Tag Archives: Washington Irving

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

New Washington Irving Treasury Box Set Published


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Three time-honored stories by Washington Irving, classic tales told again and again, have been released together in the cloth-bound box set A Washington Irving Treasury (Universe Publishing, 2012). The high-spirited stories of Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow present memorable folk characters that have become part of America’s literary lexicon, while Old Christmas preserves the nostalgia, warmth, and joy of English Christmas traditions. Continue reading

Books: Sleepy Hollow Legends and Lore


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Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is one of the best-known works of American literature. But what other myths lie hidden behind the landscape of New York’s Hudson Valley? Imps cause mischief on the Hudson River; a white lady haunts Raven Rock, Major Andre’s ghost seeks redemption and real headless Hessians search for their severed skulls.

Local storyteller Jonathan Kruk relates the other myths that lie hidden behind the landscape of the Lower Hudson Valley in Legends and Lore of Sleepy Hollow and the Hudson Valley (History Press, 2011).

Kurk reveals the origins of the Washington Irving’s Headless Horseman and how the Legend of Sleepy Hollow was shaped and shifted by Henry Hudson, George Washington, Aaron Burr, Joseph Plumb Martin, Sir Walter Scott, Gottfried August Burger, Martin Van Buren, Walt Disney, Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, and a former slave. The author also provides new primary source evidence of the ghostly “Galloping Hessian” and similar tales including the full story of Sleepy Hollow’s other ghosts; Major Andre, White Ladies, Mother Hulda, the Imps, and more.

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

A Progressive History of Union Square, NYC


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Even in the supersized world of New York City, Union Square stands out for its astonishing legacy. Yet most of that rich history was lost in the square’s descent from a city showplace to an area approached only at personal peril.

Union Square’s 300-year story is finally told by author/photographer James Isaiah Gabbe in The Universe of Union Square, a coffee-table book and companion DVD (Visions & Voices) that marks the first time the history of the square has been captured from a progressive cultural perspective.

The book relates the people, places and events that shaped so much of America’s progressive tradition while the DVD brings the chronicle up to the moment through 60 lively interviews with city officials, business owners, artists, activists, clergy and others whose lives are intertwined with this remarkable place. More information about the book and a full list of interviewees can be found online.

Gabbe, a former journalist and historian is a longtime resident of Union Square and was for many years the president of the Union Square Partnership – the nation’s first business improvement district.

As president of the Union Square Partnership Gabbe thought he knew the area’s history well enough to create a nicely illustrated brochure, but wherever he turned, Gabbe heard stories that led him through a warren of intrigue and Dickensian characters.

Three years, hundreds of interviews and site visits later, The Universe of Union Square spans 265 pages of fascinating vignettes and nearly 1000 archival images and contemporary photographs. Visions & Voices, the companion DVD, brings the chronicle up to the moment through 60 lively conversations with city officials, community activists, business leaders, academics, clergy, artists and others whose lives are intertwined with this remarkable place.

Gabbe’s exploration extends to an eight-block radius beyond the confines of the park, touching nine adjacent neighborhoods that together form Union Square’s “Universe.”

“Who knew that such a small area of land would become a cauldron in which an unprecedented diversity of people would shape America’s restless, progressive soul,” Gabbe said. “By turns violent and peaceful, with triumph and dismay, Union Square was witness and party to the growth of a nation.”

The Universe of Union Square explores the area’s people, architecture, institutions and happenings through eight thematic chapters – highlights include:

* Peter Stuyvesant’s Harvest: From the Lenape Nation and European Walloons to “blue bloods” and immigrants, a look at the area’s changing populations, including the criminal fringe, from prosperity through hard times between World War I and the 1980s. Includes notable architectural landmarks, the Greenmarket and acts of violence.

* Democracy’s Stage: The “universe’s” history – and legacy – as New York’s center of free public expression. From Civil War protests and Lincoln proclaiming “right makes might” to serving as headquarters for the nascent labor movement and political activists of all persuasions – through to providing the world a haven to mourn and heal after 9/11.

* Creative Cauldron: Celebrating the impresarios, actors, writers, artists and musicians who have made their mark here. Covers the area’s role as the original “heart” of Broadway and the Yiddish theater; the earliest center for American opera; the birthplace of American vaudeville and the modern nightclub; and home to many famed arts clubs and enterprises that founded the film industry.

