Tag Archives: Natural History

One Smart Bird: The Homing Pigeon in NY History


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Unlike eagles, hawks, and others, pigeons are an Adirondack bird surrounded by neither lore nor legend. Yet for more than a century, they were players in a remarkable system of interaction between strangers, birds, and their owners. Others were tied to noted historical events, and a few were undisputed participants in major criminal activity in northern New York.
The bird referred to here is the homing pigeon. According to the Atlas of Breeding Birds in New York State, the Rock Dove is “commonly known as the domestic or homing pigeon,” and is a non-native, having been introduced from Europe in the early 1600s.

They are often mistakenly called carrier pigeons, and the confusion is understandable. There are carrier pigeons, and there are pigeons that carry things, but they’re not the same bird. Homing pigeon are the ones used to carry messages and for pigeon racing.
Racing them has proven very popular. Regionally, there is the Schenectady Homing Pigeon Club (more than 60 years old), which in the 1930s competed with the Albany Flying Club and the Amsterdam Pigeon Club.
The existence of those clubs, the carrying of messages, and other related activities are all based on a long-studied phenomenon that is still debated: how the heck do homing pigeons do what they do? Basically, if taken to a faraway location and released, they usually return to their home, and in a fairly straight line.
Flocks have been released and tracked by airplanes, and transmitters have been attached to the birds, confirming their direct routes. They use a variety of navigation methods, the most important and least understood of which involves the earth’s magnetic orientation.
In recent decades, Cornell University’s famed ornithology unit summarized their findings after extreme testing: “Homing pigeons can return from distant, unfamiliar release points.” And what did these scientists do to challenge the birds’ abilities? Plenty.
According to the study, “Older pigeons were transported to the release site inside sealed metal containers, supplied with bottled air, anesthetized, and placed on rotating turntables, all of which should make it hard for them to keep track of their outward journey.” The birds still homed effectively.
This unusual ability has been enjoyed and exploited for centuries. In 1898, in order to keep up with European military powers, the US Navy established the Homing Pigeon Service. One use was ship-to-shore communication in any conditions—when pigeons sent aboard the ship were released with a message attached, they flew directly back to their home loft.
Their use during World Wars I and II is legendary, and many were decorated with medals. In 1918, pigeon racing was temporarily banned in the United States to ensure that all birds were available for the use of the military.
In peacetime, homing pigeons were treated with near-universal respect and were weekly visitors to the North Country. Whenever one with a metal band or a message tube attached to it was found, standard protocol was followed by all citizens. The birds were immediately given water and food. If they appeared injured, the information from the leg band was given to local police, who tried to contact the owner.
Caring for the birds, whether ill or healthy, was automatic, and it continued until the journey was resumed. For more than 130 years, Adirondack weekly newspaper columns mentioned the landing of homing pigeons (but usually called them carrier pigeons). If a bird somehow appeared to be off course, the leg band information might appear in a short article or in an advertisement.
That informal system was widely used and religiously followed. To further protect the birds (and the system itself) and to confirm their importance, New York State’s Forest, Fish, and Game Commission made it law: “… No person shall take or interfere with any … homing pigeon if it have the name of its owner stamped upon its wing or tail, or wear a ring or seamless leg band with its registered number stamped thereon, or have any other distinguishing mark …”
Next week: Homing pigeons in North Country history, including multimillion dollar smuggling schemes.
Photos: Top―A Pigeon Bus in Europe during WWI (1916). Middle―WW I US troops in trench, sending messages by pigeon. Bottom―Winged members of the military.


Lawrence Gooley has authored eleven books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 22 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

Seneca Ray Stoddard Exhibit Opens at NYS Museum


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A new exhibition has opened at the New York State Museum showcasing the works of Adirondack photographer and conservationist Seneca Ray Stoddard.

Seneca Ray Stoddard: Capturing the Adirondacks is open through February 24, 2013 in Crossroads Gallery and includes over 100 of Stoddard’s photographs, an Adirondack guideboat, freight boat, camera, copies of Stoddard’s books and several of his paintings.

There also are several Stoddard photos of the Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island. These and other items come from the State Museum’s collection of more than 500 Stoddard prints and also from the collections of the New York State Library and the Chapman Historical Museum in Glens Falls.

Born in Wilton, Saratoga County in 1844, Stoddard was no doubt inspired by the Adirondacks at an early age. A self-taught painter, he was first employed as an ornamental painter at a railroad car manufacturer in Green Island, across the Hudson River from Troy in Albany County. He moved to Glens Falls (Warren County) in 1864, where he worked with sketches and paintings until his death there in 1917.

