by Karen Rubin Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
On the Centennial of passage of the 19th Amendment, also known as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, giving women the right to vote, Donald Trump made a grand gesture with much fanfare in issuing a pardon for Susan B. Anthony, who died in 1906.
Noting she was arrested in 1872 for voting before it was legal for women to vote, he exclaimed at the White House signing ceremony, “She was never pardoned! Did you know that she was never pardoned? What took so long?”
Actually, according to those who are the caretakers of her legacy, she wouldn’t have wanted to be pardoned.
In a statement headlined, “Objection! Mr. President, Susan B. Anthony must decline your offer of a pardon today,”Deborah L. Hughes, President & CEO of the National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House in Rochester, NY, stated, “Anthony wrote in her diary in 1873 that her trial for voting was ‘The greatest outrage History ever witnessed.’ She was not allowed to speak as a witness in her own defense, because she was a woman. At the conclusion of arguments, Judge Hunt dismissed the jury and pronounced her guilty. She was outraged to be denied a trial by jury. She proclaimed, ‘I shall never pay a dollar of your unjust penalty.’ To pay would have been to validate the proceedings. To pardon Susan B. Anthony does the same.
“If one wants to honor Susan B. Anthony today, a clear stance against any form of voter suppression would be welcome. Enforcement and expansion of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 would be celebrated, we must assure that states respect the 14th, 15th, and 19th Amendments to the United States Constitution. Support for the Equal Rights Amendment would be well received. Advocacy for human rights for all would be splendid. Anthony was also a strong proponent of sex education, fair labor practices, excellent public education, equal pay for equal work, and elimination of all forms of discrimination.
“As the National Historic Landmark and Museum that has been interpreting her life and work for seventy-five years, we would be delighted to share more.”
We just celebrated the centennial of the passage of the 19th Amendment. But the journey to Women’s Right to Vote, goes back a century before, back to when Abigail Adams wrote her husband, John Adams, in 1776, “Remember the ladies.” He didn’t. The struggle began.
The journey toward Women’s Suffrage is long, and offers a long trail that can be followed, in order to experience first-hand something of what the struggle was like and pay proper respect to the Suffragists’ extraordinary courage, perseverance, and innovativeness. Here are some of the places to follow their footsteps and sense their spirit:
“The National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House, Rochester’s first National Historic Landmark, was home to the legendary suffragist, abolitionist and civil rights leader during her 40 most politically active years, as Visit Rochester proudly notes. “She served as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association from her home on Madison Street. It was a hub for planning strategies, organizing campaigns, writing speeches, and preparing petitions. This was Anthony’s home base as she made countless trips throughout the United States, to Great Britain, and to Europe to support local suffrage campaigns and organize the International Council of Women.
“Walk through rooms where Anthony met often with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and other leaders of the civil rights movement. Stand in the parlor where Anthony was arrested in 1872 for the ‘crime’ of voting.
“It’s not hard to imagine Anthony enjoying her talks with the famous orator and abolitionist Frederick Douglass over cups of tea in her parlor. Upstairs in the small bedroom where Anthony died in 1906, visitors can’t help feeling some sadness knowing she never had an opportunity to cast a legal ballot. Fourteen years after her death, the 19th “Susan B. Anthony” Amendment was finally ratified and women throughout America were welcome at polling places.” (www.visitrochester.com/susanb2020)
The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, also known as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, was ratified in 1920, 14 years after Anthony died, in 1906. The house was her home from 1866 until her death here in 1906; it was the site of her famous arrest for voting in the presidential election of 1872. Her bedroom contains her original furniture, including the feather-star-pattern quilt on the bed that she made with her sister Hannah. The house is filled with photographs, memorabilia, and much of the Anthony family’s furniture. A museum room on the second floor illustrates major events of the woman suffrage movement, including extensive photographs of the people who worked so long and so hard to win voting rights for women.
National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House 17 Madison Street Rochester, NY 14608 585/235-6124, www.susanbanthonyhouse.org
You can visit the Ontario County Courthouse, the site of Susan B. Anthony’s famous trial in 1873, just a short drive from Rochester in Canandaigua,
The final resting place for Susan B. Anthony, Jean Brooks Greenleaf (former president of the New York State Woman Suffrage Association), Frederick Douglass and many other important leaders of the abolitionist and women’s rights movements is Mt. Hope Cemetery in Rochester. There are guided tours and self-guiding maps.
This year is also the 200th anniversary of Susan B. Anthony’s birth, in 1820. The daughter of a Quaker family that promoted abolition and temperance, from the age of 6 and 25, from 1826 to 1845, she lived in Battenville, Washington County, and later in Center Falls, before her family moved to Rochester. So, on the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced an effort to stabilize and preserve Susan B. Anthony’s childhood home on Route 29 in Battenville. The work at the 1832 two-story brick home where Anthony lived from ages 13 to 19, is expected to be completed by September.
For many, the journey to women’s rights begins at The Women’s Rights National Park in Seneca Falls, New York, ostensibly the “birthplace” of the women’s suffrage movement, where the 1848 Convention offers the most identifiable launch-pad for the (ongoing) struggle. The actual exhibit, created during Ronald Reagan’s term, is disappointing, but you can visit Wesleyan Chapel where the convention took place.
The women organized the convention and prepared a document laying out their grievances, the “Declaration of Sentiments,” which was modeled after the Declaration of Independence and mimicked its language in describing the tyranny under which women were forced to live. The document outlined 11 resolutions to “declare our right to be free as man is free…” At the close of the convention, all the resolutions passed with the exception of the ninth resolution, guaranteeing a woman’s right to vote.
Out of the 300 people who attended (the chapel had a balcony then; men were allowed to attend the second day), only 100 signed the Declaration of Sentiments, and of these, 68 were women and 32 were men). (Forty percent of those who attended were Quakers, who already accommodated more equal roles for women.)
The history of the Wesleyan Chapel can be a metaphor for the ambivalence of American society to women’s rights: From 1843-1871 it was chapel, then an opera house/performing arts hall; then a roller skating rink, a movie theater (in 1910s), then a Ford dealership, and ironically enough, finished its days as a laundromat before facing a wrecking ball. “Women fought to save the building,” the Ranger says. It was only in 1982, during the Reagan Administration, that it was turned into a national park.
At this writing, with the COVID-19 restrictions, the Visitor Center is only open Tuesday and Thursday (10-4), historic homes are closed, but Ranger Programs have resumed outdoors and the grounds are open daily. Check the site for updates.
In contrast, The National Women’s Hall of Fame, now in its new location in the rehabilitated 1844 Seneca Knitting Mill building, remains the more meaningful and inspiring exhibit, putting faces on the long, long diverse parade of women, in the place “where it happened.” Indeed, women factory workers, fired for demanding equal pay, provided the seed for the convention (which initially did not seek women’s vote, but rather equal rights to pay, property and custody of children).
The Hall, housed up until last fall in a former bank building, only opened in the new location this spring, but immediately forced to shut down due to the coronavirus.
It has reopened, with timed reservations. Among the new features: a new Hall of Fame display listing Inductees and their areas of accomplishment; a section called “Why Here?” highlighting why all of this history happened in Seneca Falls and the story of the Seneca Knitting Mill and the women who worked there.
“We invite visitors to delve into the history of what happens when women innovate or lead with an interactive exhibit that challenges widely-held assumptions. Visitors can ‘weave’ themselves into the story in a participatory exhibit, and we ask visitors for their own stories of women who have inspired them. The exhibits encourage visitors to engage in creating our future and to understand the possibility of a world where women are equal partners in leadership.” (See the Women of the Hall, the inductees into the Hall of Fame: https://www.womenofthehall.org/women-of-the-hall/)
Visit the home of Matilda Joslyn Gage, who was important to developing the arguments for women’s rights, but has too often been overlooked because she did not attend the Seneca Falls convention in 1848. Gage was a noted speaker and writer on woman’s suffrage and an abolitionist. She and her husband used their home as a station for the Underground Railroad to help escaped slaves. She worked closely with prominent women’s rights leaders Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, often holding meetings in her home. Her lifelong motto and gravestone inscription reads “There is a word sweeter than Mother, Home or Heaven; that word is Liberty.”
Less well known about Matilda Gage is that many of her ideas for women’s rights came from the Iroquois Indians, who had a maternal society where women could be chiefs, own property and have custody of their children. Also, she was the mother-in-law of L. Frank Baum, author of “The Wizard of Oz.” The Gage Center is also an educational resource for discussion and dialogue about the human rights issues to which she dedicated her life. (210 E. Genesee Street, Fayetteville, matildajoslyngage.org
Closer to home, you can join the long women’s march to voting rights at The New-York Historical Society when it reopens its indoor exhibits on Friday, September 11, to see the temporary exhibition Women March. (See www.nyhistory.org/exhibitions/women-march). Check the site for opening hours; timed Tickets are required. More details: www.nyhistory.org/safety. (New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024, 212-873-3400, www.nyhistory.org).
What makes Long Island’s American Airpower Museum, located at historic Republic Airport in Farmingdale, so different from other aviation museums is that this is so much more than a static display of vintage aircraft. This is living history: just about every day you visit, you can see these historic aircraft fly – you can even purchase a seat.
Long Island’s only flying military aviation museum, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, reopened after its COVID-19 hiatus, with new health protocols and precautions.
Its impressive collection was started by Jeffrey Clyman, president of the museum and the foundation.
His first acquisition was the P10-17 WWII training biplane which used to fly in air shows. His second was the Avenger. The third, the AT-6 “Texan” came from the Spanish air force where it was used for desert warfare in the Sahara
Among them, the Grumman TBM Avenger, the same plane model flown by President George H.W. Bush in WWII in which he was shot down (the other two crew members did not survive); you can see where Bush autographed this plane. Known as the “ship killer,” so many Japanese ships were destroyed by the torpedoes it carried, that upon seeing it coming, crew would jump off, the museum’s publicist, Bob Salant, tells me during my visit on reopening day.
You can actually buy a seat for a flight in the WACO UPF-7 biplane (the initials stand for Weaver Aircraft Company of Ohio) and a North American AT-6 Texan, which give you the unparalleled experience of flying with an open cockpit. You can also buy a seat in a D-Day reenactment flying aboard the WWII Veteran Douglas C-47 Gooney Bird, which carried parachutists – you wear an appropriate uniform, there is the radio speech of President Eisenhower sending the troops into this fateful battle, and while you don’t actually parachute, at the end, you are given a card that says whether you lived or died.
That’s what “Living history” means to the American Airpower Museum.
Indeed, just about all the aircraft you see in the hangar and on the field (a few are on loan), are working aircraft and have to be flown to be maintained, so any time you visit, you are likely to see planes flying.
Among the planes that played an important role in history is the “Mis-Hap” – a North American B25 Mitchell bomber that few in the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo. It was General Hap Arnold’s personal plane (subsequent owners included Howard Hughes).
Another is the Macon Belle, on view in a fascinating exhibit that pays homage to the Tuskegee Airmen, one of whom, William Johnson is a Glen Cove resident. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first black military aviators in the U.S. Army Air Corps during WWII. They flew more than 15,000 individual sorties in Europe and North Africa, earning more than 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses.
2020 was anticipated to be a banner year for AAM. Museum aircraft were scheduled to participate in historic events marking the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII and honoring U.S. Veterans who made the Allied victory possible. As they have done for the last 17 years, AAM’s WWII airplanes were going to appear in the Annual Jones Beach Airshow. And it must be noted that on May 24th 2020, the American Airpower Museum celebrated its 20th anniversary in isolation.
Instead, the museum had to shut down along with every other museum and attraction in the state because of the coronavirus. It has reopened with health protocols that include filling out a questionnaire and having a temperature check at the entrance; requiring masks and social distancing throughout the museum.
Certain interactive exhibits have been closed, but you can still climb stairs to see inside cockpits, and walk through the Douglas C-47B. Built in 1935 and in service since 1936, the DC3 started as one of the first commercial civilian airliners. It was best known for being used in the Berlin Airlift, dropping food, clothing and medical supplies to Berliners suffering under the Soviet occupation. This C47 was one of the few flyable C47s with a paratrooper configuration, and dropped troops for the D-Day invasion. The plane is dubbed “Second Chance” possibly because after World War II, it was sold to the State of Israel and saw more than 30 years in the Israeli military (very possibly flew in the 1967 war). Today, the C-47B is used in D-Day reenactments.
There are several excellent exhibits, including one showcasing the WASPs – the Women Airforce Service Pilots who were used to fly planes to their missions. Another focuses on women war correspondents, among them, Martha Gellhorn, considered one of the great war correspondents of the 20th century, reporting on virtually every major world conflict over her 60-year career (she was also the third wife of novelist Ernest Hemingway).
There are also several fighter jets on loan from the USAF Museum, including a Republic F-84 Thunderjet; Republic RT-84 Thunderstreak, Republic RF-084 Thunderflash, Republic F105 Thunderchief, and General Dynamics F-111.
Clyman, who started his museum in New Jersey, moved it to Farmingdale, Long Island, the “cradle of aviation,” where many of these planes were built, and where the people who built them, maintained them and flew them, still lived. Many of the docents as well as the pilots are former Republic workers and veterans.
“My dad was a combat pilot in WWII. So was my uncle. My mom was a nurse,” Clyman tells me. “But just as the 1920s followed WWI, and the 1950s after WWII, they didn’t talk about their experiences in war until they were about to die.” His mission is to not only legacy of the planes, but honor the people.
“Some 65 years ago, the current home of the American Airpower Museum at Republic Airport was a crucial part of the ‘Arsenal of Democracy’. Home to Republic Aviation, the complex produced over 9,000 P-47 Thunderbolts in Farmingdale,” the museum’s website explains.
“Today, no American aviation museum with a squadron of operational World War II aircrafts has a more appropriate setting for its flight operations. Taxing to the very runways and hangars that dispatched Thunderbolts to war, vintage aircrafts recreate those turbulent years and allow the public to watch these planes in their natural environment – the air.”
The hangar where the museum is located is now part of a historic preservation district, as a result of the effort of Senator Charles Schumer and then-Congressman Steve Israel.
There are uniforms, equipment, even two Nikon cameras adapted for use by astronauts that flew in the Space Shuttle.
