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The Catskills: Its History and How It Changed America
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The Catskills (“Cat Creek” in Dutch), America’s original frontier, northwest of New York City, with its seven hundred thousand acres of forest land preserve and its five counties—Delaware, Greene, Sullivan, Ulster, Schoharie; America’s first great vacationland; the subject of the nineteenth-century Hudson River School paintings that captured the almost godlike majesty of the mountains and landscapes, the skies, waterfalls, pastures, cliffs . . . refuge and home to poets and gangsters, tycoons and politicians, preachers and outlaws, musicians and spiritualists, outcasts and rebels . . . Stephen Silverman and Raphael Silver tell of the turning points that made the Catskills so vital to the development of America: Henry Hudson’s first spotting the distant blue mountains in 1609; the New York State constitutional convention, resulting in New York’s own Declaration of Independence from Great Britain and its own constitution, causing the ire of the invading British army . . . the Catskills as a popular attraction in the 1800s, with the construction of the Catskill Mountain House and its rugged imitators that offered WASP guests “one-hundred percent restricted” accommodations (“Hebrews will knock vainly for admission”), a policy that remained until the Catskills became the curative for tubercular patients, sending real-estate prices plummeting and the WASP enclave on to richer pastures . . . Here are the gangsters (Jack “Legs” Diamond and Dutch Schultz, among them) who sought refuge in the Catskill Mountains, and the resorts that after World War II catered to upwardly mobile Jewish families, giving rise to hundreds of hotels inspired by Grossinger’s, the original “Disneyland with knishes”—the Concord, Brown’s Hotel, Kutsher’s Hotel, and others—in what became known as the Borscht Belt and Sour Cream Alps, with their headliners from movies and radio (Phil Silvers, Eddie Cantor, Milton Berle, et al.), and others who learned their trade there, among them Moss Hart (who got his start organizing summer theatricals), Sid Caesar, Lenny Bruce, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, and Joan Rivers. Here is a nineteenth-century America turning away from England for its literary and artistic inspiration, finding it instead in Washington Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle” and his childhood recollections (set in the Catskills) . . . in James Fenimore Cooper’s adventure-romances, which provided a pastoral history, describing the shift from a colonial to a nationalist mentality . . . and in the canvases of Thomas Cole, Asher B. Durand, Frederick Church, and others that caught the grandeur of the wilderness and that gave texture, color, and form to Irving’s and Cooper’s imaginings. Here are the entrepreneurs and financiers who saw the Catskills as a way to strike it rich, plundering the resources that had been likened to “creation,” the Catskills’ tanneries that supplied the boots and saddles for Union troops in the Civil War . . . and the bluestone quarries whose excavated rock became the curbs and streets of the fast-growing Eastern Seaboard.  Here are the Catskills brought fully to life in all of their intensity, beauty, vastness, and lunacy.
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Street Date:
10/27/2015
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781101875889
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B00TCI48IQ
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APA Citation (style guide)

Stephen M. Silverman. (2015). The Catskills: Its History and How It Changed America. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Stephen M. Silverman. 2015. The Catskills: Its History and How It Changed America. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

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Stephen M. Silverman, The Catskills: Its History and How It Changed America. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2015.

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Stephen M. Silverman. The Catskills: Its History and How It Changed America. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2015. Web.

