Thursday, March 31, 2011

Pat Spencer’s ‘Painted Ladies’ Make Beautiful Dolls


What is going on here?
Tufts of hair – human hair? – are evident around the table in the high-ceilinged dining room of Pat Spencer’s turreted Victorian home on upper Main Street.
Are those little body parts?
And these ladies:  What’s the snipping and sewing all about?
If double, double toil and trouble; fire burn and caldron bubble comes to mind, well, set your mind at ease.
This is no coven.  These are highly skilled craftspeople involved in an innocent hobby:  High-end dollmaking.
“I’ve always loved dolls,” said Spencer, who in 1986 acted on that life-long affection and took a doll-making course at Seeley’s,
the Oneonta doll company (now New York Doll Products in the Pony Farm Industrial Park.)
“I took it and I loved it.  I bought a kiln,” said the Massachusetts College for the Arts art major (she met her husband, Ted, there).  “It was perfect.  Artistic.  You have to paint them.  Then the dolls.  Then the beauty.”
Soon, she was a member of the Doll Artisan Guild, an international organization that celebrates dollmaking, and she was travelling to conferences all over the world – in Japan, in Australia – as well as a regional one at The Concord in the Catskills.
“There’s actually a huge group of people who do this,” she said.
Once a year, Pat hosts the best of the best, a half-dozen pals who have been making dolls together for years – they call themselves The Painted Ladies – and that’s what was going on around her diningroom table that morning in mid-March.
Heather Levy, Marieke Kuiper and Karin Svahn – “the best modern-day dollmaker I’ve ever seen,” who recently retired to Doylestown, Pa., with her husband – are among some of the local participants.  Patti Putnam participates from West Winfield.
But some of The Painted Ladies come from as far away at Huntington, W.Va.
Pat Spencer teaches dollmaking classes weekly, but really looks forward to the annual get-togethers.  Each year, The Painted Ladies pick a project and immerse themselves in it, a three-day marathon.  Meals are catered, so they can concentrate on the work at hand.
While chatting, Pat has been pointing out some of her favorite dolls in the glass-fronted cabinets that line her downstairs walls – there’s a lovely girl from “Lord of the Rings.”  There’s the doll that won Pat a “Millie,” the Oscar of dollmaking, named after Mildred Seeley, the Oneonta doll-company founder.
Now in the cellar, she points out four kilns she uses to make the ceramic heads and shoulders.  Over there are jars of liquid porcelain, the raw material.
Pat and the other Ladies seek to recreate examples from 1860 to 1910, the heyday of fine dollmaking.  Pre-plastic, the bodies are made of leather, with sawdust and glue among the ingredients.
All the years this was going on, she and Ted, now retired, but then chief curator at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, were raising three children.  (They now have three grandsons and a granddaughter.)
Daughter Jennifer loved the dolls, her mom said.  “My granddaughter loves them.  My husband is very supportive – he thinks its a great art form.
“My sons” – Matthew and Lucas – “they think I’m a little nuts.”

Jim Kevlin/
The Painted Ladies, above, are in the midst of their annual three-day doll-making marathon in Pat Spencer’s Cooperstown dining room.  Upper right is Pat and the doll that won her a “Millie.”  Center right is a princess from “Lord of the Rings.”  At right is the bisque head and shoulders that dolls are built around.

Kate, Don’t Select Your Gown Yet!


Amanda Hoepker/
SUNY Oneonta student designer Kate Fragoso is “walked down the aisle” by Oscar Oberkircher, professor of Food Service Management, at the recent wedding fashion show.

