Search This Blog

Sunday, October 20, 2013

“Raise My Voice Against Intolerance.”
The Anti-Nazi Rally in Madison Square Garden, March 27, 1933,
and the American Public’s Outrage over the Nazi Persecution of Jews

by Dr. Robert G. Waite
Copyright © 2013. All rights reserved by the author.

“I have come to Madison Square Garden many times, mostly to speak on behalf of the political party to which I belong,” explained Alfred E. Smith, former governor of New York State and 1928 presidential candidate, to the 23,000 plus listeners crowded into the arena on the evening of March 27, 1933. Another 35,000 had massed on the streets outside, listening to the words of Governor Smith and each of the other speakers broadcast over a public address system. “But I don’t believe I ever came into it with greater satisfactions than I feel tonight to raise my voice against intolerance, bigotry and against the suppression of freedom of speech and the press and the abridgement of the right of public assembly.”1 Governor Smith was joined on the podium by a group of prominent figures, including New York City mayor James P. O’Brien, president of the American Federation of Labor William Green, Senator Robert Wagner, distinguished members of the clergy, and Rabbi Stephen Wise, president of the American Jewish Congress and the organizer of this mass protest against recent measures taken by the Hitler regime in Germany against its Jewish citizens. “This protest is not against the German people whom we love and revere,” Rabbi Wise assured the audience when he came to the podium. “It is not against the political program for Germany is master within its own household, but solely against the present anti-Jewish policy of the Nazi government.” Similar rallies were held in more than 65 cities in 25 states as a wave of outrage swept across America. An estimated one million were expected to join the protest meetings.

The rally in Madison Square Garden grew out of a far-reaching and deep-seated anxiety in America over the Nazi treatment of the Jews and the regime’s assault on organized labor and political opponents. As reports of mistreatment and discrimination were published in newspapers throughout the nation, Jewish communities, political figures, religious leaders, and rank and file labor became alarmed and they added their voices to the protest which percolated into a steady stream of letters to German consulates in the US and into rallies in cities throughout the nation. The rejection of Nazi policies was widespread, deeply felt, and sincere. The responses showed how much Hitler’s repression had touched a raw-nerve among the American people and not simply its Jewish citizens. Rarely have so many American from such diverse backgrounds, from such differing religious and political beliefs, come together in common cause to voice their outrage over persecution and repressive policies. The rally in Madison Square Garden culminated this spontaneous protest movement and sent a powerful message to political leaders in the United States and in Germany. Its impact was, however, mixed.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

How the Piarists and the Docent Saved Frank Lloyd Wright’s Graycliff

Copyright © 2013. All rights reserved by the author.

“Dear Dar:

I have been-seen-talked to, admired one of nature’s noblemen-Mr. Frank Lloyd Wright. He is not a freak-not a crank-highly educated and polished, a straightforward business like man with high ideals.

He would be pleased indeed to design your House. Mr. Wright says he don’t want any man to accept his ideas just because they are his-he proposes to furnish a reason for his ideas and wants judgment made solely on the merits.

He will build you the finest, most sensible house in Buffalo. You will be the envy of every rich man in Buffalo, it will be published in all the Buffalo papers, it will be talked about all over the East. You will never grow tired of his work, and what more can you ask? He is pure gold.”[i]

This letter, dated October 22, 1902, from Chicago businessman William E. Martin to his brother Darwin, would forever alter the architectural landscape of Buffalo, New York and establish a strong and enduring friendship between Frank Lloyd Wright and the Martins. Through the years, the distances and the personal and professional tumults, Darwin Martin and Wright remained steadfast in their mutual admiration. In his autobiography, Wright states “I would like to tell...especially of the lifelong interest and loyalty of Darwin D. Martin and the building of several houses for him...”[ii]

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

One Man’s Contribution to the War Effort

by Rob't E. Yott
Copyright © 2013. All rights reserved by the author.

As we enter the third year of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, I feel it appropriate that remember one of the many veterans of Steuben County, whose tireless efforts helped to preserve the Union; Major John Stocum.

