Friday, January 31, 2014

In Heaven There Is No Beer . . .

Location:   Brooklyn
Year: 1822

Beer is even more "Brooklyn" than bagels, pizza, or Brooklyn Dodgers baseball. Beer brewing in Brooklyn goes way back to the Dutch settlers of the 1600s, though for 200 years or so, beer was a homebrewed concoction not a commercial product. The first commercial brewery in Brooklyn opened in 1822. 

Beer became one of Brooklyn's preeminent products, especially with a massive influx of German immigrants in the mid-1840s.  The Germans brought lager with them, a smoother, lighter drink than the ale or "bitter" popular among the English colonists-turned-Americans. 

At peak, there were 48 breweries in Brooklyn (including 11 in one 12 block stretch of Williamsburg), each turning out a unique local product with a dedicated following. Brooklyn beers dominated the region around New York City, which in effect meant that Brooklyn beers dominated the industry. 

But industrialization began to take its toll on Brooklyn's beer business in the late 19th Century.  The Midwestern beer producers, particularly Anheuser-Busch stole a march on Brooklyn's brewers with the innovation of shipping fresh and cold product in "reefers" or refrigerated cars. Then, too, the invention of Budweiser---that not-too-anything-and-a-little-bit-of-everything generic brew---allowed Anheuser-Busch to become the first "national" beer company. 

It says a lot about Brooklyn's beers that they were able to remain locally popular to the extent that Budweiser was a novelty---at least until Prohibition. In 1919, there were 23 breweries in Brooklyn; in 1933, there were only nine. And when Governor Alfred E. Smith celebrated the end of Prohibition by publicly drinking a Budweiser, the writing was on the wall. 

Local Brooklyn brands like Rheingold ("My beer is Rheingold the dry beer") and Schaefer ("Schaefer is the one beer to have when you're having more than one") hung on valiantly until the 1970s, but even redoubtable Schaefer shuttered its shop in Brooklyn in 1976, becoming nothing more than a label of one of the big Midwestern manufacturers. 

Beer, like baseball, vanished from Brooklyn---but Brooklyn is nothing if not resilient. In 1996, the Brooklyn Brewery opened its doors, and Six Point Craft Ales and The Greenpoint Brewery have more recently followed suit. And it's a good thing. 

"Because in heaven there is no beer. That's why we drink it here."    

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Sugar, Sugar

Location:   Brooklyn, New York
Year:   1957

Benjamin Eisenstadt of Brooklyn invents the single-serving sugar packet. When he pitches the untrademarked idea to a major sugar manufacturer, they steal it without paying Eisenstadt a penny. Eisenstadt retaliates by inventing and marketing Sweet 'N Low---in single-serving packets.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

What's a Penn Yan, anyway?

Location:   Penn Yan, New York
Year:   1799

The village of Penn Yan, on Keuka Lake (one of the Finger Lakes) was established by Jemima Wilkinson and a group of her religious followers during the Second Great Awakening. Originally called "Jerusalem" and then "Hope Town," the name Penn Yan was finally chosen because so many area settlers came either from Pennsylvania or were New England Yankees. 

The town has been a center for light manufacturing throughout its history; more recently, wine production has become a mainstay of the local economy. 

Beginning in the 1970s, Amish, Mennonite, and Dunker communities have been established around Penn Yan.    

A Druid in New York

Location:   New York City
Year:   1830

Ancient Celtic societies in northwestern Europe were organized by caste, much as Indian society is. Among the castes of the Celts was that of the Druids, the learned men and women of their time and place, called by the Greeks "natural philosophers." After the Roman conquest of Gaul under Julius Caesar, circa 60 B.C., Druidry was suppressed on the Continent and in Roman Britain, though it survived in a debased form in Ireland, Wales, Scotland, the Isle of Man, and in a few mainland pockets. 

Druidry, with its twin emphases on ritual magic and adoration of nature, was never completely rendered extinct, though no one has yet demonstrated an unbroken Druid lineage in Europe. As the Enlightenment spread across Europe in the mid-1700s, Druidism underwent a small revival as a humanistic-ecological spiritual practice, a revival which continues today.  

