Tag Archives: Rochester

Irish History: Eamon De Valera in America


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A new book by Irish journalist and commentator Dave Hannigan, De Valera in America: The Rebel President and the Making of Irish Independence, illuminates an interesting period in New York Irish history when de Valera, born in New York City in 1882, made an important return trip to convince Americans to recognize the newly proclaimed Irish Republic.

Eamon de Valera is one of the most famous characters in Irish history. He commanded troops during the 1916 Easter Rising, co-authored the Irish constitution, and in 1926 founded Fianna Fáil, which continues to be the largest political party in Ireland today. De Valera was head of the Irish government from 1932–48, 1951–54 and 1957–59 and President of Ireland from 1959–73. Continue reading

19th Amendment Festival in Susan B. Anthony Park


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The annual 19th Amendment Festival will be held on Saturday, August 20, 2011 from noon to 5 p.m., in the Susan B. Anthony Park between Madison and King streets in Rochester.

Music and entertainment in the park will be provided by the Hochstein School of Music and Dance as well as the Genesee Harmonic Society of the Genesee Country Village and Museum. Authentic nineteenth-century base ball demonstrations will be provided by Genesee Country Village’s women base ball team, in period costumes, following the rules and etiquette of the game as it was played in the 1800s. Continue reading

Event: Spiritualist Fox Sisters in Petersboro


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Spiritualism was born in the spring of 1848 when Margaret and Kate Fox heard strange rappings in their Hydesville NY bedroom. Within two years the two “Rochester Rappers” with their sister Leah were touring the country communicating with spirits. The Free Church of Peterboro was one site for the rapping demonstrations. “Scraps of paper in the Gerrit Smith Papers showing questions posed to a spirit medium … revealed that the family attempted to communicate with their loved ones, including Fitzhugh and Peter, after they had died,” according to one historian.

At 2 pm on Sunday, July 24 the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark in Peterboro will host programs on 19th Century spiritualism with particular attention to the Fox Sisters and Peterboro’s connections to the spiritualism movement. The program is open to the public and free.

The featured speaker Nancy Rubin Stuart (Osterville, Mass) will present Maggie Fox, Victorian America’s Reluctant Spiritualist. Upstate New York teenager Maggie Fox (1833-1893) rose to national fame as Victorian America’s “reluctant spiritualist.” Young and beautiful, Maggie’s alleged ability to communicate with spirits in America’s first séances of 1848 astounded the press, and made Maggie and her sisters the darlings of Broadway. Maggie inspired hundreds of imitators, and fascinated the most prominent men and women of her era, among them Horace Greeley, James Fenimore Cooper, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mary Todd Lincoln, William Lloyd Garrison, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and William James. After a passionate love affair and secret marriage to distinguished Arctic explorer Dr. Elisha Kent Kane in 1856, during which Maggie promised to give up mediumship, her life took surprising twists and turns, culminating with a startling confession in 1888 at the New York Academy of Music. The lecture is accompanied by slides of Maggie Fox and her era.

Rubin explains that her purpose is neither to prove nor disprove the veracity of spirit communication, but rather to illustrate how 150 years ago the Fox sisters’ introduction of that idea swept through America and why it continues to fascinate people today. Maggie’s story is important, Rubin believes, because of passion – the passionate longing that 19th C. Americans had to once again talk with their beloved dead, and the passionate romance between Fox and Kane.

This Speakers in the Humanities event, which is free and open to the public, is made possible through the support of the New York Council for the Humanities, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Speakers in the Humanities program has linked distinguished scholars with diverse audiences since its launch in 1983, bringing the best in humanities scholarship to thousands of people at hundreds of cultural organizations in virtually every corner of New York State. This program is just one of the ways the New York Council for the Humanities helps all New Yorkers to lead vibrant intellectual lives by strengthening traditions of cultural literacy, critical inquiry, and civic participation.

After Stuart’s presentation, popular local performers and sisters Darothy DeAngelo and Sue Greenhagen will provide a light-hearted look at early spiritualism with a vignette of the Fox Sisters during a rapping session enticing the spirits of some “dearly departed.” DeAngelo portrays Maggie, and Sue portrays Kate.

