Thursday, February 16, 2017

2017 Calendar of Events

February 22                 Wednesday         11 am-1 pm     Winter Break Playday!: Celebrate winter break and Presidents Day at Clermont! Old fashion hot chocolate making, historic crafts, and snowman building (weather permitting) Parents must accompany children throughout the event. Ages 5-11 Kids are free, adults $5.

March 19                     Sunday            1 pm                Scuttlebutt and Scandals in the Livingston Family:  A lecture by Curator of Collections Geoff Benton, Education Assistant Emily Robinson and Interpretive Programs Coordinator Kjirsten Gustavson that will explore three scandals from the Livingston family’s past. Presented in the historic kitchen of Clermont.  ($8 per person. Reservations required.)

April 22                       Saturday          11 am – 4 pm  The Chancellor’s Sheep & Wool Showcase: Shearing, spinning, dyeing, knitting and weaving demonstrations, exhibition of various breeds of sheep and other wool bearing animals, wool artisans and shops, music & food.  ($10 per vehicle event fee, Friends $8)

May 14                        Sunday            1 pm                Mother’s Day Tea:  Enjoy a family-themed tour of Clermont’s gardens and share a beautiful tea with a mother you love ($18 per person.  Free for Children under 5.  Reservation required)

July 4                           Tuesday           2 – 10 pm        An Old-Fashioned Independence Day: 18th century crafts, Reenactors, music and entertainment.  A great day for young families.  Later, enjoy live music and delicious hot food until a view of the Saugerties Fireworks over the Hudson River ($12 per car, Friends of Clermont $10)

July 10-14                   Mon-Fri           9am-3pm         Young Writers Camp will be held at Clermont Historic site as part of this year’s The Hudson Valley Writing Project organized by SUNY New Paltz. Young writes will explore regional history and the creative process as they sit on the banks of the Hudson River and join past writers and artists who have celebrated the landscape through word and image. Contact the Friends of Clermont at (518) 537-6622 for an application.


July 31- August 4        Mon-Fri           9am – 3pm      Junior History Club: For children 7-12 ($150 per child, $130 per child for Friends of Clermont members) “Campers will explore the museum’s extensive grounds, play games, and make historic crafts that will help them to learn about the lives of the Livingston family at Clermont. At the end of the week, the children will put on a performance for their parents, acting in costumed skits as Livingston family members they have researched during the week.”

October 20, 21, 27, 28

                                    Fri & Sat          6 – 9 pm          Legends by Candlelight Ghost Tours: Candlelight tours of the museum and grounds; ghosts of the museum’s history.  Tours at 6:00 6:30, 7:00, 7:30, 8:00, 8:30, 9:00pm ($12 per adult, $5 per child, all Friends of Clermont $8, reservations required)

December 2 & 3          Sat & Sun        10 am -12 am  A Child’s Christmas: Drop in for stories read under the Christmas tree and treats for children ages 3-10 ($4 per person)

December 9                 Sat.                  5-7 pm             Friends of Clermont Holiday Party: Free for members; guests $10

December 16               Sat.                  11 – 4 pm        Christmas at Clermont Open House: A great day for families.  Free admission

December 17               Sun.                 3 – 6 pm          Candlelight Tours of Clermont:  Tableaux Vivant of Christmas traditions through the ages, glittering decorations, and wassail and traditional holiday goodies served in the historic kitchen ($12 adult; $5 for children under 12)

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Alice and Katharine--What's Their Deal?

So it is a known fact at Clermont that Alice Delafield Clarkson's dad Howard was close friends with her eventual husband John Henry Livingston.  The two men lived just a few miles apart, and they were distant cousins in the way that so many Hudson Valley elites were at that time.

Alice and John Henry got married in 1906.  Alice was 34 years old at that point (her husband was 58), and we at Clermont had always assumed that she must have known him most of her life.  Letters from the 1870s show that the two men were friendly and paid each other visits.  Alice even pasted one photo from 1900 into her scrapbook that was taken of Clermont's east porch, showing her future husband holding the reins to a carriage and another man, probably her uncle on the porch. Given that it is in Alice's scrapbook, it's a reasonable assumption that she was at Clermont that day and took the picture.

