Guest Posts

The Importance of Regional Publishing


In the spirit of partnership that pervades the university press community, Syracuse University Press and 36 other presses unite for the AAUP’s second annual blog tour during University Press Week. The tour highlights the value of university presses and the contributions they make to scholarship and our society.

Schedule your week’s reading with the complete blog tour schedule here

Today’s theme is the importance of regional publishing, discussed by one of our favorite regional authors, Chuck D’Imperio.

Regional publishing is a wonderful source of information, data, traditional stories, reflections, memories and history.  Although in many cases the parameters can be small, their importance cannot be denied. Not every author can write a serious piece on the nuances of global affairs or the ramifications of economic turmoil.  And not every writer’s heart beats with the longing and sentimentality of a romance novelist.  We can’t all be adventure writers or cookbook authors.  We cannot all come up with clever mystery twists and turns.

But we can all become regional writers.  Why?  Because we all have stories to tell, no matter how provincial or how far-flung.  And these stories, these observations stand the test of time serving an important purpose for the past, present and the future.

Centuries ago familial tales were handed down in oral testimonies from grandparents to grandchildren.  Stories of hardships endured and triumphs enjoyed.  Of bitter harvests and sharecropping, of transoceanic flight and new beginnings.  Of shadowy injustices and illuminating liberations.  Of slavery.  Of migration.  Of life on the dusty prairie as well on the teeming sidewalks of immigrant America.

 These stories, eventually written down in small books and disseminated by small presses, have served as some of the most important tools in any writer’s arsenal.  Read the legendary works of Herman Melville, Willa Cather, John Steinbeck, Pearl Buck or Mark Twain and it is apparent that at the heart of each of these writers’ opuses lies a work of regional scent.  Though disguised as great literary epics and tomes it is still clear to any reader that these authors (and legions more) are simply writing about what they know, where they lived and what they did.  Many of the settings of the famous American novels or short stories reflect the simple concept of a regional book masked in the patina of “great literature.”

 Story placements as varied as family farms, the sea, a rural Main Street, unpronounceable places abroad, on the river, in the big shouldered cities and more all are the regional backdrop of some of the most familiar works of American writing, from Tara to Cannery Row to “Our Town.”

 I am proud to be a regional writer.  I have six books currently in stores exploring the width and breadth of my own backyard, Upstate New York.  I have written of the great legends of the Hudson Valley, the history of the small towns in the high peaks of the Adirondacks, the whimsy of the tiny museums of the Finger Lakes and the verdigris- covered war memorials which dot the Leatherstocking Region.  These books are small, yet timeless.  My readers can identify with the stories and tales I have told whether they come from the busy streets of our capital city, Albany or from the bucolic bosom of the Schoharie Valley.

 Anybody can be a regional writer to some degree.  To paraphrase Grandma Moses, it’s easy.  Just pick up a pencil and start writing.

Unknown Museums of Upstate NY

Shades of Beauty: Cultural Implications Behind the Miss America Controversy

We welcome this post written by Shikha Upadhyaya, a P.h.D student at the University of Wyoming.

             The world witnessed the crowning of the “new face” of America on the night of September 15, 2013. People all over the world went to various social media outlets to express their views about the new Miss America. Although ethnolinguistic diversity is intuitively considered to be at the core of “American Life,” Americans and non-Americans within United States and all over the world were divided in their views on whether America is ready to be represented by an Indian-American face. This is particularly ironic given the fact that ethnolinguistic diversity is an observable reality of American life. Nina Davuluri (Miss America 2014) aptly stressed this fact during her CNN interview, “…the girl next door is evolving, as the diversity of America evolves. She’s not who she was 10 years ago, and she’s not going to be the same person come 10 years down the road.” Diversity has always been an integral and a “normal” aspect of being an American. Hence, it is safe to state that the new face of Miss America basically legitimized the existence and importance of diversity in the United States.

            While mainstream media in U.S. was cheering Miss America 2014 for her talent, beauty and her courage to represent ethnolinguistic diversity in America, many fans from India applauded her for becoming the first Indian-American to be Miss America. Soon thereafter the conversation shifted to derogatory racist commentaries based on the color of her skin. While such commentaries within the U.S. were racist in nature, Indian media personalities and past beauty queens were engaging in controversial conversations related to whether Davuluri was “white” enough (from an Indian perspective) to win the contest.

