buffalo history

Porch Party!

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The Buffalo History Museum grooves into its 11th Annual Party on the Portico summer happy hour series on M&T Third Fridays – June, July, and August. The popular outdoor summer soiree features historic delights and great live music – all happening the most magnificent back porch steps and surrounding grounds in town. This year’s line-up brings to stage a mix of young talent swinging the local scene and the finest venerated musicians around. First up (June 17) is Fredtown Stompers (Sean Ebert, trumpet/cornet/vocals; Mike “Magoo” McGough- piano/vocals; Melissa Sauers, clarinet /vocals; Ralph DeMarco, tenor sax; Brian DeJesus, bass; Brian McKenna, drums) a fun six-piece band who bring Dixieland tunes into full swing. Nothing says summer like some good Naw ‘leans jazz in Western New York. Next (July 15) features the sultrier side of summer with The Shadows featuring DeeAnn DiMeo. All with a pulse will groove and dance to the smokin’ hot soul and R&B music by venerated musicians: Bob Falk (guitar, vocals); Ron Davis (keyboards vocals); Reggie Evans (drums, vocals); and, Chris Haug (bass). Finally (Aug 19), and so worth the wait, The Willies take the stage with Buffalo’s revered players: Willie Schoellkopf (guitar, vocals); Bob Falk (guitar, vocals); Jim Ehinger (keyboards, vocals); Steve Sadoff (Fender bass); and, Mike Phelps (drums). Clapton, The Band, and Steely Dan lovers become joyful when this band cuts loose.

2015-08-21 16.47.23Party on the Portico, guests meet up with friends and enjoy live music, party snacks, cash bar, free 15-minute mini tours of the Museum, and spectacular views of Delaware Park. Always a great time…Come hang on our porch with us!

Time: 5:30 – 8:30 pm
Tix: $5 member/$10 general (Tickets go on sale May 15)
Additional parking in McKinley High School lot
The general public may contact 716-873-9644 / info@buffalohistory.org  or visit www.buffalohistory.org.
The series runs rain or shine and is exclusively for guests ages 21 and over.
Party on the Portico – August is sponsored by Medaille College
M&T THIRD FRIDAYS is sponsored by M&T Bank.
Media Sponsor: WBBZ-TV

Constance Caldwell
Director of Communications and Community Engagement

 

A Day in the Life…

Spring 2016 Newsletter Cover

Spring 2016 Newsletter Cover

Part of my job as the Graphic Designer here at The Buffalo History Museum is to layout our quarterly newsletter, The Album. Each newsletter has a different theme that then translates down to the content and cover image, for example last month’s theme was “Connections.” Our summer theme is “Celebrations,” where we will be featuring upcoming museum events, exhibits, and artifacts fit for a celebration!

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Catalogue boxes and file folders filled with images from TBHM collection.

I went right to our Research Library in search of the perfect cover image, which was harder than one would think. Celebrations should be easy to find, right? People having fun at a party, smiling candidly, clinking champagne flutes…or not. With the help of our Librarian, Cynthia Van Ness we had to think of some “outside the box” categories to broaden our image search.

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Canisius High School Father-Son Football banquet, 1936

First up were program books from local parties of the past, while there were some interesting finds, like this adorable football invite for a Canisius high school banquet from 1936, most did not have much imagery to them. Next we tried to focus in on celebrations that happened at The Buffalo History Museum, past exhibit openings, Annual Meetings, milestone anniversaries etc., but sadly cover worthy images still eluded us.

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Storybook Land parade, 11.14.1959

Then, jackpot! After changing our party-centric mindset we moved toward parades and picnics and there came the celebratory moments we’ve been searching for! Let me tell you there were a wide variety of parades held in Buffalo; Loyalty day, Ringling Brothers and Barnum Baily Circus Parade, Allentown Village Society Parade, and even a Storybook Land Parade.  The picnic photos were eye-catching as well as capturing summer holidays grilling with family or laughing in the park.

Now for which image won the cover you will have to wait in see. The summer issue of The Album will be out by the end of May, stop in the museum for a copy or grab a membership and have the issue delivered right to your door!

Jennifer Nichols
Graphic Designer/Marketing Associate

142 years old and still in service: Buffalo’s oldest bridge

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International Railroad Bridge, opened in 1873.

