Historians noted his “peculiar kinks of mind,” and referred to him as “a person of comic interest,” but they knew little of the man before he reached the age of 50. His peculiarities overshadowed an entertaining life filled with plenty of substance. And he just may have been pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes.
The film’s cast was made up of some notable stars. The title role of Erie was played by Sally O’Neil, who had found stardom in 1925 when she appeared along with Constance Bennett and Joan Crawford in Sally, Irene, and Mary. Erie’s father, the barge captain, was played by Jean Hersholt, who appeared in 140 films from 1906–1955, and served as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from 1945–1949.
Universal had a three-tiered rating system for its motion picture productions at the time Girl on the Barge was filmed. Low-budget flicks were dubbed Red Feather, and mainstream productions were labeled as Bluebird. The Girl on the Barge was categorized as one of Universal’s most prestigious films, called Jewel. Jewel productions were expected to draw the highest ticket sales.
|Greater New England: Mid-19th Century Yankee Settlement|
This past May (2012), the small town of Cambridge in Washington County was host to a “summit”, of sorts, as folklorists and those allied professionals who work with the cultural arts gathered for an exchange of ideas.
The three day “Retreat” drew approximately sixty folklorists from throughout New England and the Mid-Atlantic region and was sponsored by several loosely affiliated groups: Folklorists in New England (FINE), the Mid-Atlantic Folklore Association (MAFA), and the New York Folk Arts Roundtable.
Organized by the New York Folklore Society, the New York State Council on the Arts’ Folk Arts Program, and the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, the Northeast Folklorists Retreat presented multiple opportunities for participants to explore current issues of importance to those who pursue the documentation of culture and contemporary folkways.
Attendees included staff of the Folklife Center at the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution’s Office of Folklife Programs; State Folk Arts Coordinators for New York, Maine, Rhode Island, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut; leaders from New York’s folklore institutions; and numerous cultural specialists who conduct their work under the auspices of public libraries, arts organizations, and public universities.
As defined in the American Folklife Preservation Act passed by Congress in 1976, American folklife means the traditional expressive culture shared within the various groups in the United States – familial, ethnic, occupational, religious, and regional. According to the definition, expressive folk culture, (which includes a wide range of creative and symbolic forms such as custom, belief, technical skill, language, literature, art, architecture, music, play, dance, drama, ritual pageantry, or handicraft) is mainly learned orally, by imitation, or in performance, and is generally maintained without benefit of formal instruction or institutional direction. As scholar Barre Toelken explains in The Dynamics of Folklore, (1979, Hougton Mifflin), “Folklore comes early and stays late in the lives of all of us. In spite of the combined forces of technology, science, television, religion, urbanization, and creeping literacy, we prefer our close personal associations as the basis for learning about life and transmitting important observations and expressions.”
Although still closely allied with the disciplines of comparative literature, history, and anthropology, the current discipline of folklore stands at an interesting juncture. In an era when twenty-first century globalization and the next “Big Idea” are often celebrated, folklorists are working hard to recognize local communities’ maintenance of cultural traditions. Because of its emphasis on cultural knowledge shared between and among groups, folklore has gained allies in contemporary movements that are coming to the forefront in American society.
Ideas which share folklore’s concerns such as the 100-mile or “locovore” food movement; “buy local” movements; the “Slow Food” movement; urban gardening; and “sustainability” are used by current community advocates as a lens to examine everything from energy to community infrastructure. Borrowing from these current shared concerns,” the 2012 Folklorists’ Retreat took as its theme, “Sustaining Culture: A Regional Conversation.” Besides providing an opportunity for folklorists to gain practical skills through sessions on audio documentation and digital formats (offered by Andy Kolovos, the archivist at the Vermont Folklife Center), the gathering provided an opportunity for those in attendance to share ideas and perspectives on issues relating to folklore, including definitions of “authenticity” and “sense of place”. Best practices for folklore programs involving cultural tourism, local collaborations, and arts in education were presented and participating folklorists wrestled with issues which arise when working with immigrant and refugee artists, or with presentational formats which use new forms of media.
