Posted by: daynamcdowell | July 26, 2010

Generous Enemies by Judith Van Buskirk


George Washington statue at Federal Hall, New York City

War, Enemies, and Shared Connections

     The traditional view of wartime experiences during the American Revolution undergoes a shift in Generous Enemies written by Judith Van Buskirk. Instead of two distinct groups battling each other for power, the British invasion of New York City became an occupation in which the opposing sides lived in close proximity with one another, learning to survive through the connections they established. The boundary lines which divided their political views and corresponding actions blurred considerably due to their close proximity to each other. Van Buskirk used ample documentary evidence in the forms of diaries, family letters, soldier pensions, personal memoirs, committee and church records, newspapers, and Loyalist claims to illustrate a New York City during the American Revolution in which family bonds triumphed over biased causes, personal interests surpassed political beliefs, and financial interests overcame military strategies in an effort to survive.

     Family connections often triumphed over biased causes during the British occupation of New York City. For example John Jay, a member of Continental Congress, had a brother who was a Loyalist. Instead of disowning his brother, Jay made a distinction between his brother and the rest of the population (70-71). Jacob and Hannah Schieffelin serve as another example of the strength of family bonds defeating politics during the American Revolution. In their younger years, the two held opposing political views. Jacob was a British soldier and Hannah was a Patriot poetess. During the occupation, they met and started a secret relationship which resulted in an elopement (69-71). Still another example involves two sisters, Catherine and Mary Alexander, both confirmed Whigs, who remained close during the New York occupation despite the fact that Mary wed Robert Watts, a prominent Loyalist merchant. Catherine and her mother “received permission from the American and British armies to cross the military lines around occupied New York” in order to visit Mary (45). Throughout the war and the occupation of New York City, “the Alexanders continued to act like a family despite the obstacles thrown up by the war” (45).  Clearly, politics could not compete with the familial love of John Jay, the Schieffelins, or the Alexander women and the boundary lines between opposing sides began to blur.      

George Wshington's military headquarters on Coogan's Bluff at the onset of the British occupation of New York City

          Personal interests also won over political beliefs during the revolutionary occupation of New York City.  Loyalists and Whigs both feared for their personal property as British soldiers moved into the city and Patriot forces inhabited the surrounding areas.  Loyalists remained in the city and Whigs fled as refugees for the outlying areas.  In New York City, Loylists discovered that “the most intrusive force in their daily lives was not the enemy but their own army and government (22).  For those who chose to stay in New York, loss of personal property occurred frequently.  Plundering and destruction were so extensive that “not only the victims of theft lamented the sad situation, but also certain sensitive British soldiers like John Andre” (23) were affected.  As an example, the occupying British army “moved into civilians’ homes, requisitioning supplies, and rarely prosecuting their own soldiers who attacked the people they were supposed to defend (31).  Loyalist concern for personal possessions and safety soon superseded their political ties and their disdain for British officers resulted from the constant plundering.  For William Smith, a liberal Loyalist, sarcastically nicknamed  Sir Henry Clinton, the Commander-in-Chief of the British forces, “as ‘The Knight’ because of the general’s many excursions to the country for fox hunting and riding” (30 ).  Likewise, General Howe was described by Loyalists as “always too busy for military matters, as he was involved in a constant round of feasting, gunning, and banqueting” (31).  Ironically, Loyalists and Whigs turned to each other for aid.  For “they often found relief with their counterparts on the other side of the lines—individuals contending with similar challenges, but facing uniforms of a different color (23).  As the British “military regime regulated all aspects of life in the city, attempting to insure order and to guarantee that the needs of the army came first” (29), these shared conditions helped to further obscure the lines between those who were supposed to be at odds with each other.  Thus, the personal concerns of people at war championed over their political views.    

     A last connection for both sides of the occupation of New York City was trade.  For whatever the reason for trading with the other side, there were those who valued profits and survival more than honor.  “A number of citizens put the profit motive or family survival above civic virtue, thereby warranting the attention of their governments” (108) for trading with the other side.  Some of these people smuggled in goods between the New York Islands and the Jerseys, causing the British to devise new laws and repeat old ones (115).  Legitimized piracy or “privateering was so lucrative that the navy had a problem keeping sailors” and was so “prevalent that merchants had a hard time competing with the auctions of cheap prize goods “ (117).  Yet, there were others who traded with the other side primarily for military information.  For example, George Washington used “spies whose cover was black market trading with New York” (119).  When Washington desired information about “sudden British troop movements in November 1778, he depended upon Lord Stirling’s spies” (119) using the cover of traders to get the information for him.  It was noted in 1782 that “the people will risk anything to enjoy the cheapest market” (127).  For all these types of illicit trading methods, it is clear that making a profit was the ultimate goal and loyalty to a specific side mattered little as the differences separating the two groups continued to fade.

     Thus, those who lived inside New York City and those who lived in the surrounding areas both valued family relationships, personal interests, and financial gain more than politics.  For some, these shared priorities connected them, despite their personal stance on the Revolutionary War.  Consequently, the lines of loyalty which some say distinctly separated them into opposing sides blurred, blending together so  that the line of demarcation appears unclear; linking them together with invisible shared bonds.

