SUFFOLK COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY

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MEMBERSHIP DRIVE

If you’ve been enjoying our Photo of the Week, please consider becoming a member of SCHS. The Suffolk County Historical Society, founded in 1886, collects and preserves the rich history of Suffolk County and beyond. We offer a history museum, art galleries, a research library and archives, and a multitude of exhibits, programs, and educational lectures and workshops year-round. Our unique collections reflect more than three centuries of Long Island history.

Click here to learn about Member Benefits!

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From the Civil War to civil rights, revolutions to restorations, spies to Suffragettes, boatbuilders to bootleggers, and whalers to wineries, Long Island’s history comes alive at the Suffolk County Historical Society! 

Interested in seeing more historical photos from the Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society? Spend an afternoon at our Local History Library perusing our extensive archival photography collectionsWe’re open Weds. – Sat., 12:30 – 4:30 PM.   

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Photo of the Week

—————— Sunday, July 19, 2021 ——————

FROM THE SCHS LIBRARY ARCHIVES

“How shall we know it is us without our past?”
– John Steinbeck 

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Lake-By-The-Sea, Camp Dunes, Peconic, c. 1920s

by Wendy Polhemus-Annibell, Head Librarian

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Campgoers at Lake-by-the-Sea, Camp Dunes, Peconic, c. 1920s. (From the Camp Dunes Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society Library Archives. Image copyright © Suffolk County Historical Society. All rights reserved.)

Camp Dunes was an all-girls summer camp located on over 26 acres on the Long Island Sound and included access to Great Pond Lake. The Peconic camp was owned and operated by Luvia Willard, M.D., of Jamaica, NY (who also owned a home on Great Pond Lake); Marian Wood of Philadelphia was co-director. The rate was $150 for 8 weeks of summer camp for girls aged 14 to 18, according to a 1924 ad in the Long Island Daily Press. Food for the camp was purchased from neighboring farms and village markets, and the female campgoers engaged in various activities: swimming, boating, play-acting, and the like.

“The maritime climate together with the unusual amount of sunshine peculiar to this locality make for an unusually healthful environment. The Geodetic Survey shows that the region around Peconic, Long Island, averages to the year one hundred days more sunshine than New York City,” notes a Camp Dunes brochure in our collection, which also features this poem:

Far from the city’s maddening din,
Out where the Sunrise Trails begin,
Where the toes of the dunes are kissed by the sea,
Is a camp that seems just made for me.

Where the birches dress in their silvery white,
And gnarled oaks squirm in sheer delight,
Where tall pines frame a sapphire sea,
Is a camp that seems just made for me.

There are hill camps, and lake camps, and camps by the sea,
But there’s only one camp by the lake and the sea.

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Photo of the Week

—————— Sunday, July 12, 2021 ——————

FROM THE SCHS LIBRARY ARCHIVES

“How shall we know it is us without our past?”
– John Steinbeck 

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Map of Sound Beach, c. 1930

by Wendy Polhemus-Annibell, Head Librarian

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Daily Mirror Map of Sound Beach, c. 1930. (From the Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society Library Archives. Image copyright © Suffolk County Historical Society. All rights reserved.)

Sound Beach came about in the late 1920s as a result of a newspaper’s strategy to boost its circulation numbers. The NYC-based Daily Mirror purchased over a thousand acres in Sound Beach in 1928, and the following year began advertising 20 x 100-foot lots for $89.50. The only requirements were a $12.50 down payment, a monthly payment of $3.50 until the loan was paid off, and maintaining a one-year renewable subscription to the newspaper. Buyers showed up and purchased the 2,000-square-foot lots by the Sound; some pitched tents and erected outhouses on their newly purchased lots until they were able to build their summer cottages. They got by without electricity or running water at first. After World War II, most of these original Sound Beach summer cottages were converted to year-round homes.

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Photo of the Week

—————— Sunday, July 4, 2021 ——————

FROM THE SCHS LIBRARY ARCHIVES

“How shall we know it is us without our past?”
– John Steinbeck 

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July 4th Holiday Postcard

by Wendy Polhemus-Annibell, Head Librarian

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July 4th Holiday Postcard. (From the Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society Library Archives. Image Copyright © Suffolk County Historical Society. All rights reserved.)

On July 4, 1776, the thirteen colonies claimed their independence from England, an event that eventually led to the formation of the United States of America. Each year on the Fourth of July, also known as Independence Day, Americans celebrate this historic event.

The Staff and Board of the Suffolk County Historical Society would like to wish all of our readers, members, and other supporters a happy and safe holiday celebration.

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Photo of the Week

——— Monday, June 28, 2021 ———

FROM THE SCHS LIBRARY ARCHIVES

“How shall we know it is us without our past?”
– John Steinbeck

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SUFFOLK COUNTY FAIR

by Wendy Polhemus-Annibell, Head Librarian

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Suffolk County Fair Exhibit of the Central Islip State Hospital at the Riverhead Fair Grounds, 1907, by Hal B. Fullerton. (Image from Harry T. Tuthill Fullerton Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society Library Archives. Copyright (c) Suffolk County Historical Society. All rights reserved.) [ED: to view the Fullerton photograph, please visit www.schs-museum.org]

Organized by the Suffolk County Agricultural Society, the Suffolk County Fair took place for nearly a hundred years–from the 1840s through most of the 1930s. The annual fair was originally held at several locations around Suffolk County. In 1867, a group of Riverhead citizens purchased twenty acres of vacant land west of the Riverhead Cemetery and donated it to the agricultural society so the fair could be held annually at a permanent location.

