Tag Archives: Literature

Harlem Blues: Last Party At The Lenox Lounge

By on

1 Comment

On New Year’s Eve the cigar smoke was thick on the sidewalk in front of the famed jazz club, the Lenox Lounge. Men in tuxes and women in clingy gowns stepped out of white stretch limos, three deep on Malcolm X Avenue, a.k.a Lenox Avenue in Harlem, as blue notes popped from the chromed doorway.

A huge bejeweled crowd could be glimpsed dancing and drinking through the wide octogon window. Continue reading

Kathleen Hulser: A Gertrude Stein Legacy Spat

By on


Controversy over Gertrude Stein continues to fester and boil, even after the great public acclaim for the Metropolitan Museum’s The Steins Collect show. Michael Kimmelman’s review in the New York Review of Books (“Missionaries,” New York Review of Books, April 26, 2012.  also his July 12 letter in response to criticism) revived old charges that Gertrude was a Nazi sympathizer. Kimmelman gave an overview of the exhibition, which focused on the early years of the Leo and Gertrude Stein in the ebullient art scene in Paris. Continue reading

In the Words of Women: Rev War And Nation’s Birth

By on


Fort Montgomery State Historic Site will host a presentation entitled “In the Words of Women: The Revolutionary War and the Birth of the Nation, 1765-1799” on Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 7 pm.

The book In the Words of Women brings together the writings of women who lived between 1765 and 1799. These writings are organized chronologically around events, battles, and developments from before the Revolution, through its prosecution and aftermath. Continue reading

New Washington Irving Treasury Box Set Published

By on


Three time-honored stories by Washington Irving, classic tales told again and again, have been released together in the cloth-bound box set A Washington Irving Treasury (Universe Publishing, 2012). The high-spirited stories of Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow present memorable folk characters that have become part of America’s literary lexicon, while Old Christmas preserves the nostalgia, warmth, and joy of English Christmas traditions. Continue reading

Auburn Prison, Gillette Case Documentary, Lecture

By on


A North Woods Elegy: Incident at Big Moose Lake is a documentary feature film that explores one of the most famous American murder cases. Grace Brown, a pregnant young woman from upstate New York, was killed in the Adirondacks on July 11, 1906 [watch the trailer].

Her lover, Chester Gillette, was eventually tried and convicted of her murder. Gillette died in the Auburn Prison electric chair on March 30, 1908. The case became the basis for Theodore Dreiser’s 1925 novel, An American Tragedy.

A North Woods Elegy explores the fascination America had, and still has, with the case, encompassing issues of class, jurisprudence in America at the turn of the 20th century and ethics and sensationalism in news reporting.

The documentary film will be shown in Theater Mack at the Cayuga Museum, twice on Saturday, September 15, at 1:00 pm. and again at 4:00,. Derek Taylor, the film’s producer, director and editor, will answer questions after each screening.

At 3:00 p.m., there will be a lecture on “Gillette in Auburn” by Tompkins County Judge Jack Sherman, editor of The Prison Diaries and Letters of Chester Gillette. Gillette spent more than a year in Auburn Prison before his execution; his diary from that time is today in the collection of Hamilton College. Both the film screenings and the lecture are free and open to the public.

New York State Author, Poet Named

By on


Governor Cuomo has announced the appointments of Marie Howe to serve as the 10th New York State Poet and Alison Lurie as the 10th New York State Author.  Howe and Lurie will serve from 2012 to 2014.

“Marie and Alison represent the rich talent and diversity that New York has to offer,” Governor Cuomo said. “Both of them have inspired New Yorkers all across the state, and their works are major assets to us all. They are truly deserving of this honor, and hopefully their great work will now reach a new and even wider audience.”

Donald Faulkner, Director of the NYS Writers Institute, and ex-officio chair of the review committee for the Walt Whitman Award for State Poet of New York, said, “Seldom have I encountered a poet with such a sense of honesty, intimacy, and candor in her work. Marie Howe writes with refreshing openness about love, loss, and redemption. Hers is a voice that will continue to grow in its magic and sheer bravery.”

William Kennedy, Executive Director of the NYS Writers Institute, and ex-officio chair of the review committee for the Edith Wharton Award for State Author of the State of New York, said, “Alison Lurie is a wise and masterful teller of tales that often center on marital strife, domestic disorder, and academic absurdity–comedies of manners of our time but with a deeply human strain. She is a superior prose stylist with a wickedly satirical talent.”

About Marie Howe, New York’s 10th State Poet:

Marie Howe succeeds Jean Valentine as NYS Poet and joins a long line of distinguished poets who have served in the position, including Billy Collins, John Ashbery, Sharon Olds, Jane Cooper, Richard Howard, Audre Lorde, Robert Creeley, and Stanley Kunitz.

Marie Howe said, “I’m honored, surprised, and delighted by this news. New York State has been my life long home: the rivers, the ocean, the maples, the old dismantled elms … I’ve grown up in love with the voices that have been singing from this land: the gorgeous din: the poets who have spoken and the poets to come.”

Marie Howe is the author of three books of poetry and is co-editor of a highly-praised anthology of writing on AIDS. Her poetry is widely admired for seeking answers to metaphysical questions in ordinary day-to-day experience. In Howe’s work, little incidents and inconsequential memories help to shed light on the nature of the soul and self, life and death, love and pain, sin and virtue.

