Tag Archives: New France

The Half Moon and The Hermione: A Tale of Two Ships


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Half_Moon_ReplicaIt was the best of times, it was the worst of times. So it goes for two ships and their diametrically contradictory paths through history.

The Half Moon is a full scale replica of the original Dutch ship of exploration sailed by Henry Hudson for the Dutch East India Company in 1609. The original Half Moon was the first European ship to document entry into what we now call the Delaware Bay and River, and to explore the Hudson River to its navigable limits.

The HermioneThe Hermione is a full scale replica of the French ship that brought LaFayette to America in 1780 and which joined Admiral de Grasse’s fleet for the Battle off the Capes on the lower Chesapeake and the siege at Yorktown. The ship then sailed to Philadelphia in 1781 where the Continental Congress visited and paid tribute to it. Continue reading

Debunking The ‘French Fort’ On Albany’s Castle Island


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the 1614 Block mapThe 400th anniversary of Albany’s first documented European settlement gives us an opportunity to clear up some inaccuracies surrounding its history. In particular, it is time to roundly debunk the stubborn myth that the French built the first European structure in Albany.

Several Wikipedia pages—”Albany“, “Castle Island,” “Fort Nassau“—claim that Albany’s first European structure was a fort on Castle Island built by French traders in 1540. The “Castle Island” page calls it a chateau and claims that the Dutch rebuilt the French fort, “which they called a castle[,] giving rise to the name of the island.” This is silly. There is no credible evidence of a French fort on Castle Island or anywhere in the region, and any account of a structure resembling a chateau is particularly absurd. So where did this myth come from? Continue reading

New York History and the Birth of the Nation


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A portion of the 1768 Fort Stanwix Treaty line showing the boundary in New YorkScholars divide time into periods in an effort to make history comprehensible, but when to draw the diving line can be problematical and historians often disagree where one period ends and another begins.

For the birth of the nation, I am using the end of the colonial period, roughly from the French and Indian War to the end of the War of 1812. The colonial era for me was the time of the settlement of the 13 colonies which would become the United States. That process began in Jamestown and ended approximately 130 years later in Georgia. Up until then individual colonies, notably New York, Massachusetts / New England, and Virginia, dominate the curriculum, scholarship, and tourism, with only passing references to the Quakers in Pennsylvania and the Dutch in New York. Continue reading

French Heritage Society Supports Fort Ti Restoration Project


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WindowsFort Ticonderoga has received a grant from the French Heritage Society to underwrite restoration work on the Fort’s Soldiers’ Barracks.  The grant was given to Fort Ticonderoga, originally named Fort Carillon in 1755, because of its historic significance as a French heritage site. The project will replace 80 year old windows and sills on the third floor of the Soldiers’ Barracks. Restoration work is currently underway with the windows expected to be installed by the spring of 2014.

“The restoration and preservation of Fort Ticonderoga’s historic structures require on-going effort and investment,” said Beth Hill, President and CEO of Fort Ticonderoga. “Fort Ticonderoga is delighted to be recognized by the French Heritage Society for its significant French story and its on-going legacy. This grant provides important funding that will have a big impact on the preservation of the Soldiers’ Barracks.” Continue reading

Fort Ticonderoga’s War College of the Seven Years’ War


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Plan du Fort Carillon smallLimited space is still available to attend Fort Ticonderoga’s Eighteenth Annual War College of the Seven Years’ War May 17-19, 2013.

This annual seminar focuses on the French & Indian War in North America (1754-1763), bringing together a panel of distinguished historians from around the country and beyond. The War College takes place in the Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center and is open to the public; pre-registration is required. Continue reading

The Battle on Snowshoes Event at Fort Ticonderoga


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A living history event at Fort Ticonderoga highlighting Major Robert Rogers and the Battle of Snowshoes will be held on Saturday, March 10 from 10 am – 4 pm. Visitors will be able to encounter the French Garrison in the middle of winter inside Fort Ticonderoga and tour through opposing pickets of British rangers and French soldiers adapted to frontier, winter warfare. At 1 pm on Saturday, visitors will experience the hectic tree to tree fighting in a recreated battle during which the rangers make a stand against superior numbers, only to retreat through the deep woods.

Visitors will be invited to tour Fort Ticonderoga as it appeared in the winter of 1758, meet the French and Indians who overwhelmed Roger’s experienced woodsmen, and see how native and French soldiers survived the deep winter at this remote military post. More adventurous visitors can take a hike led by a historic interpreter through the opposed pickets of soldiers in the deep woods. In these tours visitors can see how rangers kept a vigilant watch for subtle signs that might reveal their ferocious enemy.

“The Battle on Snowshoes event recreates the savage fight between Robert Roger’s rangers, and a mixed French force of regular soldiers, milice, and allied native warriors on March 13, 1758,” said Stuart Lilie, Director of Interpretation at Fort Ticonderoga. “This event is designed to be a rich experience for both participants and visitors alike.”

