Broxmeyer preview

Empire State Engagements

with Dr. Robert Chiles

A conversation with Dr. Kara Murphy Schlichting of Queens College, City University of New York, about metropolis-makers on the periphery, the heroism of local libraries, the hubris of hipness, and her revisionist environmental history of the making of modern New York City, New York Recentered: Building the Metropolis from the Shore (Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago, 2019).  


More information:





One: Dr. Kara Murphy Schlichting 

A conversation with Dr. Catherine O'Donnell of Arizona State University about her book Elizabeth Seton, American Saint (Ithaca, N.Y.: Three Hills/Cornell University Press, 2018).  We discussed young Elizabeth Seton's formative years in New York City, the intellectual forces and family tragedies that informed her spiritual journey, the evolution of American Catholicism, and Mother Seton's remarkable journey from despair to serenity and, ultimately, sainthood.


More information:





Two: Dr. Catherine O'Donnell


Three: Dr. Jennifer A. Lemak

A conversation with Dr. Jennifer Lemak, Chief Curator of History at the New York State Museum, about her book Southern Life, Northern City: The History of Albany's Rapp Road Community (Albany, N.Y.: SUNY Press/Excelsior Editions, 2008). We discussed African-American life in Albany during the Great Migration, the unique history of migration to Albany from Mississippi, and the remarkable endurance of the Rapp Road community despite radical transformations to the surrounding area.


More information:





Upcoming Episodes

Dr. Jeffrey D. Broxmeyer of the University of Toledo discusses his book Electoral Capitalism: The Party System in New York's Gilded Age.

A conversation with Dr. Alyssa Maldonado-Estrada of Kalamazoo College about her book Lifeblood of the Parish: Men and Catholic Devotion in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (New York: NYU Press, 2020).  We discussed her experiences over six years of ethnographic work engaging the parish community; reading tattoos as devotional texts; playfulness and devotion in masculine spaces; the rich history of Italian-American Catholicism in Williamsburg; the the financial realities of community devotion; and the endurance of this parish, tradition, and community--despite decades of challenges ranging from reactionary clergymen to Robert Moses to gentrifying hipsters.


More information:








Four: Dr. Alyssa Maldonado-Estrada

Five: Brad Edmondson

A conversation with author Brad Edmondson about his book A Wild Idea: How the Environmental Movement Tamed the Adirondacks (Ithaca, N.Y.: Three Hills/Cornell University Press, 2021).  We discussed evolving meanings of "forever wild," the growing momentum for a more assertive preservationism in the 1960s, the role of the Rockefeller brothers to Adirondack policy, the creation of the Adirondack Park Agency, frustrations among North Country residents with the state's changing role in the region, and the value of elevating character-driven stories within policy history.  This conversation was hosted as a live event by the Northshire Bookstore, Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and we are grateful for their hospitality and generosity. 


More information:



Six: Brad Utter

A conversation with New York State Museum senior historian and curator Brad Utter about his recent exhibit on the Erie Canal "Enterprising Waters," as well as his book of the same title (Albany, N.Y.: SUNY Press/Excelsior Editions, 2020). We discussed the research process, evolving vision, and geometric constraints of curating an exhibit on this scale; the serendipitous discovery of an enormous canal-era windlass within the museum's holdings; the politics, economics, and engineering of the canal's creation and expansion; the influence of the canal on various New York cities and cultural movements; and the enduring legacies of the Erie Canal.  


More information:



Dr. Clarence Jefferson Hall, Jr., of Queensboro Community College, discusses his book A Prison in the Woods: Environment and Incarceration in New York's North Country.

Seven: Ashley Hopkins-Benton

A conversation with New York State Museum senior historian and curator Ashley Hopkins-Benton about her panel exhibition on the history of the Pride Center of the Capital Region, as well as her work to recover and incorporate more LGBTQ+ history into the museum's content.




Eight: Dr. Thomas Balcerski

A conversation with Dr. Thomas J. Balcerski of Eastern Connecticut State University about his New York History article "'The Little Spark of Manhood I Have Left': Governor Thomas Melville and the Aged Seamen of Sailors' Snug Harbor," and his recent monograph Bosom Friends: The Intimate World of James Buchanan and William Rufus King (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019). We discussed his research into homosocial spaces, heavy-handed discipline, and conflicts and resistance at the Sailors' Snug Harbor on Staten Island; evolving social responses to aging in America; the long road from graduate research paper to published article; the male friendships that shaped Antebellum politics—particularly that of James Buchanan and William Rufus King; historical assessments of the Buchanan presidency and the need for nuance in pondering Buchanan's personal life and friendships; and the role of historians in the public sphere.