Beginning at 1 pm, Michael Keene will sell and sign his recently published book by The History Press: Folklore and Legends of Rochester: The Mystery of Hoodoo Corner & Other Tales. The book includes the story of the Fox Sisters, as well as the anti-Masonic hysteria of the early nineteenth century and the unexplained disappearance of former Mason, Captain Morgan. Keene worked for twenty-five years in the financial services industry as a financial planner. He is also the producer of an award-winning 2008 film Visions, True Stories of Spiritualism, Secret Societies & Murder, which, in part, inspired his new book.

Copies of Town of Smithfield historian Donna Burdick’s paper “Spirited Women – and Men & Their Unpopular Causes” will be on sale at the Peterboro Mercantile for the benefit of the Peterboro Area Historical Society. Burdick’s document describes Spiritualism as it was introduced and “practiced” in Peterboro. Burdick refers to written accounts of medium sessions and spiritualism conferences.

The Gerrit Smith Estate and the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum in Peterboro are open from 1 – 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays until October 23, 2011. Admission to each site is two dollars. Stewards and students are free. For more information:

Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark, 4543 Peterboro Road, Peterboro NY 13134-006; call 315-280-8828 or visit www.sca-peterboro.org

The History of the ’90-Miler’ in Rochester


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A special program, “The History of the 90-Miler” will be held on May 5, 2011 in Rochester. Adirondack Museum Curator Hallie Bond will share the history of the “90-Miler” at the Midtown Athletic Club from 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. The fee for the program is $10 per person, and includes a cocktail reception.

The “90-Miler” or Adirondack Canoe Classic is a canoe and guideboat race that celebrates the era of human-powered boats in the Adirondacks. The race begins in Old Forge, N.Y. and proceeds up the Fulton Chain of Lakes into Raquette Lake and on to the Saranac Lakes, finishing in the Village of Saranac Lake. In its 28th year, the event is so popular that registration is capped at 250 boats.

Special guest Nancie Battaglia will share photographs of the race, including her award winning aerial photo of the 90-miler chosen as one of Sports Illustrated‘s 2009 Pictures of the Year. A renowned Lake Placid, N.Y. based photographer, Nancie Battaglia is a regular contributor to the New York Times and Adirondack Life magazine and shot the 2010 Winter Olympics in
Vancouver.

The ninety-mile water route from Old Forge to Saranac Lake forms what was known a century and a half ago as the “Great Central Valley” of the Adirondacks. It was the best route through the wilderness at the time – easier travel than roads, which were distinguished by quagmires, corduroy, steep inclines, and rocks. The key to traveling via waterway was the Adirondack guideboat. The Great Central Valley is no longer the most efficient way to get through the Adirondacks, but still has tremendous appeal to people who follow it to experience the woods and waters as the original travelers did.

The Adirondack Museum invites all those who have taken part in the 90-Miler, to come and share your own stories of adventure.

Reservations must be made directly with the Midtown Athletic Club by calling (585) 461-2300.

Hallie E. Bond has been Curator at the Adirondack Museum since 1987. She has written extensively on regional history and material culture including Boats and Boating in the Adirondacks, published by Syracuse University Press in 1995 and ‘A Paradise for Boys and Girls’: Children’s Camps in the Adirondacks, Syracuse University Press, 2005.

Photo: Paddlers in the 90-Miler by Nancie Battaglia.

Rochester Honoring African-Am Civil War Soldiers


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Nazareth College is hosting the Rochester-Monroe County Freedom Trail Commission’s seventh annual tribute to the nearly 200,000 men of color and 7,000 white officers that constituted the United States Colored Troops (USCT) (USCT) on Tuesday, April 5, at noon in Nazareth’s Linehan Chapel of the Golisano Academic Center. On Behalf of Those Who Lie in Yonder Hallowed Ground is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Dr. David Anderson at danders8@naz.edu or (585) 389-5140.

The event will include dramatic readings of events that were tearing the nation apart during the Civil War, and will be posed against President Lincoln’s executive order that provided for arming men of color, and the eventual Union victory. Frederick and Anna Douglass, parents of two Union soldiers, will also be honored. Frederick’s advocacy was crucial to the Union’s belated decision to enlist men of color.

These commemorative events result from a collaboration of the Rochester-Monroe County Freedom Trail Commission and Nazareth College Service Learning Center, and support from several community organizations.

Founded in 1924, Nazareth College is located on a close-knit, suburban campus in the dynamic, metropolitan region of Rochester, N.Y. The College offers challenging academic programs in the liberal arts and sciences and professional programs in health and human services, education, and management. Nazareth’s strong cultures of service and community prepare students to be successful professionals and engaged citizens. The College enrolls approximately 2,000 undergraduate students and 1,000 graduate students.

