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October 1999


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"A LISTSERV list for discussions pertaining to New York State history." <[log in to unmask]>
Phil Lord <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 21 Oct 1999 13:30:38 -0400
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"A LISTSERV list for discussions pertaining to New York State history." <[log in to unmask]>
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This seems like a non-issue. The credit lines of monuments normally list the funding source or sponsor.

>>> William MacKay <[log in to unmask]> 10/19 12:09 PM >>>
Mr. McGiver brings up some fine points. A soon-forthcoming book explores
some of the same issues:

Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong
James W. Loewen
The New Press, 1565843444
HC History, $26.95

The book is written by the author of Lies My Teacher Told Me  and is
designed for history buffs, rather than an academic audience.

The title will be released next month.

Thanks to Mr. McGiver for his well-stated objections.

-----Original Message-----
From: Ian McGiver [ mailto:[log in to unmask]
<mailto:[log in to unmask]> ]
Sent: Monday, October 18, 1999 9:04 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Politics of Roadside Historical Markers

I just came across what seems to me to be an example of the recent
politicization of the state's system of "official" roadside
historical markers. I would be interested in a discussion on the matter.

Although I have not looked all that closely, I have always assumed that
the state's "official" roadside historical markers were placed by some
(seemingly) non-political state agency or organization. I have seen some
markers credited to the state education department. I have seen some
(circa late 1920s) that were credited to the New York State Historical
Marker association (although I am sure that I am wildly misquoting the
name of this agency/group).

However, I recently come across a marker that was placed within the past
year in the village of Schoharie in Schoharie County. (I believe that the
marker was put up this summer, but I have not confirmed this point.) The
marker is located alongside the road in front of the cemetery that is
adjacent to the "Old Stone Fort" in Schoharie. The roadside marker refers
to the burial place of Catherine Lawrence, who was a Civil War nurse and
is buried in the cemetery. The credit for the placement of the marker is
given to Gov. George Pataki.
        Does this signal a shift in the significance of these markers? For
it seems to me that Patiki's taking credit for the marker is an attempt to
take personal (political) credit for historical commemoration.
        I read the Catharine Lawrence marker as bit of electioneering.
After reading the marker's inscription I am left wondering who I have
asked to remember: the Civil War Nurse or the magnanimous Governor who put
up the marker.
        I understand that, of course, historical commemoration is often
all about and only about the politics of the moment in which the
remembering occurs. Often, of course, this political maneuvering occurs on
relativel submerged level of what might be referred to as cultural
(We are familiar with this. For example, markers that commemorate the
Revolutionary period will refer
to "battles"
where Rebel Americans defeated and killed Native-Americans, as in the
Clinton-Sullivan campaign. But the word
"massacre" will be is reserved only for those markers that commemorate
what Native-Americans did to Whites.)
And, of
course, there is certainly an amount of political maneuvering that goes on
in the placing of historical markers. That is, the currying of favors and
attempt to garner votes.
        However, until I saw the Catharine Lawrence marker I had naively
thought that the state's "official" markers were removed from the more
obvious levels of politics.

        BUT I know little of the history of these "official" state
markers.(And, of course, the "politics "of this marker may only existing
my reading of it.) So I would be interested in discussion of the matter.

Ian McGiver