Re-enactors portraying French soldiers and native allies will live inside the period furnished barracks rooms of Fort Ticonderoga. They will recreate the winter garrison for Fort Carillon, as it was known until 1759. Just as in the March of 1758 these re-enactors will sortie out from the Fort to meet and overwhelm Roger’s men.

Major Robert Rogers force of both volunteers from the 27th foot, and his own rangers headed out on an extended scout from Fort Edward along Lake George, following an attack on a similar patrol from Captain Israel Putnam’s Connecticut rangers. Hiking on snowshoes due to the three feet of snow, the tracks of Roger’s force were spotted on its march up the west side of Lake George. Near the north end of Lake George, Major Rogers, advanced scouts spotted their French counterparts. Rogers and his Rangers took up positions in a ravine, setting his force in ambuscade to await whatever French patrol would come to meet him.

The French patrol that met Roger’s men proved far larger than he imagined, and in this Battle on Snowshoes, the rangers’ ambush was itself surrounded and overwhelmed. In deep woods on deep snow, the rangers were forced to retreat with heavy casualties as the French regulars, malice, and natives pressed home their attack. Despite stands along the way, this retreat quickly became chaotic as rangers, Roger’s included, ran for their lives from superior numbers of French.

Illustration from Gary S Zaboly‘s “A True Ranger: The Life and Many Wars of Major Robert Rogers” (Garden City Park, NY: Royal Blockhouse, 2004).

Lecture: Lake Champlain as Battleground, 1609-1815


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The Lake Champlain Basin Program will be hosting John Krueger, City Historian of Plattsburgh and executive director of the Kent-Delord House, for a presentation titled The Lake as Battleground: 1609-1815 on Thursday, March 1st at 6:30 p.m. in the LCBP office in Grand Isle, Vermont. This program is part of the LCBP’s Love the Lake speaker series.

John Krueger began promoting Lake Champlain’s history as a guide at Fort Ticonderoga in 1970. His talk will focus on Lake Champlain as a corridor for warfare, beginning with Samuel de Champlain’s exploration and the conflict of European powers for control of the corridor.
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Quebec Family History Society Goes Online


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The Quebec Family History Society (QFHS) has announced the launch of its new website at www.qfhs.ca. The website features several new sections, such as Gary’s Genealogical Picks, research tips, surname interests, and a bulletin board.

QFHS members researching their ancestors in Quebec will benefit from the new Jacques Gagné Church Compilations in the members’ section. Long-time member Jacques Gagné has compiled historical information and the location of records for more than 1,000 English and French Protestant churches across the province, from 1759 to 1899.

The Quebec Family History Society is the largest English-language genealogical society in Quebec, Canada. Founded in 1977, it is a registered Canadian charity that helps people of all backgrounds research their family history. Its members, in addition to researching their Quebec roots, research historical records in all Canadian provinces and territories, the United States, the British Isles, and Western Europe. At the QFHS Heritage Centre and Library, members have free access to a collection of 6,000 books, manuscripts, and family histories, plus thousands of microfilms, microfiche, historical maps, and periodicals, and access to billions of online genealogical records.

Mohawk Valley: 2011 Western Frontier Symposium


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The 2011 Western Frontier Symposium: Frontier Style Culture at the Edge of Empire Mohawk Valley, NY: 1700-1800 will be held October 15-16, 2011 at Fulton-Montgomery Community College in Johnstown, New York.

The fourth biennial Western Frontier Symposium continues to explore the history of the Mohawk Valley in the century when the region was the western edge of colonial New York and a crossroads of French, Dutch, British and Native American empires.

Far from European centers of fashion, Mohawk Valley residents expressed their sense of style with strategic design choices from multiple cultures. Distinct regional variations in their clothing, architecture and interior designs reveal their values and their aspirations. Participating experts in 18th century design and regional cultures include Phillip Otterness, David Preston, Timothy Shannon, George Hamell, Mark Hutter, Robert Trent, Mary Elise Antoine and others.

There will be a companion exhibit, “Frontier Style: The Height of Fashion at the Edge of Empire Mohawk Valley NY 1700-1800” at Fulton-Montgomery Community College’s Perella Gallery from October 14 through December 9, 2011. The exhibit will be an exhibition of 18th century Mohawk Valley fashion and home decor, featuring clothing reproduced for New York State Historic Sites collections.

This event is sponsored by Mohawk Valley Historic Sites, Fulton-Montgomery Community College, NYS Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, Costume Society of America.

More information about the symposium can be found online.

NY Historical to Reopen with Revolution! Exhibit


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After three years of construction New York’s first museum, the New-York Historical Society, will re-open fully on November 11, 2011 with the exhibition Revolution! The Atlantic World Reborn, the first exhibition to relate the American, French and Haitian struggles as a single global narrative.

