On July 2, the Lower Manhattan Historical Association (LMHA) held its second annual Alexander Hamilton Immigrant Awards Ceremony at Federal Hall, the National Park service site at Wall and Broad Streets in Lower Manhattan. Following the ceremony a parade was held (an edited video will be available at the LMHA website in the near future.
As a board member of the organization, I was asked to say a few words immediately prior to the handing out the awards. A slightly longer version of my remarks are presented below.
Today we honor four Americans at the Alexander Hamilton Immigrant Awards Ceremony. If I had said these words – say – 5, certainly 10 years ago, people would have been befuddled and looked at me in bewilderment.
Sure Alexander Hamilton was a founding father.
Sure he helped establish this country.
Sure he has a long list of achievements which I could recite until you are bored.
Recognizing Alexander Hamilton for having been an immigrant!
What’s going on here?
When Hamilton and others constituted this country, no one knew that it would last.
No one knew it would have a centennial.
No one knew it would have a bicentennial.
No one knew it would celebrate its 241st birthday.
But even as those first Americans sang Yankee Doodle Dandy, they called America an experiment.
And as we know, not all experiments succeed.
A journey had begun but would it endure?
With round two, the War of 1812, it looked like the experiment might end in failure. As a new generation of Americans was baptized by blood into the American covenant experience, things looked grim for the fledgling country. But we sang the Star Spangled Banner and endured. The journey continued.
On July 4, 1817, in Rome, New York, a hole in the ground was dug on what became the Erie Canal, a wonder of wonders of technological achievement and political vision. The journey continued and their were canal songs to sing as you can hear from the Hudson River Ramblers outside on the steps of Federal Hall.
By July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of our birthday, the experiment seemed a success. We had overcome the threats to our existence and were ready to fulfill a manifest destiny. On that very day two of the authors of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, died within hours of each other. For the people of times there could only be one explanation for such a coincidence: Divine Providence blessed this country. The journey continued.
On July 4, 1827, New York freed its slaves. The unfinished business that stained the very fabric of this country ceased in at least one more part of it. The journey continued.
At the beginning of July in 1863, the two halves that had been rendered asunder fought at Gettysburg. Months later, Abraham Lincoln in an address that would redefine the country, said these words which Americans still recall to this very day: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
Lincoln knew that not all the people in the audience were sons and daughters of the American Revolution.
Lincoln knew that many of the people in the audience and who had voted for him were immigrants.
Lincoln also knew that Americans native-born or naturalized who had been baptized by blood in the war to preserve the Union stood as one with those who had created the country 77 years earlier. Lincoln heard a new song, The Battle Hymn of the Republic, a song that combined the words of a Congregationalist and the music of a Methodist camp song, the leading religions of the colonial past and the Civil War present joined together. The journey continued.
When the “War to end all Wars” was fought, once again immigrants joined with the native-born on behalf of the country they loved. Irishman George M. Cohan revived Yankee Doodle Dandy on behalf of the effort to win the war Over There, Over There and America sang his songs as another generation and new immigrants were baptized by blood into the American covenant community. The journey continued.
World War II confronted America with the face of pure evil. This time it was a Russian-born Jewish immigrant, Irving Berlin, who composed the song America sang on its way to victory. With “God Bless America” another generation of Americans, native born and from Ellis Island rose to the occasion. The journey continued.
Have we run out of new songs to sing about the country we love? Have we stopped producing people who express their love of country through music? Sure there is Born in the USA by the Boss, a beloved song to the Gipper, who said it was morning in America and we are a city on a hill that the eyes of the world are upon. We don’t hear those sentiments coming from the White House anymore.
But what about “Hamilton.” Not a song to sing but a musical to experience. Not simply a Hamilton for academics to study, but Hamilton as a story for all Americans to tell, a soundtrack for Americans to buy, a musical for high school students to perform, a message for all Americans to hear.
Yes, he is still the same Hamilton who did all those things that helped build this country, but he has become something more than an academic figure, he has become a symbol, a metaphor, an example. He has done so not only though himself but through the cast that shares his story. When Hamilton lived there was no such thing as a white race in America. There were Scotch-Irish, Dutch, Palatines, French Huguenot, Puritan English, Cavalier English and woe to the person in New York who didn’t recognize the difference among the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora. Now we have new names and more peoples but the issue remains the same – are we all part of We the People?
Hamilton answers in the affirmative.
Hamilton affirms that July 4 is the birthday of the country for all Americans.
Hamilton asserts that we are all part of the American narrative.
The journey continues
Who will tell the story ends the musical.
We will tell the story.
With the Alexander Hamilton Immigrant Achievement Awards
Thank you and congratulations to the awardees for continuing the journey.
Local history organizations in New York State create history conferences. This comparatively unexplored facet to the history community provides examples, lessons, and insight into what is being done and potentially what could be done.
In the past few weeks, I have participated in the third-annual American Revolution Mohawk Valley Conference organized by the Fort Plain Museum and in the Erie Canal 200 Bicentennial Conference organized by the Oneida County History Council and the Canal Society of New York. I should note that during this period I was the recipient of frequent notices about the Peterboro Civil War Weekend the same time as the American Revolution conference. I further note that I have occasionally attended French and Indian War and American Revolution Conferences at Fort Ticonderoga, Underground Railroad Public History Conferences organized by the Underground Railroad History Project of The Capital Region, and baseball conferences in Cooperstown. I exclude from this discussion such annual organization conferences as by APHNYS, MANY, and the NYSHA back when there was a state history conference. I also am referring to multiday events that potentially require lodging by the participants.
As we all know, New York is rich in local, state, American and even world history. Becoming aware of that history and then immersing oneself in it sometimes requires more than a one-hour talk or tour. These history conferences provide a welcome opportunity for diehard aficionados, the educated, the biologically-connected, and local boosters to join together in an intellectual and physical shared experience…in some cases year after year.
Let me review some of the non-content lessons learned from these conferences. By that I mean I am not going to dispense content knowledge about the American Revolution or the Erie Canal, but to share observations about the conference experience.