Thousands of Thruway drivers pass it around the clock with a quick glance at best. It has been in service for over 51,000 days, built before the invention of the automobile, airplane, and Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone.  It shares a birth year with the first typewriter to have a QWERTY keyboard. It opened for business in 1873 during Ulysses Grant’s administration as the International Railroad Bridge.

The need for a rail crossing between Buffalo and Fort Erie became evident after the Suspension Bridge opened in Niagara Falls (1854) and the area was soon overwhelmed by rail traffic. Negotiations between the State of New York and the Dominion Parliament began in 1857 but were interrupted by the Civil War. Finally, in 1870, Congress and Parliament agreed on terms and budgeted $1,500,000 for the project. The International Bridge Company, formed by the Grand Trunk Railroad, was awarded a charter to design and construct the bridge. The Gzowski-MacPherson Company won the contract and began work, supervised by Polish-Canadian engineer Sir Casimir Gzowski (1813-1898).

Gzowski must have been a gifted child, because he entered the Military Engineering College at Kremnitz at age 9. As a young man, he took part in Polish uprisings against the Russian forces. Exiled to New York after the defeat of these efforts, Gzowski learned English, studied law, and eventually settled in Toronto, where he supervised public works on roads and harbors in Ontario and Montreal and developed an interest in rail engineering.

When Gzowski began work on the International Bridge, a crossing at this point was considered impossible. The currents of the Niagara River were too swift and treacherous, the water levels too unpredictable, the ice build-up too heavy, and the storms too intense. Gzowski was almost 60 when he took on the challenge.

In spite of construction challenges and setbacks, the 1.11 mile bridge opened on November 3, 1873 without the loss of any lives. It quickly became one of the busiest international crossing points in North America. In 1890, Gzowski was knighted by Queen Victoria.

While the bridge mostly carried freight trains, until 1934 it also carried one daily passenger car. It had wooden plank sidewalks until 1900, when the trusses were fully redesigned and replaced. Its busiest day was July 10, 1916, when 264 trains crossed. Today it serves 15 trains per day and is a handsome, sturdy reminder of 19th century engineering prowess.

Read more about it:
https://archive.org/details/cihm_05136
Gzowski, Casimir Stanislaus
Description of the International Bridge: Constructed over the Niagara River, near Fort Erie, Canada, and Buffalo, U.S. of America
Toronto: Copp, Clark & Co., 1873

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The international railroad bridge, Fort Erie to Buffalo, 1873-1973 and Colonel Casimir S. Gzowski
Buffalo, NY : Published by Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario, Engineering Institute of Canada, N.Y. State Society of Professional Engineers, Erie-Niagara Section, American Society of Civil Engineers, Buffalo Section, ©1973


Cynthia Van Ness, MLS
Director of Library & Archives

*This article was featured in The Buffalo History Museum‘s Fall 2015 issue of The Album.

Letter from the Executive Director

Spring 2016 Newsletter CoverGreetings!

This spring we explore “connections” of all sorts, starting with our three buildings. Each building has fascinating history; sharing those stories remains a focus. However, with the buildings’ unique character so goes the upkeep. Last March, a thaw of snow and ice caused 500 gallons of water to pour into The Buffalo History Museum’s Reinstein Center. The water intrusion wreaked havoc on our daily operations forcing Buffalo State’s Museum Studies program to halt their work cataloguing the Howard Beach Collection and 7 of our full-time staff members set up make-shift offices in public areas of the Pan-Am building which was closed for City funded electrical renovations. A twist of “luck” for the relocation, indeed!

It didn’t take a waterfall to let us know a thorough and sound plan for repairs was in order. A generous grant by John R. Oishei Foundation funded a $120K facility and space utilization study of our three building campus to be delivered summer 2016. The resulting road map will explore the potential of our entire campus, services and relationships, while prioritizing capital projects and estimating costs.

In January, the Museum board and staff participated in a transformational planning session assessing TBHM priorities and considering national trends for history museums. This precious time for sharing and thinking, facilitated by author, architect and historian Franklin Vagnone, opened the floor to discussions around relevancy, identity, physical fitness and commitment to the community. The results of these discussions and our facility “road map” will frame our strategic vision for 2016-2019.

I encourage you to remain, or become, engaged in the further processes ahead so that through our actions we better serve and reflect your aspirations and expectations of The Buffalo History Museum.

