Tag Archives: Schenectady

An Early Schenectady Communications Experiment

In late 1932, on a dark mountainside in the far southern Adirondacks, a group of scientists prepared for a groundbreaking effort in the world of communications. The plan was to conduct a long-distance, telephone-style conversation with their counterparts stationed 24 miles away on the roof of the General Electric Company in Schenectady. No wires were involved. The voices of those on GE’s rooftop would be carried by a searchlight beam aimed directly at a concave, 30-inch mirror on a hillside near Lake Desolation.

This particular effort was the brainchild of GE research engineer John Bellamy Taylor. It involved a unique process he called “narrowcasting” because the tight focus of the beam differed substantially from the growing technology known widely as “broadcasting.”

Earlier in the year, Taylor had likewise communicated from the navy blimp Los Angeles floating high above the GE buildings. The effect was accomplished by making a light source flicker in unison with voice fluctuations. A photoelectric cell received the flickers, or pulsations, and converted them to electrical impulses, which were then amplified by a loudspeaker. The term narrowcasting was apt—any interruption of the narrow light beam halted the transmission.

This new attempt in the Adirondacks challenged Taylor’s abilities, covering more than ten times the distance of the dirigible effort and spanning some rough terrain. While trying to place the mirror in the Lake Desolation area, engineering crews twice buried their vehicles in the mud. Another technology—the shortwave radio— was used to effect a rescue.

A second issue arose involving the visibility of the large light beam. From 24 miles away, the searchlight blended among the stars on the horizon. Instructions were radioed to blink the light, which immediately solved the problem. Further communications by radio allowed the proper alignment of the light and mirror. With everything in place, the big moment was at hand.

A member of the extensive media coverage took part in the experiment. As Taylor waited on the distant hillside, famed newspaper columnist Heywood Broun began to interview him from atop the GE roof in Schenectady: “Do you suppose it might be possible in 50 or 100 years to communicate with Mars over a light ray?” Taylor’s reply included a bit of humor. “It might be within the range of possibility, but one difficulty would be how to inform the Martians what apparatus to set up.”

While Broun’s voice rode the light beam, Taylor’s end of the conversation was sent by shortwave radio back to Broun at Schenectady, where it was received and then rebroadcast on AM radio stations. The two-way conversation was the first ever of its kind.

In an area where few people had ever used or even seen a telephone, locals were suddenly talking across a beam of light. Old trapper James Link of Lake Desolation shared that “it’s getting mighty cold up here,” and two young women also spoke with Broun. It was a public relations coup for GE, and a powerful advertisement for Taylor’s wonderful innovation. The experiment was a resounding success, followed soon by other intriguing demonstrations.

A few months later, an orchestra played before a sole microphone high in New York City’s Chrysler Building. Pointing a beam of light at a lens in the window of a broadcast studio half a mile away, Taylor transmitted the performance to an audience of shocked listeners. Stunning successes like that would influence all future communications efforts in a variety of fields.

Among his many achievements, John Bellamy Taylor is credited with being the first ever to make light audible and sound visible, and with developing the first portable radio. Just how important was his work? The effects his discoveries had on radio, television, telephone, and other technologies are immeasurable. Due to the work of Taylor, Thomas Edison, and their contemporaries, the world was forever changed.

Top Photo: John Bellamy Taylor in Popular Mechanics magazine, 1931- Middle, map of the historic “narrowcast” area- Below, Taylor’s New York City experiment transmitting music.

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

Schenectady Reformed Church Archives Talk

Dirk Mouw, winner of the New Netherland Institute’s (NNI) 2010 Annual Hendricks Award and featured speaker at NNI’s 24th Annual Meeting, will return to the northernmost part of New Netherland Sunday, November 13, 2011.

He will speak at the First Reformed Church of Schenectady’s weekly Forum, following the 10:00am worship service. The Forum is held in the Poling Chapel, 11:15am &#8211 noon. Mouw will speak about Archives of the First Reformed Church: Stories they Illuminate, Facts they Reveal, and Mysteries they Still Hold. Original 17th and 18th century church records, written by founders of Schenectady and the Church, will be shown.