The first fair at the new site was held in 1868, and from that point on the Riverhead Fair Grounds became the locale of the annual Suffolk County Fair–as well as the site of numerous other popular events in Suffolk County’s history. Babe Ruth once played a baseball game at the venue, Teddy Roosevelt campaigned for New York State governor there, and harness races were held on the track. The Riverhead Fair Grounds continued to host the annual county fair until the property was sold in 1936 to the Riverhead School District.

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AMERICA IN PRINT Now in our Staas Gallery! 

Before the 1800s, art was largely reserved for the wealthy, but with the invention of lithography in 1796 – and particularly color lithography in 1837 – printers were able to mass-produce beautiful color prints that were cheap enough for anyone to buy. Suddenly, art was available to all–from such notable printers as Louis Prang, Napoleon Sarony, and Currier and Ives. Featuring themes of nineteenth-century life in landscapes, cityscapes, seascapes, and more, as well as rare examples of “lithographic Long Island,” this exhibit captures the evolution of an American art form.

Our newly renovated Grand Staas Gallery includes a new ceiling and paint, upgraded climate control, and “green energy-efficiency” lighting, earning us the recognition of a PSEG “Certified Green Energy Business”!  

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Photo of the Week

———— Week of June 21, 2021 ————

FROM THE SCHS LIBRARY ARCHIVES

“How shall we know it is us without our past?”
– John Steinbeck

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The American Anti-Slavery Almanac, 1840

by Wendy Polhemus-Annibell, Head Librarian

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The American Anti-Slavery Almanac for 1840. (Image collage features primary source documents in the Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society Library Archives Copyright (c) Suffolk County Historical Society. All rights reserved.)

Slavery was officially abolished in New York State in 1827, less than two hundred years ago, and this week President Joe Biden signed into a law a bill designating June 19–or Juneteenth–a federal holiday in recognition of the end of slavery in the United States. 

Juneteenth National Independence Day became the 12th legal federal holiday, and the first new one since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was signed into law in 1983 by then-President Ronald Reagan.

On Long Island in 1698, some 1,100 slaves called “bondsman” resided here; 10 percent of the population of Southampton was enslaved at this time. In 1749, some 3,400 slaves resided on Long Island; and in 1775, on the eve of the American Revolution, there were 5,000 enslaved people. Manumissions (the freeing of slaves) increased during and after the Revolution. In 1788, a manumission law was enacted that provided for freeing slaves but protected those who were elderly or ill from being freed without adequate provisions for their care. New York declared that all children born of slaves after July 4, 1799, were free, though the owners could retain the male child’s service until age twenty-eight and the female’s until age twenty-five. However, the slaveowner could also elect to abandon his claim to the child’s service and pass the responsibility for supporting the child to the state.

A state law enacted in 1817 provided that by 1827 all slaves in New York would be considered free.

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SUGGESTED READING: Grania Bolton Marcus, Discovering the African-American Experience in Suffolk County, 1620-1860 (Cold Spring Harbor, NY: Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities, 1995).

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Photo of the Week

———— Week of June 14, 2021 ————

FROM THE SCHS LIBRARY ARCHIVES

“How shall we know it is us without our past?”
— John Steinbeck 

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Summertime, 1916 / Autochrome Glass Plate

by Wendy Polhemus-Annibell, Head Librarian 

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Eleanor Fullerton at Blooming Roses on Arbors, LIRR Experimental Farm, Medford, circa June 1916, by Hal B. Fullerton [Autochrome glass plate]. (Image from Harry T. Tuthill Fullerton Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society Library Archives. Copyright (c) Suffolk County Historical Society. All rights reserved.) [Ed — To view the Fullerton photograph, please visit the Suffolk County Historical Society’s website @ www.suffolkcountyhistoricalsociety.org.]

As John Steinbeck once said, “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?” The first day of summer is only nine days away, and this week’s SCHS photo brings us back in full “Autochrome” color to summertime in Medford in June of 1916. We can pinpoint the month because the rambling roses are in peak bloom in the image.

Digitally restored from the original Autochrome glass plate, this image features photographer Hal Fullerton’s daughter Eleanor standing by a series of rose arbors made from tree limbs. Autochrome Lumière, an early color photography process created by the Lumière brothers in France in the early 1900s, was the primary color photography process in use before the advent of color film in the 1930s. The Autochrome process used a glass plate covered with grains of potato starch dyed to act as primary-color filters and black dust that blocked all unfiltered light. It was then coated with a thin film of panchromatic emulsion, resulting in a positive color transparency.

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Photo of the Week

———— Week of June 6, 2021 ————

FROM THE SCHS LIBRARY ARCHIVES

“How shall we know it is us without our past?”
– John Steinbeck

Old Oyster Packing House & Dock, New Suffolk

by Wendy Polhemus-Annibell, Head Librarian

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Old Oyster Packing House and Dock, New Suffolk. (From the Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society Library Archives. Image Copyright © Suffolk County Historical Society. All rights reserved.)

