Ethan Allen (1738-89) was a controversial Revolutionary War hero. Born in Litchfield, Connecticut, in 1738, he is best known as one of the founders of the U.S. state of Vermont and for his involvement in forming the volunteer militia known as the Green Mountain Boys. Allen and the Green Mountain Boys, along with Benedict Arnold, captured Fort Ticonderoga, on the New York State side of Lake Champlain, from the British.
In the late 1760s Allen became interested in the region known as the New Hampshire Grants, an area which comprised present-day Vermont. In 1769 he settled in Bennington where he soon attained prominence in the legal struggle between New York and New Hampshire for control of the region. Setbacks led to the formation of a volunteer militia, the Green Mountain Boys, to resist and evict proponents of the New York cause. At the outbreak of the American Revolution in 1775, Allen and the Green Mountain Boys offered their services against the British.
Early on the morning of May 10, 1775, acting on orders from Connecticut, Allen, Benedict Arnold, a Connecticut soldier, and a contingent of the Green Mountain Boys surprised and captured Fort Ticonderoga. Allen demanded the surrender of the British commander “in the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress.” Following this military feat, he rendered valuable service in the operations against Canada as a member of Gen. Philip Schuyler’s army. In September 1775 Allen was taken prisoner after a failed attempt on Montreal; he was confined until released in a prisoner exchange in 1778. He returned home following his release and was commissioned a lieutenant colonel in the Continental Army and a major general of the militia.
Allen’s activities following 1778 included appearing before the Continental Congress on behalf of Vermont’s claims for recognition as an independent state. Along with his brother and other Vermonters, he devoted most of his time to the territorial dispute, negotiating with the Canadian governor between 1780 and 1783, ostensibly for establishing Vermont as a Canadian province. Unfortunately, on the basis of this, Benedict Arnold was later charged with treason. This charge was never substantiated—the negotiations were intended to force favorable action on the status of Vermont by the Continental Congress.
Allen wrote accounts of his exploits in the war, as well as philosophical treatises relating to the politics of the formation of the state of Vermont. Business dealings included one of Connecticut’s early iron works, successful farming operations, and land speculation in the Vermont territory. Allen and his brothers purchased tracts of land that eventually became Burlington, Vermont.
History describes Ethan Allen as a fiercely independent man, a bit crude, brash and daring; in life, an overbearing, loud-mouthed braggart, although a loyal patriot who did not know the meaning of fear. George Washington is said to have written about Allen, “There is an original something about him that commands attention.” Alexander Graydon, paroled with Allen during his captivity in New York, described Allen:
His figure was that of a robust, large-framed man, worn down by confinement and hard fare; but he was now recovering his flesh and spirits; and a suit of blue clothes, with a gold laced hat that had been presented to him by the gentlemen of Cork, enabled him to make a very passable appearance for a rebel colonel … I have seldom met with a man, possessing, in my opinion, a stronger mind, or whose mode of expression was more vehement and oratorical. Notwithstanding that Allen might have had something of the insubordinate, lawless frontier spirit in his composition…he appeared to me to be a man of generosity and honor.
Allen died in Burlington, Vermont on February 12, 1789, two years before Vermont was admitted to the Union; he is assumed buried near the site of his monument. His final home, on the Onion River (now Winooski River), is part of the Ethan Allen Homestead and Museum. Guided tours are available for viewing his homestead in Burlington.
Discover the History of American Empire here, in this fun video, by Howard Zinn.
In Ithaca, New York, located in the West End among several brick buildings, is a rather whimsically lettered building with AEROPLANE FACTORY in large letters on the front and back of the building. The building is near the old Ithaca Municipal Airport, believed to be the second airport in New York State, now occupied by Cass Park and the Hangar Theatre. One day when I was working in the aeroplane factory building, I decided to find out the building’s history. The buildings now hold offices for Performance Systems Development, an Ithaca-based firm specializing in home performance software, and Sunnywood Designs, programming, website and print design. Surprisingly, I found out that it really was an aeroplane factory for one of the first airplane-manufacturing companies in the United States.
Ithaca’s aviation history began when The Thomas Brothers Company was founded in 1910 by English expatriate brothers William T. and Oliver W. Thomas in Hammondsport, NY. The company moved to Hornell, NY, and later to Bath, NY, remaining in Bath until 1914. A number of planes were built there; one of these planes gained the world’s altitude record in 1913. During 1912-13 the company operated an affiliated Thomas School of Aviation in Cayuga Lake, New York, and in 1913 the name became the Thomas Brothers Aeroplane Company with its home in Ithaca, New York. In 1915 Thomas Aeromotor Company was added. After a 1917 merger with the Morse Chain Company in Ithaca, and a recapitalization, it became Thomas-Morse Aircraft Corporation. It became the Thomas-Morse Division of Consolidated Aircraft Corporation in 1919, and it ceased business in 1934.
In 1915, the Thomas-Morse Aircraft Corporation built 24 T-2 biplanes for the Royal Naval Service, with a similar plane on floats for the United States Navy. After the merger in 1917, the new company became more serious about meeting military requirements; they were successful and produced planes operated by both the U. S. Army and Navy. The most important plane produced was the Thomas-Morse S-4 Scout advanced trainer. This plane, dubbed the ‘Tommy’ by pilots who flew it, became the favorite single-seat training airplane produced in the U.S. during World War I. The Thomas-Morse company played a pivotal role in aviation history: the Tommy Scout plane was used by practically every pursuit flying school in the U.S. during 1918, and virtually every American and Canadian combat pilot soloed in the Tommy before departing for active duty in World War I. After the war many of these Tommies were sold as surplus to civilian flying schools, sportsman pilots, and ex-Army fliers. By the mid-1930s many were still being used for World War I aviation movies filmed in Hollywood–the Tommy could play British, French, and German aircraft with little more than different tail surfaces and paint jobs. It appeared in Hell’s Angels and Dawn Patrol.
In February 2011, a half-scale model of a Thomas-Morse S-4C (created by Otis C. Drew in 1994, as a tribute to his father, Otis T. Drew, who worked on the production line of the Thomas-Morse Aircraft Corp) appeared in the lobby of the Tompkins County Regional Airport, Ithaca, NY, as part of their celebration of historical fighting aircraft. The wing to be on display at the History Center is unique in that, because it does not have its final cover on yet, it will enable the public a rare glimpse into the internal wooden structure of ‘The Tommy’. The wing can be seen at The History Center, 401 E. State St, Ithaca, NY, through May 2011.
Railroads carved through the lands to help build cities and technology. TheyTThT TheyThey were a vital part of the American economy, speedily moving freight and passengers around the country. The Invention of the Steam Engine was a major part of the modern railroad and train system. Samuel Homfray funded the development of a steam engine to replace the horse drawn carriages on the tramways in 1803, which was the first step in developing trains and railroads.