John Stocum was born in Pultney, Steuben County, on April 27, 1825. That same year his father drowned in the Conhocton River. Alone and penniless, John moved to Bath in1840. Here he learned the cabinet making and undertaking trade. In February of 1847 Stocum, a member of the First Presbyterian Church married Elizabeth Metcalf of Bath. Together they had at least three children; John L., James D. and daughter, Osie (nicknamed Kate.) When his son John was old enough he joined his father’s business. The Directory of 1854 shows Stocum and Son had a warehouse located on the eastern edge of Pioneer Cemetery on West Steuben Street. In 1858 Elizabeth died. Stocum remarried in June of 1860. His new wife Susan B. Townsend of Elmira gave birth to Frank and Ruby.

In 1852, Stocum had joined the local militia, the 60th Regiment, 27th Brigade, New York State Volunteers and served as the orderly sergeant. When its commanding officer, Captain Levi C. Whiting, was promoted to major, Stocum was commissioned captain by New York governor Myron H. Clark. Stocum served in this capacity until 1858. He also served as watchman for the village of Bath from 1853 to 1857.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Supporting Good Habits: The Rockefellers, the Sisters of Mercy, and Higher Education in New York State

by Eric Martone
Copyright © 2013.  All rights reserved by the author.

On Sunday, May 20, 1962, a collection of New York State and Catholic Church dignitaries made its way to Dobbs Ferry for the dedication ceremony of Mount Mercy-on-the-Hudson, a magnificent new complex comprised of over 80 acres overlooking the Hudson River for the New York province of the Sisters of Mercy. The Sisters had already moved into the unfinished facility during the fall of 1961, but the stress of moving and construction delays had prevented a proper dedication ceremony. That time had finally come, and all of the individuals involved in this massive undertaking now had a moment to bask in the glory of their accomplishments. The complex, which had cost more than $6 million to build at a time when the national average price for a house was less than $20,000, included eight impressive brick buildings “of contemporary architecture”: the provincial house, a residence for student Sisters, a faculty residence, a residence for senior Sisters, a chapel, Our Lady of Victory Academy, a parish elementary school, and Mercy College.[1]

Monday, April 29, 2013

Dutch Women in Seventeenth-Century New Netherland

by Maria Vann 
Copyright © 2013. All rights reserved by the author.

On 6 March 1663, Altjen Sybrants appeared before the Honorable Council of War and the Honorable Court at Wildwyck, New Netherland in search of vindication from accusations of slander. Schout Swarthout, a member of the council, lodged the complaint after a previous visitation to Sybrants’ home to notify her about a new order from the Council of War. Upon hearing the order prohibiting strong drink to be sold to militia or Indians, a frustrated Sybrants suggested the Schout “might cleanse his anus!”[1] Such slanderous words from anyone- no less a woman in New Netherland was a serious matter for the courts and Schout wanted restitution for his honor. Denying the accusation, Sybrants challenged male authority by arguing that, “he [the Schout] must prove this.”[2] The case continued on subsequent days as witnesses were brought to testify in support of the defendant’s guilt. Throughout the process, Sybrants never confirmed she had said such slanderous words; instead she declared that Schout treated her “in a manner out of spite,” for what is not clear.[3] Eventually, after several testimonies against her, the defendant was sentenced and condemned as a public example for her “vile and foul language.”[4] Altejen Sybrants was ordered to pay a fine of one hundred Caroulus guilders of which two-thirds was to be paid to the prosecutor Schout and one-third to the Church at Wildwyck.[5] Though Sybrandts lost her defense, much can be gleaned from her testimony, or lack thereof. She demonstrated a bold and unwavering will, capable of confronting the male establishment, signifying she knew full well her rights as a citizen with a voice in the Dutch Empire.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Remembering Olympia Brown: Pioneer Minister and Advocate for Equal Rights for Women

Olympia Brown. 1919. Library of Congress
by Herbert C. Hallas
Copyright © 2013. All rights reserved by the author.

One hundred and fifty years ago this summer in the North Country, Olympia Brown became the first woman in U.S. history to become a fully ordained minister with a degree from a regularly established theological school.[1] She was ordained by the St. Lawrence Association of Universalists in the Universalist Church of Malone, New York on June 25, 1863, and graduated from the St. Lawrence University Theological School in Canton, New York two weeks later.[2]

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Vin Fiz Lands in Elmira

The Vin Fiz leaving Sheepshead Bay, NY on
September 17, 1911. Image property of the author.
Copyright © 2013. All rights reserved.