Forget Vera Wang.  Future English Princess Kate Middleton might want to consider purchasing her one-of-a-kind wedding dress from SUNY Oneonta.
Drawing inspiration from the upcoming nuptials of Prince William and Ms. Middleton, students in Dr. Annacleta Chiweshe’s “Innovations in Wearable Art” class were charged with deconstructing a used wedding dress, donated from the collection of the Human Ecology Department, then reconstructing the gown into a unique dress fit for a royal wedding.
From concept to product, the designers had three weeks to prepare their creation.  Then the big day arrived:  On Thursday, March 24, the Hunt Union became the runway, and each girl got to show off her design to a gathered crowd. 
The inspirations for the gowns varied from Kate’s vintage sapphire engagement ring to peacocks, cameo brooches and waterfalls. 
Pam Earnest, whose “Silver Bullet” dress featured a long braided silver and white train, said she was inspired by silverware.
Fan Chao Chen utilized an “East meets West” theme in designing her red and white creation “Raise the Red Lantern.” Chen’s dress featured a bubble-shaped skirt and a bouquet of two lanterns.  “Red is a happy color traditionally used in Asian weddings,” she said.  “It scares away evil.”
Dr. Chiweshe’s “Innovations in Wearable Art” class started in 2002 as an experimental special topics course and has since become a staple, with several of her students going on to publish their designs and compete internationally. 
“Dress is form of self-expression,” she says.  “We are making garments in the form of art – the beauty is that you can break all the rules.”
The gowns will be on display in the Human Ecology Department’s Gallery until mid-April, and the students will submit their designs for possible publication in various fashion trade magazines.

Amanda Hoepker/
Other “brides” included, front to back, Ellen Brady, Carolyn Bunn, Pamela Ernst, Alexis Gabriel, Amanda Guernsey, Brittany Meeter, Kelsey Minnich and Fan Chao Chen.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

APRIL Master Arts Calendar

The new Master Arts Calendar for April is out, click the tab above to see more!!!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

rom Glimmerglass To Hong Kong, MacLeod Steers His Life Eastward


The Freeman’s Journal
One regret:  Michael MacLeod never did witness a baseball game.  Torrential rains flooded out the final Hall of Fame Game in 2008.

What a concept:  Government subsidizing the arts.
As Glimmerglass Opera’s general & artistic director, Michael MacLeod saw the state’s annual $120,000 grant disappear after the economy went south in 2008.
“In Europe,” said MacLeod, “many of the arts organizations are struggling, too, even in the U.K.  In Italy, it is a bomb site.”
He asked rhetorically, “Where is the new Land of Opportunity?”
“China,” he answered, where interest in Western Classical music continues to take great leaps forward.
And so it is that, after a decade in the U.S. – a second chapter in MacLeod’s professional life, after Europe – Glimmerglass’ 5-year chief executive is opening perhaps the last chapter, in Hong Kong.
“If you ask people to name the most famous orchestra in the East, most people will say, the Hong Kong Philharmonic,” said the 58-year-old MacLeod in an interview the other day while he was back in town packing up his home at Six Mile Point.
He assumes his new position as the Hong Kong Philharmonic’s chief executive April 1 in “The Pearl of the Orient,” overseeing a $12 million operation.  He replaces So Hau-leung, a member of the philharmonic’s Board of Governors since 2002 who served in the position during 2009.