Katharine Livingston
But we also always wondered how well she knew John Henry's eldest (and at that point, only) daughter Katharine.  Alice and Katharine were only about a year apart in age, and while Alice had several sisters, Katherine had none.  It would not be uncommon for Katharine to play with the Clarkson girls.  Friendships between girls of similar ages and social standing were encouraged in the late 19th century--just like today.

Up until recently, there was only the one photo from Alice's scrapbook to ever suggest that the two women were familiar with each other before Alice married Katharine's dad.  But the recent donation of many of Katharine's family photos may lend support to the theory that the two girls were very well acquainted.

It all hinges on whether or not the guy on the right in this picture is Howard Clarkson and whether the girls on the bench are Alice's sisters.

It is hard to identify people in historic photos.  It just is.  If you've never seen somebody in person, matching up static features on a thumbnail-sized face is tricky at best.  We've got this photo that Alice identified as Howard Clarkson to compare it to.  From what I can tell, it seems possible.

The daughters are even trickier.  I'm comparing it to this photo from several years before, and the girls have definitely done some growing up, which makes it even harder.

But go with me here.

If that guy is Howard Clarkson, and these are two of his daughter sitting on the bench (though I'm quite sure neither of them is Alice), then they are all hanging out at Clermont quite casually, being photographed by Katharine.  There is some sort of friendship here.  These girls are messing around, sitting on the stairs, and lounging in the grass--not having polite tea and stilted conversation in the drawing room.

If Katherine knew the Clarkson girls, she knew Alice.

So why didn't Alice come along to hang out this day?  She and Katherine were so close in age, it seems likely they would have shared at least some interests.  Did the two girls not get along?  Or was she just busy or sick that day and didn't want to take a carriage ride over to Clermont?

And then that brings up another mystery.  When Alice married John Henry in 1906, there was some sort of estrangement between Katharine and her dad.  It was so bad that Katharine convinced her husband to move to England, pretty much ensuring they wouldn't have to see her dad for a good long while.  Family speculation has long linked the falling out to the marriage, but no one knows why.

Perhaps the answer lies in Katharine's relationship with Alice.  We know that later in life the two women had a strained and even contentious relationship.  Many of their arguments centered on money.  Had their relationship always been rocky?  Or did their troubles begin when John Henry announced his marriage to Katharine's childhood playmate?

Okay so we will probably know all the answers, but getting to the heart of these relationships is part of looking at the very real lives of the Livingston family--or really anyone in history.  I mean, contemplating the emotions that go along with a parent marrying your peer really makes me wonder what Katharine was feeling, and it makes her oh-so-human.  Sure the "truth" of the matter is hard to get at, but the questions and the speculation are enlightening in their own way.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

"The Gentleman Does Not Reason From Facts": Chancellor Robert R. Livingston and the Fight to Ratify the Constitution in New York