The first Druid group ("Grove") in the United States was The United Ancient Order of Druids, organized in New York City in 1830.  

By 1930, this group had 35,000 members across the United States. It withered under the twin societal strains of the Great Depression and World War II. 

The rise of the Counterculture in the 1960s reinvigorated interest in Druidry, and numerous other Druid organizations now exist in America, with a population of roughly 30,000.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Famous New Yorkers: Lucille Ball

Location:   Jamestown, New York
Year:   1911-1989

Lucille Ball is one of the most beloved comediennes in the history of American media. Born in Jamestown, New York, in 1911, during her childhood Ball's maternal grandfather often took her to vaudeville shows, and to the nearby town of Chautauqua for the entertainments available there. She was captivated by stage performances from early on in her life. Her grandfather, Fred Hunt, was a Progressive and a Socialist, and imbued Lucy with concern for the less fortunate. 

In 1915, Ball's father died suddenly. Although she claimed to have few conscious memories of the day, she did always recall that a bird accidentally flew into the family home and that the terrified creature could not find its way out. This left her with a lifelong ornithophobia. 

When her mother remarried in 1919, young Lucy became a caretaker for her stepbrothers and stepsisters under the disapproving eye of her stepfather's parents who were extraordinarily puritanical and treated her in a stereotypical "Cinderella" fashion. This only increased Lucy's dislike for injustice. 

When Lucy rebelled at age 14 and began dating a local boy who had had trouble with the police, her parents sent her to New York City to attend acting school.  Bette Davis was one of her classmates. She struggled with bit parts for several years (including being the "Chesterfield Cigarette Girl" in ads of the time), until she moved to Hollywood in 1933 to concentrate on film work. 

She had small roles in the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers classics, "Top Hat" (1935)  and "Stage Door" (1937), and the Marx Brothers'  "Room Service" (1938). As the 1940s dawned she inherited the title "Queen of the Bs" from Fay Wray, appearing in dozens of forgotten minor motion pictures.  For one of these roles she had to dye her hair flaming red, and this became her trademark.   

In 1940, she met and married Desi Arnaz, the Cuban-born bandleader. Classified 4-F, Arnaz spent the war years with Lucy acting in USO shows. Lucy, who was six years older than her husband and much more mature and experienced in the ways of Hollywood,  had problems with Desi's drinking and near-compulsive womanizing. She filed for divorce in 1944, but they reconciled. 

I Love Lucy was born in 1948 as the radio show My Favorite Husband, in which Lucy and Desi played the Cugats. Although CBS executives balked at the idea of an American being married to a Cuban, the show's success quickly silenced their absurd objections, and My Favorite Husband was developed for television as I Love Lucy. 

Since most television programming was produced in New York City in the early 1950s, Lucy and Desi were forced to move from Los Angeles to New York. As part of the deal to lure them back to the east coast, CBS sold the rights to I Love Lucy to the Arnazs' production company, Desilu, which is still making millions of dollars per year in syndication fees for the show. Untrammelled by studio control, Desilu pioneered the  use of adjacent sets, the live studio audience, the three-camera shoot, reruns, and the use of film rather than kinescopes for show preservation, all innovations which are standard in TV production to this day.  It was also the first TV show to feature a pregnant character (Lucy herself), even though the censors of the time insisted that the word, "expecting" be used rather than "pregnant."  

I Love Lucy dominated television in the 1950s. Lucy herself became the first female head of a television studio. Such was her power and national popularity that she was largely immune to the "Red Scare" of the 1950s. Even the normally rabid House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC)  chose not to attack Lucy, though  when Lucy had registered to vote in 1936, she registered as a Communist, a choice she made in honor of her Socialist grandfather.   Desi Arnaz later joked, "The only thing red about Lucy is her hair, and even that is not legitimate."

In 1960, Lucy and Desi divorced amicably. In 1962, Lucy remarried, to Gary Morton, a Borscht Belt comedian. They remained married until her death. 

Lucy continued to produce TV shows in which she starred  (The Lucy Show), and other popular and memorable programs (Star Trek, Mission Impossible), and to appear on TV regularly. 

