Tag Archives: Political History

Statewide Underground Railroad Group Forming


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NY-UNderground-Railroad-RoutesMeeting in the same Central New York church that hosted the state’s first Anti-Slavery convention in 1835, a group of Underground Railroad-related organizations (museums, churches, and associations) assembled on November 13th to formalize a statewide network to better promote this key part of New York’s heritage.

Twenty different vetted organizations were represented, from Long Island to Jamestown, and Elmira to the northern shores of Lake Champlain.  Hosted by Dot Willsey, president of the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum, located in the Peterboro church were the NYS Anti-Slavery Society met 179 years ago, this month’s conference resolved on the need for a statewide consortium to share programs and projects, enhance efforts to publicize resources available around the state, and communicate with educators, public officials and the traveling public. Continue reading

Antebellum NYC Envrionmental Battles


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Taming ManhattanTaming Manhattan: Environmental Battles in the Antebellum City (Harvard Univ. Press, 2014) details the environmental history of the city of New York in the years before and during the Civil War, when pigs roamed the streets and cows foraged in the Battery.

On Tuesday, November 25th, at an event at NYU, author Catherine McNeur will discuss nineteenth-century New York City’s long forgotten shantytowns, the people living in the communities, and how outsiders viewed the architecture and communities developing on the metropolitan periphery. Continue reading

Helen Rich And St. Lawrence County Suffrage


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younghelenrich(1)When most people discuss the American woman’s suffrage movement they think of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.  However, Helen Hinsdale Rich was the first woman to embrace the idea of woman’s suffrage in the North Country.

Learn more about Helen Rich when Bryan Thompson speaks at the St. Lawrence County Historical Association’s next Patricia Harrington Carson Brown Bag Lunch Series at noon on Thursday, November 20th at the Silas Wright House, 3 East Main St., Canton.  Brown Bag Lunches are free and open to the public.  Bring your own lunch and enjoy a beverage and dessert provided by SLCHA. Continue reading

Chaos On An Adirondack Train: The Case Against Pullman Porter Smith


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Pullman Porter Helping Woman circa 1880sWhen the night train to Montreal set out from Utica on April 29, 1931, James E. Smith had already been toiling over the needs and wants of his passengers for many hours.  At 29 years old, Smith had been a Pullman porter for about three years.  He had done a stint in Pennsylvania and now was employed on the New York Central line of the Pullman Company.

The experience of the Pullman porter was both uncommon yet ordinary.  The Pullman Palace Car company hired black men almost exclusively as porters. This practice began under the direction of the founder of the company, George Pullman, after the Civil War. On board a luxurious and comfortable Pullman Car, Pullman porters were expected to be the ideal servants to their well off white passengers.   Continue reading

Bill Bray: Standing Strong to the End


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NYH03AMWBrayAfter years of loyal service to his party and resisting against the most powerful men in American politics, M. William Bray was unceremoniously dumped from the New York State Democratic ticket in 1938. The strategy was questionable at best, considering the support he enjoyed in 40 upstate counties.

It was Bray’s growing influence that they feared. For years, Roosevelt, Farley, and others had tried to erode his power base but were unable to do so. In fact, by all measures, Bray was more popular than ever. In 1936, during his third run for lieutenant governor, he had outpolled Governor Lehman by nearly 60,000 votes (3,028,191 to 2,970,595). Continue reading

Womens Rights History: ‘Night Of Terror’ Observance


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Night of Terror ProtesterThe first national observance of the “Night of Terror” will be held November 15, 2014 by the Turning Point Suffragist Memorial Association, an organization raising money to build a national memorial honoring women who were arrested and imprisoned during the 72-year campaign to win voting rights for women. Lorton, Virginia is the planned site for the suffragist memorial, not far from Occoquan Workhouse where the “Night of Terror” on arrested suffrage picketers was carried out in 1917.

November 14-15, 1917 is recognized in history as the night when a total of 31 suffrage activists were targeted with violent attacks in an effort to break the spirit of the activists. The “Night of Terror” occurred at the Occoquan Workhouse (then part of the District of Columbia’s prison complex) in Lorton, Virginia, not far from Washington, DC. Continue reading

Museum President: Susan B. Anthony Being ‘Defamed’


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FeministsforlifeposterThe recent activities of the Susan B. Anthony List, a 501(c)(4) organization, and its affiliated political action committee, the SBA List Candidate Fund, have raised concerns at Rochester’s Susan B. Anthony Museum & House, part of an ongoing dispute over anti-abortion activists and social conservatives using Anthony’s name.