Clyman said it has always been AAM’s mission to honor the legacy of those who gave all to preserve our freedoms. “We’re pleased to announce we recently resumed maintenance and inspection of our aircraft so that much anticipated flight operations can begin with our grand reopening event. We also promise a flying salute to our Veterans and front line workers very soon,” he said.
At the reopening on August 1, visitors were treated to aircraft displays and flight operations of WWII AT-6s, WACO UPF-7, and TBM Avenger.
The museum is open to only 55 visitors at one time. There will be a case by case increase should the flight line be open, to increase the number of visitors at one time. Face masks must be worn at all times by anyone who will work, and visit the museum (masks are for sale in the gift shop for anyone who does not have one). Visitors have their temperature taken as they enter, and are encouraged to wash hands, or use hand sanitizer (hand sanitizer is available in the gift shop, and by the restrooms). Social distancing will be observed and the floors have been marked to denote 6 feet spacing. Restrooms and canteen areas are regularly cleaned.
The C-45 cockpits are not currently open, but the Flight Simulator may be available for use on a case by case basis, and cleaned after each use. Docents will also guide visitors accessing certain aircraft and limit the number of visitors at one time.
One of the docents is Steven Delgado who came to New York from Puerto Rico at the age of 15, was drafted to go to Vietnam in 17 and served in a parachutists unit. “I learned English in the army). When he returned, he earned his CPA from NYU and became a volunteer fire fighter.
The museum, a 501 (C3) Nonprofit Educational Foundation, is open year-round, rain or shine.
Admission for adults is $13, seniors and veterans $10 and children $8.
By Karen Rubin Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
If you want to see how America came to be, travel along the Erie Canal. A marvel of engineering when it was opened in 1825, the canal, which spans 353-miles from Albany to Buffalo, creating a water highway for commerce from the Midwest through New York City to the rest of the world, remains a dazzling achievement. But it was also the artery and an engine for invention, innovation, economic development, and ultimately social and political movements. Bike along the Erie Canalway (now virtually uninterrupted and part of the 750-mile Empire State Trail; there are several bike tour companies that offer inn-to-inn bike trips), but to really get the sense of it, float along the canal, tying up at the small towns and major cities that the canal birthed, and see unfold before you all the major social and economic movements that made America: immigration, labor, abolition and civil rights, women’s rights.
A few years ago, I had that opportunity, and in this time when people are shunning cruising because of the coronavirus pandemic but embracing RVs, renting your own self-skippered, specially-designed Lockmaster canal boat offers the best of those worlds. Founded decades ago as Mid-Lakes Navigation by Peter Wiles who designed the Lockmaster canalboats and was a significant force in repurposing the Erie Canal from commercial to recreational use, the company, Erie Canal Adventures, is now in the hands of Brian Kennan, and . And even though you are still in New York State, the sights and experiences are as interesting and exciting as sailing the canals of Europe.
The company has made accommodations for COVID-19 – sanitizing the compartments so that there is a tape over them until the passengers arrive; instead of cooking utensils and “hard goods” being kept on the boat, they are taken off after each trip, sanitized and provided to guests in a sanitized tote when they arrive.
The orientation is still done on the water – the guide wears mask and gloves – to take you through one of the canal locks (thrilling), but the orientation that would have been done in the cabin is now offered by video.
Bikes are still provided but they are taken off the boat after each cruise, sanitized and replaced for each trip.
This part of New York State is already in Phase 4 – meaning that there is indoor and outdoor dining (with social distancing), many of the museums and attractions have reopened like the George Eastman Museum and the Strong Museum (with limits on capacity). In the various canal towns, you won’t have any trouble finding groceries or restaurants. And New York State has been successful containing the spread of illness and turning from the worst infection rate to the lowest in the country, because New Yorkers have scrupulously adhered to using masks and social distancing. (Now, to prevent any reemergence, the state is imposing a 14-day quarantine on visitors from states where COVID-19 rates are surging.)
I am at the helm of a 41-foot canal boat, a boat so enchanting and lovely, it turns heads and evokes waves, smiles, and snapped photos as it chugs pleasantly along at a top speed of 6 mph.
From this vantage point, I can appreciate this marvel of engineering, of grit and ingenuity the Erie Canal was, the vital role it played in the United States’ emergence as an Industrial giant in the 19th century and a dominant economic power in the 20th century.
There is no place in the United States like the Erie Canal, and no experience like having your own self-skippered canal boat – our floating home for the week – and a bicycle with which to explore the towns that were literally birthed by the canal. And to a New York City kid, seeing this bucolic countryside is a revelation. (“This is New Yawk!”)
It is extraordinary and thrilling to travel on the 363-mile long Erie Canal that slices through New York State and played such a vital part in the nation’s history, especially as we go through locks that are filled for us, and under bridges that must be lifted for us to pass.
Most of all, it lets us explore and appreciate the extraordinary innovation and ingenuity that developed because of the Erie Canal, the villages and towns, the factories and businesses that developed, and how the canal turned New York City into a global financial capital, and united the East with the West, how it funneled thousands of immigrants who populated the Midwest.
This is a true adventure. One where there are new discoveries, new insights, new perspectives formed with every new encounter. The Erie Canal birthed these places and now we see how they are being reborn, revitalized.
Setting off on our first morning, I have rarely felt that exhilarating sense of being so fancy free – to not have a set itinerary or schedule or even know where I am going or what I will see, but to have the power and ability just go where your curiosity leads. It is a marvelous.
We had trepidation about navigating the boat – a 41-foot long houseboat, like a floating RV – docking and most intriguingly going through the locks along the canal. But when we arrive, we get a two-hour orientation – every aspect about operating the boat, plugging in to electricity and water; how to turn on the engine, the stove, the shower, flush the toilet; how to recharge the batteries by running the engine in neutral; how to operate the radio and the correct protocol when contacting bridge and lock operators to “request passage”.
We are taken on a “shake-down” cruise that includes going back and forth through a lock. We are provided with a chart book and a handy sheet that lets you approximate how many hours between ports (important to keep track of the hours the lift operator is available).
Key advice: “Don’t approach anything faster than you would care to hit it.” The steel-hulled boat is powered by a 50 horsepower diesel engine; its top speed is 6 mph, and it weighs 11 tons “so you can’t get into trouble,” we are told.
The canal boat is outfitted with just about everything you might need – from ponchos to potholders to paper towels. There is even a grill and BBQ tools and canisters of propane. There are safety devices, a tool kit, even a sewing kit.
Our boat, the Canadice, is 41 feet long and can sleep 4 people (one double bed and two bunk beds in the galley; a well designed galley kitchen with small refrigerator and freezer; a shower; a table and sitting area in the bow), suitable for a family; the largest Lockmaster can accommodate 6 adults.
Within moments, the thrill of what this is all about floods over me: This is a real adventure, where have to do everything yourself, not have it done for you, make decisions.
As we sail along, I reflect on how lovely this boat is: the gorgeous knotty pine wood detailing; the varnished wood seats and a railing that makes for a back rest as you hold the tiller, brass and varnished wood. The cabin is beautiful knotty pine. It has a canvas canopy over the helm and even on a hot day, the breezes as we travel are delightful. The bow has screens with plastic and canvas that zip and snap easily so we can close everything up in the event of rain and a table that can even be moved inside.
The design for the Lockmaster came from Peter Wiles, Sr., who was a key architect of the transition of the Erie Canal from commercial to recreational use. He had a small tour boat business on Skaneateles Lake and went to England to see the self-skippered canal boats that operated on the Thames, and brought back the concept for boats that he would design and build here.
Wiles took the charm and the traditional design but adapted the boat to the Erie Canal, with a wider (roomier) beam, mostly flat bottomed and do not have a keel (the Erie Canal is only about 12-feet deep and is actually filled and drained each season). He founded the MidLakes Navigation company which, when we visit, is run by his children, Sarah and Peter Wiles (the company has since been acquired and renamed Erie Canal Adventures).
We soon get the hang of piloting the boat, and after a couple of hours sailing, we come to Fairport, a most charming town, with shops and restaurants right along the canal. It is a picture-perfect model of revitalization.
Fairport did not exist before construction of the Erie Canal dried up a swamp and produced a “fair port” for travelers. “Commerce thrived as entrepreneurs turned ideas into products,” says one of the best guides to this portion of the canal, “100 Must See Miles”
One of these entrepreneurs was Henry Deland who had the idea to produce baking soda from wood ash. The building right on the canal and next to the bridge where there is now a delightful Towpath Cafe was where Deland manufactured his baking soda which was transported by canal to international markets.
Just up Main Street, on the south side of the canal, I find the Deland Mansion, built in 1876. After Deland made his fortune in Fairport, he bought land and founded Deland, Florida in 1876, which he thought to build into a citrus, agricultural and tourism center. He sold his northern business and hired people to clear land, lay out streets, erect buildings and recruit settlers, most from upstate New York; he lost his fortune in an orange freeze in 1885.
The mansion is magnificent: Second Empire style with tower, porches, fireplaces, it was one of the grandest private residences in western New York. After several private owners, including the Clark Family, the Deland Mansion opened as the Green Lantern Inn sometime after 1928, and served as a restaurant, speakeasy, rooming house, banquet hall.
The mansion is across from the First Baptist Church, which was built at same time as Deland built his mansion.
Each of the canal towns we visit has done a superb job of using historical markers and photos to illustrate the “then and now.” As we follow them, it is like a story that unfolds.
At Fairport, there is a marker that shows how Old South Main Street “yields to urban renewal: Commercial block changes from necessities to niceties.”
The beauty of the canal boat is that you can organize the day around what you want to do – whether it is to just hang out in a town – perhaps visit a museum. Our main purpose is to position us to bike the towpath. And so we tie up the Canadice at Fairport, take down our bikes from the roof, and head out about 7 miles to the next major town, Pittsford, along the canal bikeway. It is one of the prettier rides, with lovely homes on the canal.
Just before Pittsford, we cross over a mile-long section called “The Great Embankment.” This is the highest canal embankment, actually built over the Irondequoit Creek which rushes through a tunnel under the canal.
In the earliest days of the Erie Canal, the embankment thrilled both onlookers and passengers as boats seemed to travel in midair over the mile-wide valley created by the Irondequoit Creek. The canal has been rebuilt three times since it originally opened in 1823. The original canal was a mere four-feet deep and 40-feet wide; three times it was enlarged, made deeper (first 7 feet deep and 70-feet wide, then 12-feet deep and 120-feet wide), and in many cases, moved entirely to make a better route as boats became motorized.
This is our first introduction to the engineering of the Erie Canal. I really hadn’t even thought of the canal as having a false bottom, that the canal is actually drained (around November 1), and refilled (around May 1) each season.
The Great Embankment is a revelation, but we will find even more dramatic examples of engineering, as we explore by bike and boat.
We return to Fairport, and prepare to get underway again – actually boating back to Pittsford.
It’s just passed 6 pm when we leave Fairport.
But to leave Fairport, you have to go under a lift bridge, and Fairport’s is very distinctive: it is constructed with no right angles.
There are 16 lift bridges on the Erie Canal, all of them in the west, and the eastern-most one is here at Fairport. The bridges are delights to look at – they have ornate towers and it is wonderful to watch how they work.
We have been instructed on the etiquette of using the radio to ask the lock tender to lift a bridge or open a lock. Some are covered by operators handling multiple bridges, so you might be told to standby and wait for the operator to get back to the bridge. (take note of the hours of operation – westward from Macedon toward Buffalo, the locks are open 7 am to 10 pm; eastward to Lake Oneida in Syracuse (the boats do not go all the way to Albany), the lifts operate 7 am to 7 pm).
We tie up for the night at Port of Pittsford Park, right below the Main Street Bridge (there is no charge but some of the ports along the canal charge up to $15 to overnight).
We stroll the charming streets (and there are some gorgeous residential streets as well), and see what an affluent community Pittsford is. Old money and new money poured in over the last 15 years to revitalize the downtown area.
Pittsford was settled in 1789 by Revolutionary War veterans, but it was the Erie Canal that first brought prosperity to the town, because it facilitated transport to market of tons of heavy gravel from the nearby hills.
We see stunning Victorian-era buildings – the Phoenix Hotel, built in 1812 in the Federalist style, 1812 to serve the Erie Canal and Turnpike trade, restored 1967 as an office building across from the Town Hall, dated 1890. There is also the Canal Lamp Inn, a stunning Victorian, right beside the canal bridge. (Self-guided walk through Pittsford, villageofpittsford.org).
Just minutes after we finish our picnic dinner of pizza and get inside our boat and close the hatches, it starts to pour. We are cozy inside. We hear the patter of rain as we watch a DVD on our computer.
The star attraction – and the major character – in this travel epic is the Erie Canal, itself. The historic markers we come upon are like chapters in the story, and as our trip unfolds, our appreciation of what the canal was, what it represented, and the impact it had, grows.
All 11 Lockmasters in Erie Canal Adventures’ fleet sail from Macedon, near Rochester, NY, and with enough time, you can cruise some 200 miles from Buffalo to Lake Oneida in Syracuse along the canal. Besides sailing along the Erie Canal (as far as , you can also sail on other waterways, taking spurs south to the Finger Lakes, or north up the Oswego canal to Lake Ontario.
Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
2017 Women’s March may have been the largest single protest in history, but
women have been marching literally and virtually for 200 years. And for 200
years, the march, the campaign for women’s rights has been shorthand for
voting, education, health care, equal pay, workers rights, civil rights,
environmental justice, gun safety. Yes, there was that period when temperance
was a priority, as well. But it has only been in the 1970s, that Feminism – the
fight for women’s equality – took hold, and with it, the fight for the
essential right: reproductive freedom.
new exhibit at the New-York Historical Society simply
called “Women March” (part of The Women’s Suffrage NYC Centennial
Consortium, www.WomensSuffrageNYC.org) traces
this long arc which has not always moved toward justice or equality. Indeed,
progress, on just about every front, has been in brief spurts of enlightenment.
In reality, that long arc is more zig-zags and a maze with brick walls to block
the beginning, women directed their activism to abolition of slavery, labor
rights, working conditions and pay equity, civil rights, health, education,
property rights, custody, rights for Native Americans – issues regarded as “moral imperative.”
