William Floyd: The “Signer”

Authored by Erica Chandler

Taken circa 1950s, this photograph displays the end of William Floyd Parkway, named after the man who fought for the town of Brookhaven. This photograph was taken before the bridge connecting the town to Fire Island was built.

Between 1760 and 1800 occurred one of the most significant events in the history of the United States; The American Revolution (Allison 2011). During this time, the American people shook free of British control and started their own independent government. Although much has changed since then, it was the start of what we now call our nation.

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Black Power on Broadway

Authored by Alexis Wallace

Black Power in Broadway

The photo was taken by Martha Swope and the article was written on January 4, 1982 in New York, NY.

Dreamgirls was a Broadway show that premiered on December 20, 1981. In 1982, the show would go on to earn 13 nominations, winning six of them. The original cast starred Loretta Devine, Jennifer Holliday, Sheryll Lee Ralph and Cleavant Derricks. (Dekic and Cox 2013). The musical, which takes many elements of the stardom of the Supremes, is much more than just catchy tunes.

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Union Pacific Big Boy 4-8-8-4

Authored By Sarah Shelly

This photograph was taken of The Union Specific Big Boy 4-8-8-4 in 1941 in Scranton, PA.

The Big Boy was the biggest locomotive in the world in 1940, weighing 560 tons and going up to 80 mph (“Big Boy No. 4014”, n.d.). Before the 1940’s the railroads in America were struggling to move large freights over the mountains and treacherous landscapes throughout the United States. Then in 1940, the Union Pacific gathered mechanical engineers and teamed them up with the American Locomotive Company to build one of the world’s largest steam locomotives. The name of this new locomotive was the Big Boy (Franz 2018).                                                                                                                                            Providing jobs was one of the main benefits of the railroad. Jobs ranged from unskilled freight handlers to engineers. Unfortunately, the jobs tended to segregate the workers due to their ethnicity. The majority of the engineers were American or native-born men, while immigrants were used to build the trains and tracks. Even among the immigrants there were separations and classifications depending on where they came from. At first, Chinese, Irish and Italian immigrants were used for the most brutal work. Then in the 1900’s Romanian and Mexican immigrants as well as African Americans became the primary day laborers on the railroad (Thale 2005).

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Busy Women: Women’s Clubs and the Drive for Social Reform

Authored by Eva Rapoff

Newspaper clipping taken from the scrapbook of Mrs. William Grant Brown, in storage at the Schenectady County Historical Society.

Women, no matter where we are in history, and how little agency we are given, will always find a way to drive social reform, and in few places is this ability to persevere, to create agency rather than to wait to be given it, shown as well as in the women’s clubs movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Women’s clubs, such as Jane Cunningham Croly’s Sorosis, which formed the origin of the Federation of Women’s Clubs, were first borne out of consternation at exclusion (Scheer, 2002). These clubs were originally literary clubs, full of predominantly upper- and middle-class women, but as the concept grew, and spread across the country, the purpose bloomed into a vehicle for social reform. As well – as perhaps somewhat of an ironic legacy of Sorosis – these clubs were often unpopular, or merely tolerated by men, while women flocked to them in droves, driven by the prospect of social life and work. (Savage 1916)

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Oklahoma! A Closer Look at an American Play

Authored by Paulette Zander

Playbills depicting four plays by Rodgers & Hammerstein

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II wrote many successful Broadway plays in the 1940s and 1950s, including The King and I, South Pacific, Oklahoma!, and Carousel. Their first musical, Oklahoma!, debuted in 1943 and ran for an unprecedented 2,212 performances – 5 years and 9 months. This was a record that it held for 15 years (Stavropoulos 2019). These four plays share some common societal elements such as marginalization and interracial relationships, but their first musical, Oklahoma!, introduces other disturbing themes. What might seem on the surface to be a lighthearted musical about simple people negotiating their relationship dilemmas, all the while engaging in snazzy dance routines and singing now timeless classic songs, it is in reality a much more complex look at the early American west (Indian Territory) during the Depression.