“We can make room for a different interpretation of history, and we certainly support political engagement,” says Deborah L. Hughes, President and CEO of the Anthony Museum, “but their tactics repeatedly cross a line that is outrageous and inconsistent with who Susan B. Anthony was. Her good character is being defamed by their actions. People are outraged by their actions, causing harm to Anthony’s name and the mission of our Museum.” Continue reading

1931: Tammany Hall, Voter Fraud, and Sullivan County


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james-a-farleyOf all the fascinating races in Sullivan County’s colorful political history, none has had a greater statewide impact than the 1931 contest for the New York State Assembly.

And the significance of the election had only a little to do with its outcome.

William Whittaker, a South Fallsburg (Sullivan County) Democrat, was the Assembly incumbent in 1931, having won the seat the year before in a contest decided by fewer than 200 votes. His opponent in both races was John T. Curtis of Monticello, owner and editor of the Sullivan County Republican newspaper. As Election Day approached, Republican party officials in the county became suspicious of an unusually large number of absentee ballots, and asked for an investigation. Continue reading

Grave of 1st North Dakota Gov Marked in NY


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Miller Grave - North Dakota First GovernorThe only mausoleum in Green Hills Cemetery in Dryden Village, Tompkins County, the resting place of the first governor of the state of North Dakota John Miller, has been restored and marked.

In 1989, during the centennial of North Dakota’s statehood, the Cemetery applied to the North Dakota Centennial Commission for funds (about $1,000) to restore the mausoleum. The Cemetery received a certificate with a gold seal from the Commission recognizing the project, but no money. The work was not done. Continue reading

Thomas Jefferson Letters Make Public Debut in NYC


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Thomas_Jefferson_by_John_Trumbull_1788For the first time, the Museum of the City of New York have put on public view more than 20 original letters from Thomas Jefferson to Robert R. Livingston, who served as Chancellor of the State of New York and whom Jefferson appointed resident minister at the court of Napoleon. The personal letters, which span from 1800 – 1803 and have been part of the City Museum’s collection since 1947, will be on public display through Friday, December 5, 2014.

In these documents, Jefferson writes about a number of remarkable and historically important topics, including: the Louisiana Purchase, the Napoleonic Wars, early debates over the Constitution, the unearthing of a buried mammoth skeleton in upstate New York, the technical details of the first steam engine, the development of new codes for delivering secret messages to American diplomats living overseas, and much more. Continue reading

Political History: Northern NY’s Native Son Bill Bray


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NYH02AMWBray1933Bill Bray’s rise to power in New York State politics was an impressive feat. From a poor farm life within a few miles of the Canadian border, he worked hard at becoming a successful attorney. By the age of 39, he was chairman of the state’s Democratic Party and a close confidant of Governor Franklin Roosevelt. Bray was running the show and FDR was a happy man, reaping the benefits of Bray’s solid connections in upstate New York.

Ironically, his following across central and northern New York is what eventually drove a wedge between Bray and the governor, souring their relationship. The falling out was over patronage, a common political practice. Roosevelt balked at Bray’s request to replace the Conservation Commissioner (a Republican) with a deserving upstate Democrat. It was, after all, the payoff for supporting FDR and helping win the election. A month or so later, Roosevelt finally acceded to Bray’s wishes, but the conflict hurt Bill’s standing within the inner circle. Continue reading

Bill Bray: Churubusco’s Democratic State Chairman


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NYH01AFDRLehmanSmithBrayAs we near Election Day, I’m reminded of a man from a remote corner of the North Country, an individual who was once the right-hand man of a future president—and not just any president. Not everyone loved him, of course, but Franklin D. Roosevelt is one of the few to consistently appear near the top of “our greatest leaders” lists. The right-hand man I’m referring to was known professionally as M. William Bray (Bill to his friends), a native of the town of Clinton, which borders Canada in northwestern Clinton County. Continue reading

Jack McEneny, the Adirondacks on ‘The Historians’


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The Historians LogoThis week on “The Historians”, Albany historian and former longtime New York State Assemblyman Jack McEneny on the Pine Hills, the Quackenbush House and the politics of history. In the second half of the show I talk with Adirondack historian Don Williams about his latest book Adirondack Tales of Tragedy and Tidings Between the Sacandaga River Bridges. (Leader Herald, 2014).

