american history

The Shaker Heritage Society in Albany, NY is a non-profit organization that offers award-winning educational programming about the Shakers, their innovative spirit and their influence on American culture. The Society is actively concerned with preserving the integrity of the Watervliet Shaker National Historic District, site of America’s first Shaker settlement.

The Shaker Heritage Society will host a 40th Anniversary Celebration -- “Shaker Your Plate” on September 21st.

Here to tell us about that and more we welcome Starlyn D'Angelo, Executive Director of Shaker Heritage Society and board member and Chair of our Development Committee, Pilar Arthur Snead. 

Tom Schachtman will be at The White Hart Inn in Salisbury, CT tonight to read from and discuss his new book, How the French Saved AmericaThe White Hart Speaker Series is presented in collaboration with Oblong Books & Music & Scoville Memorial Library

Americans today have a love/hate relationship with France, but in this illuminating new history, Tom Shachtman shows that without France, there might not be a United States of America.

To the rebelling colonies, French assistance made the difference between looming defeat and eventual triumph. Even before the Declaration of Independence was issued, King Louis XVI and French foreign minister Vergennes were aiding the rebels. After the Declaration, that assistance broadened to include wages for our troops; guns, cannon, and ammunition; engineering expertise that enabled victories and prevented defeats; diplomatic recognition; safe havens for privateers; battlefield leadership by veteran officers; and the army and fleet that made possible the Franco-American victory at Yorktown. 

John A. Farrell is the author of Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography, and Tip O'Neill and the Democratic Century. A longtime journalist, he worked at The Denver Post and at The Boston Globe, where he served as White House correspondent and on the vaunted Spotlight team.

His book is Richard Nixon: The Life.

The ruins of Daniel Shays's fortified settlement reveal the hidden story of the famous rebellion. Shays and the Regulators founded the settlement deep in the Vermont wilderness after fleeing the uprising they led in 1787 in Massachusetts.

Rediscovered in 1997 and under study since 2013, these remnants divulge secrets of Shays's life that previously remained unknown, including his connection to Millard Filmore and the Anti-Federalist lawyer John Bay.

As the leader of the site's first formal study, Stephen Butz is here to tell us about the archaeological investigation, along with Shays's heroic life in the Continental army, his role in the infamous rebellion that bears his name and his influence on American law. His new book is: Shays' Settlement in Vermont: A Story of Revolt and Archaeology.

In The Revolution of Robert Kennedy, journalist John R. Bohrer focuses in intimate and revealing detail on Bobby Kennedy's life during the three years following JFK's assassination. Torn between mourning the past and plotting his future, Bobby was placed in a sudden competition with his political enemy, Lyndon Johnson, for control of the Democratic Party.

No longer the president's closest advisor, Bobby struggled to find his place within the Johnson administration, eventually deciding to leave his Cabinet post to run for the U.S. Senate, and establish an independent identity. Those overlooked years of change, from hardline Attorney General to champion of the common man, helped him develop the themes of his eventual presidential campaign.

  Nineteenth-century New York City was one of the most magnificent cities in the world, but also one of the most deadly. Without any real law enforcement for almost 200 years, the city was a lawless place where the crime rate was triple what it is today and the murder rate was five or six times as high. The staggering amount of crime threatened to topple a city that was experiencing meteoric growth and striving to become one of the most spectacular in America.

In Law & Disorder: The Chaotic Birth of the NYPD, award-winning historian Bruce Chadwick examines how rampant violence led to the founding of the first professional police force in New York City. 

  Best-selling historian Nathaniel Philbrick once again takes readers deep into the American Revolution, leading them into battles and illuminating the players on the field and behind the scenes.

His latest - Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution - is a complex, controversial, and dramatic portrait of a people in crisis and the war that gave birth to a nation. 

David A. Nichols, a leading expert on the Eisenhower presidency, holds a PhD in history from the College of William and Mary. A former professor and academic dean at Southwestern College, he is the author of A Matter of Justice: Eisenhower and the Beginning of the Civil Rights Revolution; Eisenhower 1956: The President’s Year of Crisis; and Ike and McCarthy: Dwight Eisenhower’s Secret Campaign against Joseph McCarthy; as well as other books.

His new book is Ike and McCarthy: Dwight Eisenhower's Secret Campaign against Joseph McCarthy.

In Ike and McCarthy, David A Nichols shows how the tension between the two men escalated. In a direct challenge to Eisenhower, McCarthy alleged that the US Army was harboring communists and launched an investigation. But the senator had unwittingly signed his own political death warrant. The White House employed surrogates to conduct a clandestine campaign against McCarthy and was not above using information about the private lives of McCarthy’s aides as ammunition.