The oyster packing house burned down in 1980, but before that time it was home to the Standard Oyster Company at New Suffolk, a subsidiary of the Andrew Radel Oyster Company, planters and wholesale shippers of Robbins Island Oysters.

According to an informational brochure published by the company in 1935 (also within our collection), in just a few hours a crew of fourteen men on a steamboat was capable of catching and unloading 3,000 bushels of oysters a day from the Great Peconic Bay. The oysters were harvested with a dredge or mesh basket dropped overboard and dragged over the oyster beds for 100 yards to catch the oysters. After the dredge was emptied onto the boat, it would be lowered for another haul into the deep salty oyster beds of the bay. The oysters were then  taken to the packing house, cleaned, assorted for size, and packed into barrels for same-day shipping. “That’s one reason they taste so good!”

Suggested ReadingRobbins Island Oysters, New Suffolk, Long Island, by Standard Oyster Company, Sole Producers of Robbins Island Oysters, 1935.

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Photo of the Week

———- May 31, 2021 ———-

FROM THE SCHS LIBRARY ARCHIVES

“How shall we know it is us without our past?”
– John Steinbeck 

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Fort Terry, Plum Island / ‘Soldiers Memorial’, 1902

by Wendy Polhemus-Annibell, Head Librarian

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Fort Terry: “The Soldiers Memorial” Poster (upper half), 1902.(From the Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society Library Archives. Copyright © Suffolk County Historical Society. All rights reserved.)

Located on Plum Island, in the town of Southold, Fort Terry was a heavily armed coastal defense fortification established in 1897 and used from the Spanish American War period through the end of World War II. It was decommissioned in 1948. Named after Alfred Howe Terry (1827-1890) from Connecticut, a Union general in the Civil War, Fort Terry was one of several forts that the U.S. government commissioned along the Long Island Sound to defend against an invading force. By 1914 the fort had eleven gun batteries, including mortar, disappearing, and pedestal batteries, as well as facilities to control an underwater minefield.

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Photo of the Week

———- May 24, 2021 ———-

FROM THE SCHS LIBRARY ARCHIVES

“How shall we know it is us without our past?”
– John Steinbeck  

Land Grant for the Manor of St. George, 1697

by Wendy Polhemus-Annibell, Head Librarian

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Land Grant for the Manor of St. George, Shirley, NY, 1697. Ink on vellum, 63 x 46 cm. (From the Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society Library Archives. Copyright © Suffolk County Historical Society. All rights reserved.)

This patent for the Manor of St. George was granted by Governor Fletcher of New York to Colonel William “Tangier” Smith in 1697. It is one of the best-preserved seventeenth-century documents in our library archives.

The Manor of St. George is an important chapter in the history of Long Island, the United States, and the colonies that preceded them. Colonel William Smith had filed application with the governor, formally petitioning that his estate be erected into a manor to be known as the Manor of St. George. In those days in New York’s rural districts, many great manorial estates came into being. The proprietor was known as the Lord of the Manor and that title denoted an ownership of land invested with ancient and extensive priviliges.

For more than three centuries, the Manor of St. George was occupied by the Col. William Tangier Smith family. The Manor was also the scene of a famous revolutionary war battle: After the British captured Long Island in the War of 1776, the Manor of St. George became Fort St. George, a British-held bastion and supply base for land and sea forces, because of its proximity to the inlet that then existed in the barrier beach opposite Mastic, and because the British coveted the woods in its forests. Fort St. George was short-lived in British hands; in 1780, it was recaptured in a surprise 4 a.m. attack by American forces led by Col. Benjamin Tallmadge.

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Photo of the Week

———- May 17, 2021 ———-

FROM THE SCHS LIBRARY ARCHIVES

“How shall we know it is us without our past?”
– John Steinbeck    

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Huntington, Founded 1653

by Wendy Polhemus-Annibell, Head Librarian

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Nathan Hale Beach, Huntington, 1899, by Hal B. Fullerton.(Image from the Harry T. Tuthill Fullerton Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society Library Archives. Copyright © Suffolk County Historical Society. All rights reserved.) [To view the Fullerton photo, please visit the SCHS website.]

Huntington was founded in 1653 by three men from Oyster Bay who purchased a parcel of land from the Matinecock tribe. This parcel, which has since become known as the “First Purchase,” included land bordered by Cold Spring Harbor on the west, Northport Harbor on the east, what is now known as Old Country Road to the south, and Long Island Sound to the north. The men immediately turned the land over to the white settlers who had already been living there. From this initial settlement, Huntington grew over subsequent years to include all of the land presently comprising the modern Towns of Huntington and Babylon. It wasn’t until 1872 that the southern part of the town was formally separated to create Babylon Town.

Because colonial Huntington was populated largely by English settlers, unlike the rest of the New Amsterdam colony, the town voted in 1660 to become part of the Connecticut colony rather than remain under the authority of New Amsterdam. When the British gained control of New Amsterdam in 1664 (renaming it “New York”), Huntington was formally restored to the jurisdiction of New York. Following the Battle of Long Island during the Revolutionary War, British troops used Huntington as their headquarters and remained encamped there until the end of the war.

