This Week in History: Central New York Remembers JFK

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, was assassinated while traveling through Dallas, Texas, in an open-top convertible on November 22nd, 1963. The 20th century saw its far share of memorable moments, both good and bad, but this shook America to its core.

Many remember where they were and the reactions of those around them as the news unfolded. OHA has records of some of those reactions as well as photographs of Kennedy in Syracuse during his presidential campaign in 1960.

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Today in History: The Not So United States

The birth of the United States, from the Declaration of Independence (1776) to the Constitution (1787) we live under today, wasn’t what many would call a smooth transition. Following the Declaration at the beginning of the Revolutionary War, the Articles of Confederation was submitted to the states for ratification on this day in 1777, though it would take four years for them to do so, with Maryland being the last in 1781 as border disputes with Virginia continued. The Articles of Confederation was the first written constitution for the United States. However,  the states making up the newly formed United States weren’t so united under the Articles. Under this, states remained sovereign with the central government and Congress dealing with disputes, make treaties and align with other nations, coin money (though this would remain an issue), and create and maintain armed forces.  This decentralized form of governing had holes, as it lacked the ability to collect taxes and eventually lead to the Constitutional Convention in 1787.


NYS General Association Document Signed May 26th 1775. Now on loan to the NYS State Museum in Albany, NY from OHA.

What is lost in all of this? In May of 1775, New York State essentially issued its own Declaration of Independence with the signing and passing of the NYS General Association Document.

In 1775, shortly after the confrontation between the Massachusetts militia and British forces at Lexington and Concord, the elected leaders of the Colony of New York decided that it was important to gather for the purpose of drafting a document that would formally “associate” themselves in unified opposition to the recent British actions and policies.  The First Provincial Congress was, therefore, convened and the document, known as the “General Association for . . . the Rights and Liberties of America”, was signed by the 100 elected members on May 26, 1775.  The document was, essentially, the first document of the first representative government of New York and it effectively declared that New York was no longer a colony of the British crown.  It firmly placed New York in the Revolution, it strengthened the political bond between the colonies, and it helped secure a unified colonial statement of independence, paving the way for the Declaration of Independence, which was signed little more than a year later.

The General Association document was held, along with the other historical records of New York’s colonial period, in the office of New York’s Secretary of State until 1889 when they were moved into the State Library, which was housed in the opulent new State Capitol building.  The last time we know the document was accessed was in 1868 when it was transcribed and reprinted in a large volume entitled, The Calendar of Historical Manuscripts Relating to the War of the Revolution. On March 29, 1911 a devastating fire broke out in the Capitol building destroying the library along with 450,000 books and 270,000 manuscripts, including almost all of the papers of New York’s revolutionary provincial government.  Since the document was not among the inventory of manuscripts that survived the fire, it was logically assumed that the original May 26, 1775 General Association document was lost in that fire.

Fortunately, the General Association document did, in fact, survive.  When, or how, it was removed from the Capitol building is not known.  It may have been removed before, or even after, the fire as several reports describe priceless manuscript remnants of the Library being “swept up”, among the mass of charred remains, and discarded along with the tons of debris in the aftermath of the fire.  What we do know is that the document somehow found its way into the private antique market, which is how it apparently came into the possession of an antique dealer and collector, named Fryer, who lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Mr. Fryer’s son, George G. Fryer, came to Syracuse in 1889 to work as an engineer with the Solvay Process Company.  George was also an avid collector and, along with the collection he inherited from his father, he amassed an impressive array of historic stamps, coins, manuscripts, and artifacts.  In 1927, George donated a sizable portion of his collection to OHA, a collection that included the General Association document.

Though several OHA personnel over the years were aware of the document’s existence, it was OHA’s Curator of History, Dennis Connors, who finally brought it to the attention of the New York State Archives in 2007.  During a cataloguing project of the hundreds of thousands of manuscripts in the OHA’s collection, it was, once again, “discovered”.  Dennis worked with the State Archives personnel to authenticate the document and bring it the attention that it deserves.  It has been on display in an exhibit on the 2nd floor of the OHA Museum until it was recently loaned to the exhibit in the Hall of Governors, where it has garnered international attention.

Syracuse Beer Week Brings Back Memories of Local Brewing History


This week in Syracuse, November 10th through the 14th, is beer week, and while many are celebrating local brewing around the United States, Syracuse has always been in the mix in a big way.

The era of 1870 to 1919 might be considered the golden age of American brewing, fueled in part by lager’s continuing popularity.  In 1880 there were 2,272 breweries in the United States.  Almost every town of any consequence had at least one.  Markets were regional, due to limitations in that day and age with shipping the somewhat perishable product over long distances.  Larger cities, especially in the Northeast and Mid-West had many breweries.  Cities like New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Buffalo, Boston and St. Louis were the leaders, but places like Syracuse, Rochester, Albany and Milwaukee were not too far behind in 1890, a time when it might well be considered the peak years for Syracuse’s brewery business.

Over 400 people were employed in the local industry, turning out around 300,000 barrels of beer and ale annually.  There was certainly a great variety of manufacturers offering dozens of drink options, ranging from light lagers to dark porters.  In June of 1894, the U. S. Brewers Association held their national convention in Syracuse.  Proceedings were conducted at the Alhambra, a large meeting hall on lower James Street.  Local brewers, no doubt, enjoyed showcasing their substantial establishments during the various convention tours offered for America’s brewing barons.  The attendance of one Gustav G. Pabst of Milwaukee was noted in the local press.