“Women seized on the notion that women had a moral power, beyond home, a moral imperative to effect public policy,” said Jeanne Gardner Gutierrez, curatorial scholar in women’s history at the New-York Historical Society.
Without the right to vote, they took
advantage of the Constitution’s right to petition Congress – until Congress
said they would ignore any anti-slavery petition.
“It was infuriating. The one right
available to women, guaranteed by Constitution, swept away. They realized that
moral suasion has limits.”
rights was not at the core of the women’s activism, which was hardly a movement
then. Even at the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, the women leaders – mainly
Quaker women who already had a measure of equality within their religious
society – had to be persuaded (by
Frederick Douglass) to include the right to vote among their demands, enunciated in the Declaration of Sentiments, that
mimicked the Declaration of Independence. Their demands centered on equal pay
and rights to own property and have control of one’s own earnings, a growing
issue for women who were being employed in factories and for the first time
earning their own wage. Many women did not sign on. It may surprise many to
learn (as I did when visiting the Roosevelt historic site at Hyde Park) that
Eleanor Roosevelt was not an early supporter of suffrage.
the Civil War – as in the Revolutionary War and later World War II – women took
on roles that had been reserved for men: they managed their farms and
businesses while husbands and fathers were off fighting, they were nurses, and
organized fundraisers showing they could manage large financial projects (Sanitary Fair raised $1 million for union, the treasurer was
After the Civil War, there was a
great debate over whether women should seek the vote, whether under the 15th
amendment which said that men could not be denied the right
to vote simply based on their race,
voting should be a right of citizenship. Women were considered citizens, but
the Supreme Court found that citizenship did not automatically bestow voting
But a section of the exhibit labeled “Go West Young Woman” notes that in the Western territories, women did have right to vote (and apparently, women had the right to vote briefly in New Jersey, from 1776 to 1807 when the vote was restricted to white men. (See:On the Trail of America’s First Women to Vote)
those who think that Hillary Rodham Clinton was the first woman to run for
president (she was the first to run as a major party candidate) might be
surprised to learn that even before women won the right to vote, Victoria
Woodhull was the first woman to run for president as the Equal Rights Party
candidate in 1871. “Despite questions about eligibility to vote, women, she
reasoned, still could run for political office,” the notes read. Lawyer Belva
Lockwood, the first woman to argue before the Supreme Court, followed in 1884
and 1888 on the National Equal Rights Party
ticket and was the first woman to appear on
official ballots, endorsing equal rights, temperance, civil service
reform and citizenship for Native Americans; she won some 4,000 votes.
at a certain turning point, the women’s movement realized that moral suasion
wasn’t going to effect real change; the key to getting any of the changes and
rights they wanted was the right to vote.
used the latest techniques and technology to build support. Film was new in
1915, and a newsreel agency, Universal Animated Weekly, captured a 1915 strike
for workers rights (we get to see the film on a screen almost life-sized). The
films were distributed and shown in nickelodeons (small movie houses), and were an inexpensive
way to reach working-class people.
only in the 1960s-1970s, it seems, that women’s rights became equated with
reproductive rights, or more precisely, abortion, and coming almost
simultaneously with The Pill and sexual freedom that broke down gender
barriers. The threat to male domination became much starker – uprooting the
concept of women in the home, being consumers of appliances and cosmetics,
caring for children while men held the economic reins. Women could be fired for
becoming pregnant, could be paid a fraction of the same wage, and relegated
into specific jobs. Check out the classified job listing in the 1970s, and you
will see “male” and “female” listings.
really only comes to play in the 1980s, when the right to control one’s own
body, make one’s own choices, have the same right as men to self-determination,
takes hold. The outrage at women as
property, chattel, of objectification comes into focus.
you see a display with the first issue of Ms. Magazine, an organizing force
which reinforced women’s yearning for equal status.
in the earliest stages of activism, women’s issues were those that were
considered the “moral imperative” – abolition, workers rights – now it boiled
down to self, individual rights, but exploded back up again: women’s rights are
for others, feminism boiled down to one word: abortion.
Magazine publishes an amazing call to sign on to “a campaign for honesty and
freedom” along with a long list of 53 famous women who declared, “We have had
abortions” On the list: Gloria Steinem, Nora Ephron, Judy Collins, Susan
Sontag, Lillian Hellman, Lee Grant, Gael Greene, Billie Jean King.
exhibit follows to the 2017 Women’s March, with some of the posters.
just to emphasize the importance of Women’s Suffrage, just outside the exit
door is a computer where you can check on your voter registration.
For as long as there has been a
United States, women have organized to shape the nation’s politics and secure
their rights as citizens. Their collective action has taken many forms, from
abolitionist petitions to industry-wide garment strikes to massive marches for
an Equal Rights Amendment. Women March celebrates the
centennial of the 19th Amendment—which granted women the right to vote in
1920—as it explores the efforts of a diverse array of women to expand American
democracy in the centuries before and after the suffrage victory.
On view in the Joyce B. Cowin
Women’s History Gallery, Women March is curated by Valerie
Paley, the director of the Center for Women’s History and New-York Historical
senior vice president and chief historian, with the Center for Women’s History
curatorial team. The immersive exhibition features imagery and video footage of
women’s collective action over time, drawing visitors into a visceral
engagement with the struggles that have endured into the 21st century.
The exhibition begins with the many
ways women asserted political influence long before they even demanded the
vote. Objects and images demonstrate how they risked criticism for speaking
against slavery, signed petitions against Indian Removal, raised millions to
support the Civil War, and protested reduced wages and longer days. A riveting
recreation of an 1866 speech by African American suffragist and activist
Frances Harper demonstrates the powerful debates at women’s rights conventions.
Absence of the vote hardly prevented women from running for political office:
one engaging item on display is a campaign ribbon for Belva Lockwood, the first
woman to argue before the Supreme Court, who won around 4,000 votes in her own
Multiple perspectives on the vote,
including African American and working-class activism, are explored, upending
popular assumptions that suffragists were a homogenous group. The 19th
Amendment is hailed as a crucial step forward, but recognized as an incomplete
victory. One photograph shows an African American women’s voter group in
Georgia circa 1920, formed despite wide disenfranchisement, and another shows
women of the League of Women Voters who sought to make suffragists’ goals real
with legislation that addressed issues such as public health and child welfare.
A digital interactive monitor invites visitors to explore the nuances of voting
laws concerning women across the entire United States.
Offering an examination of women’s
activism in the century after the Amendment, the exhibition concludes by
showing how women engaged with issues such as safe workplaces, civil rights,
reproductive justice, and freedom from violence. Photographs and video footage
of women building warships, boycotting segregation, urging voters to register,
and marching for the Equal Rights Amendment convey the urgency of their desire
for full citizenship. The dynamism of women’s collective action continues to
the present day with handmade signs from the 2017 Women’s Marches and footage
of a variety of marches and speeches on topics ranging from reproductive
justice to indigenous peoples’ rights to climate change. Visitors can also
learn about many individuals who have been instrumental in women’s activism
over the past 200 years in an interactive display compiled by New-York
Historical’s Teen Leaders program. Meanwhile, young visitors can explore the
exhibition with a special family guide.
on view through August 30, 2020, is one of four major special exhibitions
mounted by the New-York Historical Society that
address the cornerstones of citizenship and American democracy.
the Presidentswhich opened on President’s Weekend, is where you can
discover how the role of the president has evolved since George Washington with
a re-creation of the White House Oval Office, decorated “thread by thread”
exactly as it was during Ronald Reagan’s tenure, and a new gallery devoted to
the powers of the presidency.
Colonists, Citizens, Constitutions: Creating the American
Republic explores the important roles
state constitutions have played in the history of our country.
The People Count: The Census in the Making of Americadocuments
the critical role played by the U.S. Census in the 19th century—just in time
for the 2020 Census.
To encourage first-time voters to
learn about our nation’s history and civic as they get ready to vote in the
presidential election, New-York Historical Society offers free admission to the
exhibitions above to college students with ID through 2020, an initiative
supported, in part, by History®. This special program allows college students to
access New-York Historical’s roster of upcoming exhibitions that explore the
pillars of American democracy as they prepare to vote, most of them for the
“The year 2020 is a momentous time
for both the past and future of American politics, as the centennial of the
19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote, coincides with both a
presidential election and a census year,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and
CEO of New-York Historical. “This suite of complementary exhibitions showcases
the ideas and infrastructure behind our American institutions that establish
and protect our fundamental rights to make our voices heard and opinions count.
We hope that all visitors will come away with a wider understanding of the
important role each citizen plays in our democracy.”
New-York Historical Society is located at 170 Central Park West at Richard
Gilder Way (77th Street), New York, NY 10024, 212-873-3400, nyhistory.org.
The Women’s Suffrage NYC Centennial
One hundred years ago, women earned
the right to vote with the ratification of the 19th amendment. To honor their
fight and commemorate this moment in history, a collective of New York City
cultural organizations has formed the Women’s Suffrage NYC Centennial
The Women’s Suffrage NYC Centennial
Consortium is a collaboration of cultural
organizations citywide that foregrounds exhibitions and programs that,
together, offer a multi-dimensional picture of the history of women’s suffrage
and its lasting, ongoing impact. The consortium has launched www.WomensSuffrageNYC.org to highlight the activities being presented across New
York City throughout 2020.
Founding members are the New-York
Historical Society, the Staten Island Museum, the New York Philharmonic, The
New York Public Library, Brooklyn Historical Society, the Museum of the City of
New York, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Brooklyn
Museum, Park Avenue Armory, and Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical
Announced programming includes the
exhibition Women March at the New-York Historical
Society, which explores the efforts of a
wide range of women to expand American democracy in the centuries before and
after the suffrage victory (February 28 – August 30); Women
of the Nation Arise! Staten Islanders in the Fight for Women’s Right to Vote at
the Staten Island Museum, which presents the remarkable stories of local
suffragists acting on the grassroots level to create the momentum necessary for
regional and national change and the bold tactics they employed to win the vote
(March 7 – December 30); the New York Philharmonic’s Project 19—a
multi-season initiative to commission and premiere 19 new works by 19 women
composers, the largest women-only commissioning initiative in history, which
launched earlier this month and continues in the spring (May – June) and
beyond; and 100 Years | 100 Women a partnership of Park
Avenue Armory with National Black Theatre and nine other cultural institutions in
New York City to commission work exploring the complex legacy of the 19th
Amendment 100 years after its ratification from 100 artists who identify as
women or gender non-binary (showcase of commissions on May 16).
The consortium is committed to
showcasing women’s contributions to the past, present, and future. Though many
women were given access to the right to vote 100 years ago, the fight for
equality continues. Their goal is to expand the conversation through meaningful
cultural experiences that convey that all women should be seen, heard, and
The Women’s Suffrage NYC Centennial
Consortium is co-chaired by Janice Monger, president & CEO of the Staten
Island Museum, and Valerie Paley, director of the Center for Women’s History
and senior vice president and chief historian at the New-York Historical
Society, to bring together a group of vital New York City cultural
organizations with a shared vision to honor the Women’s Suffrage Centennial.
“We are so proud to bring together
this collective of organizations and colleagues who share the vision that
women’s stories are important and need to be told. All of these activities
represent multi-faceted, nuanced cultural and historical insights into the
early 20th century movement and equality in progress today,” said Janice
Monger, consortium co-chair and Staten Island Museum president & CEO.
“In an effort that was many decades
in the making, a century ago, women came together to fight for and win the
right to vote. While that right was not fully and immediately extended to all
women, their continued collective action galvanized movements to expand and
give substantive meaning to American democracy after the suffrage victory,”
said Valerie Paley, consortium co-chair and senior vice president and chief
historian at the New-York Historical Society, where she directs the Center for
Women’s History. “Through these cultural experiences across New York City, we
hope New Yorkers and visitors alike will be inspired by the women who made
history and the women who are making history now,” she added.
The Women’s Suffrage NYC Centennial
Consortium will continue to grow as new programs and exhibitions are announced
during the year.
the National Trust for Historic
is compiling a catalog of 1000 sites associated with women of accomplishment and
is more than halfway to the goal of
identifying places Where Women Made History
and is inviting people to submit entries (go to the site to submit a photo and
year the United States commemorates the 100th anniversary of women gaining the
right to vote, providing an important opportunity to celebrate the place of
women in American history. While history, of course, is complicated, and voting
rights for many women continued to be denied because of discriminatory
practices, we at the National Trust want to tell the full history—to uncover
and uplift women across the centuries whose vision, passion, and determination
have shaped the country we are today. Our goal: discover 1,000 places connected
to women’s history, and elevate their stories for everyone to learn and
to do this, we need your help. What places have you encountered where women
made history? They can be famous or unknown, protected or threatened, existing
or lost. No matter their condition or status, these places matter, and we
encourage you to share them with the world.
a place you’d like to share? Submit a photo and a short description.”
checking the listings in New York State, I see already listed is Grange Hall, Waterloo,
NY, associated with Belva Ann Lockwood; Harriet Tubman House and Gravesite,
Auburn, NY; the former Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, New York City, “Little
Nellie,” Newspaper Editress, Penfield, NY; Alice Austen House, Staten Island;
and Matilda Joslyn Gage Center for Social Justice Dialogue, Fayetteville, NY.
Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
Deadwood, South Dakota – the endpoint of the 109-mile Mickelson Trail on the Wilderness
Voyageurs’ six-day “Badlands and Mickelson Trail” bike tour – is a shrine to
the Old Wild West, Rapid City is what the American West is today.
The Wilderness-Voyageurs Badlands trip (800-272-4141, Wilderness-Voyageurs.com) starts in Rapid City where I cleverly organize my trip to arrive the day before, staying at the famous, historic Alex Johnson Hotel (famous on its own, but made eternally famous for the part it played in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film, “North by Northwest” – an autographed caricature of Hitchcock is behind the front desk).
Indeed, the Alex Johnson Hotel is a major attraction in itself (it’s red and white sign atop the building is iconic symbol of the city) – the hotel, still the third tallest in South Dakota, even provides a walking tour of many artifacts and architectural features that in their own way tell the story of Rapid City.