America's Needless Wars: Cautionary Tales of US Involvement in the Philippines, Vietnam, and Iraq approaches the history of U.S. foreign policy by examining three unrelated conflicts, all of which ended tragically and resulted in the deaths of millions on both sides. By analyzing what went wrong in each case, the author uncovers a pattern of errors that should serve as a precaution for future decision makers contemplating a conflict abroad. 

David R. Contosta is professor of history at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, PA, and the author of twenty-three previous books, including Rebel Giants: The Revolutionary Lives of Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin. Contosta has been a Fulbright Scholar to France, a visiting scholar at Cambridge University in England, and most recently a visiting professor at Pyeongtaek University in South Korea.

What do Dick Cheney and Rahm Emanuel have in common? Aside from polarizing personalities, both served as chief of staff to the president of the United States -- as did Donald Rumsfeld, Leon Panetta, and a relative handful of others. The chiefs of staff, often referred to as "the gatekeepers," wield tremendous power in Washington and beyond; they decide who is allowed to see the president, negotiate with Congress to push POTUS's agenda, and -- most crucially -- enjoy unparalleled access to the leader of the free world. Each chief can make or break an administration, and each president reveals himself by the chief he picks. 

Through extensive, intimate interviews with all seventeen living chiefs and two former presidents, award-winning journalist and producer Chris Whipple pulls back the curtain on this unique fraternity in his book, The Gatekeepers.

In Reagan Rising: The Decisive Years, 1976-1980, New York Times bestselling biographer Craig Shirley charts Ronald Reagan’s astonishing rise from the ashes of his lost 1976 presidential bid to overwhelming victory in 1980. American conservatism—and the nation itself—would never be the same.

As Americans take to the streets in record numbers to resist the presidency of Donald Trump, L.A. Kauffman’s timely, trenchant history of protest offers unique insights into how past movements have won victories in times of crisis and backlash and how they can be most effective today.
 
Direct Action is a deeply researched account, twenty-five years in the making, traces the evolution of disruptive protest since the Sixties to tell a larger story about the reshaping of the American left. Kauffman, a longtime grassroots organizer, examines how movements from ACT UP to Occupy Wall Street to Black Lives Matter have used disruptive tactics to catalyze change despite long odds.

In 1797, eight years after the mutiny on the HMS Bounty, came a mutiny aboard the British frigate HMS Hermione—the bloodiest mutiny ever suffered by the Royal Navy.  In American Sanctuary, historian and author Roger Ekirch shares the story of Jonathan Robbins, one of the mutineers who made his way to American shores, and for whom the British called for extradition. 

He let it be known that he was an American citizen from Connecticut and had been impressed into service by the British. In one of the most catastrophic blunders of his administration, the extradition was sanctioned by President John Adams, and Robbins was sentenced to death by the British and hanged. Adams’ miscalculation ignited a political firestorm, fanned by the news of Robbins’ execution without his constitutional rights of due process and trial by jury. 

Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics from its establishment in 1930 until his retirement in 1962, Harry Anslinger is the United States’ little known first drug czar. Anslinger was a profligate propagandist with a flair for demonizing racial and immigrant groups and perhaps best known for his zealous pursuit of harsh drug penalties and his particular animus for marijuana users.

But what made Anslinger who he was, and what cultural trends did he amplify and institutionalize? In her book, Assassin of Youth, Alexandra Chasin looks to answer those questions and explore Anslinger’s social, cultural, and political legacy.

Alexandra Chasin is associate professor of literary studies at Eugene Lang College, the New School. 

Listener Essay - I Was Wrong

Mar 16, 2017

Steven Lewis is a former Mentor at SUNY-Empire State College, current member of the Sarah Lawrence College Writing Institute faculty, and longtime freelancer. His new novel, Loving Violet, will be published by Cohill Press in summer 2017.

I Was Wrong

I am beginning this piece in the early days of the United States’ descent into the Dystrumpian Future. So many among us holding our breaths, preparing for the coming repressions, the planetary insults to reason and civilized behavior, the Armageddon-Sans-Rapture that awaits this great country. And it’s already far worse than many of us feared.

Kevin R. C. Gutzman is the New York Times best-selling author of five books, including his latest, Thomas Jefferson—Revolutionary: A Radical’s Struggle to Remake America.

Although remembered as the third president of the United States and chief author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson was also something more: the most successful constructive statesman in American history.

