in the price of general admission.

David Salvetti’s love of woodworking began at age seven – with simple
projects such as birdhouses. In 2005, at the age of fourteen, woodworking became something more. The Salvetti family visited the Adirondack Museum in July of that year. The rustic furniture on exhibit fascinated David. Inspired by what he saw, Salvetti cut a sapling on the family’s property and built a twig chair. Another chair
followed in 2006 – winning “Best in Show” (4-H Youth Division) at the Oswego County Fair. David entered the white birch chair in the 2007 New York State Fair, Adult Arts and Crafts competition – winning another blue ribbon. David’s prize-winning rustic chair is on display at the Adirondack Museum and will become part of the permanent collection.

David Salvetti’s exploration of traditional woodworking techniques has led him to build his own shed, making shingles to cover the structure by hand. He has learned to make watertight wooden buckets without nails, adhesives, or modern sealants. He demonstrates his skills at Fort Ontario State Historic Site in Oswego, N.Y.

Coopering is part of a summer-long series of craft and trade demonstrations at the Adirondack Museum. To see a complete listing, visit the museum’s web site www.adirondackmuseum.org and click on “Special Events.”

Photo: Wooden sap bucket, ca. 1800s. Collection of the Adirondack Museum.

William F. Fox, Father of NY Forest Rangers


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Last week the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) held a ceremony to honor William F. Fox, the “father” of the state’s modern-day forest rangers, on the 100th anniversary of his death. Fox was born in 1840 in Ballston Spa, Saratoga County, and graduated from Union College in Schenectady in 1860. He served in the Civil War as Captain, Major and then Lieutenant Colonel in the 107th New York Volunteers and later wrote a number of books on both the Civil War and forestry. Fox’s 1902 History of the Lumber Industry in the State of New York, written under the auspicious of Gifford Pinchot, is considered the first authoritative work on the logging industry in New York.

Fox became New York’s “Superintendent of Forests” in 1891. He quickly came to the conclusion that the then-current fire patrol system — which used “fire wardens” (firefighters who only worked when there were fire emergencies) and local ad hoc firefighters — couldn’t handle the job of forest protection. He wanted a paid staff – a new “forest guard” service — to cover the Adirondacks and Catskills.

Fox wrote a report to state leaders outlining how he’d organize the patrols: each ranger assigned to a township seven-miles square, residing in a log cabin built near the center of the township — but in the woods, not a village. This forest guard “would keep a sharp watch on any skulker who might be a possible incendiary.” In sum, Fox said he wanted to shift the emphasis from reacting after fires started to patrolling the woods before.

Despite Fox’s advocacy, the state Legislature did not act immediately. Meanwhile, towns became reluctant to enlist local firefighters because of costs. Then came massive fires in 1903 (500,000 acres burned in the Adirondacks) and 1908 (605 fires over 368,000 acres across the state), finally prompting elected officials to take action. In 1909, Gov. Charles E. Hughes signed legislation that brought sweeping changes to the Forest, Fish and Game law that included the creation of a fire patrol service in Adirondacks and Catskills. Fox died shortly thereafter at age 69.

Further legislation followed, replacing the “Forest, Fish and Game Commission” with a “Conservation Commission” and creating the title “forest ranger” in 1912. Though he didn’t live to see his vision fully carried out, Fox is still credited with being the father of the forest rangers. One hundred years later, the DEC, which evolved from the Conservation Commission, today employs a statewide force of 134 uniformed Forest Rangers. Their mission of protecting the state’s natural resources remains consistent with Colonel Fox’s vision.

The ceremony was held at Fox’s graveside at the Village Cemetery in Ballston Spa, Saratoga County.

This story was cross posted at Adirondack Almanack, the leading online journal of Adirondack culture, history, politics, and the environment.

LIFE Magazine Picture Archive Hosted at Google


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Google and LIFE Magazine have teamed up to present the magazines photo archive online. Strangely, a search for New York turned up nothing; a search for New York History turns up hundreds of photos, including the shot of men paving a street in Brooklyn in 1890 by George B. Brainerd which was not found in the search results for Brooklyn.

Those problems aside, the archive does include iconic images taken by famous photographers like Margaret Bourke-White, Gordon Parks, and Dorothea Lange. The project is similar to “The Commons” launched by Flickr which now includes photos from the Library of Congress. LIFE has said that as many as 97 percent of the photographs have never been seen by the public before.

Teaching The Truth About New York Slavery


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Professor Alan Singer of Hofstra University has a new book New York and Slavery: Time to Teach the Truth about the complicity of Wall Street institutions in southern slavery. It’s recently been reviewed at the History News Network by William Katz (author of Black Legacy: A History of New York’s African American). Katz argues that no longer can New York educators and historians ignore the facts about the role New York played in slavery. Here is an excerpt from Katz’s review:

Slavery began in the city soon after the Dutch landing in 1609, and enslaved Africans became vital to the colony’s economy. Africans built the first homes, brought in the first crops, turned an Indian path into Broadway, and built the wall at Wall Street. When it became the British colony of New York its bankers and merchants so successfully invested in the international African trade they made it the slave-traders’ leading port. After the Revolution, with the city leading the way, slavery and its profits grew in the land of the free. A greater percentage of white households in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island owned slaves than in South Carolina. The world’s first stock exchange opened in New York in 1792 and half of its 177 stockholders owned slaves. Africans were auctioned to bidders at Wall Street and other city markets. Forced labor made the Empire State…

New York and Slavery indicts a host of prominent New York mercantile and banking families and corporations such as Citicorp which first made its name in the slave trade. Slaveholder names currently grace our buildings, bridges, parks, streets, and schools. This, Singer shows, teaches our children to celebrate men who benefited from the African trade, southern slavery and bondage in New York.