April Fools Tour of Stone Tolan House Museum


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A rustic 19th century kitchen complete with an open hearth – and a plate of sushi?

A beautiful 19th century canopied bed, with a chamber pot peeking out from under the bed – next to a pair of flip flops?

On Saturday, April 2, visitors will enjoy a special event tour that has never before been offered in the 40 years that Stone-Tolan House Museum in Brighton (the oldest house in Monroe County) has been open to the public – an April Fools Tour. The “April Fools” have visited the Stone-Tolan House – and have really messed things up for the museum staff! There are all sorts of things in there that don’t belong – and they need the public’s help to figure it out.

Adults and kids will hunt for things that are out of place in the 200 year old rooms, including the tavern room, kitchen, parlor bedroom, hallway and pantry. Some may be obvious – like the sushi. Others will be a bit more challenging (hint: what is the date on that coin?) You’ll get a sheet to record their discoveries. After your hunt is done, take your completed sheet to the education center in the late 19th century Tolan barn. You’ll score your results, see how many you got right – and discover what you missed. There will be prizes!

The April Fools Tour will be open from 11 am to 3 pm. Admission is $5 per adult. For this event, children up to age 16 are welcome free of charge. The Stone Tolan House Museum is located at 2370 East Avenue, with free parking onsite.

The April Fools Tour will take place on this one day only. After all, we’ll need to get everything back to its appropriate, historically correct settings in time for the spring school tours!

The Stone-Tolan House Museum is owned and operated by The Landmark Society of Western New York. Through this site we encourage visitors to explore the formation of an early 19th century community and the lives of the Stone family, who operated a tavern and farm in the early 19th century. It is the oldest house in Monroe County, with the original wing constructed circa 1792.

The Landmark Society of Western New York, Inc. is one of the oldest and most active preservation organizations in America, serving nine Western New York counties. Now in its 74th year, The Landmark Society continues to protect the unique architectural heritage of our region and promote preservation and planning practices that foster healthy, livable, and sustainable communities. For additional information on preservation issues in the Rochester area and surrounding communities, contact Cindy Boyer or visit www.landmarksociety.org.

Susan B. Anthony House Presents Kate Gleason Talk


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As part of its annual celebration of the theme “What Happens in Rochester Changes the World,” the Susan B. Anthony House welcomes Jan Gleason for a special conversation and presentation on her recently released book, The Life and Letters of Kate Gleason. Kate Gleason was a groundbreaking Rochester pioneer (and friend of Susan B. Anthony) who changed the world for women in science and technology. Continue reading

Rochester Businessman Joins Boating Museum Board


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Rochester businessman Allyn E. Hetzke Sr. has joined the Board of Directors of the Finger Lakes Boating Museum. Hetzke, who is active in the Antique and Classic Boat Society in Clayton on the St. Lawrence River, is married with four children and 13 grandchildren and lives in Spencerport.

The boating museum reached agreement with the City of Geneva in the fall of 2009 to establish a permanent home on the Geneva waterfront in association with a Visitor Center. The building, which will be located on the current Geneva Chamber of Commerce site, is being enabled by a $2 million grant provided to the city by state Sen. Michael Nozzolio. Construction is expected to start this spring.

“I’m thrilled to be a part of this project,” said Hetzke. “If the site is correctly developed it should be a world class museum. It should be spectacular for the City of Geneva.”

Hetzke started his company, Unitrac, in 1974 as a metal brokerage company and in the mid-‘80s formed Unitrac Energy Management Systems specializing in energy efficient lighting applications. IlluminFx, a division of Unitrac, provided the color-changing LED system used to light the Cradle of Champions sculpture unveiled during Super Bowl Week near the site of the game. The unveiling was covered on ESPN.

The Rochester Business Journal recently reported that the steel statue in Fort Worth, Texas, weight seven tons and is 16 feet high. It is shaped like the state of Texas and honors the strength and legacy of high school football in the state and those who later played in the National Football League.

Before starting his own business, Hetzke worked for Eastman Kodak Co., Community Savings Bank and Home Life Insurance Co. He former First Rochester Co. in 1971 and incorporated the company into First Rochester Security Corp. in 1972.

