Category Archives: History

Graffiti from the Past

When we think of graffiti, we usually think of spray painted signs, walls and doors with anything from a symbol or word, a hodgepodge of designs to a unified mural. In most cases, graffiti is considered bad, disrespectful, and ugly.

What about graffiti from 1,850 years ago?

These two profiles were etched into a column with other signs and symbols in front of the Southeast Building (built ca. 150 CE) in the agora in Athens, Greece. The profiles could have been drawn by anyone living today. However, they were not.

These copies come from an American School of Classical Studies at Athens agora excavation report. When I saw them I got chills. Who were these people? (I assume at least two, as probably the latter one was added close to the earlier profile.) Were they students at a school? (The Library of Pantainos was next door to the Southeast Building and apparently had similar graffiti on its columns.) Did these people know each other? Did they end up as artists? As philosophers? There is no way to know.

Nonetheless, these doodles are a bridge to people who lived in another time and place.

Goosebumps.

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Filed under Art, History

Parthenon Marbles Coming to the Graduate Center

City College was given copies of the so-called Elgin Marbles–the Parthenon Marbles–as a gift in 1852 from Charles M. Leupp, Esq. The casts, made in the 1830s, were among the first to be sent to the United States. The casts have been in storage until recently. The sculptures are now going to be mounted in the CUNY Graduate Center Library. They will line the wall along 34th Street.

This is exciting.

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Filed under Art, History, New York City

Marching for Women in Poughkeepsie

2017-01-21-006On January 21, I marched to support the rights of women in Poughkeepsie, New York. A close friend of mine braved the trip to Washington, D.C., which I did not want to try and do. So, when Tara, a friend from the Historical Society, suggested Poughkeepsie, I liked the idea. Poughkeepsie, after all, may not be a major city of the United States, but it is still a city with a statement to make. Why not help them make it?

It was cold, but not as cold as it was walking across the bridge over the Hudson. It got colder as soon as we neared the other side, and remained cold until we crossed back over. There was a lot of positive vibes from the participants, and the march was upbeat. I got a cool tee-shirt to mark the occasion.

2017-02-04-001Besides Tara, her friend Joanie came along. We took Metro-North in the wee hours of the morning and then walked over to the site of the march. There was no parking anywhere close to the sight as the lots were packed with participants, with many more looking for places to park.

The pics are of the crossing, of Tara and Joanie, and of a Christmas tree that was still decorated at this late date.

 

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Filed under History, New York (State), Uncategorized

City Museum Purchase

I went to the Museum of the City of New York a few weeks ago with a friend.

The building is beautiful. I remember that there was some talk of moving the museum down to Tweed Hall, but it did not happen. There were a lot of school kids there when we visited early in the morning right after the place opened.  I didn’t get to see the first floor, which is now the permanent exhibit on the history of the city, since this is where the kids spent all of their time. Instead, we stayed upstairs and visited the traveling exhibits. One thing that differentiates the City Museum from the rest is that there is not a lot of realia, i.e. objects, on display. Instead, what is displayed are exhibits with models and photographs. For example, the way skyscrapers are built to allow light to reach the street, which was the exhibit on zoning laws. Models, photos, and lots of text. Though I found it interesting, I really like objects, which I love to photograph.

One object that is a recent acquisition of the museum is on the first floor, and that was a deck chair reputedly from the Titanic. It was in its own display in the recent acquisitions area. It looks like its seen better days. Then again, it is well over 100 years old. Since these chairs floated in the water, people clung to them after the ship sank. However, most died not from drowning but from hypothermia, as the water was well below freezing.

Did someone try and cling to this chair, only to lose his/her life?

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Filed under History, Museums, New York City

Pergamum Exhibit at the Met

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A bronze shield from Pontos, 185-160 BC

Though it closed at the beginning of July, I was able to see the Pergamum exhibit over the Independence Day weekend. I went on a Friday night, rightly assuming that the crowds which make the Met so hard to explore would be out of town. Most of those in the museum were the clueless tourists, most of whom got in the way, talked loudly, and flew through the exhibit probably because they had no idea what they were looking at. Fine by me.