Lesson #1 – It can be done . Kudos are deserved for the volunteer efforts by the local organizations who undertake the daunting task of organizing a conference. As someone who has organized both day-conferences and week-long Teacherhostels/Historyhostels, I know from personal experience that everything always takes longer than expected or desired and there always is more involved than originally anticipated. I strongly recommend that sessions be held at APHNYS and MANY about the logistical and organizational challenges in putting together such events. While it may not be possible or advisable to put together to rigid a procedural manual, there are lessons to be learned and benefits to be gained by sharing what is involved. In the meantime I encourage all such conference organizers to submit a post to New York History Blog on what is involved in organizing a conference.
Lesson #2 – Conferences generate revenue. The Erie Canal conference included 106 registrations including 72 who paid for a conference dinner at a restaurant, 82 who participated in a bus tour, and 86 who paid for a canal cruise. I don’t have the comparable numbers for the American Revolution conference but registration was in the range of 200 people, there were over 100 people at the conference dinner at a catered meal at an historic site, there were two 55-seat buses on the tour I took.
As an example of the revenue generated, consider my dinner-table companions at the American Revolution conference. Two people from North Carolina and Kansas had flown to New York, rented a car, and stayed in a motel. Two had driven from out-of-state and one from downstate (me) and stayed in a motel (and I know there was travel expense for at least one other – I don’t take notes at the dinner table so some of the details have been forgotten). The net result is that our one table generated more travel revenue than all the local Path through History events since the project was launched on August 28, 2012, have produced.
A few years ago, I think it was in the food court at Empire State Plaza in Albany where I saw Gavin Landry and Ross Levi of I LoveNY, I mentioned the potential of promoting history conferences as way of bringing people to (upstate) New York and generating revenue. As I recall, Ross responded favorably to the suggestion as something that should be done. It is something that should be done. As part of the REDC funding process there should be a bucket for funding history conferences.
Lesson #3 – Conferences create actual paths through history even when they aren’t on a Path through History weekend. At the Erie Canal conference there was a one day bus trip. Admittedly that bus tour was best for real canal buffs but let’s face facts, for almost anything you think of there are bound to be fans. Our local archaeology society in Westchester had a lecture recently on the discovery of the skeleton of King Richard III at a carpark in England. We had people from New Jersey and Philadelphia drive to attend a 45-minute lecture by the excavator. Who knew there was a King Richard III fan club? Thank you William Shakespeare. The point is not everybody is interested in something but there is a segment of the population interested in practically any aspect of New York State history if organized and promoted right. Whose job is it to do that?
As it turns out, one of the presenters at the Erie Canal conference was Dana Krueger, who is an organizer and member of the MANY board. Her presentation showcases what can be done and what isn’t being done. Interest in canals is a worldwide phenomenon. Naturally there is a conference for canal people. This year the World Canal conference will be in Syracuse due to the Erie Canal bicentennial. In her presentation Dana mentioned the various other canal activities besides the conference itself:
There is a special one-day early-bird tour on the shipwrecks of Lake Champlain with lodging and travel arrangements from Albany.
There is a two-day pre-conference tour on the Champlain and Eastern Erie Canals following immediately upon the special one day early-bird tour with travel and lodging arrangements from Albany.
There is the third annual two-day cycling tour of the towpath through the Old Erie Canal State Historic Park which involves lodging and apparently is held independent of the World Canal conference.
There is a three-day post conference Erie Canal tour from Syracuse to Buffalo.
The World Canal Conference website also mentions the possibility of additional “itineraries” through the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. That website contains nine “itineraries.”
Don’t these tours and itineraries seem a lot like paths? How come none of these events are even listed on the Path through History website? Is the promotion for these tours limited to people who will attend the conference? Isn’t it possible that people would be interested in such early-bird, pre-conference, and post-conference tours in years when there is no canal conference or by people who are not going to attend the conference in Syracuse this year? Are these one-time tours or the beginning of a sustained repeatable development and promotion of paths through history based on one of the themes of the Path through History project? As one who has attended the Tourism Advisory Council meetings, I can say without hesitation, the World Canal Conference is a separate agenda item treated as a onetime event with no ongoing considerations for upstate tourist travel.
A similar situation occurred with the American Revolution conference. Two tours were offered. One repeated the one I had taken the first year…and was sold out by the time I registered for the conference this year. It focused on sites between exits 27 and 29 in the New York State Thruway depending on whether one was coming from the east or the west. The Exit 27 to 29 history organizations in Montgomery and Fulton counties have created a website call Mohawk Country and produced two brochures. Combined they feature about 20 sites. Individually, they tend not to be destination sites on their own. But these organizations take the collaboration and cooperation mantra seriously. Collectively Montgomery and Fulton counties have created the basis for a Mohawk Valley Path through History. Now what they need is tour operators. Recently Norm Bollen of the Fort Plain Museum addressed the Montgomery County legislators on the value of cultural heritage tourism. For these sites to put together bus tours outside the annual conference would be great achievement. Montgomery and Fulton counties should request the creation of Pathfinder as part of the REDC funding for this year. A little help from the state would be nice.
Finally I would like to share the experience of the annual conference of the Society for Industrial Archaeology held in Albany in 2015. Although it was two years ago, I have been saving the information for the right post and now is the time. Look at the trips this conference sponsored keeping in mind the specialized nature of industrial archaeology.
First there were the all-day trips with lunch and transportation provided
Schenectady and vicinity
Power and Transportation including the Amtrak and New York State Canals repair shops, the Port of Albany, Erie Canal at Waterford, and the Mechanicville Hydroelectric Plant, built 1897, oldest continuously operating plant in the nation with original equipment in service.
Port of Coeymans where sections of the new Tappan Zee Bridge were being assembled; Scarano Boat Building, Port of Albany, builder of passenger ferries, cruise boats, and historic replica vessels; SUNY College of Nanoscale Engineering & Science, Albany, R&D facility for the microchip industry with complete prototyping lines.
