The famous Riddle of the Sphinx asks, “Which creature has one voice and yet becomes four-footed and then two-footed, and finally three-footed?” To which Oedipus answered: “Man, who crawls on all fours as a child, then walks on two feet as an adult, and then as an elder uses a walking stick.”
This is what crossed my mind as I came across a small sculpture of Franklin D. Roosevelt as the Sphinx, with cigarette holder and all, at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum gift shop. I’d often find myself browsing the store during breaks from my research there, but the oddity of the sculpture stuck with me as I was unable to answer the riddle of FDR as Sphinx until reading Roosevelt’s Second Act: The Election of 1940 and the Politics of War (Oxford Univ. Press, 2013) by Richard Moe. Continue reading
After six years of research Alethea “Lee” Connolly has published her book on “forgotten trailblazers” in early 19th Century Central New York. Connolly will present her research on her book The Seceders: Religious Conviction & the Abolitionist Movement in the Town of Manlius, 1834-1844 at 2 p.m. Saturday, July 26, 2014 at the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum at 5255 Pleasant Valley Road, Peterboro NY 13134.
As Barbara S. Rivette, Manlius Town Historian, states “The network of families and church affiliations involved in The Seceders spread through Canastota, Clockville, and Peterboro.” Seceders, like early Manlius settler Elijah Bailey, “believed the church had veered off the simple path of Bible religion into pride and folly.” Continue reading
UN Women will lead a discussion on women’s rights and their initiatives around the world on Sunday, July 20th from 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm as part of the 2014 Convention Days Celebration.
UN Women was created to address the many challenges women face throughout the world today. According to their website, “Gender equality is not only a basic human right, but its achievement has enormous socio-economic ramifications. Empowering women fuels thriving economies, spurring productivity and growth. Yet gender inequalities remain deeply entrenched in every society. Women lack access to decent work and face occupational segregation and gender wage gaps. They are too often denied access to basic education and health care. Women in all parts of the world suffer violence and discrimination. They are under-represented in political and economic decision-making processes. For many years, the UN has faced serious challenges in its efforts to promote gender equality globally, including inadequate funding and no single recognized driver to direct UN activities on gender equality issues until the creation of UN Women.” Continue reading
On the afternoon of July 14, 1842, Sheriff Felix Kelly fastened a noose around the neck of Cornelius Hardenbergh, and a few seconds later Hardenbergh, a member of what had once been the region’s most prominent family, entered the history books as the first man ever hanged in Sullivan County.
Hardenbergh’s execution was the first of five in the county over the years– four have taken place during the month of July– and the events leading up to his hanging make fascinating reading.
Hardenbergh had been convicted of murdering Anthony Hasbrouck, his relative by marriage, and one of the county’s wealthiest and most powerful men. The case remains, more than 170 years later, among the strangest in county history. Continue reading
While New Yorkers often pride themselves on their July 4, 1799 law abolishing slavery, most do not realize that its elaborate provisions actually kept slavery alive for another 28 years.
In 1831, even abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, once an advocate of gradual abolition, made a full and unequivocal recantation of the law. Continue reading
We humans remember the departed. Frequently we honor them. This is even more true for our leaders. How we choose to remember, is part of what defines a culture.
The most famous example of remembering dead leaders is, of course, the pyramids. They already were a tourist destination thousands of years ago thousands of years after they had been built. By contrast, in America one would be hard-pressed to identify where an American president is buried. In New York, we have Grant’s Tomb. I frequently watch the double-decker buses stop on Riverside Drive and disgorge the tourists who angle for shots of the Hudson River, the George Washington Bridge, and Grant’s Tomb. Continue reading
I recently returned from the 35th annual conference on New York State History in Poughkeepsie, which I attended for the first time. I understand this was the largest convocation of history professionals in New York State, and that the attendance at this conference was the highest ever. As my perspective and background is perhaps slightly different from most attendees at the conference, I feel it appropriate to provide certain observations.
