Julie Van Den Hout’s new book Adriaen Van Der Donck: A Dutch Rebel in Seventeenth-century America (Excelsior Editions, 2018) tells the compelling story of Adriaen van der Donck (1618–1655), whose fight to secure the struggling Dutch colony of New Netherland made him a controversial but pivotal figure in early America.
At best, he has been labeled a hero, a visionary, and a spokesman of the people. At worst, he has been branded arrogant and selfish, thinking only of his own ambitions.
The wide range of opinions about him testifies to the fact that, more than three centuries after his death, Van der Donck (after whose honorific Jonkheer, Yonkers is named) remains an intriguing character. Continue reading
Law and order stood as a sign of civilization for many 17th-century Europeans, which is why some of the first European settlers in North America created systems of law and order in their new homeland.
In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, we explore the legal history of colonial New England with Abby Chandler, author of Law and Sexual Misconduct in New England 1650-1750 (Ashgate, 2015). You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/069
John Jay played important and prominent roles during the founding of the United States and yet, his name isn’t one that many would list if asked to name founding fathers.
In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, we explore John Jay and his contributions to the founding of the United States with Robb Haberman, associate editor of The Selected Papers of John Jay documentary editing project. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/055
The State Canal Corporation has announced the 10th annual “Canal Splash” for August 7 – 15. It is mostly to promote the recreational possibilities of the canal system but some of the events along the canalways will focus on history and culture. “Celebrate the history, culture, recreational appeal, and beauty of the New York State Canal System and Erie Canalway Trail during the 10 days of Canal Splash!” says its website. The celebration is a high point in the ongoing work of promoting the canal. Continue reading
Today we address the President of the United States as “Mr. President.” But did you know that the proper title for the office was almost “His Highness the President?”
In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, Kathleen Bartoloni-Tuazon, author of For Fear of an Elective King (Cornell University Press, 2014), leads us on an exploration of the presidential title controversy of 1789, the first controversy to wrack the United States Congress. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/040
Who remembers Aaron Burr as anything more than Quick Draw McGraw shooting down the near-sighted Alexander Hamilton at dawn in 1804? But there is much more to the man, as Gore Vidal revealed in his intriguing 1973 historical novel, and other subsequent scholarship.
Two aspects of Burr’s varied career stand out in today’s world. First, his treason trial that closely examined issues of what counts as an act of war against one’s own government. And second, his relationships with a series of highly intelligent and accomplished women, reflecting his high opinion of the female sex and its potential. Continue reading
During the Revolutionary War, Alexander Hamilton served as an artillery captain and later a colonel and trusted aid to General George Washington. Colonel Aaron Burr also served in the Colonial Army and accompanied Benedict Arnold on his march through the Maine wilderness and his failed attempt to capture Quebec. Burr had been with General Richard Montgomery when Montgomery was shot and killed in Quebec. Later in the war, Burr was placed in charge of a regiment and his troops were stationed in Westchester County, New York. Continue reading
A compelling story about three murders in Brooklyn between 1872 and 1873 and the young women charged with the crimes is told in a new book by Robert E. Murphy, Three Graces Of Raymond Street: Murder, Madness, Sex, and Politics in 1870s Brooklyn (SUNY Press, 2015).
Between January 1872 and September 1873, the city of Brooklyn was gripped by accounts of three murders allegedly committed by young women: a factory girl shot her employer and seducer, an evidently peculiar woman shot a philandering member of a prominent Brooklyn family, and a former nun was arrested on suspicion of having hanged her best friend and onetime convent mate. Continue reading
A jury trial in a real courtroom in Troy on Sunday, December 7th at 2 pm aims to solve a centuries-old controversy over who really wrote one of the most beloved holiday poems in the world: “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.”
Last year “The Trial Before Christmas” was a surprise holiday spectacle that gained national media attention and attracted more than 500 spectators to the Rensselaer County Courthouse – a standing-room-only crowd. But the jury was unable to reach a verdict, so the case will be heard again. Continue reading
When the night train to Montreal set out from Utica on April 29, 1931, James E. Smith had already been toiling over the needs and wants of his passengers for many hours. At 29 years old, Smith had been a Pullman porter for about three years. He had done a stint in Pennsylvania and now was employed on the New York Central line of the Pullman Company.
The experience of the Pullman porter was both uncommon yet ordinary. The Pullman Palace Car company hired black men almost exclusively as porters. This practice began under the direction of the founder of the company, George Pullman, after the Civil War. On board a luxurious and comfortable Pullman Car, Pullman porters were expected to be the ideal servants to their well off white passengers. Continue reading