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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Historic Homer: Gateway to Heritage Tourism in Central New York

Photo of proposed Lincoln Monument Project at the 
Homer Town Hall. Photo by David P. Quinlan. Concept 
by Sculptor Frank Porcu.
By Martin Sweeney
Copyright @2015. All rights reserved by author.

Holidays are much more than festive occasions on a calendar. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and Presidents Day provide an opportunity to set aside some time to remember persons and events of the past that have significantly shaped our values, traditions, and collective identity as a people. There are, however, some persons and events of the past that are worthy of on-going commemoration in a physical form. These persons and events often have public spaces set aside to honor them with plaques, markers, street names, preserved architecture, and statuary.

Residents of Central New York are or should be keenly aware that their region abounds with historical personages worthy of memorialization. Clinton Square in Syracuse has statuary recalling the famous public rescue in 1851 of William “Jerry” Henry from the enforcers of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. Another runaway slave, Harriet Tubman, has her final residence in Auburn dedicated to her participation as a “conductor” in the Underground Railroad movement. Auburn, too, is the site of a statue of William Henry Seward, the secretary of state in the Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson presidencies. Nearby, Seward’s residence, brimming with artifacts, has been wisely preserved and is open to public inspection.

Out of the Great Depression:
The Experience of the Town of Salem, New York

By William A. Cormier 
Salem NY Town/village historian
Copyright @2015. All rights reserved by author.

The people of Salem, New York, like other people across the nation, were tossed about in the stormy sea of the Great Depression. Some people suffered more economic plight than others; some felt no hardship at all. One’s status in life at this time was often the result of Lady Luck who showed no bias in distributing both bad and good luck across all classes of society. Nevertheless, those who suffered the most emerged like hardened steel--tempered to a strong work ethic and loyal to family and neighbors in need. Born in 1936, this author was a Depression baby whose childhood days were filled with stories of the family hardships.

“Get a good job, keep it, and save your money,” my mother would admonish, and “If someone is in need--family, friend, or neighbor, help them out.” My mother wasn’t alone in her advice. My father who understood the importance of finding and holding a job said, “When you get a job, no matter how menial, do the best you can.” My parents and my siblings lived the Depression, this author heard about it--and often.

In Salem and throughout Washington County, it was not dust bowl winds of Oklahoma, like those described in John Steinbeck’s classic The Grapes of Wrath, that blew away the future of the local farmers, it was low agricultural and milk prices and banks demanding the mortgage payments. In a way, people living in small towns in rural areas often faired better than their counterparts living in the cities or those who relied on industry for work and had no farms to go back to. With the exception of the “dust bowl,” farmers who lost everything to drought and to heartless banks who literally bulldozed them off their land, those with small family farms or a barn and a garden in the back yard, such as one finds in the village of Salem today, managed to get by without much money. Growing ones own vegetables and raising ones own animals for meat, sustained many a family through out the ten-year Depression. Being self-reliant and knowing how to work the land was an asset.


Monday, January 19, 2015

“plunged into bloody strife”
New York State and the Outbreak of War in 1914

By Robert G. Waite
©Copyright 2015. All rights reserved by the author.

“All Europe Prepares for a Mighty War,” read the headline on the front page of New York City’s The Evening World on July 28, 1914, as tensions on the continent moved steadily from threats toward open combat. The same issue of the New York City daily announced that “Actual War Begun by Austria” when the Dual Monarchy rejected England’s call for a peace conference. A number of New York newspapers began publishing on their front page a “War Bulletins” or “War Crisis At Glance,” which offered its readers a capsule summary of the most recent developments, an aid to those eager for a quick over-view.[1] A few days later, on August 1, 1914, the German ambassador to Czarist Russia delivered the declaration of war to his Russian counterpart that set in motion the conflict that quickly spread from a squabble in the Balkans to a European wide war of attrition.[2] That same day a special “War Extra!” edition of The Evening World carried big front page headlines announcing: “Germany Declares War; All Europe in Arms.” Already more than 7.4 million men in the belligerent nations had already answered the call to arms and the newspaper told readers that the warring states could field 32.5 million soldiers. This threatened to be a war of unprecedented dimensions. “A huge European war staggers the imagination,” the editor of The Binghamton Press observed.[3] The entire front page of The New York Tribune was devoted to news of the war and the headline read “Germany Declares War on Russia.”[4]