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      • bioText: STEPHEN M. SILVERMAN is a twenty-year veteran of Time Inc. and was the founding editor of People.com. His books include biographies of the filmmakers David Lean and Stanley Donen, and his work has appeared in Esquire, Harper's Bazaar, The New York Times, The Times (London), Vogue, and The Washington Post. He lives in New York City.
        RAPHAEL D. SILVER grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of a rabbi, and lived in New York City until his death in 2013. A real-estate developer, he founded Silverfilm with his wife, director Joan Micklin Silver, and produced her Hester Street and Crossing Delancey. His first novel, Congregation, was published posthumously.
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title
The Catskills
fullDescription
The Catskills (“Cat Creek” in Dutch), America’s original frontier, northwest of New York City, with its seven hundred thousand acres of forest land preserve and its five counties—Delaware, Greene, Sullivan, Ulster, Schoharie; America’s first great vacationland; the subject of the nineteenth-century Hudson River School paintings that captured the almost godlike majesty of the mountains and landscapes, the skies, waterfalls, pastures, cliffs . . . refuge and home to poets and gangsters, tycoons and politicians, preachers and outlaws, musicians and spiritualists, outcasts and rebels . . .
Stephen Silverman and Raphael Silver tell of the turning points that made the Catskills so vital to the development of America: Henry Hudson’s first spotting the distant blue mountains in 1609; the New York State constitutional convention, resulting in New York’s own Declaration of Independence from Great Britain and its own constitution, causing the ire of the invading British army . . . the Catskills as a popular attraction in the 1800s, with the construction of the Catskill Mountain House and its rugged imitators that offered WASP guests “one-hundred percent restricted” accommodations (“Hebrews will knock vainly for admission”), a policy that remained until the Catskills became the curative for tubercular patients, sending real-estate prices plummeting and the WASP enclave on to richer pastures . . .
Here are the gangsters (Jack “Legs” Diamond and Dutch Schultz, among them) who sought refuge in the Catskill Mountains, and the resorts that after World War II catered to upwardly mobile Jewish families, giving rise to hundreds of hotels inspired by Grossinger’s, the original “Disneyland with knishes”—the Concord, Brown’s Hotel, Kutsher’s Hotel, and others—in what became known as the Borscht Belt and Sour Cream Alps, with their headliners from movies and radio (Phil Silvers, Eddie Cantor, Milton Berle, et al.), and others who learned their trade there, among them Moss Hart (who got his start organizing summer theatricals), Sid Caesar, Lenny Bruce, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, and Joan Rivers.
Here is a nineteenth-century America turning away from England for its literary and artistic inspiration, finding it instead in Washington Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle” and his childhood recollections (set in the Catskills) . . . in James Fenimore Cooper’s adventure-romances, which provided a pastoral history, describing the shift from a colonial to a nationalist mentality . . . and in the canvases of Thomas Cole, Asher B. Durand, Frederick Church, and others that caught the grandeur of the wilderness and that gave texture, color, and form to Irving’s and Cooper’s imaginings.
Here are the entrepreneurs and financiers who saw the Catskills as a way to strike it rich, plundering the resources that had been likened to “creation,” the Catskills’ tanneries that supplied the boots and saddles for Union troops in the Civil War . . . and the bluestone quarries whose excavated rock became the curbs and streets of the fast-growing Eastern Seaboard. 
Here are the Catskills brought fully to life in all of their intensity, beauty, vastness, and lunacy.
reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        Excitement about Stephen Silverman's THE CATSKILLS "Handsomely illustrated . . . Everyone's always predicting that the Catskills are going to make a comeback. They're beautiful, inexpensive, accessible and, as Silverman and Silver demonstrate, rich in historical interest." -- Nicholas Lemann, Times Book Review "Should be commended for its sheer ambition . . . engaging . . . Although we think we may have read some of this in different form elsewhere, it puts everything--or almost everything--together in one place, providing texture, context, chronology, and a narrative framework for a region with a history as rich and abundant as the fare served at any of its storied hotels." -- Jack Schwartz, Daily Beast "Remarkable, enthusiastic, well-researched . . . The authors blend history and folklore to create a perfect addition to any New York State history collection."

      • premium: False
      • source: Publishers Weekly
      • content: "Lively . . . Stuffed with interesting sidebars and biographical sketches, the authors' loose-limbed texts meanders along many an intriguing byway of quaint and forgotten lore. Readers will enjoy this absorbing browse through a multifaceted regional history that's deeper than its surface glitz might suggest."
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        August 31, 2015
        Borscht-Belt frolics are but a part of the cultural innovations nurtured in upstate New York’s scenic Catskill mountain range, according to this lively illustrated history. Journalist Silverman (David Lean) and the late filmmaker Silver explore the region’s contributions to American literature (it’s the setting for Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle yarn and James Fenimore Cooper’s frontier sagas), art (it inspired the Hudson River School of effulgent landscape painting), and politics (it saw a revolt by tenant farmers against landlords in the 1840s and is now a hotbed of antifracking activism). Much of the book follows the Catskills’ role as incubator of the hospitality and entertainment industries, from the 19th-century Catskill Mountain House, whose sublime views made guests weep, to the area’s 20th-century heyday as Jewish New York’s vacation mecca, when it forged the model of immersive Las Vegas–style resorts and spawned generations of entertainers from Sid Caesar to Jerry Seinfeld. At the cultural antipode, the Catskills also hosted the 1969 Woodstock rock festival. Stuffed with interesting sidebars and biographical sketches, the authors’ loose-limbed text meanders along many an intriguing byway of quaint and forgotten lore. Readers will enjoy this absorbing browse through a multifaceted regional history that’s deeper than its surface glitz might suggest. Color photos.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        July 1, 2015
        A history that demonstrates "the color, charm, and even lunacy that for the past four hundred years have characterized the Catskill Mountains and the people attracted to them." Silverman (David Lean, 1992, etc.) and the late Silver (Congregation, 2014) stress the enormous influence of Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle and Sleepy Hollow, which invented a place of imagination for artists, painters, and essayists. Among those were America's first novelist, James Fenimore Cooper, whose Leatherstocking Tales enlightened Europeans and Americans of the beauty of the Catskills region; and Thomas Cole, the leader of the Hudson River School, who claimed that in America, all nature is new to art. In 1807, Robert Fulton's steamship, the Clermont, sailed from New York to Albany, further opening the area to travel. At first, industry such as tanning and bluestone mining took hold, followed by the arrival of migrants looking for a homestead. Unfortunately for the immigrants, the feudal practice of leasehold under the post-revolutionary landlords was too much. In the 1830s, the "rent wars" began, causing widespread evictions and forced sale of belongings. In addition to a host of other colorful characters, the authors point out two boyhood friends who traveled widely different paths: railroad tycoon Jay Gould and naturalist John Burroughs. One sought to protect the area, while the other exploited it. The railroads brought increasing numbers of visitors, and wealthy New Yorkers established large, restricted resorts, tuberculosis sanatoriums, and boardinghouses like that of the Grossingers. All of these expanded with the arrival of the automobile. Eventually, as the authors engagingly chronicle, the New York syndicate made up of Sicilian and Jewish gangsters discovered the fine hiding places of the area. As the days of the big resorts ebbed, the Arts and Crafts movement grew up around Woodstock, morphing into the hippie movement and the rise of folk music. Those who've seen the Catskills will love how the authors capture its magic. Those who haven't will start planning a trip.

        COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        August 1, 2015

        This remarkable volume by Silverman (Funny Ladies) and Silver (Congregation) chronicles the 400-year history of the Catskill Mountains in southeastern New York. Spanning Delaware, Greene, Schoharie, Sullivan, and Ulster counties, the Catskills have played a significant role in the history of the U.S. "frontier," and even in the development of a unique American identity. The rolling green hills have inspired countless writers, photographers, adventurers, artists, nature lovers, and tycoons. Beginning with the navigation of the river that came to be known as the Hudson, major events in Catskills history are explored in depth. These include early settlement by the Dutch and the creation of a literary identity as established writers such as Washington Irving and James Fenimore Cooper settled in the area. Also explored is the development of the Hudson River Railroad, the "Borscht Belt," and Woodstock. Final chapters focus on critical issues of the present day including the real estate boom and the controversy surrounding hydraulic fracturing. Research is pulled from countless primary source materials including photographs, newspaper clippings, maps, paintings, and portraits. VERDICT A remarkable, enthusiastic, and well-researched work. The authors blend history and folklore to create a perfect addition to any New York State history collection.--Lyndsie Robinson, Milne Lib., SUNY at Oneonta

        Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        Starred review from October 1, 2015
        New York State's Catskill Mountains have been a verdant laboratory for social experimentation, as Silverman and Silver reveal with zest and fluency in this avidly researched inquiry. Among the many intriguing individuals they profile are Washington Irving, who created the Catskills mythos with his tale of Rip Van Winkle; the painters of the Hudson River School who captured the land's glory; and renowned nature writer John Burroughs. They also meticulously document precipitous assaults against the Catskills' pristine and fecund wilderness by the tanning industry, the quarrying of bluestone the miracle material of its day and the flooding of Catskill towns and farms to create massive reservoirs for New York City. Here, too, are tales of slavery (Sojourner Truth), anti-Semitism, religious enclaves (Father Divine), and gangsters (Legs Diamond). Silverman and Silver take particular delight in chronicling the story of the Jewish resorts in the legendary Borscht Belt, from humble boarding houses to extravagant Grossinger's, where excess was the rule, from abundant food to torrid romance to A-list entertainment. Catskills lore also includes tales of Woodstock, from its early radical art colonies to the epic 1969 music festival, on to today's Hasidic communities, celebrity estates, and battles over fracking. Copiously illustrated, engrossing, and brimming with surprising disclosures, this definitive history illuminates a fabled and essential American microcosm.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2015, American Library Association.)

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The extraordinary, surprising history of the Catskills--America's original frontier; its first great vacation land, home of the Borscht Belt, and the Woodstock festival (the music festival to end all music festivals); the subject for the 19th-century Hudson River School paintings that gave texture, form, and color to the imaginings of Thomas Cole, Asher Durand, and Frederic Church; the setting for the tales of Washington Irving, which created American prototypes, and the novels of James Fenimore Cooper, which reinvented America's past and introduced it to its own myths and traditions, stories that were inspired by the mountains Irving and Cooper roamed in their youth.

The Catskills are legendary, home to poets, artists, hucksters and gangsters, idealists and tycoons, prizefighters, politicians, preachers and outlaws, musicians, spiritualists, outcasts and rebels, yet their centrality to the American experience has largely gone undiscovered--until now, with Stephen...
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Its History and How It Changed America
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