Howe’s first collection, The Good Thief (1988) was selected by Margaret Atwood for the National Poetry Series. In making her selection Atwood described the poems in the volume as “intensely felt, sparely expressed, and difficult to forget; poems of obsession that transcend their own dark roots.” Howe’s second book, What the Living Do (1997), is an elegy to her brother who died of AIDS. Publishers Weekly named it one of the five best poetry collections of 1997. Howe’s third collection, The Kingdom of Ordinary Time (2008) was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

In 1994 Howe published an anthology (coedited with Michael Klein) In the Company of My Solitude: American Writing from the AIDS Pandemic, which presents a wide range of voices speaking out on the impact of the disease.

Born in Rochester, Howe worked as a reporter for a Rochester newspaper and taught high school English before taking up poetry as a serious pursuit at the age of thirty. She is a member of the writing faculty at Sarah Lawrence College. She is the recipient of the Lavan Younger Poets Prize of the American Academy of Poets as selected by poet Stanley Kunitz in 1988, and National Endowment for the Arts and Guggenheim fellowships.

Of her work, Stanley Kunitz, the first named State Poet of the State of New York, wrote, “Marie Howe’s poetry is luminous, intense, and eloquent, rooted in an abundant inner life. Her long, deep-breathing lines address the mysteries of flesh and spirit, in terms accessible only to a woman who is very much of our time and yet still in touch with the sacred.”

The advisory panel that recommended Howe as state poet included poets Sydney Lea (Poet Laureate of the state of Vermont), poet Mark Doty, former state poet Jean Valentine, and poet and Writers Institute Director, Donald Faulkner.

For more information on Marie Howe, visit www.mariehowe.com

About Alison Lurie, New York’s 10th State Author:

Alison Lurie succeeds Mary Gordon as NYS Author and joins a group of eminent authors who have served in the position, including Russell Banks, Kurt Vonnegut, James Salter, Peter Matthiessen, William Gaddis, Norman Mailer, E. L. Doctorow, and Grace Paley.

Alison Lurie said, “I am delighted and honored by this award from the state where I have spent most of my life, a state that has been the home of so many great writers as well as enthusiastic and dedicated readers.”

Alison Lurie is the author of ten novels, a short story collection, and several children’s books and works on nonfiction. She is widely regarded as the Jane Austen of contemporary American letters for her nuanced understanding and lifelike portrayal of social customs and the relationship between the sexes. Lurie’s witty and satirical novels examine middle class life, particularly of characters from an academic milieu in small college towns. Christopher Lehmann-Haupt declared in the New York Times that Lurie “has quietly but surely established herself as one of this country’s most able and witty novelists.”

Lurie is best known for her novels The War Between the Tates (1974), which was hailed as a classic of its time and place, and Foreign Affairs (1984), which received the Pulitzer Prize. Her other acclaimed novels include Love and Friendship (1962), Real People (1969), The Last Resort (1998) and Truth and Consequences (2005).

A champion of children’s literature, Lurie has also written both children’s books and scholarly nonfiction works examining the importance of children’s literature to global literacy and culture.

Lurie grew up in White Plains, NY and graduated from Radcliffe College. She taught at Cornell University from 1968 until her retirement as the Frederic J. Whiton Professor of American Literature in 1998.

The advisory panel that recommended Lurie as state author included the present laureate, novelist Mary Gordon, novelists Dave Eggers and Lorrie Moore, and novelist and Executive Director of the New York State Writers Institute, William Kennedy.

For more information on Alison Lurie, visit www.alisonlurie.com.

About the State Poet and Author:

The State Poet and Author are selected for two-year terms by the NYS Writers Institute, located at the University at Albany, SUNY. The choice for State Author and Poet is based on a substantial body of work of notable literary merit.

The NYS Writers Institute of the State University of New York, located at the University at Albany, was established as a permanent state-sponsored organization through legislation signed into law in 1984. The Writers Institute provides a milieu for writers, both renowned and aspiring, from all over the world to come together for the purpose of instruction and creative exchange.

In 1985 the governor and state legislature empowered the Institute to award the Edith Wharton Citation of Merit for Fiction Writers (State Author) and the Walt Whitman Citation of Merit for Poets (State Poet) to authors whose career achievements make them deserving of New York State’s highest literary honors.

Upon the recommendation of two advisory panels of distinguished writers convened under the aegis of the Institute, the governor awards the citations every two years to one fiction writer and one poet of distinction. Throughout their two-year terms the state laureates promote and encourage fiction writing and poetry throughout New York by giving public readings and talks within the state. The State Author and Poet are not paid, and there is no cost to the state for the designation.

NYS Poets and their terms of service are listed below.

  • Jean Valentine, 2008-2010
  • Billy Collins, 2004-2006
  • John Ashbery, 2001-2003
  • Sharon Olds, 1998-2000
  • Jane Cooper, 1995-1997
  • Richard Howard, 1993-1995
  • Audre Lorde, 1991-1993
  • Robert Creeley, 1989-1991
  • Stanley Kunitz, 1986-1988

NYS Authors and their terms of service are listed below.

