Born a slave in 1856 in Virginia, Booker T. Washington rose to become a renowned spokesperson for African Americans. Washington’s belief that African Americans could advance themselves through education in the trades and industrial arts prompted him to establish the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama in 1881.
Washington was well respected as an orator and author. Of his 14 books, his autobiography “Up from Slavery” (published in 1901) became the most well-known. His writings gained him national influence in education and politics and led him to become an advisor and friend to Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. In 1901, Washington was invited to dine with Roosevelt at the White House, a radical invitation that led to much outcry from southern politicians and press.
Washington in huntington
When the school session ended at Tuskegee, Booker T. Washington would head north to Long Island for summer vacation and fundraising. Before purchasing a home in Fort Salonga, Washington summered at the Van Wyck Farm in Lloyd Harbor.
Van Wyck Farm in Lloyd Harbor, which no longer exists
In 2021, a descendent of the Lloyd Harbor Van Wyck family donated three letters from Washington that refer to his stay on the Van Wyck Farm. The letters are now part of the Society's collection and provide insight into his time there.
While in Huntington, Washington gave several talks at the local Opera House, as well as a commencement speech at Northport High School. He also taught Sunday School at Bethel AME Church.
Most locals know that Washington purchased a property in Fort Salonga, but it is less commonly known that he also acquired a house in Huntington Village.
According to this deed dated May 7, 1914, Henry and Fanny Brush transferred property at 43 Greene Street, Huntington to Booker T. Washington. The house still stands today and is the location of Finley’s Restaurant.
43 Green Street, today Finley's Restaurant
It is not known what Washington planned to do with the home as he passed away within a year of purchase.
by Emily Finan, Collections Assistant
Known as the Patriotic Santa, this cotton textile held in the collection was designed by Edward Peck in 1868 and printed by Oriental Print Works of Warwick, Rhode Island, a company founded by Alfred Augustus Reed and Edward D. Boit that operated from around 1857 to 1883.
Appearing in the central foreground in a snowy woodland, Santa Claus wears a fur trimmed coat and fur hat. His right arm overflows with toys including a hobby horse, two dolls, a drum, a bell, a quadrupedal stuffed animal, horns, and a pinwheel; in his left arm, he carries a sled inscribed “Oriental Print Works” and an American Flag from which the illustration derives its title.
Framing Santa are four vignettes illustrating Peck’s interpretation of Clement Clarke Moore’s “A Visit From Saint Nicholas” which inspired the print as a whole. Quotes from the poem inscribed below Santa’s feet—“His eyes how they twinkled! His dimples how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry”—guide Peck’s depiction along with editorial cartoonist Thomas Nast’s contemporary portrayal of Santa in Harper’s Weekly as a jolly, rotund figure which marked a shift from earlier depictions of Santa with a stern disposition. Peck’s curious portrayal of Santa through a patriotic lens can also be attributed to Nast’s influence. As a supporter of the Union, Nast’s illustrations also served as Civil War propaganda, exemplified by his 1881 Merry Old Santa Claus portrait. Donning a dress sword and belt buckle that refer to the Army and a pocket watch set at ten to midnight, Nast’s Santa serves as a critique of United States Senate’s inaction on paying members of the military fair wages. Though not as pointed, Nast’s imagery manifests in Peck’s print through the inclusion of a similar dress sword, pocket watch, flag, and red, white, and blue motif.
In the top left vignette, Santa is riding his sleigh pulled by reindeer who are slipping out of frame under a starry sky along with the words “Santa Claus is coming.” In the top right, titled “with compliments of Santa Claus,” Santa stands on a roof and delivers presents down a chimney. On the bottom left, “All the stockings in the house were hung to be filled by Santa Claus” is written within a scene of three children hanging stockings from the mantle of a fireplace in preparation. On the bottom right, three children play with their new toys—a drum and rocking horse—around their parents’ bed, illustrated by the quote “Santa Claus gave all these toys because we were good girls and boys.”
Displayed in a variety of manners—as a banner, a handkerchief, a scarf, a table cover, a decorative textile hanging—additional examples of this print can be found in other museum collections, such as the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum. [https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18669979/] Another edition, now in the collection of New York Historical Society, was designed by Peck as a make-your-own Santa Claus doll; the same patriotic Santa is printed with its reverse on one textile which allowed users to cut each out and sew them together to fashion a doll. [https://emuseum.nyhistory.org/objects/6630/santa-claus-doll?ctx=35019b47c703c699e3e4137815d21bc7d7ee13cc&idx=15]
We wish you a very happy holiday!