When President George Washington visited Huntington in 1790, the town had 2,000 residents. Most lived in Huntington hamlet, with farmhouses scattered in the rest of the town. By the early 1800s, the town’s population had grown to over 4,000. The arrival of the Long Island Railroad in 1867 transformed the economy of Huntington from primarily agriculture and shipping (based on its well-protected harbor) to tourism and commuting. The end of World War II brought about an explosive growth of population in Huntington, where farms and resorts gave way to residential homes and businesses.

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Photo of the Week

———- May 10, 2021 ———-

FROM THE SCHS LIBRARY ARCHIVES

“How shall we know it is us without our past?”
– John Steinbeck    

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Chace Map of Shelter Island, 1858

by Wendy Polhemus-Annibell, Head Librarian

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Shelter Island on the Chace Map of Suffolk County, 1858.(Image from the Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society. Copyright Suffolk County Historical Society. All rights reserved.)

Early in the seventeenth century the island known as Manhansack-aha-quash-awamock – “an island sheltered by islands” – was the home of the Manhanset Indians. The first European to visit the island was James Farrett, who came in 1638 as an agent for Sir William Alexander, Earl of Sterling, who had received grants of land from King James I of England. Farrett chose Shelter Island as his reward for his services to the Earl, which then became known as Mr. Farrett’s Island.

In 1641 Farrett sold his island to Stephen Goodyear of New Haven, and for the next ten years the island was known as Mr. Goodyear’s Island. Then, in 1651, Goodyear sold the island to four merchants active in the Barbados sugar trade: Thomas Middleton, Thomas Rouse, Constant Sylvester, and Nathaniel Sylvester. We know from a deed dated 1652 that the island’s name had by that time been changed to Shelter Island.

By 1673 Nathaniel Sylvester became the sole proprietor of Shelter Island, his partners having died or had their estates confiscated for political reasons. When Nathaniel died in 1680, by his will, Shelter Island was bequeathed to his five sons in equal parts, but by 1695 Giles Sylvester, the eldest son, owned four-fifths of the island after the deaths of his brothers. Giles sold one-quarter of the island, including a section known as Sachem’s Neck, to William Nicoll. Thus were introduced the early European families of Shelter Island, many of whom went on to assume prominent roles in the island’s affairs.

Suggested Readings: The History of Shelter Island, by Ralph G. Duvall, 1932; and An Island Sheltered, by Priscilla Dunhill, 2002. 

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Photo of the Week

———- May 3, 2021 ———-

FROM THE SCHS LIBRARY ARCHIVES

“How shall we know it is us without our past?”
– John Steinbeck 

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From Farm to Market: Long Island Home Hamper, 1908

by Wendy Polhemus-Annibell, Head Librarian    

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From Farm to Family: The Long Island Home Hamper, 1908. (Image from the Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society Library Archives. Copyright © Suffolk County HIstorical Society. All rights reserved.)

To market produce grown in the early 1900s at the two Long Island Railroad Experimental Farms in Medford and Wading River, Hal B. Fullerton devised an early form of the modern CSA called Long Island Home Hampers, specially designed crates containing baskets of fresh produce. The crates were packed at the farms with freshly picked seasonal vegetables and fruits, and shipped by the railroad directly to consumers in New York City.

The Home Hamper eliminated the intervention of a merchant in the sales and distribution process and made fresh produce more affordable for middle-class urban residents. Fullerton promoted the Home Hamper as an innovation of national significance, a key to creating a new system for providing fresh, healthy food to city dwellers across the country. Despite promising experimental beginnings at the Wading River and Medford farms, however, the Home Hamper was not widely adopted by Long Island farmers.

Suggested Reading: “The Long Island Home Hamper,” by H. B. Fullerton (Director of Agricultural Development, Long Island Railroad Company), The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Nov. 1913, vol.50,  no. 1, pp. 166-70.

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Photo of the Week

———- April 26 2021 ———-

FROM THE SCHS LIBRARY ARCHIVES

“How shall we know it is us without our past?”
– John Steinbeck 

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Robins Island Gun Club House, c. 1890s

by Wendy Polhemus-Annibell, Head Librarian    

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Robins Island Gun Club House, c. 1890s. (Image from the Postcard Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society Library Archives. Copyright © Suffolk County Historical Society. All rights reserved.)

Having purchased the island in 1881 for $20,000, the Robins Island Gun Club was incorporated that same year for the purpose of “improving and elevating the character of field sports.” Club members, most of them from Brooklyn, paid yearly dues of $100. The club was an exclusive organization limited to 25 members with a waiting list of many dozens more. Prominent Brooklynites Dr. S. Fleet Speir and H.D. Polhemus were elected as the club’s first president and vice president, respectively. During its 36-year tenure, the club had a total of 70 members, including New York City Mayor William Gaynor and New York State Governor Roswell Flowers.

