Today in History (PartII): Theodore Roosevelt Trial in Syracuse Comes to a Close


100 years ago: On May 22, 1915, after a five-week trial, the William Barnes vs. Theodore Roosevelt libel suit ended. Barnes, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, had sued Roosevelt for $50,000 for an alleged libelous statement in which Roosevelt had referred to Barnes as a corrupt political boss. Roosevelt’s defense was to prove that his statement was true. The trial was moved from Albany, the state capital, to the courthouse in Syracuse because it was a more neutral location.

While Roosevelt was on the witness stand, the uncontainable former president said whatever he wanted. Not even the lawyers’ objections or judge’s gaveling could stop him. After two days of deliberations, the jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of Roosevelt.

— Daniel Connors of the OHA

Today in History: The NBA Officially Leaves Syracuse, Nationals Move to Philadelphia.


52 Years Ago: On May 22, 1963, eight years after they defeated the Fort Wayne Pistons in Game 7 of the 1955 championship series to win their sole NBA title, the Syracuse Nationals were sold by owner Danny Biasone (inventor of the 24-second shot clock) to Irv Kosloff and Ike Richman, who moved the team to Philadelphia. The team was renamed the Philadelphia Seventy-Sixers in honor of the men who were responsible for the formation of the United States in 1776. The loss of the NBA team enabled Syracuse University’s basketball program to enjoy a resurgence in popularity that continues to this day.

The playoff overtime loss on March 26, 1963 would prove to be the last game for the Syracuse Nationals. The NBA approved the franchise shift on May 22 and name change August 6th from the Nationals to the 76ers, returning professional basketball to Philadelphia one year after the Warriors moved to California.

— Daniel Connors of the OHA

Today in History: Thomas Edison, The Mutoscope, and the Syracuse Connection


Today in 1898, Thomas Edison sued the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, claiming that they had infringed on his patent for the Kinetograph movie camera. W.L.K. Dickson, who worked with Edison and designed the Kinetograph and Kinetoscope, and, soon after, helped Edison’s competitors develop another motion-picture device: the mutoscope. Dickson was soon fired by Edison after learning of the situation. The company Dickson would go on to work for, American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, has roots in Syracuse as well as the Mutoscopes themselves, which were perfected by Dickson at the C.E. Lipe Machine Shop.

Thomas Edison would go on to lose the lawsuit after nearly ten years of legal battles. Interestingly enough, however, The American Mutoscope and Biograph Company eventually joined forces with Edison’s Motion Picture Patents Company in 1908, a trust of all the major American film companies. The trust was dissolved by the U.S. Supreme Court after it was deemed the company was a monopoly.

Today in History: As Lusitania Sunk, “Women Showed Notable Pluck”


On June 3rd, 1915, the Syracuse Herald ran a story based on a letter from Hugh R. Bryce. In the letter to Bryce’s friend, David Boyd, he explains how the women kept their cool aboard the Lusitania, which sank 100 years ago today after being struck with a torpedo from a German U-boat.


Hugh R. Bryce, Who, With His Wife, Was Rescued From Liner, Writes to Friend

   The women who were far ahead of men in coolness and pluck when the Lusitania sank, according to a letter received in this city from Hugh R. Bryce, the former Syracuse man who was rescued with his wife.
In a letter to David Boyd, superintendent of the Syracuse office of the Metropolitan life Insurance Company, Mr Bryce says that he is recovered from the trying experience and is again feeling well. My Bryce and his wife were at lunch when the Lusitania was torpedoed. He put his wife into a lifeboat before helping other ladies.
“Suddenly,” he said, “the boat gave an extra heavy lurch and we all landed in the water. A fireman pulled me in and we got the women in all right. After that we cruised around for a while, picking up as many as we could.
The Lusitania then began to heel over and we thought that the funnels would swamp us, but we seemed to drift outwards from there and after they were submerged we drifted right over where the boat had sunk. The last I saw of her was her stern raised up in the air, and then she went down. So far as I could see there was no panic and the women behaved magnificently.
    After seeing their behavior, the rankest anti-suffragette would agitate to give them all the vote. They were far ahead of the men in coolness and pluck. All this took place in about twenty minutes. So we had no time to look for life bells or anything else.”