            The beauty industry in India establishes and promotes the idea that women need to be white in order to be beautiful. A particular shade of the skin becomes the yardstick for assessing the sociocultural worth of a human being. This is particularly prevalent within Indian beauty pageants. While these pageants claim to provide an important toolkit for young women to be successful in their lives, the process of “grooming” these young women leaves a lasting scar in their personal lives as well as on millions of other aspiring young women in India. These grooming rituals particularly valorize white skin as the ideal skin color, therefrom associating it with higher social and economic status.  Successful Bollywood actors and actresses are part of advertisements for skin whitening creams associated with big brand names. In a sociocultural context where movie actors and actresses become “heroes” and “heroines” of an ordinary citizen’s day to day life, endorsements of such products perpetuates this social stigma associated with darker skin. Furthermore, this constantly communicates the fact that you have to be of a particular skin color to be successful in your life. Hence, this gendered assertion pertaining to skin color and success tacitly pressurizes young women to be in continuous dangerous pursuit of the “unnatural” in the construction of the “natural.”

            Critics of beauty pageants label it as a public event that objectifies women and distorts socioeconomic realties. While these oppositional arguments cannot be dismissed, it is also difficult to ignore the massive public appeal of these competitive contests. While beauty pageants may not accurately reflect social realities, they surely have the capacity to represent the fantasy wherefrom adverse sociocultural ideologies pertaining to genders are reinforced and legitimized. Hence, it is critical to reflect upon broad sociocultural and economic implications of beauty pageants in the day-to-day lives of common people, irrespective of where one comes from.

For more on this subject, read Susan Dewey’s Making Miss India Miss World.

Summer Road Trip with Chuck D’Imperio: Northeast Classic Car Museum

Northeast Classic Car Museum

Nothing fits a warm summer night better than a great old car show.  Well the biggest and best old car show in Central New York takes place every day at the wonderful Northeast Classic Car Museum in Norwich (Chenango County).


When you first step in to one of their several large showrooms it is sensory overload.  Cars are lined up as far as the eye can see:  red, black, white, turquoise, brown, green.  They look like Life Savers on wheels.  It is positively dazzling!


There are more than 150 cars on display every day at this unknown museum in Norwich.  From Model T and Model As, to big-finned classics from the 1950s, to the muscle cars of the 1960s they are all here.  Of special note is the largest collection of Franklin Automobiles under one roof.  These cars were made up until 1934 in Syracuse.  Other local auto manufacturers are represented here as well.

Some of the surest head-turners are the giant, block-long cars of the 1920s and 1930s.  There are several Dusenbergs, Packards and Cords here that are as long as boats and have every imaginable accessory to ferry around the rich and famous of the day.

The thing I like best about the Northeast Classic Car Museum is its multi-generational appeal.  This is the perfect place for Grandpa to bring his grandson (or granddaughter) to and give them a lesson on yesteryear.  Both generations will love it.  Granddad will enjoy reminiscing about his first car and the kids will love all the fancy, colorful features that make almost every auto here look as if it sprang from one of today’s superhero movies.

This is a nice museum, a little off the beaten path, but certainly worth a couple of hours on a a warm sunny Saturday!  It is also a chapter in my new book Unknown Museums of Upstate New York.


Summer Road Trip series is back!

You may remember our Summer Road Trip series with author and radio personality Chuck D’Imperio. Over the course of the summer Chuck took our readers on a tour of the most fascinating monuments, statues, and memorials in Upstate New York, all found in his book Monumental New York! He shared stories about the famous and infamous personalities to ever tread the forests, fields, and city streets of the Empire State.

Fortunately, Chuck is back with a new book and whole new set of summer travel ideas. Unknown Museums of Upstate New York: A Guide to 50 Treasures will be out later this summer but you will get a sneak-peek every few weeks when Chuck drops in on the blog to highlight a museum in this year’s Summer Road Trip series….starting today!

One of my favorite stops along the “museum trail” is the Gomez Mill House in Marlboro ( The community lies on the border of Ulster and Orange County on the west bank of the Hudson River. The Gomez Mill House is steeped in history. It is the oldest surviving Jewish home in the United States.

Its graceful stonewalls, lush gardens, and old wooden water wheel give it a peaceful and nostalgic air. Inside the walls you will find the stories of five different prominent New York families (and others) who have resided there. It is totally fascinating and clearly one of the best kept secrets in the Hudson Valley. 2014 marks the 300th anniversary of the home and events and celebrations are planned.

