Bethlehem Historical Association

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PROGRAMS for 2017-2018 

Thursday, September 21, 2017 7 PM

Portrayal of Ulysses Grant

Presenter: Steve Trimm

Steve Trimm portrays Grant as he was in early 1885, penniless and dying but determined to live long enough to  finish his memoirs.

General Grant's famed Memoirs are almost entirely about his service in the Mexican War and the American Civil War. But as he reflected on his military career, he also looked back on his youth, his experiences as a husband and father, mistakes he had made, lessons he had learned, his moral growth and how he came to discover what truly matters in life and what doesn't. He did not write about any of these personal things in his Memoirs. But at the Cedar Hill Museum he will talk about them. And it's guaranteed that you will be surprised (and have your heart warmed) by stories that will reveal a Ulysses S. Grant the public never knew.  Trimm has been doing “living History” portrayals of Grant for 9 years and has been a tour guide at Grant Cottage State Historic Site for 10 years. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017 7 PM

Slavery and Freedom

Presenter: Michael Lucas

Enslaved people of African and Native American descent were used as the primary labor force in New York until gradual emancipation abolished the institution in 1827.  Although the number of slaves per household was smaller in New York than southern plantations, several wealthy landowners retained over 5 slaves on their rural estates, including the Nicoll-Sill house in Bethlehem.  Dr. Lucas’ talk will look at what history and archaeology tell us about the strategies used by these families during the transition from slavery to freedom.

Michael Lucas is the Curator of Historical Archaeology at the New York State Museum.  He received his Ph.D. in American studies from the University of Maryland. In addition to his studies on slavery and its aftermath in the Hudson Valley, he also conducts comparative research on eighteenth century development of New York City and Albany using the historical archaeology collections at the museum.

Thursday November 16, 2017 7 PM

Mapping David Vaughan’s New York

Presenter: Craig Williams

 David Vaughan was already a skilled draftsman when he immigrated to Albany from Ireland about 1847. Employed by the New York State Erie Canal Department, Vaughan produced large maps that he enhanced with drawings depicting his keen observations of life along the canal. Craig Williams has noted that Vaughan’s embellished his maps with “flourish and whimsy.”

Craig Williams recently retired after thirty years as a senior historian at the New York State Museum. He also served as the director of the DeWitt Historical Society of Tompkins County in Ithaca and was the curator of the Erie Canal Museum in the late nineteen seventies.

Pictured above is a portion of Vaughan's 1857 map of the canal near Boonville. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018 2 PM Delmar Reformed Church

David Lithgow - Albany Artist

Presenters: Bob Mulligan and Randy Patten

A prolific artist, Lithgow (1868-1959), was a painter, sculptor and muralist whose works are scattered about Albany. You might have seen his murals behind the Native American exhibits at the New York State Museum or on the walls of Milne Hall at the downtown campus of SUNY Albany. The Spanish American War Memorial at Townsend Park features a sculpture of striding soldier created by Lithgow. He was acquainted with Bethlehem notable J. B. Lyon, whose Cedar Hill estate boasted three Lithgow paintings  of Hudson River scenes, one of which is on display at the schoolhouse museum.

Thursday, February 15, 2018 2 PM Delmar Reformed Church

Aconite and Agony

A Tale of 19th Century Medicine in Bethlehem NY

Presenter: Stuart Lehman

Stuart Lehman explores the sensational murder of Mary VanDusen Hendrickson in his talk Aconite and Agony: A Tale of 19th Century Medicine in Bethlehem, New York. The killer’s trial, which happened in Albany in 1853, featured one of the first uses of forensic science. 

Thursday, March 15, 2018 7PM

Lucy Larcom: New England Mill Worker

Presenter - Phyllis Chapman

In 1835, at age 11, Larcom began work as a doffer at the Lawrence Corporation mill in Lowell, Massachusetts. Through the lens of Larcom’s experience, Chapman explores the inside workings of the early 19th century textile industry.

Phyllis Chapman has been a museum educator and living history presenter for over 15 years. She served as the Director of Education at the Bennington Museum, the Site Coordinator for the Bennington Battlefield Visitors' Center, and also as Curator of Fine Arts at Siena College in Loudonville, NY. Through “Vintage Visitors” , she presents first-person costumed portrayals of notable women in American history. Incorporating artifacts and audience participation, her programs tell the stories of women such as Clara Barton, Susan B. Anthony, A New England Mill Girl, and several others. She also has an extensive collection of reproduction historic womens' and girls clothing and has presented historic fashion shows at the Park-McCullough House, the Barnett Homestead, and historical societies, and other non-profit organizations.

Lowell National Historical Park sums up Lucy Larcom’s legacy nicely, “In her lifetime, Lucy Larcom published fifteen volumes of her own poetry and other writings, in addition to editing others. Her most enduring work is, however, a work of prose, an 1889 memoir focusing on her early life entitled A New England Girlhood. Truly a woman of her own century - embodying the Lowell "mill girl," the Monticello Female Seminary, Godfrey, IL frontier schoolteacher, the accomplished author, the abolitionist - Lucy Larcom's dedication to poetry, to learning, and to her own pursuit of success may not have been revolutionary, but were no less than the achievements of a remarkable woman.”

(Above image by Lewis Hine of an 11 year old mill worker. (

Thursday, April 19, 2018 7 PM

Images of Childhood - 400 years Through Time

Presenter: Marilyn Sassi

Sassi’s illustrated talk focuses on the late 16th through the early 20th century, and covers many aspects of a child’s life with comparisons of between the working classes and the wealthy and the English and Dutch.

Marilyn Sassi is currently an adjunct instructor at Schenectady County Community College and Hudson Valley Community College. She has also presented series for U-Call at Union College.

She is the past curator of the Schenectady County Historical Society, the Fulton County Museum and the Van Alstyne Homestead Society. In addition to her teaching and museum experience, she has had many years of involvement in the field of antiques.