More information:



Eleven: Dr. Michael B. Boston

A conversation with Dr. Michael B. Boston of SUNY Brockport about his revisionist work on the business strategy of Booker T. Washington and his efforts to increase African-American entrepreneurship through the National Negro Business League, including in New York City, the subject of Dr. Boston's latest article for New York History. We discussed the importance of Washington's business strategy, its application nationally, and the ways in which the NNBL affected the growth of Black New York. We also discussed the importance of nuance and context for historical assessments of Washington and his rivalry with W.E.B. Du Bois, as well as his longer legacy. Additionally, we discussed Dr. Boston's works on African Americans in Western New York, including his scholarship on the Underground Railroad in Niagara Falls, his work on the abolitionist Dr. P.H. Skinner, and his forthcoming monograph for SUNY Press, Blacks in Niagara Falls (2021).


More information:








All episodes are available here.  Nos. 1-11 are Season One; Season Two begins with no. 12.

Ten: Dr. Marsha E. Barrett

Nine: Melissa Franson

A conversation with Prof. Melissa Franson, PhD candidate in the History Department at Binghamton University and an instructor in the history department at SUNY New Paltz, about her New York History article “'Wide Awakes, Half Asleeps, Little Giants and Bell Ringers': Political Partisanship in the Catskills of New York During the Elections of 1860 and 1862.” We discussed how local economic concerns, infrastructural aspirations, and generational divides informed regional politics in the Catskills on the eve of the Civil War; the role of racism and anti-slavery in informing those politics; the centrality of newspaper editors to 19th century partisanship; and the contradictions between primary evidence and accepted local narratives about the political and military motivations of the region at the time of the Civil War.


More information:



Dr. Bruce W. Dearstyne discusses his New York History article "The Debut of the Administrative State in New York," as well as his books The Spirit of New York and The Crucible of Public Policy: New York Courts in the Progressive Era.

Fourteen: Marisa Scheinfeld

A conversation with photographer and historian Marisa Scheinfeld about her book The Borscht Belt: Revisiting the Remains of America's Jewish Vacationland (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2016). We discussed the rise of the Borscht Belt and its place in Jewish American history and U.S. popular culture, her childhood memories of the region, the legal and physical perils of her work at these sites, and her efforts to document and convey the history, ruins, nature, pathos, and possibility of the shuttered Catskill resorts that transformed twentieth-century America.


More information:







Thirteen: Dr. Daniel Macfarlane

A conversation with Dr. Daniel Macfarlane about his book "Fixing Niagara Falls: Environment, Energy, and Engineers at the World's Most Famous Waterfall" (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2020). We discussed conflicting meanings of the falls for Indigenous People, sojourners mesmerized by their beauty, and entrepreneurs with utilitarian industrial visions and dreams of hydroelectric generation; the political dilemmas of managing such a valuable yet vulnerable resource on an international border; the role of Robert Moses in ramrodding power projects to completion in the postwar period; the remarkable re-engineering and re-construction of the falls themselves; de-watering Niagara; and the enduring appeal and splendor of the falls today, despite their "artificial" nature.


More information:







Twelve: Dr. Lizabeth Cohen

A conversation with Dr. Marsha E. Barrett of the University of Illinois about her new article "'Millionaires are more Democratic Now': Nelson Rockefeller and the Politics of Wealth in New York," which appears in vol. 102.1 of New York History (Summer, 2021). We discussed Rockefeller's use of wealth to court advisers as well as supporters and to pursue both political and policy objectives; New York voters' views of wealth in politics; the early 1970s as a time of changing attitudes about disclosure and campaign finance; Rockefeller's executive style and broader ambitions; his relationship with Jackie Robinson and his paradoxical legacies on civil rights; Empire State Plaza as an architectural metaphor for Rockefeller's gubernatorial temperament; and the meaning of "Rockefeller Republican."


More information:





A conversation with Dr. Lizabeth Cohen, Howard Mumford Jones Professor of American Studies and Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of History at Harvard, who discussed her Bancroft Prize-winning book "Saving America's Cities: Ed Logue and the Struggle to Renew Urban America in the Suburban Age." Dr. Cohen explored the importance of Logue's Yale experiences, labor activism, and New Deal liberalism to his later career as an urban planner and his work in New Haven, Conn., and Boston. We engaged in particular with Logue's career in New York State: as head of Gov. Nelson Rockefeller's Urban Development Corporation and later the South Bronx Development Organization, exploring the opportunities and pitfalls of regional planning, the politics of suburban zoning, the triumph of Roosevelt Island, the importance of federal funding, and the lessons of Logue's long public career


More information: