Tag Archives: Syracuse

Syracuse’s 1851 ‘Jerry Rescue’ Anniversary Event


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160 years ago on October 1st, a captured fugitive slave named Jerry was freed by a mob of Syracuse citizens. For seven years after that date Central New York abolitionists celebrated the Jerry Rescue with an event that commemorated its importance. In 1859 Gerrit Smith responded to the request of the Jerry Rescue Committee for him to speak with a refusal because people had not maintained the high level of commitment to abolition that the Jerry Rescue had demonstrated.

On October 1, 2011, exactly 160 years after the Jerry Rescue, John M. Rudy will present “The Jerry Level”: Gerrit Smith and the Memory of the Jerry Rescue at 2 p.m. Saturday, October 1, 2011 at the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark, 4543 Peterboro Road, Peterboro NY 13134.

October 1st, 1851, events in Downtown Syracuse drastically altered the course of the lives of countless Central New Yorkers. As abolitionists battered down the door to a Syracuse police station and freed the fugitive slave Jerry Henry, they embarked on a journey which would span the course of the next decade. The Jerry Rescue was a catalyst for Upstate’s abolition activity from 1851 until the dawn of the Civil War.

Among those who turned the freeing of one man on Clinton Square in Syracuse into mass action were Gerrit Smith and Jermain Loguen. Smith advocated living life to the “Jerry Level” regarding the need for radical action. Loguen took the Jerry Rescue as inspiration to become more active in the Underground Railroad in Central New York. Throughout the 1850s the two men grew more radical every year until, by 1859, civil war seemed inevitable.

On the event’s 160th anniversary, historian John Rudy will share some of the interesting tidbits of research that he unearthed during his thesis preparations, investigate Central New York in the turbulent 1850s, and recognize the enduring memory of the Jerry Rescue. Rudy’s thesis centers around four personalities who had connections to the Rescue. Daniel Webster, in his May 1851 speech in Syracuse which challenged the abolition community, leads off the study. The next chapter centers on Jermain Loguen, Syracuse’s “King” of the Underground Railroad. Third is a discussion of Gerrit Smith’s disillusionment with the Upstate abolition community over the course of the 1850s, and his eventual alliance with John Brown. The final chapter discusses Samuel May and the “death” of the Jerry Rescue spirit in Syracuse at the coming of the war. It seems that the abolition world, for about ten years, revolved around Syracuse and its personalities – Smith being key among that community of thinkers.

Gerrit Smith was one of the first five abolitionists to be inducted into the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum in 2005. Jermain Wesley Loguen will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Saturday, October 22 in ceremonies at Colgate University.

A native of Pompey in Onondaga County, John Rudy has been studying the history of Upstate New York’s abolition community since 2005. John holds a Masters in Applied History from Shippensburg University and a Bachelors in History, with a minor in Civil War Era Studies from Gettysburg College. John currently lives in Gettysburg and works with the National Park Service’s Interpretive Development Program in Harpers Ferry, WV, creating training materials for park rangers across the entire park system.

The public is encouraged to attend the program at the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark, 4543 Peterboro Road / 5304 Oxbow Road, Peterboro NY. Admission is two dollars. Students are free. This program is one of a series of programs provided by the Stewards for the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark during 2011 and partially supported by a PACE grant from the Central New York Community Foundation. The Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark and the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum are open from 1 – 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays from May 14 to October 23 in 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 13134-0006 www.gerritsmith.org 315-684-3262 and National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum, 5255 Pleasant Valley Road, Peterboro NY 13134-0055 www.AbolitionHoF.org, 315-684-3262.

Photo: Jermain Wesley Loguen of Syracuse was one of the primaries in the rescue of Jerry McHenry from a jail in Syracuse on October 1, 1851.

Books: FDR’S Shadow, Louis Howe


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Last year’s FDR’S Shadow: Louis Howe, The Force That Shaped Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt by Syracuse resident Julie Fenster has been released on paperback.

In 1921, Franklin Delano Roosevelt—the 1920 vice presidential candidate on the losing Democratic ticket—was overcome by an illness that left him unable to walk. He retired to his family estate in Hyde Park with his wife, Eleanor, who was suffering emotional problems of her own. For the Roosevelts, it was the low point of their lives. At that juncture, Roosevelt’s adviser, Louis Howe, moved in with them, lifting the Roosevelts’ spirits and helping to maintain Franklin’s connection to the world of politics.