Spanning decades of enormous political and cultural changes, from the triumph of British imperial power in 1763 to the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815, Revolution! traces how an ideal of popular sovereignty, introduced through the American fight for independence, soon sparked more radical calls for a recognition of universal human rights, and set off attacks on both sides of the Atlantic against hereditary privilege and slavery. Among the unforeseen outcomes was an insurrection on the French possession of Saint-Domingue, leading to the world’s only successful slave revolt and the establishment in 1804 of the first nation founded on the principles of full freedom and equality for all, regardless of color.

“Just as the New-York Historical Society set new standards for American culture when it opened in 1804, Revolution! will break new ground for American history in 2011,” Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of the Historical Society, said in a press statement announcing the new exhibit. “This trailblazing exhibition underscores how much our nation has always been an integral part of a much broader world, and how our city’s great cultural pantheon took shape against the backdrop of a sweeping play of historical forces on an international stage. As we established in our widely acclaimed exhibition on Nueva York, the history of our city has always implicated the history of the world.”

Richard Rabinowitz, founder and president of American History Workshop, serves as chief exhibition curator. Thomas Bender of New York University and Laurent Dubois of Duke University have served as the co-chief historians for Revolution!, drawing on the scholarship of an advisory committee of historians and specialists.

Following its presentation at the New-York Historical Society (November 11, 2011 – April 15, 2012), Revolution! will travel to venues in the U.K., France, and elsewhere in the United States. Educational materials and programs will be distributed internationally, including in Haiti.

The exhibition is made possible with grant funds from the U.S. Department of Education Underground Railroad Educational and Cultural (URR) program and The Nathan Cummings Foundation.

On view in Revolution!

With texts and audio guides in English, French and Haitian Krèyol, the exhibition unfolds in galleries designed to evoke varied gathering places, such as a baroque palace, a portside tavern and a rural Haitian lakou: sites where people of the era felt and shared the “common wind” of political information and opinion. Within these galleries, visitors will encounter paintings, drawings and prints from collections in a dozen countries; historical documents, maps and manuscripts from the hands of participants in these revolutions; audiovisual presentations and interactive learning stations; and curriculum materials for students from kindergarten through graduate school.

Highlights among the three hundred objects in Revolution! include:
· the original Stamp Act, as it was passed by Parliament in 1765 setting off the riots that led to the American Revolution, on loan from the Parliamentary Archives, London, displayed for the first time outside the U.K.

· Sea Captains Carousing in Surinam (oil on canvas, 1752-58, by John Greenwood), the first genre painting in American art history, on loan from the Saint Louis Art Museum, illustrating the sort of tavern where discontent brewed in the Atlantic world, in an 18th-century version of “social networking”

· a first edition of Thomas Paine’s epoch-making pamphlet Common Sense (1776), from the collection of the New-York Historical Society

· an elegant mahogany desk from the first capitol of the United States, Federal Hall in lower Manhattan (c. 1788, New-York Historical Society): the first example of a legislator’s desk in Anglo-American history

· the “Africa Box” filled with craftworks and agricultural products from Africa (ca. 1785, on loan from the Wisbech and Fenland Museum, U.K.), used by Abolitionist Thomas Clarkson in his lectures against slavery, and never before exhibited outside the U.K.

· Vue de l’incendie de la ville du Cap Français (1795, by J.B. Chapuy, Archives départementales de la Martinique), an example of the sort of engraving that brought impressions of the Haiti uprising to an international public

· Napoleon’s authorization to French negotiators to sell the Louisiana Territory to the United States (1803, New-York Historical Society), as a direct consequence of the Haitian rebellion

· the only known surviving copy of the first printing of the Haitian Declaration of Independence (1804, National Archives, London), recently discovered and exhibited here to the public for the first time

· a wooden model of the slave ship Brookes, produced for the French revolutionary leader Mirabeau, intended to be used as a prop in the National Assembly’s debate on ending slavery in France (1789, Bibliothèque nationale de France)

· Thomas Jefferson’s copy of Notes on the State of Virginia, his only book, inscribed to the Abbé Morellet, and used by the latter to make the first French translation (1785, New York Public Library)

· a 2nd-century C.E. Roman marble bust of a young man wearing a Phrygian (or “liberty”) cap, which became an inspiration for one of the great symbols of the revolutionary era (Bibliothèque nationale de France)

· three superb vodou sculptures, produced by secret societies in Haiti that were established during the Haitian Revolution (early 20th century, La Fondation pour la Préservation, la Valorisation et la Production d’Oeuvres Culturelles Haïtiennes)

· Anne-Louis Girodet’s magnificent portrait of the great Saint-Domingue military and political leader Jean-Baptiste Belley, the “most important image of a black revolutionary” (1797, Musée National du Château de Versailles)

· a seven-foot-long “carcan” or leg-yoke, used to shackle five captives together, taken from a French slave ship (ca. 1800, Bibliothèque nationale de France)

· and many examples of the broadsides, pamphlets, and political and satirical cartoons that spread, and reflected, revolutionary fervor throughout the period

Plan of the Exhibition

Revolution! tells its story through the following main sections:

The Palace: Imperial Ambitions, Political Realities provides an overview of the Atlantic imperial world in 1763 at the moment when the British defeated French and Spanish forces in the first truly global conflict, the Seven Years War. This triumph came at a price, as the gallery illustrates with evidence of the material riches of the colonial possessions, and the high-level debates within the capital about the costs of exploiting them. Warfare and colonial government were expensive; yet greater taxation within the imperial homeland carried political risks. The leaders of Britain (like their imperial counterparts in Spain and Portugal) chose instead to impose new taxes and regulations on their colonies.

The Tavern: A World of Conspiracy and Connivance brings visitors into contact with the new public sphere of political argument that emerged in the world of the Atlantic’s maritime commerce, as broadsides, pamphlets and dockside murmurings circulated among a growing population of “masterless” people: men and women uprooted from their ancestral homes in Africa, Europe and the Americas. A seaport tavern in the Caribbean is the exhibition’s setting for the exchange of arguments, rumors, information and grievances that took place among colonial planters, royal officials, free people of color, fugitives, sailors, dockworkers and demimondaines. Their public chatter became an increasingly loud, dissonant and often corrosive counterpoint to the official pronouncements of palaces, ministries, cathedrals and courtrooms.

The Uncharted Upheaval in British North America traces the unforeseeable course of American rebellion from the protests against the Stamp Act to the aftermath of the War of Independence, showing these events less as a chronology of conflicts than as a set of “inventions.” Having begun by arguing for their traditional English rights within the empire, the colonists went on to construct universalist arguments for independence and a government based on popular sovereignty. Materials in the gallery illustrate the increasing political and cultural alienation of the colonists; the evolution of their colonial assemblies into wartime “committees of safety”; the formation of a military alliance with England’s imperial rival, France; and the postwar invention of self-government under the Articles of Confederation and then the Constitution.
The British Campaign for the Abolition of Slavery and the Slave Trade explores how the impact of the successful American rebellion—combined with the resistance of the enslaved aboard ships and within American plantations—set off a powerful impulse for reform in Great Britain, as the greatest slave-trading power on earth began the march toward emancipation. Materials in the gallery show how the anti-slavery forces used lectures, community meetings, marches, rallies, petitions to Parliament, the publication of propaganda images and personal testimonies—techniques of political mobilization that are now standard in the democratic world—to advance their cause. By 1807, the British had abolished the slave trade and assumed the role of maritime policemen in the Atlantic, aiming to cripple the human trafficking of Britain’s imperial rivals. This was the second great achievement of the revolutionary era.

Free and Equal: French and African Ideals Liberate the World’s Richest Colony takes the story of revolution to Paris—where the American example, and the cost to the royal treasury of assisting the Americans, contributed to the monarchy’s downfall—and to France’s own prize colony, Saint-Domingue, the western third of the island of Hispaniola. In the wake of 1789, the rich sugar planters of Saint-Domingue struck out for autonomy from France. Meanwhile, their mixed-race offspring, the often prosperous free people of color, responded to the new egalitarian ideals by calling for racial equality within economic classes; and the colony’s poor whites, hating both groups, agitated for the overthrow of all hierarchies. None of these forces wanted the abolition of slavery; but after more than two years of universal conflict, the ninety percent of Saint-Domingue that was African and enslaved rebelled, in summer 1791. At the heart of this chapter is Toussaint Louverture, the military genius, economic czar and law-giver of the rebellion. Its legacy included the total abolition of slavery by the Convention in 1794—the third great achievement of this revolutionary era—but also the ongoing resistance in Saint-Domingue, as ex-slaves chafed at Louverture’s orders for them to remain at their places of work.

The Second Haitian Revolution takes the story into the foothills and mountains of the island, where the formerly enslaved population stole away from the plantations and began creating a distinctive national identity. They melded the enormous diversity of their native African backgrounds into a single culture, through the development of a new form of spirituality (vodoun), a new national language (Krèyol) and a new form of household space and organization (the lakou).

