Tag Archives: Schenectady County

NY Sports History Lecture: The Schenectady Blue Jays

Local baseball historian Frank Keetz will present a lecture entitled “The Schenectady Blue Jays, 1946-1957″- on Saturday, June 30, 2012 at 2:00 p.m. at the Schenectady County Historical Society, 32 Washington Avenue, Schenectady.The Schenectady Blue Jays baseball team, an affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, originated in 1946. The team played their home games at McNearney Stadium in Schenectady until disbanding in 1957. Frank Keetz, local baseball historian and author, will trace the history of the team and its impact in the area.

Keetz has written several publications about sports in the Schenectady area, including They, Too, Were ‘Boys of Summer:’ A Case Study of the Schenectady Blue Jays in the Eastern League 1951-1957, Class ‘C’ Baseball: A Case Study of the Schenectady Blue Jays in the Canadian-American League 1946-1950, and The Mohawk Colored Giants of Schenectady.

The cost of admission is $5.00, or free for Schenectady County Historical Society members. For more information contact Melissa Tacke, Librarian/Archivist at the Schenectady County Historical Society, 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.Photo: Tommy Lasorda, member of the 1948 Schenectady Blue Jays team (courtesy ‘-Cats Corner)

Schenectady Civilian Conservation Corps Reunion

On Saturday, June 16, 2012, the Schenectady County Historical Society will host a reunion of Civilian Conservation Corps alumni, family, & friends from 2:00-4:00 p.m. at 32 Washington Avenue, Schenectady. Marty Podskoch, author of Adirondack Civilian Conservation Corps Camps: Their History, Memories and Legacy, will give a short presentation and will invite participants to share their memories of the camps.

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) began on March 31, 1933 under President Roosevelt’s “New Deal” to relieve the poverty and unemployment of the Depression. Camps were set up in many New York towns, state parks, and forests. Workers built trails, roads, campsites and dams, stocked fish, built and maintained fire tower observer’s cabins and telephone lines, fought fires, and planted millions of trees. The CCC disbanded in 1942 due to the need for men in World War II.
Marty Podskoch is a retired teacher and is the author of six books: Fire Towers of the Catskills: Their History and Lore, two volumes of Adirondack fire tower books: Adirondack Fire Towers: Their History and Lore, the Southern Districts, and Northern Districts and two other books, Adirondack Stories: Historical Sketches and Adirondack Stories II: Historical Sketches, from his weekly illustrated newspaper column.

After 5 years of research and interviews, Marty Podskoch has completed his new book, Adirondack Civilian Conservation Corps Camps: Their History, Memories and Legacy. The 344-page book contains over 500 pictures and illustrations, 26 maps, and 25 charts. The author will have all of his books available after the presentation for sale and signing.

For more information on the reunion or to RSVP, 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.

Introduction to Schenectady Genealogy Resources

The Schenectady County Historical Society will offer a workshop entitled “Introduction to Genealogy Resources in the Grems-Doolittle Library” on Saturday, April 28, 2012, from 2 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Historical Society, 32 Washington Avenue, Schenectady.

Participants will explore the resources available for genealogical research in the Grems-Doolittle Library and learn to develop strategies for best utilizing the library’s collections in researching Schenectady-area ancestors from the 17th through the 20th century. The workshop will also include time to conduct research in the library.

Registration is required- limit of 16 participants per workshop. The cost is $5.00- free for Schenectady County Historical Society members.

For more information, or to 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.

Hendrick Vrooman Family Being Celebrated

The Schenectady County Historical Society (32 Washington Ave., Schenectady), will hold a celebrate the life and legacy of Hendrick Meese Vrooman, a Dutch settler who came to Schenectady in 1664 and was ultimately killed in the 1690 Massacre. Vrooman was the father of Adam and Jan Vrooman, who came with their father from Holland and many of whose descendants still live in the Schenectady and Schoharie County area.

A letter written by Vrooman in 1664, along with many other letters, were seized by the English from Dutch ships during the 17th-century Anglo–Dutch wars. These seized letters were recently discovered in the archives in Kew, England. In Vrooman’s letter, he comments on the changing rule in the colonies from Dutch to English, and describes his life in Schenectady: “It has been a good summer there. Very fine corn has grown there and the cultivation was good and the land still pleases me. At snechtendeel [Schenectady and the surrounding area] the land is more beautiful than I have ever seen in Holland.”

The Dutch national television station KRO will be filming this event for its program “Brieven Boven Water” (roughly translated as “Surfacing Letters”). The program attempts to make contact with living descendants of people who wrote the seized letters.

Descendants of Hendrick Meese Vrooman are especially encouraged to attend this event- the Grems-Doolittle Library staff and volunteers can help trace lineages back to the Vroomans. Please contact the Librarian for assistance.

The event will be held at the Historical Society on Thursday, February 9, at 2:00 p.m. The cost is $5.00 for the general public- Free for Schenectady County Historical Society members. For more information, please contact Melissa Tacke, Librarian, 518-374-0263, option 3, or by email at librarian@schist.org.

Illustration: Map of Schenectady in 1690, courtesy Brown and Wheeler Family History.

Mabee Farm to Host 1700s Colonial Festival Dinner

The Mabee Farm’s in Rotterdam Junction will play host to prominent 18th century citizens of the Schenectady area during a Colonial Festival Dinner, the featured event of the Schenectady Heritage Area’s Annual Schenectady Colonial Festival.

Participants are likely to meet General Schuyler, soldiers on campaign, a Sachem of the Mohawk Wolf Clan, merchants or land speculators working for the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company, and several members of the Mabee Family and their household. Part of the Mabee’s farm in Rotterdam Junction, the inn was frequented by military leaders, Native American traders, bateau men and many others traveling the Mohawk River. Continue reading

Radical Schenectady:Industrial Workers of the World at G.E.

Dr. Gerald Zahavi, professor of History and Director of the Documentary Studies Program at the University at Albany and also Director of the Schenectady General Electric in the 20th Century Oral History and Documentation Project, will present a talk entitled “Radical Schenectady: Industrial Workers of the World at G.E.” on Thursday, February 2, 2012 at 6:00 p.m., at the Schenectady County Historical Society, 32 Washington Avenue, Schenectady, NY 12305.

The cost of the program is $5.00, free for Schenectady County Historical Society members. For more information, please contact Librarian Melissa Tacke 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.

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 – 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 – 12:15pm, $20/person, across the street from the church. An afternoon Workshop will follow at the Schenectady County Historical Society, 32 Washington Avenue – 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.

A Flood of History: New Yorks History in Peril

In recent months New York State has been the victim of horrendous flooding and devastation as the result of both Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. The path of devastation is both wide and long – reaching from Maryland and New Jersey up to Vermont.

Centuries of disaster records have fallen. We have seen the evacuation of major areas of New York City and entire towns cut off from contact with neighboring communities and the outside world. As news crews rush to film the spectacular scenes of water rushing through main streets as buildings rush toward certain destruction, there are other stories that are lost in the immediacy of the event. Continue reading

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.