Wednesday, April 19, 2017

1757: What Adirondack History Might Have Been

“These are mere deserts on both sides of the river St. Lawrence, uninhabited by beast or bird on account of the severe colds which reign there.”—Samuel de Champlain.

“One cannot see a more savage country, and no part of the earth is more uninhabitable.” —Pierre Charlevoix, 1756. And about winters in the north: “It is then a melancholy thing not to be able to go out of doors, unless you are muffled up with furs like the bears…. What can anyone think, where the very bears dare not show their face to the weather for six months in the year!”

The last quotation (1767) is from John Mitchell, who cited the above comments by Charlevoix and Champlain in assessing New England, New York, and Quebec during discussions about the future of the American colonies. His writings at that time supported a solution Mitchell had proposed a decade earlier, one that would have drastically altered today’s map of the Americas and seriously revised the history of the Adirondack region. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Theodore Roosevelt in Maine: 19th Century Work and Masculinity

The Oneida Community Mansion House will host a discussion with historian Jason Newton about popular 19th century attitudes about work and masculinity entitled Teddy Roosevelt Among the Lumberjacks, on Sunday, May 7, at 1 pm.

Newton will examine Theodore Roosevelt’s early adult experiences in the Maine woods and at Harvard in a discussion of urban elites’ views of masculinity. Ideas about “ruggedness” shaped everything from immigration policy to imperialism, while rejecting what was considered feminine. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 17, 2017

Steven Engelhart: What Makes Historic Preservation Irresistible

The Church of the Transfiguration Our Vermont friends behind “Preservation in Pink” define historic preservation as “an eternally optimistic, inspiring field intent on improving present and future quality of life through the appreciation of our built and cultural heritage.” Although we are still a long way from being a nation or a region of true historic preservationists, we are increasingly becoming more preservation-minded as the intersections between preservation and common sense, community health, good stewardship, and sustainability becomes better understood.

So what makes historic preservation so attractive, even irresistible? » Continue Reading.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Fact, Fiction On Chester’s Underground Railroad

Underground Railroad in the town of chester by donna lagoyThe publication of a new book about the Underground Railroad in the Adirondacks, focusing on its supporters and their good work in the Town of Chester in Warren County, rides a high wave of public interest in this dramatic chapter of our history. No bookstore lacks a full-frontal display of Colson Whitehead’s explosive novel The Underground Railroad, with Oprah’s golden imprimatur on the front jacket.

Regional scholarship is booming: in just the last decade, books and articles have documented Underground Railroad activity in Indiana, Buffalo, Detroit, Vermont, New York City, Pennsylvania, and the long flanks of Lake Champlain. Tom Calarco’s The Underground Railroad in the Adirondack Region (2004) is still the most inclusive, best synthesized, and detailed account of goings-on inside and all around the Blue Line. And cultural tourism in the region has gained immeasurably from the opening of the North Star Underground Railroad Museum at Ausable Chasm — the work, in great part, of two independent researchers, Don and Vivian Papson of Plattsburgh. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Telephone Party Lines Were Once High Entertainment

History is often said to repeat itself, or to come full circle, but the same is seldom said about technology, which by its very nature constantly improves and leaves old ways behind. But as a follow-up to last week’s piece on heroic telephone operator Ida Blanchard, here’s a look at an old way of doing things that has enjoyed a resurgence of sorts, buttressed by the capabilities of modern telecommunications. We’re talking here about telephone party lines.

Yes, they’ve become a thing again, which should come as quite a surprise if you were lucky enough to experience the original. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

World War One Centennial Focus at Ti’s Hancock House

hancock house wwi exhibitThe Ticonderoga Historical Society will open its newest multi-year exhibit with a program and reception on Friday, April 21 at 7 pm. Historical Society President Bill Dolback will present the opening talk, which is free and open to the public.

The new exhibit “Til It’s Over Over There” takes its name from a popular World War One era song and looks at United States’ entry into the war in 1917, nearly three years after the conflict began in Europe. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, April 9, 2017

Infamous Adirondack Murder Revisited

Chester GilletteIt’s been over one hundred years since a search party found Grace Brown’s body in the bottom of Big Moose Lake, an overturned rowboat floating nearby. In 1906 the face of the man who walked away from that remote bay would become familiar to many Americans as he sat slouched in a chair at his murder trial in Herkimer. The local and national press wrote front-page stories about Chester Gillette, the handsome young man who murdered his pregnant girlfriend so he could rise up the social ladder.

Craig Brandon has a section in the new edition of his book called The Murder That Will Never Die, and certainly for him as a writer this is true. Brandon first published Murder in the Adirondacks in 1986, and the book sold well. When North Country Books asked if he’d be interested in writing a revised edition he jumped at the chance. » Continue Reading.


Friday, April 7, 2017

Ti Fort Fever Series Sunday: Gribeauval’s Guns

Gribeauval’s Guns: French Artillery Fort Ticonderoga’s “Fort Fever Series” concludes on Sunday, April 9th, at 2 pm with “Gribeauval’s Guns: French Artillery Reforms from Montcalm to Napoleon” presented by Curator Matthew Keagle.

This Fort Fever presentation will take participants on a tour using the rare examples in Fort Ticonderoga’s collections of reforms of the French artillery in the wake of the French and Indian War, one of the most important technological and tactical developments in artillery during the 18th century.