The island was well stocked with pheasants, quail, wild turkeys, and other game birds. Rules of the club included the allowance of 20 birds per member per day, and it was designated where such birds could be shot. Shooting was strictly prohibited on Sundays by New York state law. The pointing of dogs on game, except in October through January, was also prohibited in order to protect birds during their mating season. The club sold Robins Island in 1917 for $95,000, and at that point the club was dissolved.

Suggested Readings: “Robins Island: A Paradise for Local Sportsmen,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 8 April 1885; Robins Island Reflections, by Betty Tuthill Wells (2001).

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Photo of the Week

———- April 19, 2021 ———-

FROM THE SCHS LIBRARY ARCHIVES

“How shall we know it is us without our past?”
– John Steinbeck

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Vanderbilt Cup Race and Course, 1904

by Wendy Polhemus-Annibell, Head Librarian    

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Vanderbilt Cup Race and Course, 1904. Photograph by Hal B. Fullerton taken in Jericho, NY, on October 8, 1904. (Image from the Harry T. Tuthill Fullerton Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society Library Archives. Copyright © Suffolk County Historical Society. All rights reserved. [To view the Fullerton photograph, please visit the SCHS website.])

The Vanderbilt Cup Race, the first international road race ever held in the United States, took place in Nassau and Queens counties, Long Island, on October 8, 1904. The race course included over 30 miles of public roads, with Jericho Turnpike, Massapequa-Hicksville Road, and Hempstead-Bethpage Turnpike forming its sides. Running clockwise and beginning in Westbury, the roads were connected by turns in Jericho, Plainedge, and Queens. Eighteen racers participated in the first race in 1904, and George Heath’s French Panhard was the first car over the finish line. The popular Vanderbilt Cup races, held on Long Island from 1904 to 1910, were the most prestigious sporting events of their day, drawing huge crowds from 25,000 to over 250,000 spectators.

Suggested Reading: Vanderbilt Cup Races of Long Island, by Howard Kroplick (2008).

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To View 2014 Photo of the Week pages click here.

To View 2015 Photo of the Week pages click here.

To View 2016 Photo of the Week pages click here. 

To View 2017 Photo of the Week pages click here.

To View 2018 Photo of the Week pages click here.

To View 2019 Photo of the Week pages click here. 

To View 2020 Photo of the Week pages click here. 

 

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Photo of the Week

———- April 12, 2021 ———-

FROM THE SCHS LIBRARY ARCHIVES

“How shall we know it is us without our past?”
– John Steinbeck

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Paddock Bro.s’ Plant Catalogue, 1881 

by Wendy Polhemus-Annibell, Head Librarian   

Spring 1881 Paddock Bro.’s Plant Catalogue. 

(Image from the Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society Library Archives.)

With spring in the air and garden centers filling their shelves with plants for another gardening season we thought it fitting to pull out this 1881 plant catalogue from the Paddock Bro.’s Company of Cleveland, Ohio. It includes a wide variety of plants that were available to gardeners 140 years ago. The introduction to the work makes note of the company’s attempt to meet the increasing demand for horticultural products by adding to their facility a new, large propagating house and greenhouse, a large tank with iron turbine wind-engine for their water supply, and a new packing house.

The product catalogue lists an astonishing 115 different varieties of geraniums, 84 types of old garden roses, and a wide assortment of greenhouse and bedding plants. For $1.00 you could buy 12 beautiful roses, for instance, or 12 geraniums, or a combination of 2 roses, 2 fuchsias, 2 heliotropes, 2 geraniums, 2 cupheas, and 2 carnations. Many other combinations were offered. A collection of 375 plants could be had for $19 including express shipping. The company “made no extra charge” for packing, either by mail or Express, and added extra plants for the “Expressage.” 

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To View 2014 Photo of the Week pages click here.

To View 2015 Photo of the Week pages click here.

To View 2016 Photo of the Week pages click here. 

To View 2017 Photo of the Week pages click here.

To View 2018 Photo of the Week pages click here.

To View 2019 Photo of the Week pages click here. 

To View 2020 Photo of the Week pages click here. 

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Photo of the Week

———- April 5, 2021 ———-

FROM THE SCHS LIBRARY ARCHIVES

“How shall we know it is us without our past?”
– John Steinbeck

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Lady Suffolk, 

Famed Trotting House of the 19th Century

by Wendy Polhemus-Annibell, Head Librarian   

Crossroads at Jericho Turnpike, Commack, c. 1840 (top image) and Lady Suffolk at Centreville Course, Long Island, 1849 (lower image). (Top image from a painting by an unknown artist; lower image from a lithograph by N. Currier–both images reprinted in Lady Suffolk, a printed work in the Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society Library Archives.)

The most famous and beloved trotting horse of the nineteenth century, Lady Suffolk was foaled at the Burr family farm in Commack in 1833. Codman’s Blacksmith Shop (pictured in the lower left portion of the top image) is where Lady Suffolk was often shod during the early years of her career. Her first race was in 1838, when she was five years old. She was campaigned throughout the United States for fifteen years, engaging in 138 races and winning 88 of them!

Halfway through her career Lady Suffolk already held the world record for trotters at the standard distance of one mile, both in harness and under saddle. She had also won the fastest race ever trotted and had broken records in two-mile and three-mile races, including the fastest-ever three-mile race trotted by a mare. Her record was 2.26 minutes for a mile. Lady Suffolk died in 1855 at the age of twenty-two. Some maintain it was for Lady Suffolk that the song “The Old Grey Mare” was written.