Not that George Clinton
That George Clinton
Yes I know I've done this joke
before but its still funny
When the Constitutional Convention adjourned in Philadelphia the fight to create a unified country out of thirteen individual states was far from over. In every state another convention was to be held where the leaders would decide whether or not to ratify the new Constitution. Influential individuals were still rife with fears left over from the Revolution; fear of a standing army, fear of a strong central government and fear of loss of control. New York was not exempted from these fears, in fact anti-federalist ideas may have been held even stronger by members of New York’s ratification convention as they had vivid recollections of the long British occupation of New York City and bitter fighting in a significant portion of the state. Chief among the anti-federalists was New York’s long time governor George Clinton.
Alexander Hamilton,
Not really important to the story but his name gets
the hits
The Constitution had many valiant defenders in New York, including Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton was not alone in these efforts though. He was ably joined by John Jay on the Federalist papers but on the debate floor it was Robert R. Livingston who became a force of nature although he receives almost no credit for his efforts.
Chancellor Robert R. Livingston
Smarter than you, richer than you and he knows it.
Livingston had not been in Philadelphia to help draft the Constitution although his name had been considered as a delegate. He had come to realize the importance of a strong central government during his time in the Continental Congress and as Secretary for Foreign Affairs. Following his time has secretary Livingston had returned to New York to reassert himself as the Chancellor of New York, a role which had been challenged while he was out of the state.
In Poughkeepsie, where the ratification convention was held, Chancellor Livingston quickly became notorious among the anti-federalists for converting their members to the federalist cause. He was known to single out members of their faction and take them to a tavern, sometimes with Jay or Hamilton, and ply them with food and drink until they had converted them to the federalist side. The anti-federalists simply had no one with the near bottomless purse of the Chancellor who could treat delegates in that fashion.[i]
Livingston’s influence was best shown on the floor of the debate though. He spoke frequently in a sarcastic and condescending tone about specific tones as well as the idea of anti-federalism in general. Melancton Smith was a frequent sparring partner of the Chancellor’s. Smith insisted that a federal system would be dominated by the aristocracy who would be by their very nature corrupt, or intemperate in his words.  To this the Chancellor replied:
Melancton Smith
Perhaps sparring partner is too strong,
maybe verbal punching bag?
“Will he presume to point out to us the class of men in which intemperance is not to be found? Is there less intemperance in feeding n beef than on turtle; or in drinking rum than wine? I think that the gentleman does not reason from facts.”
He went on to ask, rhetorically, who would lead the country in Smith’s world;
“But who in the name of common sense will he have to represent us? Not the rich; for they are sheer aristocrats. Not the learned, the wise, the virtuous for they are all aristocrats.”[ii]     
This sentiment echoed a point he had made in an oration to the New York Society of Cincinnati on July 4, 1787 when he said;
“Can it be thought that an enlightened people believe the science of government level to the meanest capacity? That experience, application, genius and education are unnecessary to those who are to frame laws for the government of the State.”[iii]
Clearly the Chancellor favored a strong central government led by the best society had to offer dedicated to what was best for the country as a whole. On June 24, 1788 Livingston found himself in the odd position of having to clearly explain the role of the senate to his fellow delegates after their status came up in the debates. He said;
“The Senate are indeed to represent the State governments; but they are also the representatives of the United States, and are not to consult the interest of any state alone but that of the union.”[iv]
            During the debates the Chancellor rarely let an opportunity pass to make a point without belittling anti-federalism. Once he compared anti-federalist arguments to “children blowing bubbles.” Later when disputing a point started with “let us see if we cannot, from all this rubbish, pick out something which may look like reasoning.” He could not.[v]
            When many anti-federalist insisted that the individual states should control separate military forces the Chancellor was forced to illustrate how ridiculous that idea was;
“How is Congress to defend us without a sword? You will also keep that. How shall it be handled? Shall we all take hold of it? I never knew, till now, the design of a curious image I have seen at the head of one of our newspapers. I am now convinced that the idea was prophetic in the printer. It was a figure of thirteen hands, in an awkward position, grasping a perpendicular sword. As the arms which supported it were on every side, I could see no way of moving it, but by drawing it through with the hazard of dangerously cutting their fingers.”[vi]
            If anything the Chancellor seemed to enjoy the enmity he earned from the antifederalists. When his tactics were questioned because they seemed to arouse so much hatred toward him he reportedly said “that if he had no wit himself, he had been the occasion of wit in others…”
            Not even family was safe from the Chancellor’s barbs. When a cousin, Gilbert Livingston, argued a point with the Chancellor, Livingston turned to the rest of the assemblage and said;
John Jay
A long time friend of the Chancellor until he
wasn't but that's a story for another day
“that my worthy kinsman across the table, regardless of our common ancestry, and the tender ties of blood, should join his dagger to the rest, and compel me to exclaim in the dying words of Caesar, “And thou, too, Brutus.””[vii]
Thoroughly rebuked, when the time came to vote on the Constitution, Gilbert voted with the Chancellor.
            New York’s delegates were still debating when word reached them that New Hampshire had ratified the Constitution. This meant that enough states had ratified the document that it could take effect. The Chancellor took the floor and declared “The confederation was now dissolved.” In short, there was no going back.
            In the end it was the Chancellor’s friend (at least at that point) John Jay who finally moved that the body vote to accept or reject the Constitution. After a final attempt to delay by the anti-federalists the Constitution was ratified in New York on July 26,1788.

