Tag Archives: Oral History

New Website Features Northern Franklin County History

A comprehensive new website on the oral and digital history of Malone and other towns of northern Franklin County, New York, has been launched. The new site brings to life the history of this area from 1870 to 1940.

The website includes the material from a previous website dedicated to the history of the Franklin County logging community of Reynoldston, 1870-1970, located in the Town of Brandon.
You can listen to over 140 hours of tapes of people talking about all aspects of life in the late 19th and early 20th century in Northern New York. It includes hundreds of historical pictures, maps documents and thousands of pages of interview transcripts of more than 40 individuals. The tapes were collected from 1969- 1970. Historical features and background articles on the history of the area are included on the site.

The interviews were with a wide range of people who helped to settle and build the area: farmers, loggers, businessmen, politicians, woolen mill workers, sawmill operators, teachers, housewives, blacksmiths, and prominent members of the Malone community. They deal with religious and personal beliefs, home remedies, schooling, bootlegging, farming, growing hops, and many other topics. The interviews are autobiographical and includes comprehensive details of home life and work.

Photo: Interior of the Blacksmith Shop, Reynoldston, Franklin County,  NY.

A Survey of Oral Histories in Local Repositories

Historical societies, especially small ones, often fall off the radar when librarians compile collection information, even though most of our cultural heritage is collected and kept in these small repositories. Personal accounts in the form of recorded oral histories are one of the most valuable, and also the most vulnerable of these precious local documents.

Librarian and oral historian Nancy MacKay (San Jose State University, School of Library and Information Science), is currently conducting a survey on the state of oral histories in repositories. She is especially interested in reaching historical societies and cultural centers. The results of the survey will be made available as widely as possible.

If your organization contains oral histories, please contribute information about your organization online.
The survey should take 15-20 minutes. More information about the survey can be found on the survey information page. The Survey deadline is March 30. For more information contact Nancy MacKay or Emily Vigor at curatingoralhistories@gmail.com.

A New Titanic Book for Young Readers

In her new book for young adults, Titanic: Voices from the Disaster (Scholastic Press, 2012), Deborah Hopkinson, noted author of historical fiction and nonfiction for young readers, resurfaces a hundred-year-old tragedy through the stories and voices of those who survived the sinking of the RMS Titanic in April 1912.

Voices from the Disaster includes letters and narrative accounts from Titanic’s passengers to prompt readers to think of those whose journey ended along with what Hopkinson calls “a masterpiece of human engineering:”

. In a letter to their parents, Harvey, Lot, and Madge wrote, “Well dears so far we are having a delightful trip the weather is beautiful and the ship magnificent. Lots of love and don’t worry about us. Ever your loving children.”

. “You have to try to imagine it – the last moment I saw my dear sister stand there with little Thelma tightly in her arms.” Ernst Persson, third class passenger.

. “I almost thought, as I saw her sink beneath the water, that I could see Jacques, standing where I had left him and waving at me.” May Futrelle, first class passenger remembering her husband

“This book is an introduction to the disaster and to just a few of the people who survived,” says Hopkinson, “I hope their stories and voices remind you, as they do me, that our lives are fragile and precious. And I hope they make you wonder, as I do, what it would have been like to be on the Titanic that night so long ago.”

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

World War II Veterans Sought to Share Stories

On Wednesday, December 7, 2011, in recognition of the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States’ entry into World War II, the Schenectady County Historical Society invites local World War II veterans to share memories of their wartime experiences with the public. This event will be structured as a roundtable, with veterans sharing their stories and audience members having an opportunity to ask questions.

Of the 16,112,566 Americans who served in the armed forces during WWII, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimated in November 2011 that only 1,711,000 nationwide are still living. This event provides us, as a community, with a valuable opportunity to honor and appreciate the WWII veterans that are still living among us.

In addition to the event on Wednesday, December 7, participating veterans are encouraged to schedule an appointment with Librarian Melissa Tacke for an individual oral history interview. One-on-one interviews allow time for veterans to tell their stories in greater detail and preserve veterans’ recollections for generations to come. Veterans may choose to come to the Schenectady County Historical Society for an interview, or an interviewer can arrange to interview the veteran at his or her home. An audio recording of the interview will become part of the Schenectady County Historical Society’s Grems-Doolittle Library collection of oral history interviews. Recordings of the interview will also be provided to the veteran and his or her family.