Why not mark it down on your “trip catalog” for this summer and get a first look at this incredible landmark? The docents are well versed and the stories they tell are really the stuff that legends are made of.

Original builder Luis Moses Gomez was a Sephardic Jewish merchant and trader who established the first synagogue of Sherarith Israel and in 1728 served as its first president. The congregation, still in existence in New York City, is the oldest one in the United States. The families who followed the Gomez family as residents (Acker, Armstrong, Hunter and Gruening) are equally important and touched every aspect of American culture over the centuries from politics to literature to craftsmanship to military.

I spent an entire afternoon here recently and can’t wait to go back. As you quietly walk from room to room to room you can actually sense the heft of history found in this home. You will love the Gomez Mill House….an unknown museum of upstate New York that I write about in my new book.gomez house

Why University Presses Matter

Welcome to day 3 of the University Press Week blog tour!  We are pleased to present longtime author and former series editor Laurence M. Hauptman as our guest blogger.  His most recent SU Press book, Seven Generations of Iroquois Leadership: The Six Nations since 1800 was the 2012 Winner of the Herbert H. Lehman Prize for Distinguished Scholarship.

In his post, he isolates three main reasons why university presses matter.  The AAUP University Press Week blog tour continues tomorrow with the Princeton University Press.  A complete blog tour schedule is available here.

Why University Presses Matter by Laurence M. Hauptman*

As a young assistant professor in the 1970s, I was fortunate to meet Arpena Mesrobian, the director of Syracuse University Press at a conference on New York State history. Much of what I learned about book publishing came from my conversations with this extraordinary editor who encouraged me, then an aspiring young historian.  That meeting was the beginning of a working relationship with her and her fine staff for the next thirty years. This collaboration resulted in Syracuse University Press’ publication of five of my books in Native American history; it also led to my eventual appointment as the Press’ editor of the Iroquois and their Neighbors series from 1989 to 2001. My connection to this university press has been a major part of my academic career and has clearly influenced my decision to submit my subsequent research to other university presses as well. Although one of my books was published by a leading commercial press, namely the Free Press of Simon and Schuster, I have continued to submit my other manuscripts to various university presses, including the University of Oklahoma Press, the University of New Mexico Press, the University of Wisconsin Press, and SUNY Press.

In reflecting why I have repeatedly gone back to university presses to publish my books, I can isolate three major reasons. First, university presses generally work closer and spend more time collaborating with authors, especially new ones to the field, performing more of an educational role by teaching scholars the ropes of the publishing process. For me, the staff of Syracuse University Press were indeed my teachers over the years, instructing me at every stage of the publishing process—how to prepare a manuscript for submission; the need to secure images and permission letters early in the process; the way to structure a proper bibliography and organize an index; the vital role of a copyeditor and how to best proof a manuscript; the importance of working with the production and marketing staff in the selection of book titles, jacket descriptions, and cover designs; and ways to better market and promote the final product once the book is published.

Secondly, university presses are incubators for new ideas and directions in scholarship. University presses are more inclined to take risks than commercial presses. They are not part of large conglomerates whose primary function is to satisfy shareholders by maximizing profits at the cost of scholarship. When I started writing about Native Americans of the Northeast in 1971, few presses, university or commercial, had titles on their list on this subject. Those that had titles focused largely on Colonial America through the Jacksonian Indian removal era. The implication was that American Indians’ no longer existed east of the Mississippi and/or that tribal histories were no longer important except to certain anthropologists studying cultural change and decline. Consequently, 20- 25% of the Native population was being ignored by historians as well as by book publishers. Today university presses have followed the lead taken by Syracuse University Press. They have focused more of their titles on the Native Americans of the Northeast since removal. These include the two oldest presses publishing books on Native Americans, namely the University of Oklahoma Press and the University of Nebraska Press.

Finally, university presses have in-house expertise and draw from their location on campuses of higher learning.  In most cases, university presses have more rigorous internal and external reviews. Their boards of editors are composed of university faculty with expertise in the particular field that is the subject of the manuscript under consideration. Moreover, outside reviewers are generally chosen with more care because often recommendations about evaluators are made by members of the board. There is another factor here. University presses can draw from other campus resources as well. They have major libraries to fact check if needed for the accuracy of points or citations in manuscripts. In my own experience with Syracuse University Press, I have had the privilege of working with an excellent cartographer who is based in the nationally recognized Syracuse University geography department. By doing so, I have insured that my maps were done as I wished and not outsourced to someone less able to meet my particular requirements. Consequently, it is little wonder that my final book-length manuscript has recently been submitted to a university press.