The Chancellor can be seen in his judge's robe carefully orchestrating the hand shake between
George Clinton and Alexander Hamiliton

[i] Dangerfield, George Chancellor Robert R. Livingston of New York, 1746-1813 p 224
[ii] The Debate on the Constitution Bernard Bailyn ed. P777-778
[iii] Livingston, Robert R. An Oration Delivered Before the Society of Cincinnati at the State of New York in Commemoration of the Fourth Day of July. p.10
[iv] The Debate Bailyn p 792
[v] The Debate Bailyn p 837
[vi] Elliot’s Debates Volume 2 p 386.
[vii] Elliot’s Debates Volume 2 p 394-395

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The River Ran Backwards and Other Adventures of Robert R. Livingston's First Steamboat on the Mississippi River

Mississippi River icon
It is hard to imagine the Mississippi River without its iconic steamboats beating their way up and down stream. Even Mark Twain once wrote, of the steamboats on the Mississippi; “When I was a boy, there was but one permanent ambition among my comrades in our village on the west bank of the Mississippi River. That was, to be a steamboatman.” But before all of those boats began to ply the waters there must have been a first steamboat on the river. What was the story of that boat? Why are you reading about the Mississippi River on the Clermont Blog?
Robert R. Livingston, had probably been
planning this for years.
Within days of the first successful voyage of the North River Steamboat in 1807 Robert Fulton and Robert R. Livingston’s thoughts had turned to spreading their new form of transport to the Mississippi River. Fulton wrote “I think it would be well to write to your brother Edward to get information on the velocity of the Mississippi, the size and form of boats used, the number of hands and quantity of tons in each boat, the number of miles they make against the current in twelve hours, and the quantity of tons which go up the river in a year. On this point beg him to be accurate.”
Robert Fulton
For once not the craziest part of the story
It took Fulton and Livingston four more years to complete their plans but in 1811 they began construction of the New Orleans at Pittsburgh. They had added another partner to the endeavor in the form of Nicholas J. Roosevelt, a distant uncle of Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt had helped Fulton and Livingston in the construction of the side mounted paddle wheels for the North River. In Pittsburgh he supervised the construction of the new boat which would be 146 feet 6 inches long and 32 feet 6 inches wide. The engine was built in New York and carried in pieces overland to Pittsburgh because there were no facilities for constructing such an engine in the city at the time.
The steam boat made its first successful test trip around Pittsburgh on October 15, 1811. Just five days later, on October 20 the New Orleans set out for New Orleans. Aboard her were Nicholas Roosevelt who would act as captain for the trip, his extremely pregnant wife Lydia and their first daughter. Nicholas Baker was the engineer for the trip and Andrew Jack was the pilot. There were also six deck hands, two maids for Lydia, a cook, a waiter and a large Newfoundland dog named Tiger.
A large Newfoundland Dog. Newfoundland Dogs have webbed feet which
makes them excellent swimmers.
On October 28 the New Orleans docked at Louisville. The steamboat would have to wait at Louisville nearly a month before the water rose high enough in the Ohio River to allow the boat to traverse the Falls of the Ohio, which were more like a series of shallow rapids than an actual waterfall. During the wait Roosevelt took the steamboat on several small excursions including a return to Cincinnati to prove that the boat could travel upstream. On October 30 Lydia Roosevelt gave birth aboard the New Orleans to a son they named Henry.
The New Orleans enters the Mississippi
They departed Louisville in late November to make their way over the Falls and after stopping to resupply into the Mississippi River. It was hoped that the Mississippi River would be relatively easy to cruise down. Andrew Jack had experience on the river and knew the channel well.
It was not an easy cruise to New Orleans.
On December 16, shortly after the New Orleans had entered the Mississippi, the New Madrid earthquake hit. This earthquake, which was actually an extended period of severe tremors, has been estimated up to an 8.0 on the Richter scale basically reshaped the Midwest. The entire channel of the Mississippi was erased, the course of the river changed dramatically. For about an hour after the most severe tremors the river actually ran backwards. Jack, the pilot, had no idea where he was and soon found himself navigating the boat over areas that only hours before had been fields or forests. Whole sections of the shore were dropping into the river, islands appeared and disappeared.  Tiger the dog would often give warning of a fresh tremor by putting his head in Lydia’s lap before it hit.
The New Orleans had to navigate a river full of obstacles and unknowns after
the earthquake
A few days after the worst of the tremors the New Orleans arrived in New Madrid itself. Houses had fallen into the holes that opened in the ground. Many people asked to be taken aboard but the steamboat had neither the space for all the refugees or the means to supply them.
The New Orleans finally arrived in New Orleans on January 10, 1812. It had spent a total of 259 hours cruising on the trip and averaged 8 mph. The time announced for the trip did not include all of the time lost stopping to wait for the right conditions or for other reasons.
In less than two weeks the New Orleans set out on the first voyage along the route that Livingston and Fulton had envisioned for it, New Orleans to Natchez and back. The ship could make 3mph upstream and 10mph downstream meaning she could complete a round trip every three weeks.  Fulton and Livingston began to sell stock in their steamboat which realized a profit estimated to be about $20,000 in its first year in operation. Edward Livingston also helped his brother and Fulton get a monopoly on steam travel in the territory. Violating the law would mean having to pay Fulton and Livingston $5,000 for each violation and forfeit any unauthorized steamboats to them.
The Chancellor did not live long enough to enjoy the monopoly on the river to its fullest; he died in 1813. The New Orleans met its end in July of 1814. She snagged a log or some other obstruction near Baton Rouge which punctured her hull. The ship sank but her engine was removed and used in a later vessel of the same name.
In 1989 author Clive Cussler and his National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA) set out to try to find the final resting place of the original New Orleans. They surveyed the shore and were able to come up with a “ballpark” location for the boat but unfortunately the Army Corps of Engineers had laid a steel and concrete revetment mattress over the site in 1971 to help control erosion. This made finding an exact location using various forms of metal detectors impossible.
1911 "replica" of the New Orleans
I mean they are both boats...