All my best,

Melissa

P.S. Please remember to check out our calendar of events and join us for a season of fascinating stories!

Spotlight Artifact: Niagara Gorge Suspension Basket

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Basket, Suspension Iron Judge T.G. Hulett Ca. 1847

In 1846, New York State granted a charter to the International Bridge Company to build a suspension bridge across the Niagara River. At the same time, Canada granted a charter to the Niagara Falls Bridge Company of Canada West for the same purpose. The two companies came together to form a joint board of directors and hired Charles Ellet, Jr., a noted engineer and bridge builder from Philadelphia to build a wire railroad suspension bridge across the Niagara river about two miles below the Falls. It was Charles Ellet, Jr. who approached Theodore Graves Hulett about overseeing the iron works for the bridge and came to him with the first task of establishing a convenient means of communication across the gorge.

The Niagara gorge suspension basket has always drawn visitors’ attention. Constructed to carry people, with their tools and messages, across the Niagara gorge below the Falls, Ellet originally planned for this car to be made of wood. He wanted to build two towers on either bank with a wire cable stretched between and a car or basket suspended from the cable, large and strong enough to carry at least two people.  T.G. Hulett eventually convinced Ellet that a basket made of iron, with wooden seats, would be light enough to cross the wire with the use of iron rollers, but be strong enough to support passengers. The first passage was in the spring of 1848 and was made by Charles Ellet, Jr. This basket carried workmen and civilians alike, and it is estimated that approximately three-fourths of the passengers were women.

Rebecca Justinger
Registrar

*This article was featured in The Buffalo History Museum‘s Fall 2015 issue of The Album.

Abraham Lincoln and Buffalo, NY

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The Lincoln statue was originally located in the State Court, it was commissioned by the Lincoln Birthday Association, founded by, and in honor of Buffalonian Julius E. Francis. (Charles H. Niehaus, Sculptor; 1902)

“Tens of thousands shall inhabit this country where only thousands inhabit it now.”

President-elect Abraham Lincoln arrived at Buffalo’s Exchange Street Station on the evening of Saturday, February 16, 1861, while journeying to Washington for his inauguration. Today the site is occupied by a modern Amtrak station.

Lincoln was met by former President Millard Fillmore and an enormous, enthusiastic crowd. By some estimates, 75,000 citizens swarmed downtown Buffalo to get a glimpse of the new president.

After making his way through the crowds to the American Hotel, Mr. Lincoln appeared on the balcony and was welcomed by the acting chief magistrate. The site of the American Hotel is now occupied by the Main Place Mall. 

Readers may be interested to know what he said to Buffalo on that day: “MR. MAYOR AND FELLOW CITIZENS:—I am here to thank you briefly for this grand reception given to me not personally, but as the representative of our great and beloved country. Your worthy Mayor has been pleased to mention in his address to me, the fortunate and agreeable journey which I have had from home—only it is rather a circuitous route to the Federal Capitol. I am very happy that he was enabled, in truth, to congratulate myself and company on that fact.

It is true, we have had nothing thus far to mar the pleasure of the trip. We have not been met alone by those who assisted in giving the election to me; I say not alone, but by the whole population of the country through which we have passed. This is as it should be. Had the election fallen to any other of the distinguished candidates instead of myself, under the peculiar circumstances, to say the least, it would have been proper for all citizens to have greeted him as you now greet me. It is an evidence of the devotion of the whole people to the Constitution, the Union, and the perpetuity of the liberties of this country. I am unwilling, on any occasion, that I should be so meanly thought of as to have it supposed for a moment that these demonstrations are tendered to me personally. They are tendered to the country, to the institutions of the country, and to the perpetuity of the liberties of the country for which these institutions were made and created.

Your worthy mayor has thought fit to express the hope that I may be able to relieve the country from the present, or, I should say, the threatened difficulties. I am sure I bring a heart true to the work. For the ability to perform it, I trust in that Supreme Being who has never forsaken this favored land, through the instrumentality of this great and intelligent people. Without that assistance I should surely fail; with it I cannot fail.