Hetzke purchased Burke Steel Serviceenters, Inc. in 1973 and sold the company to Mallard Lakes in 1977. He formed Unitrac in 1974.

He is a 1960 graduate of SUNY at Delhi with an AAS degree in business management. His hobby is restoring old boats and he is a member of the Rochester Curling Club as well as the Rochester Business Alliance.

The boating museum has assembled a collection of more than 100 wooden boats built in the Finger Lakes over the past 100 years, as well as numerous related artifacts and extensive reference material. The collection is stored in the Geneva Enterprise Development Center on North Genesee Street arranged by the Geneva IDA and in Yates County.

Portions of the collection will be displayed on a rotating basis within the new facility, but President Bill Oben emphasized that there will be a lot more to the museum than viewing boats because education, restoration and preservation are the key elements of the museum’s mission.

Also featured will be boat rides on Seneca Lake, active on-water programs including sailing and small boat handling, interactive workshops and displays to engage visitors in the design and construction of boats and boating history materials and programs.

The boating museum is a 501c3 not-for-profit corporation and was chartered by the New York State Department of Education in 1997 to “research, document, preserve and share the boating history of the Finger Lakes region.”

Additional information about the boating museum may be found on its website.

Susan B. Anthony House Annual Birthday Luncheon


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The Susan B. Anthony House celebrates Rochester pioneers, both past and present, at its annual birthday luncheon on Wednesday, February 16, 2011, with the theme “What Happens in Rochester Changes the World. Keynote speaker is Dr. Elaine Marshall Sorensen, author, educator, advocate, and historian, who is currently Director of the Center for Nursing Scholarship at Georgia Southern University. A popular presenter at national and international conferences, Dr. Marshall will inspire one and all with lesser-known but vital aspects of Susan B. Anthony’s life and work as well as insights into Rochester’s role in changing the world. The Presenting Sponsor for the event is Van Bortel Ford—Van Bortel Subaru. Continue reading

Lyons Erie Canal Improvements Opened


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The New York State Canal Corporation and the Village of Lyons, Wayne County, have officially opened the Lyons waterfront improvements along the Erie Canal at North Side Canal Park. The opening event also welcomed the 2010 World Canals Conference International Flotilla which was en route to Rochester.

The project, partially funded through an Erie Canal Greenway Grant, provided new docks on both sides of the Erie Canal and additional improvements to the boating area and park.

The flotilla was bound for Rochester as part of the 2010 World Canals Conference September 20-24. Included in the flotilla were boats from the Canal Corporation’s historic and working fleet, historic tugboats, and a variety of recreational pleasure craft. From the junction of the Erie Canal and Genesee River the fleet traveled north along the Genesee River, in a grand parade to Corn Hill Landing in Rochester.

Directions to the North Side Canal Park in Lyons: Take NYS Thruway (I-90) to Interchange 42 (Geneva, Lyons, Route 14) toward Sodus Point. Turn left to Route 14 North. Turn left onto Water Street. Municipal parking is available adjacent to the Firehouse.

Books: Silver Seasons of Rochester Baseball


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Taking us back to the early nineteenth century, when baseball was played in the meadows and streets of Rochester, New York, Silver Seasons and a New Frontier: The Story of the Rochester Red Wings retraces the careers of the players and managers who honed their skills at the city’s Silver Stadium and later at Frontier Field. The many greats who played for the Rochester Red Wings—Stan Musial, Cal Ripken, Jr. (who provides the book’s forward), Bob Gibson, Boog Powell, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray, and Justin Morneau are among those brought to life in this story rich with quirky performances and poignant moments.

This updated version of Silver Seasons: The Story of the Rochester Red Wings, first published in 1996, includes three new chapters covering the team’s record-setting tenth International League championship, being named top minor league franchise by Baseball America, and their new affiliation with the Minnesota Twins.

Silver Stadium opened in 1929, as Red Wing Stadium, in the middle of a thriving urban residential neighborhood which later fell into decline. In late 1956, the St. Louis Cardinals, then the major league affiliate of the Rochester Red Wings considered abandoning the franchise. In response, Morrie Silver, a Rochester businessman, spearheaded an effort to purchase the team and the stadium was renamed Silver Stadium in 1968. Although renovated in the 1980s, the desire for corporate suites and better parking led to the construction of Frontier Field, a new stadium located in downtown Rochester, which opened in 1996; Silver Stadium was demolished the following year is now an industrial and office park.