Thomas Jefferson—Revolutionary: A Radical's Struggle to Remake Americashows him formulating his radical plans to republicanize America and then working, with remarkable success, to implement them. Born into a monarchical society, Jefferson turned his great intellect and energy to making it highly egalitarian. Much of what we take for granted about America now was originally Jefferson's idea. It is a fascinating story.

Julie Otsuka’s novel, When the Emperor Was Divine , is about the internment of a Japanese-American family during World War II, as a result of FDR’s Executive Order 9066. 

The book is based on Otsuka’s own family history: her grandfather was arrested by the FBI as a suspected spy for Japan the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, and her mother, uncle, and grandmother spent three years in an internment camp in Topaz, Utah. 

Otsuka will be speaking about the book at a Poughkeepsie Public Library event held at the FDR Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park on Sunday, February 26th @ 2PM .

As part of a team of journalists from Newsday, Michael D'Antonio won the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting before going on to write many acclaimed books, including The Truth About Trump. He has also written for EsquireThe New York Times Magazine, and Sports Illustrated.

In A Consequential President, Michael D'Antonio tallies President Obama’s long record of achievement, recalling both his major successes and less-noticed ones that nevertheless contribute to his legacy. The record includes Obama's role as a inspirational leader who was required to navigate race relations as the first black president and had to function in an atmosphere that included both racial acrimony from his critics and unfair expectations among supporters. In light of these conditions, Obama's greatest achievement came as he restored dignity and ethics to the office of the president, and serve as proof that he has delivered the hope and the change he promised eight years before.

Over the course of eight years, Barack Obama has amassed an array of achievements as President of the United States.

In Audacity, New York magazine political columnist Jonathan Chait makes the provocative argument that most of Obama’s achievements will not only survive a Trump administration, but also the judgment of history, which will proclaim that Obama was among the greatest and most effective presidents in American history. 

Chait digs deep into Obama’s record on major policy fronts and explains why so many observers, from cynical journalists to disheartened Democrats, missed the enormous evidence of progress amidst the smoke screen of extremist propaganda and the confinement of short-term perspective. Jonathan Chait is a political columnist for New York magazine. He was previously a senior editor at the New Republic

War Against War by Michael Kazin is about the Americans who tried to stop their nation from fighting in one of history’s most destructive wars and then were hounded by the government when they refused to back down.

The book brings us into the ranks of the largest, most diverse, and most sophisticated peace coalition up to that point in US history.

Michael Kazin is professor of history at Georgetown University and has been co-editor of Dissent since 2009.

We hear now, the story of two men.

Jim Thorpe: Super athlete, Olympic gold medalist, Native American

Pop Warner: Indomitable coach, football mastermind, Ivy League grad.

Before these men became legends, they met in 1907 at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania, where they forged one of the winningest teams in American football history. Called "the team that invented football," they took on the best opponents of their day, defeating much more privileged schools such as Harvard and the Army in a series of breathtakingly close calls, genius plays, and bone-crushing hard work.

Author Steve Sheinkin’s new book is: Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team - the story of a group of young men who came together at that school, the overwhelming obstacles they faced both on and off the field, and their absolute refusal to accept defeat.

There will be a launch party for the book on Sunday at Northshire Bookstore in Saratoga Springs at 5PM. 

In 1932, as her husband assumed the presidency, Eleanor Roosevelt entered the claustrophobic, duty-bound existence of the First Lady with dread. By that time, she had put her deep disappointment in her marriage behind her and developed an independent life—now threatened by the public role she would be forced to play. A lifeline came to her in the form of a feisty campaign reporter for the Associated Press: Lorena Hickok. Over the next thirty years, until Eleanor’s death, the two women carried on an extraordinary relationship: They were, at different points, lovers, confidantes, professional advisors, and caring friends.

Susan Quinn has written a book about their unique relationship entitled Eleanor and Hick: The Love Affair That Shaped a First Lady

Susan Quinn is the author of Furious Improvisation: How the WPA and a Cast of Thousands Made High Art Out of Desperate Times and Marie Curie: A Life, among other books. Her work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, the Atlantic, and other publications. She is the former president of PEN New England.

In the spring of 1942, the United States rounded up 120,000 residents of Japanese ancestry living along the West Coast and sent them to interment camps for the duration of World War II. Many abandoned their land. Many gave up their personal property. Each one of them lost a part of their lives.

Amazingly, the government hired famed photographers Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams, and others to document the expulsion--from assembling Japanese Americans at racetracks to confining them in ten camps spread across the country. Their photographs, exactly seventy-five years after the evacuation began, give an emotional, unflinching portrait of a nation concerned more about security than human rights. These photographs are more important than ever.