After the Forum there will be a Brunch at the Stockade Inn &#8211 12:15pm, $20/person, across the street from the church. An afternoon Workshop will follow at the Schenectady County Historical Society, 32 Washington Avenue &#8211 a block’s walk around the corner from the Inn. Dr. Mouw invites anyone having early colonial documents, especially any in Dutch, to bring them for a “Show, Translate & Tell” session. Documents in the historical society’s collection will also be part of the program.

Mouw is translator of the De Hooges Memorandum Book for the New Netherland Institute, and he is an authority on the history of the Dutch Reformed Church. Currently a Fellow of the Reformed Church Center, he received the 2002 Albert A Smith Fellowship for Research in Reformed Church History. He is the author of a short biography of Schenectady’s first minister, Petrus Tesschenmaecker, who was killed in the 1690 Schenectady Massacre. Mouw is co-editor with two Dutch historians of Transatlantic Pieties: Dutch Clergy in Colonial America, which includes his Tesschenmaecker biography and will be in print by early 2012.

Mouw’s writing that won the Hendricks Award, Moederkerk and Vaderland: Religion and Ethnic Identity in the Middle Colonies, 1690-1772, rejects the myth prevalent in histories of the Middle Colonies, that the inhabitants of what had been New Netherland and their descendents quickly abandoned their churches and cultural identity, melting into the society and ways of English or American rule. Records in the Archives of Schenectady Reformed shed light on the people of the northernmost part of New Netherland Colony, showing how they remained faithful to their heritage and churches despite the changing colonial linguistic, governmental and religious environment around them.

Mouw earned his doctorate at the University of Iowa, Iowa City, following a master’s degree in history at the University of Iowa and a bachelor of arts in history and philosophy from Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Mouw’s work involving Schenectady is of special interest this year as it is the 350th anniversary of Arendt van Curler’s 1661 founding of Schenectady. As Mouw rejects certain historical accounts, scholars, historians, archaeologists and artists in this area have been making discoveries that are leading to new interpretations of Schenectady’s history.

The Forum is open to the public. First Reformed Church of Schenectady, 8 North Church Street in the Historic Stockade, Schenectady, NY 12305 Two church parking lots, Stockade Inn parking lot, and street parking- one block from Bus Station.

The History of Medicine in Schenectady County

On Thursday, November 17, from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m., the Schenectady County Historical Society will host an evening of talks and a book signing highlighting the history of medicine in Schenectady County. This event is free and open to the public.

Dr. James Strosberg, MD will discuss the history of the Schenectady County Medical Society and the role of physicians in caring for Schenectady’s population. Dr. Strosberg is the Historian and a past President of the Schenectady County Medical Society. He is the principal author of Two Centuries: Caring for a Community: The Medical Society of the County of Schenectady Bicentennial, 1810-2010, a bicentennial history of the Schenectady County Medical Society. Copies of Dr. Strosberg’s book will be available for sale and signing.

Frank Taormina will speak about the life of Dr. Daniel Toll, an original member and second President of the Schenectady County Medical Society. Frank Taormina is a retired teacher and school administrator and a frequent speaker at Schenectady County Historical Society events.

For more information, contact Melissa Tacke, Librarian/Archivist at the Schenectady County Historical Society, by phone at 518-374-0263 or by email at librarian@schist.org. The Schenectady County Historical Society is wheelchair accessible, with off-street parking behind the building and overflow parking next door at the YWCA.

Genealogy Day at Schenectady Co Historical

The Schenectady County Historical Society (SCHS) will be hosting a Genealogy Day from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 29, 2011 at SCHS, 32 Washington Avenue, Schenectady. Participants in Genealogy Day at the Schenectady County Historical Society will explore many possible ways to uncover your family history.

Genealogy Day will feature four speakers. The morning speakers, Phyllis Budka and Alan Horbal, will focus on their experiences in researching Polish and Polish-American genealogy. Genealogist Nancy Curran will discuss using New York State vital records in tracing your genealogy. Chris Hunter, Curator at the Schenectady Museum & Suits-Bueche Planetarium, will speak about the resources available for researching your GE ancestor.