The Triumph of Haitian Independence concludes this part of Revolution! with the story of Napoleon’s 1802 invasion of Saint-Domingue (with the goal of reinstituting slavery, threatening to kill off the existing adult African population and importing an entire new workforce from Africa) and the subsequent resistance. Although successful at first, the French army fell victim to yellow fever, the maroon insurgency in the mountains and their own government’s ineptitude. At the beginning of 1804, having driven the French out of Saint-Domingue, the victorious General Dessalines declared the independence of the second republic established in the Americas, the newly named nation of Haiti, concluding the first (and only) successful slave revolt in history and establishing the first nation to guarantee unconditional equality and emancipation in its constitution. This was the fourth great achievement of this era of revolution.
Legacies, the 19th century shows how the immediate consequences of this first Age of Revolution fell short of the dreams and sacrifices of the revolutionaries. The new Haitian state was quarantined by the imperial powers, with France extending recognition only after Haiti agreed to indemnify whites for the loss of their land and slaves—leaving the nation crippled by debt, and chronically unable to construct a workable political system. The British went on to abolish slavery in their West Indian possessions in the 1830s—but only after compensating slaveholders, and providing them with a new supply of indentured workers from Asia. As for the U.S., it ceased to be a fount of revolutionary activity after its purchase of the Louisiana Territory—a direct consequence of the Haitian revolution—turning inward to a project of continental expansion. (The question of extending slavery into western territories, ironically, would break apart the Union.) Despite these reversals, however, the events of 1776-1804 had implanted an ineradicable aspiration for democratic rights in the Atlantic world and beyond.

Legacies for our time carries the story of Revolution! into the 20th century, when the attainment of universal human rights came to be a global ideal, if certainly not an achieved reality. Dozens of colonial nations declared their independence from European powers, often in language adopted from Jefferson and Lafayette. Slavery, though persisting outside the law, became illegal everywhere. And in 1948, the United Nations brought forth the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which codified a new norm in human affairs: the fundamental entitlement of every person to a life of dignity, liberty and equality. This is the ultimate legacy of the half-century we call the Age of Revolution.

Exhibition Catalog

The exhibition will be accompanied by a full-color, illustrated catalogue edited by Thomas Bender, Laurent Dubois, and Richard Rabinowitz. The volume will feature ten essays by leading scholars: Thomas Bender; Laurent Dubois and Julius S. Scott (University of Michigan); Richard Rabinowitz; T. H. Breen (Northwestern University); Cathy Matson (University of Delaware); David Brion Davis (Yale University) and Peter P. Hinks; Robin Blackburn (New School University); Jeremy D. Popkin (University of Kentucky); Vincent Brown (Duke University); Rebecca J. Scott (University of Michigan) and Jean M. Hébrard (University of Michigan); and Jean Casimir (Université d’État, Haiti).

Education: School Programs

Curriculum materials for grades K through graduate school will include teacher lesson plans and student materials such as maps, copies of primary resources, life stories of exhibition protagonists and timelines. As with all major exhibitions, Museum educators from the Historical Society will conduct teacher training and onsite tours for school groups throughout the run of the exhibition. Teacher materials will also be accessible for download from the Revolution! website at no charge.

Public Programs

A series of evening programs at the Historical Society will feature some of the nation’s top historians, journalists and authors. These programs will be digitally recorded and posted as podcasts on various sites. In addition, the Historical Society will offer educational and community outreach programs for the Haitian-American community in New York and other venue cities, including visual and performing arts, oral history and citizenship education.

A joint scholarly conference with the John Carter Brown Library (Providence, RI) in March 2012 will convene post-secondary audiences and scholars of the subject.

Illustration: Sea Captains Carousing in Surinam (oil on canvas, 1752-58, by John Greenwood).

Ogdensburg Founder’s Day Weekend July 23-24


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Ogdensburg, in St. Lawrence County, will play host to it’s annual Founder’s Day celebration, French and Indian War reenactment, and colonial trade fair on Saturday, July 23 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM and Sunday, July 24 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM.

More than 250 years ago the roar of cannon fire echoed over the St. Lawrence River on the now peaceful stretch between Ogdensburg, New York and Prescott, Ontario. The final battle of the French and Indian War – the battle that truly led to the French losing Canada to the English – was fought here in August 1760.

Founder’s Day Weekend is the annual commemoration of Ogdensburg’s French colonial history and the Battle of the Thousand Islands. Lighthouse Point features a military re-enactment and colonial trade fair. As many as 500 participants from the U.S. and Canada, dressed in 18th-century clothes, will establish an encampment of white canvass tents.

French and English naval contingents will moor their historically accurate small boats along the shore and bivouac there. The crews will race on Saturday morning, but Saturday and Sunday afternoon the boats with bow guns and muskets in battle on the river. The skirmishing on the water leads into the land battle. Across the width of Lighthouse Point, the opposing forces and their Native allies will maneuver.

Civilian life of the colonies will also be represented as women and children, pipers, dancers, artisans, traditional tradesmen and women, and sutlers, the merchants that followed the armies, set up their shops to furnish just about anything a re-enactor, or 21st-century tourist, could want.