NUMA Expeditions New Orleans
A Critical Account of the Beginning of Steamboat Navigation on the Western Rivers of the United States, Pittsburg Legal Journal, Vol 59 No. 42 (21 October 1911) pp 570-591
The Rambler in North America by Charles Joseph Latrobe 1832-1833

The Sea Hunters II by Clive Cussler and Craig Dirgo G. Putnam’s Sons 2004

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Lord Cornbury's Dress

Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon and Viscount Cornbury is perhaps the most maligned royal governor that the colony of New York ever had. His reign from 1702 to 1708 was marked with greed, bribery and rampant misuse of public funds. Yet the thing he is most remembered for is this:

That’s right. If one was to believe the rumors then Lord Cornbury really liked to dress in women’s clothes. Some historians believe that Cornbury truly did parade around New York in full gowns. Other historians believe this was a started to discredit the governor by his political rivals in New York, chief among them Robert Livingston, 1st Lord of Livingston Manor.
Lord Cornbury as he would like to be remembered

Livingston had been a fan of Cornbury’s when he first arrived in the colony, writing “My Lord is Extrem hearty to redresse all grievances, we must reckon it a duble mercy that God has been pleased to send him at this juncture.”[i]

Cornbury soon lost Livingston’s support though. After a harrowing trip to England that involved being briefly seized by French privateers and set adrift, Livingston spent about three years getting his accounts settled and getting his offices confirmed by the Queen. When he returned home in 1706 he found that the colonists were united against Cornbury who had been badly mismanaging the colony. When Livingston presented his commission as Secretary for Indian Affairs to Cornbury, Cornbury refused to recognize it despite Queen Anne’s signature. Cornbury apparently preferred to keep the money due to Livingston for his own use.[ii]

