Governor Andrew Cuomo’s decision in December to ban the use of hydrofracking in New York State was politically astute. The governor asserted he is merely following the recommendations in a new report from the State Health Department, A Public Review of High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing for Shale Gas Development.
That report, based on four years of research, is also politically judicious. It avoids condemning hydrofracking or sensationalizing its potential health risks. Instead, it concludes that “the overall weight of the evidence from the cumulative body of information” studied for the report demonstrates that there are “significant uncertainties about the kinds of adverse health outcomes that may be associated with HVHF [High Volume Hydraulic Fracking], the likelihood of the occurrence of adverse health outcomes, and the effectiveness of some of the mitigation measures in reducing or preventing environmental impact which could adversely affect public health.” The 184-page report is buttressed by 74 references, mostly well-documented studies and reports from the past few years. Continue reading
Among those to rise from humble Adirondack roots and pursue life in the big city was Charles P. Shaw, a native of Jay, New York, where he was born in 1836. “Humble,” meaning relative poverty, aptly described most North Country citizens in those early days. Shaw may have had an advantage since there were two doctors in the family: his father, Daniel, and his grandfather, Joshua Bartlett. As schooled professionals, they were more likely to emphasize among their family the importance of education.
For whatever reason, Charles was an excellent and precocious student. There survives in old newspapers an anecdote suggesting he was indeed an unusually bright pupil. Continue reading
Among the folks who played an important role in Northern New York regional history and personified the traditional Christmas spirit was Willis Wells of Lake Placid.
Long before Willis gained attention, his father, Duran, a native of Peru, New York, had become a North Country fixture, operating a peddler’s cart in the post-Civil War years. From the shores of Lake Champlain to the Paul Smith’s area, he supplied homes and farms with the daily needs of life, an important function in those early days when stores visited many of their customers. Continue reading
Through the night of December 31, 1862, people of the North and South waited through the night to see if President Abraham Lincoln would issue the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves in the states of rebellion.
On Wednesday, December 31, 2014, Retired Navy Commander Owen Corpin, a member of the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum and a descendant of 19th Century freedom seekers who came to Peterboro, will prepare the watch fire and provide the program for the Watch Night commemoration. Continue reading
One hundred years after the Declaration of Sentiments was discussed and ratified at the 1848 Women’s Rights Convention, Eleanor Roosevelt and others were adopting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a charter document for the new United Nations. The global proclamation was signed on December 10, 1948 now celebrated as Human Rights Day.
A new exhibit “A Declaration” is now open at Women’s Rights National Historical Park to highlight this and sixteen other Declarations from around the world from 1776 through 2014. Continue reading
A film called “Mohawk” premiered in Amsterdam in 1956 and used some footage from the 1939 movie “Drums Along the Mohawk.” The 1956 movie was distributed by 20th Century Fox.
The movie tells the story of an artist assigned to the Mohawk Valley to paint frontier scenes. The artist is involved romantically with three women. There is a vengeful settler in the film trying to start a war with local Indian people. The film was directed by Kurt Neumann and starred Scott Brady and Rita Gam. Continue reading
For about a week in 1871, New Yorkers were in a quandary about Thanksgiving. On October 25, New York Governor John T. Hoffman designated Thursday, November 23 as Thanksgiving Day for the state. In his Thanksgiving Day proclamation, the Tammany Hall Democrat urged New Yorkers to spend time on that day to declare “their gratitude to God for all his mercies” and to “remember especially the poor.”
On October 28, President Ulysses S. Grant recommended that the nation observe Thanksgiving a week after the New York Thanksgiving, on Thursday November 30. In his proclamation, the Republican chief executive called for Americans to “make the usual acknowledgments to Almighty God for the blessings he has conferred on them” and ask “His protection and kindness for their less fortunate brethren.”
What was a conscientious, holiday-minded New Yorker supposed to do? Observe the Democratic Thanksgiving on November 23, or the Republican Thanksgiving on November 30, or both? Continue reading
Meeting 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
Taming 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
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
When 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
After 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
The 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
The 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
Of 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
The 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
For 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
Bill 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
As 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
This 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/