Today in Rock n Roll History: Jimi Hendrix Plays the War Memorial

Jimmy Hendrix May 4 Syracuse

On this day in 1969, Jimi Hendrix played at the War Memorial in downtown Syracuse.

jimi_bio2From the Jimi Hendrix website: “Widely recognized as one of the most creative and influential musicians of the 20th century, Jimi Hendrix pioneered the explosive possibilities of the electric guitar. Hendrix’s innovative style of combining fuzz, feedback and controlled distortion created a new musical form. Because he was unable to read or write music, it is nothing short of remarkable that Jimi Hendrix’s meteoric rise in the music took place in just four short years.”

This Week in History: Lincoln’s Funeral Train Comes to Syracuse

Lincoln train schedule

NorthrupAnselJAnsel Judd Northrup (left), moved to Syracuse in 1859 after finishing Law School at Columbia University. Northrup consistently wrote his thoughts in a dairy, each entry giving today’s readers insight and individual perspective on events occurring in and out of Syracuse in the 1860s. However, as we find ourselves looking back at Lincoln’s assassination 150 years later, OHA’s staff wondered if the well spoken Northrup recorded his thoughts on this historic event. Lucky for us, he did. In this entry, Northrup gives a detailed account of the arrival of President Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train, which arrived in Syracuse on April 26th.


“The remains of the dearly beloved President Abraham Lincoln passed through this city westward this evening.  First came the “pilot” train at 11:05 p.m. and at 11:15 came the train, the escort and the remains.  It remained for precisely 15 minutes.

The train consisted of six or seven cars, the last but one containing all that remains of Abraham Lincoln.  A funeral dirge was chanted by the car while it remained, and soldiers on each side marched through the Depot with it as it moved slowly away.  The Depot was beautifully and tastefully tended with draped flags, while powerful locomotive head lights revealed the whole scene with startling distinctness.  And that was the funeral train of Abraham Lincoln!  I shall never forget my emotions upon that occasion, as I stood, with my wife Eliza and my cousin in the Depot, in the midst of the vast throng assembled, and witnessed the sad scene.  The big tears swelled up from my very heart and escaped from my eyes.  God forgive me! But I almost worshiped that man.

For two political campaigns, in the heat of the fight, I had strained every nerve to secure his election. Working as a young man inspired by a good cause and under the leadership of a man they admire do work speaking, riding through wind and rain and darkness to distant little villages to address those who hold the powerful ballot in their hands, tramping in processions, hanging at great meetings, and doing daily battle of argument in shop and store and office and street, and throwing the whole soul into all the work.

I have watched and prayed and purged, through these bloody, weary years of war, leaning more and more hopefully on the Head of the Nation as his honesty, patriotism and wisdom were more and more proven.  No wonder then, that my political leader, be the Savior of my country, was enshrined in my youthful, enthusiastic, trusting heart as the Great Good leader of the age!  The assassins blow struck home to the tender’s point of my heart as well as the center of life of the Martyr President.

Oh, how sad, sad it was tonight to think that in yonder car, draped with heaviness weeds of woe, was laying my dead hero.  My leader, and more, the Country’s Hope, the Country’s Savior, slain. Farewell!  The man of the People, born to save the Nation, slain in the moment of thy greatest joy and glory!  Farewell! Poor inanimate body, but live forever-forever – Abraham Lincoln second only to Washington in the hearts of thy countrymen!”

Today in History: Syracuse Celebrates the First Earth Day

Earth Day, Syracuse, 1970 (photo credit Kath Buffington)

On this day in 1970, Syracuse celebrated the first Earth Day with the “Sludge Trudge” to Clinton Square. Associate Professor at University of Cincinnati, David Stradling’s book, The Nature of New York: An Environmental History of the Empire State, outlines the events that took place that day.

“Roughly five hundred people participated, marching through downtown and demonstrating their concern for the environment. At the event, Mayor Lee Alexander offered his analysis of how cars were ruining the city with air pollution, parking problems, and traffic. Elsewhere in the city, Students for a Livable Environment, a Syracuse University organization, led boat tours around Onondaga Lake, Pointing out sources of pollution.”

Of those 500 people, Kath Buffington of Rochester, now retired, attended the New York State College of Forestry in 1969-70 and earned a master’s degree from SUNY ESF in 1978, talks about her experiences on that day in this article. 

(Photo Credit Kath Buffington).