Hudson-Mohawk Industries in Cohoes, Troy, and Waterford.
Bridges, both the manufacturing of them and those that have been built.
Participants had the option of choosing only one tour since all five were offered on the same day. One can see that combined, they would create a one-week program based in Albany. Quite obviously the focus of the tours was for specialists but how difficult would it be to create history tours involving Albany, Cohoes, Schenectady, Troy, and Waterford. Actually the problem would be limiting the tour to just five days! I speak from experience having created Capital Region Teacherhostels/Historyhostels and having scouted sites that couldn’t be included even in a week. Somehow the conference organizers were able to put together five one-day tours.
In addition to these tours which were part of the conference price, one also could take
day bus trip to Sharon Springs
four 1.5 to 2.5 hour tours in Albany during the course of a day
day bus tour for Landmarks of the Hudson-Mohawk Region through historic industrial districts of North Albany, Watervliet, Cohoes, Waterford & Troy. One bus returned via Albany Airport for those who need to catch early afternoon flights.
How’s that for planning.
I have championed the creation of Pathfinders. These are people who would have the job of doing what these conference organizers have done but with the intention of creating repeatable sustainable tours. It is truly tragic with all tens of millions of dollars expended on touting New York, so little is devoted to building the infrastructure, the actual creation of tours for people to take. All tourists are just supposed to wing it by surfing the Path through History website to create one-time tours specifically for themselves. Makes you wonder how many people actually use the site to create such self-guided tours before traveling to New York.
If a tree falls in the woods and no one sees it, has anything happened? If an historical society does something and no other history society knows about it, has anything happened? I am not referring to the lectures, tours, and exhibits which history museums and societies routinely do. Instead I am referring to something a little out of the ordinary, the kind of item one might present at an APHNYS or MANY conference.
The dissemination of ideas is difficult. There is no easy way to accomplish the task. Certainly notices can be published and distributed. The reality is many municipal historians are not members of APHNYS and APHNYS does not have a way of advising its members of best practices or innovative ideas. The same is true for history organizations and MANY. Even if one does present at the annual conference, only some of the members attend and even fewer attend an individual session because there are concurrent sessions. So there is no easy way to share original ideas or actions that go above and beyond the call.
Since I read New York History Blog, I read about many events in the state including ones I cannot possibly attend. For me to go to upstate for a single lecture, tour, or exhibit is a misuse of my time. However, I do attend various conferences and will be reporting on some of them. Since I distribute my own blog, I also am the recipient of newsletters from history organizations. Sometimes they arrive as enewsletters, sometimes as emails, sometimes as Word or PDF attachments, and sometimes by mail. By no means do these notices cover the state, but they do provide a window into what’s going on out there. In this post, I would like to share some items that I consider to be a bit unusual and worthy of attention. This is not a scientific survey nor is it comprehensive. It’s just some excerpts from the random notices I have come across.
Greece Historical Society
The annual report for 2016 of the society states:
The all volunteer Society’s purpose is to collect, preserve, research and share local history with the community. We strive to provide the community with an awareness of the past, an appreciation of the present, and a vision for the future, giving a sense of “roots” and a greater feeling of belonging.
Clearly this society operates under the Tonko vision of local history and not the Cuomo one. I suspect pretty much every local society has in its mission statement and/or annual report something similar to what the Greece Historical Society has. If that’s the mission, then shouldn’t tax dollars be aimed at helping it fulfill that mission rather than to call for the Greece Historical Society to become a tourist destination site for busloads of Chinese?
The Society reports that it held eight monthly Tuesday evening lectures featuring local historians, authors, and humanities scholars in 2016 averaging 85 guests per evening. While no individual lecture deserves mention in this post the cumulative effect of lecture programs does. These numbers mean a total of 680 people participated in the lecture programs of this one society. What would the state-wide total be? Does anyone have any idea how many residents and visitors from nearby communities both individually and through repeat attendance are connecting to local history through lecture programs? I recall one dark and cold February night attending a lecture at the Mabee Farm location of the Schenectady Historical Society where I could just barely find a parking space since well over 100 people were there (I was on my to a conference starting the next day so I was able to attend. I did not drive from Westchester just for it!). Did I mention it was a dark cold night in February? With snow on the ground? At a site not on a main well-lit road but on a narrow dark one? It’s not quite, if you offer it they will come, but overall I would say there is little appreciation or even awareness for the numbers of people who collectively attend lectures through their local history societies. Remember the Lyceums? There still are buildings with that name in many communities. Remember Chautauqua and the circuit Chautauquas that barnstormed the country like baseball teams and circuses use to do. Not everyone is trapped by their electronic devices. Sometimes people like to be with other people in a social and intellectually stimulating setting that reaffirms community identity.
Lock 52 Historical Society of Port Byron
In response to the post New Approaches for Historical Societies and History Museums by Bruce Dearstyne on March 21, 2017 for New York History Blog, Mike Riley, the president of the Lock 52 Historical Society of Port Byron, expressed the concerns of history societies throughout the state. He specifically referred to suggestions made in the post about what history societies can do.
(T)here is the realization that with 8 volunteers who average in age of 75 to 90, it is unlikely that any (of the suggestions in the post) will be adopted. We are in a slow death spiral to the day when we close the doors for good. We can look back and say that all these good folks started helping the society when they were in their 30’s to 50’s, and they remain as the foundation for anything we do. There are no new 30, 40 or 50 year old’s taking their place. And as the folks age and pass, the open hours get cut, or the displays don’t get changed. It becomes a fight for life, attracting visitors almost becomes secondary, which of course harms us greatly, I really don’t know if there is an answer. As a society we just don’t value these civic engagement activities as we use to. I know I am not alone. I am in a race to digitize photos and get them out there on the web so at least if the Society closes, some of the history will be saved and available to people.
