A Catskill Catalog by Bill Birns

Bill Birns presents a weekly essay on history, geography, day-trips, arts and culture in the Catskill Mountain region.

A Catskill Catalog: Feb. 2, 2011

Basketball proves the old maxim about necessity being the mother of invention. In 1891, James Naismith, a Canadian, teaching at the International YMCA Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts, had a class of incorrigibles.


A Catskill Catalog: Jan. 26, 2011

Mining and forestry were the cutting-edge applied sciences of the late 1800s, the practical use of our continental, and, folks thought, nearly inexhaustible supply of raw materials that would make our country an economic powerhouse. Mining and forestry brought science and engineering to the extraction of ore and timber, mineral wealth and woodland abundance, for the benefit of humankind.


A Catskill Catalog: Jan. 19, 2011

Someone posts a question on Facebook. Hiking the mountains, he can’t tell a Red Spruce from a Norway Spruce from a Balsam Fir. Can anybody help?


A Catskill Catalog: Jan. 5, 2011

One hundred years ago, people still expected a bit of fiction in the newspaper. The 20th century was still young, as is our 21st. At the cusp of the age of electricity, Victorian reading habits still demanded a bit of kerosene lamp reading, what we’d call soap opera today: continuing stories filled with melodrama and escapist romance.


A Catskill Catalog: Jan. 5, 2011

One hundred years ago, people still expected a bit of fiction in the newspaper. The 20th century was still young, as is our 21st. At the cusp of the age of electricity, Victorian reading habits still demanded a bit of kerosene lamp reading, what we’d call soap opera today: continuing stories filled with melodrama and escapist romance.