Article by Emily Finan, Collections Assistant
Gifted to the Society by John Hulsen, Huntington’s first motorcycle policeman, these three unique trophies commemorate the donor’s participation—and success—in the Highhold Games, an annual event held by Henry L. Stimson and his wife Mabel White Stimson at their home in the Huntington hamlet of West Hills. The name Highhold was inspired by the view that the over one-hundred-acre property provided from the Long Island Sound to the Atlantic Ocean.
Each Thanksgiving Day from 1904 into the 1920s, Stimson—who served as Secretary of War under President Howard Taft, and Secretary of State under President Herbert Hoover—invited his friends, family, and neighbors to Highhold estate, through postings in The Long-Islander, to compete in a series of games including trapshooting, spar fighting, barrel racing, novelty racing, flat racing, and steeplechase. Originally held as a gesture of appreciation to his neighbors for their hospitality in allowing him to traverse their lands while foxhunting, Stimson’s games became an annual tradition that exemplified generosity and fostered community. Hundreds of people—young and old—gathered to compete, enjoy cider, coffee, and donuts at the refreshments tent, and warm themselves by the bonfire before returning home for their own holiday dinners.
Hulsen competed in the games as a child and fondly recalled standing alongside Teddy Roosevelt during a trap shooting event one year. The first two trophies he earned are mugs in the shape of barrels. The first is made of brass encircled by copper bands, and indicates Hulsen’s success in the 1915 trap shooting event; the second is made of pewter overlaid with copper bands, and notes that Hulsen won the 1916 spar fight event. The third trophy, a pewter stein awarded for the 1919 spar fight event, is notable in that 1919 marked the return of the Highhold Games after a two-year intermission caused by World War I.
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In this photo from 1908, the white building to the left was the First Union Free School. Built in 1858, it served all grades through high school. The brick building to the right was built in 1900 and served elementary grades, while the original school was used for high school students only. Eventually this would become the site of Huntington High School located at 100 Main Street.
A high school was built in 1910. This photo shows the building around 1925. It was later enlarged in 1928 by a portico connecting it with the former elementary school building and an auditorium was also added. In 1979 the high school became Town Hall, which it remains today.
Below: Interior main entrance of Huntington High School, circa 1930.
Below: Huntington High School Girls Basketball Team, 1914. Standing left to right: Helen Lowndes, Vera Williamson, Ethel Sammis, (captain). Sitting left to right: Esther Funnell, Dorothy Burne, Jane Fleet.
By Toby Kissam, with Barbara LaMonica
Shortly after the Civil War, baseball’s popularity rapidly spread throughout Long Island. Many towns, including Brooklyn and Queens, (Nassau County was part of Queens until 1899), formed their own baseball clubs. Rival clubs would challenge each other, with many games played at county fairs. Most of the teams consisted of farmers, merchants, and students, although they often had semi-pro players in their lineups.
One of the most famous teams was the Huntington Suffolks. The team was formed in 1866. Their organizational meetings were held at the Suffolk Hotel that was located on the south side of Main Street between New York Avenue and New Street.
Later, other clubs were formed including the Young Suffolks, the Huntington Base Ball Club and teams from different parts of town like the Northport Base Ball Club and the West Side Boys.
Huntington Suffolk Baseball Club, 1893
The First Baseball Match
What appears to be the first organized baseball match in Huntington was between the Huntington and Dix Hills Base Ball Clubs, as reported in the November 2, 1866 issue of The Long-Islander:
"A series of base ball matches have been played between the Huntington and Dix Hills Base Ball Clubs. The first game score: Huntington 21 outs 31 runs; Dix Hills 21 outs, 25 runs… The second game was played at Dix Hills before a large audience of ladies, the score being as follows: Huntington, 15 outs 21 runs. Dix Hills 15 outs, 30 runs… The home & home match (rubber game) was played in Huntington at Woodhull Conklin’s lot on Wednesday, before as fine and large an audience as have ever assembled for such an occasion in this county."
The match was played near the home of David Woodhull Conklin. His house still stands on the west side of West Neck Road near Tanyard Lane. Conklin’s lot was on the east side of the road about where the Methodist Church stands today.
Tintypes of the early Suffolk Base Ball Club
In April of the following year, the Suffolk Base Ball Club held an inter-club match between the 1st Nine and the Field, to select the team for 1867. The following month they called for a meeting to be held on Friday evening at the Suffolk Hotel on Main Street to ready them for the up-coming season.
The Huntington Historical Society is dedicated to preserving and sharing the history of the Town of Huntington. Please help us continue this work by making a donation!
