My first brush with the artifacts of history came when I was a youngster on a family vacation to Cooperstown, Otsego County, NY. I found the famous Baseball Hall of Fame, with its baggy uniforms, battered bats and flattened fielders’ mitts, decidedly ho-hum. I couldn’t wait to get to the nearby Farmers’ Museum and see something that I had heard of with wonder: the Cardiff Giant. [Read more…] about There Were Giants in the Earth in Those Days
Sunshine, Coffee and Shoelaces: Keys to Immortality
The search for a way to restore youthful vigor dates back at least to the writings of Herodotus in the 4th century BCE. The pursuit continues today, though in the domain of science, rather than guesswork.
Among the best-known historic quests to reverse the aging process was Juan Ponce de León’s fabled hunt for a “Fountain of Youth” in the Caribbean. Having driven a few million native Tainos to early graves in Spanish silver mines, Ponce de León sailed away in 1521, reportedly seeking this magic water. [Read more…] about Sunshine, Coffee and Shoelaces: Keys to Immortality
Dr. John Swinburne’s Life in Crime, War & Politics
John Swinburne was born May 30, 1820 in Denmark, Lewis County, New York. He attended school in the communities of Lowville and Denmark, and in Fairfield, Herkimer County, all in New York. He was an excellent student and upon completion of his studies, he took a job as a teacher.
In 1841, at the age of 21, he began the study of medicine and in 1843 entered Albany Medical College where he was a student under the tutelage of Dr. James H. Armsby, a founder of the college. He eventually went to work for Dr. Armsby and upon his graduation in 1846, started his own practice. [Read more…] about Dr. John Swinburne’s Life in Crime, War & Politics
The African Burial Ground, Columbia University & Manhattan’s Grave-Robbers
On July 26, 1788, the Convention of the State of New York, meeting in Poughkeepsie, ratified the Constitution of the United States and, in doing so, was admitted to the new union as the eleventh of the original thirteen colonies joining together as the United States of America.
For New Yorkers, it had been an eventful year. [Read more…] about The African Burial Ground, Columbia University & Manhattan’s Grave-Robbers
Becoming Barnum: Taxidermy & The Physioscope
In this episode of the Becoming Barnum podcast, P.T. Barnum was worried about his employees at the American Museum in New York City. He wanted museum taxidermist Emile Guillaudeu to create a pose for a pony’s skin that suggested motion with dignity and speed, but it is uncertain if he was successful. [Read more…] about Becoming Barnum: Taxidermy & The Physioscope
Science & Suckers: The Cohoes Mastodon & The Cardiff Giant
In 1866, NY State Geologist James Hall received a message from T.G. Younglove, an official at Harmony Mills in Cohoes, New York, informing Hall that while conducting some excavations to expand the mill they uncovered a “great pothole” at the foot of Cohoes Falls where the Mohawk River begins to empty into the Hudson.
The “great pothole” contained a large jawbone “of some unknown beast,” much larger than that of an elephant. [Read more…] about Science & Suckers: The Cohoes Mastodon & The Cardiff Giant
Restless Roamer: James Smithson’s Final Journey
A descendant of Dutch settlers, Jacob Aaron Westervelt began his career in 1814 as an apprentice in Christian Bergh’s shipyard at the point of land on the East River known as Corlears Hook. He left his employer in 1835 to start his own operation along the river. Over a period of three decades, the yard produced 234 vessels.
One of Jacob’s first commissions in 1836 was to build the packet boat Mediator for John Griswold’s Black X Line. Founded in 1823, its ships ran between New York and London displaying a house flag with a black X on a red background. [Read more…] about Restless Roamer: James Smithson’s Final Journey
A Disastrous and Heroic Arctic Voyage
This week on The Historians Podcast, Buddy Levy author of Empire of Ice and Stone: The Disastrous and Heroic Voyage of the Karluk (Deckle Edge, December 6, 2022).
Levy, who lives in Idaho, is a go-to author for Arctic history. [Read more…] about A Disastrous and Heroic Arctic Voyage
The Albany Origins of the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop
The Capital District’s Dudley Observatory is considered “the oldest non-academic institution of astronomical research in America.” Originally, it was located north-east of downtown Albany, NY.
Construction there began in 1852 and the facility was dedicated in 1857. Albany’s Congressman Erastus Corning, the founder and first president of the New York Central Railroad, was instrumental in donating a high quality telescope and time-keeping system at the new Dudley Observatory in Albany. [Read more…] about The Albany Origins of the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop
“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