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Letter from Edgar Allan Poe to Colonel Sylvanus Thayer: One Last Request

Authored by Robert B. Repenning

This handwritten letter by Edgar Allan Poe dated March 10, 1831, just four days after his official court-martial dismissal from the United States Military Academy, West Point, requests the assistance of the USMA Superintendent, in securing an appointment into the Polish Army. Poland was embroiled in the Polish-Russian War of 1830-1831.

On May 26, 1827, Edgar Allan Poe, under the alias of Edgar A. Perry, enlisted as a private in the United States Army (Howard 2003, 55). Thus began a curious, lesser known, chapter in the life of one of America’s greatest writers. In less than a year, serving in the 1st Artillery Regiment, Poe was promoted to the unit’s artificer. As artificer, “both officers and gun crews relied on him to craft the artillery bombs properly and oversee the ammunition supply for the battery” (Hecker 2005, xxxiv). Within seven months, Poe would be selected “from the regiments nearly 500 authorized enlisted men to become” (Howard 2003, 56) sergeant major.  

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Ahead of Her Time: Mayor Edith P. Welty

Authored by Marnie Mallah

Edith P. Welty taking the oath of office as Mayor of Yonkers, NY in 1949. She remains the only female Mayor that Yonkers has ever had. Taken from Edith P. Welty’s scrapbook, which is held at Westchester County Historical Society.

In 1949, at a time when few women worked outside of the home, let alone were politicians, Edith Welty became the first female mayor of Yonkers, NY. She remains the only one the city has had since its founding, over a century ago. 

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History of the Huckleberry Finn Manuscript: Racism, Violence and Social Criticism

Authored by Katelynn Langhans

Published in 1885, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Manuscript is located in the Mark Twain Room of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library. This photograph shows the first page of the original manuscript written by Mark Twain. Huckleberry Finn is considered an American Literary Treasure and part of Buffalo’s rich history.

In 1885, Samuel Clemens published The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn under the pen name, Mark Twain. The original manuscript resides at the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library where visitors are allowed to view it in the Mark Twain Room.

It is not exactly known when the manuscript was published, but in November of 1885, the manuscript arrived in Buffalo, NY. It was addressed to the Young Men’s Association which would eventually become the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library. Sent from Hartford, Connecticut the package only contained “approximately half the manuscript (487 leaves) of the recently published and controversial novel” (BECPL, n.d.). The two halves wouldn’t be reunited again until more than a hundred years later. On July 28, 1992 the second half of the manuscript finally came home (BECPL, n.d.).

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Helping on the Home Front: Canning in the Time of War in Hicksville, NY

Authored by Shannon Jaeger

Taken during WWI, this slide shows a woman working in an American Red Cross canning kitchen in June of 1917 located in Hicksville, NY. Canning and canning stores were a major part of the war effort due to food preservation and those on the home front doing their part for the war effort. These stores often brought the community together.

During World War I, canning became a way to help the war effort at home. Canning was seen as a patriotic practice during wartime and led those in the United States to believe that it would help ensure an Allied victory due to posters that were being printed (Sullivan, n.d.).

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Vincentian Lens: Erasure of Southern Historical Documents

Authored by Lauren King

This photograph shows the early members of the Emmaus Christian Church outside of the church building, date the picture was taken is unknown.

Emmaus Christian Church was founded in 1826 as the first organization for the Disciples of Christ located in Caroline County; it is described as “rather small” but with approximately a 100 living members at the time of survey (Farmer and George 1937, 1). The survey conducted by Farmer and George (1937) describes the current church members as being a prominent part of the community providing a list of names. Yet, that is all that is known about those members. Without existing church records there is no supplemental information is available (i.e. marriages, deaths). The records from the churches are a vital source of social information that can increase the available knowledge to the public that might be lacking otherwise (Olson 1942). However, the records from Emmaus Christian Church were destroyed in 1864 during the Civil War (Collins, n.d.).

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