The Alex Johnson Hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and a member of Historic Hotels of America, which means that successive owners have recognized their responsibility as stewards of these place-making hotels that harbor the story of their respective destination. To be accepted into the prestigious HHA program, which has nearly 300 members, a hotel has to faithfully maintain authenticity, sense of place and architectural integrity, be at least 50 years old; designated by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior as a National Historic Landmark or listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places; and recognized as having historic significance. (More information at HistoricHotels.org)
The Alex Johnson Hotel is all of these things and more. The hotel
was built by Alex Carlton Johnson (1861-1938), who was vice president of the
Chicago and Northwestern Railroad. Johnson was unusual for his time in that he
respected and admired the Native Americans who lived in the area and developed
his hotel as a tribute to the Sioux Indian Nation and honor its heritage. The
structural design of the hotel integrates the heritage of the Plains Indians
and the Germanic Tudor architecture representing German immigration into the
Construction began in 1927, coincidentally, just the day before work began on nearby Mount Rushmore. The hotel opened less than a year later, on July 1, 1928.
follow the walking tour:
the entrance of the hotel are sculpted Indian heads, taken from the design of
Indian-head nickels and pennies.
The entrance has an “AJ” tepee symbol embedded in the entry walkway. The lobby itself is designed in Native American tradition with “Sacred Four Directions” integrated in the lobby tiles. The Lakota Sioux people believed their four sacred powers were derived from the four directions: north (white) a symbol for the “Cleansing Snow.”; east (red), the “Morning Star” which gives “Daybreak Knowledge”; south (yellow) is “Warm Winds” which replenishes the land; west (black) is “Thunder Being,” giving strength and power in times of trouble. Among the signs is a symbol that resembles a swastika, but was long used by Native Americans since prehistoric times.
Suspended with chains, the chandelier that dominates the center is actually formed of war lances. It is in the shape of a teepee and made of concentric, decreasing-sized copper-clad wooden rings. The rings are decorated in authentic Sioux patterns.
The exquisite ceiling incorporates stenciled Sioux designs between open beams. The brightly-colored patterns, originally painted with natural materials, are in the traditional “box and border” design. There are eight plaster-cast busts of Indian men that hold the beams.
The fireplace is formed of Black Hills stones. A huge rock in the keystone was selected for its resemblance to a buffalo head. The mantle is decorated with brands of local ranchers. Above the fireplace is a striking portrait of Alex Johnson in Sioux attire. Johnson was made an honorary blood brother of Chief Iron Horse in 1933, and named “Chief Red Star.” Another portrait of Johnson, in a more typical businessman pose, was commissioned by the 580 members of the Chicago Rotary Club in appreciation for his service as president (1924-25).
There are two bison heads mounted over the southwest entrance of the AJ’s Mercantile shop (American buffalo are apparently not buffalo at all, but one of two species of bison). I learn that “buffalo” was a corruption of “boeuf,” the name the French explorers used for the animal.
mezzanine and second floor are graced with carved wood railings and provide a
gorgeous vantage point to appreciate the Indian busts, ceiling painting and
The ballroom, which also served as a nightclub back in the day, has four murals painted by Max Rheiner, an artist from Chicago, that realistically depict four well known areas of the region: Harney Peak, the Needles (which we will soon visit on the bike tour), the Badlands (we will soon visit) and Spearfish Canyon.
Lincoln Room, the site of the original restaurant, has been restored to its
original elegance. The ceiling lights are original. The wallpaper custom,
hand-printed paper and the same design used in Abraham Lincoln’s home in
Springfield Illinois. An original 19th century Lincoln print is on
the wall. Meeting rooms are named after the four presidents on Mount Rushmore.
The hotel also offers Paddy O’Neill’s Irish Pub and Grill, named after the hotel’s first guest.
is a kind of museum of exhibits – you can see Johnson’s actual headdress and
that is not all. I learn that the Alex Johnson hotel is haunted – there is an
entire book of testimonials from guests who have had sightings, and recently.
Ross Goldman, the front-desk fellow who has been giving me an orientation to the hotel and to Rapid City, points me to an entire Haunting book filled with people’s letters and descriptions of encounters.
of the rooms that is supposedly haunted, 304, was Alex Johnson’s private room
where he stayed when he was in Rapid City, and where he died at the age of 90.
But years before, his young daughter died in that room. People, especially
children, say they have seen a child ghost
In the Haunting book, I find a drawing by a little girl who stayed in
room 304, who drew herself, her brother, and another girl with a dark, long dress
you can see through (the ghost), dated July 5 2019. Children say they see ball
rolling and that there is a knock on doors all at once.
haunted room, 812, was where 60 years ago, a bride on her wedding night jumped,
was pushed or fell out of window. Guests say that doors open, lights go on and
some say when they sleep, they feel something pressing on their chest.
macabre legends must have appealed to Alfred Hitchcock who used the Alex Johnson
Hotel in his iconic thriller, “North by Northwest” and stayed here through the
filming of the Mount Rushmore scenes– there is an autographed photo of
Hitchcock behind reception desk (the lobby seemed much larger in the movie).
(the only Goldman in South Dakota, he notes), tells me his father is from
Brooklyn, and came to Rapid City for his medical residency and stayed. What a
small world: Goldman’s cousins live on my block in Long Island, New York. (He
says there are just 300 Jews in the entire state; they hold their Passover
seder in the hotel’s ballroom).
after exploring Rapid City, I get to appreciate the Vertex Sky Bar on the
hotel’s tenth floor (the Alex Johnson hotel is the third tallest building in
South Dakota). Originally, there was a solarium here and an observation tower
that was later used by KOTA radio station. Today, it is an upscale rooftop bar exclusively
for members and hotel guests. It provides a wonderful view for the sunset
behind the hills.
Goldman gives me some great tips for our bike trip – especially in Deadwood City, where he tells me to be sure to visit the cemetery where Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane are buried, and where there is also a Jewish section.
he orients me to Rapid City: Memorial Park was created after a major flood in
1972 collapsed the dam, in which 238 people died (signs in the park tell the
story), leveling the poorest section of city. He tells me where to get the best
buffalo burger (Thirsty’s).
so I am off to discover Rapid City.
City makes the absolute most of whatever it has. The architecture except for a
small historic district is mostly nondescript, but there is sheer brilliance in
that 20 years ago, an artist began an ambitious program to have almost
life-sized sculptures of every president on every corner of the two downtown
boulevards, Main Street and St. Joseph’s Boulevard. This turned Rapid City into
“The City of Presidents.”
is fascinating and fun to go in search of them (they aren’t in chronological or
alphabetical order). Six artists produced the 43 sculptures, beginning in 2000:Obama’s
statue, depicting the Election night scene when he came out holding his
daughter’s hand, only went up a couple of months before; Lincoln is also
portrayed with his son, Tad; FDR is shown standing at a podium with radio mics;
Taft looking amazingly svelte, shown as the first president to throw out the
first pitch at a baseball game. There is a self-guided walking tour and a
Presidential Scavenger Hunt. It is really fun to try to see all of the
presidents. What is most interesting is how these significant personages are
set in such ordinary circumstance on nondescript small-town America street
notable exception to the presidents is a bust, “Mitakuye Oyasin” (“We are all
related”) by DC Lamphere, from a drawing by Richard Under Baggage, representing
“hope for reconciliation, dignity and respect for all the human race.” The
earth is in the shape of a hoop or circle of life; crossed pipes represent
world peace; the eagle symbolizes all flying creatures, and communication with
Tunka Sila; wisdom and the healing arts are represented by a grizzly bear, and
a long and productive life is symbolized by a turtle. “The bison reminds us of
our ancestors’ healthy lifestyles, free from famine, and also of the white
Buffalo Calf Woman who brought us the pipe.”
Another marked contrast to the presidents on every other corner is outside a remarkable shop, Prairie Edge: “Hunkayapi” also was created by local artist Dale Lamphere. The statue, depicting a Lakota naming ceremony, is intended to reflect the warmth in Lakota families, the wisdom of a Lakota elder and the teaching of the Lakota heritage to the next generation.
Edge is one of the most fantastic Native American shops anywhere. It is almost
a museum, with numerous contemporary Native artists who have their own
displays, biography and museum-quality art (I learn about quillwork). There is
also clothing, including Pendleton & Pilson, blankets and housewares, books
and music, and a Sioux Trading Post, and tee shirts and souvenirs and yes items
popular in tourist shops on sale, like an old-fashioned mercantile store.
shop contains a fine art Plains Indian Gallery, a Buffalo Room with bison
leather furnishings. There is also the Italian glass bead library boasting the
world’s largest selection of glass beads, with over 2,600 different styles and colors, from
the same Venetian guild that supplied fur traders in the 19th
century used for trade, including used in trade for the island of Manhattan;
after the Societa Veneziana Conterie closed in 1992, Prairie Edge bought the
remaining inventory of 70 tons of beads. (Prairie Edge, 606 Main Street, Rapid
City SD 57701, 800-541-2388, 605-342-3086, www.prairieedge.com).
I think about what Goldman told me about continued tension between Native Americans and the “settlers” (for lack of a better word), “Other places are more assimilated. South Dakota has nine Indian reservations. The two largest reservations – Pine Ridge, Rosebud – make Appalachia look like Beverly Hills.,” he told me. And his remarks echo for me later when I visit the Crazy Horse Memorial on our Mickelson Trail ride.
Edge is housed in an 1886 building in Italianate style that began as the L.
Morris Dry Goods and Clothing store with a dentist’s office on the second floor
and rooms to rent. Known as the Clower Building, it is most famously remembered
as the Jack Clower Saloon (1895-1917), a cowboy bar ion its day. It is one of
the most beautiful buildings in Rapid City.
you do expect in an open-carry state that still prides itself as being the wild
west, are the gun shops. There is the biggest gun shop I’ve ever seen, First
Stop Gun & Coin. (I am amazed at how heavy rifles are; there are “My First
Rifle,” child-sized like starter violins, and some pink and decorated rifles
geared for women.
wander over to Main Street Square, with a spray fountain, Astroturf and
stage for performances, and public restroom.
There is a surprising variety of restaurants you wouldn’t expect in a place that calls itself “City of Presidents” – Nepali, Mexican (considering how far from the Mexican border we are). Goldman has recommended Thirsty’s, which looks like a pool hall, as having the best buffalo burger in town. I opt for the Firehouse Brewing Company in the historic firehouse next door to Prairie Edge. I take note of a large 1883 photo mural depicting the store that had stood on the site with store names of Jewish proprietors: Herrmann Treber & Goldberg Groceries, Liquors and Cigars Wholesale.
Back at the Alex Johnson Hotel, I go up to the Vertex Sky Bar on the 10th floor to take in the sunset.
The Alex Johnson Hotel today is independently owned by the Bradsky family of Rapid City, acquired in 2008 on the hotel’s 80th anniversary, and refurbished with respect and sense of stewardship for its historic significance and importance to the city. (The family owns several properties, under the Liv Hospitality banner, in Deadwood and Rapid City, including Cadillac Jack’s and Tin Lizzie’s in Deadwood and Watiki water park in Rapid City. (www.LivHotelGroup.com)
Hotel Alex Johnson Rapid City, Curio Collection by Hilton, 523 Sixth Street, Rapid City SD 57701, 605-342-1210, alexjohnson.com.
More information at Visit Rapid City, 512 Main Street, Rapid City SD 57701, 800-487-3223, 605-718-8484, www.VisitRapidCity.com.
Missile National Historic Site
With better planning, I would have also
plugged into my itinerary a visit to Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. The
site provides an opportunity to explore the Minuteman II system’s role as a
nuclear deterrent during the Cold War and visit sites rarely seen by civilians
while in use, but that nevertheless loomed large on the geo-political
landscape, and in these tense times, be reminded about what a threat nuclear
I first became aware of the site
watching an extraordinary documentary, “The Man who Saved the World,” about
Stanislav Petrov, a former
lieutenant colonel of the Soviet Air
Defense Forces and his role in preventing the 1983 Soviet nuclear false alarm incident from leading
to nuclear holocaust. Now, with Trump and Putin at odds over
renegotiating a nuclear arms treaty while boasting about new weapons, it is
more important than ever to be reminded of how quickly things can go
Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
It’s our last
day of the Wilderness Voyageurs six-day “Badlands and Mickelson Trail” bike
tour of South Dakota, when we would have biked back a portion of the Mickelson
Trail that we cycled yesterday before visiting Mount Rushmore. But as luck
would have it (and it is actually lucky), it rains as we leave Deadwood. It is
lucky because the rest of our rides have been glorious and we did get to
complete the 109-mile long Mickelson Trail, in addition to riding through
Badlands National Park and Custer State Park. Our guides, James Oerding and
John Buehlhorn, offer us alternatives: instead of doing the Mickelson 18 miles
from Dumont to Mystic (the same trail we did yesterday but downhill) we go
directly to Mount Rushmore and see if the weather dries out.
Rushmore is such a familiar American icon, it may be a cliché. But seeing it “in
person” makes you rethink what it is all about.
sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, wrote “Let us place
there, carved high, as close to heaven as we can, the words of our leaders,
their faces, to show posterity what manner of men they were. Then breathe a
prayer that these records will endure until the wind and the rain alone shall
wear them away.”
Borglum also wrote, “The purpose of
the memorial is to communicate the founding, expansion, preservation, and
unification of the United States with colossal statues of Washington,
Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.”
National Park Service offers this about Mount Rushmore National Monument:
“Majestic figures of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt
and Abraham Lincoln, surrounded by the beauty of the Black Hills of South
Dakota, tell the story of the birth, growth, development and preservation of
this country. From the history of the first inhabitants to the diversity of
America today, Mount Rushmore brings visitors face to face with the rich
heritage we all share.”
The NPS posits that Borglum “selected these four presidents
because from his perspective, they represented the most important events in the
history of the United States. Would another artist at that time, or perhaps a
modern artist choose differently? As you read more about Borglum’s choices,
think about what you might have done if the decision was up to you.”
