This week on “The Historians” radio program, David Fiske of Saratoga County with stories of two 19th century hangings in Ballston Spa. In the second half of the show I talk with pianist Stan Wiest who has tales about life on the road as a musician in the 20th century.
Listen to the whole program at “The Historians” online archive at http://www.bobcudmore.com/thehistorians/
John Philip Sousa, “The March King” who composed “The Stars and Stripes Forever”, unsuccessfully courted a woman from the Mohawk Valley and remained a close friend of hers through the years.
Jessie Zoller was born in 1856 in the hamlet of Hallsville in the town of Minden. Minden historian Christine Oarr Eggleston said Jesse was the daughter of egg farmer Abram Zoller and his wife Alma Tuttle Zoller. After the Civil War, Abram Zoller held a high post in the U.S. Treasury and his wife and daughter were living with him in Washington. Continue reading
In celebration of the Glove Theatre’s 100th Anniversary the Glove Performing Arts Center will present a re-enactment of the World Premiere of the film “Drums along the Mohawk” from 1939 on November 1, 2014 at the theater in Gloversville, NY.
“Drums along the Mohawk” was a Technicolor picture, produced by Darryl F. Zanuck. Directed by John Ford, screen-play by Lamar Trotti and Sonya Levien and based upon the novel by Walter D. Edmonds, the film starred Claudette Colbert and Henry Fonda depicting the Mohawk Valley at the time of the Revolutionary War with a gripping love story between the two leading characters. Continue reading
Two Amsterdam clergymen had concerns and asked Mayor John Dwyer to do something about the situation. The Rose Hill Folly Company was planning to perform on Wednesday, November 6, 1889 at the Potter Opera House on Market Street.
The formidable Reverend John McIncrow of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church and Reverend Donald Sprague of St. Ann’s Episcopal Church told the mayor the company had an “immoral tendency.” The clergymen also asked Dwyer not to allow the “posting of indecent pictorial advertisements of shows” in the city. Continue reading
There were tough times when a lead pig died suddenly, forcing Fred Kerslake to regroup, find a new leader, and complete the necessary training. But saddest of all was when he spoke of Jennie. In 1909, Rollo was the clown pig and a great performer. Kerslake called him “a wonder that does everything but talk, and after a fashion it actually does that,” referring to Rollo’s human-like responses to his comments. Rollo rose to fame after the death of his mother, Jennie, a very special performer and friend. Said Fred, “She was certainly gifted with the divine light of human intelligence. Not only could she reason, but she could make her wants known with the aid of spelling blocks.” Continue reading
The three mains stars hogging the limelight from Fred Kerslake were pigs Jerry, Peggy, and Pete, whose antics were irresistible. Recognizing the possibilities, booking agents sought them for summer tours and winter vaudeville circuits. Rave reviews followed in Buffalo, Chicago, Philadelphia, and a host of other stops in between. Audiences couldn’t get enough of watching pigs play leapfrog, read, and count―it was both bewildering and hilarious at the same time.
Professionals were taking notice as well. Among them was Germany’s Carl Hagenbeck, who pioneered the displaying of animals in their natural habitats rather than in caged enclosures. Hagenbeck emphasized properly selecting animals with the right temperament for training or display choosing only a few prospects from a large group, and then using what was described as “constant patience, firmness, and kindness” to train them. Still, there’s no denying that whips were used to tap or give a quick sting to animals during training. Continue reading
“That’ll do, pig.” It’s a line I’ve heard more than once from my wife and business partner, Jill (we’re always razzing each other about something or other). It is, of course, the famous line near the end of Babe, a movie we both enjoyed. We’re also fans of Arnold from Green Acres, and of the pigs who played leadership roles in George Orwell’s allegorical novel, Animal Farm. You can see a theme developing here―a bunch of very smart pigs who, in fantasy worlds, did all sorts of things that a reasonable person knows a pig can’t really do.
Can’t really do? Not so fast. Yes, Orwell’s pigs were the smartest animals in the barnyard. Arnold could get the mail and understand English. Babe could herd sheep as well as any sheepdog. But in the real world, the North Country once had something to rival them all. I give you Fred Kerslake’s pigs. Continue reading
I’ve learned so much about the history and culture of my state (NY) and local communities in which I reside (Buffalo NY and Piercefield NY in the Adirondack Mountains) through the traditional music of these places.
Similarly, my interest in local and state history has informed my understanding and appreciation of the music of our forebears. Before mass media came into the home, you got your music as you got your food – from someplace local, mostly. The newspaper, perhaps. Travelling shows, yes. But also from people in your community. Family members, neighbors, coworkers. What did they sing about? And what can those long-forgotten songs tell us about a community? Continue reading
The Heritage Museum of Orange County in Santa Ana, CA provided the stage set for a new music video, “Spirit of 1776,” which the production team calls a “suffragette anthem”, scheduled for release in time for Women’s Equality Day celebrations.
Observed on August 26th each year, the occasion commemorates American women’s campaigns to win the vote from 1848 to 1920. The music video is inspired by an actual suffrage campaign wagon called the “Spirit of 1776” used in New York State as a speakers’ platform and in suffrage parades prior to 1920. Continue reading
A recent lecture I delivered on Prohibition in the North Country allowed me a closeup look at what community activists can accomplish. Among the historic buildings in many towns of northern New York are theaters that were once the center of social life. Many of these old structures have been refurbished as part of city or village revitalization programs. Reclaiming and reviving them is costly, requiring the efforts of dedicated, thoughtful, and energetic folks, mostly volunteers. Just as important is the work that follows—utilizing the facilities as self-sustaining ventures while bringing a community together. Continue reading