The afternoon portion of Genealogy Day offers participants the opportunity to explore the resources available at the Grems-Doolittle Library. The Librarian and library volunteers will be on hand to field questions, assist researchers, help participants get started in their genealogy research, or brainstorm strategies to overcome “brick wall” genealogical research problems that appear too difficult to solve.

Pre-registration for Genealogy Day is suggested, due to limited seating. The cost of admission for the day is $5.00- admission is free for members of the Schenectady County Historical Society. Attendees are asked to bring their own bag lunch. Beverages and desserts will be provided by Grems-Doolittle Library volunteers.

Genealogy Day Schedule for Saturday, October 29

9:00 a.m. – 9:45 a.m.
Pieces of Me
Speaker: Phyllis Budka

“To me it is a mystery why I must study history” – Those cheeky words form the opening line of Phyllis’ poem that appeared in “The Watchtower,” the Mont Pleasant High School student newspaper, over 50 years ago. Her recent research in family genealogy has awakened her interest in European history and she suddenly feels like a human archeological dig. Phyllis Rita Zych Budka was born in Schenectady and attended St. Adalbert’s School, McKinley Junior High and Mont Pleasant High School. She received a degree in Russian Language from the University of Rochester. In 1964, she married Alfred Budka, also a native Schenectadian. Phyllis earned a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Union College in 1982. Phyllis and Al owned a welding supplies firm at that time. In 1991, Phyllis became a GE employee and retired in 2008. She has three children and seven grandchildren.

10:00 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.
Research in Southern Poland and Hints for You in Doing Research in Poland
Speaker: Alan Horbal

Alan Horbal will share his experience in doing genealogical research in Poland and present strategies and tips for learning about your ancestors from Poland. He has worked as a volunteer at the National Archives and Record Center in Pittsfield, Massachusetts since 2001, where he instructs users on how to use government records in their research. He has also taught courses on genealogy research at Williams College.

11:00 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.
Vital Records in New York State
Speaker: Nancy Johnsen Curran

This talk will concentrate on the valuable Department of Health vital records indexes at the NYS Archives in Albany. Nancy Johnsen Curran is an experienced genealogist who focuses on the capital region of New York State. Her research takes her to the NYS Library and Archives in Albany as well as to repositories such as courthouses, historical societies and cemeteries in the area. In the fall 2011 semester Curran will teach a course on genealogy research at Schenectady County Community College. Curran is a member of the board of trustees of the New Netherland Institute and has served on the board of the Schenectady County Historical Society.

12:00 p.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Lunch Break – Please bring your own bag lunch- drinks and desserts will be provided.

12:45 p.m. – 1:15 p.m.
Using the GE Archives for Genealogy Research
Speaker: Chris Hunter

Learn about the variety of resources that are available for researching your GE ancestor, and about digital initiatives that will improve accessibility to valuable sources like the GE Schenectady Works News employee newsletters. Chris Hunter is Curator at the Schenectady Museum & Suits-Bueche Planetarium, and has overseen the Museum’s industrial history archive since 2000.

1:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Q&A in the Library and Open Research Time with Library Volunteers

Explore the resources available in Schenectady County Historical Society’s Grems-Doolittle Library, including family files, photographs, family genealogies and lineages, church records, cemetery records, vital records indexes, wills, deeds, local and New York State histories, maps, collections of personal papers and organizational records, genealogy publications, and more. The librarian and library volunteers will be on hand to assist researchers and answer questions.

For more information about Genealogy Day, or to pre-register, contact Melissa Tacke, Librarian/Archivist at the Schenectady County Historical Society, by phone at 518-374-0263, option “3”, or by email at librarian@schist.org. The Schenectady County Historical Society is wheelchair accessible, with off-street parking behind the building and overflow parking next door at the YWCA.

Historic Preservation Code Green Workshops

The Preservation League of New York State and The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) are presenting around the state a series of a two-day CODE GREEN workshop designed for contractors, architects and other building professionals.

The workshops focus on energy conservation issues of interest to those who work in older buildings, but who do not specialize in historic preservation or historic structures.