Silver Seasons tracks the history of the two stadiums and the teams that played there and in the process recalls moments like the longest game in pro baseball history, a thirty-three-inning affair between the Red Wings and the Pawtucket Red Sox that stretched from April to June. Highlights also include one of the greatest teams in minor league history, the 1971 Junior World Series champion Red Wings, homers hit by Estel Crabtree in 1939 and Jim Finigan in 1961 and the unlikely Red Wings championship in the first season at their new park in 1997.

About the Authors
Jim Mandelaro has covered the Rochester Red Wings for the Democrat and Chronicle since 1991. He has twice been honored as Sportswriter of the Year by the Rochester Press-Radio Club. He was inducted into the Frontier Field Walk of Fame in 2007.

Scott Pitoniak is the author of ten books, including Memories of Yankee Stadium. He was inducted into the Frontier Field Walk of Fame in 1999 and the Newhouse School of Public Communications Hall of Fame in 2000.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

Books: Historic Photos of New York State


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Richard Reisem’s new book, Historic Photos of New York State showcases striking black-and-white images that take you on a journey through New York State during the unforgettable landmark epochs of the Civil War, Prohibition, and the Great Depression. Other historic subjects depicted include the 1939 World’s Fair, the age of the industrialists, the Pan-American Exposition at Buffalo, European immigrants who disembarked at Ellis Island, the Grand Union Hotel at Saratoga Springs, the State Capital at Albany, Niagara Falls, and more.

Among the photographers represented in the Historic Photos of New York State are Matthew Brady, John Collier, Carl Dietz, Arnold Genthe, Lewis Wickes Hine, Listte Model, Arthur Rothstein, Alfred Stiglitz and others. The range of New York experience from 1850 to 1967 is covered in nearly 200 images drawn from around the state.

The author is a former trustee of the Landmark Society of Western New York, and has served on the board of trustees of the Rochester Historical Society. For sixteen years he served on the Rochester Preservation Board and was chair for four years; he spent 31 years at Eastman Kodak.

The book is published by Turner Publishing.

CFP: Historians Of The Early American Republic


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“Contested Terrain and the Early Republic,” the 32nd annual meeting of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, will be hosted by the Rochester Institute of Technology, July 22-25, 2010. The Program Committee invites proposals for sessions and papers exploring all aspects of the history and culture of the early American republic, together with its northern and southern borderlands and international connections, c. 1776-1860.

Proposals that reflect the application of new methodologies or perspectives, or that explore new approaches to teaching and to public history are welcome. Given the conference’s location, we particularly encourage papers and panels that address such themes as the emergence of markets and communications; Native American history; Canada and the Great Lakes region; the 1812 War; religious awakenings; slavery, abolition, the underground railroad, and reform movements; women’s rights; urbanization; consumption; visual culture and the origins of photography. Participants from outside the traditional boundaries of the field are welcomed.

The Program Committee will consider proposals for individual papers and for full sessions; panels with no more than two papers and two commentators are preferred. We also welcome workshops with pre-circulated papers, or sessions in which panelists assess the state of debate on a topic. Each proposal should include a brief abstract of the session, together with a one-page abstract of each paper and a short C.V. for each participant, including the chair and commentator(s). It should also specify any special requirements, such as audio-visual equipment, outlets, or facilities for disability. Any scholar interested in acting as a session chair or commentator should submit a short C.V. Please note that all program participants will be required to register for the conference. The deadline for submissions is December 1, 2009.

Submissions should be sent to the Program Committee Chair:
Christopher Clark
Department of History
University of Connecticut
Wood Hall, 241 Glenbrook Road, U-2103
Storrs, CT 06269-2103, U. S. A.
c.clark@uconn.edu

Program Committee:
Christopher Clark, University of Connecticut, Chair
Elizabeth J. Clapp, University of Leicester
Catherine Kelly, University of Oklahoma
John Lauritz Larson, Purdue University
Richard Newman, Rochester Institute of Technology
Stacey Robertson, Bradley University
Nikki Taylor, University of Cincinnati
Tamara Plakins Thornton, SUNY Buffalo
Jose Torre, The College at Brockport, SUNY

Rochester: Boats and Boating in the Adirondacks


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The Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake, NY – known for its superb boat collection – will offer a special program entitled “Boats and Boating in the Adirondacks” this Thursday, May 7, 2009. The illustrated talk by museum Curator Hallie E. Bond, will tell the unique Adirondack story of boats, drawing on the rich collections of artifacts, documents, and historic photographs at the Adirondack Museum.