*LAURENCE M. HAUPTMAN is SUNY Distinguished Emeritus of History at SUNY New Paltz where he taught courses on Native American history, New York history, and Civil War history for forty years. On October 25, 2011, Dr. John B. King, the New York State Commissioner of Education, awarded Hauptman the State Archives Lifetime Achievement Award for his research and publications on the Empire State. Hauptman is the author, coauthor, or coeditor of 17 books on the Iroquois and other Native Americans. He has testified as an expert witness before committees of both houses of Congress and in the federal courts and has served as a historical consultant for the Wisconsin Oneidas, the Cayugas, the Mashantucket Pequots, and the Senecas. Over the past two decades, Professor Hauptman has been honored by the New York State Board of Regents, the Pennsylvania Historical Association, the Wisconsin Historical Society, the New York Academy of History, and Mohonk Consultations for his writings about Native Americans.

Walk on the Wild Side

The sparkle of hickory leaves tumbling through thinning trees onto the leaf-littered ground, the scuffling and shuffling as the breeze pushes them into windrows along the roadside, the smell of them drying and beginning to break down- all these sights, sounds, and smells are part of Kettle Road this time of year.

From the scraping of leaf-litter, a ruffled grouse rises awkwardly flapping with great effort to become airborne and disappears into the denser bush. Further along two turkeys skedaddle across the road. It is the time of serious foraging for these large, non-migratory birds that will spend the winter in these woods.

The sumac’s wine-rust-carmine banners raise the question, how many shades of red can nature create. The burdock has browned and partnered with the golden rods. Like elderly couples, they seem to complement and enhance one another. Grasses have lost their greenery and display the withered finery of old age. Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum) goes from minty green accoutrement to dark kettle drum sticks that might carry a wallop.

Sanford Pond, the small kettle lake offers a kaleidoscope of transitional colors, and what you get is “a double whammy”- trees on the shore and trees in the water.  Even the common milkweed takes on an exotic look, like that of ikebana, in the mirror of the pond.

Someone once asked, “why are you walking these back roads?” For most of us, the world does not work like we want it to (our cars break down, our jobs overwhelm, our bodies take on decrepitude), but here on these seasonal roads there is a rightness about it all, particularly this time year, the end of warm summer days and long hours of sunshine. There is completeness, a certain calm and peace, I find nowhere else. What more beautiful an ending than to go out, not with a whimper, but with glorious texture and color.

– Mary A. Hood, Author of Walking Seasonal Roads

Photographs compliments of Bonnie Warden

Take a Fall Walk with Mary A. Hood

The purple asters and golden rods bring on the feel of a cheer. My own high school and college colors were purple and gold, and this time of year, their royal shades remind me of that giddy feel of excitement, the beginning of the new school year and rooting for the home team. Add to that the maroon of the grey dogwoods and the scarlet Virginia creeper, the first to hint at fall’s glorious palette, on a crisp, sunshiny, blue-sky day, and what happens is the overwhelming need to be outdoors.

A seasonal road is a good place to be this time of year. White-tail deer are likely to jump out in front of you and bound away with tails waving like white flags, not in surrender, but more like the drop of a lady’s handkerchief fluttering down asking to be retrieved, designed for attention. Squirrels and chipmunks will speed across the road at a clip to stagger the imagination. Every creature seems in a big hurry.

One of my favorite seasonal roads, Ford Road in the Pulteney Highlands becomes a medieval cathedral. Light filters through the trees as if from stain glass windows, the bright gilded yellow from locust, the crimson maples, the rusty-rose white oaks, the golden hickories. Along the roadside where sunlight penetrates the canopy and touches the ground, patches of butter and eggs known as toadflax (Linaria vulgaris) become the sun’s paint splotches. The flowers are similar to snap dragons with egg-yolk yellow and creamy hinged petals.

The corn fields rustle in the breeze like brown wrapping paper and in the green alfalfa fields, gangs of crows hang out. Pairs of cabbage white butterflies punctuate the road with flutter. Perhaps something in us recognizes the urgency of time, perhaps how little we have of it and we must seize the moment, get out and watch the changing of the guards.

