New York State Library Public Programming

All programs are free, virtual and open to the public



The 1918 Flu Epidemic, and What It Can Tell Us Today (webinar)

Date: Tuesday, January 26, 2021   

Time: 11:00am - 12:00pm 

Speaker: Sandra Opdycke 

Registration Link: 


Picture a country in the grip of a respiratory virus that is sweeping the globe. Schools are closed, theatres are dark, hospitals are straining to keep up with the demand. Death-counts are rising, and there is a running public debate about whether wearing a mask really does protect you. This certainly sounds like the life we are living today. But it also describes what Americans were facing more than a hundred years ago, during the influenza pandemic of 1918. 


No two times in history are just the same, and neither are any two pandemics. The goal of this talk is to provide an overview of the 1918 flu pandemic, and to explore how it resembles, and how it differs from, our own experience with Covid—medically, socially, economically, and politically. How did American leaders respond to the epidemic in 1918? What part did World War I play in the story? What about the role of medicine and technology? How did individual communities grapple with the challenge? Overall, what can we learn from America’s response to this long-ago health crisis—a crisis that resembles in so many ways the one we are facing today? 


Sandra Opdycke, Ph.D. is a retired historian. She recently published When Women Won the Vote, about the woman suffrage movement. She has also written books about the flu epidemic of 1918, the WPA of the 1930s, and Bellevue Hospital, as well as a biography of Jane Addams, an historical atlas of American women’s history, and several co-authored books and articles on social policy. She worked for a number of years at Hudson River Psychiatric Center, and later taught American History and Urban History at Bard, Vassar, and Marist Colleges. She serves as an occasional lecturer at the Center for Lifetime Studies in Poughkeepsie. 



Writing Through the American Revolution: The Correspondence of Myles Cooper (webinar) 

Date: Thursday, January 28, 2021 

Time: 11:00am – 12:00pm

Speaker: Dr. Christopher Minty and Dr. Peter Walker 

Registration link:  


King’s College president Myles Cooper fled Manhattan in the spring of 1775, fearing for his life. Denigrated as a “Tory” for his actions against and attitudes toward American resistance, Cooper boarded a vessel and soon sailed for Britain. Eventually settling in Edinburgh, Cooper maintained an active correspondence with his loyalist friends and colleagues in New York. This talk will focus on that correspondence, offering new insights into loyalists’ attitudes on various aspects of the American Revolutionary War. 


Dr. Christopher is a historian of early America.  He specialized in the history of Revolutionary America, the Early Republic, loyalism in the Atlantic world, New York City, John Dickinson and the Adams Family of Massachusetts.   


Dr. Peter Walker is an Professor of History at the University of Wyoming.  His areas of research are on early modern Britain, the British Empire, and the Atlantic World, with particular interests in religion, empire, and revolution.  He is editing, with Dr. Christopher Minty, a book-length documentary edition of the correspondence of the loyalist refugee Myles Cooper. 



New York and the Great Hunger in Ireland (webinar)

Date: Wednesday, February 10, 2021  

Time: 1:00pm - 2:00pm 

Speaker: Dr. Harvey Strum 

Registration Link: 


Dr. Harvey Strum will discuss the efforts in New York to raise money, food, and clothing for the Irish and Scots in 1846-47 during the Great Famine or Great Hunger of 1845-52. He will also mention New Yorkers efforts to help the Irish during the food shortages of the early 1860s and in 1879-80 during the Little Famine in Ireland. New York in 1847 raised more money and shipped more food to Ireland than any other city or state in the country. New York City sent more aid to Ireland and Albany's Irish Catholics contributed more than any other Catholic community. 


Dr. Harvey Strum has been a professor of History and Political Science at the Sage Colleges for over 30 years.  His main areas of research are the politics of the early national period; the War of 1812; American responses to the famines in Ireland in the 1860s and 1879-1882; and American Jewish History. 



The Vanderbilts: An Empire Founded on Staten Island (webinar)

Date: Thursday, February 18, 2021 

Time: 1:00pm - 2:00pm 

Speaker: Patricia Salmon 

Registration Link:

 The shipping and railroad empire started by Cornelius Vanderbilt began on Staten Island. Eventually, his son William H. took over with the result that he became the richest man in the world. Both Cornelius and William H. were passionate about succeeding and crushing their opponents. Whether it was greed or the need to be the best, their shrewdness and aggressiveness brought them riches beyond comprehension. Their legacy and its Staten Island connections will be examined as we discuss Vanderbilt family lineage, their properties and homes, the Vanderbilt Cemetery and Mausoleum, and more.  


Patricia M. Salmon is the former Curator of History at the Staten Island Museum .A Staten Island resident for fifty years, Ms. Salmon has authored five books including Staten Island's Brewery Barons; Realms of History: The Cemeteries of Staten Island; and The Staten Island Ferry: A History. She is on the Board of Directors of the Tottenville Historical Society and the Friends of the Olmsted-Beil House. Ms. Salmon is an Adjunct Professor at the College of Staten Island and a guest lecturer at Wagner College.  



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