When we speak of the threatened difficulties to the country, it is natural that it should be expected that something should be said by myself with regard to particular measures. Upon more mature reflection, however, I think,—and others will agree with me—that, when it is considered that these difficulties are without precedent, and never have been acted upon by any individual situated as I am, it is most proper that I should wait and see the developments, and get all the light possible, so that, when I do speak authoritatively, I may be as near right as possible. When I shall speak authoritatively, I hope to say nothing inconsistent with the Constitution, the Union, the rights of all the States, of each State, and of each section of the country, and not to disappoint the reasonable expectations of those who have confided to me their votes.

In this connection, allow me to say that you, as a portion of the great American people, need only to maintain your composure, stand up to your sober convictions of right, to your obligations to the Constitution, and act in accordance with those sober convictions, and the clouds which now arise in the horizon will be dispelled, and we shall have a bright and glorious future; and, when this generation shall have passed away, tens of thousands shall inhabit this country where only thousands inhabit it now. I do not propose to address you at length. I have no voice for it. Allow me again to thank you for this magnificent reception, and bid you farewell.”

Source:
Crosby, Frank
Life of Abraham Lincoln, Sixteenth President of the United States: Containing His Early History and Political Career; Together with the Speeches, Messages, Proclamations and Other Official Documents Illustrative of His Eventful Administration, pp. 75-77. Philadelphia, PA: J.E. Potter, 1865.

Crosby’s book is online in full text at Google Books. Paragraphs were added for the purpose of this article.

Cynthia Van Ness, MLS
Director of Library & Archives

*This article was featured in The Buffalo History Museum‘s Spring 2015 issue of The Album.

** For more Lincoln love join the Buffalo Civil War Roundtable as they celebrate President Lincoln’s Birthday. There will be a short program and a Lincoln orator. Join uniformed re-enactors as they perform a rifle salute on the Portico. Local authors will be present and there will also be activities for the whole family. Sunday, February 14, 2016 from 12-2pm. FREE. More info at buffalohistory.org.

Buffalo Newspaper Custom Search Engine

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One of our most frequently asked questions is “Can I search old Buffalo newspapers online?” The answer is, “It depends.” Some newspapers have been digitized at some websites, which we talk about below. But all of the major Buffalo newspapers starting with our first paper, the Buffalo Gazette, founded in 1811, are not online in any comprehensive or systematic way. We hope to make an announcement soon about a newspaper digitization plan.

Until then, there are multiple online newspaper sites with random chunks of this or that newspaper, so we decided to make our own search engine to make it easier to access them. We focused on sites likely to have Buffalo articles and sites indexed by Google.

When we had several that fit the bill, we set up a custom search engine called Buffalo Newspapers.

With this single search box, you can simultaneously drill into these newspaper sites and use all of the Google operators you’ve gotten used to, like quotation marks to find a phrase, or the –(minus symbol) to leave out a word. Four of the sites are free, but two have a paywall or require a paid membership. At the pay sites, you may get the first paragraph free, which will help you decide if it is worth purchasing the entire article.

 

What’s Under the Hood:

Name of Site Comments Coverage begins Coverage ends Fee or Free Indexed by Google
Buffalo News The Buffalo News does not permit Google to index its archives, but it has a reseller, Highbeam.com, who does 1998 present $ Yes, through Highbeam.com
Chronicling America This is where the Library of Congress is gradually digitizing the nation’s newspapers Colonial Era 1922 Free Yes
FultonHistory.com Scanned microfilms from around upstate NY, with imperfect OCR[i] 1795 2007 Free Yes
New York Times The NYT used to pay attention to Buffalo. When you open a link from the NYT, look for the tiny link to download a PDF 1851 1980 Free Yes
Newspapers.com Operated by Ancestry.com, presently has 61 newspapers from around New York State 1797 1977 $ Yes
NYShistoricnewspapers.org  This is a collaborative effort to   host digitized newspapers from around New York State Colonial Era 1922 in most cases Free Yes

[i] OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition, the software that enables a computer to “read” printed pages and make them full-text searchable

If you like this search engine, we invite you to embed it at your blog or website. Please contact us in the Library to request the code: library@buffalohistory.org.

Cynthia Van Ness
Director of Library and Archives

History of the Julia Boyer Reinstein Center

Julia Boyer Reinstein Center

Julia Boyer Reinstein Center

Every wonder what the story is behind that little building across from The Buffalo History Museum lot? Well here are some fun facts to learn more about The Julia Boyer Reinstein Center!

The Reinstein Center is on the National Register of Historical Places.