The presentation will be held in the auditorium of The Harley School at 1981 Clover Street, Rochester, N.Y., and will begin at 7:30 p.m. The program will be offered at no charge to members of the Adirondack Museum; admission will be $5 for non-members. For additional information please call (518) 352-7311, ext. 129 or visit www.adirondackmuseum.org

The Adirondack Museum’s boat collection currently numbers more than 200, a reflection of the importance of waterways for transportation in the region. Seventy-two examples of the guideboat, the watercraft indigenous to the Adirondack
region, are represented.

The Adirondack region has 2,300 lakes and ponds and 1,200 miles of rivers fed by more than 30,000 miles of brooks and streams. Waterways were once not only the preferred paths from place to place, they were often the only way to get about. The guideboat was “the pickup truck” of the Adirondacks.

From birch barks and dugouts to canoes, guideboats, steamboats, and gasoline powered racing boats, Bond will describe regional craft in the context of the people who made and used them.

Hallie E. Bond has been Curator at the Adirondack Museum since 1987. She has written extensively on regional history and material culture including Boats and Boating in the Adirondacks, published by Syracuse University Press in 1995 and “A Paradise for Boys and Girls” Children’s Camps in the Adirondacks, Syracuse University Press, 2005.

Rochester, Buffalo Preservationists Join Forces


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The directors of two Buffalo area preservation groups voted to merge their organizations late last week. Both the Landmark Society of the Niagara Frontier and the Preservation Coalition of Erie County will now be merged into one organization – Preservation Buffalo Niagara.

According to Buffalo Business First, the decision comes after nine months of negotiations. Preservation Buffalo Niagara will be governed by a 21-member board; 10 of the seats will be filled from existing directors and the remaining spots will be filled anew.

Buffalo Rising has more of the story:

According to Harvey [McCartney, retired Director of the Landmark Society] and Cynthia [Van Ness, President of the Preservation Coalition of Erie County], the new organization will have its work cut out. In addition to playing a key role in preparing for the 2011 conference, several longstanding preservation issues need to be addressed, including conducting more historic resource surveys (Rochester was fully surveyed in the 1980’s, Buffalo has not been), and bringing more preservation attention to Buffalo’s east side. A common thread through the discussions was the need for the new organization to get out in front of preservation issues and be proactive, rather than reactive—which all too often results in bruising preservation battles with preservationists being labeled “obstructionists.”

There will be a national search for an executive director in the months to come.

AASLH Annual Meeting in Rochester September 9-12, 2008


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The American Association for State and Local History Annual Meeting in Rochester beginning September 9th is geared toward “history professionals, historical sites, historical societies, history museums, military museums, libraries, presidential sites, students, suppliers, and more.”

According to their website:

This is your chance to share your passion, ideas, and knowledge with over 800 of your peers in the field of state and local history. You’ll have an opportunity to learn from over 80 sessions and 17 pre-meeting workshops that directly relate to the latest issues and trends that you face. And, you’ll also have an opportunity to have fun while you explore Rochester’s amazing history through the evening events and tours.

Although apparently they’re keeping the costs of the conference pretty quiet (good luck finding it on the website), you can apparently register here.

Taxidermy History in New York State – Carl Akeley


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Here is a recent news item regarding the re-installation of what is believed to be “probably the world’s largest mounted fish, maybe the largest piece of taxidermy in the world” – a 73-year-old, 32-foot, mounted whale shark caught off Fire Island in 1935 and believed to have weighed about 8 tons (16,000 pounds). It has been freshly restored was unveiled at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport, where it was damaged by water leakage that closed part of the museum in 1996.

The unveiling got us thinking about the history of taxidermy in New York. According to the great wiki.

As the demand for quality leather and hides grew, the methods became more and more sophisticated. By the 1700s, almost every small town had a prosperous tannery business. In the 1800s, hunters began bringing their trophies to upholstery shops where the upholsterers would actually sew up the animal skins and stuff them with rags and cotton. The term “stuffing” or a “stuffed animal” evolved from this crude form of taxidermy.

It should be added that taxidermy got a boost during the 18th century fascination with natural science presented to the public through exhibitions of strange and exotic animals brought from distant lands and installed in cabinets of wonder, early museums, and the like.

