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Bill Thayer

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History of New York State

Histories and Source Documents

For now, there is no comprehensive history of the state on my site; but among the 39 books on American history onsite some cover facets of New York history. Those that do so the most are listed below.


[image ALT: An engraving of a port scene, with two wooden sailing ships at dock, and in the background, two blocks or so of urban landscape, four-story gabled houses and a taller and larger building in the center, surmounted by a cross-topped lantern. The image is captioned on the text of this webpage, and serves as the icon on my site for Fiske's book, 'The Dutch and Quaker Colonies in America'.]

John Fiske's The Dutch and Quaker Colonies in America traces their history from the advent of the European explorers to the 18c. Pennsylvania and Rhode Island account for a share of the book — but the rest is about Verrazzano and Hudson, New Amsterdam and the English city of New York, and "Knickerbocker" society; a good and very readable overview.

[ about 150 pages of print ]


[image ALT: A woodcut of a small locomotive of more or less classic early type, with, in front, a cowcatcher and a straight chimney flaring to a funnel, and in the rear, an enclosed square cab with three lancet windows and a ledge projecting over the track. The image serves as the icon on my site for Alvin F. Harlow's book, 'The Road of the Century'.]

Before the Transcontinental Railroad knit the United States together, railway transportation was pioneered in the East, and one of the earliest rail systems was the New York Central: Alvin F. Harlow's The Road of the Century, written for a popular audience, carries the reader with a wealth of anecdote, much of it of course in New York State, from some pretty tentative beginnings thru to 1947. The saga is well told and gives a good picture of the early westward expansion of the railroads and some of the technological advances that made it possible.

[ 439 pages of print presented in 23 webpages;
47 photos, 7 maps, 25 other illustrations ]


[image ALT: A woodcut of a small locomotive of more or less classic early type, with, in front, a cowcatcher and a straight chimney flaring to a funnel, and in the rear, an enclosed square cab with three lancet windows and a ledge projecting over the track. The image serves as the icon on my site for Alvin F. Harlow's book, 'The Road of the Century'.]

The History of West Point is a special case among the local histories of New York communities; the Hudson River landmark and Revolutionary War fort soon became the primary training ground of the officers of the United States Army, a rôle the Military Academy hasn't relinquished yet. As such, much of the material in this large subsite goes well beyond New York; yet the topography and local history are inevitably covered — in depth — in several of the books and articles (those by Roswell Park and Elizabeth Waugh in particular, also items by John Latrobe and Samuel Tillman). The site also includes a 75‑page booklet on the Cadet Chapel, as well as information on Battle Monument and much incidental material.


[image ALT: A vertical rectangular plaque with an inscription, surrounded by four human figures: standing, a man in an 18c military uniform to our left, and another in 17c dress, with a drawn sword, to our right; kneeling, a trapper in buckskin clothes to our left, facing a kneeling savage wearing not much at all. It is the title vignette of the foldout map in the book 'Historic Old Fort Niagara' by Claud H. Hulzén, Sr., and the icon used on this site for my transcription of it.]

Historic Old Fort Niagara is a detailed booklet on the monument published after its restoration in the 1920s and 1930s by a consortium of local civic groups; it includes a good account of the French history of the place, and a more summary account of its subsequent history. The map and some of the illustrations are particularly fine.

[ 63 pages of print presented in 8 webpages;
1 map, 33 other illustrations ]


[image ALT: An escutcheon on a background of stylized waves. The escutcheon bears the following arms: gules two bends sinister or between two mullets of the second. The image serves as the icon on this site for the book 'The Bonapartes in America'.]

Joseph Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon and once king of Spain, made his home in the United States for many years; "Joseph and Lake Bonaparte" (chapter 5 of a fascinating if uneven book, The Bonapartes in America) details his New York State land purchases and his hunting and summer homes near the lake named for him.

A smaller item which ought to be tucked away in the American History Notes section of the site, but is not:


[image ALT: A close-up of a collection of papers spread out on a table. It is the icon used on this site to represent my American History Notes subsite.]

The Carlyon Train Wreck (July 28, 1883): with over twenty people killed, the weather-caused collision of a train with a loose boxcar at a siding in Carlyon is still today one of the worst railroad accidents to have occurred in the United States. This is the report in the following day's edition of The New York Times.



[image ALT: A busy design consisting of a shield in which a rising sun is prominent; the shield is supported right and left by tall classically draped women, and is surmounted by a terrestial globe on which sits an eagle. It is the central element in the flag of the State of New York.]

The icon I use to indicate this subsite is the central motif of the state's flag.


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Site updated: 15 Oct 13