One of my favorite movie scenes is from Working Girl when Melanie Griffith explains while riding up the elevator with Trask and Indiana, how she came up with the idea for the corporate merger. It wasn’t as if she had been thinking about anything even remotely related to it. Her insight derived from a chance juxtaposition perceived by a mind willing to learn and open to new possibilities. Read more
The Schenectady County Historical Society will host photographer Geoffrey Gross as he discusses his latest book, which features hidden jewels by the masters of twentieth-century modernist architecture in New England.
Tomorrow’s Houses is a richly photographed presentation of the best modernist houses in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, built during the early twentieth century through the 1960s. Read more
Clarissa Putman, the jilted lover of Sir John Johnson, son of William Johnson, has been the subject of much Mohawk Valley mythology over the years.
The Schenectady County Historical Society (SCHS, 32 Washington Avenue, Schenectady) will host a talk on Saturday, November 3, 2012 at 2:00 p.m. by Peter Betz entitled The Life of Clarissa Putman to sort out fact from fiction by providing a non-fictional mini-biography of her life based on reliable sources. Read more
Who are we? Where do we come from? These are questions that genealogists, new and experienced alike, love to reflect upon and research. By collecting family stories and photographs, following the paper trails left behind across generations, and learning about the history of communities and nations, you can discover your lineage, develop awareness about the lives of your ancestors, and better understand your place in history and in your family.
On Saturday, October 27, 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. Joan Parslow, Director of the Albany Family History Center, will discuss the genealogy resources available at the Family History Center and talk about recent changes in the www.familysearch.org website. Attorney John Gearing will examine legal records as a resource for genealogy researchers. Michael Aikey, Director of the New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center in Saratoga Springs, will focus on the genealogy resources available at the NYS Military Museum and the museum’s website, with an emphasis on researching New York State Civil War ancestors. Brian Kasler, Division Chairperson for the American Academy McAllister Institute of Funeral Service and a member of the Capital District Funeral Directors Association, will speak about funeral homes as a resource for genealogists.
Genealogy Day also 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. There will be a break for lunch for attendees to eat off-site- a list of nearby restaurants will be provided. For a detailed schedule for 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 [email protected]. The Schenectady County Historical Society is wheelchair accessible, with off-street parking behind the building and overflow parking next door at the YWCA.
At a lecture this Saturday in Schenectady, Marsha Mortimore will highlight the relationship of Union College with the African-American community and discuss some early notable African-American residents, including abolitionist Richard P.G. Wright- Theodore Sedgwick Wright, the first African-American to graduate from an American Theological seminary- and Bartlett Jackson, the first African-American hired by the Schenectady Police Department.
Mortimore has been active in a wide range of organizations that help her community and tell the stories of African-Americans’ impact on the community, including the YWCA of Schenectady and the League of Women Voters.
She is a founder/organizer of Women of Color for Change, is the current vice-president of the Schenectady Silhouettes, and was instrumental in establishing the monthly Dr. Jesse T. Henderson Black History Series in September 2010 due to her love of history and sharing the stories she uncovers. Mortimore recently developed a website and fact sheet about the Duryee Memorial AME Zion Church, which celebrated its 175th anniversary in June 2012.
This event will take place on Saturday, September 29, 2012 at 2:00 p.m. at the Schenectady County Historical Society, 32 Washington Avenue, Schenectady. The cost is $5.00 admission – Free for SCHS members.
For more information, please contact Librarian Melissa Tacke at 518-374-0263, option 3, or by email at [email protected]. The Schenectady County Historical Society is wheelchair accessible, with off-street parking behind the building and overflow parking next door at the YWCA.
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 [email protected] 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)
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 [email protected]. The Schenectady County Historical Society is wheelchair accessible, with off-street parking behind the building and overflow parking next door at the YWCA.
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 [email protected] The Schenectady County Historical Society is wheelchair accessible, with off-street parking behind the building and overflow parking next door at the YWCA.
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 [email protected]
The Schenectady County Historical Society is wheelchair accessible, with off-street parking behind the building and overflow parking next door at the YWCA.
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.