He’s particularly excited about guiding the orchestra through the selection of a new conductor in the next year, and in providing input to a new philharmonic hall now in the planning.
MacLeod, who left Glimmerglass Opera at the end of the 2010 season after five years on Otsego Lake, had been praised for innovative seasons built around single themes.
The first was the Orpheus myth, with offerings in 2007 ranging from Monteverdi’s “L’Orfeo,” considered the first modern opera, to Philip Glass’ contemporary “Orphée” and Michael Camus’ movie, “Black Orpheus.”
“I am extraordinarily proud of that,” said MacLeod.
He followed up the next year with a Shakespeare theme, which included Richard Wagner’s adaptation of “Measure for Measure” and also Cole Porter’s musical, “Kiss Me Kate,” based on “The Taming of the Shrew.”  The set at the Alice Busch Opera Theatre was designed to echo Shakespeare’s Globe.
In 2010, Copeland’s “The Tender Land,” written for young voices, allowed Glimmerglass to maximize the contribution of its Young American Artists, its internship program for future opera stars.
“I feel my legacy is very imaginative programming at a time of deep recession,” MacLeod said.  “Normally these things don’t go together.”
A Scot (who also carries a U.S. passport) and son of a British diplomat, MacLeod was born in Bogota and was raised around the world, including stints in L.A. and Denver.  He graduated from Amherst College.
He came to the U.S. in 2001 as New Haven Symphony Orchestra executive director.  (Flying in on 9/11, his flight was sent back to London.  He returned a few days later.)
Previously, he had directed the City of London Festival and served as managing director of John Eliot Gardiner’s Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists, and Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique.
He joined Glimmerglass in September 2005, succeeding Esther Miller, now Boston Lyric Opera executive director.  He has been succeeded by Francesca Zambello, who has rechristened the opera the Glimmerglass Festival, seeking to expand the offerings and community reach.
MacLeod’s introduction to Hong Kong came in 1989, while on a world tour with the Monteverdi, and was heralded in a front-page story in the South China Morning Post, the former crown colony’s daily.
It happened like this.  While in Taipei, there was a serial killing spree in Bombay. “India has been cancelled,” MacLeod was told.  “Good luck getting back to London.”
Setting up an ad hoc concert in Hong Kong to finance the rest of the trip, MacLeod sat next to a woman who turned out to be the manager of a newly opened Marriott in Hong Kong.
“I’ll give you a cheap rate because it’s good publicity for me,” she told him, “on the condition someone gives an interview to the newspaper.”
The Monteverdi Choir won a $25,000 prize from the Japanese Critic’s Circle.  In Tokyo to receive the award the next year, MacLeod then spent a couple of weeks in Hong Kong before returning home.
“Technically, it’s part of China again; the reality is it remains independent in spirit,” he said of his new home, where he’ll experience 90 degrees and high humidity most of the year.
“It has its own government, its own administration, its own currency, the Hong Kong dollar,” he said. “It’s a massive financial generator.  The Chinese have decided to leave Hong Kong alone.”
MacLeod said he’s leaving his lakeside home – and 2008 Jeep – with regret, but has fond memories of his stint here, including one fall when he took his boat on a trip down the Mississippi.
A fresh-water sailor, he nonetheless is looking forward to Hong Kong’s location on the China Sea:  “They have junks there; look for me on a junk.”