The re-enactment of the Battle of the Thousand Islands and the colonial trade fair are adjacent to the archaeological remains of Fort de la Présentation, built by the French in 1749. When the tide of war turned in favor of the English, the French vacated the fort in early 1759 and continued the construction of Fort Lévis downriver on Île Royal, now Chimney Island. La Présentation was a wooden stockade; Lévis was a substantial fortification.

The 1760 Battle of the Thousand Islands began with the capture of the French corvette L’Outauaise by a swarm of English row galleys off abandoned Fort de la Présentation. The battle continued with the successful, weeklong siege of Fort Lévis. The English pressed on to accept the capitulation of Montreal.

For more than a decade, the annual Founder’s Day Weekend has honored the shared history of Canada and the United States. Here, where the Oswegatchie River flows into the St. Lawrence, the Fort La Présentation Association plans to rebuild the historic fort as a high-quality, tourist attraction.

Admission: Adults $8; Children 7 to 12 $2; children 6 and under free.

More information is available online or by calling the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce at 1-877-228-7810.

Photo courtesy Sandy Goss, Eagle Bay Media.

Fur, Fortune, and Empire: A History of American Fur Trade


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“The fur trade was a powerful force in shaping the course of American history from the early 1600s through the late 1800s,” Eric Jay Dolin writes in his new comprehensive history Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America. “Millions of animals were killed for their pelts, which were used according to the dictates of fashion — and human vanity,” Dolin writes. “This relentless pursuit of furs left in its wake a dramatic, often tragic tale of clashing cultures, fluctuating fortunes, and bloody wars.”

The fur trade spurred imperial power struggles that eventually led to the expulsions of the Swedes, the Dutch, and the French from North America. Dolin’s history of the American fur trade is a workmanlike retelling of those struggles that sits well on the shelf beside Hiram Martin Chittenden’s 1902 two-volume classic The American Fur Trade of the Far West, and The Fur Trade in Colonial New York, 1686-1776., the only attempt to tell the story of the fur trade in New York. The latter volume, written by Thomas Elliot Norton, leaves no room for the Dutch period or the early national period which saw the fur trade drive American expansion west.

Dolin’s Fur Fortune, and Empire, is not as academic as last year’s Rethinking the Fur Trade: Cultures of Exchange in an Atlantic World by Susan Sleeper-Smith. It’s readable, and entertaining, ranging from Europe, following the westward march of the fur frontier across America, and beyond to China. Dolin shows how trappers, White and Indian, set the stage for the American colonialism to follow and pushed several species to the brink of extinction. Among the characters in this history are those who were killed in their millions; beaver, mink, otter, and buffalo.

Eric Jay Dolin’s focus, as it was with his last book Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America, is the intersection of American history and natural history. Readers interested in the history of the New York fur trade will find this book enlightening for it’s connection of the state’s fur business with the larger world as the first third deals with the period before the American Revolution, when New York fur merchants and traders were still a dominate factor. Yet, like last year’s Sleeper-Smith book, Dolin’s newest volume is simply outlines the wider ground on which the still necessary volume on the fur trade in New York might be built.

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

Battle of the Thousand Islands: Final 250th French and Indian War Event


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The Fort La Présentation Association’s annual Founder’s Day Weekend will host the 250th anniversary commemoration on Lighthouse Point, July 16-18, 2010. Dressed in 18th-century clothes, military re-enactors (army & navy) and heritage interpreters from Canada and the US will camp under canvas and cook over fires. Each afternoon, they will battle on land and water to bring the Battle of the Thousand Islands to life.

The Battle of the Thousand Islands, the last significant clash of French and British forces of that distant war, was fought in two parts in August 1760. The capture of the French corvette L’Outaouaise and the siege of Fort Lévis opened the upper St. Lawrence River to Montreal. In September 1760, Montreal capitulated, and the hostilities ended.

Founder’s Day Weekend is more than a military camp. Children’s games and military musters, more than 30 18th-century merchants and artisans, and period dancing are some of the activities that also include a deck tour of a schooner typical of the 1700s. There will be fur traders, a blacksmith, a tinsmith, and displays of other trades and early medical equipment.

Ogdensburg native and Hollywood actor Mark Valley (Boston Legal and Human Target) plans to dress the part and join the re-enactors. A number of military attachés posted in Ottawa, along with other special guests, will review the troops. Special visitors are expected from France.

Founder’s Day Weekend, on Lighthouse Point, is adjacent to the site of the original Fort de La Présentation (1749-1759).

Admission of $8 per adult and $1 per child opens the door to a colorful colonial world.

For information, visit www.fortlapresentation.net or call the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce at 1 877-228-7810.

The Fort La Présentation Association is facing a financial challenge by hosting this 250th anniversary commemoration. Ironically, the Fort Association was invited by New York State to host the final Signature Event for which it is unlikely to be reimbursed in the foreseeable future.

