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History

Jesse Owens. Pixabay photo

“It’s not a question of whether you will hurt, or of how much you will hurt; it’s a question of what you will do, and how well you will do it, while pain has her wanton way with you.”    ― Daniel James Brown, The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

Gazing over the tens of thousands of foreigners entering the arena that would be the 1936 Berlin Olympic games stood the presence of dictator Adolf Hitler. During the midst of the Great Depression, the tyrannical leader of Nazi Germany promised to rebuild his nation to its former glory.

In 1931, the International Olympic Committee permitted the summer games to be held in Berlin as a peaceful way of putting World War I behind the Europeans. Instead, the world saw the flying of Swastikas signaling the rise of Nazi Germany. The games began on Aug. 1, 1936, with Hitler present to watch his country prove its status as a restored national power.  

A rumored American boycott to oppose the fierce Nazi treatment of its minorities, loomed over, though President Franklin D. Roosevelt granted his country’s athletes to participate in these games. 

Watching the ignition of the Olympic flame, stood Jesse Owens or “Buckeye Bullet”. Owens a famed-athlete, grew up in an Alabama sharecropping family, where much of his childhood was riddled with racism. Despite his adversarial childhood, Owens went on to become a talented track and field athlete at Ohio State University. It soon became a goal of Owen’s to dispel the Nazi “Aryan” propaganda promoting others inability to defeat Hitler’s “Master Race” of athletes.  

Hitler’s much-publicized hatred did not shake the American resolve of Owens and the other African American participants. American runners went on to earn 11 gold medals in track and field; six by Black athletes, with Owens earning four gold medals and two impressive Olympic records. 

Later in the games, a fatigued Owens sought rest, with this, he offered the torch to American teammates, Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller suggesting they could compete in 4×100 race in his stead. Instead, Owens was directed to race and Glickman and Stoller, both of Jewish culture, were barred from participating. Concerns arose that American coaches were fearful of upstaging Hitler by using Jewish-American athletes to gain additional medals. 

An aspect of these games often overlooked is the athlete’s personal contention with the economic and social issues of the Great Depression. The economy was poor in Germany and its regime paid for the training and living expenses of its athletes. Many American athletes looked at sports in a secondary manner as they tried to gain essential items to survive. Americans had to contend with twenty-five percent unemployment and a struggling economy.

On Christmas Day, Hollywood released a heartwarming look at the tribulations of the Great Depression through the production of ‘The Boys in the Boat’, written by Brown and directed by George Clooney. Like ‘Cinderella Man’ and ‘Seabiscuit’, this film delves into the intersection of sports and the Depression. 

Even as the New Deal was established by Roosevelt, American people faced difficulties in finding work and buying food. ‘The Boys in the Boat’ is based on the Washington State Rowing Team’s quest to win the gold medal during the Berlin Olympics.  

This film, set on the outskirts of Seattle, chronicles the harsh extent of the Depression. It focused on Joe Rantz, who was abandoned by his family and forced to care for himself. Actor Callum Turner portrayed an engineering student facing the threat of removal from Washington State for being unable to pay his tuition. With holes in his shoes and making a home in an abandoned car, this student desperately sought a chance to improve his economic situation by trying out for his school’s rowing team. 

Joel Edgerton stars as Coach Al Ulbrickson, an uncompromising figure who demanded athletic and physical excellence. The film takes some artistic liberties depicting the triumphs of the team modifying the succession to highest levels of college and Olympic competition to one year as opposed to the three years presented in Brown’s book.  

As a director Clooney scores in the eyes of film, history, and sports fans. He portrays the determination of the team’s coach in utilizing a junior varsity team that would eventually become the best in the nation and would go on to win a gold medal. 

There are many moments that present Rantz’s competitive side. In the film, Rantz found a father figure in the team’s boat builder, a man who took a special interest in his athletic talents by constructing and maintaining their equipment. The builder provided sustinent advice on handling the complexities of life and listening to authority. This film identifies the American-will to persevere, showcasing a team pitted against highly-respected Ivy League crews. The film shares an outstanding story of American resilience to achieve greatness through the masterful stroke of Clooney’s direction.

Pixabay photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

The reality of aging is that we sometimes wake up feeling like we’ve got less than a full tank of gas, or, for those of you driving electric vehicles, a fully charged battery, with which to maneuver through the day.

Maybe our ankles are sore from the moment we imagined we could still dive across the grass to catch a foul ball. Perhaps, less ambitiously, we twisted our ankle when we took a bad step on a sidewalk as we did something much less heroic, like texting an old friend or playing a mindless video game. Or it hurts because it, like our jobs, our cars, and our homes, inexplicably needs attention.

What’s the antidote to the numerous headwinds that slow us down and make us feel exhausted earlier each day?

The start of a new year can provide that energy and inspiration. We get to write 2024 on our checks, if we’re still writing them, we can imagine a blank canvas on which we can reinvent ourselves, find new friends, get new jobs, travel to new places, live our values and contribute meaningfully to the world.