Posted by: daynamcdowell | July 26, 2010

The Great Bridge by David McCullough

                The Iconic Bridge of America

arches on the Brooklyn Bridge

     The Brooklyn Bridge, as recounted by David McCullough in The Great Bridge, possesses more historical significance than other similar structures and stands out as a major technological advancement simply because of its multifaceted symbolism.  Designed by John Roebling and constructed with the oversight of his son, Washington and daughter-in-law, Emily; this suspension bridge first and most obviously signifies the concept of utilitarianism.  Analyzing further, the Brooklyn Bridge also represents the history of two communities and likewise symbolizes unity between them.  Artful engineering through the use of technological advances adds more symbolic meaning to the bridge, clearly making the bridge historically significant through the use of new technology.  A final analysis reveals that the Brooklyn Bridge can be viewed as a symbol of escape.   With these various symbols, the Brooklyn Bridge shows itself to be one of the most memorable icons of the United States.

     All bridges are built for usage and the Brooklyn Bridge is no exception.  For some, this bridge is viewed as a symbol of utilitarianism, for from the beginning, it was designed to support public, private, and commercial travel as well as pedestrian traffic.  The bridge was built as a “safe reliable alternative to the East River ferries” (26) on it “bridge trains would travel at speeds up to forty miles an hour” (32).  In addition, “carriages, riders on horseback, drays, farm wagons, commercial traffic of every kind would cross on either side of the bridge trains, “ (32) and “an elevated boardwalk for pedestrians” would be located above” (32).  John Roebling did design the bridge to be used as such and many Brooklyn people who supported the building of the bridge “saw it as just that—a bridge to New York” (25).  One 19th century newspaperman, Montgomery Schuyler agreed with this view and wrote of the Brooklyn Bridge that “the work which is likely to be our most durable monument . . . is a work of bare utility; not a shrine, not a fortress, not a palace, but a bridge” (549) for those who used it.  Clearly, Schuyler viewed this bridge simply for its visible purpose and not a work of art or a memorial of something greater.                                        

two levels of the bridge

handiwork of the Roeblings

     Yet, John Roebling viewed the bridge as more than just a useful travel tool.  For the designer and first chief engineer of the bridge saw within it a representation of the history of two communities and their unity.  He believed that “its most conspicuous features, the great towers, would serve as landmarks to the adjoining cities, and they would be entitled to be ranked as national monuments” (27).  For this bridge, according to the senior Roebling was to be “a great avenue between the cities” (31).  Horace Greeley clearly agreed with Roebling when he declared that “New York and Brooklyn must be united” (24); that a bridge was needed.  Unarguably at the most basic levels of observation, the Brooklyn Bridge clearly symbolized utilitarianism.

     Likewise, the history of New York City and Brooklyn is evident in the Brooklyn Bridge as a troubled account in attempting to unite them.  Some politicians, seeing this historic engineering event as an opportunity for political advancement, took advantage of the bridge building events.  Brooklyn politicians had no questions about paying for a bridge, yet New York politician “Honest John” Kelly refused to pay the New York share of the expenses as had been agreed upon by former Tammany Hall boss, William “Boss” Tweed.  This action “was seen by many as a political maneuver to replace some of the bridge trustees with Tammany men” (441).  Still, this was not the only political intrigue.  The wire fraud committed by J. Lloyd Haigh which netted him profits of $300,000, directly affected the integrity of the bridge engineering when he supplied the builders with brittle wire instead of high quality steel wire (440-447).  The historical events of building the bridge were definitively represented in the bridge.

view of the Manhattan Bridge from the Brooklyn Bridge

     Despite the political unrest of the bridge, the socio-economic benefits for New York City and Brooklyn were symbolized and achieved through the Brooklyn Bridge.  For New Yorkers, the bridge served as “a sort of grand long-needed pressure valve to alleviate New York’s two most serious problems, crime and overcrowding” (25) while in Brooklyn, the bridge “Stimulated growth [and] raised property values.  It put Brooklyn on the map” (551).  Thus, the Brooklyn Bridge served as a unifying symbol for two communities which shared history, political turmoil, and economic recovery and further solidified both as they entered the modern age and left behind the old through the construction of a modern bridge. 

     Furthermore, artful engineering through the use of technological advances added more symbolic meaning to the bridge, clearly making it historically significant and as important as other inventions of the 19th Century.  The Brooklyn Bridge ranks as an engineering feat because it is “one of history’s great connecting works, symbolic of the new age like the Atlantic cable, the Suez Canal, and the transcontinental railroad” (27).   An engineering design of the Brooklyn Bridge was the timber caisson design used by the Roeblings.  It was “a technique still in its infancy” (220) in which these foundations of the bridge towers consisted of air locks, supply shafts, and water shafts and were so immense that “they could have accommodated four tennis courts each, with room to spare” (220). The sheer size of these Brooklyn Bridge caissons was an engineering first.  Still another new technology at that time was steel wire.  This new material was first used in the construction of this suspension bridge instead of iron wire.  These steel cables were considered by John and Washington Roebling to be “the metal of the future” (30) and were “regarded by many engineers as among the most revolutionary” (30) of the bridge design features. Yet another first for the Brooklyn Bridge was the use of electric lights to illuminate it at night. This was “the first use of electric light over a river” (516) adding to the visual allure of the bridge.  As predicted by John Roebling, the aesthetic appeal of the Brooklyn Bridge continues to the present. He stated that “as a great work of art, and as a successful specimen of advanced bridge engineering, this structure will forever testify to the energy, enterprise and wealth of that community which shall secure its erection” (27).   The bridge is viewed as an artful mix of “the architecture of the past, massive and protective” which “meets the architecture of the future, light, aerial, open to sunlight, an architecture of voids rather than solids” (550).  The bridge, suspended by a web of steel construction, seems to float above the East River; the result of modernized engineering and technology proving that “industrialism need not be synonymous with ugliness” (550).  As a result, the Brooklyn Bridge gains more symbol meaning and historical significance as an engineering work of art designed with innovative industrial methods.   