For example, a contractor hired to insulate a 1920s residence or an architect who wants to understand the application of air sealants for a mixed-use building rehabilitation would come away with information that would help them better serve their clients. Participants will receive technical information on the Energy Conservation Construction Code of New York State &#8211 2010 and its applications for historic buildings in both classroom and field presentations.

The first workshop will take place Monday, May 16 and Tuesday, May 17, 2011, 8am-4pm each day. Day one will take place at Schenectady County Community College, Stockade Room 101 (78 Washington Avenue, Schenectady)- day two includes a field session (1:00 to 4:00 p.m.), at the Schenectady County Historical Society, 32 Washington Avenue.

Registration costs $75 for 2 days, lunch included. Continuing Education credits are available for Architects: 6 LUs/HSW for each full-day of the two-day workshop, totaling 12 LUs/HSW for the two days. AIA members will also receive SD credits.

This is the first of a series of CODE GREEN workshops the League will present across New York State in the summer of 2011. Information on additional workshops is available on the League’s website.

Additioanl workshops will be held in Syracuse (June 16 and 17). Plattsburgh (June 23 and 24), Buffalo (July 14 and 15), Hempstead (August 4 and 5), and Elmira (August 18 and 19).

Union College to Aquire Adirondack Library

Union College has entered into an agreement with the private conservation group Protect the Adirondacks! (PROTECT) to purchase a building complex in Niskayuna that includes the former home of the noted Adirondack conservationist Paul Schaefer (1908-1996) and a modern addition that houses the Adirondack Research Library.

The decision to acquire the two-acre property on St. David’s Lane and preserve and expand its use as an educational learning center &#8220reaffirms and builds upon the College’s long connection to the Adirondacks,&#8221 college officials said in a prepared statement.

“This is an exceptional opportunity to provide a home for and advance the College’s curricular and co-curricular offerings related to mountains, wilderness and waterways in general and to the Adirondacks in particular,” said College President Stephen C. Ainlay. An anonymous donor has made it possible for the College to purchase the property.

The property is located on a two-acre parcel of land, three miles from the Union College campus, adjacent to the adjacent 111-acre H. G. Reist Wildlife Sanctuary, which is stewarded by the Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club. The complex includes a 2,400 square-foot Dutch replica home built by Schaefer in 1934 used for offices and meetings and a 3,900 square-foot addition completed in 2005 that houses additional offices, conference rooms, and the Adirondack Research Library.

The library, which contains more than 15,000 volumes, as well as extensive collections of maps, photographs, documents and the personal papers of some of the region’s foremost conservationists, was the creation of Paul Schaefer. The building is surrounded by award-winning perennial gardens that have been maintained by Garden Explorers of Niskayuna and a bluestone amphitheatre used for public lectures and musical events.

PROTECT was incorporated in 2009 following the consolidation of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks with which Schaefer was associated for many years and the Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks. &#8220PROTECT has elected to focus its activities within the Adirondack Park, prompting the organization to begin exploring appropriate uses for the building and protection of the highly respected library,&#8221 the College’s statement said.

President Ainlay noted that Schaefer once taught a course on the Adirondacks at the College and in 1979 was awarded doctor of science degree for his conservation efforts. Union alumni and members of the faculty have been involved in the Adirondacks for well over a century. Numerous faculty members have conducted research in the Adirondacks and incorporated it into their courses. The College also has hosted a number of academic conferences and symposia centered on the Adirondacks, and the six-million-acre Adirondack Park is a destination for student field trips.

The College will explore collaborative partnerships with other colleges and universities involved with the Adirondacks, as well as museums and preservation groups the statement said.

According to David Quinn, treasurer of PROTECT, when the transaction is complete the Adirondack Research Library will be transferred intact to the College on permanent loan, to be managed by Union’s Schaffer Library.

“Union College will provide the quality of stewardship the place deserves,” said Quinn. “The building and library and the history they represent will be associated with a first-rate institution of higher learning and the public and park will be the ultimate beneficiaries.”