Matthew Keagle is the Curator of the Fort Ticonderoga Museum and holds degrees from Cornell University, the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture, and the Bard Graduate Center. He has researched and spoken widely on topics related to the material culture of the military in the long 18th century in the US, Canada, and Europe. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, April 6, 2017

Hudson River Whitewater Derby Set To Celebrate 60 Years

Hudson Whitewater DerbyResidents of Manhattan are accustomed to seeing a somewhat polluted mile-wide Hudson dotted with commuter ferries and cruise ships. Here in the North Country, we see a different face of the Hudson. During spring, as the river swells with crystal-clear snow melt and April showers, the Upper Hudson has some of the best whitewater runs in the East.

Each year since 1958, the Hudson River Whitewater Derby is held on the first full weekend of May from North River to Riparius. This year’s event, on May 6-7, will mark its 60th anniversary, making it one of the oldest continuously run whitewater events in the country. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, April 6, 2017

Ida Blanchard: Heroic Switchboard Operator

Fire! … Please send help — there’s been a car accident! … We found our son in the pool … please help us! … We need an ambulance … I think my husband’s having a heart attack! … My wife can’t breathe and she’s turning blue! Many of us have experienced terrifying moments like those at one time or another. In modern times, amazingly quick responses are the norm from fire and EMS personnel directed by information received at county emergency service centers.

Until several decades ago, those positions were nearly all filled by men. But for much of the twentieth century, most rural areas lacked coordination of services. A vital cog in emergency situations back then was the local switchboard operator, who was nearly always a woman. In almost every instance where policemen and/or firemen were needed, the telephone operator was key to obtaining a good outcome. She was the de facto emergency services coordinator of yesteryear.

Her importance during times of crisis was often overlooked, with most of the glory going to policemen and firemen capturing criminals, rescuing victims, and saving lives. But emergency personnel and telephone-company executives were aware of the vital role operators played on a daily basis. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, April 2, 2017

Cooper’s Cave: America’s First Roadside Attraction

19th century tourists visiting Cooper’s CaveJames Fenimore Cooper’s knowledge of the French and Indian War may have been sketchy, but he was interested enough in its history to contemplate a visit to Lake George, which he finally did with a party of Englishmen in August, 1824.

Lord Edward Stanley,  who would later become the 14th Earl of Derby and  Great Britain’s Prime Minister during the reign of Queen Victoria, was a member of the party. As they crossed the Hudson River at Glens Falls on the return trip to Saratoga, Stanley noted in his journal, “Cooper… was much struck with the scenery which he had not before seen; and exclaimed, ‘I must place one of my old Indians here.” » Continue Reading.


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Tim Rowland’s Project Farmhouse

tim rowlands project farmhouseThe preachers have never had much luck getting their tenterhooks into me because I’m not all that enamored with the idea of everlasting life. Everlasting life is like Moose Tracks ice cream: After the first bite you never want it to end, but by the time you pack away a quart and a half you start to see a down side.

And everlasting life is about the only arrow the preachers have in their quiver. They never say, “If you lead a wholesome, righteous existence you will have everlasting life — plus you get to date Emma Stone.”

Still, it has to be acknowledged that Ponce de Leon wasn’t the only fan of perpetual youth, and when I was younger I confess to feeling the same way, largely due to a curiosity of what will happen next—tomorrow, and 2,000 years from tomorrow. I have, however, discovered that it is a simple task to live well beyond the average, 78.2-year lifespan. It is no great effort to live for a hundred, five hundred or even a thousand years. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Some Local Media Was Reluctant to Support Women’s Rights

North Country newspapers, the only media during the 1800s, were slow to come around and at times downright resistant to women’s rights. Their job was to report the news, but in order to maintain readership, they also had to cater to their customers — like the old adage says, “give ’em what they want.”  That atmosphere made it difficult for new and progressive ideas, like women’s rights, to make headway.

The push for women’s rights exposed many inequities early on, but it was difficult to establish a foothold among other important stories of the day. The powerful anti-slavery movement of the 1800s presented an opportunity, for although women and slaves were at opposite ends of the spectrum in the popular imagination — women on a pedestal and slaves treated terribly — they sought many of te same goals: freedom to speak out on their own behalf, the right to vote, and equal pay for equal work. Women passionate about those subjects joined anti-slavery organizations to seek freedom and equal rights for all, regardless of race or sex. » Continue Reading.


Monday, March 27, 2017

Sandra Weber: Lessons from Suffrage Movement

For decades, history books have fed us the simplistic notion that women struggled for the vote while men opposed them. Hogwash! Some women opposed suffrage and some men supported it. The issue was a battle about the sexes; the battle itself was fought by women and men against other women and men.

The North Country region resembled most of upstate New York in the 1800s, rural and a hotbed for reform movements: abolition, prohibition, forest preservation, women’s rights. Of course, there was also opposition to some of these changes. The major reason for resistance to women’s rights had to do with long-held conventional notions about the roles of men and women, the roles of blacks and whites, and the interpretation of the Bible. In general, these views supported a white patriarchy and contested any threat to the perpetuation of its authority. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Lake George and the Invention of the Auto-Boat

The Winnish, owned by LeGrand Cramer, one of Lake George’s first Auto-BoatsThe fusion of automobile and boat reached its apotheosis in 1959, when Chris Craft released its Silver Arrow in the same shade of metallic blue that Chevrolet applied to its Corvette and added a flared fin copied from a Buick.

That’s what boat builder Everett Smith told an audience last summer when discussing the evolution of the Auto-boat at the Tumblehome Boatshop in Warrensburg, which hosts evening talks about boats and boating throughout the year. » Continue Reading.


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