Clearly Riley belongs to the Tonko side of the vision of local history as an essential component of the social fabric on the community. Clearly also that fabric is fraying. There is a need to rethink the standard history society model especially as it relates to the large number of small municipalities throughout the state. It is time for some new thinking about the position of the municipal historian, the municipal history society, the local library, and teacher training and the school curriculum and their intertwining. Here is where the history community really needs leadership from the Regents and the Commissioner of Education.
Putnam County Historian (technically not a history society)
The historian’s office held a free digital scanning initiative to secure military memories of the past for future generations. Local families with military memorabilia are invited to make appointments through the County Historian’s Office to have old letters, documents, photographs and assorted military memorabilia scanned and recorded on a memory device such as a USB or burned to a disk, free of charge. Being the repository for the memory of a community, doesn’t simply mean waiting around for people to dump things in your lap. It is legal to be proactive. In fact, if the regulations for municipal historians are ever rewritten, I would include a requirement to be proactive. How many people would want the job then?
Warwick Historical Society
Once upon a time back in 2013, a group of 4th graders were digging behind one of the historical houses of the Warwick Historical Society. This time besides the usual bits and pieces of commonplace objects, they struck paydirt, a decorated brick. As the work continued in 2014 with two ‘archaeologists,’ average age 76, unearthed the wall of home of “Rocking Chair Benny Sayre.” Sayre (1865 to 1940), the keeper of Baird’s Tavern across the street. George Knight, one of the excavators also was busy cleaning up his own grounds. One type of item frequently found was small bottles. “Warwick back in the day was higher than a kite,” said Knight. So it seems. These little bottles were considered medicine that, not unlike today’s Oxycontin, turned out to have a serious drawback. “We had a substance abuse problem here over 100 years ago,” said Warwick town historian Richard Hull. “In the 1890s up until World War I, there’d be itinerant merchants who’d come into town to sell elixirs to relieve pain, headaches, relieve depression and so forth. They spiked these concoctions, so that when they sold them people became quite addicted in some cases,” he said. The Women’s Temperance League may have been a response not only to alcohol abuse, but also to these un-talked-of habits. Everyone likes to ogle the opium bottles. They’re scintillating in a way that stone walls just aren’t. That bugs Knight, although he’s good natured about it.
The historic society wasn’t always this go-go-go. “As you can imagine, it was very dry,” said President Mark Kurtz, who stopped by the dig. “There’s become excitement, with the kids that visit.” Every fourth grader in the Warwick school district takes a tour every year, and the middle school just launched a Sustainable Architecture class that will be taking a field trip to the historic society’s properties. “We’re starting a bunch of brand new reach outs to the school district,” he said. “The point is to make this history become important to people, and that’s the time to reach them.” Lisa-Ann Weisbrod, the society’s new director, said, “It’s amazing how much is going on. It’s a historical society. How busy can it be? It’s crazy.”
This report from the society’s website entitled What’s under Warwick highlights several important developments
the creation of a monthly enewsletter by the Orange County historian Johanna Yuan reporting on the activities in the county, something all county historians should have to do as part of the job.
the outreach to the schools in a literally hands-on experience – which will not stop at 4th grade as the junior archaeologists track the project through the duration of their k-12 education (and then become members of the historical society as adults)
the funding issues the Society experienced for support of the dig versus stabilizing a building
the unusual nature of the Society which owns multiple buildings and is creating the equivalent of an historic district for the residents of the community to experience.
Chalk up another one for the Tonko vision over the Cuomo vision.
White Plains Historical Society
The society compiled a list of 20 streets named after American Revolution figures. I write about the importance of a sense of place as an essential component to the health of the community. One way to foster a connection between residents and their own municipality is to know not simply the name of the streets of the community but the reason for the name of the streets. While the naming of streets after military (and political) heroes might seem obvious, it also is true the residents of communities today don’t know the why streets and buildings have the names they have or why statues were erected (unless Confederate). History societies have the opportunity to engage the public in “Why that name?” Even numerically named streets or tree-named streets are cultural clues to the thinking of the people who named them. The grid in Manhattan is the most famous example but smaller versions exist in many communities. It is not just coincidence that there are a lot Maple, Elm, and Walnut streets either. We can learn about our past by understanding the names that were bequeathed to the organization of space.
As I mentioned at the onset, these examples aren’t meant to be comprehensive or inclusive. Nonetheless they represent a good cross section of the trials and tribulations on the history community at the grass roots level and the exemplary efforts by volunteers. A little help would be nice.
The new cycle of REDC funding is beginning. I received an invitation to attend the Mid-Hudson session on April 25. New York is having a public session the same day so I imagine the regions throughout the state are gearing up to plan for the 2017 awards.
In this post I am turning to those related to the centennial of women’s suffrage in New York. While the grants can be from multiple state agencies, the bulk of them are from the New York State Council on the Arts and relate to exhibits. The funding definition in the REDC awards guide is:
Funds are available for arts and culture initiatives to eligible non-profit and local units of government. This Local Assistance support is provided under Article 3 of NYS Arts and Cultural Affairs Law for the planning, presentation and staffing of the performing, literary and visual arts that encourage broader participation and public interest in the cultural heritage of NY State and promotes tourism and economic development. Funding Programs: Arts, Culture, Heritage New Initiatives – Planning (CHPG P); Arts, Culture, Heritage New Initiatives – Implementation (CHPG I); Workforce Investment (WIP): $5,000,000 [available in total].
The examples also are suggestive of what might be available for World War I exhibits for next year.
The major award winner as one might expect was the National Women’s Hall of Fame. It received four different awards from different state agencies in a total of $1,175 million. A significant chunk is for the rehabilitation of an abandoned mill across the street from the NPS site.
The awards listed below are copied directly from the REDC publication which is available as a PDF. I mention this because you will see various spellings throughout the examples including at times within a single award. These spellings are:
National Womens Hall of Fame
I have no explanation for the use or non-use of apostrophes or the singular versus the plural form.