By William H. Frohlich
Trustee, Huntington Historical Society
The Town of Huntington, as we know it today, extends from the Nassau County line to the Smithtown line in Commack. And, from the Long Island Sound on the north to the Babylon Town Line in the south. But, it wasn’t always that way.
The “original” Huntington Town existed from the Sound all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. Babylon is a relatively “new” creation, which was carved out of Huntington. In 1842, the Long Island Railroad’s Main Line crossed the Town of Huntington through what is now Farmingdale, Wyandanch and Deer Park. Thirty years later, in 1872, a decision was made to split the town into two. All the land lying one mile north of the LIRR tracks remained the Town of Huntington, and everything lying south of that line became the Town of Babylon.
The Long Island Atlas published by Beers, et al, in 1873 shows the new town boundary line clearly, even though the survey work had been done in 1871 and 1872 before the new town had been established. When the atlas was published in 1873, it was correct!
Interestingly, Nassau County didn’t exist either at the time and is also a relatively “new” invention. (Early on there was an attempt made to call Long Island the “Island of Nassau,” but it didn’t stick.) Before Nassau County was established in 1899 it was all part of Queens County, which extended from the East River all the way to Huntington. (New York City, as we know it with its five boroughs, which included Queens County, wasn’t established until 1898.)
What many may not know is that Lloyd Neck remained part of Queens County until the early 1880s. Then, it finally joined Huntington and Suffolk County.
The original settlers that occupied the Town of Huntington bought the land from the local Indian tribes through several purchases in the mid-1600s. Our Town was criss-crossed by many Indian trails which the settlers then used as well. Many of these still exist, but today we know them as Main Street, 25A, Jericho Turnpike, Montauk Highway, among others.
The area that we now call Babylon was unpopulated at the time (sometimes known as Huntington South). That part of Huntington was used mostly as grazing land and for ocean fishing. The first resident was Jacob Conklin, born in Huntington in 1675. He built a house in the Half Way Hollow Hills in 1710 on, it is said, 3,500 acres of land. This original name for the area was chosen for its location: half way between the sound and the sea.
Legend has it that he was an impressed seaman on Captain Kidd’s ship. When the Captain put in to Cold Spring Harbor, Jacob jumped ship and ran south. According to "The Human Story of Long Island," by Verne Dyson, 1969, “One of the numerous Conklin legends, (is that) his mission was to bury treasure for Kidd; instead he escaped with the chest and from the proceeds bought the estate (land) in the Half Way Hollow Hills.” Some say he hid out in the hollow of a tree for years afraid Captain Kidd would find him!
Eventually, he built a house in what is now the Wheatley Heights area on the line between Huntington and Babylon off Bagatelle Road, and married Hanna Platt of Huntington. Unfortunately, the house burned down in 1918. The cemetery where he and his family are buried is still on the property of the the Henry Kaufman Camp Grounds.
The history of the Town of Huntington is a fascinating microcosm of American in its early days. If you are interested in reading more about our local history, find the “Huntington-Babylon Town History,” published by the Huntington Historical Society in 1937. You can also look for the Vern Dyson book and the old maps of Huntington.
New Acquisition: A 1742 document details the sale of two enslaved persons from Huntington to East Hampton
It is a common misconception that slavery was rare in New York state.
According to The Long Island Museum's 2019 exhibit "Long Road to Freedom: Surviving Slavery on Long Island," in 1749 14% of the population of Suffolk County was comprised of enslaved persons.
The first U.S. Census, conducted in 1790, records approximately 3,260 people living in the Town of Huntington, of which 221 were enslaved, and 74 were free people of color.
The document pictured here, just acquired by the Huntington Historical Society, is a transactional record of the sale of two enslaved persons by Philip Platt of Huntington to John Mulford in "Easthampton."
(Please note: This is a direct transcription and includes errors or variations in spelling. Blanks denote a word that is indecipherable.)
Know all men by thes presents that I Philip Plat of Huntingtown in the County of Suffolk and Colony of New York for and in consideration of the sum of forty nine pound paid before the ensealing of these present have bargained and sold unto John Mulford of Easthampton in County and Province above said one ______ Negro woman known by the name of Rosean and a negro boy named Dago.
To have and to hold the said Negro woman and child unto John Mulford of Easthampton a ganest the claim of any persons or person whatsoever as slaves unto the said John Mulford to him, his heirs and __________ for ever.
As witness my hand this sixth day of April in the year of our Sovereign Lord one thousand seven hundred and forty two signed sealed and delivered in the presence of us
James Harries Philip Platt
What is Ephemera?
Typically made of paper, ephemera is the name given to collectible memorabilia that was intended for one-time or short term use. Examples include ticket stubs, political flyers, advertisements, maps, invitations, and greeting cards.