* Inventive Ventures: This is where gutsy entrepreneurs built the peerless Ladies’ Mile, a collection of urban shopping emporiums that set the stage for modern department stores but have never been equaled. And where scores of other fascinating enterprises were fostered, including world-famous Strand Book Store, Blatt Billiards and the landmarked Bowlmor bowling alley.

* Fibers of the Future: Past and present, individuals and organizations exemplifying compassionate and visionary citizenship, from the selflessness of baker Charles Fleischmann, who fed anyone willing to wait in line for bread, to Tammany Hall, which began as a noble civic and political service to immigrants but ended in infamy. This was also home to Peter Cooper, Helen Keller, Teddy and Eleanor Roosevelt, Ida Tarbell, Margaret Sanger and Bill Wilson – all of whom changed society in momentous ways.

The Universe of Union Square also covers the area’s 60 institutions from preschools to universities, libraries to museums – many like NYU, New School, Cooper Union, Stuyvesant and Washington Irving High Schools – created to serve the working class, immigrants and women, who had no access to education. And Gabbe recounts tales of Emma Goldman, Andy Warhol and the Mad Bomber among scores of other famous and infamous characters as it documents the area’s modern resurrection from decades of urban decay.

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

Communipaw Story Marathon in Jersey City


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A Communipaw Story Marathon will be presented tomorrow, Friday, June 4, as part of Jersey City’s quarterly arts and culture festival, JC Fridays. There will be dramatic readings by professional actors of several short stories by Washington Irving, including three set in Communipaw, from his 1855 collection, Wolfert’s Roost And Miscellanies.

Also included will be an excerpt from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Trish Szmanski will be reading A Tale of Communipaw / Guests from Gibbet Island, the story on which she is adapting a script for theater. According to Trish “The play is coming along well, not done, but close to final in form. Lots of new characters, dialogue, drama, four acts – exciting!”

Communipaw is the historic European place of origin for Jersey City begun in 1634 when one of the first “bouweries”, or farnmsteads, in New Netherland was built there. The homestead was part of Pavonia, a patroonship of Amsterdam businessman Micheal Pauw. Plantations, worked by enslaved Africans, were located there. The Tappan and Wecquaesgeek took refuge there in 1643 before being attacked by the Dutch in the Pavonia Massacre, which led in part to Kieft’s War.

The village of Communipaw was originally part of the Dutch West India Company holdings. After the British takeover it became part of the Province of New Jersey although it retained its Dutch character for hundreds of years. Washington Irving visited the area often and referred to Communipaw as the stronghold of traditional Dutch culture.

Illustration: Joan Vinckeboons (Johannes Vingboon), “Manatvs gelegen op de Noot [sic] Riuier”, 1639. “Manhattan situated on the North Rivier” with numbered key showing settlements at Communipaw.

RCHS to Host Monthly Travel and Tourism Book Series


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In a unique collaboration, the New York Council for the Humanities has joined forces with the Rensselaer County Historical Society to offer Reading Between the Lines: Travel and Tourism Narratives of the Empire State, a monthly reading and discussion series that runs from March through June, 2010.

“Reading Between the Lines offers an unusual twist on the standard book group format with focused thematic discussions led by humanities scholars,” says Council Executive Director Sara Ogger. At the Rensselaer County Historical Society, the discussion leader will be Shealeen Meaney, Assistant Professor of English at Russell Sage College.

Meaney will lead four discussion sessions each focused on a book related to the series theme: Legend of Sleepy Hollow & Other Tales, by Washington Irving; The Artificial River: The Erie Canal and the Paradox of Progress, 1817-1862, by Carol Sherrif; The Second Greatest Disappointment: Honeymooning and Tourism at Niagara Falls, by Karen Dubinsky and Taxi! A Social History of the New York City Cabdriver, by Graham Russell Gao Hodges.

Mari Shopsis, Director of Education at the Rensselaer County Historical Society adds: “The Rensselaer County Historical Society is very pleased to host this Reading Between the Lines program. Groups like this provide an important venue for civic engagement and social interaction, and Professor Meaney’s work on women’s travel writing and the Historical Society’s collection of travel diaries, postcards and letters are an interesting counterpart to the books being discussed.”

Participants in the series read works of non-fiction and works of literature that are discussed within an historical context. The program is free and open to the public, although pre-registration is required. The group will meet on the third Thursday of the month – March 18, April 15, May 20, and June 17 from 7-8:30pm at the Rensselaer County Historical Society, 57 Second Street, Troy, NY. For more information on the program, visit http://www.rchsonline.org/programs.htm#RBTL or contact Mari Shopsis at 518-272-7232, x 17 or at mshopsis@rchsonline.org.