We can start jotting activities into that new calendar, smiling as we imagine seeing friends we haven’t seen in years or decades or fulfilling long-held desires to shape our lives, our bodies or both into what we’ve always imagined.

On a more immediate scale, we have other ways to boost our energy. We can grab a steaming hot cup of hot chocolate or coffee, loading our nervous system up with caffeine, which can wake us up and help us power through the next few hours.

We can also grab a donut, a cookie, or some other food loaded with sugar, knowing, of course, that we run the risk of emptying that short-energy tank quickly after the sugar rush ends.

I have discovered plenty of places I can go, literally and figuratively, to feel energized and inspired. My list includes:

Our children: Yes, they are draining and can be demanding and needy, but their youth and energy can be restorative. They take us to places we hadn’t been before, give us an opportunity to share books we might have missed in our own education and offer insights about themselves and their world that amaze us. Their different interests and thoughts keep us on our toes, focused and, yes, young, as we try to meet them where they live. As we relate to them, we can also imagine our own lives at that age.

Our pets: Watching a dog chase a ball, its tail or a frisbee, or observing a cat push a ball of string across the floor can be invigorating. If we threw that ball or tossed that string, we become a human partner in their games, giving us a role to play even as they expend considerably more effort in this entertaining exchange.

Nature: Energy surrounds us. Water lapping on the shores of Long Island at any time of year, small leaf buds responding to the cues of spring, and birds calling to each other through the trees can inspire us and help us feel alert, alive and aware of the symphony of life that serenades us and that invites us to participate in the evolving narrative around us.

Science: I have the incredible privilege of speaking with scientists almost every day. Listening to them discuss their work, when they don’t travel down a jargon rabbit hole filled with uncommon acronyms, is inspirational. The insatiable curiosity of scientists at any age  and any stage of their careers makes each discovery a new beginning. Each of their answers raises new questions. Scientists are always on the verge of the next hypothesis, the next great idea and the next adventure. Their energy, dedication and unquenchable thirst for knowledge invites listeners to participate in the next chapter in the evolving knowledge story.

Sunrises: Okay, if you’ve read this column often enough, you know I’m a morning person. I try to be quiet in the morning, for my family and for anyone else who stayed up late into the night. Sunrises, however, bring a welcome introduction to something new and original.

History: reading about or studying history puts our world into perspective. We not only can contrast previous time periods with today, but we also can enjoy and appreciate that we have the opportunity to share in and shape this moment.

J. Robert Oppenheimer, right, and Albert Einstein in a posed photograph at the Institute for Advanced Study. Public domain photo

‘Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.’

— J. Robert Oppenheimer

J. Robert Oppenheimer was born in 1904 in New York City. During childhood, he studied minerals, physics, chemistry, Greek, Latin, French and German. After graduating high school as valedictorian, Oppenheimer fell seriously ill with dysentery. His family sent him westward to treat this medical condition in New Mexico, where he loved riding horses in the open terrain.

After graduating from Harvard University in three years with a degree in chemistry, he studied physics at Cambridge University in England. Earning his doctorate and studying with other specialists and Nobel Peace Prize recipients, Oppenheimer built relationships with some of the foremost physicists of the time. While in Germany, he observed widespread antisemitism fostered by Adolph Hitler’s Nazi regime. Many scientists in Germany were Jewish and later fled the Holocaust by immigrating to the United States. There, they used their talents to help defeat the Nazis.

During the Great Depression, Oppenheimer was an ardent critic of Spanish general, Francisco Franco, supporting the Spanish Republican government and opposing the fascists. While never formerly a member, Oppenheimer openly accepted the views of the American Communist Party.  

During that time, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation watched over his activities and those of his friends. He never hid his political beliefs. Oppenheimer was also deeply flawed, a womanizer who had an affair and a child with another man’s wife.

Manhattan Project

Before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Oppenheimer conducted extensive scientific research on possible military theories that piqued the government’s interest. Gen. Leslie Groves, an abrasive army officer who led the construction of the Pentagon, was touted for building complex government structures. The son of a Presbyterian Army chaplain, his superiors saw him as a motivated figure who succeeded at resolving challenging problems.  

By 1942, the United States mobilized its citizens to fight, and its scientists to keep pace with the Germans to construct a nuclear bomb. Groves understood that Oppenheimer knew the rival German scientists, as he had worked alongside many of them during the 1930s.  

Groves chose Oppenheimer to lead a group of America’s leading scientists, concentrating most of them at Los Alamos, New Mexico, in what was known as the Manhattan Project. Groves relied heavily upon Oppenheimer to mold these contrasting personalities, further pressured by an impending timetable, and create the most destructive weapon known to man — all before the Germans could do so themselves.

Under a cloud of secrecy, over the next two-and-a-half years, Groves prioritized resources, money and manpower for this endeavor. He spent some $2 billion to create this weapon.