This event is free and open to the public- WWII veterans who would like to attend are encouraged to RSVP for this event. Veterans who cannot attend the December 7 event, but who are interested in participating in an oral history interview, are welcome to contact the Schenectady County Historical Society to schedule an oral history interview.

For more information or to RSVP, please contact Melissa Tacke at 518-374-0263, option 3, or librarian@schist.org. The Historical Society is wheelchair accessible, with off-street parking behind the building and overflow parking next door at the YWCA.

Project to Record Adirondack Memories of Irene

Burlington College students, under the direction of their instructor, New York History online news magazine editor John Warren, will conduct Oral History interviews to record the Tropical Storm Irene stories of Jay and Keene residents on Saturday, December 3rd, at the Keene Community Center, (8 Church Street, in Keene), between 10 and 4 pm. The public is invited to share their stories- the resulting oral histories will be added to the collections of the Adirondack Museum.

Participants can schedule a time on December 3, or walk-in anytime between 10 am and 4 pm. It will only be necessary to spend about 15-20 mins at the Community Center where participants will be asked a number of questions about their experiences with Irene and will be provided an opportunity to tell the stories they think are important to remember about the events of this past late-summer.

To schedule your participation contact John Warren via e-mail at jnwarrenjr@gmail.com or call (518) 956-3830. The public is invited. Walk-ins are welcome.

Young Al Capone: Scarface in New York

Many people are familiar with the story of Al Capone, the “untouchable” Chicago gangster best known for orchestrating the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. But few are aware that Capone’s remarkable story began in the Navy Yard section of Brooklyn. Tutored by the likes of infamous mobsters Johnny Torrio and Frankie Yale, young Capone’s disquieting demeanor, combined with the “technical advice” he learned from these insidious pedagogues, contributed to the molding of a brutal criminal whose pseudonym, “Scarface,” evoked fascination throughout the world.

Despite the best efforts of previous biographers lacking true insider access, details about Capone’s early years have generally remained shrouded in mystery. Now through family connections the authors of Young Al Capone: The Untold Story of Scarface in New York, 1899-1925, William and John Balsamo, were able to access Capone’s known living associates. Collecting information through these interviews and rare documents, the life of young Al Capone in New York comes into greater focus.

Among the revelations in Young Al Capone are new details about the brutal Halloween Night murder of rival gangster “Wild Bill” Lovett, grisly details on how Capone and his Black Hand crew cleverly planned the shootout and barbaric hatchet slaying of White Hand boss, Richard “Peg Leg” Lonergan, insight into the dramatic incident that forced Capone to leave New York, and more.

Bill Balsamo, considered by some to be one of the premier Capone historians, has invested more than twenty-five years in researching and writing this book. He is the author of Crime, Inc. (now in its fifth printing). John Balsamo worked on the Brooklyn waterfront for more than thirty years while compiling extensive material regarding the life of young Capone.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

A Call to Record Veterans’ Histories

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington has issued a call to action to all Americans. During the Veterans History Project’s 10th Anniversary Commemoration Sept. 29, he launched a new campaign asking America to “collect and preserve the story of at least one veteran” and to “pledge to preserve this important part of American history.” Time is of the essence, he added: “Help us gather in the accounts of 10,000 veterans by Veterans Day.”

Congress created The Veterans History Project in 2000 as a national documentation program of the American Folklife Center (www.loc.gov/folklife/) to record, preserve and make accessible the firsthand remembrances of American wartime veterans from World War I through the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war. More than 68,000 individual stories comprise the collection to date.

The project relies on volunteers to record veterans’ remembrances using guidelines accessible at www.loc.gov/vets/. Volunteer interviewers may request information at vohp@loc.gov or the toll-free message line at (888) 371-5848.

Ellis Island Museum Celebrates 20 Years

September marks the 20th anniversary of the historic restoration of Ellis Island and the opening of its Immigration Museum on September 10, 1990, which was funded by the American people through The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation. This world class museum has quickly become one of the most popular tourist destinations in New York City, welcoming over 35 million visitors to date.