CFP: French Colonial Historical Society Annual Meeting


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The 36th annual meeting of the French Colonial Historical Society (FCHS) will take place in Paris, France, June 17-19, 2010, hosted by the University Paris 8 (Vincennes – Saint- Denis). The theme for the conference will be “Ends of Empire” but proposals on all aspects of overseas France will be considered. The Society encourages scholars from all disciplines to submit proposals. Please do not send proposals for papers that have already been presented or scheduled for presentation at other conferences, or that have already been published. The time limit for presenting papers will be 20 minutes, and the deadline for submitting papers to the session moderator is three weeks in advance of the conference.

Individual paper proposals must include a 100-200 word summary with the title of the paper, name, institutional affiliation, e-mail address, phone and fax numbers, and a brief curriculum vitae, all integrated into a single file, preferably in MS-Word. Proposals for entire sessions or panels must contain the same information for each participant, as well as contact information and a brief C.V. for the moderator if you suggest one. (The program committee can help find moderators, if necessary.) There will be a limited number of AV-equipped rooms available so it is essential that you indicate your need for audiovisual equipment (and what kind) in your proposal.

Proposals should be sent by e-mail attachment to: fchsparis@gmail.com. Individuals wishing to moderate a session should send a statement of interest, contact information, and a brief C.V. to the Program Chair. The deadline for proposals is November 1st, 2009.

The FCHS is a private society dependent on membership dues. All conference participants must be or become members at the time of acceptance (roughly January 1, 2010). Unfortunately, the FCHS does not have funds to subsidize scholars’ participation at the meeting. Please check the FCHS website for further details (http://www.frenchcolonial.org). If you have any questions about membership, please contact Elizabeth Foster, Treasurer (elizabeth.foster@tufts.edu). If you have any questions about conference logistics, please contact Emmanuelle Sibeud, Local Arrangements (emmanuelle.sibeud@univ-paris8.fr).

Appel à communications
Congrès annuel de la Société d’histoire coloniale française
Université Paris 8 (Vincennes – Saint-Denis)
Paris / Saint-Denis, France
17-19 juin 2010

Le 36ème congrès de la Société d’histoire coloniale française se tiendra à Paris du 17 au 19 juin 2010, organisé par l’Université Paris 8 (Vincennes – Saint Denis). Le thème principal sera « Fins d’empire », mais comme toujours, des propositions de communication sur d’autres aspects de l’histoire coloniale française peuvent aussi nous être adressées. La Société encourage des chercheurs de toute discipline à soumettre des propositions. Les interventions ne doivent pas être déjà publiées, ni présentées ou programmées à un autre colloque. Chaque intervenant disposera de 20 minutes de présentation. Les communications devront être soumises au président de séance au minimum trois semaines avant le début du congrès.

Les propositions de communications individuelles doivent comprendre un résumé de 100 à 200 mots et indiquer : le titre de la communication, le nom, l’institution de rattachement, les coordonnées (e-mail, téléphone, fax) et un curriculum vitae abrégé de l’auteur, dans un seul dossier, de préférence en MS-Word. Les propositions pour des séances complètes, des panels ou des tables rondes, doivent contenir ces éléments pour chacun des participants, de même que pour le président/discutant pressenti. (Les organisateurs peuvent proposer des présidents et des discutants, si nécessaire.) En raison du nombre limité de salles équipées, il est essentiel d’indiquer d’emblée si vous avez besoin d’équipements audiovisuels.

Les propositions doivent être envoyées par courriel à l’adresse suivante : fchsparis@gmail.com. Les personnes souhaitant présider une séance doivent envoyer une déclaration d’intérêt, leurs coordonnées et un CV abrégé. La date limite pour les propositions de communication sera le 1er novembre 2009.

La FCHS est une association indépendante, sans autre source de financement que les cotisations de ses adhérents. L’adhésion à la société est obligatoire pour participer au congrès. Malheureusement, la Society ne peut prendre en charge ni le voyage, ni le séjour des intervenants au congrès. N’hésitez pas à consulter le site Internet de la Society pour de plus amples informations (http://www.frenchcolonial.org).

Si vous avez des questions sur l’adhésion à la Society, contactez Elizabeth Foster, Trésorière (elizabeth.foster@tufts.edu). Si vous avez des questions sur l’organisation du congrès,

Northern NY Discusses Interviewing and Oral History


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The Clinton-Essex Counties Roundtable will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 9, 2009 at the Northern New York American Canadian Genealogy Society, Keeseville Civic Center, 1802 Main St., Keeseville. The topic will be “Community Scholars Training: Interviewing & Oral History” and will be presented by Traditional Arts in Upstate New York (TAUNY) Executive Director Jill Breit.

Breit will share examples of successful oral history projects and demonstrate the many ways interviews can be used for different outcomes. She will focus on how to organize an oral history project, the basics of an oral history interview, the importance of field notes and follow-up interviews, recorders and other equipment for collecting oral history.