Destroyer of worlds

After the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Secretary of War Henry Stimson briefed President Harry S. Truman on April 24, 1945, about the status of the Manhattan Project.

After the Nazi surrender, Groves put pressure on Oppenheimer to ensure that America could use the weapon against the Japanese. During the Potsdam Conference, where the three leading Allies — the Soviets, the British and the Americans — met to plan the postwar peace, Truman learned of the successful Trinity Test on July 16, 1945.

American military leadership suspected the Japanese would fight to the last soldier. And so, 78 years ago this month, the United States dropped two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. At first, Oppenheimer was pleased with his creation, though he later feared a future arms race would precipitate and that nuclear Armageddon could lead to the annihilation of humanity.

Fallout

And as the Cold War began, Americans at home were concerned about the spread of communism. Oppenheimer led the effort to create the atomic bomb, but his communist sympathies were again scrutinized during the Red Scare.

The Soviet Union quickly attained the atomic bomb. These were dangerous times for the United States. 

In 1954, the Department of Energy revoked Oppenheimer’s security clearance due to fears that he could not be trusted with classified information.  

Oppenheimer, a complex historical figure harboring beliefs that often ran contrary to those held by the government and most Americans, helped the Allies win World War II. He symbolized American scientific superiority, though he was a casualty of domestic Cold War stigma.

A scientist who created the worst weapon ever used in warfare, he also sought peaceful measures to ensure that an arms race and nuclear conflict would not recur.

Oppenheimer died on Feb. 18, 1967, at age 62.

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct history professor at Suffolk County Community College.

Photo by Capturing Life as it happens from Pixabay

In recent years, much has been said of the state of division in the United States. But as the nation celebrates its 247th birthday, Americans should remember the many struggles they have overcome.

After the fall of Fort Sumter in April 1861, President Abraham Lincoln believed the Confederate South would never peaceably re-enter the Union. The country was engaged in the defining conflict of its history and the deadliest war its citizens had ever fought. 

Yet Lincoln helped the nation carry on, ensuring that Americans would reunite under one flag. In a speech to Congress on July 4, 1861, he asserted the cause of the Union as that of the American Revolution. The Civil War, Lincoln affirmed, would prove to the world the viability of self-rule.

“It is now for [Americans] to demonstrate to the world that those who can fairly carry an election can also suppress a rebellion,” Lincoln said, “that ballots are the rightful and peaceful successors of bullets, and that when ballots have fairly and constitutionally decided there can be no successful appeal back to bullets.”

And the nation endured.

In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson nervously watched as European powers marched toward World War I — the “powder keg” ignited after the heir of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated. 

“Nobody outside of America believed when it was uttered that we could make good our independence,” Wilson told a beleaguered nation. “Now nobody anywhere would dare to doubt that we are independent and can maintain our independence.” 

After his re-election in 1916, Wilson declared war against Germany in April 1917 to make the “world safe for democracy.” As it had during the Civil War, the nation again endured.

In early July 1945, the United States was nearing the end of World War II. With Nazi Germany defeated, America was one month away from dropping the atomic bomb against the Japanese. On July 4 of that year, President Harry S. Truman tied the war effort to the cause of American freedom. 

“This year, the men and women of our armed forces, and many civilians as well, are celebrating the anniversary of American independence in other countries throughout the world,” he said. “Citizens of these other lands will understand what we celebrate and why, for freedom is dear to the hearts of all men everywhere.”

The war would end the following month, and the nation endured once more.

President John F. Kennedy presided over the federal government at a volatile moment. After the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961 and only months away from the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, Kennedy reminded his fellow citizens of the cause of independence on July 4, 1962.

“For that Declaration unleashed not merely a revolution against the British, but a revolution in human affairs,” Kennedy noted. “Its authors were highly conscious of its worldwide implications.”

Despite the tumult of the 1960s, the nation still endured.

Near the end of the Cold War, President Ronald Reagan was determined to ensure American victory over the Soviet Union in this global conflict. With tensions mounting between these two superpowers, Reagan reminded citizens of the resolve of America’s founders.

“Their courage created a nation built on a universal claim to human dignity — on the proposition that every man, woman and child had a right to a future of freedom,” Reagan said in his July 4, 1986 speech, likening the cause of independence to the triumph over communism.

The U.S. won the Cold War, and the nation endured.

Today, as Americans enjoy outdoor barbecues and spend time with loved ones, they should remember that the legacy of independence still flourishes. In the face of brewing tensions abroad, Americans must remember that we have experienced such challenges before and will do so again.

And the nation will endure.

Rich Acritelli is a history teacher at Rocky Point High School and adjunct professor at Suffolk County Community College.

Gordon Wood, professor emeritus of history at Brown University. Photo by Kenneth C. Zirke from Wikimedia Commons

This week marks the 247th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

In the nearly two-and-a-half centuries since this formative moment in American history, much has changed, with an uncertainty of the country’s long-term future.