  • Mary Gordon, 2008-2010
  • Russell Banks, 2004-2008
  • Kurt Vonnegut, 2001-2003
  • James Salter, 1998-2000
  • Peter Matthiessen, 1995-1997
  • William Gaddis, 1993-1995
  • Norman Mailer, 1991-1993
  • E. L. Doctorow, 1989-1991
  • Grace Paley, 1986-1988

More information on the NYS Poet and Author and the NYS Writers Institute can be found at http://www.albany.edu/writers-inst/

Photos: Alison Lurie (left) and Marie Howe. 

Sir William Johnson’s Bookshelf: Millenium Hall

By on

1 Comment

Sir William Johnson’s 1774 inventory of his New York western frontier estate, Johnson Hall, revealed a superb collection of books and other reading material.

Books were a bit more difficult to acquire in 18th century Johnstown than at present, so one could presume that selecting titles was considered, even more precisely than today, by recommended taste, by familiarity with an author, or perhaps from curiosity after having read a report of the book in the newspapers that arrived from New York City or from England via a New York City agent.
Continue reading

Historic Local Recordings Now Available in Plattsburgh

By on

1 Comment

Access to hundreds of audio recordings that reveal the rich histories of Clinton, Essex, and Franklin Counties are now available at SUNY Plattsburgh’s Feinberg Library’s Special Collections.

Recordings include Adirondack Folk Music; Clinton, Essex, and Franklin County oral histories, including those by local residents born prior to the American Civil War; SUNY Plattsburgh concerts; a 1963 recording of Edward “Doc” Redcay on piano and Junior Barber on dobro; and four-time Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Frost reading his works.

The collection of recordings is the result of a collaborative effort by SUNY Plattsburgh Communications Professor Timothy Clukey and Feinberg Library’s Special Collections staff. According to a statement released to the press “copyright restrictions require that researchers visit Special Collections during open hours to listen to any of these recordings.” The recordings are available as mp3 files on a new Audio Station computer kiosk.

A Soundscriber Recorder was used in the mid-20th century by Marjorie Lansing Porter, historian for Clinton and Essex counties. Porter recorded 456 interviews with elderly local residents telling stories and singing traditional Adirondack folk music.

Among the folk music examples, Granma Delorme sang more than one hundred folk songs for Porter, including a Battle of Plattsburgh ballad composed by General Alexander Macomb’s wife. Included also is “Yankee” John Galusha singing “The Three Hunters,” “A Lumbering We Shall Go,” and “Adirondack Eagle.” Francis Delong sings “My Adirondack Home,” and “Peddler Jack.”

Many of the recorded songs deal with mining, lumbering, Adirondack folk tales, and other subjects, as well as traditional Irish and French folk music handed down through generations. The Porter Oral History Interviews cover many topics of historical interest in Clinton and Essex Counties, such as ferry boats, Redford glass, mining, and lumbering.

The Audio Station also includes 96 interviews conducted by William Langlois and Robert McGowan with elder Franklin County residents in the 1970s.

Plans in the works for additions to the Audio Station include:

Rockwell Kent audio recordings (now on reel-to-reel tapes in Special Collections’ Rockwell Kent Collection);

SUNY Plattsburgh Past President Dr. George Angell speaking on antiwar action in 1967—“Protest is Not Enough”;
The 1965 SUNY Plattsburgh Students for a Democratic Society and S.E.A.N.Y.S. teach-in, “The Vietnam Question,” with introduction by Dr. Angell; 
A1964 speech by Senator-Elect Robert Kennedy on the Plattsburgh campus; and a 1964 meeting between Senator-Elect Kennedy and Dr. Angell, discussing various local and county concerns and other topics.
For more information, contact Debra Kimok, Special Collections Librarian (email: debra.kimok@plattsburgh.edu; telephone: 518-564-5206).

During the summer, the Feinberg Special Collections will be open on Mondays and Tuesdays, from 1 pm – 4 pm, and on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, from 10 am – noon and 1 pm – 4 pm. Saturday appointments can be arranged with the Special Collections Librarian.

Odetta, Richard Wright Being Honored Today in NYC

By on


Today, Tuesday, July 17, 2012 the Historic Districts Council and the Historic Landmarks Preservation Center in New York City will unveil new cultural medallions for two pioneers in the fields of literature and music.

First at 11:00am, in collaboration with the Fort Greene Association, author Richard Wright will be celebrated with a medallion unveiling at 175 Carlton Avenue in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Then at 2:00 pm their will be an unveiling of a medallion commemorating the life of Odetta, the legendary singer, songwriter and political activist, at her longtime residence, 1270 Fifth Avenue, in East Harlem. The public is invited to both events.

Odetta: The Voice of the Civil-Rights Movement, 1930-2008

Odetta Holmes, born on December 31, 1930 in Birmingham, Alabama was a true activist, performance artist and musician. Her powerful image and robust voice was and continues to represent the politically driven folk-music of the 1950’s and 1960’s. As an African-American female performance artist during a time of political and racial upheaval, Odetta was a leader and voice for the civil rights movement; marching with Martin Luther King Jr. and performing a show for John F. Kennedy. The ability she had to convey meaning and life into her music inspired others to follow in her pursuit of fairness, equality and justice.

