New York State Museum leadership is under fire again. This time from Albany Times Union columnist Chris Churchill. He points out that it’s been eight years since a $14 million overhaul of the museums exhibits was announced. [Read more…] about The Decline of the New York State Museum
Thank You New York Almanack Supporters
We did it! We finally reached our annual online fundraising goal for 2022 of $14,000. Through gifts large and small readers like you showed you care about the New York Almanack and want to help keep it publishing – thank you!
In 2022 we doubled our readership and we continue to grow. Over a million readers will visit the New York Almanack in 2023 to learn about the Empire State’s history, arts, culture, natural history, and outdoor recreation opportunities.
New York Almanack is the most read publication of its kind reaching more readers with the stories of our shared history than any other publication, in any media. History matters – our natural environment matters – and I’m proud to be able – with your help – to share why, every day, seven days a week.
Of course our fundraising is never really over. We’ll start the 2023 online fundraising campaign in June. But until then – THANK YOU!!
Smugglers & The Law: Prohibition In Northern New York
Dennis Warren left his job as a coal shoveler on the New York Central Railroad in Albany to ship out to the First World War. His transport ship had a close call with a German submarine on the way over, but got there in time to take part in what one of the bloodiest military campaigns in American history.
For Americans after the war, the Argonne would mean what Normandy meant just 25 years later – sacrifice. Sadly, that sacrifice in the Argonne Forest was never repaid to Dennis Warren, who met the death of a smuggler – running from an officious and invasive law on a treacherous mountain road near Port Henry on Lake Champlain.
According to the newsman who reported his death at the age of 29, “Canadian Ale was spread across the road.” [Read more…] about Smugglers & The Law: Prohibition In Northern New York
“Strange things about Mrs. Simeon Hays,” The Woman That Lived Without Eating
Night and day for three full weeks six well-dressed men would take shifts standing watch over Betsey Hays in her bed. They planned to stay with her two at a time in her one room cabin and make careful scientific notes. For Betsey, who spent most of her time tormented by uncontrollable bodily contortions and seizures, it was something she was used to.
Over the past two years, thousands of people had come to Chestertown in Northern Warren County to stand over her as she suffered. [Read more…] about “Strange things about Mrs. Simeon Hays,” The Woman That Lived Without Eating
Rough And Tumble: A Short History of Eye Gouging
Last week Thomas Webster, a 20-year veteran of the NYPD, was sentenced to the stiffest sentence so far – 10 years – for his actions while attacking the U.S. Capitol on January 6th in an effort to keep Donald Trump in power. In the effort to identify the insurrectionists, Webster was given the name “eye-gouger” for his attempt to gouge the eyes of a Washington D.C. police officer.
It’s a long American tradition. Eye gouging, not insurrection. [Read more…] about Rough And Tumble: A Short History of Eye Gouging
Leland Stanford, The Bull’s Head & Albany’s 19th Century Cattle Market
California’s 8th Governor and long-time Senator Leland Stanford, namesake of Stanford University and one-time president of the Central Pacific Railroad, has a unique connection to New York State’s Capital District.
Leland was born in Watervliet in 1824, the son of Josiah Stanford and Elizabeth Phillips. Among his seven siblings were New York Senator Charles Stanford (1819-1885) and Australian spiritualist Thomas Welton Stanford (1832-1918). The elder Stanford was a wealthy farmer in the eastern Mohawk Valley before moving to the Lisha Kill in Albany County where Leland was born. [Read more…] about Leland Stanford, The Bull’s Head & Albany’s 19th Century Cattle Market
“Labor’s Slaves in the Adirondacks”: Building the Adirondack Railroad
The St. Lawrence & Adirondack Railroad, also known as the Mohawk & Malone – eventually owned by the New York Central and called the Adirondack Line or the Adirondack Railroad ran directly through the Adirondacks from Herkimer (near Utica) to Malone connecting the rail lines along the Mohawk River to the Main Trunk Line running into Montreal. The line is often attributed to William Seward Webb, but it was the men who actually built the line that are the subject of this essay.
On March 29, 1892 a Boston Globe article titled “Labor’s Slaves in the Adirondacks” reported that Utica “resembled Washington during war times, hundreds of penniless and destitute Negroes are camped out tonight in the temporary places of shelter given them, and the citizens of Utica are consulting as to the best means of returning them to their homes.”
The Globe told readers that all night, “runaway slaves” had been coming into town. One hundred and fifty of them, mostly black laborers from the Deep South, but some recently arrived European immigrants as well. [Read more…] about “Labor’s Slaves in the Adirondacks”: Building the Adirondack Railroad
A History of Snowmobile Racing in New York State
In the motor toboggan era – the time before the advent of the modern snowmobiles we know today – motor sleds had been too slow for racing excitement. As a result they remained strictly utilitarian vehicles racing only occasionally for promotional purposes. Motor toboggan and later snowmobile maker Polaris traveled each year at the end of the 1950s to trapper festivals at The Pas, Manitoba where they helped organize ad hoc races.
“We tried to rig them a little bit so we had a zig-zag effect,” David Johnson said, remembering one of the first informal races, “one guy ahead, and then the other, and so on, at a terrific speed of about 20 miles per hour.” In February 1959, Johnson won the first organized men’s race on an oval at The Pas and in 1960, the first cross-country race was held there. [Read more…] about A History of Snowmobile Racing in New York State
1840s Troy: Blacksmith Dan, John Morrissey & Friends
Throughout the 19th century the blacksmith’s shop was a central part of American life. Even the smallest forge was kept busy mending and making the variety of tools and implements for home and garden, for workshop and industry, and tack and shoes for mules, horses and oxen. Blacksmiths were critical to transportation, manufacturing and home life. Like today’s auto garage, nearly every substantial crossroads had a blacksmith’s shop.
Better shops included the blacksmith, a fireman, a helper, and sometimes a furrier. In 1850 there were more than 150 blacksmiths in Troy, NY, a city of about 30,000 people, including one woman, Canadian Cyrilla Turcott. About half of these smithies were born in Ireland. More blacksmiths of all skill levels could be found in the city’s wagon, carriage and wheelwright shops, or employed in the city’s booming iron industry. [Read more…] about 1840s Troy: Blacksmith Dan, John Morrissey & Friends
Canton Eddie, Turn of the Century Safecracker
“Canton Eddie” (a.k.a. “Boston Shorty,” Edward Collins, Edward Burns, Harry Wilson and possibly Harry Berger and Eddie Kinsman) who real name is believed to have been Edward Wilson, was a native of St. Lawrence County, born in about 1876 in Canton.
He was the perpetrator of a string of daring robberies in New York, Massachusetts, and Vermont, and probably elsewhere during his lengthy career. Using nitro-glycerin and “the rest of the safecracker’s outfit” he blew the safes of more than 30 post offices, including the Montpelier, Vermont Post Office at least twice in 1905 and in 1907. By the time he was arrested for the last time in 1916, he had already served a number of prison sentences totaling more than nine years. [Read more…] about Canton Eddie, Turn of the Century Safecracker