Like today, breweries of the 1890’s marketed their products extensively.  All sorts of trays, signs and advertising contrivances were distributed to local taverns to keep the names of various brews in front of the consumers.  Many of these promotional devices and decorations have become valuable collectibles a century later.

Fishs Eddy - Congress Beer_

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Syracuse-brewed beer was available in colorful outlets like the west shore resorts of Onondaga Lake which were enjoying unparalleled popularity at the same time.  Some of the resorts showed preference for certain brands, such as the prominence of Zett’s Lager at Rockaway Beach.  Of course, Xavier Zett’s grand-daughter, Louise, was married to Jacob Hecker and the Hecker family owned the Rockaway resort.  Breweries also sometimes had direct interests in retail outlets, like beer gardens, to encourage and promote sales of their product.  In 1890, the Germania Brewery acquired a “summer garden” located at 620 North Salina Street.  On warm summer evenings, inside its walls, people could enjoy a cool lager while listening to outdoor musical entertainment.

Five years later, however, a local newspaper provided some insight into where most beer was being consumed – the approximately 520 saloons in Syracuse.

Learn more about Syracuse’s brewing history by visiting Onondaga Historical Association (321 Montgomery Street) for our permanent exhibit on local beer.

United States Presidents in Syracuse:

Today in 1789, President George Washington concluded a four week tour of the northern states who ratified the constitution following his inauguration in April. Washington would visit the southern states two years later.

Syracuse has had its fair share of Presidential visits, too. Three in particular include William Howard Taft in 1911 photographed at the State Fair, Herbert Hoover in 1937 photographed at the Syracuse Library, and Richard Nixon photographed at Hancock Airport, a presidential campaign stop in 1960. Nixon would go on to lose the election in one of the closest elections in U.S history.


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The 95th Annual Armistice Day: Remembering The Brave

1912373_10152248110841356_4788212276809834196_nVeterans Day, also know as Armistice Day, is a time to remember those who have fought for our country. Veterans bear the weight of war, long after they leave the battlefield. Win, lose, or draw, those who risk their lives to defend freedom deserve to be remembered and cherished, not only today, but all days.

Today, OHA remembers Lieutenant Bernard Stapleton, a young man from Syracuse fighting in the Pacific theater during World War II. Here (left), Stapleton puts up an American flag on the tallest building in Tokyo, Japan a day after Japan’s official surrender on September 3rd 1945, supposedly beating General Douglas MacArthur. This photo, and other memorabilia relating to veterans from Onondaga County, can be found in OHA’s exhibit at the War Memorial in Syracuse. The exhibit showcases stories from veterans going back to the Spanish American War.

What’s the the history of Veterans Day? Known at the time as “The Great War,” World War I officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed in June of 1919, outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.” Celebrations occur all around Europe each year on this day, specifically in France, where a majority of the fighting took place and over 600,000 soldiers from different nationalities lost their lives in the trenches.

Interestingly enough, however, the United States didn’t “officially” recognize the end of World War I until 1921 when Congress passed the Knox–Porter Resolution, signed into law by President Harding on 2 July 1921, bringing a formal end to hostilities. The U.S. Congress did not agree to the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, meaning Congress and the President needed to end the war individually with the Central Powers.

In the United States in November of 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day : ‘To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.” In 1938, Armistice Day became an official holiday in the United States, though its name would change to Veterans Day in 1954 after the largest mobilization of American troops occurred during World War II.

Today in History: Sesame Street Airs First Episode

Today in 1969, the children’s TV show Sesame Street debuts in the United States. Today, it’s aired in 120 countries, teaching kids all around the world how to count, word association, and the alphabet. But Syracuse had its own children’s show, though it aired years before Sesame Street.

The Magic Toy Shop was a long running local children’s TV show from the 1950s-1980s on WHEN-TV, now CNY Central. The show was created with the help of parents, educators and other experts to provide a fun and positive experience. Seen below from left to right are Socrates Sampson as Eddie Flum Num, Jean Daugherty as the Play Lady, and Marylin Hubbard Herr as Merrily.


Today, the Magic Toy Shop lives on at Onondaga Historical Association. Through the generosity of the late Jean Daugherty and WTVH-5, OHA received many items from the Magic Toy Shop. Elements of the TV studio set include the counter and bookshelf, calliope, portable piano, two TV cameras (one from the original 1948 WHEN station), stuffed animals, sheet music, storyboards, costumes, an international doll collection, and, of course, Mr. Trolley’s headpiece!

2013-05-29 The Magic Toy Shop 014


High Points in S.U. Football History Occurred in November

su-archbold-stadium-jpg-d24f376a425b2116On November 9th 1959 the Syracuse University football team was named number one in the nation and would go on to finish the season undefeated and win the National Championship. Coached by Ben Schwartzwalder, the team included Ernie Davis, who would become the first African American Heisman Trophy winner in 1961.

On November 11th 1978, the Syracuse University football team defeated a favored Navy team, 20-17 at the last event held in Archbold Stadium. The time clock, scoreboard and other “souvenirs” were torn away by fans. Demolition work began immediately to make way for the Carrier Dome, a covered stadium with 50,000 seats built for $26 million.

On November 21st 1987, the Syracuse University football team beat West Virginia in the Dome to complete another undefeated season, scoring in the closing seconds of the game to go up 32-31.

–Daniel Connors of the OHA