She died of an aortic aneurysm in 1989 at age 77, and is buried in the family plot in Jamestown, New York.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Mother Chautauqua

Location:   Chautauqua, New York
Year:   1874

Chautauquas were the United States' first form of continuing education.

The Chautauqua Movement was founded in the late 19th century by Methodist Minister John Heyl Vincent and businessman Lewis Miller.  Vincent and Miller bought a large site in western New York State on Lake Chautauqua near the Town of Chautauqua, where they held classes on various subjects and provided stage plays and musical performances.  They later licensed the idea to others, and yet still others copied it.

There were three types of Chautauquas: 

The "Mother Chautauqua" as it was called, had its permanent site on Lake Chautauqua. 

Major cities, such as Chicago, and larger towns had their own permanent "Independent" Chautauquas, all modeled after the Mother Chautauqua. Most of the Independent Chautauquas could be found in exurban areas a brief train ride away from the urban center they served.  

"Daughter Chautaquas" were mostly itinerant, traveling in wagons, and  later automobiles and trucks, throughout rural America.  Daughter Chautauquas were peopled with musicians, booksellers and elocutionists, Shakespearean actors, teachers, doctors, specialists of various kinds, preachers, lecturers, and family entertainers.  In the years before mass media, Daughter Chautauquas were rural America's chief source of cultural entertainment and learning.  

President Theodore Roosevelt was once quoted as saying that a Chautauqua was "the most American thing in America". 

As radio reached more and more American homes, it supplanted the Chautauqua as the citizenry's main source of information and entertainment, though several Chautauquas still exist, including the Mother Chautauqua.

Imitators often were called "Traveling Medicine Shows," and featured snake-oil salesmen, dancing girls, gambling, and other illicit pleasures.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Rose By Any Other Name . . .

Location:   Throughout New York State
Year:   1955

The rose (rosa) is the State Flower of New York. 

It was so designated in 1955, after a poll of the State's schoolchildren named it as their most popular flower. 

Interestingly, the State never designated any particular species or type of rose for this honor, so all roses qualify, though red roses remain the most recognizable type.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The New York Post

Location:   New York City
Year:   1801

The New York Post is the nation's oldest continuously published daily newspaper. It was founded by Alexander Hamilton in the wake of Federalist defeats in the election of 1800 and the ascendancy of Thomas Jefferson to the White House and the Democrat-Republicans to Congress. 

Hamilton started the paper with $10,000 seed money (in 1801 currency!) at Gracie Mansion (now the home of New York City's Mayor).

Throughout its long history, The New York Post was always the most liberal of New York City's newspapers. In the 19th century it was owned and published by the abolitionist William Cullen Bryant. In the early 1900s it was owned by the Progressive reformer Carl Schurz. In 1939, it was acquired by Dorothy Schiff, along with The Nation, and became a platform for Liberal causes of all types.  In William Styron's novel Sophie's Choice, the lead character Stingo is fired from his job for, among other things, reading The New York Post.

In 1976, Rupert Murdoch acquired the paper, changing it from its liberal bent to a sensationalist-tabloid format similar to his British paper, The Sun. Under Murdoch's tutelage, the venerable New York Post has become a rag, noted for shoddy reporting and shock headlines. 

Alexander Hamilton, Founder of The New York Post

The New York Post used to cover the news

Even in its halcyon days The New York Post exhibited a quirky style

During a Murdoch-inspired management crisis the Editor made his point

A typically stomach-turning headline of the Murdoch era


Friday, January 24, 2014

The Eastern Bluebird

Location:   Throughout New York State
Year:   1970

The State Bird of New York, designated as such in 1970, is the Eastern Bluebird Sialia sialis, noted for its rich warbling song. The Eastern Bluebird is the earliest summer bird to return to the State, often appearing in February.

Missouri also considers the Eastern Bluebird to be its State Bird.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Federal Hall

Location:   New York, New York
Year:   1785

Under the Continental Congresses and the Articles of Confederation the United States did not have a set capital city. The capital was considered to be any city wherein Congress congressed. 