In France Louis Dufresne, taxidermist at the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle from 1793, popularized arsenical soap in an article in Nouveau dictionnaire d’histoire naturelle (1803–1804). This technique enabled the Muséum to build the greatest collection of birds in the world.

In the early 20th century, taxidermy began to evolve into its modern form under the leadership of artists such as Carl Akeley, James L. Clark [that's him in the photo at the American Museum of Natural History], William T. Hornaday, Coleman Jonas, Fredrick and William Kaempfer, and Leon Pray. These and other taxidermists developed anatomically accurate figures which incorporated every detail in artistically interesting poses, with mounts in realistic settings and poses that were considered more appropriate for the species. This was quite a change from the caricatures that were popularly offered as hunting trophies.

Carl Akeley has a special place in New York taxidermy. His lifelike creations were installed in dioramas at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and can be seen in the museum’s Akeley African Hall (he also is considered the founder of a New York City staple – shotcrete).

Akeley was born in Clarendon, NY, and learned taxidermy in nearby Brockport and Rochester. In 1886 he moved to the Milwaukee Public Museum where he created one of the world’s first complete museum habitat dioramas in 1890. Akeley specialized in African mammals; rather then “stuffing” the animals he fit their skins over a form of the animal’s body.

In 1909 Akeley accompanied Theodore Roosevelt to Africa and began work at the American Museum of Natural History. In 1921 he traveled to Mt. Mikeno in the Virungas at the edge of what was then Belgian Congo to try and figure out if killing gorillas was justified. According to a Milwaukee exhibit, he eventually opposed hunting them for trophies but continued to support killing them for science and education purposes. He worked for the establishment of Africa’s first national park – Virunga (home of Dian Fossey and her famous gorilla in the mist and now under serious threat).

He was also interested in filmmaking and photography. Eileen Jones’s PhD dissertation in 2004 concluded that “representations of the African landscape and African fauna in the Akeley Memorial African Hall… were antithetical to assumptions about the impenetrable wilderness of ‘Darkest Africa’ that previously had dominated American popular culture.”

The American Museum of Natural History holds the collection of his second wife and includes photos Akeley took in Africa and films of the mountings he did at the museum. He published an autobiography, In Brightest Africa, in 1923 but died on his fifth trip to Africa in 1926 and was buried there.

Underground Railroad Site Travel Grants to AASLH


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If you represent an underground railroad related site or organization, the New York State Underground Railroad Heritage Trail is offering Travel Grants to support attendance at this year’s AASLH Annual Meeting in Rochester.

The Underground Railroad Heritage Trail Travel Grants will provide museum staff members and volunteers, from URHT sites, the opportunity to expand their horizons by participating in the American Association of State and Local History Annual Meeting.

Organizations may apply for travel grants of up to $350. This travel grant can be used towards conference registration fees, travel expenses and accommodation fees associated with attendance at the 2008 AASLH Annual Meeting. For further information on the AASLH Annual Meeting visit: www.aaslh.org/anmeeting.htm

Applications for URHT Travel grants to attend the AASLH Annual Meeting must be postmarked by August 3, 2008. Applicants will be notified within 30 days of receipt. To apply, contact Catherine Gilbert directorATupstatehistoryDOTorg at the Upstate History Alliance for an application form.

According to New York State’s Underground Heritage Trail website:

New York State was at the forefront of the Underground Railroad movement. It was a major destination for freedom-seekers for four main reasons:

Destination & Gateway
New York was a gateway to liberation for freedom-seekers (often referred to as escaped slaves). Its prime location, with access to Canada and major water routes, made it the destination of choice for many Africans fleeing slavery along the eastern seaboard.

Safe Haven
Freedom-seekers knew they would be protected in New York’s many black communities as well as Quaker and other progressive white and mixed race communities. A large and vocal free black population was present after the manumission (freeing) of slaves in New York State in 1827.

Powerful Anti-Slavery Movement
Anti-slavery organizations were abundant in New York State – more than any other state. The reform politics and the progressive nature of the state gave rise to many active anti-slavery organizations.

Strong Underground Railroad Leaders
Many nationally-known and locally influential black and white abolitionists chose to make their homes in New York. Among them were: Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Gerrit Smith, Henry Ward Beecher, Sojourner Truth and John Brown.