above the city

     A last analysis reveals that the Brooklyn Bridge can be viewed as a symbol of escape and not simply a mere picture of unity.  The bridge, as a symbol of freedom and liberation, allows people of both New York City and Brooklyn an opportunity to escape the concrete solidity and massiveness behind.  As a means of escape, the bridge is “not so much linking places as leaving them and shooting untrammeled across the sky” (550).  The promenade on Brooklyn Bridge is an escape from city life to a place suspended in the sky.    It is a place of recreation; walks, romantic trysts, exercise, cherished memories, and for many people it is a place to go “especially on fine days, or at moments of personal stress or joy, the way people go to a mountain or walk beside the sea (548).  Instead of joining communities, the Brooklyn Bridge disconnects people from them, allowing them a few moments of symbolic escape.   

     Consequently, the Brooklyn Bridge, a historically significant structure containing important technological innovations, conveys many ideas and images to Americans.  The bridge holds a simple utilitarian symbolism, as well as a unifying image in which the gap between New York and Brooklyn physically and intangibly was shortened and their history was shared through economic gain and political unrest as the bridge was built..   Another meaning represented by the bridge includes engineering design and supplies which are viewed as works of art.  A last symbolism of the Brooklyn Bridge is escapism in which the bridge allows people a chance to be free from the cares of the world.  Overall, the Brooklyn Bridge is an iconic image representing our American history and heritage. in which every perspective has a voice.

Posted by: daynamcdowell | July 26, 2010

The Island at the Center of the World by Russell Shorto


a memorial commemorating the sale of Manhattan Island to the Dutch

Forerunner of a City                          

     New Netherland, the Dutch settlement and forerunner of New York as described in The Island at the Center of the World, instituted lasting groundwork for modern New York City as a multi-culturally populated colony that allowed religious freedom and tolerance within its borders, practiced free trade, and from its inception, acquired a cultural legacy that continues today in America.  As a Dutch colony, New Netherland developed as a multi-ethnic society.  In addition, religious freedom and tolerance, two policies of the colony of New Netherland, were atypical at that time and contributed to the diversity of New Netherland.  Furthermore, economic growth occurred only with a policy of free trade for the colonists of New Netherland.  As a result, Dutch colonization in the New York area left a legacy that shaped American culture.

     From the onset, the Dutch Republic built the center of the New Netherland colony on the island of Manhattan, naming the town New Amsterdam and allowing peoples of diverse ethnicities to settle there.  The Dutch Republic or provinces, had grown into “the melting pot of Europe” (125), welcoming Europeans of all ethnicities.  The Dutch were no longer ‘Dutch’ and when New Netherland was founded, “English, French, German, Swedish, and Jewish immigrants came and settled” (125) in New Amsterdam.  This capital was populated with residents from varied locations, globally and locally, who brought with them, “a tolerance of differences, the prescription for a multicultural society.  In its very seeding, Manhattan was a melting pot” (125).   Furthermore, “Norwegians, . . . Italians, . . . Africans (slaves and free), Walloons, Bohemians, Montauks, Mohawks, and many others—“(2) chose to live in this town of rough buildings and muddy lanes, calling it their new home.  Consequently, these diverse groups brought different opinions, beliefs, and religions with them and the foundation for New York City’s ethnic mix was laid, as it would likewise become the entryway to immigration.

     Two other policies of New Netherland, religious freedom and tolerance though uncharacteristic of the times, contributed to the diversity of the colony and eventually to New York City’s multiplicity as well.  As overseer of New Netherland, the Dutch Republic allowed a policy of tolerance of other religions and peoples which was an atypical belief compared to other European countries.  “Tolerance was more than just an attitude in the Dutch Republic” (96), and the Dutch Republic’s policy to guarantee freedom of religion and tolerance to all Dutch “became the ground on which the culturally diverse society of the seventeenth century was built” (96).  In comparison, the Puritans in the New England colonies practiced intolerance.  In New England, “communities moved swiftly to excommunicate alternative religionists and run them out” (159).  The diversity of New Amsterdam benefited from religious freedom and tolerance policies as a more diverse population settled there with their own cultures, and strengthened the colony.  In addition to a multicultural settlement, a variety of religious beliefs were equally represented.  In New Amsterdam, there was a “Church of England presence, a Dutch Calvinist population, French Calvinists, Dutch Lutherans, Roman Catholics, Singing Quakers, Ranting Quakers, Sabbatarians,  Antisabbatarians, some Anabaptists, some Independents, some Jews” (273), and all were guaranteed religious freedom and tolerance.  Furthermore, it was this tolerance that “helped form the societies both of the Dutch Republic and the Manhattan colony” (273).  These ideas of religious freedom and tolerance were so powerful that they continue to shape the character of New York City, even now.