Leap Womens Suffrage Commemoration
LeAp will celebrate the NYS Women’s Suffrage Centennial by exploring woman’s suffrage through the lens of the “Struggle within the Struggle,” a dramatization of the historical experience of women of color having to break through systems of oppression to achieve basic human rights.
Arts CHPG I $45,000
Exploring Shaker Ideas and Actions on Womens Rights: A Celebration of the Centennial of Womans Suffrage
The Shaker Museum at Mount Lebanon engages and inspires local, national, and global audiences by telling the story of the Shakers. In 2017 the museum’s programming will celebrate and explore the Shakers’ ideas and actions around women’s rights, and the lives of the women who lived at Mount Lebanon.
Arts CHPG I $41,500
Museum of the City of New York
Beyond Suffrage: 100 Years of Womens Activism in New York
In September 2017, the Museum of the City of New York will present Beyond Suffrage: 100 Years of Women’s Activism in New York. The exhibit will trace women’s activism in New York City from the suffrage movement through today and will include a focus on women activists who lived and worked in Harlem.
Arts CHPG I $60,000
New York Historical Society
New York Womens Suffrage Exhibition
The New York Historical Society will celebrate the centennial of New York State signing women’s suffrage into law through a special satellite exhibition and audience engagement effort on Governors Island, curated by NYHS’s Teen Leaders in collaboration with the new Center for Women’s History.
Arts CHPG I $75,000
New York City
Center for Traditional Music and Dance
NY Voices/NY Votes
NY Voices/NY Votes celebrates the legacy of the women’s suffrage movement through a series of pop-p festivals that bring the conversation about voting rights to diverse communities in Opportunity Zones by combining voter registration with arts/humanities programming, and employment/social services.
Arts CHPG I $75,000
Everson Museum of Art
Seen and Heard
In “Seen and Heard,” New York’s central role in the fight for women’s suffrage serves as a catalyst for contemporary activism. The multi-media exhibition, educational programs, and artist residencies explore the language and tactics of protest through the arts in order to initiate civic engagement.
Arts CHPG I $66,000
National Womens Hall of Fame
Center for Great Women
This project is phase three of a project that will transform the empty Seneca Knitting Mill into the Center for Great Women – the headquarters of the National Woman’s Hall of Fame. Work will include demolition, construction, interior build-out and site work of the first floor of the Mill, creating 4,200 square feet of habitable space for exhibits.
Funds for this project will be used to support the adaptive rehabilitation of the historic 1844 Seneca Knitting Mill and transform and re-use the empty and dilapidated Mill into the Center for Great Women – the headquarters of the National Women’s Hall of Fame, drawing visitors not only to Seneca Falls, but also to the attractions within the Finger Lakes Region and across New York State.
This project is Phase III-A in the adaptive rehabilitation of the historic 1844 Seneca Knitting Mill. It will transform and re-use the first floor of the empty and dilapidated Mill into 4,200 square feet of habitable and occupiable space for exhibits and cultural activities showcasing the amazing stories of the National Women’s Hall of Fame’s Inductees.
Rehabilitation of the historic 1844 Seneca Knitting Mill, transformation of the dilapidated Mill into the Center for Great Women. This phase includes demolition, construction, interior build out and site work of the first floor.
Westchester Arts Council Inc
Suffrage Now, A Contemporary Art Exhibition
Suffrage Now is a contemporary art exhibition celebrating New York’s historic role in the path to the 19th Amendment while reinforcing the relevance of Women’s Suffrage today. Artworks consider contemporary events alongside historical to explore what the right to vote means to Americans.
Arts CHPG I $75,000
The awards listed here are separate from any funding through the Women’s Suffrage Commission established by the State with Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who spoke at the second suffrage meeting in Waterloo (next to Seneca Falls) last year, as the chair. The commission consists of:
Noemi Gazala, Superintendent of the Women’s Rights National Historical Park (NPS)
Rose Harvey, Commissioner of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation
Kathy Hochul, Lieutenant Governor (appointed by Governor Cuomo)
Deborah Hughes, President of the Susan B. Anthony Museum and House
Dr. Jennifer LeMack, New York State Museum Chief Curator of History (appointed by commissioner of education)
Sen. Betty Little (appointed by the temporary president of the Senate)
Christina Lotz, Seneca County Clerk (appointed by minority leader of the Assembly)
Senator Velmanette Montgomery (appointed by minority leader of the Senate)
Kathleen Neville, Board Member of the New York Council for the Humanities
Dare Thompson, President of the League of Women Voters of New York State
Sally Roesch Wagner, Director of the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation
Eve Waltermaurer, Director of Research and Evaluation at The Benjamin Center, SUNY New Paltz (appointed by the speaker of the Assembly)
Howard Zemsky, President, CEO and Commissioner of Economic Development
Susan Zimet, President of 2020: Project Women, Inc.
According to the website dated August 22, 2016: During its inaugural meeting, members of the Commission outlined plans for commemoration events to take place over the next three years that highlight historic achievements for women.
The Commission maintains a calendar of events. The big one upcoming appears to be with the NPS at Seneca Falls:
We are currently seeking people & organizations who would like to table at the event. We welcome groups with themes of equality, human rights, civil rights, and women’s rights. If you are interested at tabling, please contact Ashley Nottingham at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Related to this event is VoteTilla Week, scheduled for July 16-22, 2017. Participants will travel in canal boats from Seneca Falls to Rochester, concluding with a final celebration at the National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House. Along the way, boats will dock at towns and villages for historic re-enactments, speeches and music, co-hosted by local groups and partner organizations including the Canal Society of New York State, Seward House and the University of Rochester’s Susan B. Anthony Center for Women’s Leadership. This partnership explains why some of the awards by the New York Canal Corporation, which is beginning its bicentennial, are connected to the centennial of women’s suffrage.
My impression is that the funding for the Commission totals in the hundreds of thousands dollars and it serves more as a promoter/coordinator than as an initiator/developer.