• Built in 1920 for Leonard Adams. Mr. Adams helped to design the house, which he used as both a residence and a music studio before his death in 1984.

Purchased in 1989 by The Buffalo History Museum as a project of the “History Lives here” capital campaign to serve as office/meeting space.

• The Historical Rehabilitation project was completed August 1, 1992, by Hamilton Houston and Lownie Architects, P.C.

• The building was named after Julia Boyer Reinstein. Dedicated to both history and libraries, Julia Boyer Reinstein served as the Cheektowaga town historian for many years and was active in the creation of numerous town historical societies across WNY.

• The contributions of Julia Boyer Reinstein and others throughout the community made the purchase and historical rehabilitation of the building possible.

• A full-length portrait of Julia Boyer Reinstein painted by local artist Mary Smith hangs on the landing of the split staircase.

IMG_4994• The Reinstein Center features two meeting rooms (40 people/15 people). The larger room is graced by an arched window measuring approximately 12’x 12’. The window sits in an “Architectural Frame” that centers the window both in the main room and across the outside of the building.

• In 1994, the Landmark Society of the Niagara Frontier awarded the Pewter Plate Award to The Buffalo History Museum in the recognition of the Julia Boyer Reinstein Center as an exemplary restoration and adaptive re-use project.

Street of Shops Makeover

streetofshopssignsAbove the staircase and leading to the museum’s lower level are engraved words, “1870s Street of Shops.” This signage and the exhibit it teases were intended to endure time. For over a half century, it has done just that.

The exhibit lies within earshot of my office, from which I have listened as thousands of visitors have passed through the artificial streetscape. Many reminisce about their childhoods, each storefront sparking a different story. Others recall seeing the display with their parents when they were young. It became evident that the exhibit had, over time, become as much a part of people’s memories as the items held within it.

streetofshops2In recognition of this, we worked to update the Street of Shops while maintaining its history and charm. The exhibit now boasts a new paint job, with colors inspired by late 19th century paint swatches preserved in our library. A newly installed ceiling painted as the sky adds to the display’s immersive ambience. The most notable change, however, is the space formerly occupied by our Buffalo Savings Bank display which has been transformed into a family-friendly interactive photo studio. 

BfloBlissCutieThe newly added space, Bliss Bros. Studio, was inspired by a longstanding and well-respected photography business which first opened on Main Street in 1861. For over 50 years, the Bliss family produced some of the city’s finest portraits and landscapes. Now, the story of their business will be shared with our visitors.

bflobliss2Inside the studio, guests are encouraged to dress up in vintage clothing and pose in front of our custom made backdrop to create their own vintage portrait. Images may be shared via social media by using the hashtag #buffalobliss. When at the Museum, visit our new studio, take your picture (or a “selfie” as it were) and join in on the fun while being a part of continuing story of photography.

Anthony Greco
Director of  Exhibits & Interpretive Planning

(This article was featured in our Summer 2015 issue of “The Album“. TBHM’s quarterly newsletter)

Death of the card catalog (dun dun dun!)

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Cataloging card cabinets

Friday, October 2, 2015 marked the official end to the Online Computer Library Center’s (OCLC) printing of catalog cards for libraries. Yes kids, as seen in the haunted New York Public Library basement of Ghostbusters or the cabinets in the background of The Big Bang Theory. Nearly all libraries have now incorporated the use of an online catalog essentially rendering cataloging cards obsolete. While many libraries may still have ordered the cards as a back up to their online system, OCLC decided it would no longer supply the cards and could turn its attention to other prevalent issues libraries are facing. For those of you curious to see what was printed in the final batch of cards, check out this video and article from The Columbus Dispatch.

Examples of the Research Library catalog cards. The cards on the left side shows beautifully handwritten cards from our Old Book Catalog, which we still use. The cards on the right side are from our last batch ordered from OCLC. Notice the “end of life” statement on the first printed card.

Worry not my nostalgic friends; we at the Research Library still have a couple of card catalog cabinets that we use almost on a daily basis. Those of you who have visited us recently may have checked out our Obituary Index (1811-2001), or the Buffalo/Erie County Civil War Enlistees Index. So, if you’re in the mood for a trip back to your younger years, stop by and take in the sights of the card catalogs we still use. Just watch out for the Library Ghost!

Amy Miller
Assistant Librarian & Archivist