Gordon Wood, professor emeritus of history at Brown University and 1993 Pulitzer Prize recipient for his book, “The Radicalism of the American Revolution,” remains optimistic that America’s future is bright. 

In an exclusive phone interview, he detailed why the American Revolution is relevant today, dismissing apocalyptic predictions. 

Revolutionary relevance

Wood contends that despite prolonged separation from the American Revolution, this cause remains highly relevant today.

“It is the most important event in our history, bar none,” he said. “It not only legally created the United States, but it infused into our culture everything we believe.”

Wood maintains that America is “not a nation in the usual sense of the term.” By this, he means Americans are not bound by any common ancestry. Instead, the United States represents a particular set of ideas to which Americans subscribe.

“Someone once said that to be an American is not to be somebody but to believe in something,” Wood noted. “And what do we believe in? We believe in those things that came out of the Revolution: equality, liberty and so on.”

“There’s no other adhesive to hold us together, so I think we need to emphasize that,” he said.

American stability

Within contemporary national discourse, some have expressed fears that America is a declining democracy. Even the nonprofit think tank Freedom House, which measures the strength of democracy in countries around the world, has scored the United States incrementally lower in recent years.

Wood characterized some recent historical developments as “destabilizing,” though he maintained these concerns are often overblown.

“We’re still the greatest power the world has ever known,” the Brown professor emeritus said. “I think that we’re very stable, and I certainly think we’re at the height of our powers.”

Assessing the current geopolitical landscape, Wood acknowledged China is a rising global power. However, he maintained that America’s long-term outlook remains promising.

“I don’t see any evidence that China is going to replace us,” he said. “I think it would be unfortunate if we got into a war with China over this fear of being displaced, but it’s just not in the cards.”

He added that fears of American decline have been pervasive throughout the nation’s history, with concerns about China just the latest iteration of this long historical pattern.

“We have a lot of apocalyptic thinking that goes on, and that’s not new,” Wood said. “We’ve always done that. There are always people saying that we’re going to fall apart.”

Triumph of the future

Wood suggested Americans have an unusual relationship with their national history. “I don’t think we have ever been a historically minded people compared to other nations,” he said. “I think it was President James Polk [1845-49] who said the United States is the only country in the world that has its history in the future.”

Since the Revolution, Americans have always been a “future-oriented people,” according to Wood. Yet the ideas articulated by the Founding Fathers have been passed down to subsequent generations of Americans, and those values are still practiced today.

Americans “know about ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,’ and ‘all men are created equal,’” Wood said. “Those are phrases that are very potent and available to most people, but I don’t think there’s much real interest in history as such among Americans.”

But, he added, “I’m not sure that that’s a bad thing. We’re future-oriented. We think the future is going to be better than the present.”

Wood concluded by saying that America’s faith in the future has long attracted new immigrants. Despite the numerous complications throughout its history, America still draws in people from all around the world. 

Wood indicated that this attraction demonstrates how the American Dream lives to this day.

“Immigrants still want to come here because they can get a better life here than they can where they came from,” he said. “It’s an optimistic view.”

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0 1993

My grandparents on my mother’s side, Guy Carlton and Margaret King, were born in Alna and neighboring Whitefield, Maine, in 1882 and 1887, respectively. They married and moved to Port Jefferson in 1909, where he worked as a carpenter building the original Belle Terre Club. 

My grandmother’s postcard album contains a visual representation of her life history. Many of the postcards are of trips my grandparents took. Others are from friends and relatives and tell stories of travels and daily life. However, the vast majority were holiday cards, sent from Whitefield, Maine, after my grandparents finished building their house on the west side of Port Jefferson Harbor. 

The first decade of the 20th century were peak years for sending and collecting postcards, attractive color cards for the various holidays as well as black and white commercially printed photographs or photos developed and printed on postcard stock. My grandmother, as so many others, saved the postcards in postcard albums that tell stories of absent relatives and friends.

All of the postcards featured here were sent to my grandmother between 1907 and 1911 and addressed to her in Whitefield and then Port Jefferson. One of the 1907 postcards, featuring the Port Jefferson railroad station, was sent to her by her brother Fred King who came to Port Jefferson in 1907 and convinced Guy Carlton to join him in 1909.

Beverly C. Tyler is a Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from the society at 93 North Country Road, Setauket. For more information, call 631-751-3730. or visit www.tvhs.org. 

Idle Hour, the mansion and estate of William Kissam Vanderbilt (1849-1920), which became Dowling College in 1968 Vanderbilt Museum Archives photo
Gift is Significant Part of Dowling College’s Special Collection

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum has received the largest donation of archival materials since its inception in 1950. The gift, donated by the Friends of Connetquot River State Park Preserve, includes materials from the former Dowling College and Vanderbilt Historical Society collections, comprising photographs, maps, and written correspondence. The donation marks a significant moment in the broader historical community’s efforts to preserve and promote the heritage of the region.