Mary A. Hood is professor emerita at the University of West Florida. She has published several collections of poetry, general articles on conservation and the environment, and numerous scientific articles in the field of microbial ecology. In addition, she is the author of The Strangler Fig and Other Tales: Field Notes of a Conservationist and Rivertime: Ecotravel on the World’s Rivers. Her most recent book, Walking Seasonal Roads, was published in May of 2012 by Syracuse University Press.

Summer Road Trip with Chuck D’Imperio: The Proctor Eagle

Very few Upstate cities are as synonymous with a single name as Utica is.  Cooperstown has its Clarks, Rochester has its Eastmans and Utica has its Proctors.

Thomas Redfield Proctor came to the city around 1869 and quickly established himself as a hotelier of significance.  His Bagg’s Hotel, Butterfield House and Spring House Hotel (Richfield Springs) were among the most popular and posh overnight accommodations in the region.  Once he became wealthy, Proctor (and his extended family) was benevolent to their city beyond compare.  He financed a parks system in Utica that quickly became the envy of similar sized cities in the U.S.  It is in one of those parks that an everlasting tribute to this giant figure in Utica’s history still stands today.

From it’s exquisite aerie high atop the 400-acre Roscoe Conkling Park (named for legendary three-term U.S. Senator from Utica) sits the majestic “Proctor Eagle.”   Upon his death on July 4, 1920, his wife, Maria commissioned a heroic image of an American Eagle about to take flight.  This eagle sits atop a tall marble base.  The direction of the eagle’s flight path reaches out over the city of Utica and on to the sweeping foothills of the Adirondack Mountains.  While it is almost akin to detective work to try and discern the impetus behind the creation of some great memorials, the Proctor Eagle leaves no question as to its origin.

It commemorates an actual event.

A plaque affixed to this dynamic eagle monument reads:  “This monument is erected to the memory and honor of Thomas Redfield Proctor by his wife.  He was an incorruptible citizen and pure patriot.  If asked what he wished for in reward for any good public deed he would reply, “I want nothing.”  An American Eagle in a cage was once offered to him.  He bought it and liberated it on the 4th of July.  It paused for a moment and then took flight.  He also was given his liberty on the 4th of July, 1920 and went the way the bird did, seeking his native element and the true Father of his country.”

The view from the Proctor Eagle high atop Conkling Park is one of the most beautiful of any monument sites I have researched in the state.

While visiting the Proctor Eagle simply turn around and look over the fence into Forest Hill Cemetery.  The first large grave you can see is that of James Schoolcraft Sherman. Sherman was a political contemporary of Conklings, a fellow Utica native and a man who served as 27th vice-president of the United States. 

Chuck D’Imperio

Summer Road Trip with Chuck D’Imperio: “The Sandlot Kid”

Cooperstown, N.Y. is known as “America’s Most Perfect Village.”  It has a storied past (the Baseball Hall of Fame obviously), a spectacular setting (Otsego Lake) and some pretty amazing members in its family tree (author James Fenimore Cooper for starters).  So it is no surprise that it also has a wonderful selection of public art.

A visitor will marvel at the clarity and strength depicted in one America’s earliest popular sculptures, “The Indian Hunter” by John Quincy Adams Ward overlooking the lake.  Or the magnificent solemnity of the World War I statue standing guard near the famous Otesaga Hotel (many have called this one of the most exact statues of its kind in America.).  And then there is the towering and heroic statue of James Fenimore Cooper by sculptor Victor Salvatore posted outside the front door of the Baseball Hall of Fame Library.  They are all great, but it is another Salvatore piece that strikes the most sentimental chord amongst the throngs visiting Cooperstown annually.

“The Sandlot Kid” was placed in front of Doubleday Field (dubbed “The Birthplace of Baseball) in 1940.  It is a tall pedastled statue of a young lad preparing to hit a baseball in the 1800s.  We do not know much more than that, but the statue speaks volumes.  The kid has a farmboy’s straw hat pulled down over his eyes.  He looks to be about ten years old.  He is barefoot, dressed in overly large work clothes and his bat is resting on his right shoulder.  Its placement in front of one of baseball’s “unofficial” shrines is picture perfect. Who cannot relate to this familiar scene?