I stumble upon a
15-minute Ranger talk in the Sculptor’s Studio about Gutzon Borglum,
the carving process and the lives of the workers – how they
dynamited away 90 percent of the stone, leaving just 3 to 6 inches of material
to chisel off by hand, how they hang a weight to where the nose should be and
create the facial features from that reference point.
stands in front of a model of how a completed Mount Rushmore was envisioned by
Borglum. Who knew there was more? I’ve always taken for granted that what we
see was all that was meant to be. The model shows that it would have had their
jackets down to their waist and hands.
see the scale of the sculpture, it is hard to contemplate the challenge of
blasting away all that rock and carving that stone. But we learn that getting
this project underway was a challenge unto itself.
South Dakota historian
Doane Robinson is credited with conceiving the idea of carving the
likenesses of noted figures into the mountains of the Black Hills of South
Dakota in order to promote tourism in the region. But once Doane
Robinson and others had found a sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, they had to get
permission to do the carving. Senator Peter Norbeck (the man who created the
Needles Highway through Custer State Park) and Congressman William Williamson
were instrumental in getting the legislation passed to allow the carving. The
bill requesting permission to use federal land for the memorial easily passed
through Congress. But a bill sent to the South Dakota Legislature faced more
Robinson’s initial idea
was to feature heroes of the American West, such as Lewis and Clark, Oglala
Lakota chief Red cloud and Buffalo Bill Cody. But Borglum wanted the sculpture to
have broader appeal, so chose the four presidents, who would each symbolize an
important aspect of American history. (That might be why Robinson was not
chosen for the 12-member commission to oversee the project.)
Early in the project, money was hard
to find, despite Borglum’s guarantee that eastern businessmen would gladly make
large donations. He also promised South Dakotans that they would not be
responsible for paying for any of the mountain carving. Borglum got Treasury
Secretary Andrew Mellon on board, but only asked for half of the funding he
needed, believing he would be able to match federal funding ($250,000) dollar
for dollar with private donations.
Borglum worked on the project from
1927, the presidents’ faces were carved from 1933-1939, with his son, Lincoln. Meanwhile,
in 1929, the stock market crashed; in 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt placed
Mount Rushmore under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service.
In March, 1941, as a final dedication was being planned,
Gutzon Borglum died. This fact, along with the impending American involvement
in World War II, led to the end of further carving on the mountain. With the
money – and enthusiasm – running out, Congress refused to allocate any more
funding. On October 31, 1941, the last day of work, Mount Rushmore National
Memorial was declared a completed project.
explains that the death of the artist raised an ethical issue for anyone who
would take over the work. And, the Ranger said, “The country had moved on. They
were not as interested in presidents as they were in the 1930s; when Mount
Rushmore was a shrine to democracy. And what if the new artist made a mistake?”
I can see how
Mount Rushmore was a cautionary tale for the Crazy Horse Memorial and why
sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, who worked on Mount Rushmore before being tasked
to do Crazy Horse, refused any federal funding, instead establishing a foundation
funded with private donations and admissions. Some 70 years after he began his
work, his grandchildren are involved in continuing to carve the memorial.
I walk the
Presidential Trail (just 0.6 miles long, 422 stairs, weather
permitting) to get up close and personal with the mountain
sculpture and perhaps glimpse some of the area wildlife.
million visitors come to Mount Rushmore each year.
Among the activities offered: the Junior
Ranger program (booklets are available at the information desks for ages
three to four, five to twelve and 13 and up), and the Carvers’ Café, Ice Cream Shop and Gift Shop.
Nakota and Dakota Heritage Village (10 – 30 mins., free): Explore
the history of the Black Hills and the American Indian tribes who have
populated this land for thousands of years. Located next to the Borglum View
Terrace for 2019, this area highlights the customs and traditions of local
American Indian communities. Open 10:30 am to 3 pm, early June through mid-August, weather
Youth Exploration Area (10 – 30 mins., free): Explore the natural, cultural and historical aspects of Mount Rushmore with interactive programs. Located at the Borglum View Terrace for 2019. Open early June through early August.
(30 – 120 mins; rental fee): Rent an
audio tour wand or multimedia device to hear the story of Mount
Rushmore through music, narration, interviews, historic recordings and sound
effects while walking a scenic route around the park. Available at the Audio
Tour Building across from the Information Center (rentals available inside the
Information Center during the winter months). The tour and accompanying
brochure are available in English, French, German, Lakota, and Spanish.
It had been gray
and drizzly when we first arrived making the monument look dull, but as we are
leaving, blue sky breaks through and for the first time, I realize that George
Washington has a jacket.
visit, the Visitor Center and amphitheater are closed for construction.)
(Just recently, the last living Mount
Rushmore construction worker, Donald ‘Nick” Clifford, who worked on the
monument from 1938-40, passed away at the age of 98.)
Even thought the weather has cleared up
just as we are leaving Mount Rushmore, because it is a getaway travel day, the
group decides not to bike (the trail James suggests is impractical because it
requires the guides to take off the roof racks in order to fit through the
tunnel). We decide instead, to go straight to Rapid City, our departure point,
for lunch before we all go our separate ways.
Our last lunch
together, in Rapid City, is at Tally’s Silver Spoon (best Reuben sandwich
outside of NYC!) – just across the street from the historic Alex Johnson Hotel,
where I began my South Dakota odyssey a week ago.
What I love best
about Wilderness Voyageurs’ “Badlands and Mickelson Trail” bike tour are the
varied experiences: Badlands – fossils – Circle View Guest Ranch – Black Hills
– Crazy Horse – Custer State Park – stone spires – wildlife – buffalo – Blue
Bell Lodge – Mount Rushmore – biking the 109-mile long Mickelson rail trail.
Guided bike trips are not cheap, but what I look for is value for money – my test is whether I could reproduce the trip for less out-of-pocket, to make up for the decided increase in convenience of having the itinerary already plotted out. I found Wilderness Voyageurs excellent value – in the services provided, wonderful accommodations (especially the guest ranch and the lodge), dining, creating an itinerary that was idyllic, entrances to attractions (Badlands National Park, Crazy Horse Memorial, Mount Rushmore), and also considerate, superb guides, a relaxed, unpressured atmosphere (“You’re on vacation!”).
The destination, South Dakota, is quite sensational and unexpectedly varied – spectacular scenery, nature and wildlife, fossils (!), culture and history – a microcosm of North America, really. Indeed, it is an ideal destination for international visitors to plunge into the American frontier west mythology of the past, but more interestingly, to see the American West as it is today. And frankly, even if I rented a bike and paid for shuttle services, I couldn’t have duplicated the itinerary, or the camaraderie, or the expertise and care.
Voyageurs started out as a rafting adventures company 50 years ago, but has
developed into a wide-ranging outdoors company with an extensive catalog of
biking, rafting, fishing and outdoor adventures throughout the US and even
Cuba, many guided and self-guided bike itineraries built around rail trails
like the Eric Canal in New York, Great Allegheny Passage in Pennsylvania, and
Katy Trail in Missouri.
Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
It strikes me as somewhat ironic, or perhaps appropriate, that
Deadwood, South Dakota, so famous for being the place where Wild Bill Hickok
was killed in a saloon playing poker, after being mining boomtown and a virtual
ghost town, has been reincarnated as a casino gaming mecca.
hotel, the Deadwood Mountain Grand Resort, actually reflects both
these traditions: it has one of the biggest casinos and the building has
repurposed what used to be a slime plant (slime is the waste left when they use
cyanide to decompose rock to release the gold), that was part of the Homestake
Mine. The Homestake Mine was the second-largest gold producer in the
United States and the longest continually operating mine in US history,
operating from 1885 to as recently as 2001.
We’ve arrived at Deadwood at the end of biking the 109-mile long Mickelson Trail, a bike trail converted from a former railroad line named to Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Hall of Fame, which we have covered in three days of the six-day Wilderness Voyageurs “Badlands and Mickelson Trail” bike tour of South Dakota.
My day begins at the Blue Bell Lodge in Custer State Park, with a buffalo strolling up to the porch of my cabin. We then are shuttled in the Wilderness Voyageurs van to the Mystic Trailhead, to ride the remaining 34 scenic miles of the Mickelson Trail into Deadwood.
already about 3 pm, and armed with a list of activities that take place which I
have obtained from the concierge (the shootout on Main Street at 6 pm, for
example), I quickly drop my things to rush out to get to the Mount Moriah Cemetery which I remember
the Alex Johnson Hotel manager, Ross Goldman, telling me about. Though the
concierge and the visitor bureau guy discourage me from walking up there (there
isn’t a public bus and the bus tour which makes a quick stop at the cemetery
doesn’t make sense, I head out anyway – the hike, up 4,800 ft. to a high ridge
overlooking Deadwood Gulch – the highest point in Deadwood – proves no big deal
(especially compared to the hills we biked yesterday in Custer State Park) and
takes just about 20 minutes.
the entrance, they provide an excellent map with information and location of
the notable graves of the important people who are buried here for you to do
your own self-guided walking tour.
major lure – and why there is a line of people – is the side-by-side plots of James
Butler (Wild Bill) Hickok and Calamity Jane, whose legends continue to animate
Deadwood even today.
to the guide, James Butler Hickok was murdered in Deadwood on August 2, 1876.
He came, along with so many others, to the Deadwood gold camp in search of
adventure and fortune. But his true passion was gambling. While playing a game
of cards, he was shot in the back of the head by Jack McCall. “Wild
Bill’s colorful life included service as a marshal, an Army scout and other
tasks which called for a fast gun and no aversion to bloodshed.” (Later, you
can see the re-creation of the arrest of Jack McCall, and then a re-creation of
the hastily convened miners’ court, by the Deadwood Alive troop.)
“Calamity Jane” Canary (1850-1903) also had a colorful life, which she largely
created and which may or may not be true. “She worked on a bull train,
performed in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show and was a prostitute.” She claimed
to have been Wild Bill Hickok’s sweetheart (and even that they were married and
had a daughter). Her grave marker calls her Martha Jane Burke because she
married Clinton Burke after Hickok’s death. She is known for acts of charity
and willingness to nurse the sick. In 1903, Calamity Jane died in the Terry
mining camp, her dying wish, “Bury me beside Wild Bill” was carried out.
cemetery was established in1878 and actively used until 1949. There are some
3,627 people buried here including a children’s section with 350 who died in of
scarlet fever and diphtheria epidemic 1878-1880; a Civil War section, a Jewish
section (surprisingly large) and a Chinese section (there is even a Chinese
altar and ceremonial oven), and several notable and colorful characters who are
described in the guide with directions to their gravesites.
struck by the wrought iron gates at the entrance which have symbols
representing the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Freemasonry and the Star of
David. Indeed the name Mt. Moriah was chosen for its religious affiliation with
both the Christian Bible and the Jewish Torah (Mount Moriah is located within Jerusalem,
the site of Solomon’s temple.)
It takes about an hour to visit. ($2/entrance, 108 Sherman St., Deadwood 57732, 605-578-2082, www.cityofdeadwood.com).
it turns out, was named for the dead timber on the surrounding hills, not for
its shoot-outs. The discovery of gold in the Black Hills brought thousands of
new people to the area.
back down to the historic Main Street in plenty of time for the 6 pm “Main Street Shootout”, featuring a
fantastic Calamity Jane character.
There are free shows
throughout the day on Historic Main
Street (reminiscent of a theme park’s re-creation of a Wild West town):
Deadwood’s True Tales; a 2 pm Main Street shootout; a Rootin’Tootin’ Card Game
for kids and old-thyme musical show; Dr. Stan Dupt’s Travelin’ Medicine Show; 4
pm Main Street shootout; 4:30 Old Thym Hoe Down; 5:45 Deadwood’s True Tales on
the steps of the historic Franklin Hotel.
After the 6 pm
shootout, I check out the shops and grab a burger with another couple from our
bike tour who I meet up with on the street, and come back for the 7:30 pm
“Capture of Jack McCall” outside Saloon 10 (there is
the “original Saloon 10 where Wild Bill was actually shot).
there, we all march up the street to the Masonic Temple for the 8 pm “Trial of
Trial of Jack McCall” has been performed steadily, I am astonished to
learn since 1925, making it one of the nation’s longest
running plays. It began as an annual presentation during Statehood Days. The
script is based on news accounts of the actual trial which took place in the
mining camp of Deadwood after Jack McCall murdered James Butler
“Wild Bill” Hickok. Wild Bill was playing poker in Nuttal and Mann’s
Saloon No. 10 and was shot in the back of the head while holding Aces and
Eights, forever known as the “Dead Man’s Hand”. (People leave the
cards at his grave.). Though based on fact, it is done with great humor (if a murder trial
can be fun). “It has to be accurate,” any “Cookie” Mosher who plays John Swift,
Clerk of the Courts and Executive Director of Deadwood Alive, tells me because Deadwood Alive, a nonprofit, is supported in part
by Historical Preservation Society. (It reminds me of the “Cry Innocent,”
recreation of a Salem Witch Trial, in Salem, Massachusetts).
recreate the edition of the Black Hills Pioneer which reported the story of
Hickok’s murder, on August 3, 1876. “A dastardly murder was committed in
Deadwood gulch yesterday afternoon. The fiendish murderer who shot him in the
back is in jail. The dead man is Wild Bill Hickok, whose prowess with the
pistols is known far and wide. Single-handed, he captured robbers and trouble
makers in the south, at Dodge city, Abilene and Hays, Kansas, in Nebraska, in
all the south. Men feared him, feared his quickness on the draw, the deadly and
accurate aim which send more than one roustabout sprawling.
“But on this
terrible, bloodstained afternoon in the wild gold camp of the Black Hills, Wild
Bill never had a chance.”
This is a family-friendly show where the
selected members of the audience participate in the performance serving as
jurors in the trial- the jury of miners is made up of “minors” – kids who get
to wear various hats and sit on a bench). The show is held nightly Monday
through Saturday with the schedule as outlined below.
extremely entertaining as a trial for murder could possibly be.