Robert Livingston: Started from the bottom now he's here
In June of 1707 Robert Livingston wrote to William Lowndes of the Treasury;

William Lowndes of the Treasury.
Nothing to do with the story but he had 25 legitimate kids.
So good for him.
“Tis said he is wholly addicted to his pleasure…his dressing himself in womens cloths commonly [every] morning is so unaccountable that if hundreds of spectators did not daily see him it would be incredible.”[iii]

Livingston's letter was the first in a series of letters to officials in England describing Cornbury’s odd habit. Later that year Lewis

Morris, ancestor of Chancellor Robert R. Livingston’s good friend Gouverneur Morris and owner of the Morrisania estate in the Bronx wrote his own letter. It said:

“The scandal of his life is…he rarely fails at being dresst in Women’s cloaths every day, and almost half his time is spent that way, and seldome misses it on Sacrament day, was in that garb when his dead Lady was carried out of the Fort, and this not privately but in face of the sun and in sight of the Town. But I’ll not enter into his Privacies, his Publick Vices are scandalous enough.”

Lewis Morris
A real big wig in colonial New York.
See what I did there?
In 1709 Morris wrote about Cornbury again:

“...that is his dressing publiqly in womans cloaths Every day and putting a stop to all publique business while he is pleasing himself with that peculiar but detestable magot.”[iv]

It should be noted that Morris was also an opponent of Cornbury’s. Cornbury had suspended Morris from the New Jersey provincial council. Morris was not reinstated until Cornbury was done as governor.

The last about the governor’s dressing habits came from the pen of Elias Neau, a Huguenot refugee turned merchant and catechist. Neau wrote:

“My Lord Cornbury has and dos still make use of an unfortunate Custom of dressing himself in womens cloaths and of exposing himself in that Garb on the Ramparts to the view of the public; in that dress he draws a world of Spectators about him and consequently as many Censures, especially for the exposing himself in such a manner all the great Holy days and even in an hour or two after going to the communion.”

Neau went one step further than the other writers and commented on Cornbury’s style as well:

“I am assured that he continues to dress himself in women’s cloths, but now tis after the Dutch Manner.”[v]

Not only was Cornbury dressing like a woman but he was dressing like a Dutch woman, not even a good English woman!

            Historian Patricia Bonomi assures us that the rumor of Cornbury’s cross dressing did not gain much traction in England or elsewhere in the colonies, yet some people did hear of it. A merchant from Boston wrote to an associate in New York;

Baron von Bothmer
Very interested in how certain English people dressed.
Muliebri Veste uti (women’s clothing), is instanced in as against the Law of Nature. It has been reported that a certain Gentleman at N. York used to practice that abomination. I should be glad to know the certainty of it.”[vi]

Several years later Hanoverian diplomat Baron von Bothmer wrote that he had heard that Cornbury “thought it was necessary for him, in order to represent her Majesty, to dress himself as a woman.”[vii]

            So it is at least possible that a royal governor of New York dressed like a woman. Perhaps he enjoyed it or, as Bothmer suggested, perhaps he took his job representing Queen Anne in the colonies a little too seriously. It is also possible that he was just an unpleasant man brought down in part by the combined efforts of Robert Livingston and a few other colonists whom he had offended. Either way Cornbury was replaced by John Lovelace, 4th Baron Lovelace in 1708. Cornbury returned to England, spent some time in debtors’ prison and was briefly an envoy to the court of Hanover. He died in 1723.

As you wish
Frequent Clermont Blog reader Cary Elwes is apparently descended from Lord Cornbury

[i] Bonomi, Patricia U. The Lord Cornbury Scandal p59
[ii] Leder, Lawrence H. Robert Livingston p 200-202
[iii] Bonomi The Lord Cornbury Scandal p 158
[iv] Bonomi The Lord Cornbury Scandal p160
[v] Bonomi The Lord Cornbury Scandal p 161.
[vi] Bonomi The Lord Cornbury Scandal p 162
[vii] Bonomi The Lord Cornbury Scandal p 17