And speaking of “picture perfect.”  This statue is without a doubt one of the most photographed ones in the Upstate region.  Teams of little leaguers, visitors from other countries, nostalgic grandparents and Hall of Famers alike have lined up to get a photo over the decades with this timeless kid in front of Doubleday Field.  The majority of the 300,000 visitors to Cooperstown each year no doubt have a snapshot featuring themselves posing with this popular icon.

Victor Salvatore was a respected sculptor with bronzes showcased in galleries around the world including the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  He is also the sculptor of the giant Cooper statue near the Hall of Fame.

Salvatore was married to Ellen Ryerson, the daughter of wealthy lawyer Arthur L. Ryerson who perished in the sinking of the RMS Titanic on April 15, 1912.  She was the only one of his daughters who did not voyage with thier parents on the doomed ship.

Our next “road trip” will take us to an aerie overlooking one of Upstate’s largest cities.  Here we will learn the story of an amazing bird.

Chuck D’Imperio

“Making Do in Damascus” Author Sally K. Gallagher Discusses Her Thoughts on Syria’s “Civil War”

With twenty years of fieldwork in Damascus and an upcoming book, Making Do in Damascus: Navigating a Generation of Change in Family and Work, Sally K. Gallagher has a strong understanding of the current issues taking place in Syria. Gallagher, a professor of sociology at Oregon State University, is the author of Evangelical Identity and Gendered Family Life and Older People Giving Care: Helping Family and Community, as well as numerous journal articles on gender, family, and caregiving. In her Huffington Post article on August 8 titled “In Syria, Simply Replacing al-Assad is Not Enough,” Gallagher draws from personal experience to analyze conflicting issues in the recent Syria scare.

“As a sociologist who studies family and social change I have spent innumerable hours over the past two decades talking with women in Damascus. Neighbourhoods where I lived and formed friendships among ordinary Syrians are now regularly in the news — Jobbar, Tadamun, Midan, Douma, Sayida Zeinab, Shaalan, Jisr al-Abyad, Abu Roumaneh, and Mezze. Friends and contacts in some of these areas send updates via email or postings on Facebook. They can’t sleep because of the noise of shelling and gunshots now closer to home. Those who are fortunate have relatives in calmer parts of the city or in villages nearby where they can escape the chaos and skyrocketing prices of a city under assault.

Having listened to families across a range of social strata describe their hopes and struggles and concerns for a secure and better future, I believe there are two important aspects of the current conflict that have been omitted from much of the public debate. The first is that entrenched economic interests that cut across various religious and ethnic communities have been largely overlooked by the popular press and policy makers in favor of a singular focus on religious strife. Second, in order for the Syrian people to see their way to a democratic future, the culture of fear that has pervaded every aspect of Syrian life for two generations needs to be addressed. Both of these will have profound and lasting impacts on the outcome of this conflict.”

Gallagher’s Fall 2012 book, Making Do in Damascus: Navigating a Generation of Change in Family and Work, is to be published in September. In this she traces ordinary women’s experiences and ideas across decades of social and economic change to highlight the collective identity, place, and connection within generations of Damascus families. This work offers a rare portrayal of ordinary family life in Damascus, Syria and explores how women negotiate a sense of collective and personal identity from cultural ideals around gender, religion, and family.  Author Lisa Pollard describes Making Do in Damascus as, “”Engaging and well-written. . . . An important contribution to scholarship on families in the Middle East.” Visit our website for more information on this title.

Summer Road Trip with Chuck D’Imperio: Westfield Statue

The President’s Whiskers

In far western New York, where the Finger Lakes region ends and the Great Lakes begin to make their presence known, one will find the most charming memorial in Upstate.  The two central figures are familiar and yet curious.  A towering U.S. president and a little girl holding a tiny bouquet of flowers.  And that is it, in its entirety.  Of course the president was Abraham Lincoln and the story of the president and the little girl is one of the most famous tales to come out of Upstate.

Lincoln was running for the presidency when he received a fan letter from an 11-year old girl, Grace Bedell of Westfield, N.Y.  She was imploring him to grow some whiskers on his bare face so “all the ladies would vote for him.”  Unbelievably, this seemingly innocuous letter reached the candidate’s desk and he read it and answered the little girl. 

He agreed.  He grew the whiskers.

