History Programs

We all enjoy learning something new and interesting, which is why history related programs are always among our most popular events. This page features a wide range of webinars, offered both by our library and other libraries. All programs listed are FREE, virtual, and open to the public!

January Events

The 1918 Flu Epidemic, and What It Can Tell Us Today

Tuesday, January 26th @ 11:00am

Speaker: Sandra Opdycke  

Registration Link: https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJAsc-Gsrj0tHNZI0MXVRM4hWDALNldoscO8 

Picture a country in the grip of a respiratory virus that is sweeping the globe. Schools are closed, theatres are dark, hospitals are straining to keep up with the demand. Death-counts are rising, and there is a running public debate about whether wearing a mask really does protect you. This certainly sounds like the life we are living today. But it also describes what Americans were facing more than a hundred years ago, during the influenza pandemic of 1918. 


No two times in history are just the same, and neither are any two pandemics. The goal of this talk is to provide an overview of the 1918 flu pandemic, and to explore how it resembles, and how it differs from, our own experience with Covid—medically, socially, economically, and politically. How did American leaders respond to the epidemic in 1918? What part did World War I play in the story? What about the role of medicine and technology? How did individual communities grapple with the challenge? Overall, what can we learn from America’s response to this long-ago health crisis—a crisis that resembles in so many ways the one we are facing today? 


Sandra Opdycke, Ph.D. is a retired historian. She recently published When Women Won the Vote, about the woman suffrage movement. She has also written books about the flu epidemic of 1918, the WPA of the 1930s, and Bellevue Hospital, as well as a biography of Jane Addams, an historical atlas of American women’s history, and several co-authored books and articles on social policy. She worked for a number of years at Hudson River Psychiatric Center, and later taught American History and Urban History at Bard, Vassar, and Marist Colleges. She serves as an occasional lecturer at the Center for Lifetime Studies in Poughkeepsie. 

Writing Through the American Revolution: The Correspondence of Myles Cooper

Thursday, January 28th @ 11:00am

Speaker: Dr. Christopher Minty and Dr. Peter Walker  

Registration link: https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJcvd-GhpzkoHdYEaUPmbttXFxAEwKUCD4al  

King’s College president Myles Cooper fled Manhattan in the spring of 1775, fearing for his life. Denigrated as a “Tory” for his actions against and attitudes toward American resistance, Cooper boarded a vessel and soon sailed for Britain. Eventually settling in Edinburgh, Cooper maintained an active correspondence with his loyalist friends and colleagues in New York. This talk will focus on that correspondence, offering new insights into loyalists’ attitudes on various aspects of the American Revolutionary War. 


Dr. Christopher is a historian of early America.  He specialized in the history of Revolutionary America, the Early Republic, loyalism in the Atlantic world, New York City, John Dickinson and the Adams Family of Massachusetts.   


Dr. Peter Walker is an Professor of History at the University of Wyoming.  His areas of research are on early modern Britain, the British Empire, and the Atlantic World, with particular interests in religion, empire, and revolution.  He is editing, with Dr. Christopher Minty, a book-length documentary edition of the correspondence of the loyalist refugee Myles Cooper. 

February Events

Abandoned: The Untold Story of Orphan Trains

Monday, February 1st @ 11:00am

Speaker: Michael Keene

Registration link: michaeltkeene.com/registration

“By the end of the Civil War, an estimated 30,000 homeless  and orphaned children roamed the streets of New York City. In response to this crisis, the age of orphan asylums began, culminating in one of the most improbable and audacious episodes in American history. Called the Orphan Train Movement, it endeavored to save these children lost to the streets by heroes who fought for their liberation”.

Author and historian Michael Keene has produced an unique online documentary “Abandoned: The Untold Story of the Orphan Trains”. The premiere event will allow you to watch the film and join him on a Q&A chat. Once you register, you will receive the link and can watch it any time you want, as many times as you want.

New York and the Great Hunger in Ireland

Wednesday, February 10th @ 1:00pm

Speaker: Dr. Harvey Strum   

Registration Link: https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJMsce6oqzgqHNBEhAtwKJv-UvVbcFW5QkBe 

Dr. Harvey Strum will discuss the efforts in New York to raise money, food, and clothing for the Irish and Scots in 1846-47 during the Great Famine or Great Hunger of 1845-52. He will also mention New Yorkers efforts to help the Irish during the food shortages of the early 1860s and in 1879-80 during the Little Famine in Ireland. New York in 1847 raised more money and shipped more food to Ireland than any other city or state in the country. New York City sent more aid to Ireland and Albany's Irish Catholics contributed more than any other Catholic community. 


Dr. Harvey Strum has been a professor of History and Political Science at the Sage Colleges for over 30 years.  His main areas of research are the politics of the early national period; the War of 1812; American responses to the famines in Ireland in the 1860s and 1879-1882; and American Jewish History. 

The Vanderbilts: An Empire Founded on Staten Island

Thursday, February 18th @ 1:00pm

Speaker: Patricia Salmon  

Registration Link:  https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJ0ldeGrqTIvEtRL_W2Ob2sDUTcWbiMu2Daw

The shipping and railroad empire started by Cornelius Vanderbilt began on Staten Island. Eventually, his son William H. took over with the result that he became the richest man in the world. Both Cornelius and William H. were passionate about succeeding and crushing their opponents. Whether it was greed or the need to be the best, their shrewdness and aggressiveness brought them riches beyond comprehension. Their legacy and its Staten Island connections will be examined as we discuss Vanderbilt family lineage, their properties and homes, the Vanderbilt Cemetery and Mausoleum, and more.  


Patricia M. Salmon is the former Curator of History at the Staten Island Museum .A Staten Island resident for fifty years, Ms. Salmon has authored five books including Staten Island's Brewery Barons; Realms of History: The Cemeteries of Staten Island; and The Staten Island Ferry: A History. She is on the Board of Directors of the Tottenville Historical Society and the Friends of the Olmsted-Beil House. Ms. Salmon is an Adjunct Professor at the College of Staten Island and a guest lecturer at Wagner College.  

Kingston's Pine Street African-American Cemetery

Friday, February 19th @ 7:00pm

Speaker: Joseph Diamond  

Event ling: https://bit.ly/39x7tR6

In 1750, the trustees of Kingston identified an area outside the walled settlement of Kingston (formerly Wiltwyck) to be used as a burial ground for enslaved Africans, where they may have been buried since the 1660s. African people who were enslaved in and around Kingston were denied church burial. This cemetery is located on what is now Pine Street.

Joseph Diamond has been involved in the preservation project of this historical site and will give a presentation about it, in the context of slavery in Ulster County.

Abandoned: The Untold Story of Orphan Trains (Discussion Group)

Tuesday, February 23rd @ 7:00pm

Event link: https://bit.ly/2XAyHAw

“By the end of the Civil War, an estimated 30,000 homeless  and orphaned children roamed the streets of New York City. In response to this crisis, the age of orphan asylums began, culminating in one of the most improbable and audacious episodes in American history. Called the Orphan Train Movement, it endeavored to save these children lost to the streets by heroes who fought for their liberation”.

All month long, we've provided access to Michael Keene's documentary film "Abandoned: The Untold Story of Orphan Trains". This event will be an informal discussion of the film and issues it raised. We'll also provide some resources for further investigation.

The videos provided on the above link are recordings of some past programs that were sponsored by the Friends of the New York State Library.

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P.O. Box 1167

128 Canal Street

Port Ewen, NY 12466

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Phone: 845-338-5580

Fax: 845-338-5583

The Library building is currently closed to the public.

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