Author Richard Wright, 1908- 1960

Born in Mississippi, Richard Wright spent the majority of his childhood living in poverty in the oppressive racial and social atmosphere of the south. Wright escaped familial and social constraints by immersing himself in the world of literature, and became one of the first great African American writer’s of his time. Richard Wright relocated to Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood and was living here in 1938 when he drafted his first novel, Native Son. He wrote several controversial novels, short-stories and semi-autobiographical accounts that reflected the brutalities often inflicted on the African American people of the south during this period. Wright eventually left New York City for Paris. His grave is located in the Père Lachaise Cemetery.

About the Ceremony and Cultural Medallion Program

Distinguished scholars, artists and elected officials will be participating in both of the cultural medallion ceremonies. The Richard Wright program will include Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, celebrated playwright Lynn Nottage, Paul Palazzo of the Fort Greene Association, musician and author Carl Hancock Rux, and Howard Pitsch will read a message from Wright’s daughter, Julia Wright, who currently resides in Paris. Pianist Dave Keyes will perform Odetta’s signature piece, This Little Light of Mine, at the Odetta ceremony.

The Cultural Medallions are a program of the Historic Landmarks Preservation Center. Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel, Chair of the HLPC, created the Cultural Medallions program, and will lead the ceremony. The HLPC has installed almost 100 medallions around the city to heighten public awareness of the cultural and social history of New York City.

Walt Whitman Portrait at The Hyde Collection

By on


The Hyde Collection in Glens Falls (Warren County) is offering visitors an unprecedented opportunity to see the remarkable Portrait of Walt Whitman (1887-1888) by Thomas Eakins (1844-1914).

The Whitman portrait is considered one of Eakins’s finest paintings, and only rarely leaves Philadelphia, where it is a featured work in the collection of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA). The image of one of America’s most influential poets, by one of the nation’s greatest artists, will be in Glens Falls for six months, as a second exchange for the year-long loan of The Hyde Collection’s Portrait of Henry Ossawa Tanner (ca. 1897) by Eakins. Continue reading

Wanda Burch on Civil War Letters "The Home Voices Speak Louder than the Drums"

By on


On August 7, 1862, Henry Graves, physically exhausted from walking, fighting, and from four days detail digging trenches under a Petersburg, Virginia, sun and not “a breath of air stirring,” sat down and wrote to his wife, describing the importance of the imagination to survival.

He saw himself standing – not with spade in hand – but eating from a bowl of peaches in the midst of “homefolk” with his coat off, moving across the piazza, enjoying the cool breeze “that almost always is blowing fresh through there.” He told her that he often went into this place in his imagination to pass time swiftly and shared that “soldier mortals” would not survive if they were not “blessed with the gift of imagination and the pictures of hope.” The second “angel of mercy,” he said, was the night dream, which presented him even more vivid pictures of hope than any daydream. Continue reading

NYPL Putting Historical Documents Online

By on


Thousands of historical documents at The New York Public Library – including material handwritten by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and papers from authors such as Mark Twain – will soon be accessible to the public online.

The project, which began in January and will continue through 2014, will digitize documents from the Thomas Addis Emmet Collection, located within the Manuscripts and Archives Division, and almost all the papers of several major American authors in the Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature at The New York Public Library.

“This exciting project is a key element in our goal of creating greater possibilities for our collections and expanding their accessibility worldwide,” said NYPL President Anthony Marx. “Digitizing collections featuring hand-written documents from Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and Mark Twain, among others, provides remarkable new opportunities for scholarly research, and creates new teaching applications for an international audience. The Library is grateful to The Polonsky Foundation and other generous supporters who assist us in this valuable work.”

Technicians at the New York Public Library have already begun digitizing the Thomas Addis Emmet Collection, which documents the founding and early years of the United States – the move towards independence, the Revolutionary War, and the establishment of the federal government. The approximately 11,000 manuscripts in the collection include letters and documents by nearly every patriot and statesman who distinguished himself during this period American history.

Their letters provide insight into important historic milestones, such as the Stamp Act Congress, the First and Second Continental Congress, and the Annapolis Convention; trace the genesis of the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation; and chronicle the successes and struggles of the first Federal Administration. The correspondence and letterbooks of generals and other officers detail their decisions, actions, and relationships during the Revolutionary War.

Highlights of the Emmet Collection include a copy of the Declaration of Independence in Jefferson’s hand, an engrossed copy of the Bill of Rights, and manuscript minutes of the Annapolis Convention. The collection has been a vital and repeatedly consulted resource for American historians since the Library acquired it in 1896.

Following the completion of digitization of the Emmet Collection, nearly all the papers from the Berg Collection’s holdings of Nathaniel Hawthorne, his wife Sophia Peabody Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, Mark Twain and Walt Whitman will be digitized. An estimated 35,000 pages will be scheduled for digitization beginning in January 2013 and be made available through the Library’s website. Items slated for digitization will include:

Hawthorne’s correspondence with President James Buchanan, educator Horace Mann, and fellow authors Oliver Wendell Holmes, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Herman Melville, as well as the diaries of his wife, Sophia Peabody Hawthorne that chronicle her own work as a writer and the literary work of her husband;

An original pencil map of Walden Pond, as well as several Thoreau manuscripts, including Faith in a Seed, about which the novelist Annie Proulx wrote in the Library’s Centennial celebration volume, Know the Past, Find the Future: The New York Public library at 100;

Mark Twain’s manuscripts of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and Following the Equator, and correspondence with such influential American icons as Andrew Carnegie, William Dean Howells, and Theodore Roosevelt;

Numerous poems by Walt Whitman and over 300 of his letters, most of them to his mother and to Union soldiers during the Civil War.