Early on he sought to preserve the beauty of the Adirondacks through his paintings but then became attracted to photography’s unique ability to capture the environment. He was one of the first to capture the Adirondacks through photographs. He used the then recently introduced wet-plate process of photography. Though extremely cumbersome by today’s standards, the technique was the first practical way to record distant scenes. It required Stoddard to bring his entire darkroom with him into the Adirondack wilderness.

His renown as a photographer quickly grew once he settled in Glens Falls, which also became his base camp for his explorations of the Adirondacks. He studied the Adirondacks intensely over a 50-year period.

Stoddard’s photos showed the challenges travelers faced in getting to the still undeveloped wilderness, along with their enjoyment of finally reaching their destination. His writings and photographs indicate that he was especially skilled at working with people from diverse economic backgrounds in a variety of settings. This was especially important as he used his photos to capture the changing Adirondack landscape as railroads were introduced and the area became an increasingly important destination for the burgeoning middle-class tourist, but also for the newly wealthy during the “Gilded Age.”

His work stimulated even further interest as he promoted the Adirondacks through his photographs and writings on the beauty, people and hotels of the region. Stoddard’s photographs showed the constancy of the natural beauty of the Adirondacks along with the changes that resulted from logging and mining, to hotels and railroads. As unregulated mining and logging devastated much of the pristine Adirondack scenery, Stoddard documented the loss and used those images to foster a new ethic of responsibility for the landscape. His work was instrumental in shaping public opinion about tourism, leading in part to the 1892 “Forever Wild” clause in the New York State Constitution.

The State Museum purchased over 500 historic Stoddard prints in 1972 in the process of acquiring historic resources for the Museum’s Adirondack Hall. They included albumen prints from Stoddard’s own working files, many with penciled notes. Nearly all are of the landscapes, buildings and people of the Adirondacks taken primarily in the 1870s and 1880s.

An online version of the exhibition is also available on the State Museum website at http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/virtual/exhibits/SRS/ .

The State Museum will present several programs in conjunction with the Stoddard exhibition. There will be guided tours of the exhibition on September 8 and December 8 from 1-2 p.m. Stoddard will also be the focus of Family Fun Day on September 15 from1-4 p.m.

Established in 1836, the New York State Museum is a program of the State Education Department’s Office of Cultural Education. Located on Madison Avenue in Albany, the Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. except on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Admission is free. Further information can be obtained by calling (518) 474-5877 or visiting the Museum website at www.nysm.nysed.gov.

Photo: Stoddard’s “Indian Encampment, Lake George, 1872″.

Adirondack Museum Monday Evening Lecture Series Set


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The Adirondack Museum has announced the presenters and lecture topics for the annual Monday Evening Lecture Series. Join the museum for the lecture series Monday nights at 7:30 p.m. in July and August.

The first evening, July 9, will be spent with Wildlife Conservation Society senior conservationist Bill Weber. Weber will present “Out of Africa and Into the Adirondacks: A Conservation Journey” lecture.

Lectures continue on July 16 with Charles Yaple and “Foxey Brown: The Story of an Adirondack Outlaw, Hermit, and Guide” lecture; July 23 with photographer Eric Dresser and “Capturing Adirondack Wildlife in Pictures;” July 30 with Environmental Historian Phil Terrie and “Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and A Land Ethic for our Time” a film, commentary and discussion.

August begins with author Harvey Kaiser and “Great Camps of the Adirondacks: Second Edition” on August 6; August 13 with senior art historian Caroline M. Welsh and “A.F. Tait: Artist of the Adirondacks;” and will end on August 20 with rustic furniture artisan and painter, Barney Bellinger’s “Art, Furniture and Sculpture: Influenced by Nature” lecture.

The presentations will be offered at no charge to museum members; the fee for non-members is $5.00. For full descriptions of the lectures, visit www.adirondackmuseum.org.

The Adirondack Museum is open 7 days a week, from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., through October 14. The museum will close at 3 p.m. on August 10 and September 7 for special event preparations.

Steuben County: Walking Seasonal Roads


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Seasonal roads are defined as one-lane dirt roads not maintained during the winter. They function as connectors linking farmers to their fields, neighbors to neighbors, or two more well-traveled roads to each other. Some access hunting lands and recreational areas. Some pass by or lead to cemeteries. They can be abandoned as people move and towns fade.

Having traveled nearly every seasonal road in Steuben County, NY, Mary A. Hood finds in Walking Seasonal Roads (2012, Syracuse University Press) that they provide the ideal vantage to contemplate the meaning of place, offering intimate contact with plant and wildlife and the beauty of a rural landscape. Each road reveals how our land is used, how our land is protected, and how environmental factors have had their impact. Continue reading

Holstein History, Milk Bottles and Milking Machines


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The Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark will hold its third annual Holstein Heritage event at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 3, the third day of Dairy Month, at the Smithfield Community Center, 5255 Pleasant Valley Road in Peterboro.