Deadwood didn’t have a courthouse so the trial was held in Deadwood Theater
(the narrator/court manager explains they have to wait for auditions to finish
– so there is music provided by Calamity Jane as the audience files in. The
theater was tearing down from the previous week’s show and getting ready for
the next, so you see various props.The trial was held just the day after McCall’s
boy is given the role of sheriff; wearing an oversized cowboy hat, he seems
just itching to shoot the toy gun he hold on McCall.
call “witnesses” and John Swift, the clerk of Courts (played by Mosher) goes
into the audience and pulls somebody up – then after jokes (swearing on
“Bartenders Guide” instead of bible), “sneaks” them a script. He grabs a guy as
a witness who is wearing shorts so he puts shawl over his leg for modesty; he grabs
a woman to play McCall’s’ employer and pretends to flirt. (It’s very Shakespearean the way they go
in/out of character and talk to audience.)
witness says Wild Bill asked him to move his chair so Wild Bill could sit with his
back to wall, and he refused.
on the jury pretend to sleep during Defense’s summation.
in real life, McCall was found Not Guilty. Then, in an epilogue, the Clerk relates
that McCall was driven from town but bragged about killing Wild Bill over a
game of cards. The federal government said that because the crime was committed
in Indian Country the feds still had jurisdiction to try McCall without
violating the rule against double jeopardy. McCall was rearrested in 1877, got a
new trial, was found guilty and hanged.
Deadwood Alive has been entertaining visitors for over 20 years
with Main Street shootouts and regular performances of the Trial of Jack
McCall. The Deadwood Alive troupe of superb actors consists of over 10
characters and provide entertainment throughout the year including daily
shootouts, guided walking tours, musical performances and the famous Trial of
Jack McCall. Deadwood Alive is managed by a non-profit board of directors and
employs up to a dozen individuals each summer to re-enact several historically
accurate incidents of Deadwood’s past and make a visit to Deadwood so
entertaining for people of all ages (($6 adults, $5 seniors, $3 children,
enjoy the charm of the Main Street. I stop in to the Franklin Hotel, opened since
1903, a beautiful, elegant hotel, now with a casino in the lobby.
Deadwood actually offers a lot of history and attractions, which unfortunately, I do not have time to experience): The Adams Museum (554 Sherman St); Days of ’76 Museum (18 Seventy Six Dr), and Historic Adams House (22 Van Buren St.). (DeadwoodHistory.com, 605-722-4800).
More visitor information at Deadwood
South Dakota, 800-344-8826,www.deadwood.com.
Voyageurs started out as a rafting adventures company 50 years ago, but has
developed into a wide-ranging outdoors company with an extensive catalog of
biking, rafting, fishing and outdoor adventures throughout the US and even
Cuba, many guided and self-guided bike itineraries built around rail trails
like the Eric Canal in New York, Great Allegheny Passage in Pennsylvania, and
Katy Trail in Missouri.
The Crazy Horse Memorial is sensational, awesome and profound. The
carved portrait in the cliff-side, which I first encounter by surprise as I
bike on the Mickelson Trail between Custer and Hill City is spectacular enough,
but there is so much more to discover. There is also a superb Museum of Native
Americans of North America (it rivals the Smithsonian’s Museum in Washington
DC) where you watch a terrific video that tells the story of the America’s
indigenous people, and can visit the studio/home of the sculptor, Korczak Ziolkowski.
It is the highlight of our third day of the Wilderness Voyageurs “Badlands and
Mickelson Trail” bike tour of South Dakota.
I rush to join a tour (a
modest extra fee) that brings us right to the base of the sculpture. You look
into this extraordinary, strong face – some quartz on the cheek has a glint
that suggests a tear.
Only then do I realize that,
much to my surprise, seeing the scaffolding and equipment, that 70 years after
sculptor Ziolkowski started carving the monument in 1947, his grandson is
leading a crew to continue carving. Right now it is mainly a bust – albeit the
largest stone carving in the world – but as we see in the museum, the completed
sculpture will show Crazy Horse astride a horse, his arm outstretched toward
the lands that were taken from the Lakota.
At 87 ft 6 inches high, the Crazy Horse Memorial
is the world’s largest mountain carving in progress. They are now working on
the 29-foot high horse’s head, the 263-foot long arm, and 33 ft-high hand, the
guide tells us. The horse’s head will be as tall as 22-story building,
one-third larger than any of the President’s at Mount Rushmore. The next phase of progress on the
Mountain involves carving Crazy Horse’s left
hand, left forearm, right shoulder, hairline, and part of the horse’s mane and
head over 10-15 years. The plan is to carve the back side of the
rock face as well, which would make the Crazy Horse Memorial a three-sided
When completed, the Crazy
Horse Mountain carving will be the world’s largest sculpture, measuring 563
feet high by 641 feet long, carved in the round. The nine-story high face of
Crazy Horse was completed on June 3, 1998; work began on the 22-story high
horse’s head soon after.
“One if hardest decisions
(after two years of planning) was to start with head, not the horse (in other
words, work way down),” the guide tells us.
In 71 years of construction,
there have been no deaths or life threatening injuries of the workers (though
there was that accident when a guy driving a machine slipped off edge; his father
told him he had to get the machine out himself.)
Four of Korczak and Ruth’s 10 children
and three of his grandchildren still work at the Memorial.
On the bus ride back to the
visitor center, the guide tells us that Zioklowski was a decorated World War II
veteran who was wounded on D-Day, but was so devoted to the Crazy Horse
Memorial, he even planned for his death: there is a tomb in a cave at the base
of the monument..
Back at the visitor
center/museum, the story about the Crazy Horse Memorial is told in an excellent
The overwhelming theme is to
tell the story, to give a positive view of native culture, to show that Native
Americans have their own heroes, and to restore and build a legacy that
survived every attempt to blot it out in a form of genocide.
There were as many as 18 million Indians living in North America when the Europeans arrived
(the current population is 7 million in the US). “These Black Hills are our
Cathedral, our sacred land,” the film says.
Crazy Horse was an Ogala
Lakota, born around 1840 on the edge of Black Hills. He was first called “Curly”
but after proving himself in battle, earned his father’s name, “Crazy Horse” (as
in “His Horse is Crazy”). The chief warned of encroaching “river” of settlers,
leading to 23-years of Indian wars. In 1876 Crazy Horse led the battle against
General Custer, the Battle of Little Big Horn (known as Custer’s Last Stand,
but Indians call it “the Battle of Greasy Grass”). It was a victory for the
Indians, but short-lived. Soon after, the US government rounded up the rebels
and killed Crazy Horse while he was in custody at Fort Robinson, Nebraska. (See www.nps.gov/libi/learn/historyculture/crazy-horse.htm)
I am introduced to a new hero: Standing Bear.
Standing Bear was born 1874 near Pierre, South Dakota, and was among the first Indian children sent away to the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania where his name was randomly changed to “Henry.” In the school, their Indian identity was forcibly removed – they cut the boys’ hair, they were not allowed to speak their language “to best help them learn the ways of non-native.”
“As a result of attending Carlisle, Standing Bear concluded that in order to best help his people, it would be necessary for him to learn the ways of the non-Native world. Somewhat ironically, Carlisle – an institution that was designed to assimilate Native Americans out of their indigenous ways – became a source of inspiration that Standing Bear would repeatedly draw upon to shape his enlightened understanding of cross-cultural relationships, as well as to find new ways of preserving his people’s culture and history.” He honed leadership skills like public speaking, reasoning, and writing, realizing that because of the changing times, the battle for cultural survival would no longer be waged with weapons, but with words and ideas. “This realization became a driving force behind much of his work during his adult life and led him to become a strong proponent of education,” the background material on the Crazy Horse Memorial website explains (crazyhorsememorial.org).
attended night school in Chicago while he worked for the Sears Roebuck Company
to pay for his schooling. With feet firmly placed in both worlds, he became
heavily involved in the affairs of his people over the course of his life and
politically astute —working with Senator Francis Case and serving as a member
of the South Dakota Indian Affairs Commission. He led the initiative to honor
President Calvin Coolidge with a traditional name – “Leading Eagle,”
taking the opportunity for advocacy during the naming ceremony to challenge
President Coolidge to take up the leadership role that had been previously
filled by highly-respected leaders such as Sitting Bull and Red Cloud.
In 1933, Standing
Bear learned of a monument to be constructed at Fort Robinson, Nebraska, to
honor his maternal cousin, Crazy Horse, who was killed there in 1877. He wrote
to the organizer that he and fellow Lakota leaders were promoting a carving of
Crazy Horse in the sacred Paha Sapa – Black Hills.
Standing Bear looked for an
artist with the skill to carve the memorial to his people that would show
Indians had heroes too and turned to Korczak Ziolkowski, a self-taught
sculptor who had assisted at Mount Rushmore and had
gained recognition at the 1939 World’s Fair. Standing Bear invited him back to
the Black Hills.
Born in Boston of Polish descent in
1908, Korczak was orphaned when he was one year old. He grew up in a series of
foster homes and is said to have been badly mistreated. He gained skills in heavy construction
helping his foster father.
On his own at 16, Korczak took odd jobs
to put himself through Rindge Technical School in Cambridge, MA, after which he
became an apprentice patternmaker in the shipyards on the rough Boston
waterfront. He experimented with woodworking, making beautiful furniture. At
age 18, he handcrafted a grandfather clock from 55 pieces of Santa Domingo
mahogany. Although he never took a lesson in art or sculpture, he studied the
masters and began creating plaster and clay studies. In 1932, he used a coal
chisel to carve his first portrait, a marble tribute to Judge Frederick
Pickering Cabot, the famous Boston juvenile judge who had befriended and
encouraged the gifted boy and introduced him to the world of fine arts.
Moving to West Hartford, Conn., Korczak
launched a successful studio career doing commissioned sculpture throughout New
England, Boston, and New York.
Ziolkowski wanted to do something
worthwhile with his sculpture, and made the Crazy Horse Memorial his life’s
“Crazy Horse has never been
known to have signed a treaty or touched the pen,” Ziolkowski wrote. “Crazy
Horse, as far as the scale model is concerned, is to be carved not so much as a
lineal likeness, but more as a memorial to the spirit of Crazy Horse – to his
people. With his left hand gesturing forward in response to the derisive
question asked by a white man, ‘Where are your lands now?’ He replied, ‘My lands
are where my dead lie buried’.”
There is no known photo of
Crazy Horse, Ziolkowski created his likeness from oral descriptions.
He built a log studio home
(which we can visit) at a time when there was nothing around – no roads, no
water, no electricity. For the first seven years, he had to haul himself and
his equipment, including a decompressor and 50 pound box of dynamite, up 741
Living completely isolated
in the wilderness, Korczak and his wife Ruth bought an 1880s one-room school
house, had it moved to this isolated property and hired a teacher for their 10
There is so much to see
here: The Museums of
Crazy Horse Memorial feature exhibits and engaging experiences that let you
discover Native history and contemporary life, the art and science of mountain carving and the lives of the Ziolkowski family.
INDIAN MUSEUM OF NORTH AMERICA® houses an enormous collection of art
and artifacts reflecting the diverse histories and cultures of over 300 Native
Nations. The Museum, designed to complement the story being told in stone
on the Mountain, presents the lives of American Indians and preserves Native
Culture for future generations. The Museum collection started with a single display
donated in 1965 by Charles Eder, Hunkpapa Lakota, from Montana, which remains on display to this day. The
Indian Museum has about the same number of annual visits as the National Museum
of the American Indian at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC. Close to
90% of the art and artifacts have been donated by generous individuals,
including many Native Americans.
The gorgeous building housing the Museum
was designed and built by Korczak Ziolkowski and his family in the
harsh winter of 1972-73, when no work was possible on the Mountain.
The Museum incorporated Korczak’s love of wood and natural lighting, being
constructed from ponderosa pine, harvested and milled at Crazy Horse Memorial.
The original wing of the museum was dedicated on May 30, 1973. In the early 1980s,
Korczak planned a new wing of the Museum to accommodate the growing collection
of artifacts. He did not live to see his plans realized, instead his wife Ruth Ziolkowski and 7 of their children
made sure the new wing was built. The structure was built in the winter of
1983-84 and funding came in large part from a $60,000 check left in the Crazy
Horse Memorial contribution box in late August of 1983. The contributor said he
was moved by the purpose of Crazy Horse, Korczak, and his family’s great
progress and by the sculptor’s reliance on free enterprise and refusal to take
The Ziolkowski Family Life Collection is shown throughout the complex and demonstrates to people of all ages the timeless values of making a promise and keeping it, setting a goal and never giving up, working hard to overcome adversity, and devoting one’s life to something much larger than oneself. There are portraits of the couple and personal effects that tell their life’s story.
The Mountain Carving Gallery shares the amazing history of carving the Mountain. It features the tools Korczak used in the early years of carving, including a ½ size replica of “the bucket” – a wooden basket used with an aerial cable car run by an antique Chevy engine that allowed the sculptor to haul equipment and tools up the Mountain. Displayed in the Mountain Carving Room are the measuring models used to carve the face of Crazy Horse, plasters of Crazy Horse’s face and the detailed pictorial progression of carving the face. They also detail the next phase in the Memorial’s carving which is focused on Crazy Horse’s left hand and arm, the top of Crazy Horse’s head, his hairline, and the horse’s mane. If you stand in just the right spot, you can line up the model of how the finished work will look against the actual mountain sculpture as it is.
Crazy Horse Memorial is
actually a private, nonprofit (they also have a nonprofit college and medical
training center that educates Indians), and twice turned down federal funding
because “they didn’t believe the government would do it right.” Indeed, Mount
Rushmore (which we see on the last day of our bike tour) was never completed
because the federal government stopped funding the project. The entrance fee
($30 per car, 3 or more people, $24 per car two people, $12 per person, $7 per
bicycle or motorcycle) support the continued carving, the Indian Museum of
North America and the Indian University of North America, which assists qualifying
students get their college degrees.
Once again, I am so grateful
that I am not being pushed along with an artificial time limit by the
Wilderness Voyageurs guides, I wander through the vast complex trying to take
it all in. I am utterly fascinated.
I buy postcards for 25c apiece and stamps, sit with a (free) cup of coffee in the cafe and mail them at their tiny post-office. There is an excellent gift shop.
The Crazy Horse Memorial is
open 365 days of the year, with various seasonal offerings.
I’m the last one to leave
the Crazy Horse Memorial, and note that the bike of our sweeper guide for today John
is still on the rack, but
I figure he will see that I have gone and catch up to me, so I get back on the
Mickelson Trail. He catches me again when I don’t realize to get off the trail
at Hill City, where we are on our own for lunch and exploring the town.
Hill City is really
charming and the home of the South Dakota State Railroad Museum, where you can
take a ride on an old-time steam railroad. The shops are really pleasant.