The total cost of the project including both collections is $1 million; a gift of $500,000 from The Polonsky Foundation is expected to be matched by similar donations.

Sean Kelleher: Toasts as Cultural History

By on


Today’s traditions is to raise a glass and offer a toast to celebrate a wedding and a new year. In the 17th through the early 19th century, public toasting was very common and many of these toasts are documented in old newspapers. “Toasts were efforts to draw all present into an agreeable fellowship, whether they wanted to be drawn in or not. At the best. the practice knitted together people from different classes into a comity of good cheer,” explains historian Peter Thompson in And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails.

It was typical during the American War of Independence that 13 toasts were drunk, one for each State, however, the toast below number 18. These toasts were offered on July 5, 1775 by General David Wooster and the officers of the Connecticut forces, who were dining at Mr. Samuel Frances in the Fields with the members of the New York Military Club in New York City. The accounts in Rivington’s New York Gazetteer describe “the day was spent in the utmost harmony every thing conspiring to please being all of one mind and one heart. The following loyal toasts were drank:

1. The king better counselors to him

2. The hon Continental Congress

3. General Washington and the army under his command

4. The several provincial congresses and committees in the confederated colonies

5. A speedy union on constitutional principles between Great Britain and America

6. Conquest and laurels to all those heroes who draw their swords in support of freedom

7. Confusion and disappointment to the friends of despotism and the enemies of America

8. May the disgrace of the rebels against the constitution be as conspicuous as that of the rebels against the house of Hanover

9. All those worthies in both Houses of Parliament who stood forth advocates of America

10. The Lord Mayor and worthy citizens of London

11. The glorious memory of King William

12. The immortal memory of Hampden Sydney and every patriot who fell in defence of liberty

13. May the enemies of America be turned into saltpetre and go off in hot blasts

14. May Great Britain see her error before America ceases in affection

15. May America ever be the dread and scourge of tyrants

16. The daughters of America in the arms of their brave defenders only

17. Death and jack boots before dishonor and wooden shoes

18. The glorious nineteenth of April when the brave Americans convinced General Gage and the friends of tyranny that they dare fight and conquer also

There are a couple of notable items from these toasts. The toasts were drunk the same day as the Continental Congress passed the Olive Branch Petition. The Olive Branch Petition was the last effort of the Continental Congress to avoid war with Great Britain in 1775. Some delegates to the Continental Congress wanted to break with England at this time, but they yielded to the majority who weren’t as radical. Those who were more moderate wanted to explain their position clearly to King George, in hopes that he had been misinformed about their intentions. They made it clear that they were loyal subjects to Great Britain and they wanted to remain so as long as their grievances were addressed. The King refused to even receive their petition. This set the stage for the American Declaration of Independence a year later.

General David Wooster was an American general who served in the French and Indian War and in the American War of Independence (AWI). He died of wounds sustained during the Battle of Ridgefield, Connecticut on May 2, 1777. Cities, schools, and public places were named after him. He has been called “a largely forgotten hero of the Revolution.” A masonic history of Wooster is:

“DAVID WOOSTER was born near Stratford, Conn., March 2nd, 1710-11. After graduation from Yale in 1738, he served as a Lieutenant of the Connecticut Colony sloop “Defense” cruising between Cape Hatteras, Virginia, and Cape Cod, Mass., protecting fishermen and traders against the depredations of Spanish raiders and privateers in “the War of Jenkin’s Ear”. In May 1742 he was promoted to the command of the “Defense”. In the Louisbourg expedition he served as a Captain, commanding a company in the Connecticut contingent, becoming senior Captain at the end of the siege. He was one of an escort of twenty who accompanied the prisoners to France, being assigned to the flag-ship “Launceston” which transported the officers and their families, leaving on July 4th, 1745, in a convoy of eleven ships. This ship proceeded to London where he and his brother officers were feted and honoured in recognition of the great achievement of the colonial troops in the capture of Louisbourg. He was also appointed in December 1745 a Captain in Pepperrell’s new Regiment. It would seem probable that while in London (September to November 9, 1745) he was made a Freemason. On his return to Connecticut he was employed on recruiting service in that State and in December 1745 married a daughter of the President of Yale, Mary Clap, then 15 years of age, his own age being thirty-five. Wooster was on duty with his Regiment at Louisbourg from April 1747 to February 1749 and on the cession of that city back to France in 1748, he returned to New Haven in July 1749. On August 12th, 1750, the Grand Lodge at Boston “At Ye Petition of sundry Brothers (including Whiting) at Newhaven in Connecticut” the charter for the present-day Hiram Lodge, No. 1 was granted, naming David Wooster as first Master. Among his associates were Nathan Whiting and Joseph Goldthwaite, brother officers at the first siege of Louisbourg, at Louisbourg during the period 1747 to 1749. In 1755 he was made a Colonel in the Provincial Army and served in the Campaign of 1755-63 against the French including Quebec in 1759. He took a leading part in the Revolutionary War, and succeeded to the command of Montgomery’s Army at Quebec, after the death of the latter. He was later appointed Major-General in the Connecticut militia and fell mortally wounded while leading an attack at Ridgefield, near Norwalk. A memorial bearing the Square and Compasses stands over the spot where he fell April 27, 1777, while harrying the rear guard of the British troops that had raided Danbury and New Haven. He died May 2, 1777.”