Milton C. Sernett PhD will present Peterboro: Cradle of the Holstein Breed! Sernett’s interest in the history behind the New York State Holstein Association monument on Oxbow Road just north of Peterboro gave impetus to this annual event recognizing the important role that Peterboro played in the agricultural industry.

In his illustrated talk Sernett will use his research to relate the history of Gerrit Smith Miller’s importation to Peterboro of the first registered Holstein-Fresian herd in America. Sernett published the book Cradle of the Breed: Gerrit Smith Miller and the Kriemhild Herd, for the first Holstein Heritage event, and followed that publication with another in 2011 Say Cheese! The Story of the Era When New York State Cheese was King. Both books will be available at the program, at the Peterboro Mercantile, and are online at mercantile.gerritsmith.org

Returning directly from the National Association of Milk Bottle Collectors (NAMBC), Peter Bleiberg will share information on milk bottles and their collection. Bleiberg, a resident of New Hartford and the next editor of The Milk Route, the official newsletter of the NAMBC, has been collecting milk bottles for twenty-four years. He focuses his collection on the variety of pictures and slogans that began to appear on painted milk bottles in the mid-1930’s.

To promote the use of their milk and other dairy products, dairies used images of cows, barns, babies, families, ice cream, butter, nursery rhymes, war-related scenes, and many other subjects on the backs of the colorful bottles. Peter’s presentation, entitled Marketing of Milk in the 1940s, includes pictures of hundreds of bottles and traces the advertising themes on the bottles that sat in our refrigerators and on our kitchen tables every morning.

Mike Gleason will return to the annual event with his antique milking machines and, hopefully, with copies of his book on milking machines that is in publication at this time.

The public is encouraged to attend this heritage session which broadens understanding of the rich history of Gerrit Smith and his family. The Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark at 5304 Oxbow Road in Peterboro has been designated by both the state and national park services as a site on the Underground Railroad.

 Exhibits on freedom seekers and abolitionists are in the three buildings on the estate that are open to the public. The site is open in 2012 on weekends from 1 -5 pm through September 23, for special events, and by appointment. Admission is $3 and free for students. For more information: 315-280-8828, info@gerritsmith.org or www.gerritsmith.org.

Illustration: A Holstein from an 1898 print.

Finger Lakes Museum Hires Development Director


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The Finger Lakes Museum has announced the appointment of Richard Lane as Development Director. Richard brings over 20 years of senior level experience in the non-profit sector to the Museum, which will open its Discovery Campus, in Branchport in 2013 and plans to open its exhibit-based museum facility and aquarium in 2014-2015 at Keuka State Park.

While serving four nationally-recognized organizations, Richard has worked on capital campaigns, including construction projects, ranging from $12 million to $18 million. He has extensive experience in community outreach and advocacy, working diligently with non-profit boards to accomplish those projects.

Executive Director Don Naetzker stated, “We are very pleased and excited to have Richard on our team. We are impressed with his capabilities and look forward to working with him.”

Upon accepting the offer, Lane said “Having vacationed on the Finger Lakes since 2001 at my in-laws, and having been married at Norton Chapel, Keuka College, I have grown to love this very special region with all it has to offer. I am especially attracted to the Museum’s focus on protecting and sustaining the natural beauty and resources of the Finger Lakes, while promoting a green economy. I am truly excited about working with Board and staff to realize the Finger Lakes Museum, which will greatly benefit the region.”

Contact Richard by email at rlane@fingerlakesmuseum.org or by phone at 315-418-0536 to set up a time to meet with him to discuss giving opportunities, questions about future donations, or to get to know one another over a cup of coffee.

In April, The Finger Lakes Museum launched its annual campaign titled “Preserving your Passions”. By the end of December, the Museum hopes to raise $450,000. Contributions are being accepted to help the Museum make their first annual giving campaign a success so they can continue supplying the Finger Lakes community and its visitors with educational programming focused on the preservation and stewardship of this beautiful Finger Lakes region. Donations can be made online or by mail to: The Finger Lakes Museum, PO Box 96, Keuka Park, NY, 14478.

The Finger Lakes Museum is proposed as the premier natural and cultural resource dedicated to the enjoyment, education and stewardship of the Finger Lakes Region – and to fresh water conservation. The Museum is chartered by the NYS Education Department and incorporated as a not-for-profit, tax-exempt organization.

For more information or to make contact, visit www.fingerlakesmuseum.org

Lawrence Gooley: The Power of Wildlife


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While collecting materials about attacks by animals in the Adirondacks, I came across several stories involving birds of prey. Maintaining a healthy skepticism is important, especially when reading such accounts in old newspapers, where the tendency was to embellish. But I came to realize that bird attacks were not such a rare phenomenon. Nature films offer scenes of birds assailing creatures much larger than themselves and carrying off some impressive loads.