Many consider the Hong Kong Philharmonic the best orchestra in the Orient.

Michael MacLeod will be trading in Otsego Lake and his power boat for the South China Sea and, perhaps, a junk, he says.

Friday, March 18, 2011

LIVE! at the Oneonta Theater!

Partners Try Something No One Else Has Done


OK, you may not be aware of the fourth annual WONYpalooza, an evening of heavy metal that kicks off the Oneonta Theatre’s first full season Saturday, March 19.  Or PowerGlove, the featured act.
But if you have, you’ve probably never heard of Ricky Nelson, who will be honored in the “Ricky Nelson Remembered” 25th Anniversary Tour – Ricky’s sons Gunnar and Matthew perform.  It plays at the Oneonta Theatre Sunday, March 27.
If you follow music, you probably are aware of The Byrds’ Roger McGuinn and the Lovin’ Spoonfuls’ John Sebastian (May 7), or John Mayall (April 1), Eric Clapton’s collaborator.
And who hasn’t heard of The Beatles.  (The Fab Faux, June 10, will seek not merely to play the hits, but seeks to replicate the experience of a Beatles’ concert.)
The point is, there’s something for everyone.
That’s the goal of Oneonta Theatre owner Tom Cormier and promoter Jon Weiss, who were brought together early in 2010 by a question:  Forget Glimmerglass Opera, forget the CSO, can a modern-music venue – rock, jazz, folk, you name it – flourish in Oneonta?
“The only music you can specialize in is good music,” Weiss said, sipping a yerba mate the other day, during an interview with Cormier at the Yellow Deli.
Looking at this summer’s offerings, you quickly conclude that “good music” may be the foundation, but add the adjective, “variety.”
For, as noted above in the first few paragraphs, Weiss and Cormier are striving to cover the whole demographic, your grandfather’s Oldsmobile, your father’s VW Bug, and your Kia Soul, (they’re not rats, but “lovable, singing hamsters,” the car company insists.)
“It has to be eclectic,” said Cormier.  “If you go after one genre, one demographic, by the fourth week they’ve seen it, they’re sick of it.  And they’re broke.”
Because of the extensive renovations the long-unused theater – it was a former vaudeville house, and hadn’t been an operating cinema for years – wasn’t ready to host performances until the middle of last summer.
By then, said Weiss – he’s a rock promoter in New York City who has a weekend home in Franklin – the best acts for the Oneonta were locked in elsewhere.
Since late last year, however, he has been focused on lining up acts for this summer, which explains the range and mix.  (If Arlo Guthrie or Todd Rundgren happen to show up by season’s end, don’t say you heard it here first.)
His efforts have been helped by the fact the theater has a track record, albeit not an extensive one.
“We’ve been able to demonstrate to the industry that the Oneonta Theatre is a good-sounding, good-looking, well-run room,” Weiss said.
Folksinger Steve Earle, one of the first acts, told his hosts, “Man, I can’t wait to get back here with a full band.”
The interest in the Oneonta is varied.
Just the other week, for instance, Doug Decker from the American Legion approached the partners about doing something for the Wounded Warrior Project, which assists severely wounded soldiers, particularly in their transition back to civilian life.
“I thought it was a terrific idea,” said Weiss.
The Oneonta contracted with up-and-coming C&W star Josh Thompson – his latest album, “Way Out Here,” was just issued – and he’ll be performing Saturday, June 4.
The partners are providing a concert-ready venue, all staffed and ready to go.  All the profits go to the Wounded Warriors.
Gung-ho?  Yes.
But the promoter and proprietor recognize the challenges.  For instance, Cormier said, there’s really nothing quite like the Oneonta, a 600-seat theater in a rural town seeking to become a rock ‘n’ roll magnet.
“Not a lot of theaters are privately owned,” he said.  “They’re non-profits, run by a board.  It’s different from what we’re trying to do.”
Different?  That sounds interesting.  This may be the season to try it out.

March 18th, 9pm
WONYpalooza,  Feat.
March 25th, 9pm
The Felice Brothers
March 26th, 9pm
Hair of the Dog
March 27th, 7:30 pm
Ricky Nelson Remembered
April 1st, 9pm
John Mayall
April 2nd, 9pm
Really Old Airplanes
April 7th - 10th
Always Patsy Cline
April 16th, 9pm
FILM: Detour
April 29th, 9pm
April 30th, 9pm
Hot Tuna
May 1st, 7:30 pm
Roger McGuinn
& John Sebastian
May 7th, 9pm
Dark Star Orchestra
May 21st, 9pm
Childhood’s End
May 26th, 9pm
Wailers ASAP!
May 28th, 9pm
June 3rd, 9pm
Sister Sparrow
& The Dirty Birds
June 4th, 8pm
Josh Thompson
June 7th, 9pm
Ani Difranco
June 10th, 9pm
Fab Faux
June 11th, 8pm
Sweeney Todd
June 17th, 9pm
June 18th, 9pm
Dr. Dirty
June 23rd,
Odd Couple
June 23rd - 26th
CNYRG Sock Hop
July 7th, 9pm
October 22nd 8pm
Arlo Guthrie

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Jim Kevlin/
Bob Scramlin, who has sold the development rights on his Bicentennial Farm to the Otsego Land Trust, has been living near Johstown in recent years – but he never misses Roseboom Tractor Days in mid-August.

