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History > U.S. History > Local and Regional > New England

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The Old Leather Man Cover

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The Old Leather Man

Historical Accounts of a Connecticut and New York Legend

Dan W. DeLuca

In 1883, wearing a sixty-pound suit sewn from leather boot-tops, a wanderer known only as the Leather Man began to walk a 365 mile loop between the Connecticut and Hudson Rivers that he would complete every 34 days, for almost six years. His circuit took him through at least 41 towns in southwestern Connecticut and southeastern New York, sleeping in caves, accepting food from townspeople, and speaking only in grunts and gestures along the way. What remains of the mysterious Leather Man today are the news clippings and photographs taken by the first-hand witnesses of this captivating individual. The Old Leather Man gathers the best of the early newspaper accounts of the Leather Man, and includes maps of his route, historic photographs of his shelters, the houses he was known to stop at along his way, and of the Leather Man himself. This history tracks the footsteps of the Leather Man and unravels the myths surrounding the man who made Connecticut’s caves his home.

Ebook Edition Note: Six of the 111 illustrations have been redacted.

Out of the Attic Cover

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Out of the Attic

Inventing Antiques in Twentieth-Century New England

Briann G. Greenfield

In this era of Antiques Roadshow and eBay, it is hard to imagine a time when Americans did not treasure the home furnishings of elite early American families. But as this book demonstrates, antiquing—particularly the practice of valuing old things for their aesthetic qualities—is a relatively recent invention whose origins can be found in the early years of the twentieth century. Although nineteenth-century Americans did appreciate heirlooms, they saw them as memory markers, tangible representations of honored ancestors or local history. In Out of the Attic, Briann G. Greenfield traces the transformation of antiques from family keepsakes to valuable artistic objects, examining the role of collectors, dealers, and museum makers in the construction of a new tradition based on the aesthetic qualities of early American furnishings. While recognizing the significance of antiques as symbols of an enduring American culture, Greenfield also delves behind popular rhetoric to examine the development of a retail structure specifically designed to facilitate the buying and selling of old wares. With antique shops proliferating all over New England, pickers going door-to-door in search of “finds,” and forgers taking illicit advantage of growing demand, antique owners and collectors found themselves trying to navigate a retail market characterized by escalating prices and high stakes purchases. In this sense, antiques functioned as more than remnants of a treasured past; they became modern consumer goods. The book is divided into a series of case studies, each intended to illuminate some aspect of “the dynamic of consumer history.” One chapter examines the role of Jewish dealers in promoting American antiques; another profiles Jessie Baker Gardner, a small-time collector and would-be museum maker from Providence, Rhode Island. Greenfield also looks at the institutionalization of antiques, with chapters focusing on Henry Flynt of Deerfield, Massachusetts, who embraced the “aestheticization of antiques” in the 1940s and 1950s, and on Smithsonian curator C. Malcolm Watkins, who challenged the decorative art market during the 1950s and 1960s by purchasing old tools and crude furniture for the nation’s museum.

A People's History of the New Boston Cover

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A People's History of the New Boston

Jim Vrabel

Although Boston today is a vibrant and thriving city, it was anything but that in the years following World War II. By 1950 it had lost a quarter of its tax base over the previous twenty-five years, and during the 1950s it would lose residents faster than any other major city in the country. Credit for the city’s turnaround since that time is often given to a select group of people, all of them men, all of them white, and most of them well off. In fact, a large group of community activists, many of them women, people of color, and not very well off, were also responsible for creating the Boston so many enjoy today. This book provides a grassroots perspective on the tumultuous 1960s and 1970s, when residents of the city’s neighborhoods engaged in an era of activism and protest unprecedented in Boston since the American Revolution. Using interviews with many of those activists, contemporary news accounts, and historical sources, Jim Vrabel describes the demonstrations, sit-ins, picket lines, boycotts, and contentious negotiations through which residents exerted their influence on the city that was being rebuilt around them. He includes case histories of the fights against urban renewal, highway construction, and airport expansion; for civil rights, school desegregation, and welfare reform; and over Vietnam and busing. He also profiles a diverse group of activists from all over the city, including Ruth Batson, Anna DeFronzo, Moe Gillen, Mel King, Henry Lee, and Paula Oyola. Vrabel tallies the wins and losses of these neighborhood Davids as they took on the Goliaths of the time, including Boston’s mayors. He shows how much of the legacy of that activism remains in Boston today.

Philip Hoff Cover

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Philip Hoff

How Red Turned Blue in the Green Mountain State

Hand, Samuel B., Anthony Marro, and Stephen C. Terry

This is the story of one of the most exciting and important periods in Vermont history, and of the man most responsible for shaping it During Philip Hoff's six years as governor of the Green Mountain State (1963–1969), the politics, demographics, economics and government structure of Vermont changed in major and long-lasting ways, and a new liberal tradition took hold. He was an activist governor, pushing new ideas, concepts and programs and challenging the idea that Vermont governors should be caretakers in the way that his predecessors had been. Hoff very much believed that government was and should be the primary force in bringing about social change, saying that “Every significant decision of our time is going to be made in the governmental arena.” He was quick to support efforts to modernize government operations that he considered obsolete and inefficient. But his influence on the state was profound and long lasting. At the time he left office in January 1969, the Rutland Herald predicted that, “it will be impossible to turn back the clock to the political era of caretaker governors.” Hoff himself left office believing that his six years as an activist governor finally “got Vermont off the dime.” Bill Kearns put it more bluntly, saying that Hoff “picked up the state by the back of the neck and gave it a damned good, much needed shaking.”