Schenectady/Nijkerk Councils Colonial Festival Dinner

The Schenectady/Nijkerk Council Invites you to this year’s Colonial Festival Dinner Tuesday, February 8, 2011 with Historical and Marine Artist Len F. Tantillo
Bob Cudmore, Master of Ceremonies at the Glen Sanders Mansion, One Glen Avenue &#8211 Scotia, New York

The Schenectady/Nijkerk Council has roots to about 1630, when Arendt Van Curler from Nijkerk established the trading outpost that would become the City of Schenectady. In 1909 the Dutch churches in Nijkerk and Schenectady exchanged tablets memorializing this connection. City-to-City exchanges between inhabitants of the City of Schenectady and the City of Nijkerk have been in existence since 1984.

3:30 p.m. &#8211 Throughout Evening, Exhibit
Tantillo’s Works with Maps of Early Schenectady & Latest Findings from Archaeological Excavations in the Stockade Historic District Select works by Len Tantillo available for purchase.

4:00 &#8211 6:00 p.m. Heritage Seminar &#8211 Conversation with Len Tantillo
Bill Buell, Facilitator, Developing Schenectady’s Historical Legacy

6:00 p.m. Cocktail Hour, Hors D’oeuveres, Cash Bar

7:00 p.m. Dinner
Len Tantillo, Illustrator of life and places in early New York Historical Painting: Schenectady Works

Individual Seminar/Dinner combination ticket $60
Seminar only ticket $20
Dinner only ticket $50

Become a Sponsor of the Colonial Festival Dinner with Seminar/Dinner combination tickets & recognition in the program

A Patroon’s Table: $1000 for 10 tickets and the host receives an unframed Tantillo print

An Old Dorp Table: $750 for 10 tickets and a 10% discount on up to two Tantillo prints

Stockade Settlers: $150 for 2 tickets and reserved seating (Yes a single person may be a Settler at $75)

For more information call Laura Lee Linder at 518-882-6866

Schenectady Event: Mohicans Making History

On Saturday, January 15, 2011, at 2 P. M., Shirley W. Dunn will present a lecture at the Schenectady County Historical Society at 32 Washington Avenue, Schenectady. The lecture will be based on her most recent book, &#8220The River Indians: Mohicans Making History&#8221 (Purple Mountain Press, 2009). A major part of the talk will be about Arent Van Curler’s close connections with Mohicans living around Beverwijck, connections made through a village, his farm at the Flatts and various purchases of Mohican land. Also included will be details of Mohican sales to the Dutch along the Mohawk River which indicate that the site of Schenectady, as well as the Cohoes Falls, were in Mohican territory prior to a Mohican concession to the Mohawks in 1629. Refreshments at 1:30 pm will precede the talk.

Schenectady Genealogy Day Event Saturday

On Saturday November 6th the Schenectady County Historical Society will explore the many possible ways to uncover your family history during Genealogy Day, an event that will feature several speakers along with open hours in the library. Frank Taormina, a retired teacher and long-time Schenectady resident, will describe the history of the ethnic communities of Schenectady as he shows us the City’s many places of worship: churches, synagogues and mosques. Bob Sullivan, librarian at the Schenectady County Public Library and webmaster of Schenectady Digital History Archive, will explain how to mine the wealth of the Internet to locate historic newspapers on the Internet. During the lunch hour Kim Mabee, a community volunteer and tireless family researcher, will share the story of her own research on the Mabee Family of Rotterdam, NY.

The afternoon of Genealogy Day offers participants the choice of sitting in on a beginning genealogy class or exploring the resources of the Grems-Doolittle Library. Nancy Curran, a genealogical consultant, will be on hand in the library to field research questions. Curran is an experienced researcher well versed in using the New York State Department of Health vital records indexes at the New York State Archives. Katherine Chansky, librarian at the Historical Society’s Grems-Doolittle Library, will talk about ways to begin a genealogy project. She will share some tips on organizing family records, suggest Internet sites to visit, and demonstrate
Family Tree Maker software.

Reservation are recommended. Participants will be asked for a 5 dollar donation to benefit the Historical Society. Lunch is bring your own bag lunch- cold beverages and homemade desserts will be provided by Grems-Doolittle Library volunteers.