Bob Scramlin’s Interest In Things Agricultural Doesn’t End With Preserving Bicentennial Site


When Bob Scramlin was considering selling the development rights to his historical 120-acre farm to the Otsego Land Trust, it was suggested he might want to split it into two parcels.
Perhaps that would make it more marketable to adjoining farms at some point in the future.
“It’s always been one piece,” Scramlin replied.  And that was that.
But his interest in keeping things intact doesn’t end with the former dairy farm on Wikoff Road along Cherry Valley Creek, which has been in his family since 1738, when James Willson – two Ls – surveyed the property, part of the original Lindesay Patent.
The deed, executed three years later, shows Willson – Bob Scramlin is the seventh generation; son Ron and daughter Cynthia are the eighth – buying the land from the King of England, and paying in pounds.
That’s the land, but there are also the toys:  Since 1988, he’s been a member of an agricultural toy club, founded in Canajoharie.  He has found and repaired 1,300 examples, trading with collectors as far afield as Iowa.
And the tractors:  In 1992, having giving up dairying, he bought his first antique tractor – from the late Harold Hayes; he worked for him at the end of Hayes Road. 
Since, Scramlin has accumulated and restored 30 vintage tractors, including the original Farmall H his father, Louis, bought in 1945 at D.H. Shipway & Son, the village’s International Harvester dealer, at Genesee Street and Railroad Avenue, now an empty lot.
Bob, then only 5, tagged along with his dad.  “Being a kid,” he said, “I thought it was the biggest tractor in the world.”
By age 9, the boy was driving the tractor regularly:  “I used to have to slide on the seat to get to the clutch.”  He was active in 4-H and FFA through high school, went on to college at Cobleskill, but never considered a different career.
There’s a picture of Scramlin in the late ‘70s – he was 40ish – looking hale and hearty, as if he hasn’t got a trouble in the world.  Then came the ‘80s, when milk price supports, steady for decades, began to fluctuate and Upstate dairy operations began to falter.
“In dairy farming,” he said, “you have your ups and downs.  It’s not very smooth.”
Still, he loved his job, in particular, being his own boss.  He enjoyed the camaraderie between farmers, how they would spell each other for vacations, how they would helped each other out if someone got ill.
In 1987, he happened to pick up a copy of Country Folks, that paper that comes out of Nelliston, saw a toy club was forming and drove up to Canajoharie to see what it was all about.
One Christmas when he was a boy, he’d gotten a pedal tractor.  “We rode it around the house for a few days, and they threw it out the door,” he remembered.
Through the club, he met Ron Van Buren of Worcester, who told him how he’d picked up a Caterpillar pedal tractor for $250.  Bob was intrigued.  Soon, he got an offer on his tractor for $900.  He was hooked.
In the years since, he’s continued to buy and trade toys, accumulating quite a collection.  A fellow club member and collector, Hugh Healy, became a friend.  He died at a young 52.
As time went on, Bob became friendly with Hugh’s widow, Roberta, and, after breathing problems developed and he went on oxygen a few years ago, he’s been staying with her outside Johnstown.
Birds of a feather, she has another 1,300 farm toys of her own.
As if this wasn’t enough to keep him occupied after he retired, Bob kept adding to his tractor collection.  His large barn on Wikoff Road is full of Farmalls, and the Farmall H his dad bought in 1945 is part of his collection.
Always, Bob Scramlin’s property was a point of pride.  In 1990, it received the USDA’s national Bicentennial Farm Award as one of only three farms in Otsego County in continuous operation by the same family for more than 200 years, (the others two being John Walrath’s Dutch Corners in East Springfield and Lawrence Roseboom’s in Westford.)
After retiring, Scramlin worked at Wal-Mart for a while, earning enough to cover the taxes.  In 2006, he was approached by a gas company and signed a lease, $5 an acre. 
The check arrived from the company in 2006 and 2007.  Then nothing in 2008.  Nothing in 2009.  By that time, troubled by information that had surfaced about the chemical-laced hydrofracking to extract natural gas, he was able to get his lease voided.
He looked into growing switchgrass, which can be converted into ethanol, but discovered the field where he planned to plant it had been declared a wetland by the Army Corps of Engineers.
So obtaining a conservation easement through the Otsego Land Trust, which reducing the taxable valuation, made a lot of sense.
The property was a particular choice one, since it is within five miles of four other properties under easement; 600 acres in all are being protected in the neighborhood, according to Peter Hujik, Land Trust executive director.
“Bob translated his connection with the past into a vision for the future,” said Hujik.  “Working with Bob is an honor.”