Suggested ReadingLady Suffolk: The Old Grey Mare of Long Island, by John Hervey (New York: Derrydale Press/Piping Rock Horse Show Assoc., 1936).  

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To View 2014 Photo of the Week pages click here.

To View 2015 Photo of the Week pages click here.

To View 2016 Photo of the Week pages click here. 

To View 2017 Photo of the Week pages click here.

To View 2018 Photo of the Week pages click here.

To View 2019 Photo of the Week pages click here. 

To View 2020 Photo of the Week pages click here.

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Photo of the Week

———- March 29, 2021 ———-

FROM THE SCHS LIBRARY ARCHIVES

“How shall we know it is us without our past?”
– John Steinbeck  

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Long Island Suffrage Wagon 

“Votes for Tomorrow”

by Wendy Polhemus-Annibell, Head Librarian  

Rosalie Gardiner Jones on the Long Island Suffrage Wagon Advocating “Votes for Tomorrow” (c. 1913). (Image from the Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society Library Archives. Copyright © Suffolk County Historical Society. All rights reserved.)

The wagon’s signage proclaims that women in many other states already had the right to vote, including in “Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, Washington, California, and this year in Ohio, Kansas….” New York women would not win the right to vote until 1917.

Rosalie Gardiner Jones (1883-1978) of Cold Spring Harbor became prominent in the suffrage struggle and was dubbed “General Rosalie” owing to her flamboyant and headline-grabbing leadership in the famous suffrage hikes from New York to Albany and New York to Washington. Jones teamed up with Elizabeth Freeman of Kings Park and other suffragists to travel across Suffolk County, through Shoreham, Port Jefferson, Smithtown, and Northport, selling copies of their newspaper, Woman Voter Daily, and selling suffrage literature and buttons to raise funds for the suffrage battle.

Under the headline “Gen. Jones Flies for Suffrage,” the New York Times reported on one of Jones’s stunts in 1913, when she was taken up in a two-seat Wright biplane over Staten Island to toss out yellow Votes for Women leaflets. Jones planned successful suffrage hikes to Albany in 1912 and to Washington, D.C. in 1913. Jones and her “pilgrims” (as they were called) set out for D.C. in 1913, where a large suffrage parade was planned for March 3, the day before the inauguration of the new president, Woodrow Wilson. They carried a banner that read: “Criminals and the insane can’t vote, neither can I, what about it?” Over five thousand women marched down Pennsylvania Avenue on that day to the cheers of onlookers.

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To View 2014 Photo of the Week pages click here.

To View 2015 Photo of the Week pages click here.

To View 2016 Photo of the Week pages click here. 

To View 2017 Photo of the Week pages click here.

To View 2018 Photo of the Week pages click here.

To View 2019 Photo of the Week pages click here. 

To View 2020 Photo of the Week pages click here.

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Photo of the Week

———- March 22, 2021 ———-

FROM THE SCHS LIBRARY ARCHIVES

“How shall we know it is us without our past?”
– John Steinbeck

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Sayville Shorefront, 1910

by Wendy Polhemus-Annibell, Head Librarian   

Sayville Shorefront, 1910. (Image from the Postcard Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society Library Archives. Copyright © Suffolk County Historical Society. All rights reserved.)

In 1836, fifty years after its initial settlement in circa 1786, Sayville finally got a name. Tired of being called “Over South,” the area’s residents met in the old Bedell Tavern on Main Street to choose a name for the community. The result was a tie among Edwardsville, Greenville, and Judea, which referred to community founders, but then someone suggested Seaville or Seville. This name was adopted but, some local histories assert, the clerk misspelled it as “Sayville.”

Over time, Sayville became a major source of wood for New York City, with an abundant pine forest north of the village; one of the oyster capitals of the United States; a center of Long Island theater arts with the Sayville Opera House; and a bustling summer resort town after the LIRR arrived in 1868. Ten years later, in 1878, when the charter of the Sayville Hook and Ladder Company was signed on top of a grand piano in Columbia Hall, it became the first incorporated company in all of Suffolk County. Today in West Sayville, our island’s maritime history is preserved by our friends at the Long Island Maritime Museum.

Recommended Reading: For more on the history of Sayville, see “A History of Early Sayville,” by Clarissa Edwards (1935), and “East on the Great South Bay: Sayville and Bayport,” by Harry W. Havemeyer (2001).  

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Photo of the Week

———- March 15, 2021 ———-

FROM THE SCHS LIBRARY ARCHIVES

“How shall we know it is us without our past?”
– John Steinbeck

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Main Street & Fire Island Avenue,

Babylon

by Wendy Polhemus-Annibell, Head Librarian 

 

Main Street & Fire Island Avenue, Babylon. (Image from the Postcard Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society Library Archives. Copyright © Suffolk County Historical Society. All rights reserved.)