This donation will aid researchers and historians in forming an understanding of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century Long Island, and it will greatly augment the kinds of programming that can be offered by the Vanderbilt, Suffolk County’s first museum and public park.

Paul Rubery, Director of Curatorial Affairs at the Vanderbilt Museum, and Janet Soley, President of the Friends of Connetquot, worked alongside New York State and Suffolk County officials to determine the best way to preserve the content of these archives for future generations. They established that, because the VanderbiltMuseum aims to interpret the totality of the Vanderbilt family’s contributions to the development of Long Island, Centerport would be the ideal resting place for the wide-ranging collections.

All items donated by the Friends of Connetquot are now being processed and digitized by staff at the Vanderbilt Museum. These measures put to rest what some once regarded as the uncertain fate and future of a vast collection of historical materials assembled in Oakdale by local historians and academic archivists.

Dowling College Materials

Dowling College was established in 1968 at Idle Hour, the former mansionand 900-acre estate built in 1900 for William Kissam Vanderbilt (1849-1920). Vanderbilt was the father of William K. Vanderbilt II (1878-1944), who created the Eagle’s Nest estate, home of the Suffolk County VanderbiltMuseum.

Dowling College’s paper records were in jeopardy when the school ceased operations in 2016. Nearly a year later, its administrative and collegiate archives were transferred to Adelphi College, the college’s former parent institution. This arrangement spoke to Adelphi’s mission and directly benefited the wide network of Dowling alumni in the region. However, certain items were not covered in the original agreement between Adelphi and RSR Consulting, LLC—the company charged with liquidating assets in the bankruptcy proceedings—and those materials were folded into the listing placed up for bankruptcy auction.

The bankruptcy sale of Dowling’s assets was complicated by false starts and unrealized transactions. After the initial deal with Princeton Educational Center failed to transpire, Mercury International, LLC, acquired the property in 2017 for $26.1 million. During Mercury’s ownership, a representative from that company offered boxed materials in good condition to the Friends of Connetquot. For Mercury, the campus property and outbuildings were the primary concern, not the papers still left in many areas of the campus. Mercury ceased ownership of the property in December 2021, when the Chinese state-owned enterprise China Orient Asset Management purchased a majority stake in their parent company for $42 million.

The items given to the Friends of Connetquot—and now, through their donation, to the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum—include the Muriel Vanderbilt, National Dairy, and Peace Haven collections.

Additional Material

Additional sections of the archives donated by Friends of Connetquot were acquired by that organization at auction. The Friends of Connetquot is dedicated to the preservation, conservation, and history of the 3,473-acre State Park Preserve, with the legacy of the South Side Sportsmen’s Club as their primary focus. The Sportsmen’s Club was among the elite social clubs of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century, claiming presidents and titans of business among its membership.

Below are brief descriptions of the collections donated to the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum by the Friends of Connetquot River State Park Preserve. To increase access to public history and stimulate interest in Long Island’s heritage, the Vanderbilt Museum will make them available online in the coming months.

Muriel Vanderbilt Collection: Muriel Vanderbilt was the daughter of William Kissam Vanderbilt II and Virginia Graham Fair. She was an American socialite and an accomplished breeder of thoroughbred racehorses.

The Muriel Vanderbilt collection contains personal photographs and other materials that she donated to Dowling College in 1970. Some collection highlights include wedding and engagement photographs, in which Muriel wears the bridal veil of Marie Antoinette; extensive documentation of horse stables and rodeos; images of family members; and architectural photography of breathtaking estates.

Above, the stage at Peace Haven, one of the uses of the Idle Hour estate before it became Dowling College. Vanderbilt Museum Archives photo

Peace Haven Cult: The collection associated with the Peace Haven Cult is among the most unique archives on Long Island. In 1937, a group called the Royal Fraternity of Master Metaphysicians purchased William Kissam Vanderbilt’s Idle Hour and renamed it “Peace Haven.” Founded by James Bernard Schafer, a doctor from North Dakota, the Master Metaphysicians integrated behaviorist psychology, Christian spiritualism, and mediative techniques to achieve certain personal goals. The cult caught the attention of the international press during the custody proceedings over “Baby Jean.”

“Baby Jean” was central to the cult’s ambitions. The Master Metaphysicians informally adopted “Baby Jean” from her mother, a local waitress, and placed her at the center of a grand metaphysical experiment. Schafer maintained that he could give the child eternal life with an exclusively plant-based diet and protection from negative stimuli. The Master Metaphysicians returned “Baby Jean” to her birth parents after less than a year, and her mother eventually filed a legal suit against the cult.

National Dairy Collection: After serving as the headquarters for the Royal Fraternity of Master Metaphysicians, the Idle Hour estate was acquired by National Dairy Research Labs. National Dairy, which would eventually become Kraft Foods, purchased the estate’s mansion, carriage house, and twenty-three acres of land in 1947. The collection features photographs of the interior and exterior of the buildings at the time of sale, extensive documentation of the newly created research laboratories, and some press materials.

