Tag Archives: Political History

The Amazing Career Of Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler


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nicholas miraculousIn Nicholas Miraculous: The Amazing Career of the Redoubtable Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler (Columbia Univ. Press, 2015), Michael Rosenthal explores the life of Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler (1862–1947).

To some, like Teddy Roosevelt, he was “Nicholas Miraculous,” the fabled educator who had a hand in everything; to others, like Upton Sinclair, he was “the intellectual leader of the American plutocracy,” a champion of “false and cruel ideals.” Ezra Pound branded him “one of the more loathsome figures” of the age. Whether celebrated or despised, Nicholas Murray Butler was undeniably an irresistible force who helped shape American history. Continue reading

3 Important NYS Constitutional Conventions


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1777 New York State ConstitutionThe next referendum to decide whether to hold a New York State Constitutional Convention will be held on November 7, 2017.  During the last two referenda in 1997 and 1977 (they are held every 20 years) voters declined to hold such a convention. In fact the last time a convention to revise the New York State Constitution was held was almost 50 years ago in 1967, and despite the hard work of its delegates, voters rejected the revised Constitution in its entirety.

Although amendments to the New York State Constitution occur with some regularity (including several last November), the last time the Constitution was changed through the Convention process was in 1938, almost eighty years ago.

Nevertheless, the history of Constitutional Conventions in New York State is not as bleak as this recent history would suggest. In fact, three New York State Constitutional Conventions — those of 1777, 1821 and 1938 — helped shape the State’s political history. Continue reading

The Bill of Rights on the Ben Franklin’s World podcast


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ben_franklins_worldDid you know that when James Madison originally proposed the Bill of Rights, it consisted of 36 amendments and that the House of Representatives did not want to consider or debate Madison’s proposed amendments to the Constitution?

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, we explore the Bill of Rights and its ratification with Carol Berkin, author of The Bill of Rights: The Fight to Secure America’s Liberties (Simon and Schuster, 2015). You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/062

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George Washington in Retirement


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ben_franklins_worldIf you had only six years to enjoy retirement what would you do?

Would you improve your plantation? Build canals? Or work behind-the-scenes to unite your country by framing a new central government?

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, we explore George Washington’s brief retirement from public service with Edward Larson, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in History and author of The Return of George Washington, 1783-1789 (William Morrow, 2014). You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/061

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A NY Woman Who Belongs On The $20 Bill


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800px-Frances_Perkins_cph.3a04983Recently the Treasury Department has announced its intent to place a prominent woman of historical importance on the U.S. currency. There is no one who is more deserving of this honor than Frances Perkins, a New York woman, who was probably the most significant and important female government official of the 20th century.

As Secretary of Labor throughout President Franklin Roosevelt’s four terms and the first woman ever to hold a cabinet position, Frances Perkins designed most of the New Deal Social Welfare and Labor Policies, such as social security, the minimum wage, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and protections for unions, and reshaped America. Continue reading

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and NYC’s Minority Plumbers


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01Minority PlumbersShifting alliances can make strange bedfellows and surprising adversaries. The push to integrate the New York City Plumbers Union as the Civil Rights Act was cobbled together 50 years ago shows how our perceptions and expectations can change with time.

Not long before the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, construction began on what is now the Hunt’s Point Food Distribution Center, the largest food distribution complex in the world. Full integration of the union workers at Hunts Point, supported by many, might have derailed or undermined this important legislation. Continue reading

War, Money, and the American State, 1783-1867


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ben_franklins_worldAs Benjamin Franklin stated in 1789, “nothing is certain but death and taxes.” Given the certainty of taxes it seems important that we understand how the United States’ fiscal system developed.

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, we explore the development of the early American fiscal system with Max Edling, Professor of History at King’s College, London and author of A Hercules in the Cradle: War, Money, and the American State, 1783-1867 (University of Chicago Press, 2014). You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/057

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Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s 200th Birthday Celebration


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Inside Wesleyan ChapelElizabeth Cady Stanton’s 200th birthday dawned on November 12, 2015, my birthday. I used the occasion to drive the eight hours round-trip to Seneca Falls, NY to sit among the crowd of about 200 people at Wesleyan Chapel, the restored site of the legendary 1848 women’s rights convention.

The program sponsored by the Women’s Rights National Historic Park on November 14 was one of two programs in New York State designed to bring attention to this historic figure. The large turnout at Cooper Union in New York City for Stanton’s birthday on November 12 was another indication of the increased interest and honor being paid to New York’s historic women in the first wave of the movement that started in the Finger Lakes region. Continue reading

The Historians Podcast Explores 1932


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The Historians LogoThis week “The Historians” podcast features David Pietrusza of Glenville, N.Y. who has written numerous books, including a trilogy of volumes (1920, 1960, and 1948) on American Presidential electoral history. Pietrusza’s newest book is 1932: The Rise of Hitler and FDR – Two Tales of Politics, Betrayal and Unlikely Destiny (Lyons Press, 2015). You can Listen to the podcast here. Continue reading

John Jay, Forgotten Founder


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ben_franklins_worldJohn Jay played important and prominent roles during the founding of the United States and yet, his name isn’t one that many would list if asked to name founding fathers.