After he was elected, Lincoln’s victory train made a stop in Westfield on his way to his inauguration.  The tall president-elect came to the rear of the station and hollered to the huge crowd to “bring me the little girl, Grace Bedell.”  Grace was there with her family and she shyly approached the soon-to-be president with a small bouquet in her hands.  Mr. Lincoln reached down to give her a kiss on her cheek and the little girl reached up and rubbed his new grown whiskers.  Lincoln whispered to the young girl, “Gracie, I have been growing them for you!”  A roar went up from the crowd, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Much has been written about the meeting of Abraham Lincoln and Grace Bedell that day but sculptor Don Sottile, of Himrod, N.Y., created a timeless, poignant and beautiful life size double statue of this famous event that is the perfect anecdote to this delightful story.  Many visitors come to the spot where the memorial is (corner of US Rt. 20 and NYS Rt. 394) during their visit to this region. 

Westfield is grape country.  The village is surrounded by many large vineyards and the was actually the birthplace of Welch’s Grape Juice (1897).  The last remaining original building of the factory, Welch’s Building Factory #1, is still standing in downtown Westfield and is on the National Registry of Historic Places.

In our next visit we will explore the “Home of Baseball” (or is it?) and the famous statue of “The Sandlot Kid.”

Chuck D’Imperio

Summer Road Trip with Chuck D’Imperio: Trudeau Statue

If you ask any sports fan to name a miracle that took place in Upstate New York they will quickly tell you of the “Miracle on Ice,” when the U.S.A. team defeated the Russian ice hockey team at the 1980 Winter Olympics.  But another miracle, this one a medical miracle, took place a century before this.  It occured in Saranac Lake, just a hockey puck shot down the road from Lake Placid.  It is the subject of our newest look at an Upstate memorial.

Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau (1848-1915) came to the pristine Adirondack Mountains in 1873 after both completing his medical degree and contracting tuberculosis all in the same year.  At the time it was felt that there was little to do to fight this disease but that surrounding yourself with fresh clean air, plenty of sunshine and a relaxed lifestyle all contributed to lengthening ones life with the disease.  In 1894 Trudeau established the first clinic in the U.S. dedicated to the study and treatment of tuberculosis.  The Trudeau Laboratory was opened in Saranac Lake and over the years hundreds would make the trek to the mountains seeking “the cure.”

Among the many famous clients who visited Trudeau’s clinic are writer Robert Louis Stevenson (who survived the disease) and baseball Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson (who died of TB in a cure cottage in Saranac Lake on October 7, 1925).

The clinic is still located here.  At the rear of the building is a haunting statue. The statue shows the doctor in his final days of life gazing serenely over a pond behind the clinic that bears his name.  The creator is one of America’s most famous sculptors, Gutzon Borglum, a friend of Trudeaus.  Borglum’s most famous work of course is the presidential tribute carved on Mt. Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Dr. Trudeau’s great-great-grandson, the cartoonist Gary Trudeau (“Doonesbury”), currently serves as an Honorary Trustee of the institute bearing his family name.

In our next post we will take a look at a remarkable statue in Western New York which commemorates the historic meeting between a U.S. president and an 11-year old girl.

Chuck D’Imperio

Collective Intelligence and Your e-Reader

By: Sylwia E. Dziedzic, Marketing Intern

For years, literature has been an exploration into the application of philosophical ideas and concepts. To some, reading provides an emotional escape into a virtual escapade. Others read to expand their imagination and use it as an aid for relaxation. But what if your interactivity patterns, such as the length of time spent on a particular page, content written in the margins, and words highlighted on your Kindle, Sony Reader, Nook, or iPad were monitored? Data and analytics have undoubtedly changed the way mobile apps and gaming consoles are constructed for consumers. Therefore, we must ask the question: are editors more likely to test their books digitally before releasing it in print to ensure their content will sell? And of its counterpart: do readers accept the intrusion between their private journey with the author and words on the screen?

Patrick Berry, Assistant Professor of Writing and Rhetoric shared some of his thoughts:

“The increased use of digital books seems inevitable. My 12-year-old daughter is as comfortable with a Kindle as she is with a print book. But, the issue of privacy is an important one.

I’m especially interested in how digital books can help us rethink the boundaries of the book. What if books incorporated video or provided access to web-based content? I just completed a coauthored book-length multimodal project designed to document how people outside and within the United States take up digital literacies and fold them into the fabric of their daily lives. Transnational Literate Lives in Digital Times (coauthored with Gail E. Hawisher and Cynthia L. Selfe) represents a first attempt at crafting a born-digital book

With roughly 40 million e-readers and 65 million tablets in use in the U.S., according to analysts at Forrester Research, it can be difficult to correctly analyze how many users are aware of the monitoring process. We also still don’t know whether the process will help authors to generate more grasping content. We can only hope that this process won’t permanently change authors’ writing styles and the attachment they feel for their novels. Only time will tell.