Reading Between the Lines is designed to promote lively, informed conversation about humanities themes and strengthen the relationship between humanities institutions and the public. Reading Between the Lines series are currently being held in communities across New York State. The project is supported by the We The People initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

For more information about Reading Between the Lines: Travel and Tourism Narratives of the Empire State, visit www.nyhumanities.org/discussion_groups.

Call For Papers: Warring for America, 1803-1818


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A Multidisciplinary Conference on the era of the War of 1812, co-sponsored by The Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, The Huntington Library, the New York University Department of History, and The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress will be held March 31 – April 1, 2011, at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.


The War of 1812, the first declared war in the history of the United States, erupted in the midst of countervailing forces shaping America in the first decades of the nineteenth century. From the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 to the Seminole War of 1818; from the close of the Atlantic slave trade in 1807 to the founding of the American Colonization Society in 1817; from the resumption of the Napoleonic Wars in 1803 to the second Barbary War in 1815; from New Jerseys revocation of female suffrage in 1807 to Frances Wright’s arrival in America in 1818; from the publication of Tabitha Gilman Tenneys parodic sentimental novel Female Quixotism (1801) to Washington Irving’s Sketch-Book (1819); from Charles Willson Peales The Exhumation of the Mastodon (1806) to Charles Bird Kings portrait of Secretary of War John C. Calhoun (1818), this understudied era was crowded with events destined to unsettle the so-called revolutionary settlement.

At once postcolonial and neoimperial, the America of 1812 was still in need of definition. The decision to go to war catalyzed a critical era, one too often dismissed as an insignificant interregnum between the world of Jefferson and the world of Jackson. In contrast to the progressive experimentation of the 1780s and 1790s, the years surrounding the War of 1812 can be characterized as a period of narrowing possibilities and sharpening distinctions. Yet, the volatile elements that converged in the war and that emerged, transformed, point to the generative instabilities of the early Republic. This pivotal period merits further scholarly consideration.

The conferences title, Warring for America, 1803-1818, seeks to uncouple the War of 1812 from its stale fixture as the finale of the revolutionary era. Henry Adams contended that many nations have gone to war in pure gayety of heart; but perhaps the United States were first to force themselves into a war they dreaded, in the hope that the war itself might create the spirit they lacked. Historians have largely followed Adamss lead, interpreting the War of 1812 as a second War for Independence, a crisis meant to create the spirit of American nationalism. This conference, conversely, will consider the war as a volitional conflict that resulted from a confluence of many social, cultural, and geopolitical pressures and that had divergent consequences for the future of the extended republic.

Scholars are invited from a wide spectrum of disciplines from history and literature to art history and material culture to consider from new perspectives the struggles among Indians, Britons, Canadians, Euro-Americans, and African Americans throughout the North American continent, the Caribbean, and across the Atlantic Ocean. At issue were conflicting visions for control over territory, meanings of liberty, and distributions of power that came into focus through the upheaval of war. Proposals should address the connections between the new republics underlying tensions and the promulgation, execution, and explanations of the war itself. The organizers encourage submission of proposals for new, original work that is not committed for publication elsewhere, as a volume of essays resulting from the conference is anticipated.

Possible paper or panel topics include:

–Origins of war and consequences of peace
–Citizenship: gender, race, and sovereignty
–Transformations in artistic and literary genres and representations of America
–Postcolonialism, nationalism, imperialism, expansionism, regionalism
–Continental and hemispheric events and repercussions: Shawnee, Creek, and Seminole Wars, Haitian Revolution, Napoleonic Wars and Louisiana, Latin American wars for independence, slave trade, contest for Canada and Mexico
–Fronts of conflict, including the household, frontier, plantation, sea
–Washington, D.C.: from new capital to pillaged city
–Reconfigurations: revitalization to removal, abolition to colonization, Jeffersonianism to American system, First Bank of the U.S. to Second Bank of the U.S., printing to publishing, America as an object of natural history to the U.S. as a subject of history
–Narratives and memories of the war
–The Era of Good Feelings?: political factionalism, sectionalism, racism

Submit a one- to two-page synopsis of your paper proposal and a short-form c.v. no later than January 15, 2010. Submissions must be done electronically, either online at the conference Web site, http://oieahc.wm.edu/conferences/1812/cfp/index.cfm, or by email to the Omohundro Institutes webmaster, Kim Foley, at kawahl@wm.edu. Include on the c.v. complete contact information (mail, email, and telephone). All submissions will be acknowledged by email. If you do not receive an acknowledgment, please resubmit or contact Kim Foley.