There will also be a tour of NNY American Canadian Genealogy Society Library and the Anderson Falls Heritage Society. Lunch will be provided at a cost of $5.00, payable at the roundtable.

The roundtable is provided free of charge to the public on behalf of the Northern New York Library Network, Potsdam, and Documentary Heritage Program. To register for this event contact the NNYLN at 315-265-1119, or sign up on-line at www.nnyln.org and click on “Classes.”

A New Biography of Samuel de Champlain


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David Hackett Fischer‘s new biography of Samuel de Champlain is out. He will be at the New York State Writers Institute on Thursday to discuss the work, and there’s a review in the Albany Times Union by Paul Grondahl:

Published this month to capitalize on planned 2009 quadricentennial celebrations of Hudson and Champlain, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian has written a comprehensive, magisterial biography, Champlain’s Dream. It is intended to resurrect the extraordinary accomplishments of a protean figure largely overlooked in today’s history courses…

That dream of creating a French colony in North America began circa 1570 on the Atlantic coast of France, where Champlain grew up tolerant of religious differences in an era of brutal sectarian warfare. It is unclear whether Champlain was baptized Catholic or Protestant and much of his lineage remains murky. Fischer does not entirely discount historians who have suggested that he was an illegitimate son of the illustrious French king Henri IV — who gave financial support to Champlain’s explorations, granted him special access and provided a pension for him.

“The hard evidence to support such an idea is zero,” [Fischer] said.

Regardless of his paternity, Champlain went to sea as a youth and acquired exceptional sailing and navigation skills. In his jam-packed career, he was a soldier, spy, explorer, cartographer, author, artist and, above all, a conciliator among warring Indian tribes in the New World.

Unlike other agents of imperialism, Champlain did not go in search of gold or conquest, but rather to spread the culture of France, to discover new places and to bring together diverse people in a spirit of harmony.

His travels are prodigious. He made at least 27 Atlantic crossings between 1599 and 1635 without losing a ship; traversed six Canadian provinces and five American states by land and water; created maps more detailed and accurate than his contemporaries; wrote in-depth accounts of his trips that fill six large volumes. Oddly, he never learned to swim.

It is as the father of New France that Champlain deserves the most recognition, according to Fischer. As the founder and leader of the first permanent French settlements in North America, he went so far as to subsidize new families with his own money.

Although Champlain had some stains on his character, including shabby treatment of his French servants and an inability to absorb criticism, by the time of his death in 1635 he had succeeded in permanently planting French culture in the New World.

New Netherland Institute’s Rensselaerswijck Seminar


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The New Netherland Institute has announced its 31st Rensselaerswijck Seminar, “Neighbors in the New World: New Netherland and New France,” a one-day conference to be held on Saturday, September 13, 2008, in the Kenneth B. Clark Auditorium of the Cultural Education Center at the Empire State Plaza in Albany.

The theme is the relationship between the Dutch and French in 17th-century North America. Major attention will focus on interactions of these European powers and their respective Indian allies. The following speakers will explore various aspects of this relationship, including direct and indirect contacts between these two European trading powers both in Europe and in the New World:

James Bradley, ArchLink, Boston, MA
“In Between Worlds: New Netherland and New France at Mid Century”

José António Brandão, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI
“An Unreasonable Offer: Iroquois Policy towards their Huron and Mahican Neighbors”

Willem Frijhoff, Free University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands
“Jesuits, Calvinists, and Natives: Attitudes, Agency, and Encounters in the Early Christian Missions in the North.”

Joyce Goodfriend, University of Denver, CO
Introduction and presentation of the Hendricks Manuscript Award

Conrad Heidenreich, York University, Ontario, Canada
“The Skirmish with the Mohawk on Lake Champlain: was Champlain a ‘trigger-happy thug’ or ‘just following orders?’”

The conference program and registration information can be found online [pdf].

The New Netherland Institute is the friends group of the New Netherland Project, which, according to their website:

Was established under the sponsorship of the New York State Library and the Holland Society of New York. Its primary objective is to complete the transcription, translation, and publication of all Dutch documents in New York repositories relating to the seventeenth-century colony of New Netherland. This unique resource has already proven invaluable to scholars in a wide variety of disciplines. It also serves to enhance awareness of the major Dutch contributions to America over the centuries and the strong connections between the two nations. The Project is supported by the New York State Library, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the New Netherland Institute.

The New Netherland Institute (formerly Friends of New Netherland) seeks to increase public awareness of the work of the New Netherland Project and supports the Project through fund raising. The Institute assists authors of scholarly and popular material; disseminates information to educators, researchers, historians, curators, genealogists, and anthropologists; develops collaborations with academic institutions and other organizations interested in early American history; provides learning opportunities, such as internships, as well as research and consulting services pertaining to New Netherland; and sponsors activities related to the work of the New Netherland Project.