Typically, folklorists gather annually under the auspices of the American Folklore Society or they gather in various regional groupings. This first ever Folklorists’ Retreat and Roundtable brought together organizations and individuals representing the entire Eastern Seaboard from Maine to Maryland, Washington DC to Niagara Falls. I am curious to see what comes of the resulting synergy.
Ellen McHale is Executive Director of the New York Folklore Society (founded in 1944) and has over 25 years of public sector folklore experience. She is also the folklorist for the National Museum of Racing’s Folk Arts project, documenting the predominantly Latino population in the backstretch/ stable area of the Saratoga Thoroughbred Racetrack through oral history interviews and photography.
The invasion of British TV Chef Gordon Ramsey into Washington County during the winter of 2012 did not leave the horrors of the invasion of British General John Burgoyne during the summer of 1777. However, Ramsey’s new program for Fox TV, Hotel Hell, could not remake the historic Cambridge Hotel hotel and has left the home of Pie a la Mode on the auction block.
As first reported here at New York History in January, the Cambridge Hotel is best known for where apple pie with vanilla ice cream, was invented . Since the filming of the Fox TV show, the hotel, which owed nearly $470,000, has been foreclosed on by the Glens Falls National Bank and Trust Co. The Cambridge Hotel has had financial troubles for years under different owners. The Fox TV show is scheduled to air late this summer.
The American Victory at Saratoga over General Burgoyne in 1777 is known as the Turning Point of the American Revolution. This commentator is hopeful that Chef Ramsey’s TV show will mark a turning point for the Cambridge Hotel.
Sean Kelleher is the Historian for the Town of Saratoga. He served as the Director of the Washington County Fair Farm Museum, and worked with a number of Champlain, Hudson and Mohawk Valleys historic sites on grant writing, interpretive planning, and marketing.
Rogers Island in Fort Edward (Washington County) is offering a walking tour on Thursday, June 28, at 7 pm. This event, open to the public free of charge, is hosted by the Old Saratoga Historical Association.
Exhibits at the Visitors Center, opened in 2001, highlight the history of the Fort Edward area from the earliest Native Americans through the Revolutionary War.
According to the Rogers Island website, “Fort Edward and adjacent Rogers Island was once the third largest ‘city’ in colonial North America.” The site continues, “The history that was made from this place at the bend in the Hudson River in the 1750s would lay the foundations for the nation that would be born two decades later.”
There are picnic tables for those who would like to enjoy supper at the Visitors Center before the 7 pm tour begins. Sturdy shoes are advised for the walking tour of the island. Rogers Island is just off Route 197 (Bridge Street) between the two bridges just west of Route 4. For more information call Historical Association president Deb Peck Kelleher, 698-3211 or visit the website, www.rogersisland.org.
Over 600 local travel suggestions have been submitted to the Lakes to Locks Passage website, just in time for the summer travel season. The site, which is co-branded with National Geographic, emphasizes travel and tourism opportunities that are submitted by local residents and locally-owned business owners. Continue reading
On Saturday an event in Fort Ann, Washington County will highlight Battle Hill, the site of the Revolutionary War Battle of Fort Anne. A company has plans to mine the battlefield, where an estimated 100 to 200 men were killed, wounded, or captured, and a group of local historians and volunteers has come together to oppose the plan. You can read more about the mining threat to the battlefield and the planned event here, but I thought a look at the importance of the Battle of Fort Anne was worth a look.
The story of Fort Anne’s Battle Hill really begins about 30 miles north at Fort Ticonderoga. Continue reading
A battle is brewing in Fort Ann, Washington County. Troy Topsoil has purchased part of Battle Hill, the site of the Revolutionary War Battle of Fort Anne. The company hopes to mine the battlefield, where an estimated 100 to 200 men were killed, wounded, or captured.
A group of historians and volunteers has planned a day of events to highlight the history of the Battle of Fort Anne, including an afternoon roundtable discussion on the current threat to the battlefield this Saturday, April 28th at Fort Ann Central School.
“This place has remained undisturbed for over 235 years, then Troy [Topsoil] obtained the property and has cleared out trees, built roads, installed culverts and drilled wells, in order to operate a sand and gravel pit,” Fort Ann Town Historian Virginia Parrott, who opposes the project, told me, “To most people in town including the Fort Ann American Legion Post 703, this is a desecration of sacred ground as people have fought and died here in the name of freedom, and are buried on Battle Hill.” [You can read more about the history of Battle Hill here].