Hartwick Music Professor Steve Markuson performs “The Ballad of Norma Rae,” complete with harmonica.  It was one of the many tributes to Norma Hutman, the Hartwick professor emerita, 76, who died in a fire at her home at 540 Main St. in late February, at a memorial service Saturday, March 12, at the college’s Shineman Chapel.  At left is a portrait of the professor by Lady Ostapeck.

It’s Never Too Soon For You To Consider ‘Independent Living’ Options

There is a great deal of confusion and misinformation when it comes to senior housing options, and with good reason. 
Unfortunately, most families don’t take the time to explore the options in the community, or understand the varying levels of care available until someone in their family has an immediate need.  This can result in a hasty placement and sometimes not the best fit.  It is easy to put off thinking about leaving your home of many years, but, with a bit of learning and planning ahead, the decision and the move can be much easier. 
Most seniors choose to stay in their homes until their health deteriorates to the point where they can no longer properly care for themselves. There is a growing population of seniors whose health is still good, but they are tired of living alone.  Or, as is more often the case, they simply do not want the responsibilities of homeownership with all the related tasks and expenses both inside and out. 
This expanding group of seniors has begun to spawn more “Independent Living” communities.   St. James’ Retirement Community is a moderately priced, non-denominational, not-for-profit “Independent Living” community currently with 53 residents making their homes in 46 apartments and duplex homes, all on one level. 
Our residents and their families tend to their own health-care needs, but they desire the socialization and broad range of services found in Independent Living facilities. 
At St. James’ Retirement Community our services include dining, transportation, cleaning, activities, chapel, life-net system, special events programs and more.  Utilities, including cable, and all maintenance, inside and out is our responsibility in our apartments. All maintenance, inside and out is also included in our duplex homes.  Our experienced and dedicated staff enjoys a close relationship with our residents.
It may not be this year or next, but if you think Independent Living could be in your future, please do yourself a good deed and learn about St. James. Openings do not happen every day, so planning ahead is wise. Our unique Equity option plan reduces your monthly out-of-pocket expense without the headaches of homeownership.
No matter how long you live at St. James’ Retirement Community, you will never be refunded less that 50 percent of your initial payment. Of course, we will be happy to give you a tour so please call ahead and let us show you our place and a good value for your future years.   

Kathy Clarkson is the manager of St. James’ Retirement Community, County Route 47, Oneonta.  Call 607-436-9974, or visit


Friday, March 4, 2011


Here are the three articles on gas drilling by Ian Ubina from the New York Times: 1) 2) & 3)

Thursday, March 3, 2011


Women Always Fashion Conscious, SUNY Prof Finds
IF YOU HAVE your great-grandmother’s gown in your attic, let Professor Demi Eluwawalage know by e-mailing or calling SUNY Oneonta’s Department of Human Ecology at 436-2705.
Demi Eluwawalage is looking for documentation of vintage clothes.