I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate my position on history anniversary celebrations. In my opinion, the appropriate state office for the funding and leadership for anniversary events is the Office of the New York State Historian. We are, after all, talking about history anniversaries. Funding for events related to a state anniversary should be through the office directly involved with New York state history. At present in the REDC funding cycle the state historian receives nothing. This omission is due to REDC reporting to the Governor while the cultural organizations, NYS Museum, Archives, and Library, report to the Regents. State history pays the price for these turf wars. Another possibility is for the Regents to create their own counterpart to the REDC process so organizations can apply to the Archives, Library, and Museum for funding. The Regents could even use the same form ESD does.
During the month of January, a number of history-related actions occurred that may be of interest to the larger history community. Below are brief notices about these items including the topics of:
I Love NY Signs
County Meetings: Saratoga and Putnam Counties
Indian Paths in Manhattan
The Fortress Niagara newsletter for December (which I received in January) contained an important funding notice. Thanks to State Senator Rob Ortt, Old Fort Niagara received a check for $10,000 to assist the fort in its educational programs. Six other museums in the county received state funding through the auspices of the State Senator as well.
What made this notice fascinating was that the funding occurred outside the REDC process. Since there are no more Member Items, I was curious as to how the State Senator was able to procure such funding for the 7 museums. The answer is that Republican senators, since they are the majority, have access to a funding pool which may be apportioned at their discretion. In effect, it works a little like Member Items. So if you are a museum or historical society in need of some funding and have a Republican State Senator, now is the time to contact that person as the budget process begins.
In a previous post, I wrote about the need for training of municipal historians starting at the county level. I suggested a week long program in Albany involving various state agencies and a culminating reception with the Governor in the Executive Mansion. I received the following comment from one eager county historian:
When will the week-long session be given?
I am definitely interested.
Take a survey and use the numbers to advance your splendid idea.
Joseph P. Bottini
Oneida County Historian
Here is an area where it is possible to begin to develop a history community advocacy agenda. Are municipal historians interested in a state-funded training program to be held in Albany and to include the state Archives, Education, Historian, Library, Museum, Parks, I Love NY, and REDC departments so everyone knows what a municipal historian is supposed to do and the person has been trained to do it?
3. Follow-up on I Love NY Signs
Since my original post in December, there have been new developments in the SAGA OF THE SIGNS. In December the Albany Bureau of USA Today Network which had been spearheading the investigation in to the controversy, filed a FOIL with the State Comptroller’s Office for the relevant contracts entered into by the State. The documents were received last week.
The update article was published in various newspapers throughout the state. Reporter Jon Campbell’s lead sentence reads:
The state Department of Transportation used emergency highway contracts and paid out thousands of dollars in overtime to install hundreds of I Love NY highway signs ahead of July 4 weekend last year.
Normally “emergency” means “urgent highway repairs.” According to Mike Elmendorf, president and CEO of the state Associated General Contractors, this usage was “’not typical.’”
The documents reveal that the costs of the project substantially added to the almost $2 million cost for the signs themselves. For example, in the Rochester area, the cost to install the 14 signs was $300,000. In Broome, Tioga, and Otsego, $200,000 was paid but the number of signs was not provided in the documents received. In Long Island the cost was $448,153. The multi-colored signs of complex graphics cost $5,800 apiece with the smaller signs only costing $2,825.
Part of the expense was due to the rush to installation requiring weekend work.
That drew questions from Susan Malatesta, a contract management specialist with the Comptroller’s Office, who directed her staff to ask why the extra costs were necessary.
“Why pay more to get these signs up fast?,” she wrote in September 21 email.
Ultimately, DOT told the Comptroller’s Office the extra spending was to ensure the Long Island signs were up by the summer travel season. The Comptroller’s Office signed off on the spending request. Cuomo, who has been an outspoken supporter of the signs, likely got a first-hand look that weekend: He spent July 4 in the Hamptons, according to his public schedule.
Elmendorf’s words bear notice. He is a critic of the signs and said the money could have been better spent.
I think the bigger concern is using capital dollars for something that certainly has no benefit to infrastructure and, I think you could argue, has negligible benefit for tourism, because they don’t really tell you anything.
Exactly right. Cuomo has paid millions to market the Path through History concept but no money to create actual paths through history. For a person who wants to be president of the United States in a time of great national division, it is astonishing that he would engage in alternative facts and be so dismissive of the local and state history that helped make America great in the first place.
4. “NEW YORK STATE’S GREAT PLACES AND SPACES” PROGRAM AT THE STATE MUSEUM ON JANUARY 14
Representatives from state historic sites and cultural institutions provided educational hands-on activities, unique artifacts to explore, and information about upcoming events during the annual “New York State’s Great Places and Spaces” program at the New York State Museum. Participating institutions included the Adirondack Museum, Albany Institute of History & Art, Albany Pine Bush, Burden Iron Works, Civil War Round Table, Crailo State Historic Site, Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum, Historic Cherry Hill, Guilderland Historical Society, Johnson Hall State Historic Site, Knox’s Headquarters State Historic Sites, New Windsor Cantonment, NYS Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, Olana State Historic Site, Saratoga National Historical Park, Saratoga Racing & Hall of Fame, Schenectady Historical Society, Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site, U.S. Grant Cottage Historic Site, and U.S. Naval Landing Party.
This event is an annual one in State Museum. In previous years, I have worked with Bob Weible, the former New York State Historian, to create a Teacherhostel/Historyhostel through this event. Bob and some invited speakers would talk about New York State history in the morning. In the afternoon, there would be a guided tour depending on the exhibits on display and a chance to meet with the people from the various historic organizations which had display tables. My recommendation is that such a program be done on an annual basis in combination with the general public program.
5. County Meetings – Roundtables
a. Saratoga (Champlain Canal Region)
Lakes to Locks Passage, a nonprofit organization with the mission to inspire people to discover, honor, celebrate and share the stories that connect our lives and foster vibrant communities for future generations, called the meeting held at the Saratoga Town Hall. Historians, museums, libraries, cultural groups, political leaders and community members were invited for a roundtable discussion on “Social Reform Movements of the 19th Century in the Champlain Canal Region of New York.” Stories gathered at the roundtable are to be used to design public humanities programs on themes related to social reform movements during the Industrial Revolution.