“That whole hill is a battle site,” Parrott had previously told the Glens Falls Post-Star. “There was thousands of troops there. We’re not talking about a little group of soldiers … like Roger’s Rangers that went out with 10 or 12 people. We’re talking about Burgoyne’s entire army.”
Anthony Grande, speaking for the mining company, said an archaeologist report commissioned by his company showed no one was buried in the area targeted for the open pit mine. “The battlefield is south of me where there is an issue,” Grande told the Post-Star. “It’s definitely south of there, probably 3,000 to 4,000 feet. I’m not exactly sure.” The company is seeking to open a 30 to 40-acre mine on Battle Hill.
Several historic sources report that at least six men are buried at Battle Hill according to Parrott, who has been town historian since 1975. The site has never been listed on state or national registers of historic places, although the Town of Fort Anne installed a plaque at the site in 1929 and the American Legion places flowers on one of the graves each year. The lack of established protection for important American battlefields is common. “Of the nation’s 243 Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battlefields, 141 have been severely impaired or destroyed” a recent report by the Department of Interior’s American Battlefield Protection Program (ABPP) concluded (2007).
Battle Hill was classified as a Principal Battlefield, Priority 2, Class C site in that report, meaning that it was home to a “nationally significant event” and the “site of a military or naval action that influenced the strategy, direction, or outcome of a campaign or other operation.” Furthermore, the report found that “The endangered Class C sites in this category should be the focus of immediate and direct preservation measures by state and local governments and organizations. These sites may not survive without immediate intervention.”
Tanya Grossett, surveyed the battlefield in 2001 for that report and concluded, with help of Jim Warren of NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation and Chris Martin of NYS Archives and Records Administration, that the quarry does fall within the core of the battlefield. Paul Hawke, director of the American Battlefield Protection Program concurred with that finding after a tour of the site last Tuesday.
The land is owned by Gino Vona. According to a story last week in Post-Star, “Vona said he’s offered to donate a small sliver of the site, about 20 or 30 acres, for preservation and he questions whether stalling a project that could create jobs, for the sake of historic preservation, is an appropriate governmental move.”
“These men fought against the king who was taking their things. Many of them were just regular, hard-working people,” Vona told Post-Star reporter Jon Alexander, “Aren’t we talking about doing the same thing?”
The company had applied for a permit to mine the location in August 2009 which did not include a state Historic Preservation Office review and was denied. The company submitted a new application at the end of 2011. The public will be able to comment on the project officially after the application is ruled complete by the NYS Department of Conservation.
The event on Saturday is sponsored by the Washington County Historical Society and will feature Author Karl Crannell, Fort Ticonderoga Chris Fox, Kingsbury historian Paul Loding, and Matt Zembo from Hudson Valley Community College.
The event will begin run from 11 am to 4 pm. There will be a memorial service at Noon; the roundtable discussion will follow at 1 pm at the Fort Ann Central School Auditorium.
A short booklet, From Forest to Fields: A History of Agriculture in new York’s Champlain Valley published by Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Essex County and the Lake to Locks Passage Scenic Byway highlights the rich history of the Champlain Valley with a focus on the region’s farms and fields.
From Forests to Fields is authored by Anita Deming, who has more than 30 years experience as an agricultural extension agent with CCE, and Andrew Alberti, Program Manager for Lakes to Locks Passage since 2008 (where he focuses on 21st century technology applications and local and regional interpretation and planning) and a contributor here at New York History. Alberti is also editor for the Lakes to Locks Passage and National Geographic Geotourism website.
Chapters cover Native American agriculture, early explorers and settlements, the agricultural revolution, farming in the modern era and a short review of the architecture and use of farm buildings and a list of resources. The authors explain the impact of the 1807 Embargo Act, the influence of the opening of the Champlain Canal in 1823 on local farm trade, the grange movement, and changes in the local sheep and dairy industries, and more.
The booklet is 48 pages and profusely illustrated. You can request a copy by contacting Lakes to Locks Passage. There is a suggested $10 + S&H donation.