Damayanthie Eluwawalage calls herself a professional historian, but like many women – is that sexist? – her first love was always fashion.
Demi’s vita – everyone knows her as Demi – is proof positive.
Yes, the assistant professor in SUNY Oneonta’s Department of Human Ecology received her Ph.D. in, yes, history in 2005 from Edith Cowan University in her native Western Australia, but it was interdisciplinary, wedded to fashion, clothing, costume history and costume theory.
She received two bachelors in the ‘90s from Curtin University, also in Perth, again “cross-institutional,” in social history and costume, plus illustration, painting, graphics and Greek and Roman history.
Along the way, she received a trade certificate as a tailor, an advanced certificate of clothing construction, and a certificate in clothing studies from technical schools in her native region.
Like all historians – and journalists, for that matter – Demi was always looking for connections.
In Busselton, 150 miles from Perth, she found an 1840 floor-length dress with an exceptionally full skirt, aqua, low-cut in front, bodice and shoulders narrow.
Busselton was very rural then; Western Australia had only been founded 11 years before, in 1829.
Fast forward a few years to 2005, and Demi, her Ph.D complete, was an assistant professor at Missouri State in Springfield and there it was, exactly the same dress, from exactly the same year, as she’d discovered in Busselton, 11,000 miles away.
“Women wanted to be fashionable and trendy.  That has ALWAYS been the case,” she declared the other day over a cup of coffee in the bright back room at the Latte Lounge.
The connection, Demi discovered, was a pattern maker in Germany, who issued catalogues depicting high fashion of the 19th century, which then, as now, was centered in Paris, and also Queen Victoria’s England.
Even by steamboat and sailboat, those pattern books would find their way around the world – 13,000 miles to Perth, 5,000 to Missouri – in not too many months.
“Women all over the world were dressing the same,” said Demi.
But, we digress.
The point of this interview was to discuss the “History of Costume in the State of New York, 1600-1900s,” which the scholar is now researching.  Her mentor, Dr. F. Daniel Larkin, SUNY Oneonta provost, had pointed her in that direction on her arrival in the city in 2006.
In her native Australia, newspapers had been a helpful conduit in connecting the researcher with original garments from her region’s earliest days.
Her hope is that people in the Otsego County region will read this article, remember a great-grandmother’s gown in the attic, and alert Demi to its existence.  If the garment has remained with the family, the family can often provide “provenance,” pure gold for a researcher.
That provenance might be a letter wherein the gown is discussed, or a photo of the original owner wearing it.  This can help determine precisely where the garment was made, by whom, when, and information on the wearer.
The professor has had some success in this regard in the Hudson Valley and Albany areas, and is hoping for more of the same in Central New York.
She has spent time in the New York State Historical Association’s garment warehouses, and has been able to discovered a half-dozen costumes with sufficient provenance, but needs more to fill out the detailed questionnaire she has devised.
She has also been poring over old newspapers – The Freeman’s Journal, of course, goes back to 1808 – and that has led to some local revelations.
For instance, early 19th Century tailors in Otsego County didn’t generally make complete garments.  They would measure their customers and cut the cloth to fit; the item would then be sewed to completion at home.
Whether this was an economy measure or simply the local preference, Demi isn’t sure.
If research goes well, the professor hopes to have her book done in two years.
If you have any doubt that she’ll accomplish it, go back to her C-V, to her numerous publications and multiple conference papers, from “A History of Dyes and Dyed Textiles” delivered at the Textile Institute’s 85th annual conference in Sri Lanka in 2007, to “A Brief Narrative of Clothing Shopping in Great Britain,” delivered at the International Textiles and Apparel Association conference in Seattle in 2009.
And there’s a social-justice dimension as well.
“The gender aspect,” Demi calls it.  “The costume was always regarded as women’s business.  Women were always secondary.”
And so, to strike a blow for equal treatment – and, of course, fashion.

These illustrations, including ads for early sewing machines and an “old clothes man” – an early roving haberdasher, lower right – from SUNY Oneonta Assistant Professor Damayanthie Eluwawalage’s research for “History of Costume in the State of New York, 1600-1900s.”

To see more images of woman in period dresses, go to our pictures page.

Fracking Divisive; So Was Slavery

George R. Hovis, Cooperstown, is an associate professor of English at SUNY Oneonta.

Will future historians lump fracking apologists with John Pendleton Kennedy?

