His work with children’s hospitals convinced Colonel Walter Scott that there might be help for Jessica Ferguson despite her negative prognosis and seemingly hopeless situation.
New and exciting progress had been made, especially by Dr. Russell Hibbs of New York City, whose surgical innovations helped change the face of medicine. Hibbs was the first to perform a spinal fusion, and made great advances in treating tuberculosis of the spine and hip. Continue reading
In Pamela Newkirk’s Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga (Amistad / Harper Collins, 2015) the award-winning journalist reveals a little-known and shameful episode in American history, when an African man was used as a zoo exhibit — a shocking story of racial prejudice, science, and tragedy in the early years of the twentieth century.
Ota Benga, a young Congolese man, was featured as an exhibit at the St. Louis World’s Fair. Two years later, in 1906, the Bronx Zoo displayed him in its Monkey House, caging the slight 103-pound, four-foot eleven-inch man with an orangutan. The attraction became an international sensation, drawing thousands of New Yorkers and commanding headlines from across the nation and Europe. Continue reading
Mirror Girl. What an intriguing term. In the past it has been applied to the prettiest coeds in sororities, cute girls in general, and particularly vain women. But in this case, it addresses one of my favorite historical stories linked to the Northern New York’s years as a tuberculosis treatment center. The patient was a young woman, Jessica “Jessie” Ferguson, born in 1895 in Mount Pleasant, New York, north of Tarrytown on the Hudson River. Her parents, James and Anna, were both natives of Scotland, a fact that becomes key to the story.
The young girl’s difficulties began in her early twenties when her father died, and Jessica was diagnosed with tuberculosis of the bone, affecting her spine. In 1918, she lost the ability to walk. Doctors placed her in a cast that forced Jessica into a permanent reclining position. Continue reading
In 1920, Charles Giblyn produced his first film for William Fox. (If the name sounds familiar, William founded Fox Film Corporation in 1915, the forerunner of today’s Fox TV and movie units.) The film, Tiger’s Cub, allowed Giblyn a homecoming of sorts. With his lead actress, Pearl White, who reportedly had the widest following of any star worldwide at the time, he came north for filming in Port Henry, about an hour south of Plattsburgh, where he once lived.
After producing a few more movies, Charles was sent to the West Coast on behalf of Fox, where he continued working. For a brief period, he assumed leadership of the Motion Picture Directors Association, but when Fox reassigned him to more movie projects back East, he surrendered the top spot with the MPDA and headed for New York. Continue reading
The Museum of the City of New York is presenting HIP-HOP REVOLUTION: Photographs by Janette Beckman, Joe Conzo, and Martha Cooper, an exhibition that shows the historic early days of hip-hop culture and music, with its roots firmly in New York, and how it evolved towards the worldwide phenomenon it is today.
Bringing together for the first time the work of three renowned photographers of the hip-hop scene, the exhibition shows the birth of a new cultural movement – with its accompanying music, dance, fashion and style – as it quickly and dramatically swept from its grassroots origins into an expansive commercial industry. Continue reading
The Museum of the City of New York has announced a new exhibit opening in February, Everything is Design: The Work of Paul Rand, showcasing the nearly six-decade career of visionary American graphic design master Paul Rand (1914-1996).
Born in Brooklyn with a father who owned a small grocery store, Rand rose to the heights of 20th century design, seen as one of the most influential designers in the history of print and often called the ‘Picasso of graphic design.’ Continue reading
The Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden will host a lunchtime lecture about James Stuart and other travelers to New York City, this Friday, January 9th at 12:30 pm.
James Stuart was a guest at the Mount Vernon Hotel during his stay in New York City in 1833. His travel diary attracted considerable attention for the generally positive reviews he offered on American society compared with his British contemporaries. Continue reading
Malcolm Atterbury, who later became a well-respected character actor in Hollywood, married an Amsterdam woman and built a summer theater in the Adirondacks in the 1930s.
Kirk Douglas came up with his stage name when, as Isadore Demsky, the Amsterdam native was a stage hand and actor at Atterbury’s Tamarack Playhouse in Lakes Pleasant in 1939 and 1940. Continue reading
The Cayuga Museum of History and Art, in Auburn, is working on a new exhibit set to open in February 2015.
Local Links: Notable People with Cayuga Connections will celebrate the lives and works of people from two different groups – those who grew up here and achieved fame and fortune elsewhere, or those who were famous and had a close connection to Cayuga County. Continue reading
Amsterdam native and movie star Kirk Douglas, who will turn 98 next month, killed a leopard and other big game during a 1962 African safari.
According to an article in the men’s magazine True, Douglas, 46 at the time, said at the end of the trip, “I’m hooked. I don’t know how I got along all those years without hunting.”
History enthusiast Emil Suda, who lives in Amsterdam’s East End where Douglas grew up as Issur Danielovitch or Izzy Demsky, provided a copy of the magazine’s account of Douglas’s safari written by Ralph Daigh. True folded in 1975. A chapter called “Killer Douglas” is devoted to the actor’s hunting trip in his 1988 autobiography The Ragman’s Son. Continue reading
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
On August 7th, the US marked the 50th anniversary of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, the basis for the Johnson administration’s escalation of American military involvement in Southeast Asia and war against North Vietnam.