On September 11, 1911, the Elmira Star-Gazette reported that:

C. F. Rodgers, the young aviator backed by Ogden Armour [of hot dog fame], will pass over Elmira the last of this week on his record-breaking aeroplane flight from New York to Chicago. If things go right, Rodgers should reach this city the second or third day out of New York. In all probability he will make a stop in Elmira, whether or not he spends the night here.

“Vin Fiz” was the name of a new grape-flavored soft drink that sold for a nickel and was hailed by the Vin Fiz Company [a division of the Armour Company of Chicago, Illinois] as “refreshing and invigorating.” The new product, however, presented one large marketing problem –it tasted terrible. The company, knowing that it needed a very special scheme if they were to sell their product, came up with a novel idea to boost its popularity. The marketing team chose an aviation stunt to promote their soda pop. The Vin Fiz people decided that a good way to spread the word of their product was to endorse and financially support an aviator in this effort.

“The Architect and the Artist:
FDR, Olin Dows, and the New Deal Post Office Program”

Copyright © 2013 All rights reserved.

A happy coincidence brings to us today a unique opportunity. The cornerstone at Rhinebeck’s new Post Office is about to be laid as a part of this ceremony of dedication. The Post Office has been built by the Secretary of the Treasury, who is with us. It has been turned over to the Postmaster General, who will use it and who is also with us. Their Royal Highnesses, the Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Denmark and Iceland have come to us, having voyaged from Denmark through the Panama Canal to San Francisco and back across the Continent.[1]

It is unknown if these royal guests were offered hot dogs during their stay with the Roosevelt’s as they were, famously to the King and Queen of Great Britain later that same summer, but the dedication of the Rhinebeck post office on May 1, 1939 nearly overwhelmed the modest Hudson Valley river town. Novelist and Rhinebeck resident William Seabrook would state that the building’s dedication was “without doubt the most thoroughly dedicated small-town post office in the Western Hemisphere.” Seabrook would go on to describe celebrities, news reels, sound trucks, an army of metropolitan reporters and camera men, and the first female photojournalist for Life magazine, “Margaret Bourke-White thrown in for good measure!” The day began with a parade which included marching bands and mounted state-troopers, but also included, because of the royal presence the Danish Girls-Scandinavian-American Society. After a somber invocation, Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau Jr. was first to speak, an unusual choice if one did not know that the architecture and the mural artwork inside the post office were both the product of bureaus under the auspices of the Treasury Department. Morgenthau symbolically handed the post office over to postmaster general James A. Farley,[2] and then FDR himself gave the dedication address.[3]

FDR was photographed at the event standing behind a podium, the metal braces that supported his frame barely visible. He began his speech with his first memories of Rhinebeck:

Half a century ago—I do not feel that it was that long—a small boy was often driven through the town of Rhinebeck by his father and mother to visit his great-uncle and aunt at their home south of Barrytown.

Then, as I grew older, I came to know something of the history of these river towns of Dutchess County, and to develop a great liking for the stone architecture which was indigenous to the Hudson Valley.[4]

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Three Poetic Monologues from Redwing, New York

Copyright ©2013. All rights reserved by author.

TUBMAN GREENE: Redwing, 1888

My father traveled fast and traveled far,
away from warmer rivers, warmer land--
all time, he said, a single guiding star
and charity from one brave woman’s hand.
My mother followed, praying that my name
could be my own when I was born, held free
of master’s choices, master’s whip, the same
as any baptized white child’s days would be.
What hunger? What sharp terror must have torn
their breath as they ran hiding in the dark,
each cellar, church, and barn, each field of corn
or fog-swept swamp dark hell but for her spark?
They’ve raised me thanking God that their first son
has lived to honor her for what she’s done.


HARRIET GREENE: Redwing, 1888

He loves me well, my brother. I'll defend
his words of loyalty and history 

against the fools who sneer so mightily 
at what he swears—the truth!—will finally end 
the way life's river has been forced to bend 
for those of us with color, who may be 
the sanest creatures highest God can see, 
but must endure the way the waters wend. 
What can he ask of me? I'll gladly give 
my breath the way the woman whose dear name 
I hold in reverence helped our parents live 
within a world of whitest deadly blame. 
But who am I? A girl in love with life— 
the one I'm making, free to be a wife.