The Wilderness Voyageurs
van is parked there in case anybody needs anything.
The ride to the Crazy Horse Memorial was uphill on the rail trail for 8 miles but going down hill isn’t a picnic because of the loose gravel – but not difficult and totally enjoyable. We ride through train tunnels and over trestles. It is no wonder that the 109-mile long Mickelson Trail, which is a centerpiece of the Wilderness Voyageurs’ tour, is one of 30 rail-trails to have been named to the Hall of Fame by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. We finish this day’s ride at Mystic at the 74.7-mile marker– we’ll ride the remaining miles on another day. Mystic used to be a significant town when the railroad ran here. Now there are just two buildings and four residents.
I notice the sign tacked up at the
shelter: Be Aware: Mountain Lions spotted on the trail toward Rochford within
the last few days.
We are shuttled back to Custer for our
second night’s stay at the Holiday Inn Express (very comfortable, with pool,
game room, WiFi and breakfast), and treated to a marvelous dinner at one of the
finer dining restaurants, the Sage Creek Grill (611 Mount Rushmore Road,
Voyageurs started out as a rafting adventures company 50 years ago, but has
developed into a wide-ranging outdoors company with an extensive catalog of
biking, rafting, fishing and outdoor
adventures throughout the US and even Cuba, many guided and self-guided bike
itineraries built around rail trails like the Eric Canal in New York, Great
Allegheny Passage in Pennsylvania, and Katy Trail in Missouri.
are still a few spots left on Wilderness Voyageurs’ Quintessential West Cuba
Bike Tour departing on March 21.
Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
Philadelphia is a jewel box of unique and spectacular, even life-enhancing attractions, a trove of national treasures of history, heritage, culture that glitters particularly during the holidays. The holiday splendor is eye-catching and warms the heart, but any visitor still has to make time to experience first-hand at least some of these iconic places. I manage to bookend my holiday merrymaking with a mix of art (Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia Magic Gardens) with history (Independence Hall) with heritage (National Museum of American Jewish History) with science and enlightenment (Philly is the hometown of one of our most enlightened inventors, Ben Franklin, and so I end this visit with the Franklin Institute.
I’m out of The Roost
East Market apartment hotel at 8:30 am for a delightful 15 minute walk down
Market Street to the Independence Hall Visitor Center to get a timed ticket for
a tour of Independence Hall. They start distributing tickets at 8:30 am and I
get a ticket for the first tour, 9:20 am (the ticket is free; you can pay $1
for advance reservations online, www.nps.gov/inde/planyourvisit/independencehalltickets.htm). That gives me enough time to watch a short
film in the Visitor Center and visit the “Great Essentials” exhibit of original
printed copies of the three founding documents signed here at Independence
Hall: the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation and
Constitution. Another interesting artifact: the Syng
inkstand, believed to be the silver inkstand in which the 56 Founding Fathers
dipped their quills to “mutually pledge their lives, their fortunes and
their sacred honor” in the cause of independence.
We gather in a room and
learn that we have come from throughout the United States and the world.
“Government as we recognize it, was invented inside Independence Hall,” the
Ranger tells us.
The building, in
Georgian style architecture which manifested symmetry and order, is on the
original site; the foundation was laid in 1732, the year George Washington was
born. The founders, Ben Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, would have called the
building the Pennsylvania State House. All three branches of colonial
government were housed here.
13 diverse colonies, speaking with a variety of accents, met here, who would
have been more familiar with London than Philadelphia. What united them was how
disturbed they were how the King and Parliament was treating the colonists. It
was the end of the French & Indian War (The Seven Years War), which gave
the British victory and control over most of North America, but the Crown
imposed new taxes to pay for the war.
We are ushered into a
room that would have served as Pennsylvania’s highest court.
“The Magna Carta spelled
out the rights of British citizens – no man above law; trial by jury of peers;
attorneys would be gathered at one table and colonists could gather and watch
the trial. Colonists inherited numerous rights.” But grievances grew – taxation
without representation – and the colonists saw their rights being whittled away
by the British crown.
We enter the very room
where the Continental Congress brought together delegates from 13 free and
independent states. “We don’t know for sure but we think they were probably
seated by geographic area.” As they gathered to consider their grievances with
the crown, shots were fired at Lexington and at Concord, “the shots heard ‘round
the world.” The War for Independence officially began.
July 8 1776, the bell in
the steeple announced the first reading of Independence. (You can see the
Liberty Bell with its famous crack now housed in its own pavilion.)
The visit, coming at
such an auspicious time in American history, is like going back to ground zero
of the founding:
At the start, colonists
were deeply divided. The delegates met for a year before Thomas Jefferson
penned the words, “All men are created equal endowed by their Creator with
certain inalienable rights, to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”
“That was one of the
most profound and inspiring statements in human history. That government
derives just power from the consent of the governed,” he said.
The War for Independence
lasted eight years – France and Spain aided; the Dutch provided financial
support. But the War for Independence also was a civil war that divided
communities and even families. Ben Franklin’s own son, Sir William, was the
Royal Governor of New Jersey, and remained a loyalist. He left America for
England. (You can also visit the marvelous Ben Franklin Museum, housed below
where his house would have been.)
The powerful words, “All
men created equal” presented a paradox, even to the Founding Fathers, many of
whom were slave owners from states where the economy derived from slavery.
Despite Abigail Adams’ exhortation to husband John Adams to “Remember the
ladies,” women’s rights were not even a consideration. “The Declaration is a
document of promise,” the Ranger reflects. “Lincoln mentioned the Declaration
of Independence in his Gettysburg Address; suffragettes Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton; Frederick Douglass & Martin Luther King Jr. all drew on the
Declaration. We are exhausted from becoming independent, but work had just
The Articles of
Confederation which set up the United States’ first government “was more like
treaty of 13 independent countries, with 13 armies, 13 currencies. In less than
four months, it was replaced with a central government under the Constitution.”
We see the chair used by
George Washington, which has carved into it a rising sun. James Madison and Alexander Hamilton argued and debated
over making of three co-equal branches of government; they compromised over
representation of large and small states; compromised over the power and
function of the presidency.
called it the ‘miracle in Philadelphia.’ But they knew they could not predict
the future. So the Constitution was designed to change, with provision to amend
The tour takes about a
half-hour, and I am trying to pack a lot into one day. I decide to forgo a tour
of Congress Hall and the Liberty Bell to race over to the National Museum of
American Jewish History because I spot a banner showcasing the special exhibit,
“Notorious RBG” which is only on view through Jan. 12. Supreme Court Justice
Ruth Bader Ginsburg is one of my heroes.
Notorious RBG at NMAJH
“Notorious RBG: The
Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” at the National Museum of American
Jewish History (NMAJH) is the first-ever
museum retrospective of the Supreme Court Justice-turned-pop-culture-icon. The
special exhibition traces a career that traveled from trailblazer to
pop-culture icon, exploring the roots of her precedent-setting role on the
nation’s highest court, as well as her varied roles as a student, life partner,
mother, change-making lawyer, judge, and women’s rights pioneer.
Even though I had seen
the excellent “Notorious RBG” documentary and the superb “On the Basis of Sex”
film (written by her nephew) which formed the basis of the exhibit (photos,
home movies), there was still so much to learn, and the artifacts, and
The second woman—and
the first Jewish woman—to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Ginsburg
acquired the “Notorious RBG” moniker after a series of fiery, record-breaking
dissents she gave from the Supreme Court bench in 2013 around the Voting Rights
Act. Then-NYU law student Shana Knizhnik was inspired to create the Notorious RBG tumblr,
referencing rap star Notorious B.I.G. (In homage to Notorious B.I.G., the
exhibition section titles are inspired by his lyrics.)
Based on the New
York Times best-selling book of the same name by Knizhnik and Irin
Carmon, the visually rich and entertaining exhibition explores RBG’s legacy
through archival photographs and documents, historical artifacts, contemporary
art, media stations, and gallery interactives. It presents not only the
Justice’s writings, opinions, and interviews, but also the whimsical yet
powerful world of Notorious RBG memes, fan art, and parody – from a cartoon
action figure named Wrath Hover Ginsbot to renderings of the Justice’s likeness
on t-shirts, nail decals, and even as tattoos. (Clearly, Justice Ginsburg has
always had a sense of humor, which was at the essence of her long-time
relationship with her husband, Marty).
NMAJH’s location on Independence Mall provides an ideal backdrop for exploring Justice Ginsburg’s story and the circumstances that brought her to the Court. It places the Justice’s story at the very location where the United States was founded and the US Constitution established the Supreme Court. In fact, just diagonally across from NMAJH is the National Constitution Center (constitutioncenter.org).
Established in 1976, the National Museum of
American Jewish History is the only museum in the nation dedicated exclusively
to exploring and interpreting the American Jewish experience, going back 360
years. NMAJH, a Smithsonian Affiliate,
was originally founded by the members of historic Congregation Mikveh Israel,
which was established in 1740 and known as the “Synagogue of the American
The National Museum of American
Jews is a revelation to me – beginning with why it is “National”: it is the
only museum of its kind in the nation. That’s why.
I have seen parts of the story in
other venues – notably Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island
(www.tourosynagogue.org), the Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida;
Ellis Island and the Jewish Museum in New York City– but none presented such a
comprehensive unfolding of the epic Jewish experience in America that dates
back nearly as far as the Puritans in Plymouth (though Jews first settled in
the New World since Columbus).
Its exhibits and galleries, the
artifacts and commentary brilliantly presented to express complex concepts –
the sweep of history, in effect – but taken down to very personal levels of a
person, with a face, a name and a genealogy.
It comes down to legitimacy – much as the museums
which speak to the Jewish people’s history in Israel – and the illegitimate
notion of the United States founded as a Christian nation. Non-Christians were
part of this country’s founding and the Founders, who were humanists,
globalists and men of the Enlightenment – among them George Washington, Thomas
Jefferson and Ben Franklin – were not only tolerant of other religions but
open-minded about philosophies. But what is painfully clear are the strains of
anti-Semitism and racism that have persisted throughout American history
despite George Washington’s assurances to the Touro congregation (“To Bigotry
No Sanction,”), despite the Bill of Rights and the Naturalization Act of 1790
which bar the establishment of religion, an issue as relevant as today’s
There are four floors which wrap around a huge atrium,
each floor devoted to a different era and theme. The displays, including
multi-media , interactive stations, and artifacts, are well presented to convey
complex, even nuanced concepts, intertwining real people with places,
historical events and cultural movements. In some instances, it is the sheer
numbers that impress: “Foundations of Freedom: 1654-1880” (Do most Americans
realize that Jews were already settled in the New World colonies from 1654?);
“Innovation & Expansion” is part of the timeline of Jews in America
usually ignored entirely, but Jews were very much a part of the Westward
expansion and the march to the Industrial Revolution; “Dreams of Freedom:
1880-1945”, chronicling the migration of millions of immigrants who came to the
United States beginning in the late 19th century who profoundly reshaped the
American Jewish community and the nation as a whole; and Choices and Challenges of
Freedom: 1945 – Today.
NMAJH , 101 South Independence Mall East at the corner of Fifth and Market Streets, www.NMAJH.org 215.923.3811.
Philadelphia Treasures: Magic Gardens, Franklin Institute
A Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package includes
overnight free parking and perks, and is bookable at Greater
Philadelphia’s official visitor website, visitphilly.com, 800-537-7676 where you can explore things to do, upcoming
events, themed itineraries and hotel packages.
You always make
fascinating discoveries at the New-York Historical Society, but the nexus of
exhibits and experiences that are being showcased through the holidays makes
this particularly prime time for a visit: flesh out who Paul Revere was beyond
his mythic Midnight Ride; see why Mark Twain, featured on the 150th
anniversary of the publication of his seminal book, “Innocents Abroad, or The
New Pilgrims’ Progress” was our first travel blogger; learn about the Baroness artist
in exile who made a visual diary, and, of course, become enchanted at the “Holiday
Express,” re-imagined to celebrate the 100th birthday of Busytown series author
and illustrator Richard Scarry.
Beyond Midnight: Paul Revere
Paul Revere is most famous for his
midnight ride warning people of Massachusetts “the British are
coming,” but the larger than life legend is not the focus of this
first-ever exhibit now on view at the New-York Historical Society. And while
his prowess as a silversmith and artisan is very much displayed, we are
surprised to learn about Revere as a printer, an engraver, an entrepreneur and innovator,
a savvy businessman, a Mason, a “proto-industrialist” – all of which figured
into his role as a patriot.
Beyond Midnight: Paul Revere separates fact
from fiction, revealing Revere as a complex, multifaceted figure at the
intersection of America’s social, economic, artistic, and political life in
Revolutionary War-era Boston as it re-examines his life as an artisan,
activist, and entrepreneur. The exhibition, featuring more than 140 objects, most
never before exhibited in public, highlights aspects of Revere’s versatile
career as an artisan, including engravings, such as his well-known depiction of
the Boston Massacre; glimmering silver tea services made for prominent clients;
everyday objects such as thimbles, tankards, and teapots; and important public
commissions, such as a bronze courthouse bell. There are personal items, as
well – most touching is the
gold wedding ring Paul Revere made for his second wife, Rachel, in a case below
portraits of the two of them, a thin band engraved inside with the words, “Live
Organized by the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester,
curated by Nan Wolverton and Lauren Hewes, Beyond
Midnight debuts at New-York Historical through January 12, 2020, before
traveling to the Worcester Art Museum and the Concord Museum in Massachusetts
for a two-venue display (February 13 – June 7, 2020) and to Crystal Bridges
Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas (July 4 – October 11, 2020). At New-York Historical, Beyond Midnight is
coordinated by Debra Schmidt Bach, New-York Historical’s curator of decorative
“When many of us think of Paul Revere, we instantly think of Longfellow’s lines,
‘One if by land, and two if by sea’, but there is much more to Revere’s story,”
said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society.
“This exhibition looks beyond the myth of Paul Revere
to better understand the man as a revolutionary, an artisan, and an
entrepreneur, who would go on to become a legend. There is much more to the
Revere story than the famous ride. We are proud to partner with the American
Antiquarian Society to debut this exhibition in New York.”