Three years later, against all odds, FDR was once again a key player on the national political stage and Eleanor had blossomed into the public figure we all know and love. With her signature insight and wit, Julie Fenster presents a vivid, behind-the-scenes portrait of the world of the Roosevelts during this critical time, and the unique relationship Franklin, Eleanor, and Louis developed.

The Washington Times described their realtionship: “Indeed every member of both houses of the Congress has at least one ‘dragon-at-the-gate’ who rations access to the boss, who edits the speeches, and keeps a check on promises that cannot be kept. But the Howe-Roosevelt symbiotic relationship is a darker story and Ms. Fenster brings a new depth to it.”

Julie M. Fenster is the critically acclaimed author of The Case of Abraham Lincoln and is the co-author with Douglas Brinkley of the New York Times bestseller Parish Priest and the forthcoming PBS documentary Faith and the Founders of America. Her previous books include the award-winning Ether Day and Race of the Century. She lives in Syracuse, New York.

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

Syracuse’s Clark Music Company, Melville Clark


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In Pulling Strings: The Legacy of Melville A. Clark, musician Linda Pembroke Kaiser explores the extraordinary career of Melville A. Clark (1883–1953), a musician, inventor, entrepreneur, community leader, and collector whose colorful story is largely unknown. The story is told by Kaiser, a musician who performs on the harp, piano, and guitar. She has published articles in the International Folk Harp Journal and has published and recorded an album of harp music, Lullabies for Earth Children.

Beginning with an account of Clark’s musical family, Kaiser chronicles the founding in 1859 of the Clark Music Company, of which Melville Clark became president in 1919. Originally just a tinkers shed, the business ultimately moved into a six-story building in the center of Syracuse. The Clark Music Company celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2010. Clark also combined his talents as a gifted musician and astute entrepreneur to start the first Syracuse Symphony Orchestra.

Kaiser recounts the development of the Clark Irish Harp, the first portable harp manufactured in the United States, that could easily play accidentals. There were other Clark inventions, such as the first nylon strings for instruments. In addition, Clark designed balloons that the British used in 1918 to drop more than 1,250,000 pamphlets over Germany.

Clark’s story unfolds in detail: a musical encounter with President Wilson, entertaining President F. D. Roosevelt, a visit to Buckingham Palace to present Princess Elizabeth with a music box, and the journey of a Clark Irish harp to Antarctica with Admiral Byrd.

Pulling Strings uncovers the life of a musical genius and also sheds light on a forgotten chapter in Syracuse history.

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

Civil War Nurse Dedication Ceremony


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In 1911, Civil War nurse Lucy Blanchard died in Fenton, Michigan. Her remains were brought back to Syracuse and she was buried in Oakwood Cemetery. For ninety-nine years, her grave was unmarked and the memory of her service faded. Thanks to the efforts of Michigan historian Len Thomas, Lucy’s life story has been researched in depth. With the help of the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War, a government headstone has been placed on Lucy’s grave.

On Saturday morning, November 13 at 11 o’clock, all are invited to pay tribute to this courageous lady, so long forgotten. For more information and a map to the gravesite, go to:

Treasure Trove of Vinyl Heads to Syracuse


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The New York Times is reporting that some quarter-of-a-million 78 records (one of the worlds largest collections of 78s) from the New York City vintage gramophone record shop Records Revisited will be headed to Syracuse University’s Belfer Audio Laboratory and Archive:

Records Revisited was packed floor-to-ceiling with discs of a vintage and variety that drew a steady stream of record buffs to 34 West 33rd Street. The shop, more like an archive than a store, held approximately 60 tons of swing, big band jazz and other styles on vinyl, forming one of the largest collections of 78s in the world.

The shop has been closed since Mr. Savada’s death in February. Last Thursday, his son, Elias Savada, was poring over a cardboard box, one of 1,300 being filled with records and put on waiting trucks. The collection will be sent to Syracuse University’s Belfer Audio Laboratory and Archive, which will now have the second-largest collection of 78s in the United States, after the Library of Congress, university officials said…

The Syracuse University archivists couldn’t be more pleased with the obscure records arriving in numbered boxes. Not only is there a huge swing collection, but also recordings of country, blues, gospel, polka, folk and Broadway tunes. Suzanne Thorin, the university’s dean of libraries, said the truckloads of Mr. Savada’s records — at least, the tiny percentage sampled so far — has revealed fascinating auditory treasures, including Carl Sandburg reading his own poetry while accompanying himself on the guitar, and Hazel Scott, the pianist and singer. There are also many rare recordings preserved only on V-Disc records produced for American military personnel overseas in the 1940s.