An irony is that General Wooster was an acquaintance of the African-American poet Phillis Wheatley. Phillis Wheatley shared with his widow, Mary (Clap) Wooster, on 15 July 1778, an elegy poem on the death of General David Wooster. This poem is known for its lines concerning slavery in the hero’s prayer at the end: “But how, presumptuous shall we hope to find/ Divine acceptance with th’ Almighty mind — / While yet (O deed ungenerous!) they disgrace/ And hold in bondage Afric’s blameless race…” A contrast to the 18 toasts which do not mention slavery, but do reference “Conquest and laurels to all those heroes who draw their swords in support of freedom”.

Toasts are truly a wonderful area of research. They provide an opportunity to see what our forefathers valued. Toasts are how a community tried to draw in a community in fellowship and celebration.

Illustration: A Birmingham toast, as given on the 14th of July by the–revolution society from Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Sean Kelleher is the Historian for the Town of Saratoga and Village of Victory in the Upper Hudson Valley.

Women’s Writes: A Reading and Writing Workshop

By on


The weekend of March 3rd and 4th, Historic Huguenot Street (HHS) is presenting Women’s Writes, a reading and writing workshop featuring two popular authors, Nava Atlas and Kate Hymes. The weekend kicks-off on Saturday, March 3, at 3pm with a guided tour of HHS’s Deyo House, which is set and interpreted in the Edwardian period, a popular time for many celebrated women authors.

At 4pm, Nava Atlas will read from her latest book, The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life, which explores the writing life of twelve celebrated women writers, including such renowned authors as Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Madeleine L’Engle, Anais Nin, George Sand, Edith Wharton, and Virginia Woolf through their journals, letters, and diaries. On Saturday evening at 7, the Wallkill Valley Writers will read from their anthology which includes personal essays, poems, and stories.

Sunday, March 4 will feature two three-hour Wallkill Valley Writers Workshops led by Kate Hymes. Session 1 is from 9– 12pm and Session 2 is from 1-4 pm. Anyone with a desire to write, whether a beginner or experienced, is invited to attend these workshops which will be held in a safe environment. Sources culled from the HHS archives and other local history will serve as an inspiration for writing throughout the weekend.

Saturday includes a book signing and refreshments. Fees are as follows: Saturday Deyo House Edwardian tour and reading with Nava Atlas: $15. Saturday evening reading with Wallkill Valley Writers: $5. Sunday per session: $40. Full weekend including one workshop on Sunday: $50.

To register or for more information, call 845-255-1660, x103 or email Jan Melchior at jan@huguenotstreet.org.

About the Presenters

Nava Atlas is the author and illustrator of visual books on family themes, humor, and women’s issues, including The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life (2011), exploring first-person narratives on the writing lives of twelve classic women authors, and commenting on the universal relevance of their experiences to all women who love to write. Secret Recipes for the Modern Wife (2009) is a satiric look at contemporary marriage and motherhood through the lens of a faux 1950s cookbook. Nava Atlas is also the author and illustrator of many books on vegetarian cooking, a book on leafy greens will be on the shelves in the spring of 2012. An active fine artist specializing in limited edition artist’s books and text-driven objects, her work is shown and collected by museums and universities across the U.S.

Kate Hymes, a poet and educator living in the Hudson Valley, leads weekly writing workshops and writing retreats. She has over twenty years experience as an educator with experience teaching writing on college level, and over ten years leading workshops for people who make writing an artistic practice. Kate is certified to lead workshops using the Amherst Writers and Artists method. She has co-led trainings with Pat Schneider and other AWA instructors to teach others how to lead workshops. Kate and Pat also lead the workshop: If We Are Sisters: Black and White Women Writing Across Race. Kate serves as Executive Director of the Hudson Valley/Catskill Partnership: Regional Adult Education Network providing technical assistance and staff development to adult educators in a ten-county region of New York State. Kate currently serves as a member of the Dutchess County Arts Council and as panelist for Special Project, New York State Council on the Arts. She has a Master of Arts in American Literature from SUNY Stony Brook.

Chris Pryslopski: The Hudson River Valley Review

By on


As Associate Editor of The Hudson River Valley Review, published by The Hudson River Valley Institute (HRVI), I get to explore the region that I call home and to share these finds with our readers.

While our website allows us to be as expansive as our associates and interns are interested in being, it is the journal that I find most rewarding with its approximately 150 pages per issue that forces us to focus our interests and energies into a concise product every six months. The Hudson River Valley Review is published each spring and autumn, alternating between thematic and open issues. Continue reading

Books: Sleepy Hollow Legends and Lore

By on


Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is one of the best-known works of American literature. But what other myths lie hidden behind the landscape of New York’s Hudson Valley? Imps cause mischief on the Hudson River; a white lady haunts Raven Rock, Major Andre’s ghost seeks redemption and real headless Hessians search for their severed skulls.

Local storyteller Jonathan Kruk relates the other myths that lie hidden behind the landscape of the Lower Hudson Valley in Legends and Lore of Sleepy Hollow and the Hudson Valley (History Press, 2011).