From 1774 onward to 1800 Congress met in Philadelphia (numerous times), Lancaster, and York, all in Pennsylvania; it also met in Baltimore and Annapolis in Maryland, and in Trenton and Princeton, in New Jersey.

In 1785, Congress began meeting in New York City, and continued to meet there after the new Constitution was adopted; officially, it is considered the first "permanent" capital city of the United States. George Washington was inaugurated on the steps of Federal Hall in lower Manhattan, officially considered our first "permanent" Capitol building. 

The original Federal Hall was built in 1700 and was demolished in 1812; in 1824, the New York Customs House (now Federal Hall National Memorial) was built on the site, and has several markers commemorating the historical events that occurred there---among them the adoption of the Bill of Rights.

At the end of 1790, the capital was officially moved to Philadelphia, where it remained until 1800, when the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. was ready for occupancy.  

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Tappan Zee Bridge

Location:   West Nyack, New York
Year:   1955

The Governor Malcolm Wilson Tappan Zee Bridge is the longest bridge in New York State, crossing the Hudson River at its second-widest point. The Bridge is 16,013 feet long and 90 feet wide, and has 7 lanes, with 138 feet of clearance below the roadway. 

Built of steel in cantilevered construction, "The Tap" was built during the Korean War. With steel being needed for the military, the designers and builders were forced to skimp on the bridge, constructing it with virtually no redundancies. Thus, to this day, the loss of a critical structural member would most likely lead to the catastrophic loss of the bridge. 

The Tappan Zee Bridge, one of the busiest in the nation, is also one of the most rickety. "[T]he deteriorating concrete . . . falls off the bridge in chunks, sometimes creating holes in the roadway through which the river below can be seen. Forty-five such “punch-throughs” were recorded in the eighteen months prior to a 2009 engineering assessment of the bridge," (New York Magazine, 2013). 

A structural engineer brought in to evaluate it has called the bridge the "Scary of Scaries," and it has been called the "Hold Your Breath Bridge." When built, the Tap was estimated to have a usable lifespan of 50 years, which it has now exceeded. 

When completed in 1955, the Tap linked rural Rockland County with New York City and its northern suburbs. It is part of the New York State Thruway System, Interstate 87, and Interstate 287.  

Since the Tappan Zee Bridge made access to upstate New York far easier, the northern suburbs expanded into Rockland County, and within a few years the bridge was carrying far more traffic than it was designed to hold.  Accidents and traffic jams are common on the bridge, which has no shoulders. The bridge now carries 150,000 vehicles per day.

A toll bridge, the Tappan Zee was built just beyond the jurisdiction of the Port of New York And New Jersey Authority, so that monies collected from the bridge go to New York State and not to the Port Authority.

In 2013,  New York State commissioned the construction of a new bridge to replace the Tap. The new Tap is expected to open in 2015.

The Sugar Maple

Location:   New York State
Year:   1956

The Sugar Maple tree, acer saccharum, was designated the State Tree of New York in 1956. Sugar Maples mature at 25 years and can live as long as 400 years.  They are ubiquitous throughout the State, and are an important source of hardwood and sap, from which comes maple syrup. In the fall the leaves turn brilliant and varied colors, making New York's forests strikingly beautiful.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Parachute Jump

Location:   Coney Island (Brooklyn), New York
Year:   1939

The Parachute Jump, also known as "The Eiffel Tower of Brooklyn" stands sentinel over the neighborhood of Coney Island. Built in 1939 for the World's Fair in Flushing Meadow, it was moved to Coney Island in 1941. It was a controlled-drop skydiving system in which the riders were hauled aloft in canvas body slings, and then released from a height of 250 feet. Riders described the experience alternately as "thrilling" or "terrifying." 

The ride closed in 1964, when Coney Island went into decline as an amusement center. When Coney Island began a resurgence in the 2000s, the tower was refurbished, and it is now illuminated nightly. Though there are no plans to re-open the ride, it is left standing as an iconic landmark.   

MCU Park, the home of the Minor League Brooklyn Cyclones, stands in the shadow of the Parachute Jump.