We're excited to share these examples of holiday ephemera, hand picked by our archives team from The Huntington Historical Society's collection.
First Christmas Cards
The Christmas card tradition began in England in the 1840s when socialite Henry Cole found answering his stack of holiday mail a daunting task. Therefore, he asked his artist friend, J.C. Horsley, to design and print holiday cards with a salutation. By the end of the century, printed holiday greetings were commonplace in Britain and the United States.
Christmas cards were imported from England and Germany to America until 1874, when printer and lithographer Louis Prang printed the first American holiday greeting cards in Roxbury, Massachusetts. Initially the cards were scenes of woods and nature, but over the years, he included images of Santa and Christmas trees. By the 1880s, he printed about 5 million Christmas cards annually.
The U.S. Post Office was the only agency allowed to print and produce postcards until 1898, when congress passed the Private Mailing Card Act allowing publishers to produce cards for mailing by individuals. It was stipulated that the back could not be divided into space for both address and message. In 1907, the Post Office allowed postcards with a divided back, where the message was written on one side and the address on another. This is one way to date early postcards that don't have a dated postmark!
Do you see a name written under the stairs on the left side? This signature belongs to Ellen Clapsaddle, one of the most prolific illustrators of the late 1800s and early 1900s. She was one of very few working female illustrators/commercial artists, and her designs, usually featuring children, were and remain popular and highly collectible.
Click the images below to see vintage Christmas cards from our ephemera collection!
From all of us at The Huntington Historical Society, we wish you a very happy holiday!
The Huntington Historical Society is dedicated to preserving and sharing the history of the Town of Huntington. Please help us continue this work by making a donation!
The Huntington Historical Society is excited to announce a new children's book about the Town of Huntington's historic sites.
Miss Kim’s Class Goes To Town is a glimpse into the rich history of the Town of Huntington written by a local high school senior, in order to spark curiosity and foster a love of history in young minds.
Readers of all ages will enjoy following Miss Kim’s class on a field trip to the historic sites of Huntington. The class is guided by Mr. Robert, the Town Historian, who is inspired by Town Historian, Robert Hughes. The students, who suspect the day will be a drag, find themselves thoroughly fascinated and surprised by the wonderful history that surrounds them.
The book's publication is sponsored by People's United Bank and will go on sale just in time for the holidays. All are welcome to join us at the Huntington Branch (182 East Main Street) of People's United Bank for a book launch and meet and greet with the author. Stop by the branch on Saturday, November 30th between 1pm–3pm to meet Jay and pick up your copy!
About the Author:
Jay Nagpal is a senior at Half Hollow Hills High School East in Dix Hills, New York. He is deeply passionate about history and founded the Dix Hills-Melville Historical Association. He has written several historical research papers. One of his papers was published in The Concord Review and his writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine. He was also awarded first place at the regional National History Day competition. Jay has received recognition from his school district’s Board of Education for his dedication to raising awareness of local history. He is also a recipient of the 2019 Brown University Book Award. In addition, Jay is engaged in sustainability research at Stony Brook University.
By William H. Frohlich
Huntington Historical Society Board Member
The Lexington was a paddlewheel steamboat that operated in the Long Island Sound between 1835 and 1840. It was commissioned by Cornelius Vanderbilt, and was considered one of the most luxurious steamers in operation at 220 feet in length. It began service between New York City and Providence, Rhode Island.
But in 1837, the Lexington switched to the route between New York and Stonington, Connecticut, to connect with the newly built Old Colony railroad to Boston. You might remember that this was the same time that the Long Island Railroad was building the main line to bring people to Greenport. There, they would board the ferry to Stonington and get on the new train to Boston. The Long Island Railroad claimed that this rail-boat-rail route would cut the steamer journey from New York City to Boston from 16 hours to 11. The Lexington was the fastest steamer on Sound, at the time, in effect competing with the LIRR!
It is important to note that the Lexington was not aloud to leave the Sound and enter open ocean, so it couldn’t go all the way to Boston. And, it didn’t have staterooms for overnight guests.
On the night of January 13th, 1840, midway through the ship's voyage through the Sound, the casing around the ship's smokestack caught fire. Unfortunately, it igniting nearly 150 bales of cotton that were stored on deck aft of the smokestacks! (Bad idea!)
The resulting fire was impossible to extinguish, and order was given to abandon ship. The ships' overcrowded lifeboats sank almost immediately, leaving the ship's passengers and crew to drown in the freezing water. Rescue attempts were virtually impossible due to the rough water, lack of visibility, the frigid cold and the wind.