After all, odd things do happen. I once observed a hawk plummeting at amazing speed into the center of the village where I lived. Moments later, the hawk flew past me, a cat dangling from its talons. Decades ago, when ravens were a rarity in the northern Adirondacks, I was dive-bombed repeatedly by several of them as I bushwhacked across the Silver Lake Mountain Ridge. And on three occasions while canoeing, I’ve had very close encounters with eagles (I’ll admit that a couple of them were scary).

Taking all of that into consideration, I reviewed some interesting regional confrontations between humans and birds. In 1888, at Brier Hill (St. Lawrence County), a bald eagle was said to have attacked ten-year-old George Richards. George used a stick to defend himself until older brother Berton, 20, drove the eagle off. Bert later baited a steel trap with newborn calves that had died. He succeeded in capturing the bird, which was held by the Richards family for display.

In 1893, a Bellmont (Franklin County) farmhand working for Frank Winkley was on horseback, rounding up a herd of cows, when he was attacked by two eagles. He was knocked to the ground, where the birds continued the assault. The farm dog came to his aid, and he eventually managed to club one of the birds and capture it. According to the report, the golden eagle’s wingspan was seven feet. It was briefly kept in Winkley’s barn as a curiosity.

Predatory raids on farm fowl were once common. A dramatic case was reported in Chaumont (northwest of Watertown) in 1903 on the farm of Charles Graham. A hen hawk (any hawk that preys on poultry) grabbed a large Plymouth Rock hen, but about 20 feet above the ground, the hen broke free and landed at Graham’s feet. The hawk followed, knocking the farmer down, gashing his face and neck, and pecking at his eyes. Even as Graham stood to defend himself, the bird continued the attack, finally departing when the farmer grabbed a shovel.

Also in 1903, John Sullivan of Jay (Essex County) was set upon by an eagle, eventually driving it off after suffering lacerations to his face. In 1904 came a report from the Bowditch cottage on Upper Chateaugay Lake (Clinton County), where caretaker Frank Nicholson battled two eagles that attempted to make off with some chickens. One of the birds managed to sink its talons into Nicholson’s leg, but he eventually succeeded in “dispatching them.”

In 1909, a Pitcairn (St. Lawrence County, near Harrisville) farmer, Josiah Almtree, offered a dramatic tale of battling a powerful eagle that had lately been harassing his sheep. The victim this time was Almtree’s daughter, who was carried briefly but then dropped “unhurt on the roof of a little building near the barn.” Almtree managed a shot at the bird, which escaped. Of course, “unhurt” wasn’t possible, but I’ll beg the Fox News defense here: “We report, you decide.”

Most such stories are quite old, but a more recent one (though still over 50 years past) occurred in Ausable Forks in 1957. Young Jimmie Camire, while playing with friends, was attacked by a hawk. The bird grabbed his shoulder, but the boy broke free. Under renewed attack, Jimmie’s shouts brought his brother Butch and friend Jeff Hewston to the rescue. They had been cutting small trees nearby, and used an axe to kill the hawk, which they said had a wingspan of 43 inches.

Not all regional fowl attacks came from above. In 1908, Gouverneur’s Louis Boulet owned a particularly raucous Rhode Island Red, a breed that can be incredibly aggressive. (They’ve been known to kill snakes, cats, foxes, and small dogs.) The big rooster’s frequent attacks made it clear the farmer was not welcome in his own hen house. Egged on by frequent muggings and occasional blood loss, Boulet decided this chicken’s goose was cooked, so he had him for dinner.

Skepticism can be valuable, but before deciding how feasible some of those old stories might be, check out some “eagle attack” videos on YouTube. Be forewarned: several are graphic. Some are simply amazing, demonstrating the willingness of large birds to mix it up with creatures of all sizes, even striking a black bear in a tree.

Photos: Eagle in flight; 1957 headline from hawk attack in AuSable Forks.

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 20 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

Stoddard’s Natural Views Exhibit Opeing May 4th


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Long considered beautiful photographs of the Adirondack landscape, Seneca Ray Stoddard’s views also serve as documents of the plants that inhabited the region in the 19th century. Since he was rediscovered in the late 1970s, Stoddard’s work has been featured in numerous exhibits that explored the history of 19th century life in the Adirondacks. A survey of the 3,000 images in the Chapman Historical Museum archives, however, revealed hundreds of images that are purely natural landscapes. The subject matter is the Adirondack environment – not great hotels, steamers, camp scenes or other obvious evidence of human activity.