Recently my students in American Literature and I have been reading the 19th Century debates about slavery, including the positions taken by abolitionists and by those who called abolitionists bigots and extremists. 
We’ve also read examples of what were then considered moderate positions, such as John Pendleton Kennedy’s “Swallow Barn,” a novel that attempted to reconcile differences between these polarized camps and to reach some compromise. 
Unlike the more rabid pro-slavery apologists, Kennedy felt that, in theory, slavery was wrong but that for a number of complicated practical reasons it was impossible to proceed in 1832 with a universal emancipation. 
He believed that, in due time, of course slavery would be abolished, but he demurred to speculate about when precisely that eventuality would arrive. 
For a gradualist like Kennedy, the positions of fugitive slaves such as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs, who called for immediate universal emancipation, was rash and likely to end with devastating results.
From our 21st century perspective, most readers praise the heroism of the abolitionists and see gradualists like Kennedy as at best blind to the sufferings of millions of human beings held in bondage. 
My students are often less frustrated with the southern planters directly responsible for their “peculiar institution” than they are with the northern businessmen who were reluctant to speak out against slavery for fear of raising the price of cotton. 
What perhaps gets my students most upset is the Compromise of 1850, including the infamous Fugitive Slave Law, which made punishable by up to six months in prison and a $1,000 fine anyone in the free north aiding or harboring a fugitive slave. 
As Harriet Jacobs laments in her “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl,” this law facilitated the efforts of southern slave owners to come north and recapture their stolen “property,” including any children born in the North to a mother who had escaped from bondage in the South. 
How, my students want to know, could the population of the free states stand idly by and allow such a compromise? 
It is very difficult for them to appreciate the nuances of the historical context – how, for example, when Ms. Jacobs’ owners traveled to New York to reclaim their property, they were on hard times and their slave property constituted a majority of their total property.  Or, reflecting on the perhaps regrettable fact that the Southern agricultural system was thoroughly built upon the system of slavery, a universal emancipation would likely cause chaos throughout the national economy. 
Today, of course, such nuances disappear in light of the commonly held belief that human bondage is morally reprehensible and unacceptable.
There are those who will no doubt take offense at my comparison of the 19th Century effort to abolish slavery in the U.S. and a current debate that is seemingly without any possible connection:  hydrofracking and the dangers it poses to the environment and particularly to our watershed.
I by no means wish to equate these two issues, but merely to focus on a few striking similarities in the ways the debates manifest themselves within the general public. 
I believe there is in most people a healthy mistrust of taking absolute positions and a belief that seeking compromise between competing ideas promotes the general good – and in most cases this may be true. 
I also believe most of us wish not to give offense to our neighbors or to be perceived as rigid extremists.  There are times, however, when, despite seemingly rational arguments to the contrary, the correct position is an absolute position. 
There are some causes where neutrality and compromise merely enable exploitation.  In the early and mid 1800s, when gradualists were arguing that slavery would, of course, eventually become obsolete, pro-slavery forces were expanding westward, working diligently to open vast new territories to human bondage. 
Today, many believe that gradually our dependence on fossil fuels will be replaced by renewable forms of energy and serious efforts at conservation, while meanwhile our consumption continues to increase, and the gas and oil industry makes use of dangerous technologies to drill in ever deeper offshore water and increasingly ecologically vulnerable places like Upstate New York.  Someone has to draw the line and say “not here.”  We have to set limits on production before we will ever seriously invest in already available technologies for renewable energy.  And we cannot wait for our elected officials someday to act on our behalf.  We citizens must appreciate what Martin Luther King, Jr., understood in the 1960s to be the “fierce urgency of now.”
When students today look back to the often complex and nuanced debates about slavery from 150 years ago, all of the nuance disappears in light of the one fundamental truth that slavery is an abomination. 
One-hundred-and-fifty years from now, I believe students will be equally horrified by the way this generation treated our common environment, that we would show such reluctance to pursue aggressive development of renewable energy because it would mean shifting priorities. 
Today we see the economic challenges and all of the competing legitimate perspectives.  One-hundred-and-fifty years from now, most of these complexities will disappear, and all that our descendants will see is whether or not we collectively allowed the gas industry to exploit and pollute our natural environment and possibly irrevocably damage our region’s aquifer. 
It may not require 150 years for this radical change of consciousness.  When a son or daughter comes to you as an adult unable to drink the water for a very rational fear of carcinogens, and she asks you, “Dad/Mom, when you had a chance to stop them, what did you do?”  And you try to explain about the complex issues and how many of your neighbors were afraid of polarizing the community and how you tried to find some compromise because you didn’t want to offend anyone, and how certainly the landowner coalitions had their valid arguments, and your child repeats, “What did you do?”
For anyone wanting to take action, one place to start is to contact your local, state, and federal elected officials.  Make a phone call.  Start with Governor Cuomo at 518-474-8390.  Write a letter or email.  Attend a rally.  Talk to a neighbor.