The roundtable discussion highlights how the Industrial Revolution reshaped the fabric of society as rural communities transitioned to industrial societies with technological, economic and political repercussions. The cultural disruption triggered social reform with statewide and national impacts as voices were heard in the Champlain Canal region calling for workers’ rights, women’s suffrage, abolition, the Underground Railroad, and new religious communities emerged. The discussion was facilitated by two humanities scholars, John Patterson, former Associate Professor of American Studies and History at Penn State Harrisburg, and Robert Weible, former State Historian and Chief Curator of the New York State Museum.
Unfortunately I was not able to attend this meeting. Several thoughts came to when I read this notice of it.
1. Similar meetings on that topic certainly seem appropriate for the Hudson Valley and the Erie Canal Corridor.
2. It would be useful when county and regional meetings are held, if the organizers would prepare a write up about the meeting perhaps for New York History Blog or a list serve for the New York State History community.
3. What are the programs which are to be developed as a result of the meeting? The odds are similar programs would be beneficial elsewhere and/or may already have been instituted or are in progress. Unless we share what we are doing everyone will always have to reinvent the wheel. There definitely are some conference venues where such sharing is possible.
b. Putnam County
The Putnam County Historian’s Office invited the local historical community to attend a collaborative Roundtable to discuss plans for commemorating the Centennial anniversaries of Women’s Suffrage and the US entry into WWI. Sarah Johnson, the now-fulltime County Historian, reached out to all town historians, historical societies, museums, local libraries, and civic organizations to share resources collaboratively and jointly organize cultural offerings in cooperation with one another to make our collective resources go further and avoid duplicating efforts.
I was able to attend this meeting. We discussed in particular the use of local materials including in the collections of the historical societies and the family collections in the community of material related to these topics. Questions were raised regarding offering public programming about these topics, individually or as part of a county-wide or regionally-wide effort, host local outreach efforts to gather oral histories, and public history days to collect scans of archival material from your local community. One possibility to draw high school students was to tell the story of what happened in their own community or residents of their communities serving overseas. These performances would strengthen the civic bonds necessary for a healthy social fabric across the generations.
6. Indian Paths in Manhattan
In response to my post on New York State Indian Paths through History, a Greenwich Village reporter wrote:
Hi, do you have information on Indian paths in the Downtown / Village area of Manhattan? Basically, anything below, say, 34th St.?
I forwarded the query to Mike Misconie, the Manhattan Borough Historian who sent the following:
I would refer Lincoln to the Welikia Project (formerly known as the Mannahatta Project), the brainchild of Eric Sanderson of the Wildlife Conservation Society. The project digitally recreates the flora, fauna, and landscape of the NYC region of 1609. Eric has done extensive research, gathering information from far-flung historical and scientific sources, to reach his conclusions. I suggest you visit welikia.org to learn more about Eric’s work.
The project’s companion book “Mannahatta” has a chapter (number four) on the native inhabitants of today’s Manhattan, their settlements, and trails. In fact, page 105 shows a map of the Lenape trails.
The data from the project has been loaded into a website of OasisNYC, so you can see the trails (and a LOT of other stuff) without buying the book. Here is how to see the trails:
Go to this webpage: http://www.oasisnyc.net/ . Click the link labeled “1609 Mannahatta imagery” in the text of the second bullet-point paragraph. A map will appear. To the right of the page is a list of menu headings with check boxes. Uncheck all the boxes that are already checked (under the menu headings “Transit, Roads, Reference Features” and “Parks, Playgrounds and Open Space”). The map should now be essentially blank except for a satellite-style image of pre-colonial Manhattan. Open the menu heading “Historical Land Use.” Then check the box marked “1609 Lenape Trails.” The trails will appear on the map.
If you wish to contact Eric, here is his e-address: email@example.com .
As you may know, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian is located in downtown Manhattan. They may have more or better information on this topic, but I’m not sure. You may want to contact them if Eric’s data prove inadequate.
I recognize that these six items do not encompass all that has occurred in January that would be of interest to the larger New York State Community. But they do highlight the need to better disseminate what people are doing or want to do since the odds are there are others throughout the state with similar interests and concerns.
When the 2016 election year began, the Democrats were singing “Happy days are here again.” The old FDR song seemed very appropriate for the coming year. The Democrats expected to win the presidential election. The Democrats expected a “third term” for both the incumbent and the previous Democratic president. The Democrats expected to win back the Senate. The Democrats expected to make significant gains in the House. As we all know, those dreams were not fulfilled and the vision of a robust return to power were dashed by the great disrupter. Actually there is more to the story than one individual, something the Democrats need to keep in mind if they are serious about reversing the results the next time around.
Starting at the top, the Democrats didn’t do as well as they had in the 2012 presidential elections. Last time, the Democratic candidate won just over 51% of the popular vote. This time around the result was just over 48%, a drop of approximately 3%. That decrease is a significant number, roughly triple the 1% drop in the Republican percentage from just over 47% to just over 46%. In part both declines may be attributed to the disgust by voters over the two main choices. Still the large decline in the Democratic vote should give pause to those who focus on the plurality vote total and ignore the percentage trend.
One obvious area of concern is the women’s vote. As we enter the period of suffrage centennials, the white women vote did not go as hoped for by the Democrats. Despite all the egregious comments and actions by the Republican candidate who loves women only when he grabs them and they meet his age, race, and physical standards, white women voted 53% for him. That was not the expected result in the presidential election with the first female candidate of a major party.
In this regard, it is time for the Democrats to put Madeline Albright out to pasture. Her admonition about there being a special place in hell for women who don’t help women is part of what was fundamentally wrong with the Democratic candidate. It is a racist comment that discounts black women who supported Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary; her implication is that “women” means “white women” the way “actor” means “white person.” It is a sexist comment that denies women the right to choose be it a Mitt Romney, Bernie Sanders, or Donald Trump without being a traitor to their gender. That attitude of moral superiority and zealousness for the cause did not go over well with white women in the Day 1 march who did not share agreement on every item on the approved list of “women’s issues.” At some point, the Democrats might want to consider why they are alienating white women even with a world class pig in White House.