The Chapman’s summer exhibit, S.R. Stoddard’s Natural Views, features forty enlarged photographs of varied Adirondack settings – lake shores, marshes, meadows, riverbanks and mountainsides. Included are such locations as Surprise Falls on Gill Brook, Indian Pass, Lake Sanford, Ausable Chasm, Wolf Pond and Paradise Bay on Lake George. The exhibit examines these photographs as documents of the history of ecological habitats, providing an opportunity to consider the issue of environmental change – an issue as relevant in Stoddard’s time as it is today.

To address this issue the museum consulted with Paul Smith’s College biologist, Daun Reuter, and Don Leopold of SUNY-ESF, who identified botanical species in Stoddard’s photographs. Plants that they discovered in Stoddard’s photographs — from small flowers to shrubs and trees – are highlighted in modern color images supplied by Ms. Reuter and others and in digital reproductions of period specimens from the herbarium at the New York State Museum. These show details of the plants in their various stages – details rarely visible in Stoddard’s photographs many of which were taken late in the year after the plants had lost their flowers and started to wither.

By bringing attention to this group of Stoddard photographs, the exhibit will give visitors the opportunity to discover and reflect on the changing environment – a topic of urgent concern in the region. Through their experience visitors will gain greater appreciation for not only Stoddard’s photographic vision but also the natural world of the Adirondacks. The exhibit is funded by grants from the Leo Cox Beach Philanthropic Foundation and the Waldo T. Ross & Ruth S. Ross Charitable Trust Foundation and sponsored by Glen Street Associates and Cooper’s Cave Ale Co.

For those who wish to learn more, the Chapman Historical Museum has scheduled a series of programs (detailed below) to be held at both the museum at and other sites. The museum is located at 348 Glen Street, Glens Falls, NY. For more information call (518) 793-2826 or go to www.chapmanmuseum.org.

RELATED PROGRAMS

Wednesday, May 30, 7 pm
Talk: “UNWANTED: Invasive species of the Adirondacks”
Speaker: Hilary Smith, Director, Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program
At the Chapman. Free.

Saturday, June 9, 8:30 -11:30 am
Bird Walk in Pack Forest, Warrensburg
Guide: Brian McAllister, Adirondack Birding Center

Bird watch along the nature trail to the old growth forest. Bring binoculars, field guide, water, snack, bug repellant, hiking shoes, and appropriate dress. For birders of all levels. Call (518) 793-2826 for directions.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012, 7 pm
Talk: “Go Native! An Introduction to Gardening with Native Plants”
Speaker: Emily DeBolt, Fiddlehead Creek Farm & Native Plant Nursery
At the Chapman. Free.

Thursday July 12, 9:30-11:30 am.
A plant paddle at Dunham’s Bay.
Guide: Emily DeBolt, Lake George Association.

Part of the 7th annual Adk Park Invasive Species Awareness Week Bring your own canoe or kayak. Meet at Dunham’s Bay Marina For reservations call the LGA at (518) 668-3558

Saturday, August 4, 1 – 3 pm
Guided Bog Walk of Native Adirondack Plants
Guide: Daun Reuter, Dept Biology, Paul Smith’s College

At Paul Smith’s Visitor Interpretive Center. Reservations: $20. Call the VIC at (518)327-6241

Saturday, August 18, 8 am
Guided alpine plant hike up Wright Peak
Guide: Sean Robinson, Dept Biology, SUNY Oneonta

Meet at ADK LOJ parking lot. Parking $. Info & Reservations: Call the museum at (518) 793-2826

Photos: Above, Silver Cascade, Elizabethtown by S.R. Stoddard, ca. 1890.

Spring Walk at Olana Features Landscape, Wildlife


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Craig Thompson, director of Five Rivers Environmental Education Center, will host an outdoor foray to search for bluebirds, robin redbreast, white trillium and other colorful signs of spring on Sunday, April 1. An Olana educator will join the group to discuss the history of the landscape and carriage drives designed by Frederic Church.

Craig Thompson has been an environmental educator in NYS DEC’s Division of Public Affairs for over 30 years. Five Rivers, one of the state’s environmental education facilities, is a 445-acre “living museum” offering a comprehensive program of interpretive, education and information services year ‘round.

The Spring Walk will take place from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm, and is free and open to all ages. Meet at the Wagon House Education Center and dress for casual trail walking. Binoculars are helpful but not necessary. Space is limited, so please register by calling (518) 828-1872 ext. 109. In the event of inclement weather, the program may be canceled. (If in doubt, call (518) 828-1872 x 109 to confirm.) A vehicle use fee will be charged at the entrance to the site.

Adks: Howling Wilderness to Vacation Destination


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The Adirondack Museum third 2012 Cabin Fever Sunday series, “Nature: From Howling Wilderness to Vacation Destination” will be held on Sunday, February 12, 2012. The event will be offered free of charge.