The New-York Historical
Society partnered with the American Antiquarian Society (of Boston) which holds
one of the most encompassing collections of Paul Revere’s documents, largely
due to the society being founded by Isaiah Thomas in 1812, an “omnivorous
collector,” who was a printer, publisher, patriot, colleague and customer of
Paul Revere’s as well as a fellow patriot advocating for a break from Great
The Antiquarian Society,
the oldest national historical society, is a research library and not a museum,
so its collection is not publicly exhibited. That’s why this collaboration with
the New-York Historical Society is so extraordinary.
A Revolutionary activist, Paul Revere was a member of the Sons of
Liberty, a secret group opposed to British colonial policy including taxation
that kept track of British troop movements and war ships in the harbor. The
exhibition displays Revere’s 1770 engraving of the landing of British forces at
Boston’s Long Wharf.
Four versions of Revere’s provocative engraving of the 1770 Boston Massacre are also reunited in the exhibition. The engravings capture the moment when British soldiers fired upon a crowd of unruly colonists in front of the Custom House. The print inflamed anti-British sentiment, and different versions of it were widely disseminated as Patriot propaganda.
The only known copy of a
broadside that still exists is on display under canvas.
But the print that most
fascinated me was the one that depicted the first casualty of the American
Revolution, a black man, Crispice Attucks, at the center. It was used to
advance the cause of abolition before the Civil War.
Paul Revere was a master craftsman specializing in metalwork,
including copperplate engravings and fashionable and functional objects made
from silver, gold, brass, bronze, and copper. An innovative businessman, Revere
expanded his successful silver shop in the years after the war to produce goods
that took advantage of new machinery. His fluted oval teapot, made from
machine-rolled sheet silver, became an icon of American Federal silver design.
You see marvelous
examples of Revere’s artistry as a silversmith – a skill he learned from his father.
There is a Revere tea service that had belonged to John Templeman, on loan from
the Minnesota Institute of Art, the most complete tea service by Revere in
existence, which he made toward the end of long career that lasted until he was
in his 70s.
Among the silver objects on view are two rare wine goblets
possibly used as Kiddush cups made by Revere for Moses Michael Hays—his only
known Jewish client—as well as grand tea services, teapots, tankards,
teaspoons, and toy whistles created in Revere’s shop.
But Revere, a genius at working with metals, also worked in brass and copper. He produced bells and cannon. Featured in the exhibit is a 1796 cast-bronze courthouse bell made for the Norfolk County Courthouse in Dedham, Massachusetts (about 100 Revere-created bells are still in existence and one, in Cambridge is still rung). The exhibition also explores how Revere’s trade networks reached well beyond Boston, even aboard ships bound for China. He frequently bought and sold raw and finished copper from New Yorker Harmon Hendricks and supplied copper for Robert Fulton’s famous steamship.
We learn that the silver that Revere
and the colonial silversmiths would have used came from South America, from
mines run by the Spanish with African slave and Indian labor. “Spanish coin was
the currency of colonial America. Revere
would melt old objects and coin for the silver.”
Meticulous account books
that are in the collection show that Revere had customers in and around Boston-
they are never shown except on microfilm, so it is very special to see these
originals. In one, we see where Revere made notations and sketches.
What we learn is that
Revere, who had 16 children, would create new businesses, set up new workshops
and put a son in charge as he went on to create a new one. “He had a drive to keep changing technology,
but he built on what he learned as a silversmith.”
Revere was a proto-industrialist
of the nascent nation; he changed from a workshop model that would employ two
to four people, to more of an industrial model, with six to eight people paid
The connection between
being an artisan, an entrepreneur and an innovator plays into his role as a
As you enter the exhibit, you see a nine-foot-tall re-creation of
the grand obelisk made for a 1766 Boston Common celebration of the repeal of
the Stamp Act, the first tax levied on the American colonies by England.
Originally made of wood and oiled paper, and decorated with painted scenes,
portraits, and text praising King George while also mocking British
legislators, the obelisk was illuminated from inside and eventually consumed by
flames at the Boston event. Local newspapers of the time described huge event.
The only remaining visual evidence is Revere’s 1766 engraving of the design
which was used to make the reproduction.
was a member of the Sons of Liberty and helped plan and execute the Boston Tea
Party in 1773, hurling tea into Boston Harbor. You get to see a vial of tea
from the Boston Tea Party that was collected from Dorchester Beach (the water
was cold so the bales of tea didn’t dissolve). One of the vials was given to
the Antiquarian Society in 1840.
place where the Sons of Liberty met to discuss their plans for the Tea Party,
the Green Dragon Tavern, was also where the Masons met. Revere was a member of
this secret society as well. The Masons were humanists, a clique and seen as
anti-Christian, inspiring anti-Masonic societies, because all religions,
including Jews like Hays, could join.
Thomas, a Masonic brother, was a patriot and like many of the merchants saw
America as independent of Great Britain, with its own ability to make
(manufacture), sell and distribute goods and not rely on Europe. Thomas
published a newspaper and hired Revere, who was a printer as well as an artist,
to do the book plate and masthead for his newspapers.
Isaiah Thomas, a Masonic brother, was a patriot and like many of the merchants saw America as independent of Great Britain, with its own ability to make (manufacture), sell and distribute goods and not rely on Europe. Thomas published a newspaper and hired Revere, who was a printer as well as an artist, to do the book plate and masthead for his newspapers.
Paul Revere was born in
America in 1735. His father was a French Huguenot who came as a young man from
Bordeaux France, emigrating first to the Isle of Jersey, and then to Boston as
a goldsmith. Revere’s father dies young and Paul, having finished his
apprenticeship, takes over at 19.
Revere belonged to an economic class called “mechanics,” ranked below merchants, lawyers, and clergymen. But Revere was a savvy networker, and what he lacked in social status, he made up for by cultivating influential connections. Membership in the Sons of Liberty led to commissions from fellow Patriots, but he also welcomed Loyalist clients, setting aside politics for profit. On view are nine elements from a grand, 45-piece beverage service that Revere created in 1773 for prominent Loyalist Dr. William Paine—the largest commission of his career—just two months before the Boston Tea Party.
A key associate was Isaiah
Thomas who, like Revere, exemplifies an American success story. Thomas was
poor but taught himself how to read, write and set type and became one of
wealthiest Americans as a printer, employing 150 people. It was the same with
Paul Revere and Ben Franklin – they all started from nothing, but became
successful – each of them had the ability in America to rise up, each was a
printer, and each was a great innovator and thinker. The exhibit makes clear
that a big part of Revere’s story is his importance as a printer.
The end of exhibit
focuses on the Revere legend and the reality.
Paul Revere died in 1818, at the age of 83 (he worked until his
70s), but his fame endured, initially for his metalwork and then for his
patriotism. In the 1830s, Revere’s engravings were rediscovered as Americans
explored their Revolutionary past, and his view of the Boston Massacre appeared
in children’s history books.
In 1860, poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, after visiting the Old
North Church and hearing the story about the lanterns, was inspired to write
“Paul Revere’s Ride,” romanticizing (and somewhat embellishing) the story of
Revere’s journey to Lexington. The poem first appeared in the Atlantic
Monthly in January 1861 (an original copy of the magazine is on view
in the exhibition).
“Listen my children and you shall
hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,” Longfellow wrote 85 years after the event,
April 18, 1775. It was the eve of another revolution, the Civil War. Longfellow’s intention was not to promote the
idea of revolution but to remind Americans of our common foundation, our roots,
our unifying experience.
Before the Longfellow poem was
published, a new print of the famous Revere print of the Boston massacre was
published that put the black man, Crispice Attucks, the first man to die for
Revolution, America’s first martyr, in the center.
“The Civil War started in 1861. Longfellow was
an abolitionist and Boston was a hotbed of abolition. He wanted to remind the country
of its shared past. That is why he brought Revere back to life, but his life was
stripped down to one event,” curator Debra Schmidt Bach explains.
The exhibit is timely
now for much the same reason: with such intense partisanship, there is the
sense of needing to remind people of our common foundation.
In reality, Revere, who was 40 years old when he undertook his
famous ride, was on foot until he crossed the Charles River to Cambridge and
then rode a borrowed horse to Lexington. He was
also one of three riders and was stopped briefly by British officers and then
released when Revere talked his way out of being arrested. A map of the actual
ride is on display.
Works like the Longfellow poem, artist Grant Wood’s 1931 painting Midnight Ride of Paul Revere depicting a dramatic scene of Revere riding past Boston’s Old North Church (also an embellishment) and others enshrined Paul Revere at the heart of the nation’s founding story. By the turn of the 20th century, the tale of Paul Revere and his midnight ride was firmly established in the nation’s psyche as truth, not fiction, and Revere’s contributions as a metalsmith and artisan were overshadowed.
The Revere exhibit, and
the people who we are introduced to like Isaiah Thomas, reveals the DNA that
propelled the American Revolution: how Americans had become their own culture,
their own society, where an individual was not limited by birth, but could rise
up. The Stamp Tax and the Tea Tax imposed by Britain clarified the limitations
placed on the Americans’ economic development. More than a political
revolution, the American Revolution was an economic and social revolution.
In piercing the bubble
of the Revere legend, the exhibit exposes an even more interesting and
“Paul Revere” exhibit on view in NY until January
12, 2020 before
traveling to the Worcester Art Museum and the Concord Museum in Massachusetts
for a two-venue display (February 13 – June 7, 2020) and to Crystal Bridges
Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas (July 4 – October 11, 2020). Special
programming is offered in conjunction with the exhibit, check the website, www.nyhistory.org.
Mark Twain and
the Holy Land
This small alcove within
the New-York Historical Society is hallowed ground for a travel writer,
consisting of artifacts, leaves from journals, letters, stereotypes, photos
that re-create Mark Twain’s journey through the Holy Land in 1867. Twain’s
cruise aboard the Quaker City was a first – the first organized tour in
American history – and Twain was the first travel writer, sending back
dispatches of his impressions that were published in a San Francisco newspaper,
two years before his subsequent 1869 book, The Innocents Abroad, or The New Pilgrims’ Progress, one of the best-selling travelogues of all
Historical Society celebrates the 150th anniversary of the publication of Innocents Abroad with Mark Twain
and the Holy Land, on view through February 2, 2020. This new
exhibition traces the legendary American humorist’s 1867 voyage to the Mediterranean
and his subsequent book through original documents, photographs, artwork, and
costumes, as well as an interactive media experience.
by New-York Historical in partnership with the Shapell Manuscript Foundation,
it is curated by Michael Ryan, vice president and director of the Patricia D.
Klingenstein Library, and Cristian Petru Panaite, associate curator of
sail from New York for a great adventure abroad, Mark Twain captured the
feelings and reactions of many Americans exploring beyond their borders,
inspiring generations of travelers to document their voyages,” said Dr. Louise
Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. “We are pleased
to partner with the Shapell Manuscript Foundation to present the history behind
this influential book by Twain, a uniquely American writer whose work helped to
define American culture in the postbellum era.”
What I delighted in most
was an interactive display where you can summon up a specific site Twain
visited, like the Holy Sepulchre, and read Twain’s notes and observations,
adjacent to a historic photo, that read like today’s travel blogs.
“We spurred up hill
after hill, and usually began to stretch our necks minutes before we got to the
top-but disappointment always followed – more stupid hills beyond – more unsightly
landscape – no Holy City. At last, away in the middle of the day, ancient bite
of wall and crumbling arches began to line the way-we toiled up one more hill,
and every pilgrim and every sinner swung his hat on high! Jerusalem!”
“Just after noon we
entered these narrow, crooked streets, by the ancient and the famed Damascus
Gate, and now for several hours I have been trying to comprehend that I am
actually in the illustrious old city where Solomon dwelt, where Abraham held
converse with the Deity, and where walls still stand that witnessed the
spectacle of the Crucifixion.”
“The great feature of
the Mosque of Omar is the Prodigious rock in the centre of its rotunda. It was
upon this rock that Abraham came so near offering up his son Isaac – this, at
least, is authentic – it is very much more to be relied on than most of the
traditions, at any rate. On this rock, also, the angel stood and threatened
Jerusalem, and David persuaded him to spare the city.”
expressed disgust at the way his fellow travelers treated hallowed sites. “Pilgrims
have come in with their pockets full of specimens broken from the ruins. I wish
this vandalism could be stopped.” But Twain himself carried back items (a list is
provided) including marble from the Parthenon in Athens, mummies from Egyptian
pyramids, a letter opener made from Abraham’s oak and olive wood from Jerusalem.
Artist in Exile:
The Visual Diary of Baroness Hyde de Neuville
Artist in Exile: The Visual Diary of Baroness Hyde de Neuville introduces visitors to a little-known artist whose work documented the people and scenes of early America. The exhibit, on view November 1, 2019 – January 26, 2020 in the Joyce B. Cowin Women’s History Gallery of the Center for Women’s History, presents 115 watercolors, drawings, and other works by Anne Marguérite Joséphine Henriette Rouillé de Marigny, Baroness Hyde de Neuville (1771–1849). Self-taught and ahead of her time, Neuville’s art celebrates the young country’s history, culture, and diverse population, ranging from Indigenous Americans to political leaders.
All Aboard to Richard Scarry’s Busytown
holiday favorite returns to the New-York Historical Society this
season—reimagined to celebrate the 100th birthday of Busytown series author and
illustrator Richard Scarry. Holiday Express: All Aboard to Richard
Scarry’s Busytown (November 1, 2019 – February 23, 2020) showcases
artwork and graphics of Scarry’s characters like Huckle Cat and Lowly Worm from
publisher Random House Children’s Books alongside more than 300 objects from
the Jerni Collection’s antique toy trains, stations, and accessories. Using
Busytown stories and characters, dynamic displays explore the workings of the
railroad, the services it provides, and the jobs required to keep people and
goods moving. An assortment of kid-friendly activities, story times, and crafts
accompany the exhibition throughout its run, welcoming families into the world
of classic toys and trains. Richard “Huck” Scarry Jr., the son of Richard
Scarry, will make a special appearance on December 14 and 15. Holiday
Express: All Aboard to Richard Scarry’s Busytown is supported by
Bloomberg Philanthropies. Additional support provided by Random House
Historical Society, 170 Central Park West (77th St), New York, NY