Location:   Grand Island, New York
Year:   1825

Grand Island lies in the Niagara River, which forms part of the boundary between Canada and the United States. The island has an area of 17,381 acres (about 27 square miles). It is part of Erie County, New York.

In 1824, Major Mordecai Manuel Noah, a prominent Jewish resident of New York City conceived the idea that the island could be established as a mini-state and safe haven for Jews from around the world. He envisioned the building of a great metropolis on Grand Island.

Considering that populous modern cities and nations such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Manhattan are on small islands, the idea is not as mad as it must have seemed in 1824. Major Noah began buying tracts of land on the island, and in 1825 established the first all-Jewish settlement there, naming his prospective nation "Ararat" after the mountain where the biblical Noah's Ark came to rest.  About 1,200 Jews eventually settled in Ararat, a far cry from Major Noah's grand vision for Grand Island. The mini-state was never formally established. 

However, Grand Island was not forgotten to history. In 1945, it was considered that the United States might cede the island, establishing it as the world's "Peace Capital," an independent home for the United Nations. The U.N. chose to establish its permanent home in Manhattan instead.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Burned-Over District

Location:   Western New York
Year:   c. 1800s-1860s

Following the deaths of the Founders' generation most of whom were Deists, around the beginning of the 19th Century a Christian Revival movement known as The Second Great Awakening swept the country, converting many Americans to one or another faith based on the teachings of Christ.  

At the time of the beginning of the Second Great Awakening, the western half of New York State was frontier territory occupied primarily by the Iroquois tribes. As whites began moving into the region, a good many utopians and religious revivalists were among them. 

Most of these Messianists are forgotten to history, but many established Protestant faiths that are still active today. The area, in fact, was such a hotbed for adherents of the Second Great Awakening that it got the name "The Burned-Over District" because, according to popular opinion, the people there had been swept up so often in the fires of excited Christian religiosity that there was "nothing left to burn"---in other words, no one left to convert. 

Among the most famous and popular of the itinerant preachers of the early 19th Century was Lorenzo Dow (1777-1834), who preached in New York State in 1802, "against Atheism, Deism, Calvinism and Universalism" (he was also virulently anti-Catholic),  a man whose whoop-and-holler style has influenced televangelists down to the present day. Dow often preached before crowds of 10,000 and more. Dow's autobiography was for a time the most popular bestseller in the U.S., excepting only the Bible. "Lorenzo" became the most popular name for boys at the height of his fame.  

The beginning of the Civil War saw the end of the Second Great Awakening in the North, but as the war progressed more and more Southerners were caught up in its religious fervor. It was not until the war ended that the Second Great Awakening petered out.

 Among the modern-day churches that trace their roots back to the Burned-Over  District are:
The Latter Day Saints (Mormons):  Joseph Smith, Jr., who became an itinerant preacher at fourteen years old, claimed he had been led by the angel Moroni to his source for the text of  the Book of Mormon, a pair of golden plates buried in the earth near the town of Palmyra. The first editions of the Book of Mormon date back to 1830, and give "Palmyra" as their place of publication.

The Seventh Day Adventists: William Miller, the founder of Adventism, lived in the town of Low Hampton. He preached that the literal Second Coming of Christ would occur on October 22, 1844.  Although Miller's calculations were apparently wrong, his teachings, focused on a very literal interpretation of Scripture (including holding the Sabbath on Saturdays) became extremely popular, and spread far beyond western New York State.

The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing (Shakers): Founded by Ann Lee in the 1780s, the Shakers established their first communal farm in the Burned-Over District. Strict believers in celibacy (apparently and amazingly, no one ever violated this tenet of the faith), Shaker communities grew through conversion and adoption of orphans. At one time there were more than 20,000 Shakers. Currently, in the United States, there are less than 10. Shaker culture faded away as people moved from farms to cities and as mass-produced goods replaced craftsmanship and artisanship. During its heyday however, the Shaker movement produced thousands of household items, most of which are still prized for a unique and simple elegance of design. The Shakers also created unique art and music that are considered historical artifacts as well.  