Genealogy Day Schedule Saturday Nov. 6th :

10:00 am – 10: 45 am Churches of Schenectady by Frank Taormina. This PowerPoint presentation by Schenectady resident Frank Taormina, will explore the ethnic character of the City of Schenectady’s places of worship. Taormina was a social studies teacher for ten years, a school administrator and for many years the principal of Niskayuna High School. He has been president of the Schenectady County Historical Society and is a frequent speaker at SCHS events.

11:00 am – 11:45 am Digital Newspapers Online by Robert Sullivan, reference librarian at the Schenectady County Public Library and Trustee of the Schenectady County Historical Society. Bob will give a survey of assorted Internet sites where the public can find digital historic newspaper collections. He will also discuss the wealth of information available through Newsbank and Google/Gazette.

12:00 noon to 1:30 Lunch Break Guest Speaker, Kim Mabee, Mabee/Mabie/Maybee/Maybee: Soup to Nuts. Kim Mabee has spent years adding her own genealogy research to the extensive Mabee family genealogical record. A member of the Maybee Society, she describes herself as a “professional volunteer.” Kim has taken leadership roles
in a variety of area organizations including president of the Sacandaga PTA, President of the Schenectady County Historical Society, and Volunteer registrar for the Highland Soccer Club. She has received awards for her community service and takes pride in being a life-long student and self-taught scholar. From the summer into the fall season Kim is the “butter lady” at the Historic Mabee Farm in
Rotterdam Junction, NY, teaching hundreds of school children on farm tours how to make homemade sweet butter and giving lessons in farm-based traditions of the Mohawk Valley.

1:30 pm – 2:30 pm Beginning Genealogy by Katherine Chansky, Librarian/Archivist for the Grems-Doolittle Library. Katherine Chansky has been working in local history and genealogy for over 10 years. She will share suggestions on organizing your family records, setting up files in Family Tree Maker, and identify several Internet
website for the beginning genealogist.

2:00 pm – 4:00 pm Library Open Hours with Nancy Johnsen Curran. Curran is a genealogist and experienced researcher. She will be available in the library to brainstorm answers to your genealogy questions.

On any project, a thorough search of the Internet may lead to intensive local research in nearby counties’ courthouses, historical societies, libraries and churches.

An important resource is the New York State Library and Archives, one of the leading repositories in the country. For 20th-century research, New York State’s vital records are familiar territory. Other holdings consulted may include colonial wills, tax records, military records and prison records, as well as the unique documents
in the Manuscript Collection. Nancy Johnsen Curran brings many years experience locating family history in these records in the Capital region. She is a member of the board of trustees of Schenectady County Historical Society and the New Netherland Institute, the membership organization in support of the New Netherland Research Center. Curran brings to genealogy research a discipline instilled by many years in print and electronic journalism. Experience as a feature writer and
columnist is called into play, as she presents factual history in readable, interesting form. Her website address is www.nancycurran.com.

The Schenectady County Historical Society is located at 32 Washington Avenue, Schenectady, NY 12305. The building is wheel chair accessible with off-street parking.

For more information contact Katherine Chansky at (518) 374-0263 or email librarian@schist.org. Find directions to SCHS at www.schist.org.

Study of Schenectady Development Online

&#8220Shovel Ready: Razing Hopes, History, and a Sense of Place: Rethinking Schenectady’s Downtown Strategies&#8221 is now available at the Schenectady Digital History Archive.

A thought-provoking discussion of downtown development in Schenectady in the second half of the twentieth century, &#8220Shovel Ready&#8221 is Christopher Spencer’s master’s thesis in city planning (MIT, 2001) and analyzes the reasoning behind Schenectady’s development plans from the 1924 report of the City Planning Commission to the Downtown Schenectady Master Plan of 1999, which is also available at the Schenectady Digital History Archive.

The Schenectady Digital History Archive is a service of the Schenectady County Public Library and a member of the NYGenWeb, USGenWeb and American History and Genealogy Projects and the American Local History Network, dedicated to making information about Schenectady’s heritage more accessible to researchers around the world.