Throughout the first months of the conflict the American public and especially readers throughout New York State followed closely the rapidly developing events through their major sources of information, local newspapers and magazines. And for good reasons did the press offer a continuous and comprehensive coverage. “Our interest in the European struggle has its broadest basis in the fact that we are a nation of European immigrants,” an editor of The Literary Digest observed in the August 15th issue as he explained the extensive press coverage.[5] New York’s Governor, Martin Henry Glynn, reminded an assembly of workers in late August that there was “not a single European nation involved in the present struggle which is not bound to this country by ties of blood and national esteem.”[6] This deep-seated interest was genuine, and New York’s press moved quickly to keep abreact of the breaking news. The New York Times had already stationed correspondents throughout Europe and the articles they submitted to their home papers were picked up and reprinted in small towns far and wide. Reporters for the Associated Press, United Press, Reuters, and the International News Service based in Europe sent back accounts daily and these too were transmitted to newspapers across the nation. Each day, many of the newspapers in the smaller, regional markets throughout the state carried up to several articles on the growing diplomatic crisis and the outbreak of war. The editors shared the mounting and widespread concern, plus news of war sold newspapers. Albany, New York’s newspaper the Times-Union, a daily that served the Capital District, a cluster of several mid- sized cities in upstate New York, ran front-page stories on the war throughout the summer of 1914, even a regular article entitled simply “The War News For Busy Readers.” It termed the conflict “appalling and disastrous” in an August 4th editorial. Local newspapers across the state that served a smaller readership and appeared only weekly carried “War Bulletins,” front page summaries of the events of the conflict.[7]

Friday, January 16, 2015

Catholic Labor Education On The Great Lakes:
Fr. John Boland and the Diocesan Labor College of Buffalo

©Copyright 2015. All rights reserved by the author.

From the late nineteenth to the middle of the twentieth centuries religion, particularly the American Catholic Church, actively participated with unions to correct injustices at the work place and to Christianize the social order. Buffalo’s labor priest Father John Boland viewed the Church and organized labor as partners: “the Church not only favors trade unions,” he stated, “but demands that they be formed. It demands that they be formed and operated along Christian lines.”[1]

It was the vision of Fr. Boland, other Catholics, who believed that this could be accomplished primarily through Catholic labor education. However, adapting the American Catholic Church to that purpose required the reorientation of the clergy and the bold infusion of the laity into the cause of labor and education. There was a prevalent need for labor leaders who were trained in the application of morality and ethics in the workplace. They would not divorce daily life from religion but invariably seek principled solutions.

An educated Catholic worker epitomized an advanced worker who recognized sane corrective actions to labor challenges. As the nation’s economic conditions oscillated for wage earners a response to this situation was required by the American Catholic Church. But who would emerge as the leaders in this movement and what form would it take? This paper will illustrate how American Catholicism formatted a paradigm to this quest that was both traditional and yet resonated with American innovative qualities. That mission incorporated education and the enhanced role of the laity. This mission began effectively in Buffalo, New York with Fr. John Boland and the Catholic labor college.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont: The Populist of Bellevue Avenue

by Andrew Lavoie, Providence College
©Copyright 2015. All rights reserved by the author.

The “Brilliant Belmonts” of Rhode Island and New York were the “most wonderful triumvirate in the history of this country” wrote the Anaconda Standard in 1895.[1] Born into extreme wealth and privilege, Perry, August and Oliver Belmont dominated America fiscally, politically, and socially. The traditional viewpoint, of both contemporaries and modern historians, has always centered on the idea that Perry served as the leading political figure of the three while August maintained their father’s banking business and Oliver simply existed to maintain the prestige and power of the Belmont’s in society. This idyllic picture of the three brothers existing in harmony, each as a master of his particular sphere, could not be farther from the truth. In reality, the three Belmonts were rivals who competed with each other throughout their lives for the affection of their father and the recognition of the nation. The one brother that attempted to transcend those generalizations was Oliver. Oliver has often been depicted merely as a socialite who was far more comfortable in the elite circles of Newport and New York. This depiction fails to fully capture the essence of Oliver and how contemporaries recognized Oliver at the peak of his popularity. Oliver Belmont was an engaged member of society who, despite his familial struggles, continuously sought recognition for his own personal achievements.

Although many of these attempts were met with failure, Oliver found an unlikely ally in William Jennings Bryan. Oliver used Bryan as a political aid to try his own political machinations and, as a result, he actually unseated his brothers and became the premier member of the Belmont family. The tensions between Oliver and his family drove him into the arms of an all too eager William Jennings Bryan, however, in doing so Oliver irrevocably alienated himself from the remaining Belmont family members. Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont was not merely a socialite but rather he was a politically active, socially motivated individual who, in his own time, many viewed as an early progressive who campaigned in favor of creating a new society far different from the gilded shores of Newport or the busy streets of New York.