Bronco Charlie’s Collection: Bronco Charlie’s was a family restaurant located in Oakdale. Its owner, “Bronco” Charlie Miller, was a revered storyteller who claimed that he was the youngest ever rider on the Pony Express. Although many of his stories were undoubtedly fanciful, his tremendous life was chronicled in a range of print media. Highlights from the Bronco Charlie Collection include plates, menus, photographs, and correspondence.

Artists’ Colony Collection: Founded in 1926 on the grounds of the William Kissam Vanderbilt I’s summer estate, the Idle Hour Artists’ Colony was inspired by other prominent cultural communities like Yaddo, McDowell, and the Barbizon. Lucy Thompson, a socialite and the wife of a wealthy oil merchant from Texas, purchased the property and renovated its stables and outbuildings to accommodate a theater, restaurant, and artist studios. Highlights from the Artists’ Colony Collection include a map of the colony, real estate listings from the 1920s, and a watercolor from one of the original artists.

 

Russian nesting dolls

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Incredibly, one man has altered the world. 

On Feb. 24, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin directed his troops into neighboring Ukraine, and the killing began. Ukrainians, Russian soldiers, mercenaries, sympathetic foreign fighters, civilians — all shot each other. Eastern Ukrainians were deported into Russia by the thousands, cities throughout Ukraine were destroyed, families were ripped apart, millions of Ukrainians fled to other countries, schools stopped, medical services halted, commerce and cultural activities were squelched, random bombings put lives in a lottery. Those are just some of the horrific consequences of Putin’s order against one country.

But the repercussions of that one act are being felt around the globe. Countries that depended on wheat and other agricultural supplies grown and shipped from Ukraine and Russia, are now frantically seeking alternate sources, if they can afford them. Oil and gas, primarily piped from Russia and Ukraine, have been cut off. Exports of hundreds of other products from these two countries have stopped. Oil and gas prices have skyrocketed, leading the way to global inflation. Nations have realigned geopolitically and militarily or strengthened their defense pacts by sending troops and weapons to allies. And other campaigns, to control climate change and suppress the coronavirus, have diminished as national budgets are modified.

What does Putin want?

There has been much speculation about his goals and his fears. They may have crystalized during these ensuing months, or Kremlin watchers may have caught on. One such scholar, who writes about Russia’s politics, foreign policy and, for a score of years, has studied Putin’s behavior, has put forth a cogent scenario in this past Tuesday’s The New York Times. Tatiana Stanovaya believes that Putin has a grand scheme whose goals are threefold.

The first is the most pragmatic: the securing of a land bridge through the Donbas region of the southeast to Crimea. Russian troops seem to have already captured Luhansk, which is part of the Donbas. Apparently, Putin believes the West will accept that Russian troops cannot be dislodged from there and will not cross any red lines to directly engage in such a military effort, eventually abandoning the idea and the territory to Russia.

The second goal is to force Kyiv and the Zelensky government to capitulate from exhaustion and demoralization after one or two years. Russia would then launch a “Russification” of the country, erasing Ukrainian culture and nationhood and imposing Russian language, culture and education. Thus Russia would have expanded its territory and stopped NATO from reaching Russia’s current borders.

The third goal is the most ambitious: Putin wants to build a new world order. “We are used to thinking that Mr. Putin views the West as a hostile force that aims to destroy Russia,” according to writer Stanovaya. “But I believe that for Mr. Putin there are two Wests: a bad one and a good one.”

The “bad” one is the one currently in power and led by elites who are “narrow-minded slaves of their electoral cycles who overlook genuine national interests and are incapable of strategic thinking.” And the “good West”? He believes that “these are ordinary Europeans and Americans who want to have normal relations with Russia and businesses who are eager to profit from close cooperation with their Russian counterparts.”

Today, Putin is convinced, the bad West is declining while the good West is challenging the status quo with nationally oriented leaders like Viktor Orban in Hungary, Marine Le Pen in France, and Donald Trump, “ready to break with the old order and fashion a new one.” 

The war against Ukraine, with its undesirable consequences like high inflation and soaring energy prices, “will encourage the people to rise up and overthrow the traditional political establishment.” This fundamental shift will then bring about a more-friendly West that will meet the security demands of Russia.

If that has a familiar echo, it is not so different from the Communist expectation that the proletariat will rise up and embrace Marx and Lenin. We know how that turned out.

This Fourth of July, Long Islanders continue to grapple with the legacy of Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence. Pixabay photo

Independence Day is upon us. 

As we prepare for Fourth of July festivities, it is important that we keep in mind what this day celebrates: The signing of the Declaration of Independence, primarily authored by Thomas Jefferson, whose legacy continually evolves. 