Drawing on landscape painting, photography, traveler’s accounts, and other sources, this presentation by Dr. Charles Mitchell will explore the evolution of American attitudes towards nature. Beginning with perceptions of the American landscape as a howling wilderness, a wasteland to be tamed and transformed, the lecture will trace the social, cultural and economic forces that led to the perception of wild nature as something of value to be experienced and preserved. Key topics and figures along the way include the sublime, romanticism, Henry David Thoreau, Thomas Cole and the Hudson River School, John Muir, Ansel Adams, and the Lorax.

Dr. Charles Mitchell is Associate Professor of American Studies at Elmira College. Mitchell has been on the faculty of Elmira College since 1993. Born in Brooklyn and raised in Lynbrook (on Long Island) he still occasionally refers to everything north of Yonkers as “upstate.” He teaches a side variety of courses in American cultural history, with specific
interests in environmental history, the history of ideas about nature, and the representation of the landscape in literature and art.

This program will be held at the Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts at Blue Mountain Lake, and will begin at 1:30 p.m. For additional information, please call (518) 352-7311, ext. 128 or visit www.adirondackmuseum.org.

Frick Collection Director Charles Ryskamp’s Bequest


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Over the course of fifty years-from the 1950s until his death in 2010 at the age of eighty-one-former Frick Collection Director Charles A. Ryskamp (1928-2010) assembled an extraordinary personal trove of European drawings. Reflecting on his pursuits in 2009, Dr. Ryskamp remarked, “I have always believed that giving, as much as acquiring, is the principle of my collecting.”

This spirit of sharing is embodied in a group of ten superb drawings that he bequeathed to the Frick, selected from among his large and varied collection by Anne L. Poulet, Director Emerita, and curators Colin B. Bailey and Susan Grace Galassi.

Other sheets were donated to The Morgan Library & Museum, where Dr. Ryskamp served as Director from 1969 to 1987, or auctioned at Sotheby’s for the benefit of Princeton University, where he began his career as a professor of literature. The works bequeathed to the Frick enlarged the museum’s holdings in drawings them by nearly a third, while complementing the permanent collection’s focus on landscape and figural subjects.

This winter and spring the Frick celebrates Charles Ryskamp’s generosity-and discerning taste-with an exhibition of the works from his bequest. The drawings, which have never before been shown at the Frick, will be presented in the Cabinet, a space created by Dr. Ryskamp during his tenure as Director from 1987 to 1997 and intended especially for the display of works on paper. The installation is accompanied by two oil-on-paper studies of clouds by John Constable, which Dr. Ryskamp was instrumental in bringing to the Collection. A Passion for Drawings: Charles Ryskamp’s Bequest to The Frick Collection wasorganized by Katie L. Steiner and Nicholas Wise, Curatorial Assistants, The Frick Collection.

Illustration: Pierre-Joseph Redouté (1759-1840), Plum Branches Intertwined, 1802-4, watercolor on vellum, 31.9 x 26.3 cm, The Frick Collection, bequest of Charles A. Ryskamp, 2010; Photo: Michael Bodycomb.

Stoddard Views Coming to Chapman Museum


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Long considered beautiful photographs of the Adirondack landscape, Seneca Ray Stoddard’s views also serve well as documents of the plants that inhabited the region in the 19th century. The Chapman Historical Museum’s summer exhibit, S.R. Stoddard’s Natural Views, which will run from May 4 through September 2, will feature fifty enlarged photographs of different Adirondack settings – lake shores, marshes, meadows, riverbanks and mountainsides. Highlighted in modern color images will be examples of the plants discovered in Stoddard’s photographs — from small flowers to shrubs and trees.

Since he was rediscovered in the late 1970s, Stoddard’s work has been featured in numerous exhibits that explored the history of 19th century life in the Adirondacks. A survey of the 3000 images in the Chapman archives, however, revealed hundreds of images that are purely natural landscapes. The subject matter is the Adirondack environment – not great hotels, steamers, camp scenes or other obvious evidence of human activity.

The summer 2012 exhibit will examine these photographs as documents of the history of ecological habitats, providing an opportunity to compare the present environment with the past. To address this issue the museum is consulting with Paul Smith’s College biologist, Daun Reuter, who will identify botanical species in Stoddard’s photographs, and exploring 19th century biological fieldwork records housed at the New York State Museum.

By bringing attention to a group of Stoddard photographs that have been overlooked but are significant examples of his work, the exhibit will give visitors the opportunity to discover and reflect on the changing environment – a topic of urgent concern in the region. Through their experience visitors will gain greater understanding not only to Stoddard’s photographic vision but also of the natural world of the Adirondacks.

Photos: Above, Silver Cascade, Elizabethtown by S.R. Stoddard, ca. 1890. Below: modern color photo of Wild Raisin by Dawn Reuter, Biology Dept., Paul Smith’s College.

Adirondack Classic Now Available in Paperback


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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.