Post Roads & Iron Horses Cover

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Post Roads & Iron Horses

Transportation in Connecticut from Colonial Times to the Age of Steam

Richard DeLuca

Post Roads & Iron Horses is the first book to look in detail at the turnpikes, steamboats, canals, railroads, and trolleys (street railroads) that helped define Connecticut and shape New England. Advances in transportation technology during the nineteenth century transformed the Constitution State from a rough network of colonial towns to an industrial powerhouse of the Gilded Age. From the race to build the Farmington Canal to the shift from water to rail transport, historian and transportation engineer Richard DeLuca gives us engaging stories and traces the significant themes that emerge as American innovators and financiers, lawyers and legislators, struggle to control the movement of passengers and goods in southern New England. The book contains over fifty historical images and maps, and provides an excellent point of view from which to interpret the history of New England as a whole. This is an indispensable reference book for those interested in Connecticut history and a great gift for transportation buffs of all kinds.

Ebook Edition Note: Seven images from the Connecticut Historical Society have been redacted.

Prospero's America Cover

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Prospero's America

John Winthrop, Jr., Alchemy, and the Creation of New England Culture, 1606-1676

Walter W. Woodward

In Prospero's America, Walter W. Woodward examines the transfer of alchemical culture to America by John Winthrop, Jr., one of English colonization's early giants. Winthrop participated in a pan-European network of natural philosophers who believed alchemy could improve the human condition and hasten Christ's Second Coming. Woodward demonstrates the influence of Winthrop and his philosophy on New England's cultural formation: its settlement, economy, religious toleration, Indian relations, medical practice, witchcraft prosecution, and imperial diplomacy. Prospero's America reconceptualizes the significance of early modern science in shaping New England hand in hand with Puritanism and politics.

Puritan Village Cover

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Puritan Village

The Formation of a New England Town

Sumner Chilton Powell

An award-winning study of Puritans and the formation of their towns.

Reforming People Cover

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Reforming People

Puritanism and the Transformation of Public Life in New England

David D. Hall

In this revelatory account of the people who founded the New England colonies, historian David D. Hall compares the reforms they enacted with those attempted in England during the period of the English Revolution. Bringing with them a deep fear of arbitrary, unlimited authority, these settlers based their churches on the participation of laypeople and insisted on "consent" as a premise of all civil governance. Puritans also transformed civil and criminal law and the workings of courts with the intention of establishing equity. In this political and social history of the five New England colonies, Hall provides a masterful re-evaluation of the earliest moments of New England’s history, revealing the colonists to be the most effective and daring reformers of their day.

Remaking Boston Cover

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Remaking Boston

An Environmental History of the City and Its Surroundings

Edited by Anthony N. Penna and Conrad Edick Wright

Since its settlement in 1630, Boston, its harbor, and outlying regions have witnessed a monumental transformation at the hands of humans and by nature. Remaking Boston chronicles many of the events that altered the physical landscape of Boston, while also offering multidisciplinary perspectives on the environmental history of one of America's oldest and largest metropolitan areas. Situated on an isthmus, and blessed with a natural deepwater harbor and ocean access, Boston became an important early trade hub with Europe and the world. As its population and economy grew, developers extended the city's shoreline into the surrounding tidal mudflats to create more useable land. Further expansion of the city was achieved through the annexation of surrounding communities, and the burgeoning population and economy spread to outlying areas. The interconnection of city and suburb opened the floodgates to increased commerce, services and workforces, while also leaving a wake of roads, rails, bridges, buildings, deforestation, and pollution. Profiling this ever-changing environment, the contributors tackle a variety of topics, including: the glacial formation of the region; physical characteristics and composition of the land and harbor; dredging, sea walling, flattening, and landfill operations in the reshaping of the Shawmut Peninsula; the longstanding controversy over the link between landfills and shoaling in shipping channels; population movements between the city and suburbs and their environmental implications; interdependence of the city and its suburbs; preservation and reclamation of the Charles River; suburban deforestation and later reforestation as byproducts of changing land use; the planned outlay of parks and parkways; and historic climate changes and the human and biological adaptations to them.

The Reverend Jacob Bailey, Maine Loyalist Cover

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The Reverend Jacob Bailey, Maine Loyalist

For God, King, Country, and for Self

James S. Leamon

This book tells the story of the Reverend Jacob Bailey, a missionary preacher for the Church of England in the frontier town of Pownalborough (now Dresden), Maine, who refused to renounce allegiance to King George III during the American War of Independence. Relying largely on Bailey’s unpublished journals and voluminous correspondence, James S. Leamon traces Bailey’s evolution from his rustic background through his Harvard education and subsequent career as a teacher, Congregational minister, and missionary preacher for the Church of England. Along the way, Bailey absorbed many of the intellectual currents of the Enlightenment, but also the more traditional conviction that family, society, religion, and politics, like creation itself, should be orderly and hierarchal. Such beliefs led Bailey to oppose the Revolution as unnatural, immoral, and doomed to fail. Reverend Bailey’s persistence in praying for the king and his refusal to publicize the Declaration of Independence from his Pownalborough pulpit aroused hostilities that drove him and his family to the safety of Nova Scotia. There, in exile, Bailey devoted himself to assisting fellow refugees while defending himself from others. During this time, he wrote almost obsessively: poems, dramas, novels, histories. Though few were ever completed, and even fewer published, in one way or another most of his writings depicted the trauma he underwent as a loyalist. Leamon’s study of the Reverend Jacob Bailey depicts the complex nature and burdens of one person’s loyalism while revealing much about eighteenth-century American life and culture.

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