The Oneida Society: A large and successful Christian utopian group established in 1844, Oneidans practiced Communalism and "Complex," or group,  marriage; mates were chosen by committee, and any resultant children were raised in common. In the later 19th Century, the Society moved away from Complex Marriage and it's other more radical beliefs. At one time, the Oneida Society owned several different very successful manufactories. They were furriers, and controlled a silk factory, a canning factory, and a cutlery factory. The cutlery business, "Oneida Limited" is still in business under Society auspices. 

The Society for Universal Inquiry and Reform  (the Skaneateles Community) was another utopian community in the region. Strict abolitionists, social reformers, and religious rationalists, the group was also communalist. Their farms and dairies were financially successful, but internal disagreements ended the Community in 1848.

The Burned-Over District was a main source of converts to the Fourierist Movement, which believed that mutual concern and cooperation were the secrets of social success. The Movement's founder, Charles Fourier (1772-1837), was a Frenchman who believed that a society based upon ideas of cooperation would see an immense improvement in productivity levels. Fourier, who was a strict agrarianist, hated manufacturing and mercantilism, which he saw as non-cooperative and which he irrationally associated with Jews; he thus advocated that Jews be forced to work in Fourierist communities as slaves. These beliefs reinforced anti-Jewish feelings in his followers. In his biography, one chapter is entitled "My Lack of Talent For Commerce"; thus, Fourier's Judeophobia may be the worst case of sour grapes of the 19th Century.

The Burned-Over District was famed for its Spiritualists. The Fox sisters, of Hydesville, conducted séances in which they communicated with the Devil ("Mr. Split-Foot"), assorted demons and with the dead. Spiritualism became increasingly popular throughout America, reaching a peak during the Civil War.  The town of Lily Dale and the Plymouth Spiritualist Church, in Rochester, are still Spiritualist centers. 

Not unsurprisingly, social reform also came out of the melange that was The Burned-Over District. Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902), an early feminist, was a resident of Seneca Falls. She organized the Seneca Falls Convention devoted to women's suffrage and equal rights for women.

Walter Rauschenbusch (1861-1918) of Rochester, a Baptist clergyman, was a primary mover in the Social Gospel Movement which strongly influenced both Dr. Martin Luther King and Mohandas K. Gandhi.  

Thursday, January 16, 2014

St. Peter's Church

Location:   Lower Manhattan
Year:   1785

St. Peter's Church, on the corner of Church Street and Barclay Street, is the oldest Roman Catholic Church in New York State. It was founded in 1785, right after the Revolutionary War. Prior to that date, Catholic worship had been forbidden by the British in New York, and earlier by the Dutch in New Amsterdam. 

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton converted from the Church of England to the Roman Apostolic Church here in 1805. 

Pierre Toussaint, a black parishoner of St. Peter's for 26 years, led Haiti's fight for independence from France. 

This was the first American posting of the French-born Father Edward Sorin who founded the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana in 1841.  

The roof of the church was slightly damaged in the September 11th attacks.

New York Times Three And More

Location:   Seattle, Washington
Year: 1851

There is more than one "New York." The name "New York" can refer to the State (which was named for the City, and not vice-versa), the City (the official name of which is "New York" not "New York City" or "The City of New York"), and the County of New York, better known as the Borough of Manhattan.

There is a West New York (in New Jersey) and the neighborhood of East New York (in Brooklyn). 

But did you know that Seattle, Washington was originally named "New York," when it was settled in 1851? In 1853, the name was changed to "New York Alki" (a Native American word meaning "by-and-by"), and a few months later to "Seattle," after the log-cabin settlers realized they just were never going to be able to compete.  

A New York State of Mind

Location:   Hempstead, New York
Year:   1976

Billy Joel, a native of postwar suburban Long Island, wrote "New York State of Mind" shortly after returning home from Los Angeles. The song first appeared on the album, "Turnstiles," and though never a single nor a charted hit, it became and remains one of Joel's most recognizable, most covered, compositions, and has become an unofficial anthem of New York City.

Some folks like to get away,
Take a holiday from the neighborhood.
Hop a flight to Miami Beach or to Hollywood.
But I'm takin' a Greyhound on the Hudson River line.
I'm in a New York state of mind. 