Kurk reveals the origins of the Washington Irving’s Headless Horseman and how the Legend of Sleepy Hollow was shaped and shifted by Henry Hudson, George Washington, Aaron Burr, Joseph Plumb Martin, Sir Walter Scott, Gottfried August Burger, Martin Van Buren, Walt Disney, Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, and a former slave. The author also provides new primary source evidence of the ghostly “Galloping Hessian” and similar tales including the full story of Sleepy Hollow’s other ghosts; Major Andre, White Ladies, Mother Hulda, the Imps, and more.

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

Adirondack Classic Now Available in Paperback

By on


The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) has released the third edition of The Adirondack Reader in paperback. The collection of writings about the Adirondacks, which is also available in hardcover, spans more than 400 years of the region’s history and literature and reflects our nation’s changing attitudes toward wilderness. Edited by the late Paul Jamieson with Neal Burdick, this edition includes the work of some 30 new writers as well as the classic entries of Adirondack explorers and philosophers for which the book is known. A glossy, 32-page, color insert features classic and contemporary Adirondack paintings, illustrations, etchings and photographs. The paperback edition retails for $24.95 and the hardcover lists for $39.95.

“Adirondack literature is an unparalleled mirror of the relations of Americans to the woods,” Jamieson writes. “This is a book about what Americans have sensed, felt, and thought about our unique heritage of wilderness.”

The release of the third edition in 2009 coincided with 400th anniversary of the voyages of Samuel de Champlain and Henry Hudson and the European discovery of the waterways that bear their names. The Adirondack Reader opens with Francis Parkman’s account of Champlain’s voyage. But much of the historical material is contemporary: Isaac Jogues on his capture by the Mohawks, Ethan Allen on the taking of Fort Ticonderoga, William James Stillman on the 1858 “Philosopher’s Camp” at Follensby Pond, and Bob Marshall on scaling 14 Adirondack peaks in a single day. The Adirondack Reader also features writings by James Fenimore Cooper, Robert Louis Stevenson, Theodore Dreiser, Joyce Carol Oates, Henry David Thoreau, Theodore Roosevelt, Richard Henry Dana Jr. and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Newcomers to the third edition include Bill McKibben, Russell Banks, Chris Jerome, Barbara McMartin, Elizabeth Folwell and Philip Terrie. Visual artists represented in its pages include Winslow Homer, Rockwell Kent, Seneca Ray Stoddard and Harold Weston, as well as more contemporary artists such as Anne Diggory, Lynn Benevento, John Gallucci, Laura von Rosk and Don Wynn.

First published in 1964, The Adirondack Reader was lauded for its scope and its success in capturing and conveying the region’s spirit. Jamieson organized the collection into 10 sections and wrote an introduction for each that also imparts a great deal about the Adirondacks’ culture and character. His preface describes a place he knew well and gives readers a context for understanding the Adirondack Park’s unique role in the nation’s development and literature.

In the years that followed, Jamieson and editor Neal Burdick watched with interest the emergence of new voices in Adirondack writing. It is these authors, many of whom live in the region they write about (a marked change from earlier Reader contributors), who Jamieson and Burdick took particular care to include in the current edition. “There has been a remarkable flowering of writing about the Adirondacks in the last two and a half decades,” notes Burdick in his preface to the third edition. “A regional literature of the Adirondacks has come into its own.”

Neal Burdick is associate director of university communications for St. Lawrence University and editor-in-chief of Adirondac magazine. An essayist, reviewer, poet and fiction writer, his writing has appeared in numerous publications. Burdick is also past editor of ADK’s eight-volume Forest Preserve Series trail guides. A native of Plattsburgh, he holds a B.A. in English from St. Lawrence University and a Ph.D. in American studies with a concentration in environmental history from Case Western Reserve University.

Born and raised in Des Moines, Iowa, Paul Jamieson was inspired by the discovery of “uneven ground” in the nearby Adirondacks when he joined the faculty of St. Lawrence University in 1929. It was there, in Canton, that he became a hiker, paddler, author and prominent figure in regional and national preservation efforts. He is widely credited with the opening of many tracts of land and paddling routes to the public. Jamieson lived in Canton until his death in 2006 at the age of 103.

The Adirondack Reader is 544 pages and is available at book and outdoor supply stores, at ADK stores in Lake George and Lake Placid and through mail order by calling (800) 395-8080.

The Adirondack Mountain Club, founded in 1922, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the New York Forest Preserve and other parks, wild lands and waters through conservation and advocacy, environmental education and responsible recreation. ADK publishes more than 30 titles, including outdoor recreation guidebooks and maps and armchair traveler books, and conducts extensive trails, education, conservation and natural history programs. Profits from the sale of ADK publications help underwrite the cost of these programs. For more information, visit www.adk.org.

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

NY Journalism of Djuna Barnes Exhibit Scheduled

By on


“Newspaper Fiction: The New York Journalism of Djuna Barnes, 1913-1919,” an exhibition of 45 objects including drawings, works on paper, documentary photographs, and stories in newsprint by the celebrated writer and early twentieth-century advocate for women’s rights Djuna Barnes (American, 1892-1982), will be presented in the Herstory Gallery of the Brooklyn Museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art from January 20 through October 28, 2012. Among the works on view will be eight illustrations Barnes composed to accompany her newspaper columns.

The Herstory Gallery is devoted to the remarkable contributions of the women represented in The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago, on permanent view in the adjacent gallery. Barnes is one of 1,038 women honored in Chicago’s iconic feminist work.

