Posts Tagged ‘labor’

Monday, October 13, 2008

OPINION: Museum Planning Should Include Miners

Mining in the Adirondacks was labor-intensive, dangerous work. More than 250 mines and ore processing sites have operated over time in the region, extracting eleven different minerals. Ores from the Adirondacks fed a national hunger for iron as the country expanded in the late 1800s. Mining is a major Adirondack story, which has been covered in part here at the Adirondack Almanack (and then picked up by NCPR).

This week the Adirondack Museum (which closes for the year Sunday FYI) announced that it will re-install its exhibit on Mining in the Adirondacks (expected to open in 2011). According to the Museum, “the extensive new interactive exhibition will tell powerful stories of people and the communities that grew around mines and forges.” As plans for the exhibit progress, the museum has formed a regional advisory committee to serve as a sounding board for curators and museum educators – unfortunately the advisory committee contains no experts on immigration or labor history and it should.

Various immigrant groups, African Americans, and Native Americans have a long history of laboring in Adirondack mines and related industries, and they should be represented in the Adirondack Museum’s planning. Often their stories have been left untold, just as they often went unnamed in local news reports.

In 1907, five unnamed miners – “Polanders, and it was impossible to learn their names” – where injured when the roof of a mine at Lyon Mountain caved in. Two men broke their legs and the other three were less seriously wounded.

“An Italian who was blown up at Tongue Mountain died Thursday,” one report noted. “He accidentally struck a stick of dynamite with a crowbar. The man’s left arm was blown off at the shoulder, there is a compound fracture of his right arm just above the hand, both eyes were blown out of his head, a stone was jammed against his heart and his head was bruised.” It was a remarkable that he wasn’t killed instantly.

The Adirondack Museum has a perfect opportunity to tell the stories of immigrant labor and others who labored in the mines, but they cannot do that properly without including historian of labor and immigration in the process. The museum claims it will convey the “the ebb and flow of a transient population of immigrant workers, work shifts, and company-sponsored social activities set the rhythm of life in mining towns.” The museum’s advisory committee includes a retired GE engineer, a retired mining executive, a retired mining engineer, a mining reclamation specialist, and lots of other bigwigs – but not a single miner; and that’s wrong.

Members of the Mining Advisory Committee include: Dick Merrill, retired General Electric engineer, historian and author from Queensbury, N.Y.; Scott Bombard, Graymont, Plattsburgh, N.Y.; Conrad Sharrow, retired college administrator and Dorothy Sharrow, retired elementary school teacher, Clifton Park, N.Y.; Vincent McLean, retired mining executive, Lake Placid, N.Y.; Gordon Pollard, professor SUNY Plattsburgh, and industrial archeologist; Carol Burke, professor, CAL-Irvine, oral historian, folklorist, and former Tahawus resident, Irvine, Ca.; Bob Meldrum, Slate
Valley Museum, Granville, N.Y.; Don Grout, retired mining engineer, Lake
Placid, N.Y.; Betsy Lowe, Director, DEC Region 5 and mining reclamation
specialist, Lake Placid, N.Y.; and Adirondack Museum Board of Trustee
members Rhonda Brunner, AuSable Forks, N.Y.; Gilda Wray, Keene Valley, N.Y.;
and Glenn Pearsall, Johnsburgh, N.Y.


Monday, June 30, 2008

Do The Rich Confiscate Adirondack Natural Beauty?

Barbara Ehrenreich has an interesting article in the Nation this month about the what she calls considers “the general rule, which has been in effect since sometime in the 1990s: if a place is truly beautiful, you can’t afford to be there. All right, I’m sure there are still exceptions — a few scenic spots not yet eaten up by mansions. But they’re going fast.”

The places she describes, Key West and the Grand Tetons, have remarkable similarities to our own Adirondacks. Here is her description of Key West:

At some point in the ’90s, the rich started pouring in. You’d see them on the small planes coming down from Miami — taut-skinned, linen-clad and impatient. They drove house prices into the seven-figure range. They encouraged restaurants to charge upward of $30 for an entree. They tore down working-class tiki bars to make room for their waterfront “condotels.”

That’s something we’ve all seen in our area. But, as Ehrenreich points out, it comes at a cost, even for the wealthy:

Ultimately, the plutocratic takeover of rural America has a downside for the wealthy too. The more expensive a resort town gets, the farther its workers have to commute to keep it functioning. And if your heart doesn’t bleed for the dishwasher or landscaper who commutes two to four hours a day, at least shed a tear for the wealthy vacationer who gets stuck in the ensuing traffic. It’s bumper to bumper westbound out of Telluride, Colorado, every day at 5, or eastbound on Route 1 out of Key West, for the Lexuses as well as the beat-up old pickup trucks.

Or a place may simply run out of workers. Monroe County, which includes Key West, has seen more than 2,000 workers leave since the 2000 Census, a loss the Los Angeles Times calls “a body blow to the service-oriented economy of a county with only 75,000 residents and 2.25 million overnight visitors a year.” Among those driven out by rents of more than $1,600 for a one-bedroom apartment are many of Key West’s wait staff, hotel housekeepers, gardeners, plumbers and handymen. No matter how much money you have, everything takes longer — from getting a toilet fixed to getting a fish sandwich at Pepe’s.

It’s an interesting read, and one that echoes our own problems with affordable housing, low wages, and disappearing Adirondack style.


Friday, January 18, 2008

Adirondack Region Martin Luther King Jr Day Events

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is this Monday, January 21, 2008.

According to a press release from Adirondack Progressives: » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 4, 2006

New York Central RR – The Adirondack and St. Lawrence Railroad

Everything is well, now—we are done with poverty, sad toil, weariness and heart-break; all the world is filled with sunshine. – Mark Twain’s Sarcasm from The Gilded Age

Labor Day gives us a great opportunity to think about the historical memory of class in the Adirondacks.

For modern Adirondack workers Labor Day is little more than the season ending three-day weekend that signals the start of the annual southern migration of tourist everywhereis. » Continue Reading.


Friday, October 14, 2005

Home Building in the Adirondacks

The number of homes being built in the Adirondacks is getting out of control. The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) is understaffed and the local economy is increasingly dependent on new construction. The Glens Falls Post Star recently reported that home sales in Warren County are up 38 percent from 2004. More alarming is the fact that the median selling price of those homes, jumped nearly 20 percent in just one month — from $165,500 in July 2005 to $197,900 in August 2005.

This month’s issue of Adirondack Life has a large feature piece devoted to housing prices and related issues. Unfortunately, their webpage has taken a turn for the worst and they have exactly no content.

It’s clear that in our parts of the park the only real opportunity for young people is to become a part of the housing boom and work as laborers building houses. Local companies have continuous ads for workers and we see more and more workers from out of state. This summer we saw home construction workers from Montana and Alabama among others.