Program Committee: Fredrika J. Teute, Omohundro Institute; Nicole Eustace, New York University; Rob Parkinson, Shepherd University; Carolyn Brown, Library of Congress.

Photo: Battle of Plattsburgh

First Edition Washington Irving Classic at NYSHA Library


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In observance of the 200th anniversary of the classic work of literature, A History of New York by Washington Irving, the New York State Historical Association’s Research Library will have its copy of the first edition on display from December 2009 through February 2010. Commonly known as Knickerbocker’s History of New York, the book was published in December 1809 and was an immediate success.

Irving, in his satirical history, poked fun at the early Dutch governors of the colony of New Netherlands and their “reigns.” He drummed up interest in the book before its publication by having an announcement published in a New York City newspaper asking for anyone with information regarding the disappearance of an old man named Diedrich Knickerbocker to contact the Columbian Hotel – stating that he had left without paying his bill. Subsequent notices said that if Mr. Knickerbocker was not found, a manuscript that he left behind would have to be published as a book and copies of the book sold to pay off his debt. Finally, a notice appeared advertising the book, A History of New York, by Diedrich Knickerbocker.

New Yorkers, who had become interested in the disappearance of the old man, bought up the book. Most realized the story of Knickerbocker’s disappearance was a hoax since there was no Columbian Hotel in New York, but they went along with the fun, purchased the book, and found it to be highly humorous. Irving’s history became a classic. The book is still in print and the humor within is still appealing today.

The NYSHA Research Library is located next to the Fenimore Art Museum on Route 80 in Cooperstown, N.Y. and is open from 10 – 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. There is no charge to see the display featuring Knickerbocker’s 1st edition and subsequent editions. Also on display is the exhibit Doubleday and the WPA, which details the creation of Cooperstown’s Doubleday Field as a WPA project in the 1930s. The library will be closed for the Christmas holidays from December 23 to January 10. For more information, please call 607-547-1470 or visit www.NYSHA.org.

Dutch Legend: St. Nicholas and American Santa Claus


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Elisabeth Paling Funk will give a free lecture, entitled “From the Old World to the New: St. Nicholas in Dutch Legend and Celebration and the Birth of the American Santa Claus,” at the Historic Elmendorph Inn, North Broadway in Red Hook on Wednesday, December 16, at 7:30 pm; refreshments will be served after the lecture. The event is sponsored by the Egbert Benson Historical Society of Red Hook.

Elisabeth Paling Funk PhD attended the University of Amsterdam, received her BA in English, cum laude, from Manhattanville College and an MA and PhD from Fordham University. She is an independent scholar, editor, and translator.Her articles on Dutch-American and early American Literature have been published in the U.S. and the Netherlands. She is preparing her dissertation, “Washington Irving and His Dutch-American Heritage . . . ” for publication as a book. Dr. Funk is a former trustee of the New Netherland Institute.

Photo: Sinterklaas in the Netherlands in 2007.

Revisiting Great Literature With Penguin Classics on Air


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“Penguin Classics On Air” is an online radio series devoted to the discussion and exploration of some of Penguin Classics’ more than 1400 titles from many eras, cultures and regions of the world. The program is hosted by Penguin Classics Editorial Director Elda Rotor and features in-depth conversations on new, timely and rediscovered classics between Elda Rotor or Classics editor John Siciliano and scholars, translators, or experts of a specific Penguin Classic.

The show wraps up with Associate Publisher Stephen Morrison offering a sampling of the Classic by reading the first pages from one of the works discussed. In addition, each episode of “Penguin Classics On Air” features a review by Alan Walker, Senior Director of Academic Marketing, on one of the Classics he’s recently read, as he fulfills his mission to read one Penguin Classic by an author per letter of the alphabet from A to Z.

As a sample of the goods, take a look at The Birth of Knickerbocker: Washington Irving’s A History of New York. Elda Rotor interviews Betsy Bradley, the introducer and editor of Washington Irving’s A History of New York , Irving’s popular first book is an early nineteenth century satirical novel of colonial New Amsterdam. It follows the fictional historian Diedrich Knickerbocker as he narrates the development of New York cultural life—from the creation of the doughnut to the creation of Wall Street. Alan Walker introduces listeners to The Emigrants by Gilbert Imlay and Stephen Morrison offers up the opening to Washington Irving’s beloved story “Rip Van Winkle.” in his segment, “First Pages.”