Of the 143 people on board the Lexington that night, only 4 survived, clinging to large bales of cotton that had been thrown overboard as makeshift life rafts. The ship's usual captain, Jacob Vanderbilt (the Commodore’s brother), was sick and couldn’t make the trip, and was replaced by veteran Captain George Child.
The ship was four miles off Eaton's Neck when the fire started. With the ship's paddlewheel still churning at full speed, crewmen couldn’t reach the engine room to shut off the boilers. Once it was apparent that the fire could not be put out, the ship's three lifeboats were lowered. The first boat was sucked into the paddlewheel, killing all. Captain Child had fallen into that lifeboat and was among those killed. The ropes used to lower the other two boats were cut, causing the boats to hit the water stern-first and they sank immediately.
Pilot Stephen Manchester turned the ship toward the shore in hopes of beaching it. But, the drive-rope that controlled the rudder quickly burned through, and the engine stopped 2 miles from shore. With the ship out of control, it drifted northeast and away from the land.
The ship's cargo of cotton bales ignited quickly causing the fire to spread from the smokestack to the entire super-structure of the ship.
Passengers and crew threw empty baggage containers and the bales of cotton into the water to use as rafts. The center of the main deck collapsed shortly after 8 p.m. The fire had spread to such an extent that by midnight most of the passengers and crew were forced to jump into the frigid water. Those who had nothing to climb onto quickly succumbed to hypothermia. The ship was still burning when it finally sank at 3 a.m. in the middle of the sound.
According to legend, poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was scheduled to travel on the Lexington's fatal voyage, but missed the boat. This was due to discussing with his publisher the merits of his recent poem, The Wreck of the Hesperus - a poem that, ironically, also included a ship sinking. The Lexington disaster was depicted in a celebrated colored lithograph by Currier and Ives, and was their first major-selling print.
Of the 143 people on board the Lexington, only four survived: Three were rescued by the ship “Merchant,” but the last man, David Crowley, the Second Mate, drifted for 43 hours on a bale of cotton, coming ashore 50 miles east, at Baiting Hollow. Weak, dehydrated and suffering from exposure, he staggered a mile to the house of Matthias and Mary Hutchinson, and collapsed after knocking on their door. A doctor was immediately called, and once well enough, Crowley was taken to Riverhead, where he recovered.
An inquest jury found a fatal flaw in the ship's design to be the primary cause of the fire. The ship's boilers were originally built to burn wood, but converted to burn coal in 1839. They found that conversion had not been properly completed. Not only did coal burn hotter than wood, but extra coal was burned on that night because of the bad weather and rough seas. Sparks from the over-heated smokestack set the stack's casing ablaze on the freight deck. And, that fire spread to the bales of cotton stored improperly on deck close to the stack.
The jury found crewmen's mistakes and violation of safety regulations to be at fault. Hilliard testified that once crewmembers noticed the fire, they went below deck to check the engines before attempting to fight the blaze. The inquest jury believed that the fire could have been extinguished if the crew had acted immediately. Additionally, not all of the ship's fire buckets could be found during the fire. And, only about 20 of the passengers were able to locate life preservers. They also found that the crewmembers were careless in launching the lifeboats, all of which sank immediately.
The sloop Improvement, then less than five miles from the burning ship, never came to the Lexington's rescue. Captain Tirrell said he was running on a schedule and didn’t attempt a rescue, because he didn’t want to miss high tide and be late. The public became furious at his excuse, and Tirrell was attacked by the press in the days following the disaster.
Ultimately, the U.S. government in the wake of the tragedy passed no legislation. It wasn’t until the steamboat Henry Clay burned on the Hudson River 12 years later that new safety regulations were imposed.
The Lexington fire remains Long Island Sound's worst disaster. Of the 143, on board 139 perished.
An attempt was made to raise the Lexington in 1842, and then again in 1850. The ship was brought to the surface briefly, and a 30-pound mass of melted silver coins was recovered from the hull. $50,000 in cash was never found and likely had burned up. During the raising attempt, the chains supporting the hull snapped, and the ship broke apart into three pieces sinking back to the bottom of the Sound.
Today, the Lexington sections lie in 140 feet of water off Old Field Point. There is allegedly still gold and silver onboard that has not been recovered. The silver recovered in 1842 is all that has ever been found to date. There was talk of salvaging the remains of the ship about 10 years ago, but nothing came of it.
Where is the Lexington? Today the wreck lies broken up across the bottom in anywhere from 80 feet deep to 140 feet of water. The wreck is covered in wire from the various salvage operations, fishing line, and other wreckage. The bottom is very dark, cold, and extremely hazardous. The actual locations of the paddlewheel, bow and stern are known.