Historic Albany Floods Talk by Jack Mc Eneny


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To commemorate Archives Month and in recognition of the disastrous effect of Hurricane Irene on their neighbors, County Clerk Thomas G. Clingan has invited Assemblyman John J. McEneny to speak on the topic of historic floods in Albany and the surrounding region. His presentation will be held on Wednesday, October 26th from 10 am – 12 noon at the Albany County Hall of Records. An exhibit of flood-related historical records will be on display, as well as practical information for protecting and salvaging records in water-related emergencies. Tours of the Hall of Records will also be offered.

A lifelong Albanian, McEneny graduated from Christian Brothers Academy, Siena College, New Mexico State University and Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He served in the Peace Corps in Columbia, South America, and directed youth programs in Albany before heading the Albany City Human Resources Department from 1971-1984. McEneny served as Albany County Historian and remains involved in documenting and preserving Albany history. He is the author of the book Albany, Capital City on the Hudson, first published in 1981.

Seating for the presentation is limited. If you are interested in attending, please RSVP: 436-3663, ext. 202 or jbrothers@lbanycounty.com

Photo: Broadway in Albany on March 29, 1913 (Postcard Courtesy Albany Institute of History and Art)

Ansel Adams Masterworks Exhibit in Utica


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Images of the American West by the premier photographer of the 20th Century will be showcased in the major exhibition, Ansel Adams: Masterworks through January 8 in the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute Museum of Art in Utica.

The collection of 48 images by Ansel Adams (1902-84) represents two-thirds of his Museum Set, a selection the photographer himself made to represent the best of his life’s work. In these images one sees the importance Adams placed on the drama and splendor of natural environments, particularly in the American West. Visitors to the exhibition will see iconic Adams’ images such as Monolith, the Face of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California, 1927 and Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941.

Adams, a California native, first photographed Yosemite National Park at the tender age of 14 with a Kodak Box Brownie. He fell in love with the forests, valleys, and sublime rock formations there and soon dedicated his life to photographing and advocating for the conservation of the environment. In the 1920s Adams became a guide for the Sierra Club at Yosemite, where he covered the terrain via burro or woody station wagon, setting up his large camera and tripod on the roof of the car. He would be active in the Sierra Club for nearly five decades.

Adams’ stature in the history of photography is monumental. With Edward Weston, he was co-founder of the California–based photography group named f64, which emphasized “straight” or “pure” photography over soft-focus pictorialism. Photographer Alfred Stieglitz, who was an important influence on Adams, gave him a one-artist show at the New York City gallery, An American Place, in 1936. In 1941 Adams was commissioned by the Department of the Interior to document western national parks, including the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, and Carlsbad Caverns. He received the competitive Guggenheim Fellowship three times; was a consultant for Polaroid; was named to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s environmental task force in 1965; was a co-founder of both the Friends of Photography and the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona in 1967; was the subject of a major retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, as well as a cover story subject for Time magazine in 1979; and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Jimmy Carter in 1980. In 1985, on the first anniversary of his death, Yosemite National Park named “Mount Ansel Adams” on the Merced River. Throughout his long career Adams was also an influential teacher; he lectured extensively and wrote several books.

A technical master, Adams developed the Zone System for black-and-white photography, in which light is divided into eleven zones, from pure black to white. This system regulated light exposure and development of negatives in the dark room in order to maximize the photographer’s control of each print. Such control was imperative for Adams, who believed photography reflected the maker’s emotional response to his subject matter.

Photo: Ansel Adams from the 1950 Yosemite Field School yearbook (Wikipedia Photo).

Family Overnight Camping at the Adirondack Museum


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The Adirondack Museum and the Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts will host an overnight adventure at the museum on Tuesday, August 16, 2011. The event will include exploring exhibits by lantern, getting dramatic about Adirondack history with the Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts, hearing songs and stories by the campfire, and having a sleepover in the Woods & Waters exhibit. Dinner, an evening snack and breakfast will be served.

Camp Out for Families is open to children ages 7 – 13, and the museum requests one adult chaperone for every one to four children. The program starts at 5:30 p.m. and ends the following morning at 9:30 a.m.

Spaces are limited; pre-registration required by August 11, 2011. E-mail or call to register: jrubin@adkmuseum.org or (518) 352 – 7311 ext 115; mhall@adkmuseum.org or (518) 352 – 7311 ext 128. The program fee includes dinner, evening snack, light breakfast, and all activity materials. $45 per person for Adirondack Museum members and Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts members; $55 per person for non-members.

The museum is open through October 17, 2011, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., 7 days a week, including holidays. There will be an early closing on August 12, and adjusted hours on August 13; the museum will close for the day on September 9. Visit www.adirondackmuseum.org for more information. All paid admissions are valid for a second visit within a one-week period.