     Still another foundation builder for the future New York City was the economic growth of New Amsterdam which prospered only as a result of a free trade policy.  From 1624 to 1630, New Amsterdam struggled for its economic survival as the West India Company controlled all trade to and from the colony.  Then in 1640, the colony received a reprieve when the West India Company declared New Netherland a free trading zone.  Now, “New Amsterdam would be the ‘staple port,’ the hub through which traders and merchants would pass” (105) clearing for travel and paying duties.  This policy change, resulting in an increase of trade to Manhattan and causing its growth as an international port and shipping hub, also provided a more refined life for the townspeople as  “new products appeared in New Amsterdam’s shops” (268), such as “medicine, measuring equipment, damask, fine writing paper, oranges and lemons, parakeets and parrots, saffron, sassafras, and sarsaparilla” (268).  Thus, free trade for New Amsterdam provided colonists with a variety of trade goods and established a global trading center for the future New York City. 

      As a result, Dutch colonization in the New York area left a legacy that shaped American culture.  The Dutch influence is evident in place names located in New York.  For example, “Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Watervliet, and Rensselaer” (310) all strengthen the connection between American and Dutch cultures.  Another example can be noted in the word ‘boss’ which in Dutch is “baas and means master” (269).  As an Americanism, this word is used with profusion, and sometimes derision.  Still other examples of the presence of Dutch culture in America today include Santa Claus and his arrival, the favorite Dutch snack of many Americans, the cookie (314), and former prominent American families trace their roots back to colonial New Netherland and a Dutch ancestry.  These families include the Van Burens, Roosevelts, and Vanderbilts (310).  Thus, all these aspects of Dutch culture have contributed to the legacy of American culture and helped shape it into a unique society.

   In conclusion, the Dutch colonial presence in New Amsterdam and North America laid the foundation for New York City in which it developed into a multi-ethnic community of many diverse opinions, beliefs, and religions combined together.  Furthermore, religious freedom and toleration, two policies of New Amsterdam were atypical for the time yet, contributed to the diversity and strength of the colony, and brought their cultures with them.   The same can be said for New York City today, as the ancestors of the Manhattan colonists immigrated to New York City from Europe, bringing their cultures with them too.  In addition, economic growth occurred after a policy of free trade was enforced, resulting in booming business, upward social mobility, and an international port at New Amsterdam, and later New York City.  As a result of Dutch colonization in the New York area, American culture has been shaped by the Dutch influence.  Without the Dutch, America might have been a different nation.

Posted by: daynamcdowell | June 23, 2010

A Time to Reflect-Post New York

Post New York:  Post June 16, 2010                       

sunset at Coney Island


     WOW!!!  What a fantastic trip!  So many special moments come to mind when considering the best of the best.  As a more reserved and private person, the most intriguing times for me were those when I could contemplate and reflect.  I always need that time at the end of a school year.  Any time that I could be surrounded by nature was an extra special time on this trip.  The short walk along the High Line, seeing and experiencing Central Park for the first time, riding on a ferry to Ellis Island, the boat ride on the Erie Canal, watching the sunset on the beach at Coney Island, walking in the forests to FDR’s Shangri La/ Top Cottage, seeing Oyster Bay with sailboats and swans on the water, gazing at Lake Otsego after dinner, and walking that short distance through the trees to Fort Ticonderoga all allowed me moments to silently unwind after the rush of many busy days.  I guess I love nature! 

     Yet, the grit and glitter of New York City attracted me too.  I enjoyed people-watching while sipping a coke in Times Square and watching the “stranger” people appear as the sun disappeared.  I do remember how awestruck I was the first several times that I saw the skyscrapers from ground level.  Riding the subway was a worthwhile challenge too.  Sometimes I was successful and sometimes, not so much.  I did appreciate the time that we were allowed to explore New York City for ourselves.  A Broadway show was a must, as was a stop at Grand Central Station.  Coney Island at sunset was picturesque from the beach as the lights shined on the ocean.  A visit up to the heights of the Empire State Building provided THE aerial view of New York City while shopping among the street vendors and in China Town allowed time to see the routine lives of New Yorkers trying to make a living.  Of course, simply chatting with New Yorkers to hear their personal stories and perspectives about their city was the best way to learn more about the real New York, regardless of Jonathan’s advice regarding New Yorkers, eye contact, and strangers.  Yet, none of these experiences would have occurred if it weren’t for those who shared these moments with me.  Each person made those moments stand out. 

     Naturally, I enjoyed the many opportunities to learn more content and the chance to take what I have learned back to the classroom.  There were so many places from which to choose as THE best!  My personal favorites of course are Central Park because walking through it was an escape into a different world, and Fort Ticonderoga because it is a place that I’ve taught about for years. I finally saw the real thing and now have a better understanding of its importance!  Two other favorites are the Erie Canal, for I was amazed that such technology could change geography in so many ways, and Ellis Island with the Hard Hat Tour that showed me firsthand the further trials endured by immigrants in their quest for their dreams that were just beyond their grasp.  I definitely enjoyed the contrasts between New York City and upstate New York.  The manmade marvels of the city and the natural wonders farther north contain glimpses into American history.  The bustle and hum of the city contrasted well against the slower pace of northern New York.  Neither locale was better than the other. Sorry Matt and Jonathan, neither of you win.  Both the city and upstate New York hold a place in my heart and soul and, I definitely want to return to both for another visit. 