Besides touting the popular vote win, Democrats also like to point out the narrowness of the electoral win. While it certainly is true that the winner did not win in a landslide except in Trumpietown, his narrow victory still raises warning signs for the Democrats. Consider state of Wisconsin. Trump’s margin of victory was under 1% numbering in the thousands of votes, a seemingly small amount. By contrast, Obama won the state by close to 7% and over 200,000 votes. Those numbers are too big a shift to attribute to Russian intervention or the FBI. Wake up and smell the coffee.
One wonders why the state never appeared on the Democratic radar. One wonders why the Democratic candidate never appeared in a state that shifted over 7% in the vote in one election cycle. I recall reading just before the election a smug condescending out-of-touch-with-the-real-world blogger who confidently predicted a Democratic victory in 2016 comparable to the one in 2012 (332 votes). Maybe it would be even better with over 350 electoral college votes if some of the Republican states flipped Democratic. I suspect this attitude may have been too prevalent among the Democratic elitists for them to see what was happening in the real world.
Wisconsin should not have been that big a surprise. The state has a Republican governor, Scott Walker. After he was first elected he won a hard-fought recall election. In 2014, Walker won for a third time with a 6.7% margin. There are Republican majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. Ron Johnson, the Republican incumbent candidate for Senate in 2016 won by about 3% and 100,000 votes. His seat was one the Democrats were counting on to win. The losing Democratic presidential and senate candidates won approximately the same number of votes. The Republican victory margin differs from 3% to under 1% in the two races because a third party candidate in the presidential race siphoned off votes that went for the Republican senate candidate.
These numbers mean that if the Republicans had nominated an adult for president instead of the loser of the Wisconsin Republican presidential primary, the margin of victory would have been closer to the 3% margin of victory in the Senate race. In other words, while the Democrats salivated over the prospect of Arizona flipping as New Mexico, Colorado, and Virginia have, they lost track of what was happening in the blue wall, their “own backyard.”
In approximately 80% of the states, Democrats did worse in 2016 than in 2012. This reduction occurred even when they won a state both times. This is Huge! Ohio was not even a battleground. The state the Democrats won by 2% in 2012, they lost by over 8.5% this time around. That’s no due to the Russians either. The Ohio senate race which was supposed to be hard-fought with a big-name Democratic candidate turned into a 21% drubbing. Hundreds of counties nationwide which had voted Democratic in 2012 voted Republican in 2016. Maps showing the trends from the last election to this one show Republican gains almost everywhere.
What is the explanation for these results? One answer by the losing Democratic candidate was that the voters for her opponent were deplorables. Well, maybe not all of them, just 47%. No data to support that conclusion were provided. As it turns out, the deplorables were just as capable of adopting the slur from the enemy as nasty women have been on the reverse side. As with Albright’s admonition and the smug take-it-for granted attitude of elitist bloggers, deplorables is a concept best relegated to dustbin if Democrats are serious about reversing the trends which have occurred following the 2008 elections.
Then, of course, there is the demographic wave of the future. Even if the Democrats do nothing, in time the demographic changes sweeping the country guarantee Democratic victories despite the temporary setbacks. For years now the Democrats have been waiting for Godot, for the magic moment when the new America of immigrants of color would sweep the country and turn the electoral map Democrat.
This demographic deluge has produced results in California and perhaps Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico. So far the eagerly anticipated browning of America has not occurred. The vote totals in the last election by Latin American immigrants and their offspring were comparable to those in 2008 and 2012, in the 27-28% range. George Bush’s 40% vote represents a high point for Republicans but one that would do damaging results to Democratic aspirations if repeated.
What have the Democrats accomplished with their over-the-top rhetoric incessantly repeated that a demographic deluge is coming, that the old America is dying and that a new progressive one is being born? A great politician once said for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. So far the biggest impact of the rhetoric by the self-righteous zealots prophesizing the end is near has been to scare white people that the fate of their country is at risk due to alien invaders. How has that worked out for the Democrats?
It gets worse for the Democrats. What happens to the Democratic vision of identity politics if immigrants from Latin America (and Asia) intermarry with immigrants from Europe? What happens to the Democratic vision of identity politics if the Republicans catch on that Latin Americans Pope Francis, Fidel Castro, Marco Rubio, and Giselle Bündchen are not people of color? What happens to the Democratic vision of identity politics if Republicans catch on that immigrants from Latin America like immigrants from Europe know not only their continent of origin but their country, village, town, city, and ethnicity too? What happens to the Democratic vision of identity politics if Republicans catch on that immigrants from Latin American like immigrants from Europe want to live the American Dream? What happens to the Democratic vision of identity politics if Republicans catch on that immigrants from Latin America like immigrants from Europe are proud to be Americans and to be part of We the People? Contrary to the Democratic wishes, Latin American immigrants are not middle-passage blacks where Democratic unanimity can be taken for granted. Should the Democrats take for granted that the party of malice will remain stupid forever? Alternative facts aren’t limited to just one party.
If the Democrats don’t like the election results they have no one to blame but themselves. Joe Biden for President and Elizabeth Warren for Vice President and none of this would be happening.
Readers of TheNew York History Blog may recall that in a previous post I asked if anyone had heard about what had been discussed in Cooperstown at the NYSHA conference in a private meeting involving the Association of Public Historians of New York State (APHNYS), the New York State historical Association (NYSHA), and the New York State Historian among others.
Experience the Civil War in New York with the new exhibit at the New York State Museum and representatives from related historic sites on Saturday, January 12, 2013 at a free Historyhostel / Teacherhostel event sponsored by the Institute of History, Archaeology, and Education. Continue reading “Civil War in New York Historyhostel/Teacherhostel”→