Just half a mile from the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, the museum’s exhibits highlight the growth of America during the peak immigration years of 1880-1924. The galleries illustrate the Ellis Island immigrant reception process, the immigrants’ arrival and settlement throughout the United States and feature their “Treasures From Home” – the cherished personal objects, photographs and papers they brought with them from their homelands. And the American Immigrant Wall of Honor celebrates the immigrant experience with the inscription of the names of over 700,000 individuals and families who have been honored by their descendants.

The Ellis Island Oral History Archive, created by the Foundation, contains the reminiscences of over 1700 individuals who either immigrated through or worked at Ellis Island during its heyday as the country’s largest immigration processing center. Excerpts from these oral histories are incorporated throughout the museum’s popular audio tour, which allows visitors to vividly relive the immigrant experience as if they were the “new arrival.”

The American Family Immigration History Center, which opened in 2001, offers easy access to the arrival records of more than 25 million immigrants, travelers and crewmembers who entered through the Port of New York and Ellis Island between 1892-1924, and is also available online at www.ellisisland.org.

The restoration of Ellis Island—the largest in U. S. history—began in 1984 as the second part of a multi-million dollar project by the Foundation, in partnership with the National Park Service/U.S. Department of the Interior, which included the Centennial restoration of the Statue of Liberty in 1986. All funds came from private donations, with more than 20 million Americans contributing to the cause.

The Museum is currently undergoing a $20 million expansion to be called The Peopling of America Center. Designed by ESI Design, this exciting new Center will enlarge the story currently told of the Ellis Island Era (1892-1954) to include the entire panorama of the American immigration experience, with exhibits dedicated to those who arrived before Ellis as well as those who arrived after it closed, right up to the present. “The Foundation is proud of what it has accomplished over the last 28 years with the support of the American people in raising over $550 million for the ongoing restoration and preservation of these two most beloved monuments to freedom and opportunity,” said Stephen A. Briganti, President and CEO of The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation. “With the Peopling of America Center scheduled to open in 2012, we will bring the ever-growing story of the populating of America to life, making the Ellis Island Museum both more relevant and a truly living testament to this Nation of Immigrants.”

For more information on the Ellis Island Immigration Museum visit www.ellisisland.org.

New Website Features Franklin County Mill Town

There is a new website about the Reynolds Brothers Mill and Logging operation in the community of Reynoldston in the Township of Brandon (Franklin County) which was in operation from 1870 – 1940.

“We have created this website to document the history of this small community using oral history tapes and transcripts we created in 1969/70 as well as with historical photographs and a range of related historical documentation,” according to local historian and website volunteer Bill Langlois.

Reynoldston is one of the many logging centered communities in the Adirondacks that prospered during the cutting of local forests but disappeared when those same forests were clear cut.

The site already features oral history interviews, photographs and documents and is expected to expand to include material on Skerry in the Township of Brandon and the Bowen Mill as well as a wide range of other tapes and transcripts on the early history of Franklin County.

Oral History Books: Lost Voices from the Titantic

On April 15, 1912, the HMS Titanic sank, killing 1,517 people and leaving the rest clinging to debris in the frozen waters of the North Atlantic awaiting rescue. In a new Oral History of the disaster, historian Nick Barratt provides a narrative of the disaster in the words of those involved —- among them the designers and naval architects at the White Star Line- first-class aristocratic passengers and the families in third class and steerage- and the boards of inquiry.

Lost Voices from the Titanic: The Definitive Oral History combines tales of folly and courage. Barratt has gathered the aspirations of the owners, the efforts of the crew, and of course, the eyewitness accounts from those lucky enough to survive. Barratt was lucky enough to interview the last surviving passenger of the Titanic about the way the disaster had shaped her life.

The majority of the book however, relies on letters, newspaper articles, memoirs, correspondence, and a few large collections, such as those collated by the historian Walter Lord. In part because the work rests on the words of witnesses rather than a technical account of the sinking, the book uses a surprising amount of original heretofore unpublished material.

Nick Barratt is a columnist for the Daily Telegraph and writes for Ancestor magazine. He is a director of Firebird Media and is on the National Executive Board of the Federation of Family History Societies. He lives in London.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.