Update on Finger Lakes Museum Efforts


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The president of The Finger Lakes Museum’s board of trustees announced that the project’s Founders Campaign is nearing the halfway mark in an endeavor to raise $1 million by December 31st. The drive is financing operations at the former Branchport Elementary School, including hiring staff, and paying consultants for architectural and exhibit design services.

Board President John Adamski said, “The Founders Campaign was launched by the board late last year and has resulted in hundreds of donations that range from $100 to $100,000. We’re almost halfway there but there is still a long way to go.” He is asking people from across the Finger Lakes Region to consider making a tax-deductible contribution to the project. Significant funding has been received from the Daisy Marquis Jones Foundation and the Rochester Area Community Foundation. “We are also looking for program sponsors,” he added.

Anyone, including regional businesses, can become a founder of The Finger Lakes Museum by making a contribution of $100 or more. Donors will receive a founders’ certificate, vehicle decal, and have their names permanently inscribed as members of the Founders Society on the Founders Wall in the entrance to the main museum building. Contributions can be made online or mailed to the museum at PO Box 96, Keuka Park, NY, 14478.

The Finger Lakes Museum is an initiative to build a premier educational institution in Keuka Lake State Park to showcase the cultural heritage and ecological evolution of the 9,000 square-mile Finger Lakes Region. It was chartered by the New York State Board of Regents in 2009 and is operating from development offices in the school, which it purchased from the Penn Yan Central School District last January.

Adamski said that the project is being planned to become a primary tourist destination that will feature one of the largest freshwater fish aquariums in the Northeast. Studies show that it has the potential to increase tourism in the Finger Lakes Region and create hundreds of jobs in the private sector, he said.

Adamski also announced the election of two new members to the organization’s board of trustees. Tim Sellers of Geneva, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs at Keuka College, and retired lumber executive John Meisch of Rushville were both elected in a unanimous vote. Adamski said, “Tim’s expertise as a limnologist and professor of biology and environmental science will be a tremendous asset in planning the natural history component of the museum. We are all very excited to have him aboard.”

He also said, “And John Meisch brings a lifetime of business management experience and a working knowledge of American History to the board, which balances the cultural history component. I think that we’ve hit two home runs here.” The addition of Sellers and Meisch brings the number of board members to 13.

For more information or to make contact, see www.fingerlakesmuseum.org.

Jerry Jenkins to Receive Adirondack Museum Award


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The Board of Trustees of the Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake, New York has announced the selection of Jerry Jenkins as the recipient of the 2011 Harold K. Hochschild Award.

The Harold K. Hochschild Award is dedicated to the memory of the museum’s founder, whose passion for the Adirondacks, its people, and environment inspired the creation of the Adirondack Museum. Since 1990 the museum has presented the award to a wide range of intellectual and community leaders throughout the Adirondack Park, highlighting their contributions to the region’s culture and quality of life.

The Adirondack Museum will formally present Jerry Jenkins with the Harold K. Hochschild Award on August 4, 2011.

Jerry Jenkins is an ecologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Adirondack Program (WCS). An accomplished botanist, naturalist and geographer, he has almost forty years of field experience working in the Northern Forest. Over the course of his career, his work has included conducting biological inventories for The Adirondack Chapter of the Nature
Conservancy, surveying rare plant occurrences for the State of Vermont, chronicling the environmental history of acid rain with the Adirondack Lakes Survey Corporation, and understanding and interpreting historical changes to boreal lowland areas in the Adirondacks with WCS. His enthusiasm for natural history has also led him to study plant diversity and distribution across various forest types – from the Champlain Hills to large working forest
easements, and from old growth forests to high elevation alpine communities.

His most recent and notable accomplishments with the Wildlife Conservation Society are his collection of Adirondack publications. Together with Andy Keal, Jerry Jenkins co-authored The The Adirondack Atlas: A Geographic Portrait of the Adirondack Park, considered one of the most significant Adirondack book in a generation. Some 300 pages in length, the Adirondack Atlas contains 750
maps and graphics, and represents the most comprehensive collection of regional data brought together in a single source. The park’s geology, flora and fauna are featured, as well as the history and the dynamic nature of the park’s human communities. Bill McKibben describes the atlas as a “great gift…that marks a coming of age.”

In his newest book Climate Change in the Adirondacks the Path to Sustainability, Jenkins demonstrates how climate change is already shifting the region’s culture, biology and economy, and provides a road map towards a more responsible and sustainable future. He provides the first comprehensive look at both the impacts of, and the potential solutions to, climate change across the Adirondack region. This compilation, along with his other regional contributions, prompted Bill McKibben to offer that “Jerry Jenkins has emerged as the information source for our mountains…and we are all in his debt.”

Photo Courtesy Leslie Karasin, Wildlife Conservation Society.