Unfortunately, while others at the conference were somewhat more upbeat, my perception is that for the reasons set forth below there is at all levels an appalling lack of knowledge about critical elements of the history of New York State, and that we as a society suffer from this lack of knowledge every day. While I believe there are individuals in the history community who are in good faith seeking to address this problem, I am not sure that the efforts are close to adequate.
The great genius behind the First Women’s Right Convention was Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and it marked her entrance into the women’s rights movement. What did her spouse think of all this? Was he supportive? Was he also a women’s rights activist?
On Saturday, June 28th, the National Park Service at Women’s Rights National Historical Park will offer a special program entitled “Henry B. Stanton: The Great Man behind the Great Woman” presented by Linda C. Frank, Ph. D. The program will begin at 1:30 pm in the Wesleyan Chapel at 136 Fall Street, Seneca Falls. The program is offered free of charge and the public is invited to attend. Continue reading
There is a campaign to build The Museum of Political Corruption in Albany, New York. The campaign was started by and is being lead by College of Saint Rose Professor Bruce Craig Roter. With it’s motto of “it’s funny, but it’s serious”, it’s hoped the Museum will be a unique tourist attraction.
The museum is expected to serve as a reminder and cautionary tale to elected officials to uphold the high ethical standards demanded of their offices. “While there will be a good amount of humor, it will be used as a gateway to examine the serious subject of corruption in NY state politics,” Roter told The New York History Blog. “Museum goers will pay entrance bribes rather than fees, refreshments will be served at the Cozy Crony Cafe, and the museum auditorium will be called Tammany Hall.” Continue reading
Late spring of 1845 found , a leader of the Liberty Party, touring the North Country in search of disaffected “Whigs and Democrats, whose intelligence and Christian integrity will not permit them to remain longer in their pro-slavery connections.”
Smith, from Peterboro, in Madison County, traveled from Saratoga Springs, through Glens Falls and then into Essex and Clinton counties on his quest to build a credible third party, a devoted anti-slavery party. His report, printed in the Albany Patriot in late June, details the villages his visited, the people he met, and the difficulties he faced. Continue reading
On Saturday June 14, 2014 at 7:00 p.m., Saratoga National Historical Park will host actor Gary Stamm as he portrays President Franklin D. Roosevelt in a real “fireside chat” describing a 1939 royal visit from the King and Queen of Britain and the fascinating implications it had for our country and the entire world.
What do you serve to the King and Queen of Britain if they come to visit your home? In 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt took them on a picnic in the scenic Hudson Valley and served the great American treat of hot dogs. Continue reading
While we often look back fondly on the Roaring 20s for a number of reasons, it was a very dark period in the North Country in at least one regard: bigotry. For several years, the region was a hotbed of Ku Klux Klan activity during a high-profile recruiting effort. The assumption today might be that the effort failed miserably among the good people of the north. But the truth is, the Klan did quite well, signing thousands of new members to their ranks.
The original KKK died out in the 1870s after focusing on racial issues in the post-Civil War period, but the KKK of the 1900s was a different animal. Its resurgence in 1915 was linked to a movie released that same year, Birth of a Nation, based on a book titled The Clansman. While the movie was lauded for groundbreaking filming techniques, it was also highly offensive, featuring blatant racism and the rewriting of history. Continue reading
Albany was a busy port city throughout the nineteenth century. During its most active Underground Railroad days, the city was occupied by lumber and other businesses at the riverfront and numerous retail establishments along Market Street (our current Broadway), Pearl Street, and corresponding cross streets. Although it was the state capital (since 1797) Albany truly began to expand only after the completion in 1825 of the Erie Canal, which enhanced the city as a destination for riverboat shipping and traffic.
Commerce along the Hudson and Erie Canal system, and new forms of transportation such as the steamboat and the railroad, greatly increased the opportunities for people, including fugitives from slavery, to travel from port to port, and city to city. The new transportation systems, as well as burgeoning social movements of the antebellum period, such as Sunday School, temperance and women’s rights movements, provided abundant opportunities for the sort of networking that facilitated Underground Railroad efforts. Continue reading
A evening lecture by Brian Jennings, History Librarian of the New City Library, will be hosted by The Historical Society of Rockland County on Thursday, June 12, 2014. “Civil War, Politics, and Peace: Disputes on Rockland’s Homefront” will include a discussion of the 1860 presidential election, as well as Rockland County’s response to the firing on Fort Sumter.