     I will miss watching Scott count all of us as he ever so patiently tried to keep track of us, the flock.  What a thankless job!   What a guy!   I apologize for taking that one extra picture that caused Scott to look twice for me, alot.  Yes, I will miss Jonathan and his reminders to blog, blog, blog.  His reminders were helpful and I never saw them as rude, because I know through his reminders that he shows his concern.  Of course, I will miss Matt and his conversations when we hiked and ditched the bus (and his surprise that I would catch a snake).  It is nice to know that all our chaperones enjoy exercise too and chose to walk when given the opportunity.  I won’t miss hearing the word “rube” as it was overused by so many.  It’s safe to say that all of us were “rubes” at some point in the trip.  Of course, I won’t miss the bus and the confining, lengthy rides spent inside it, nor the never ending search for a restroom in New York City.  This was definitely the trip to top all trips and I am thankful that I was a participant in this venture!

Posted by: daynamcdowell | June 23, 2010

Days 13 & 14—Battles and Perspectives

Tuesday, June 15 and Wednesday, June 16 2010—Days 13 & 14

     Day 13: This was another long day on the bus. I think all of us were going stir crazy for fresh air and space. We began the day by picking up our guide, Jim Hughto. He would be responsible for enlightening us about the histories of Ft. Ticonderoga and the battles at Saratoga. He accomplished that goal.

     I sensed controversy and confusion when Jim told us that the movie “The Patriot” was not historically accurate YET we viewed it during the bus ride to Ft. Ticonderoga and watched more of it after we visited the Saratoga battle site. Our first stop was Ft. Ticonderoga and lunch in the café. Having taught the French and Indian War and the American Revolution, this was a stop for which I had been waiting. After stopping at the French defensive lines of Ft. Ticonderoga during the French and Indian War and hearing more information from Mr. Jim, I caught a garter snake. Of course, this caused a stir and photos were snapped, like a snake is a big event. (Most of us live in Pueblo West where snakes are plentiful.) Yet, none of us have been near anything living for some time now, other than each other. Disconnected from nature and my own pets, it was fun to hold a living creature in my hands and regain that personal connection to life as it wound around my wrist.

     Our next stop was to be the fort. When we were given the option to walk or ride the bus, it was a no brainer for me. Definitely walking and viewing the forests without glass in the way. Jim thought it would be a 15 minute walk, yet we arrived at the fort only minutes after the bus arrived. (It must have been due to all those walking tours in NY City!) It must have only been a half mile walk at most. Again, this is the upstate New York that I had envisioned. Thick forests of green; firs, maples, ferns, rolling hills, and glimpses of lakesides here and there were in every view as I walked to Ft. Ticonderoga and lunch. Once lunch was eaten and a quick walk through of the gift shop was accomplished with a find of a NY state map, it was on to see the fort. I was pleased that Jim’s lecture was short because I wanted to explore the fort for myself and take a look at the map so that I could orient myself to the cardinal directions that I was having difficulty locating correctly.

     The fort was filled with colonial and revolutionary artifacts that thrilled me. Everywhere I looked, history was present from the French and Indian War to the American Revolution. I especially enjoyed looking at the military weapons, soldier attire, the hollow silver bullet used to conceal Clinton’s message to Burgoyne, and the painting of Henry Knox’s struggle to pull confiscated English cannons through the mountains to Boston. The grit and determination was evident in this portrait. The fort architecture, the cannons and mortars, the vantage point of this fort all reflected the presence of my heritage as an American. To think that the Marquis de Montcalm, Lord Jeffery Amherst, Ethan Allen, Benedict Arnold, and Henry Knox all were present at this fort at some time impressed me. Standing at the southeast bastion and gazing at nearby Lake George and Lake Champlain, the importance of the location of this fort crystallized in my mind. Now, I feel that when teaching about Fort Ticonderoga, I can effectively explain why controlling this fort was so important in both wars. Fort Ticonderoga was definitely a bonus in the trip for me. Travelling this far north was worth the encapsulation in the bus.

     The next stop was Saratoga. During the bus ride, we watched a video, “Something More at Stake”. A 30 minute length , this would be a great video to show in parts to students to impress upon them the importance of Saratoga, since a field trip to the battle site will not be feasible. At the Saratoga Visitor Center, the group shopped while our guide transformed into a quick change artist. Jim became a coureur de bois; a French “runner of the woods” or mountain man. This guise works well with the French and Indian War but, how prevalent were the coureurs de bois in the American Revolution? After all, this war was fight between the British and the Americans, with the French allying with the Americans. Our visit of the battle sites was minimal, yet we did see the site of the first battle at Freeman’s Farm; a farm owned by a farmer named John Freeman who escaped to Canada and returned with Burgoyne to see that his farm had been occupied by Isaac Leggett. Apparently, the Freeman Farm was intact at the time of the first battle. The description of the ravines was helpful in understanding the importance that topography played in these revolutionary events.