Jefferson was born April 13, 1743, in Shadwell in the Colony of Virginia into a privileged family supported by the labor of slaves. 

His father was a planter and a surveyor. Jefferson later inherited his father’s land and slaves and began a lifelong project to construct his well-known estate, Monticello. But Jefferson was destined for a higher calling and was thrust into public life, where he would shape the course of American history.

The American revolutionary penman 

Jefferson was a tall young man, but also awkward and reserved. He demonstrated, however, an early penchant for writing, a skill that served him well as he climbed the ranks of the Virginia House of Burgesses and later the Continental Congress. 

Colonial leaders quickly grasped Jefferson’s compositional brilliance, but also observed he said very little. John Adams, who had worked closely with Jefferson in the Continental Congress, once said, “During the whole time I sat with him in Congress, I never heard him utter three sentences together.” Jefferson was a man of the written — not spoken — word.

While serving in Congress in 1776, Jefferson captured the spirit of his era and produced the Declaration of Independence, a radical pronouncement of America’s uniqueness from the rest of the world, justifying why it was necessary for the 13 American colonies to break off from Great Britain. 

Jefferson wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” 

Millennia of human conflict and conquest had emphasized man’s separateness in the eyes of his fellow man. America is the only society in history predicated on the notion of human equality, the only place on Earth that had the audacity to proclaim that humans can harmoniously coexist regardless of their religion or race or ethnic background or any other criterion.

While Jefferson presented Americans this challenge, it is worth noting that he did not embody the ideals of the Declaration in his own life. Jefferson was a slaveholder, his place in society secured by the labor of slaves. 

As we reflect upon the Declaration, it is questionable whether its author even believed in its principles. Despite the conflict between his head and his heart, Jefferson’s words impact us to this day.

Inspiring generations on Long Island

Jefferson’s patriotic fervor was felt undoubtedly here on Long Island. Most notably, the great Long Island patriot William Floyd had joined the revolutionary cause, becoming the only Suffolk County resident to sign the Declaration of Independence. Floyd served in the Suffolk County Militia and was a representative to the Continental Congress. He risked his life and property to resist British authority. 

Setauket native Maj. Benjamin Tallmadge is another local hero of the American Revolution. Tallmadge is best known for his reconnaissance efforts, collecting information from the Setauket Culper Spy Ring. 

During a daring raid in 1780, Tallmadge landed near Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai with a contingent of American soldiers. Undetected, they marched to Smith’s Point, attacked, and took this British supply base at Carmans River and the Great South Bay. Under orders from Gen. George Washington, Tallmadge destroyed large quantities of hay that was stored in Coram.

Floyd and Tallmadge are just two of the many local examples of service and sacrifice that occurred on Long Island during the revolutionary period. These figures fought to form a new nation, a nation that was first articulated by Jefferson.

Tour of Long Island

The first administration of the United States was headquartered in New York City, not far from Long Island. For this reason Jefferson, Washington and James Madison all visited the local area, a place that had sacrificed much and contributed greatly to the independence movement.

Jefferson and Madison traveled extensively throughout New York state and New England, eager to meet their new countrymen. Both leaders stayed in Center Moriches, where they met with Floyd near his estate. All his life, Jefferson had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Intrigued by the various Native American dialects and cultures, he met with several tribes in eastern Long Island. 

Jefferson notably encountered the Unkechaug [Patchogue] Indian Nation. Because most of this tribe spoke English, Jefferson successfully transcribed many parts of their language. His research has helped keep alive cultural studies into one of the two remaining Native American groups here on Long Island today.

From Drowned Meadow to Port Jefferson

Jefferson’s influence can also be felt through the history of Port Jefferson, formerly known as Drowned Meadow. This now-bustling village was first settled in 1682, located within the heart of Suffolk County and the Town of Brookhaven. In 1836, the people of Drowned Meadow renamed their community in Jefferson’s honor.

During his address to Congress in 1806, Jefferson highlighted the importance of connecting the United States through infrastructure programs. He said that “new channels of communication will be opened between the States; the lines of separation will disappear, their interests will be identified, and their union cemented by new and indissoluble ties.” 

Port Jefferson has always been known for the industriousness of its people, as a productive and forward-looking community. Look no further than its shipbuilding history or The Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Ferry to see how infrastructure investments from the past keep us connected to this day. 

Port Jefferson is one of 30 towns and counties across the United States that have been named in Jefferson’s honor. Jefferson surely appreciated Long Island — its natural beauty, its indigenous cultures and the local patriots who provided necessary intelligence to gain tactical advantages over the British forces. 

This Fourth of July, as residents and visitors enjoy fireworks shooting above Port Jefferson Harbor, they should remember their own place in history and the figure in history whose name their community bears today. 

Rich Acritelli is a history teacher at Rocky Point High School and adjunct professor at Suffolk County Community College.