I've seen all the movie stars in their fancy cars and their limousines.
Been high in the Rockies under the evergreens.
I know what I'm needin', and I don't want to waste more time.
I'm in a New York state of mind.

It was so easy livin' day by day
Out of touch with the rhythm and blues
But now I need a little give and take
The New York Times, the Daily News.

It comes down to reality, and its fine with me cause I've let it slide.
I don't care if it's Chinatown or on Riverside.
I don't have any reasons.
I left them all behind.
I'm in a New York state of mind.
It was so easy living day by day
Out of touch with the rhythm and blues
But now I need a little give and take
The New York Times, the Daily News.

It comes down to reality, and its fine with me cause I've let it slide.
I don't care if it's Chinatown or on Riverside.
I don't have any reasons.
I left them all behind.
I'm in a New York state of mind.

I'm just taking a Greyhound on the Hudson River line.
Cause I'm in a, I'm in a New York state of mind


Wednesday, January 15, 2014


Location:   Albany to Schenectady
Year:   1826

Although short-haul railroads had been used intermittently since the early 1800s,  the first regularly-scheduled chartered railroad in the United States was the Mohawk & Hudson Railroad which ran the grand distance of eleven miles between the cities of Albany and Schenectady. Established in 1826, the M & H later became the Albany & Schenectady R.R., and then part of the New York Central R. R. in 1853. 

The old trackbed is now a bike path.

The DeWitt Clinton was the workhorse locomotive of the line from 1831 onward.

The North River

Location:   Hudson River
Year:   1609

The proper name of the Hudson River below its confluence with the Mohawk River is the "North River."  This name was bestowed by Henry Hudson himself on behalf of the Dutch for whom he sailed. The people of New Netherlands also called the Delaware River the "South River" and the Connecticut River the "Fresh River."

Of all these alternate names, only "North River" remains in common use. The George Washington Bridge and the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels are collectively known as the "North River Crossings," the docks of New York are known as the "North River Piers," and nautical charts refer to the "North River" between New York and New Jersey. Generally speaking, in modern parlance the North River is considered the tidal estuary portion of the Hudson River.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Jack The Ripper in New York (?)

Location:   Sing Sing Prison
Year:   1894   

Trevor Marriott, a retired police detective in the United Kingdom, recently put forward an interesting theory regarding the identity of the infamous serial killer, Jack The Ripper.  Marriott believes that Jack The Ripper was a German merchant seaman named Carl Feigenbaum, aka Anton Lahn, aka Karl Zahn.  

Feigenbaum has been a long-time suspect, but Marriott has worked diligently to fill in the gaps of what we know about the man.

The Ripper was responsible for at least five (and probably more) gruesome murders of women in London's Whitechapel district in 1888 (and possibly on into 1891).

But does Marriott "twist facts to suit theories instead of theories to suit facts" as the Ripper's fictional contemporary and would-be nemesis, Sherlock Holmes, would ask?  

In late 1893, Feigenbaum slashed the neck of his landlady, Johanna Hoffmann, in the Lower East Side tenement apartment where he was a boarder. This seems, on its face, to be a "Ripper"-like killing:  A vicious and bloody knife attack on an innocent woman living in a poor area of a major city.

But Feigenbaum murdered her in broad daylight, in front of a witness (her son Michael), and, even for the crude forensics of the day, left a plethora of evidence behind. When the police came to the apartment, the blood-soaked Feigenbaum, who had not fled the scene, offered up the laughably weak defense that his brother (who lived in Brooklyn, and whom he had not seen in years) had done the crime. None of these elements seem to make Feigenbaum the canny, frightening Ripper. 

Still, the Hoffmann murder was clearly not his first. He spoke of other killings for which he was responsible (but never of the Ripper killings). As a result, the police in several Midwestern towns were able to close the books on a number of unexplained mutilation murders---all women.  The British authorities, however, were less convinced and remain officially unconvinced of Feigenbaum's being Jack The Ripper.

Feigenbaum, having admitted to his lawyer that he enjoyed killing and mutilating women, went to the electric chair in New York State in 1894.