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, we explore John Jay and his contributions to the founding of the United States with Robb Haberman, associate editor of The Selected Papers of John Jay documentary editing project. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/055

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Corset Portraits of the Loves of Aaron Burr


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Madame+Jume_RGB.BillOrcuttArtist Camilla Huey has a close to the skin interpretation of founding father Aaron Burr. While we know about his schemes to gain and keep political power, Huey tempts us to think about Burr’s gender politics. Was the former Vice-President who shot Alexander Hamilton in a duel, a full-fledged Lothario, or might there be another story?

The film “The Loves of Aaron Burr: Portraits in Binding and Corsetry”  premiering at Symphony Space at 95th St. and Broadway in Manhattan on Saturday, November 14 at noon offers a much more complicated and nuanced view of the man and his significant female others.  As Thomas Paine wrote in that revolutionary era “If we take a survey of the countries and the ages… we will find the women adored and oppressed. Man who has never neglected an opportunity of exerting his power,  in paying homage to their beauty has always availed himself of their weakness… at once their tyrant and their slave.” Continue reading

American Exceptionalism: The History of an Idea


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ben_franklins_worldWhat is the underlying ideological current that links Americans together regardless of their ancestral or regional diversity?

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, we explore “American Exceptionalism” and the ideas it embodies with John D. Wilsey, author of American Exceptionalism and Civil Religion: Reassessing the History of an Idea (IVP Academic, 2015)You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/054

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Event: 19th Century Political Culture


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A_Lincoln_BaltimoreLong before radio, television, the Internet and Super PACs, when voter turnout could be as much as 81%(!), political rhetoric found its voice largely in print.  Political cartoons not only weighed in on public figures’ qualifications and actions but also reflected assumptions about gender-appropriate behavior and the social norms of the day. The public figures we revere today were often viewed quite differently by their contemporaries.

Union College history professor and author, Andrea R. Foroughi, will expand on this fascinating topic in a presentation on November 20th, 7:00 pm at the S. S. Seward Institute in the Village of Florida. Continue reading

Suffrage Centennial: Historians, NYS Tourism Officials Clash


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Suffrage CentennialIn early October, the New York Cultural Heritage Tourism Network under the leadership of Spike Herzig, a member of the Tourism Advisory Council, hosted a meeting in Seneca Falls for the Women’s Suffrage Centennial.

There were about 85 attendees, mainly from the central New York region. The purpose was to meet, learn, and plan for the upcoming centennials of women gaining the right to vote in New York State (2017) and the United States (2020). The event’s agenda was abandoned as members of the history community began to air their frustrations over Empire State Development’s role in heritage tourism. Continue reading

Lincoln Weekend Celebrates Great Emancipator


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Abe-Lincoln WeekendIn commemoration of the end of the Civil War, the death of Lincoln, and the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery, the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum (NAHOF) has suspended its 2015 induction ceremonies to address the matter of President Lincoln as “The Great Emancipator.” Several programs will provide opportunity for the public to study Lincoln as an abolitionist.

The Thirteenth Amendment (“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude,… shall exist with within the United States..”) was proposed by the U.S. Senate on April 8, 1864. The movie Lincoln features the historical drama of securing the votes needed in the House of Representative to pass the resolution. The Thirteenth Amendment was passed by Congress on January 31, 1865 and ratified by the states on December 6, 1865. Continue reading

Joseph Thoms: Defending America’s Chinese


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Old Fulton NY Post Cards   By Tom TryniskiThe first Western-trained Chinese physician to practice in the U.S. lived most of his life in Brooklyn, where he established America’s first modern hospital for Chinese patients. A strong civil rights advocate at a time when his community could boast few of them, he spoke out frequently and forcefully against the injustices to which Chinese in America were subjected.

China-born Joseph Chak Thoms (1862-1929), known in his native Cantonese dialect as Tom Ah Jo, arrived in California as a teenager in the mid-1870s. He had a gift for language and soon mastered English with hardly an accent. After being baptized by a Presbyterian missionary – which earned him a beating from his uncle – he took a job as a cabin boy and sailed around the world on a steamer, visiting Japan and India before returning to America. Continue reading

Teddy Roosevelt Being Feted In Newcomb


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TR Weekend logoThe Town of Newcomb will celebrate author, statesman, naturalist and historian Theodore Roosevelt at the annual TR Weekend, September 11-13, 2015.

The event includes re-enactors portraying TR (Joe Wiegand) and his mother, wife, two daughters, and niece (portrayed by five Newcomb Central School seniors). Also scheduled are free guided tours by horse-drawn wagon of Great Camp Santanoni, a bike tour of the Essex Chain Lakes, tours of the Upper Works mining area, a woodsmens’ demonstration, fishing tournament and other events for children, an ice cream social, and fireworks. “Meet The Roosevelt Women” will take place on Saturday at 6:30 pm at the Newcomb High Peaks Overlook on Route 28N. Continue reading