A new book, Vietnam War Slang: A Dictionary on Historical Principles (Routledge, 2014) by Tom Dalzell, outlines the context behind the slang used by members of the United States Armed Forces during the Vietnam War. Continue reading
About 100 years before some New Yorkers were shocked by the sexually-provocative twerk during the 2013 MTV Music Awards show on television, other New Yorkers were shocked by the tango.
After it first appeared in Paris, London, and Berlin from its starting place in Argentina, the tango soon came to New York where it became wildly popular in 1913. The tango’s rhythm has been described as “exciting and provocative” and the dance steps as “hot, passionate and precise.” Women often wore slit skirts when they danced the tango and there was full body contact with their partners, upwards from their upper thighs and pelvis. Routinely, the dancers’ hips were thrust forward and sometimes their legs were intertwined and hooked together. Continue reading
One of the most provocative and iconic objects of desire will be explored in the exhibition Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe, on view at the Brooklyn Museum September 10, 2014, through February 15, 2015.
Through more than 160 artfully-crafted historical and contemporary high heels from the seventeenth century through the present, the exhibition examines the mystique and transformative power of the elevated shoe and its varied connections to fantasy, power, and identity. Continue reading
Lawrence R. Samuel’s New York City 1964: A Cultural History (McFarland, 2014), connects the events of a single year in the city to the cultural threads of American life in the 1960s and beyond.
Five seminal events occurred in New York City in the pivotal year 1964: the “British Invasion” arrival of the Beatles in February; the murder of Kitty Genovese in Queens in March; the World’s Fair in Queens between April and October; the “race riots” in Brooklyn and Harlem in July; and the World Series in the Bronx between the New York Yankees and the St. Louis Cardinals. Continue reading
In January 2014, the Adirondack History Center Museum received a collection of some 600 artifacts related to the Land of Makebelieve and its founder Arto Monaco, who was born in Ausable Forks in 1913. The Land of Makebelieve was an amusement park created by Monaco in 1954 as a place where children could let their imaginations run wild.
They rode the train, visited the castle, and explored the western style town. Monaco’s work was also found at Santa’s Workshop and Charley Wood’s Storytown and Gaslight Village in Lake George. In 1979, the Land of Makebelieve was destroyed by a flood and was forced to close. Continue reading
There are people whose contributions to baseball history went far beyond mere batting averages or stolen bases. They didn’t just play the game, they changed the game. For generations of American Jews and other minorities, they served as athletic, cultural, and ethical role models.
On March 13, 2014 the National Museum of American Jewish History will open a new exhibition, Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Becoming American, being billed as “the first large-scale exhibition to use the story of Jews and baseball as an opportunity to highlight ways in which our national pastime is part of the history, and ongoing story, of how immigrants and minorities of many different backgrounds—including Italians, Asians, Latinos, African-Americans, and many others—become American, to feel a part of the society in which they might otherwise be on the margins.” Continue reading
This spring Simon & Schuster will publish Supreme City: How Jazz Age Manhattan Gave Birth to Modern America by Donald L. Miller, the John Henry MacCracken Professor of History at Lafayette College and author of several books about World War II. Miller also wrote the bestseller City of Century about Chicago, and his book Masters of the Air is currently in production with Spielberg and Hanks at HBO.
As its subtitle proclaims, the book examines how midtown Manhattan rose to become the nation and world’s capital of commerce and culture via mass communication – radio, film, music, printing – as well as architecture, spectator sports, and organized crime during the roaring 1920s. Continue reading
As sports-loving New Yorkers recover from the hoopla surrounding Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVIII, and prepare for the opening of the XXII Winter Olympic Games on Friday, cautionary words from 1869 are worth reviewing.
In a front page story entitled “The Abuse of Athletic Games” that appeared in the January 28, 1869 issue of the Malone Palladium, a doctor warned readers about the dangers of allowing children to overdo athletics—the “compound evil of our school system.” According to the doctor, because young bodies are “growing, unfinished and weak,” excessive athletic training will lead to one part of the body being developed at the expense of the other. He said, “either the joints, the lungs, the heart, or the spinal system suffer in the unequal struggle.” Continue reading
Water-skiing was invented in Minnesota in 1922, coinciding generally with the surging popularity of motorboats; Wakeboarding, around 1980. But eight years before the birth of water-skiing, a sport strongly reminiscent of wakeboarding took the nation’s watery playgrounds by storm.
With hundreds of lakes and thousands of summer visitors wealthy enough to own motorboats, the Adirondack region did much to popularize the new sport.
Aquaplaning is sometimes cited as beginning around 1920, but it was a common component of boat shows in the US a decade earlier. In 1909 and 1910, participants attempted to ride a toboggan or an ironing-board-shaped plank, usually about five feet long and two feet wide, towed behind a boat. The boards often resembled the average house door. Continue reading