Listen to the whole program at “The Historians” online archive at http://www.bobcudmore.com/thehistorians/

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Sally Ride Biographer Keynoting Susan B. Anthony Event


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susanbThe National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House has announced that its’ keynote speaker for the 2015 Susan B. Anthony Birthday Luncheon will be Lynn Sherr, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and biographer. The 2015 luncheon theme, Thanks to Susan B., We Can Reach For the Stars!, a celebration of the impact Susan B. Anthony’s life and work has had on subsequent generations of women. Continue reading

Amsterdam Mayor Arthur Carter Was An FDR ally


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Amsterdam Mayor Arthur Carter 1933During the 1920s, Arthur Carter from Amsterdam worked as an auditor for the State Comptroller’s Office in Albany and got to know Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Roosevelt became President in 1933. Later that year, Carter was elected mayor of Amsterdam, defeating incumbent Republican Robert Brumagin by 1,169 votes.

The nation was gripped by the Depression. An estimated ten thousand people turned out in Amsterdam on a raw and windy November 9, two days after the city election, to parade for economic revival. Continue reading

Campuses Celebrate NYS Wilderness Act Connection


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image0035Through the efforts of a statewide grassroots committee, public and private colleges and universities throughout upstate New York have been spending this fall commemorating the Empire State’s role in inspiring federal wilderness preservation.

These activities are occurring in celebration of the anniversary of the signing by President Lyndon Johnson of the National Wilderness Preservation System Act of 1964, legislation that created the legal definition of “wilderness” in the United States and now makes provisions for wilderness management on more than 109 million acres of federal land. Continue reading

A First Lady’s Failed Adirondack Cure


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cottageIn the summer of 1892, the wife of President Benjamin Harrison, Caroline Scott Harrison, became extremely ill. She primarily suffered from tuberculosis, but experienced complications from pleurisy and the accumulation of fluid in her chest. Medical treatment of T. B. at the time mainly amounted to having the patient rest. For this reason, it was felt that a stay in the Adirondacks offered the best chance for restoring the First Lady’s health.

Early in July, the journey from Washington, D.C. to Loon Lake was undertaken, via a special train. The Troy Daily Times dutifully reported on the train’s progress. It arrived in Troy in the wee hours of the morning on July 7, then proceeded to White Creek, Rutland, Vermont, Rouse’s Point, and Malone, reaching the latter place at 10:30 am. There, a crowd that included some local officials met the two-car train, but the President asked that they refrain from cheering, so as not to disturb his sick wife. Continue reading

North Country Teacher Taught Southern Freedmen


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coitphoto2Back-to-school time perhaps brings back, for adults, the memory of a favorite teacher. But of those who are so warmly remembered, how many can elicit this wish by a former student of a 19th century teacher?

“If I could be permitted, how gladly would I again fill up the wood-box in your room and kindle the fire on your hearth…”

Those words came from the prestigious African American preacher, Rev. Daniel Webster Shaw (who, interestingly, was the son of a former slave, Harriet Shaw, with whom Solomon Northup was acquainted in Louisiana). “If I have done anything, or come to anything worth while, it is all mainly due to your timely helpfulness and godly admonition,” Shaw wrote. “I think of the school days on the Tache [Teche, a bayou in Louisiana], and all the kind ways in which you helped me to start out in life.” Continue reading

NYS Museum Exhibiting At New York State Fair


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RockefellerLimo-thThe New York State Museum is displaying two historical vehicles at the Great New York State Fair in Syracuse, NY, through September 1, 2014. The two vehicles, a 1932 Packard Phaeton and a 1967 Lincoln Executive Limousine, were used by New York Governors Franklin D. Roosevelt and Nelson A. Rockefeller, respectively.

“The Board of Regents and the New York State Museum are honored to exhibit two historical vehicles from the Museum’s collections at the Great New York State Fair,” said State Museum Director Mark Schaming. “For the first time at the State Fair, thousands of New Yorkers will have the opportunity to see these two historical cars that transported Governors Roosevelt and Rockefeller across New York State.” Continue reading

Spirit of 1776: A New Suffragette Anthem


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Spirit of 17776 Suffrage AnthemThe 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