In The Wars of the Roosevelts: The Ruthless Rise of America's Greatest Political Family, William J. Mann presents a modern revisionist biographical history of one of America’s greatest and most influential families—the Roosevelts—exposing heretofore unknown family secrets and detailing complex family rivalries with his signature cinematic flair.

In the autumn of 1777, near Saratoga, New York, an inexperienced and improvised American army led by General Horatio Gates faced off against the highly trained British and German forces led by General John Burgoyne.

The British strategy in confronting the Americans in upstate New York was to separate rebellious New England from the other colonies. Despite inferior organization and training, the Americans exploited access to fresh reinforcements of men and materiel, and ultimately handed the British a stunning defeat. The American victory, for the first time in the war, confirmed that independence from Great Britain was all but inevitable. 

Dean Snow is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Penn State University and past president of the Society for American Archaeology. His previous books include Archaeology of Native North America and The Iroquois. His new book is 1777: Tipping Point at Saratoga.

The art of hula is thriving in cities all over the country and the world, but it is not always understood.

In The Natives Are Restless, journalist Constance Hale presents the largely untold story of the dance tradition, using the twin keyholes of Kumu Patrick Makuakane (a Hawai‘i-born, San Francisco–based hula master), and his 350-person arts organization (Na Lei Hulu i ka Wekiu).

In the background, she weaves the poignant story of an ancient people and the resilience of their culture. In the foreground, she tells the story of an electrifying new form of hula that has emerged from a restless generation of artists like Makuakane.


  The exhibition The Art of Seating: Two Hundred Years of American Design, organized by The Museum of Contemporary Art, Jacksonville is currently on view at The Albany Institute of History and Art through December 31st.

 

In the show, the chair is experienced not only as a functional item, but as art -- with more than 40 unique chairs on view.

 

Public Relations Associate, Aine Leader-Nagy and Chief Curator Doug McCombs take us on a tour.

The Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, meant to herald the twentieth century, went tragically, spectacularly awry.

The Exposition opened with fanfare; its wonders, both strange and magnificent, dazzled the public. Then tragedy struck. In the early autumn of 1901, an assassin stalked the fairgrounds, waiting for President William McKinley. That was shocking enough, but there were more surprises in store.

In The Electrifying Fall of Rainbow City: Spectacle and Assassination at the 1901 World's Fair, Margaret S. Creighton lifts the curtain on the assassination of McKinley as well as on the fair’s lesser-known battles, involving both notorious and forgotten figures.

The new book: Eleanor Roosevelt, Volume 3: The War Years And After, 1939-1962 Is the final volume in Blanche Wiesen Cook’s definitive biography of one of America’s greatest first ladies. Historians, politicians and critics have praised Blanche Wiesen Cook’s biography of Eleanor Roosevelt as the essential portrait of a woman who towers over the twentieth century.

Eleanor Roosevelt, Volume 3 follows the arc of war and the evolution of a marriage, as the first lady realized the cost of maintaining her principles even as the country and her husband were not prepared to adopt them. Eleanor Roosevelt continued to struggle for her core issues—economic security, New Deal reforms, racial equality, and rescue—when they were sidelined by FDR while he marshaled the country through war.

The chasm between Eleanor and Franklin grew, and the strains on their relationship were as political as they were personal. These years—the war years—made Eleanor Roosevelt the woman she became: leader, visionary, guiding light. Blanche Wiesen Cook is a distinguished professor of history at John Jay College and Graduate Center at the City University of New York. 

  Boston in the 1740s: a bustling port at the edge of the British empire. A boy comes of age in a small wooden house along the Long Wharf, which juts into the harbor, as though reaching for London thousands of miles across the ocean. Sometime in his childhood, he learns to draw.

That boy was John Singleton Copley, who became, by the 1760s, colonial America’s premier painter. His brush captured the faces of his neighbors -- ordinary men like Paul Revere, John Hancock, and Samuel Adams -- who would become the revolutionary heroes of a new United States. Today, in museums across America, Copley’s brilliant portraits evoke patriotic fervor and rebellious optimism.

The artist, however, did not share his subjects’ politics. Copley’s nation was Britain; his capital, London. When rebellion sundered Britain’s empire, both kin and calling determined the painter’s allegiances. He sought the largest canvas for his talents and the safest home for his family. So, by the time the United States declared its independence, Copley and his kin were in London. He painted America’s revolution from a far shore, as Britain’s American War.

His story is told in Jane Kamensky's new book, A Revolution in Color: The World of John Singleton Copley.

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