Summer Road Trip with Chuck D’Imperio: Canal Diggers

The Erie Canal is the magnum opus in the early establishment of  the Empire State as the jewel of the U.S.A.  Called the “greatest engineering marvel of its time,” the canal was built at a time (1825) when there wasn’t even a single civil engineer in our new nation!  So where are the monuments to this sterling achievement?  Well they are few and certainly far between.  But here in Seneca Falls, N.Y. along the banks of the Seneca-Cayuga canal, an offshoot of the Erie Canal, one will find a most sentimental and solitary salute to the great Canal Diggers (the monuments’ actual title.)

Here on the back side of the main business district one will come upon two statues standing solidly in the water.  Each weighs a ton.  Both are evocative of the canal workers who came through this region of Upstate New York by the tens of thousands.  One essays an Irish digger and the other an Italian.  Brian Pfeiffer of Bennington, N.Y., is the sculptor.  The statues are located along the Ludovico Sculpture Trail which runs a mile and a half along the old canal.  Several statues along the path (which is an abandoned rail bed) pay silent tribute to several hallmarks of the region including feminist Amelia Bloomer, the wine industry, local industries and others.

A small wooden staircase allows the casual visitor to walk down to the water’s edge and eye the statues from only a few feet away.  It is not a stretch to imagine that the two silent sentinels are looking up at you from under their crumpled immigrant hats as if to say, “How about this canal, huh?  It’s really something isn’t it?”

The next time we visit we will discover a statue which commemorates the “Miracle of the Adirondacks.”

Chuck D’Imperio

Summer Road Trip with Chuck D’Imperio: Sybil Ludington statue

While everyone is intimately familiar with Paul Revere and his famous midnight ride, far fewer know the story of 16-year old Sybil Ludington.  She rode throughout the dark countryside of Putnam County (NY) warning of an impending attack by the British.  Her ride, on the night of April 26, 1777, covered more than forty miles which was twice that of the more famous Revere ride.  Too small to fit in the saddle atop her trusted horse “Star,” Sybil rode sideways through the thick forests and muddy lanes pulling up in the center of small towns like Mahopac and Farmers Mills and Kents Cliffs.  There she would scream at the top of her lungs for the townspeople to rouse themselves and come to the aid of her father, the militia leader Colonel Ludington.  Her efforts were successful.  The story of this brave little girl raced throughout the region and she was lauded for her heroic act.  Even General George Washington came to her home to “pat her on the head and say thank you.”

The Sybil Ludington statue is located in Carmel, N.Y.  It was created by perhaps the most famous female sculptor of her time, Anna Hyatt Huntington.  The statue is more than life size and depicts the little girl sitting sidesaddle on her charging horse.  Sybil is wielding a tree branch to prod “Star” onward through the night and the girl’s mouth is wide open as if in mid-scream.  The statue is muscular and poetic at the same time.  It is a mighty tribute to a little girl who proved herself during a dark time in America’s infancy.

In my next post you will discover a dual statue which pays tribute to “the men who dug Clinton’s Ditch.”

Chuck D’Imperio

New Feature: Summer Road Trip with Chuck D’Imperio

Asa published Syracuse University Press author it will be my pleasure to drop in on this blog every couple of weeks to share with you some of my stories and travels around New York from my latest book Monumental New York! (SUP).  This really was a fun book to research and write.  My travels took me from one end of New York (lower Hudson Valley) to the other (the High Peaks of the Adirondacks).  Plus of course a fascinating journey through the Finger Lakes and on out to Western New York.  Really, what a breathtaking state we are blessed to have in New York!

My specialty is monuments!  My book takes an extensive look at some of the most interesting monuments, statues and memorials found throughout Upstate New York.  They celebrate an astounding pageant of history (both national and state) and are touchstones to some of the most famous and infamous personalities to ever trod the forests, fields and city streets of the Empire State.  I hope you enjoy my vignettes, all taken from my new book.

When next we visit we will meet a little girl, her horse named “Star” and an incredible monument created by one of America’s most famous female sculptors.

Happy reading!

Chuck D’Imperio