     Mr. Hughto did seem somewhat opinionated concerning the monument to Benedict Arnold as an American war hero. Yes, Arnold did commit treason but, I believe Arnold’s change of loyalties occurred after Saratoga. To obliterate records of our past, simply because we don’t agree is a denial of our history and is a cover up. Arnold did serve his fledgling country well, to the battle of Saratoga. There should be a monument to recognize those facts. Maybe that memorial is a way to make amends for shortcomings of others in their treatment of Arnold? Yes, I do agree that Arnold would have been viewed as a traitor by Patriots. I do not think he would have been labeled a terrorist, for the word was not in use then, as it is today. So the comparison to Timothy McVeigh is a stretch. Yes, Arnold did lead British soldiers at New London, Connecticut and attacked Fort Griswold. Yes, property was destroyed and lives were taken. This happens in any war. Was Arnold THE only one to use excessive force throughout the American Revolution? Of course not. This excessive force, also labeled as such by the British officers, may have been Arnold’s attempt to prove to his superiors that he was loyal to them and not to Americans. To connect Arnold’s memorial at Saratoga to later events during his life, I believe, is a mistake. After all, don’t teachers have a responsibility to teach ALL the facts without distorting them to further our own opinions? I feel these points should have been raised at the Arnold monument to provide a more balanced presentation. These points concerning Arnold will definitely be mentioned in my classroom and I will endeavor to provide my students with a balanced perspective, allowing them to make their own conclusions without tainting them with my personal views.

     We finished a day of battles with a tasty dinner at Salty’s Pub and Bistro. This establishment provided the best service and the most congenial staff of the entire trip! Then, we traveled the short drive to Albany for the night.

     Day 14: This was actually a travel day with a short stop to the grave site of President Chester Alan Arthur located in the Albany Rural Cemetery. Arthur became the next commander-in-chief when President Garfield died of blood poisoning after an assassination attempt. The visit to the grave site was the typical rainy, dark afternoon scene come to life. With all of us walking through the rain and some of us carrying umbrellas, we paid our respects to this former president. The memorial, called “The Peace Hat and President Chester Arthur” was tucked away in a corner of the cemetery. A memorial of a graceful angel holding a military hat and a palm frond contrasts with the black starkness and solidity of the coffin. There is no placard to provide information of this president or to explain why Albany is his burial location. I guess it might be true that President Arthur, the 21st and one term president, is the “forgotten president”.

Posted by: daynamcdowell | June 22, 2010

Day 12-The Never Ending Day. . . .

Monday, June 14, 2010—Day 12

     This was the day of the never ending bus ride and a push for punctuality!  All those tour guides expecting us, a large group, to be perfectly on time and to stay together like a flock of sheep?  This expectation made for a long, rushed day which could not be helped. . . there is so much to experience in upstate New York!  Our day started with a long bus ride to reach Seneca Falls from Oneonta.  We must have ridden through more than half the state of New York!  What a beautiful state, once we had left New York City behind.  Such contrasts for the senses and the soul!  I greatly enjoyed these contrasts. 

     Our first stop in western New York today was Seneca Falls, the location of the first women’s rights convention in the US.  The visitor center contained information and displays that expanded upon the bare bones information shared by our guide.  It was here that I learned of a “Woman’s Bible” written by Elizabeth Cady Stanton.  In it were scriptures from both the Old and New Testaments that Stanton analyzed and debated as limiting to women.  I had never heard of this book before, but now a huge reason for the hatred and venom that people had toward these women’s rights activists became crystal clear!  They were fighting not only societal norms but even more importantly, religious beliefs that had been set in stone for thousands of years.  Testing religious beliefs is like playing with a lighter in a room full of gunpowder.  Someone is eventually going to get blasted!  These women were truly brave to stand against the norms of society for equal rights.  I was so intrigued by this “Women’s Bible” that I bought one so that I could analyze Stanton’s interpretations of selected Bible passages on my own.

     Other sights of the women’s rights day (at which Patterson and Henderson rolled their eyes) included a stop at the Elizabeth Cady Stanton house in Seneca Falls and the McClintock house in Waterloo.  The Stanton house was smaller than the McClintock house, yet both housed a limited amount of furniture.  It was interesting to see how simply these women lived.  Unfortunately, the Chapel was undergoing renovations and we were unable to see the church building where the Seneca  Falls Convention was held and where the Declaration of Sentiments was designed and signed.  Another stop in neighboring Waterloo was the Harriet Tubman house.  Due to time constraints and the arrival of a busload of noisy middle schoolers, viewing her house was accomplished quickly.  Though Tubman owned her own property, her wooden framed home was small just like Stanton and McClintocks’ homes.  Another bastion of civil rights, Harriet Tubman is definitely a woman to teach about when teaching civil rights and the slavery amendments. 

     The next stop was the William Seward home.  This mansion was quite the contrast from the homes of the women previously visited.  What a man’s world it was then!  There were books in every room, elegant furnishings, and gifts from dignitaries.  Seward, secretary of state for President Lincoln and negotiator for the Alaska purchase, definitely demonstrated his power and influence through his home.  Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures.  The most historically significant room to me was the hallway located upstairs where photos of dignitaries were hung on the walls.  I would have liked more time to examine all of them.  There was quite an assortment of Seward’s possessions on display in the house as well.  Even his bloody bed sheet from the assassination attempt was on display in the house.  Again, this mansion was quite the contrast from the Stanton, McClintock, and Tubman homes.

     The best part of the day was the Erie Canal boat ride, which in my opinion was worth the push for punctuatlity.  What a soothing end to a long, hectic day!  The ride on the water seemed to pacify quite a lot of tired people.  Seeing the flora and fauna of upstate New York was a feast for the eyes.  Watching firsthand how the canal locks operate was impressive.  It was something that a landlocked Coloradoan does not normally experience.  This canal ride gave me time to think about applying canal technology to a geography lesson.  Canals definitely changed both physical and cultural geography, affecting not only rivers and lakes but also the economics and culture of communities through trade.  This canal ride was definitely a positive end to a day packed with constant activity and a long bus ride.