Babylon was originally known as Huntington South when it was part of the Town of Huntington. Farmers would travel from Huntington to the Great South Bay area to harvest salt hay for bedding and feed for their livestock. It was a journey at the time, so the farmers would stay a period of time before returning home. Travelers would also stop at Huntington South on their three-day trip to Southampton from New York City, creating the need for stores and services. Flounder, bluefish, and shellfish were abundant in the bay, providing income and sustenance for the settlers. Fresh streams from the north provided power for mills that produced grain, lumber, and paper. By 1800, Huntington South had become a hub of activity.

Nathaniel Conklin foresaw the area as a thriving town. He built a home for his mother on the northeast corner of Main Street and Deer Park Avenue in 1803. Legend has it that Nathaniel’s mother was unhappy with her home across from a tavern and compared the town with the biblical Babylon. The house now stands on the northwest side of Deer Park Avenue where it was moved in 1871, with a cornerstone that reads “New Babylon, This House Built by Nat Conklin, 1803.” When the railroad arrived in 1867, Huntington South became a thriving resort area. A trolley ran from the depot to the steamship dock where ferries sailed to the Fire Island beaches. At one time there were eleven hotels in the village.

The area called Huntington South became the Town of Babylon with its own governing board in 1872. Soon after, in 1893, the Village of Babylon was incorporated.

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Photo of the Week

———- March 8, 2021 ———-

FROM THE SCHS LIBRARY ARCHIVES

“How shall we know it is us without our past?”
– John Steinbeck

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Syrena H. Stackpole Elected 1931

by Wendy Polhemus-Annibell, Head Librarian    

Syrena H. Stackpole of Riverhead, left, with her mother Mary Stackpole, in an undated photograph. (Image from the Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society Library Archives. Copyright © Suffolk County Historical Society. All rights reserved.)

The Town of Riverhead has the distinction of electing the first woman to hold elected office–Syrena Stackpole–as Justice of the Peace, in 1931, at a time when American women had the right to vote for a mere eleven years. 

Syrena H. Stackpole (1888-1983), the 1903 Riverhead High School valedictorian at age 14, was the daughter of attorney George Stackpole and suffragist Mary Stackpole of Riverhead. Earning her bachelor’s degree at Wellesley College, Syrena held various jobs after college–she “taught school, raised chickens and worked as a stenographer, librarian, and secretary”–before returning to school to earn her law degree at New York University School of Law. Ms. Stackpole became the first woman admitted to the Suffolk County Bar Association and the first Suffolk County woman attorney to have her own law practice (which was based in Riverhead).

In another first, Ms. Stackpole was the first woman elected to public office as Justice of the Peace, in Riverhead Town in 1931, which at the time meant she was also a member of the town board. The Democratic State Committee, in a 1931 personal correspondence addressed to Ms. Stackpole, wrote: “The first time that a woman breaks into public office is a landmark in the progress of women, and you have blazed a trail for others to follow.” In recognition of Stackpole’s 1931 victory, fellow Democrat president-elect Franklin Delano Roosevelt, one year later, invited Syrena to the White House on the occasion of his inaugural parade. Ms. Stackpole, who was 42 years old at the time of her historic election, continued to practice law in Riverhead until her early 90s.

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Photo of the Week

———- March 1, 2021 ———-

FROM THE SCHS LIBRARY ARCHIVES

“How shall we know it is us without our past?”
– John Steinbeck

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Letter from George Washington, 1795

by Wendy Polhemus-Annibell, Head Librarian  

Letter from George Washington to Nine Suffolk County Residents Who Had Expressed Opposition to the Jay Treaty of 1795. (From the Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society Library Archives. Image Copyright © Suffolk County Historical Society. All rights reserved.)

This rare document from our library archives originally turned up in the Southold home of Mary Dayton, whose ancestors were among New York state’s first judges. The letter, dated September 7, 1795, was addressed to Ms. Dayton’s great-great-great grandfather, Jared Landon of Cutchogue, and eight other Suffolk County residents who had expressed opposition to the Jay Treaty of 1795: David Hedges of Bridgehampton, Benjamin Huntting of Southampton, Abraham Miller of East Hampton, Benjamin Horton Jr. of Southold, Nicoll Floyd of Mastic, John Howard of Shelter Island, Josiah Reeve of Mattituck, and David Warren of Jamesport.

Although we are unsure whether George Washington or a staffer actually penned the letter, it was issued from the president’s office. The letter reads:

“Gentlemen, I have received your letter of Aug 6 expressing your Sentiments on the Treaty lately negotiated between the United States and Great Britain. It is now generally known that the Treaty has received my Assent on the Condition proposed by the Senate; this was not given until after most mature deliberations. Not withstanding the Diversity of Opinion which has been manifested is much to be regretted, I cannot but hope that experience will show that the public interest required the Course which has been pursued. With due respect, I am Gentlemen, Your Obedient Geo. Washington.”

There was anger over Britain’s refusal to withdraw troops from the northwestern frontier, refusal to enter into commercial agreements, and mistreatment of crews on American ships. President George Washington had sent Supreme Court Justice John Jay to negotiate with Britain, and Jay returned with a treaty in which some concessions had been gained, but not nearly as many as the American public had hoped for. The nine Suffolk County residents had sent a letter to Washington expressing doubts about the Jay Treaty that the young United States had recently signed with Great Britain.

