Tag Archives: Pop Culture History

Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Becoming American


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Hank Greenburg After Connecting; Home RuThere 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

How Jazz Age Manhattan Gave Birth to Modern America


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Supreme CityThis 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

Sports History: The Abuse of Athletics


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ExerciseAs 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 Sports History: Auquaplaning in New York


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1 1914 Mag CoverWater-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

Absinthe: ‘The Guillotine Of The Soul’


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3g12144rIn 1869, alarming news about the dangers of drinking absinthe swept north from New York City, through Albany, all the way to Malone, near the Canadian border. A “brilliant writer” from the New York press and a “talented lady” had ruined themselves physically and mentally by drinking absinthe.

Comparing the drink to opium and morphine, the article warned readers that absinthe “obtains an all-powerful control over its votaries, deadens the sensibilities, and is, indeed the guillotine of the soul.” Continue reading

NY Dog History: Famous Ticonderoga Canines


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Headline Ti Canine Hero 1935 4WIn an eight-month span in the 1930s, two Ticonderoga canines made headlines for something dogs are known for in general: loyalty. Few relationships are more rewarding in life than the human-canine experience, as anyone reading this who shares a dog’s life can attest. For those who have children as well … some might be loathe to admit it, but dogs provide many of the same positives without all the complicated baggage.

Humans in dire circumstances react in two ways—save themselves or save others. We part company there with dogs, whose devotion compels them to maintain the relationship to the sweet or bitter end. Continue reading

Unique Stoneware Jug Depicting Entertainment Acquired


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acrobat jug detailA four-gallon stoneware jug manufactured by Fulper Bros. in Flemington, New Jersey during the 1880s is now part of the New York State Museum’s Weitsman Collection of American Stoneware. Now on display at the State Museum, the historically significant piece of stoneware was recently acquired for the Museum by stoneware collector and benefactor, Adam Weitsman.

According to an announcement release to the press today, “The acrobat jug, a sought-after example of decorated American stoneware, has been breaking stoneware record prices at auction for decades and Weitsman had wanted the piece for over thirty years.” Weitsman recently purchased the jug from Allen Katz Americana the statement says. Continue reading

Great Souvenirs From The 1939 World’s Fair


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Salt and pepper shaker, 1939. Plastic. Gift of Bella C. Landauer, 2002.1.1928

Salt and pepper shaker, 1939. Plastic. New-York Historical Society. Gift of Bella C. Landauer,

On April 29, 1939, the largest world’s fair of all time came to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in New York. The 1939-40 New York World’s Fair promised visitors a look at “the world of tomorrow.” And part of that included cool souvenirs.

The Perisphere and the Trylon, known together as the “Theme Center,” were two of the main draws of the 1939 World’s Fair. Connected to the Trylon’s spire was at the time the world’s longest escalator, and inside the Perisphere’s dome was a diorama called “Democracity,” which depicted the city-of-the-future. But you could take these structures home as fun salt shakers! Continue reading

Happy Birthday Washington Irving!


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Erastus Dow Palmer, Washington Irving (1783-1859), 1865. Gift of Mrs. Anna T. E. Kirtland, as a memorial to Mr. Jared T. Kirtland, 1865.4On April 3, 1783 Writer and satirist Washington Irving was born in New York City. He best known for his short stories “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “Rip Van Winkle,” but I will always love him best for coining the name of New York’s basketball team!

In 1809, Irving published his first major book, A History of New-York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, by Diedrich Knickerbocker. Through the Knickerbocker pseudonym, Irving poked fun at the city’s self-important Dutch elite, in which Knickerbocker was a fairly common last name. He also pulled an elaborate prank in anticipation of the book’s release, posting “missing person” adverts in city newspapers, claiming Knickerbocker, a Dutch historian, had gone missing from his hotel room. Continue reading