Posted by: daynamcdowell | June 22, 2010

Day 11-Baseball and So Much More!

Sunday, June 13, 2010—Day 11

     The day in Cooperstown consisted of a self-guided tour of the Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame, the Fenimore Art Museum, and the Farmer’s Living History Museum. My visit to Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame proved to be more enlightening than I had anticipated (I’m sure several of the men on this trip will find that statement enlightening too, like Mr. Patterson.) The day proved to be one of potential for a variety of teaching lessons. Though I am not a fan of baseball, I did appreciate the exhibits of Pride and Passion and Diamond Dreams. Both showed relevance to teaching social history in regard to civil rights, women’s rights, and economics. “Pride and Passion”, an exhibit dedicated to the African American leagues contained actual artifacts showing the bias and racism toward black baseball players. In particular, hate mail sent to Jackie Robinson clearly showed the heated anger that some Americans had for other Americans and the obstacles which Robinson faced as he pursued his dreams. The “Diamond Dreams” exhibit clearly illustrated the roles of women in the sport of baseball. In fact, the all women’s leagues involved economics just as much, if not more than equal rights for women. For example, the start of the women’s leagues encouraged sponsors to find marketing gimmicks in order to promote their teams. The Harvey Bar was an obvious example of promoting a team in order to make more money and gain more fans. The education lecture also provided another approach to use to hook students into the content area and a particular lesson. In particular, the civil rights lesson based upon Jackie Robinson, the “Dirt on their Skirts” women’s history lesson, and the labor history lesson, “Hard Balls and Handshakes” have potential in making connections with students. Unfortunately, these lessons involve a fee every time they are used and considerable technology that may not be an option in the individual classroom.

     The Fenimore Art Museum also contained some interesting exhibits. Of the exhibits, the Magnum photo exhibit most appealed to me. The black and white photos showed raw emotions from a variety of subjects. The photos which stirred questions within me were the terrorist montage. How did the photographers successfully take these photos and live, or did they? How much hate is inside the terrorists’ hearts to cause them to train for destructive and injurious goals? These are images that could be used in the classroom to spark discussion and critical thinking about toleration at the beginning of a civil rights unit or when teaching about U.S. immigration policies, past and/or present.     

     The quaintness of the Farmers Living History Museum put the Pueblo City Park Happy Land Ranch to shame. The various buildings, such as the barn, blacksmith shop, turkey house, and hopps house, clearly showed farm and village life. Feeding the baby cow, goats, and lambs was a treat as well. From an educational perspective, the farm information would be useful to my students when studying the settlement of the American colonies and the various jobs of colonists.

     Cooperstown proved to be a surprise.  Expecting a day of baseball, the Fenimore Art Museum and the Farmers Living History Museum showed that Cooperstown is a well rounded community with history everywhere!

Posted by: daynamcdowell | June 22, 2010

Day 10-Farewell to the City

Saturday, June 12, 2010—Day 10                                                     

approaching Sagamore Hill

         This was our first day out of New York City.  Gone were the skyscapers closing in on me, gone were the roaring subways and the press of people all around me.  I was curious to see what the day would hold.  Our goal today was Sagamore Hill located on Long Island.  Sagamore Hill, the home of Teddy Roosevelt was designed by his sister Anna in the Oyster Bay area.  The house was decorated with President Roosevelt’s many hunting trophies from Africa and North America.  Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures inside the Sagamore Hill home.  A particular story that our guide told us caught my interest.  One of Teddy Roosevelt’s requirements for his children was to read one book per day.  At dinnertime, Roosevelt would ask his children questions about the books that they had read.  If a child was unprepared for this nightly activity, the punishment was to eat in the kitchen at the very

Teddy Roosevelt's study

small table with the house staff an hour later.  Roosevelt greatly believed in raising literate children!  The same punishment applied to Roosevelt’s children if one of them was late to dinner.  Punctuality was another must in the Roosevelt family.  Added to the house in 1905, the North Room was the room where Roosevelt conducted presidential business and displayed many gifts that he had received from foreign dignitaries.  The house was quite a treat to walk through, seeing so many outstanding art objects and family mementos. 

The short walk to Oyster Bay was a pleasant change from the hum and noise of New York City.  Green, leafy surroundings and a soft dirt trail led to the shores of Oyster Bay where geese and swans swam among the reeds.  Solitude was everywhere as I watched the sailboats cruise past.  What a change from just hours before! 

on the boardwalk to Oyster Bay

view from the boardwalk

looking at Oyster Bay

 The Presidential Museum was a history lesson for me.  Teddy Roosevelt is not a part of the 7th or 8th grade Social Studies curriculum in D-60, so I knew little of him before viewing the museum exhibits.  Teaching various aspects of Roosevelt’s public life would be one effective approach in a Civics class.  Teaching about


Roosevelt political cartoon

Roosevelt’s conservation policies in a Geography class would work well too.  I particularly enjoyed scrutinizing the many political cartoons about Roosevelt and reading his famous quotes that were located at every exhibit.   Roosevelt is definitely a president worth teaching to students and incorporating a lesson into the mandated curriculum is a must!