Many Long Islanders had been imprisoned or forced to flee to Connecticut during the British occupation, and when they returned, many found that their possessions had been plundered and their homes wrecked by fire or cannonballs. In addition, Washington had been informed that David Hedges had spent seven years in a British lockup in Southampton. The President therefore took special pains to respond personally to these men of Suffolk County.

Suggested Reading: The Diary of George Washington From 1789 to 1791; Embracing the Opening of the First Congress, and His Tours Through New England, Long Island, and the Southern States, 1860. 

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Photo of the Week

———- January 16, 2021 ———-

FROM THE SCHS LIBRARY ARCHIVES

“How shall we know it is us without our past?”
– John Steinbeck

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Civil War Portrait, 1964

by Wendy Polhemus-Annibell, Head Librarian  

Elisha Wells Civil War Portrait, 1864(Image from the Elisha Wells Civil War Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society Library Archives.)

Elisha Wells (1830-1895) of Aquebogue married Maria Skillman Hudson, and together they had eleven children. During the Civil War, Elisha was a private of Capt. Hubbard E. Tuthill’s Co. 7, 2nd Regiment of Conn., Heavy Artillery Volunteers. He enrolled on February 5, 1864 – at age 33 and with seven children – to serve three years during the Civil War, and was discharged on August 18, 1865. Our library collection includes dozens of letters that he wrote to his wife and family while he was away at war (one of which is transcribed here). Elisha, a Riverhead farmer and a one-time Riverhead Postmaster (1870), is buried in the Riverhead Cemetery. 

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Fort Williams
Near Alexandria, Virginia
April 3, 1864

Dear Maria,

I now take the opportunity to inform you that I am in the land of the living yet, and in the enjoyment of good health as good as ever I enjoyed in my life…. The last time I wrote to you I said I thought that we should not have to leave Fort Williams, but that is now somewhat changed. Some two or three regiments have gone to the front and several more have got to go. Among those gone was the 15th New York – they were stationed at Fort Lyons about 1/2 mile to the south of us. They went away last Sunday. They refused to go at first and drew up in battle line. Then the 5th Pennsylvania bucktails encamped close to the city were called upon to take the fort; they marched up to the fort, 2,400 of them, when the New Yorkers thought best to obey orders as they could not have held the fort….

I suppose you know that General [Ulysses S.] Grant was in command of the whole force of the U.S. The soldiers are going South every day to reinforce [General George] Meade for the purpose of the taking of Richmond. Grant is there himself. The Army of the South is in the charge of General [George H.] Thomas. You may expect to hear of some fighting bye and bye. I should like to be at the taking of Richmond; however, there will probably be a great many lives lost in this spring campaign. I expect to stick to it; I believe I am in the right, and I believe the North will conquer the rebels and give them their desserts for they are as bad as the savages. They have been hanging some of our soldiers, maybe you read in the papers. Don’t trouble yourself about me. I can stand my hand with any of them….

My love to all inquiring friends.

From your husband,
E. Wells

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Photo of the Week

———- January 9, 2021 ———-

FROM THE SCHS LIBRARY ARCHIVES

“How shall we know it is us without our past?”
– John Steinbeck

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LONG ISLAND RAILROAD

by Wendy Polhemus-Annibell, Head Librarian 

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LIRR Train to Wading River, 1906, by Hal B. Fullerton. The Port Jefferson line ran to Wading River until the 1960s. (Image from the Harry T. Tuthill Fullerton Collection of the SCHS Library Archives. Copyright © Suffolk County Historical Society. All rights reserved. [To view the Fullerton photo, please visit www.suffolkcountyhistoricalsociety.com website].

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LIRR Train to Wading River, 1906, by Hal B. Fullerton. The Port Jefferson line ran to Wading River until the 1960s. (Image from the Harry T. Tuthill Fullerton Collection of the SCHS Library Archives. Copyright © Suffolk County Historical Society. All rights reserved.)

The Long Island Railroad was incorporated nearly 187 years ago, on April 24, 1834, mainly for the purpose of constructing a link from Brooklyn to Boston. Because of New England’s hills and broad rivers, the Greenport route was chosen, and it connected with a steamship line to Stonington, Conn. The extension of the LIRR to Greenport in 1844 was an event that caused much excitement all over Long Island–for now it was possible to make the trip from the western end of Long Island to the eastern end in three hours instead of two to three days!

In the winter of 1843-44 there were a large number of men working on the Greenport line construction. Among them was Michael Creighton, grandfather of Thomas Creighton, flagman on the Griffing Avenue railroad crossing in Riverhead. Also among them was James Magee, grandfather of Barney Magee, blacksmith of Aquebogue. The first train to Greenport was run over the tracks on July 27, 1844. The engines burned wood, mostly pine, which was cut by men with buck saws.

INFO. SOURCE: Clarence Ashton Wood, “First Train to Greenport in 1844” (Long Island Forum, 1944).

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The Suffolk County Historical Society Museum is open to the public for a safe, socially-distanced family outing with 15-minute intervals between parties. Exhibits provide a safe, “touchless” experience for adults and children alike. Masks are required of all museum visitors over age 2.

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www.suffolkcountyhistoricalsociety.org

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