Manhattan to Minisink: American Place Names in Greater New York and Vicinity (University of Oklahoma Press, 2013) provides the histories of more than five hundred place names in the Greater New York area, including the five boroughs, western Long Island, the New York counties north of the city, and parts of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut. Robert S. Grumet, a leading ethnohistorian specializing in the region’s Indian peoples, draws on his meticulous research and deep knowledge to determine the origins of Native, and Native-sounding, place names. [Read more…] about New Book: Greater New York American Indian Place Names
Thomas Alva Edison, one of the leading innovators of all time comes alive like never before in Edison and the Rise of Innovation (Sterling, 2013) by Leonard DeGraaf. Perhaps America’s first business celebrity, Edison was more than history’s most prolific inventor.
Edison pursued more than a thousand patents by combining scientific knowledge, well-equipped laboratories, talented collaborators, investment capital and a bit of showmanship, according to DeGraaf, who argues that in the process Edison changed the way we innovate new technologies. [Read more…] about New Book: Thomas Edison and the Rise of Innovation
In a lawsuit filed by two public interest groups and four individuals, Judge Alexander Carver of the New Jersey Superior Court yesterday upheld the grant of a variance to LG Electronics that would allow it to construct a 143-foot tower atop the Hudson River Palisades, four times higher than the 35-foot height limit respected for decades by all other companies.
The variance, approved by the Borough of Englewood Cliffs in February 2012, authorizes construction of a building that would rise 80 feet above the tree line, ending an unbroken natural sweep of the Palisades north of Fort Lee. Despite this, the court ruled that the Englewood Cliffs Planning Board had not abused its authority in granting the variance that exempted the LG tower. [Read more…] about Judge OKs Tower Over Hudson River Palisades
The Delaware Company’s president John Conway (Sullivan County Historian), invited me to speak at the newly formed nonprofit’s inaugural fundraising gala this week at the historic Ardmore Mansion/Mountain View Manor, in Glen Spey, the day after the NYSHA annual conference in Cooperstown ended.
The mission of The Delaware Company is to promote and support the history and historic landmarks of the Upper Delaware River Valley through education, outreach, and fundraising. Also speaking were U.S. Representative Chris Gibson and NYS Legislator Aileen Gunther. The audience consisted of various county and local officials, municipal historians, historic organizations, and at least one teacher, a true sampling of the history community in the region. [Read more…] about The Social Fabric: To Knit or Not to Knit?
Paper and panel proposals are invited for a conference on “From Conquest to Identity: New Jersey and the Middle Colonies in the Seventeenth Century,” to be co-sponsored by the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, the New Jersey
Historical Commission, and Kean University and to be held in Trenton, New Jersey, on March 27–29, 2014.
Confirmed participants include Charles Gehring, Evan Haefeli, Ned C. Landsman, Robert C. Ritchie, and the members of the program committee: Wayne Bodle, Stanley N. Katz, Christian Koot, Maxine N. Lurie, Jonathan Mercantini, Daniel K. Richter, and Cynthia Van Zandt. [Read more…] about CFP: 17th Century Identity and the Middle Colonies
Ruin porn is in. Ruin porn is hot. Ruin porn is sexy. Ruin porn is the term coined by Jim Griffioen, who writes a blog about his life as a stay-at-home dad in Detroit.
As part of that effort he periodically posts photographs he has taken of the more than 70,000 abandoned buildings in his city. Such images included (as reported in the New York Times) “‘feral’ houses almost completely overgrown with vegetation; a decommissioned public-school book depository in which trees were growing out of the piles of rotting textbooks”. The term has become a familiar one in the city not without some misgivings by the locals as they watch tourists take souvenirs of their city back home. [Read more…] about Peter Feinman On New York’s ‘Ruin Porn’
The New-York Historical Society is displaying Mort Künstler’s “Washington’s Crossing at McKonkey’s Ferry” until January 17, 2012. Emanuel Leutze’s 1851 painting “Washington Crossing the Delaware” commemorates General George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River on December 25 in 1776 during the American Revolutionary War. His original painting is part of the permanent collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Mort Künstler, a New York artist known for his historical paintings, has created what he considers a more historically accurate version of Washington crossing the Delaware River. The painting was unveiled at the New-York Historical Society on Monday, December 26, the date in 1776 that Washington led his troops into battle in Trenton after crossing the Delaware.
David Hackett Fischer, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Washington’s Crossing, and featured speaker at the unveiling, says Künstler’s version is “quite accurate” and “got more right than any other image.”
The original painting shows the Betsy Ross flag flying, however that flag was not adopted until 1777; Mr. Künstler’s version has no flag. The original painting depicts the action taking place in the middle of the day, though the actual crossing took place during a stormy night. Based on historical research, the new painting shows Washington and company in a flat-bottomed ferry boat rather than on a row boat.