Teddy Roosevelt exhibit


graves of Teddy Roosevelt and his wife Edith

Posted by: daynamcdowell | June 22, 2010

Day 9-Slavery and Primary Sources

Fraunces Tavern-where George Washington resigned as commander of the Continental Army

Friday, June 11, 2010—Day 9        

     Our last day in New York City was a day to learn about colonial American history at the New York Historical Society.  Inside the building were displays of colonial furniture, sculptures, portraits, weaponry, and Indian art.  One activity that Mia, the presenter asked us to do was to choose one exhibit and analyze it.  As a presenter should, Mia walked us through the archives section and demonstrated to us what she expected from us.  She shared with us a colonial toilet that is often mistaken for a fancy chair, a painting of King George III’s statue being torn down by colonials, and a sculpture of a soldier. 

     Our objective was to ask questions while analyzing an item to discover the historical event.  This is an excellent activity for middle school students.  Teaching them to successfully ask analytical questions of primary sources is a huge job.  Having students successfully piece together the historical event while analyzing a primary source without teacher help is always an added bonus.  A second activity in which Mia engaged us was an analysis of written primary sources to discover a chain of events that combined into a larger historical event focusing upon a runaway slave and his bid for freedom through the courts.  This activity is definitely one that can be used in the classroom in the same format.   Mia surprised us with a large binder filled with primary source documents that will provide us with many teaching tools when addressing slavery in America.  Yes, another freebie!

the Museum of Natural History

      After our visit at the NY Historical Society, Matt and Jonathan sent us to the Museum of Natural History on our own.  What a huge museum filled with artifacts from all regions of the world.  This is the place to be if you teach World History!  Items from China, Asia, Mesoamerica, and South America impressed me most of all.  Even the miniature exhibits of ancient cities of the world stirred the mind.  Of course, several items like the monolithic stone mask, the colossal dinosaur bones, and the elephants reminded me of the movie, “A Night at the Museum”. 

a monolithic mask

entering the museum

      Near the Africa section was a small exhibit that taught me something new about African slavery.  The display compared African slavery in North America and South America.  In addition to chains, African baskets, and a cargo list of slaves was information concerning the treatment of slaves on both continents.   For example, slaves in North America were separated from family members whereas a strong family unit was encouraged in South America.  This aspect of African slavery would be interesting to students.  Designing some kind of mini-research project and a compare-contrast activity would help students to see the similarities and differences of slavery on the two continents.  This activity would help them to analyze why slavery was approached differently.

Posted by: daynamcdowell | June 22, 2010

Day 8-Emotions and History

our transport to Ellis Island

Thursday, June 10, 2010 Day 8

Wow!  Ellis Island was eye opening!  Instead of another long walk, a ferry ride was an enjoyable change to start the morning.  Gliding along the water,

view from "Miss Liberty"

the ferry took us around Liberty Island and the Statue of Liberty, giving us plenty of great photo opportunities.

looking from the middle of the harbor

Looking at Ms. Liberty while aboard "Miss Liberty"

     Docking at Ellis Island, we received a professional development that taught us more about Ellis Island and the procedures of processing immigrants.

teachers at work

     After analyzing various objects, we learned as a whole group the medical procedures and the staff member jobs that were in place when processing and inspecting immigrants. The gift of a flash drive filled with lessons and activities for Ellis Island was an unexpected bonus that brought cheers and applause! Teachers LOVE freebies!

trying on hard hats

     The Hard Hat Tour of the unopened Ellis Island buildings was absolutely cool!  To be in the buildings where so many had taken their first steps in America was remarkable. There are thirty-one buildings located on Ellis Island, which was originally a smaller island. To think that 3 different sections of landfill were used to enlarge the island speaks of the advancement of humans. We all learned a new word today too. . . .steerage. What a derogatory word to use for a human being! The buildings and rooms we saw were haunting in appearance; so much history held within those brick walls. The sick wards, the kitchen, the long hallways with windows providing views of the outdoors and freedom hinted silently of the dreams and thoughts of immigrants long forgotten. One sick ward in particular was for the immigrants who were so sick that they would never leave Ellis Island. Inside this large room was a window which offered a view of the Statue of Liberty. How heart wrenching to sit in your bed, seeing that symbol of freedom and promise, knowing that you would never have the opportunity to fulfill those dreams because you were dying of a deadly disease. The fact that families were broken apart because of the labels written on them after the medical inspections also became more evident while walking through the vacant buildings. Also noticeable was the difference in the staff living quarters from the rooms where the immigrants were housed. Staff quarters consisted of finer wood trim, a sweeping staircase, and more refined fire places. So many human emotions were present on this tour, if time was taken to think and feel for those who are long dead.

So close to the American Dream, yet so far away.

inside the Ellis Island "Immigration Station"


     After this tour, we were free to do as we wished. I chose to explore the museum on Ellis Island and then while eating some yummy fudge and watching the ferries and ships travel past, I had a chance to reflect upon the tour and how it affected me. The Hard Hat Tour was definitely THE field trip. Nothing else has matched it yet. I decided that no matter what I teach next school year, I will sneak in a lesson centered upon Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, and immigration somehow! This place is a HUGE part of America’s history and should not be forgotten, despite what curriculum maps try to dictate. I can always find a way to teach historical connections within the required teaching parameters.

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