IRIS BIRDWELL: Redwing, 1888

I see him all the time, the boy I loved.
His smile under the quickening oak tree 
green leaves hiding gold, his hair 
smooth upon his forehead, brown 
as the deer we glimpsed one twilight 
from a curving wooden bridge.

I hear him play piano again 
midsummer where small bats flew close, 
the moon as round as the watch on his vest 
while his hands moved the polished keys 
under the columned roof where a wedding 
would join two souls next day.

I touch him, ten years, twenty gone:
my fingers light upon his brow, his palms 
where I traced the lines I thought 
we would share together. Chautauqua, 
and the lake at sunrise, calls of ducks 
on water black to blue.

Katharyn Howd Machan studied creative writing and literature at the College of Saint Rose and at the University of Iowa, taught college for five years, returned to graduate school for a Ph.D. in Interpretation at Northwestern University and, now as a full professor, has been teaching on the faculty of the Department of Writing at Ithaca College ever since. In 2002 she was named the first poet laureate of Tompkins County, New York. Her poems have appeared in numerous magazines (Nimrod, Yankee, The MacGuffin, Snake Nation Review, Hanging Loose, Dogwood, Runes, Slipstream, Beloit Poetry Journal, South Coast Poetry Journal, Hollins Critic, The Salmon, West Branch, Seneca Review, Louisiana Literature, etc.) and anthologies/textbooks (The Bedford Introduction to Literature, Poetry: An Introduction, Early Ripening: American Women’s Poetry Now, Sound and Sense, Writing Poems, Literature: Reading and Writing the Human Experience, etc.), and in 30 collections, most recently Belly Words: Poems of Dance (Split Oak Press, 2009), When She’s Asked to Think of Colors (Palettes & Quills Press, 2009), The Professor Poems (The Main Street Rag Publishing Company, 2008). In 2000 she was awarded the Ann Stanford Poetry Prize from the University of Southern California by judge Dana Gioia for her poem “Tess Clarion: Redwing, 1888” and in 2006 the Luna Negra Prize from Kent State University for her poem “Gingerbread.” In 2012 she edited Adrienne Rich: A Tribute Anthology for Split Oak Press.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Historical Connections: Homer, New York and Cornell University

by Martin A. Sweeney
Copyright ©2013. All rights reserved by author.

McFarland & Company, Inc., 2011

Twenty-four miles northeast of Ithaca, New York, in Cortland County is the Town of Homer with a village also bearing the name of the Greek poet of Antiquity. Those who have ventured down the Main Street of the village have noted the nineteenth century architecture, the stately trees between the curb and sidewalks, and the American flags patriotically fluttering in the breeze. More than once the comment has been made about the village’s Norman Rockwell appearance, and one first-time visitor stated, “I thought I had driven onto the set of a Civil War era movie.” Indeed, the community can boast of 220 structures posted in the National Register of Historic Places. One of those structures, a red brick residence built in the Federal style in 1819 and remodeled in the 1880s in the French Second Empire style, has a significant connection to Cornell University. Located at 81 South Main Street, with its distinctive steep Mansard roof, projecting dormer windows, and bracketed eaves, the edifice bears a plaque indicating it is the birthplace of Andrew Dickson White, the first president of the Ivy League university founded in Ithaca in 1868.

“Stick to Your Guns!”
The Third United States Artillery and the Battle of Oswego 1814

by Matthew MacVittie
Copyright @2013. All rights reserved by the author.

Click to enlarge
This year marks the beginning of a very significant event in American history, the bicentennial of The War of 1812. Many historians have called The War of 1812 “a funny little war” worthy of little note or academic study, a view that would have been contested by the roughly 18,000 individuals who lost their lives on both sides of the conflict.[1] Like most frontier counties in New York State, Oswego County saw its fair share of war time activity. It is important to remember that Oswego County did not exist until 1816 when it was formed from the northernmost territories of Onondaga County. Within those borders of then northern Onondaga County, a small but important fortification named Fort Ontario lay on the shore of Lake Ontario.