On that last detail however, there has been some debate. Rick Spilman, writing in the Old Salt Blog, noted:
“The problem is that most historians think that the American crossing of the Delaware used Durham boats, large flat-bottomed boats which hauled cargo such as ore, pig-iron, timber, and produce from upcountry mines, forests and farms down the Delaware River to Philadelphia’s thriving markets and port. Robert Durham, an engineer at the Durham Iron Works in Reiglesville, Pennsylvania, reputedly designed a prototype for these large cargo boats as early as 1757. Washington wrote to Governor Livingston of New Jersey, directing him to secure “Boats and Craft, all along the Delaware side…particularly the Durham Boats” for his anticipated crossing.”
In any event, you’ll have just one day to compare the two paintings first hand. The newly restored Luetze painting will be unveiled in a new frame in the New American Wing Galleries for Paintings, Sculpture and Decorative Arts at the Metropolitan Museum on January 16, the day before the new Künstler painting comes down at the New-York Historical Society.
Illustrations: Above, Mort Künstler’s “Washington’s Crossing at McKonkey’s Ferry”; below, Emanuel Leutze’s 1851 “Washington Crossing the Delaware”.
A new book, The Sport of Kings and the Kings of Crime: Horse Racing, Politics, and Organized Crime in New York, 1865-1913 by Steven A. Riess, fills a long-neglected gap in sports history, offering a richly detailed and fascinating chronicle of thoroughbred racing’s heyday and its connections with politics and organized crime.
Thoroughbred racing was one of the first major sports in early America. Horse racing thrived because it was a high-status sport that attracted the interest of both old and new money. It grew because spectators enjoyed the pageantry, the exciting races, and, most of all, the gambling. [Read more…] about New Book: Sport of Kings, Kings of Crime
Last week the United States House of Representatives passed a bill including an amendment authored by U.S. Reps. Mike Rogers, (R-MI), and Frank LoBiondo, (R-NJ), that would require the Department of Defense to repatriate the remains of 13 US Navy commandos buried in two mass graves in Tripoli, Libya since 1804.
The amendment – which would repatriate, identify and honor the sailors with a military funeral – was attached to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). After passing the full House, the NDAA now heads to the US Senate for consideration.
“My father, my father’s father, and his father’s father have wanted the remains of Master Commandant Richard Somers returned home, and we’ve worked for it since he and the men of the USS Intrepid were lost in Libya in 1804,” said Dean Somers of Somers Point, New Jersey. “This is long, long overdue, and it wasn’t until we met recently with Rep. Frank Lobiondo and Chairman Rogers when we thought it was finally possible.”
Somers and his crew were lost on an ill-fated mission to destroy Tripoli’s naval fleet during the Barbary Wars of the early 19th century. When their bodies of America’s first Navy commandos washed up on the beach in Tripoli, the bashaw – the king of the pirates – invited a pack of dogs to devour them as American prisoners of war looked on. The 13 remain buried today jumbled together in two Libyan graves. One of those graves is unmarked and underfoot on Green Square, the site of decades of anti-America rallies.
On September 4th 1804, Somers was in command of fire ship Intrepid which had been recently seized from its Tripolean crew, was prepared as a “floating volcano” and readied to be sailed into Tripoli harbor and blown up in the midst of the enemy fleet under the walls of the city. She exploded prematurely, while entering the harbor killing Somers and his entire crew of volunteers.
Since 1804, there have been six ships of the US Navy that have been named USS Somers in his honor. In 2004, the state assembly in New Jersey passed two resolutions calling for the return of the sailor’s remains. The town of Somers, New York, located in Westchester County is named in his honor.
The City of Somers Point, named after the Master Commandant’s family and still their residence, has worked on repatriation for decades. Additionally, the descendants of American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wish for the return of the remains of his uncle, Lt. Henry Wadsworth, who served as second in command on the fire ship Intrepid when it was lost during the Barbary Wars. Born shortly after the failed mission, the legendary poet was named after his heroic uncle.
Illustration: Engraving, “Blowing Up of the Fire Ship Intrepid commanded by Capt. Somers in the Harbour of Tripoli on the night of 4th Sepr. 1804.”
Fort Montgomery State Historic Site (690 Route 9W, Fort Montgomery, NY) will be offering an evening lecture, “The 3rd New Jersey in New York: Stories from “The Jersey Greys” of 1776” on Thursday, December 2nd at 7 PM.
Speaker Philip D. Weaver will utilize correspondence, company account books, and period diaries to acquaint you with one of the best equipped, most interesting, and dysfunctional regiments in the early Continental Army, the 3rd New Jersey of 1776. Attendees will be given a quick introduction to the organization and the personalities, followed by a discussion of their New York campaign. Weaver will focus on a number of stories and anecdotes. The program will also include information on their garrisoning of Fort Stanwix and their subsequent relocation to “the old French Barracks” at Fort Ticonderoga.
This lecture is FREE and open to all. For more information or directions, call (845) 446-2134.
Image: Charles Wilson Peale portrait of then Captain Joseph Bloomfield of the 3rd New Jersey.