The world watches as Vladimir Putin’s legacy and reputation unravel. Pixabay photo

By Rich Acritelli

“On the day of victory over Nazism, we are fighting for a new victory.” — Volodymyr Zelensky

These were the words of the Ukrainian president, who reflected recently upon the moment when the Allied forces defeated Hitler’s Third Reich, May 9, 1945.  

Since Feb. 24, Ukraine has engaged in a bitter struggle against the overwhelming strength of the Russian army, which has decimated the now-fallen city of Mariupol, and is widely suspected of targeting civilians in towns such as Bucha. 

The Ukrainian resistance has defended its homeland valiantly. Current estimates project that over 25% of the original invading forces have been either killed, wounded or captured. At the start of the invasion, many Russian soldiers were unaware that they would even fight their neighbor. Some fighters have notified their families that they were misled by upper command, that the true intent of the invasion was never disclosed to them. With rising casualties, the absence of a just cause and declining morale, it seems this invasion has become a disaster for Russia.

Since President Vladimir Putin took over in 2000, he has attempted to project a new brand of Russian power around the world. For some time, tensions have been brewing between Russia and the West as Putin has tried to exert greater authority and reestablish his country as a global superpower. However, Russian credibility has greatly diminished. 

The present occupation of Ukraine is now a public relations nightmare for Putin. The military campaign is humiliating, showcasing his ineptitude as a military commander. Despite its multitude of tactical advantages, Russia so far has been unable to defeat a clearly weaker nation.  

At the outset of the invasion, foreign policy experts estimated Kyiv would fall within a few days. Instead, the Ukrainian capital has become the epicenter of the resistance movement, a symbol of the triumph of freedom and democracy against tyranny and oppression. 

Zelensky has rallied nations around the world to send weapons and aid. He has persuaded friendly governments to impose sanctions that are crippling the Russian economy. The Ukrainians have the Russians in retreat as Putin pulls troops out of Kharkiv, with his major offensive in the Donbas region stalling as well.

Reports indicate some Russian soldiers have refused to fight. Witnessing the carnage to their own force, these soldiers see their probability of death increase the longer they stay in Ukraine. Between seven and 12 generals have already been killed in attempts to push their soldiers forward. 

Before the world, Putin and senior Russian officials have demonstrated a lack of military skill and an inability to command an army. If the Russians continue to be undisciplined, their casualty count will only rise even further. 

Putin’s leadership questioned

Over the last three months, one disaster after another has sent shockwaves through the Russian military. These blunders have shaken confidence in Putin’s leadership both at home and abroad. The world watched as Ukrainians assaulted the guided-missile cruiser Moskva. This flagship, an emblem of Russian naval might in the Black Sea, was destroyed by Ukrainian forces. On the ground, it is estimated Russia has lost more than 650 tanks and about 3,000 armored personnel carriers. American officers are now studying the glowing deficiencies in logistics, supplies and communications that have hampered Putin’s ability to continue the assault on Ukraine. For all of his past bluster and bravado, Putin and his forces have failed miserably at waging war in the face of growing resolve in Ukraine.

On the international front, Putin has proven unable to thwart American and allied supply lines into Ukraine. American Javelin and British anti-tank missiles have made it costly and dangerous for Russian armor to operate within Ukraine. Over 200 Russian aircraft have been destroyed by American weapons, according to some estimates. Western military support, coupled with the determination of Zelensky’s forces, have contributed to this great Russian quagmire. 

With growing evidence that Putin has no exit strategy and no foreseeable chance of success, the once-vaunted Russian army is on the brink of a possible historic and humiliating defeat. At home, his efforts to sell this conflict to the public have lacked success. Thousands have been arrested and jailed for protesting their government. Parents across Russia have received messages from this government that their loved ones have been killed in combat. All the while Putin has attempted to prevent foreign agencies from covering the conflict. 

Unlike during the Cold War between 1947 and 1991, people today are fully aware of the injustice of this invasion. Through his belligerence, Putin has strengthened the alliance of the Western democracies, and the NATO force is only getting stronger. Countries neighboring Russia are not waiting around for Russian aggression along their borders. Finland and Sweden, two nations that have always maintained a policy of neutrality, have just formally applied for NATO membership. 

Looking at this conflict from afar, China, which has for decades shown aggressive political and military actions toward Taiwan, must wonder if an attack against this island-nation neighbor will be worth the cost. Today, Russia is a pariah state within the global community, its economy is declining and the country is a target for American intelligence. China is an economic superpower which has yet to conduct any modern military operations of its own. Unlike the U.S., which took over and occupied Iraq and Afghanistan through fighting in the last two decades, China is a major power that has not fought any significant battles since the Korean War in 1950-53.  

It is very possible that history will repeat itself if China invades Taiwan. On a daily basis, Chinese officials should watch the military and political blunders taking place in Ukraine. The Russians are failing on all fronts, and its massive costs are only adding up. 

Rich Acritelli is a history teacher at Rocky Point High School and adjunct professor at Suffolk County Community College.