An "old friend" from Athens

An “old friend” from Athens

The Met gathered antiquities from across the world to create the exhibition, Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World. I was surprised and pleased to see some “old friends” from the Antikytheria Shipwreck exhibit (and redux) that the National Archaeological Museum in Athens had held in 2013. I took a few pictures, but I already have photos of the pieces.

I took 184 photographs, some of which I later deleted (bad photos, duplicate photos, etc.). I just managed to get through the exhibit right before the museum closed at 9. I bought the exhibition catalog–hardback. I usually buy the paperback copy because it is cheaper (and sometimes I wait for a few months and hope that the catalog is put on clearance, which sometimes happens if any are left over), but I was told that too many people complained that the paperback copies fall apart. Now the Met only prints its catalogs in hardback.

Overall, it was a wonderful exhibit.

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Irving’s Monument, and Rip Van Winkle

(2015-04-11 003)Way back at the beginning of the 20th century, a memorial/monument to Washington Irving was planned for Broadway, at the top of Sunnyside Lane. A local committee started raising funds in 1909-1910. Famous sculptor Daniel Chester French was hired to make a bust of Irving and some images of Rip Van Winkle and King Boabdil (from The Alhambra). The Headless Horseman is Irving’s most famous character, with Rip Van Winkle running second in popularity.

French worked on the monument for the next 15 years. Over those years, the costs of the monument, in French’s hands, kept going up and up. The local committee put on many fundraisers to try and keep up with the escalating price tag. In 1925, French designed this small statue of Rip Van Winkle for fundraising purposes; each sold for $500.

Unfortunately, the statue got no further than the model stage. French created a model to work from and started making preparations to build the statue. However, the money was not raised for the statue and the idea was scrapped. Still, the sculptor had to be paid. In order to recoup some of the money, the statue committee had copies made of the model and sold it locally.

The Charles T. Newberry Estate donated this statue to the Historical Society, where it peers out from a corner in the research room.

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Filed under Art, History, Sleepy Hollow, Tarrytown

The Month of Valentines

(2015-08-18 031)When I lived in Pittsburgh, I used to have “I Hate Valentine’s Day” parties. And people came. Men, women, couples, singles, straight, gay, all came because we shared the same belief: the sappiness of an insipid holiday.

I’ve always believed that one should be romantic and do nice things for one’s significant other–whether married or just dating–all the time. Why would someone need a holiday to do this once a year when one does it constantly throughout the year? My philosophy.

(2015-08-18 026)While in Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving, I went through some things in my storage bin (something else that needs cleaned), and I came across some of the decorations I used for the parties. So, I brought them back to New York with me.

Part of my contempt for Valentine’s Day stems from misinformation.  According to Catholic Online, not much is known about Valentine and there (2015-08-18 029)are various stories told about him; he may have been two men who were merged into one saint, like Saint Nicholas. However, none of them deal with him in a romance with anyone. The story I know best is that he was imprisoned for being a Christian and he made friends with his jailer’s daughter, to whom he taught Christianity. On the day of his death (which may have been February 14, although no one seems to agree on the year), Valentine left his friend a note telling her to be faithful and to continue to believe. It was signed, “Your Valentine.”

(2015-08-18 027)So, the story was one of conversion. Other stories talk of him marrying Christian couples and even trying to convert Emperor Claudius II, which did not work. In any event, besides being the patron saint of lovers and married couples, he is also the saint of beekeepers, the engaged, young people, epilepsy, greetings, fainting, travelers and plague. Because there was so little known about Valentine, the Roman Catholic Church removed him from their General Calendar, but he’s still considered a saint.

(2015-08-18 028)More intriguing to me is the assertion, cited by Catholic Online, of two 18th century English antiquarians that Valentine’s Day was established to off-set the pagan holiday of Lupercalia, which is February 15. This makes complete sense to me.

I already did a post on Lupercalia. For that matter, I also discussed Valentine’s Day, but I fleshed it out a bit more by including Catholic Online information.

For those of you who need Valentine’s Day, enjoy. For the rest of us, it’s just another day.

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Filed under History, Holidays