Jennings will discuss the early companies formed in Rockland County, as well as the response of citizens to support their soldiers and the controversial peace conventions in Rockland. His analysis will be drawn largely from the coverage of events in local newspapers and from enlistment records and census documents. Continue reading
Last week The Nation published its first installment of “Back Issues: Guided tours through the archive of America’s oldest weekly,” a new blog to be written by Richard Kreitner (Twitter: @richardkreitner).
The blog’s goal is to use the magazine’s historic archives (dating back to 1850) to cast light on news of the day. The inaugural post, “Come Explore the Treasure Chest That is Our 1950 ‘Spring Books’ Issue,” was published to coincide with publication of The Nation’s biannual books issue. Continue reading
The amazing, and fortuitous, rescue of Solomon Northup was made possible by a New York statute that was signed into law, and became effective, on May 14, 1840.
Following the 1808 ban on importation of slaves into the U.S., enacted by Congress, the kidnapping of free blacks for sale as slaves became a larger problem. The ban reduced the “supply” of slaves, and with “demand” unchanged, prices rose, along with the potential profit for kidnappers. In 1817, in a description of a kidnapping case, the City Hall Recorder noted that, after 1808: “the practice of kidnapping was commenced, and has been carried to an alarming height.” Continue reading
It’s remarkable how two unrelated historical events sometimes converge to form a new piece of history. In one such North Country connection, the job choice of a future president became linked to a famous encounter on Lake Champlain. The future president was Warren Harding (1921–23), and the lake event was the Battle of Valcour Island (1776). The results weren’t earth shattering, but the connection did spawn coast-to-coast media stories covering part of our region’s (and our nation’s) history.
In 1882, Harding (1865–1923) graduated from Ohio Central College. Among the positions he held to pay for schooling was editor of the college newspaper. In 1884, after pursuing various job options, he partnered with two other men and purchased the failing Marion Daily Star. Harding eventually took full control of the newspaper, serving as both publisher and editor. Continue reading
Joseph E. Fahey’s James K. McGuire: Boy Mayor and Irish Nationalist (Syracuse Univ. Press, 2014) is the story of a self-educated, charismatic leader who overcame personal tragedy in childhood and was elected the youngest mayor of a major city in America at age 26.
A reformer with a knack for politics, James McGuire (1868–1923) was elected mayor of Syracuse three times as a Democrat in a Republican bastion. Fahey argues that as a candidate for governor in 1898, McGuyire nearly derailed the rise of Theodore Roosevelt and that his ideas and positions informed the candidacy of William Jennings Bryan in his quest for the presidency and the platform of the Democratic Party in those elections. Continue reading
On May 3, 2014, John Jay Homestead State Historic Site in Katonah, N.Y. will sponsor a walk through lower Manhattan titled John Jay’s Not-So-Big City. The walking tour will trace John Jay’s haunts in New York in the late 18th century.
Founding Father John Jay, New York’s second Governor and America’s first Chief Justice, was born and educated in New York City, and spent much of his life there. The walking tour will trace his haunts, visiting the locations of the places where he lived and worked as one of New York’s leading lawyers and politicians, as well as U.S. Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Chief Justice of the United States, and Governor of New York. The tour will recall the time when New York was the capitol city of a young republic, and present a reminder of how the geography and architecture of Manhattan Island have changed since the arrival of the first European settlers in the 17th century. Continue reading
In this 50th anniversary year of the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a new book by Vanity Fair editor and Politico senior writer Todd Purdum, An Idea Whose Time Has Come (Henry Holt & Co., 2014) recounts the dramatic political battle to pass this important law that in many ways helped create modern America.
Pardum’s book revisits a turbulent time in America, a time of sit-ins, freedom rides, and the March on Washington. During this time, John F. Kennedy sent Congress a bill to bar racial discrimination in employment, education and public accommodations. Continue reading