Category Archives: Long Island

Giving New York Munsees their Proper Names

Giving New York Munsees their Proper Names: Tantaque and Tackapousha

By Susan Ingalls Lewis

unearthing gothamRecently, I was preparing for my History of New York City course by reading Anne-Marie Cantwell and Diana DiZerega Wall’s Unearthing Gotham, a book on New York’s archeology recommended by my colleague Joe Diamond, Chair of Anthropology at New Paltz.  The book includes a story about Tantaque, a Munsee Indian, and his meeting with two Labadists in Manhattan on October 16, 1679.  The Labadists, Jaspar Danckaerts and Peter Sluyter, were scouting New Amsterdam as a possible location for their small religious sect to relocate in North America.  Like the Quakers, the Labadists believed in a radical interpretation of the gospels and split from established churches to form their own community, moving from place to place in search of a welcoming environment.

longislandtribesInteresting as the Labadists were, I was more intrigued by the fact that the authors of Unearthing Gotham named an individual Munsee—Tantaque—and were able to fill in some of his biography.  They described him as “an eighty-year-old man originally from Long Island” and “a well-known figure in early New York, for he was a generous man and, in his younger days, had often given fish to starving Europeans.”[1] This anecdote immediately reminded me of Squanto (also called Tisquantum), the famous Pawtuxet Indian who assisted the Pilgrims in their early days and is associated with the first Thanksgiving.  Yet I realized that I had never heard a Munsee Indian from this period named or personalized in any way.  In most of my readings, the Munsee people were characterized as a group.  Often defined in contrast to the Iroquois Confederacy, the Munsees (also called Delawares) were Algonquian peoples who lived in the Hudson River Valley, on Long Island, and along the Delaware River.  Within the Munsee were smaller communities, such as the Esopus (in what is now Ulster County), the Wappinger (across the river),  the Minsink (along the Delaware), the Tappans (along the Palisades), the Raritans (in present-day New Jersey), the Massapequas, Rockaways, Merricks, Matiecocks, and Secatogues (all on Long Island), and others.   The Munsees were the Native Americans whom we remember as selling Manhattan to the Dutch in a bad land deal, a group that was greatly reduced by disease, then quickly removed in a series of wars—Kieft’s War (1640-45), the Peach War (1655-56), and the Esopus Wars (1659-63).  None of them, in my memory, had individual names or lives that one could trace.

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New York: Aviation Pioneer

New York:  Aviation Pioneer

By Susan Ingalls Lewis

The story of aviation in the United States usually begins with the Wright Brothers and their famous flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903.  Yet the Wrights, though they were the first to successfully test a flying machine, are only a small part of the story of the development of powered aircraft.    New York State was actually at the center of aviation pioneering in the years between 1908 and 1929, with developments concentrated first near Keuka Lake, then on Hempstead Plains.  This period of aviation history highlights New York as a center of innovation, leadership, competition, and capitalism.

Curtiss Junebug

Curtiss Junebug

The first name in New York aviation was Glenn H. Curtiss of Hammondsport New York (Steuben County) in the Finger Lakes region of the state.  Curtiss became known as “The Fastest Man of Earth” in 1907, when the “Hercules” motorcycle he designed, built, and raced set a speed record of more than 136 miles per hour.  By 1908, Curtiss had moved from motorcycles to flying, and began testing his planes by taking off on the frozen surface of Keuka Lake.  When Scientific American organized a three-part contest that year, Curtiss set out to win all three competitions.  “On July 4, 1908, the publication’s editors, along with members of the Aero Club of America traveled to the tiny hamlet of Hammondsport, N.Y., to witness the first pre-announced, public flight of an aircraft in America, the ‘June Bug,’ which won the first leg of the three-part competition” by flying in a straight line for 1 kilometer (.62 miles).[1]  Although the Wright brothers had preceded Curtiss’s flight by several years, his was the first scheduled, publicized test of an airplane.  The following year Curtiss flew 25 kilometers (15 miles) in his “Golden Flyer” biplane to win the second stage of the contest.  Finally, in 1910 he won both the third leg of the Scientific American competition in “The Albany Flyer,” which he piloted from Albany to New York City.   Curtiss not only designed and flew his planes, but built the special high-powered, water-cooled V-8 engines that ran them.

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Juptier Hammon

JUPITER HAMMON OF LLOYD’S NECK, LONG ISLAND:
African American poet of the Revolutionary Era

By Susan Ingalls Lewis

The first African American poet published in the United States was not, as I had always learned, 220px-Hammon_address (wikipedia)Phyllis Wheatley, but an enslaved man of African descent, Jupiter Hammon (1711- before 1806). Hammon was born, lived most of his life, and died on the North Shore of Long Island, then part of Queens, in the village today known as Lloyd Harbor (Town of Huntington). The village is named after his masters’ family, and the Joseph Lloyd Manor House (c. 1766) located on Lloyd Neck is an historic site open to the public – which is how I came across Hammon’s name.

In fact, Jupiter Hammon is not only the first black American poet to be published (in a 1760 broadside), but— according to Dr. Cedric May, an expert on 18th century African American Literature— the first individual of African descent in American history to have his own words published from manuscripts written in his own hand.

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