Prior to publishing the modernist novels and plays for which she is now remembered, such as Ryder (1928), Nightwood (1936), and The Antiphon (1958), which present complex portrayals of lesbian life and familial dysfunction, Barnes supported herself as a journalist and illustrator for a variety of daily newspapers and monthly magazines, including the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, McCall’s, Vanity Fair, Charm, and the New Yorker.

Brought up in an unconventional household, Barnes developed an outsider’s perspective on “normal” life that served her well as a writer. Her liberal sexuality fit in perfectly with the bohemian lifestyle of Greenwich Village and, later, the lesbian expatriate community in Paris. From her first articles in 1913 until her departure for Europe in 1921, Barnes specialized in a type of journalism that was less about current events and more about her observations of the diverse personalities and happenings that gave readers an intimate portrait of her favorite character-New York City. Attempting to capture its transition from turn of the century city to modern metropolis, Barnes developed her unique style of “newspaper fictions,” offering impressionistic observations and dramatizing whatever she felt to be the true significance or subtexts of a story.

Image: Djuna Barnes, Sketch of a woman with hat, looking right, for “The Terrorists,” New York Morning Telegraph Sunday Magazine, September 30, 1917. Ink on paper. Djuna Barnes Papers, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries

What A Wonderful Life:Lowville’s Erwin Eugene Lanpher

By on


Research has taken me to more cemeteries than I can remember. Surrounded by hundreds of gravestones, I frequently remind myself that every person has a story. What often impresses me is that many people who are largely forgotten actually made a real difference in other people’s lives. Uncovering those stories from the past is humbling, carrying with it the realization that I’ll probably never approach the good works done by others.

Sometimes those good works seem to escape notice, and that was the sense that engulfed me as I read the obituary of Erwin Eugene Lanpher of Lowville. It reminded me of George Bailey from It’s A Wonderful Life, a regular guy who, as it turned out, was darn important to a lot of people.

Lanpher’s life seemed accomplished, but average—born in 1875; schooled at Lowville Academy, Union College, and Cornell; a year working as a government surveyor on the Panama Canal; working as an engineer for the Atlantic City water bureau; and a twenty-six-year career in the engineering department caring for Pittsburgh’s water system.

The Lanpher family was remarkable in at least one sense: Erwin’s great-great-grandfather moved from Rhode Island to Lowville in 1801, so they were among the earliest settlers of the region. Otherwise, Erwin appeared to have led the life of an average man who excelled at his job. In fact, Lanpher was revered in Pittsburgh for his long-term dedication to developing the city’s water system. In performing at such a high level, he affected the lives of thousands in a very positive way.

But Erwin Lanpher’s reach went far beyond developing an adequate system of delivering water to a city of over a half million people. Evidence reveals that the tremendous effect of his work is undeniable, yet incalculable. After all, who can measure the changes in the world from saving one life, let alone hundreds, or even thousands?

Lanpher was a stickler for quality. Besides designing an efficient system of distributing water to thousands of homes and businesses, he developed revolutionary methods of purification that drastically improved the process. The results were indisputable.

In 1904, at the age of 29, he began working on Pittsburgh’s water system. One of the main issues affecting water quality was the frequent turbidity of the Allegheny River, causing tons of mud to enter the city’s water system on a regular basis. Disease was a major consideration, and typhoid was a prime enemy, spread by ingesting contaminated water.

Erwin Lanpher attacked the problem, and in retrospect, his incredible value to society can be summed up in three simple lines. The third line reveals statistics from Lanpher’s tenure.
1873: Pittsburgh population—133,000. Deaths from typhoid fever, 191 (143.6 per 100,000).
1907: Pittsburgh population—535,000. Deaths from typhoid fever, 648 (125.2 per 100,000).
1927: Pittsburgh population—665,000. Deaths from typhoid fever, 12 (1.8 per 100,000).

Another important set of statistics addresses the overall illness rate. In 1907, the Pittsburgh area had 5,652 cases of typhoid fever; in 1927, the population had risen by 130,000, but the total cases of typhoid fever had declined to 78 due to Lanpher’s work. Many cities sought his guidance to duplicate the results and dramatically enhance the quality of life.

The numbers are astonishing. Imagine the huge negatives that were avoided—the physical pain, the financial cost to patients, the pressure on the health care system, and the grieving for the deceased—all of it diminished as a result of Lanpher’s efforts. A decline in deaths from 648 to 12 during a 20-year period, with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of lives saved along the way. Amazing—and that’s just in one city.

Erwin died in 1930 at the age of 55. Seven months later, the city of Pittsburgh recognized and honored his legacy, unveiling a stone marker at one of the reservoirs he built and re-christening it the Lanpher Reservoir. Eighty years later, it still bears the same name.

Pittsburgh’s mayor and all the top city officials joined the Lanpher Memorial Committee for the ceremony, noting that, “… the city has published an official memorial book containing Mr. Lanpher’s speeches and public record. Mr. Lanpher was nationally known as a water works engineer and was consulted frequently by directors of water systems from all over the country.”

Now there’s a man who made a difference.

Photo Top: Erwin Eugene Lanpher.

Photo Bottom: Location of the Lanpher Reservoir in Pittsburgh.

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten 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 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.