Ernest Blue Vistas in the Trees Beyond Prison Bars
Page 5 of stories and sidebars associated with the life and times of Ernest W. Blue. Complied by his son, Allan G. Blue.

Above is an image of the cover of The Many Lives of Robert Rosenbluth - 1887 through 1962, an apparently unpublished 94-page autobiography by the man who played so pivotal a role in Ernest W. Blue's life. RR wrote his 1962 name and address at the top of the cover page. The Webmaster has digitally blocked out the house address to protect the privacy of whomever may now be living there. NYCHS appreciates EWB's son, Allan G. Blue, making the 1962 manuscript available for review purposes.
This Page 5 of Ernest Blue Vistas in the Trees Beyond Prison Bars is a continuation of a review by the NYCHS webmaster of The Many Lives of Robert Rosenbluth - 1887 through 1962, an unpublished 94-page autobiography by the man who played so pivotal a role in Ernest W. Blue's life. The next few pages (now being drafted) also are devoted to the review.

RR sent a mimeographed copy to EWB in 1962 but was still working on it in September 1964 when he wrote EWB requesting photos, presumably to submit for publication with his text whenever, or if ever, finally finished. This review of the manuscript focuses mainly on the correction history aspects although other phases in RR's "many lives" are mentioned.

The concluding page of this extended review of the Rosenbluth ms will address his becoming the "American Dreyfus."
---The Webmaster

(A review continued.)

On Page 6 of the 94-page manuscript, Robert Rosenbluth expanded upon his earlier Dannemora references:

The wintry character of Clinton Correctional Facility region is reflected in the undated image above based on View #70 of the 74 views in the on-line slide-show of "Old Dannemora" provided by the Village of Dannemora website. The snowy roadway shown with private homes facing the prison wall is the village's Main Street.

Below: Undated View #46 of the 74 views in the village website's slide-show features what appears Dannemora's 1000+ inmate population lined up in prison yard. A scene such as this, though perhaps at a later period, is recounted on Page 7 of Rosenbluth's autobiography.

Click either image to access the excellent on-line slide-show of "Old Dannemora" views at the Village of Dannemora website.

. . . Dannemora . . . in more ways than one, was the "Siberia" of New York State Prisons.

I remember very well on that North slope of the Adirondacks, a temperature of 44 degrees below zero at 11 o'clock in the morning and trying to go out and work -- but having to turn back.

In discussing the selection of the first group of inmates to work in the woods, he told on Page 7 an amusing story how the warden, refusing to give any guidance in picking prisoners for the forestry project on which his opposition had been overruled by the state prisons superintendent, lined up the 1,200 convicts in the yard under armed guard.

I called for a show of hands as to how many had worked in the woods and had woodsmen experience, and the 1200 prisoners' hands went up. Every other question I asked, 1200 hands went up.

Finally, I said, "look, I like to eat, and I am going to eat with you; how many experienced cooks in the group?" 1200 hands went up. By this time every one including myself was laughing . . .

The undated image above, derived from View #43 of the 74 views in the on-line slide-show of "Old Dannemora" provided by the Village of Dannemora website, shows two keepers organizing what may have been a work crew of about a dozen and a half Clinton penitentiary inmates.

The undated image below, derived from View #4 of the 74 views in the on-line slide-show of "Old Dannemora" provided by the Village of Dannemora website, shows what appears to have been keepers supervising inmates on a roadway project. Interesting combination of vehicles used: motorized steamroller and a horse-drawn water wagon.

Click either image to access the excellent on-line slide-show of "Old Dannemora" views at the Village of Dannemora website.

Such passages make reading RR's ms so worthwhile because they give insight into the human dynamic not totally dulled by institutionalization.

The same page includes a moving description of the forest camp's first night after the four guards returned to Dannemora with the wagons that had brought Rosenbluth, the dozen inmates he had picked and their supplies to the site reputedly 20 miles from the Canadian border.

Slim, whom I had chosen as camp cook, stood outside the tent ignoring my orders to go to bed.

Finally, I said to him, "Slim, you have to get up at 4:30 in the morning to get breakfast; you need sleep."

To this he replied, "Look Bob, I haven't seen a star for 13 years (the length of time he had been in prison for his fourth offense) and I just can't sleep!’

I said, "Will you get up and get breakfast?" He said "Yes." I said, "Will you shake on it?" We did, and he got breakfast. . . .

On Page 8, RR remarked:

Franklin D. Roosevelt is shown at his desk in the NY State Senate to which he was elected (narrowly but, for a Democrat, amazingly) in 1910 from his Hyde Park home district in Dutchess County, then rock-ribbed Republican. He resigned his State Senate seat in 1913 to accept appointment as Navy Assistant Secretary from President Wilson. Click image to access extensive timeline information about FDR on the Presidential Timeline Project website where appears a larger version of the photo from the FDR Presidential Library. A useful educational resource, the website was designed and developed by the Learning Technology Center in the University of Texas at Austin College of Education, in conjunction with the Presidential Libraries and Terra Incognita Productions.
I lost not one man by escape, and they not only respected me, but dealt very harshly with outsiders who occasionally offered whiskey or other bribes to them. . . . this work was not only most successful, but was widely reported . . .

It was known to the then-Senator Franklin D. Roosevelt, with whom we in the Conservation Commission then had frequent contact, because he was Chairman of the State Senate Conservation Committee. It led also to my being made head of the New York City Reformatory which was to be established at New Hampton, sixty miles from New York City, and to be run on an "Honor System."

On the same page and Pages 9 and 10, Rosenbluth detailed how he and his assistant, Ernest Blue, uncovered and documented use of state lands that resulted in a successful lawsuit, State of New York vs. the Chateaugay Ore & Iron Company, the latter being a subsidiary of the Delaware and Hudson Railroad.

Page 11 of the RR ms is the text of a letter to him written by EWB December 12, 1961 from the Blue residence in Poland, N. Y.:

Above is an image of the cover of Chateaugay Ore & Iron Company shown on a page of TEACH Services, Inc., a local histories publishing company set up in 1984 by Timothy G. Hullquist, vice-president of the Franklin County Historical and Museum Society in Malone, NY.

The book tells the adventure-filled story of an "ironworks" founded in the dense wilderness of the Adirondack Mountains. The iron ore was recognized as the best found in America.This history was compiled by company V.P. Linney in 1934, and coincided with an annual inspection trip of the Board of Directors of the Delaware and Hudson Railroad, of which it had become a subsidiary. Click image to access more about the book.

Below is an image detail from a map depicting locations of known bloomery wrought iron forge sites and iron ore mines of Clinton County and vicinity. "A" represents the location of Chateaugay Mine (Lyon Mountain) and "B," the Averill Mine (Dannemora). The "6" represents the C.O.& I. Co (D&H Co. 1903) forge at Standish; the "7," the Dannemora forge at Clinton Prison.

The full map appears in an article A Large Business: The Clintonville Site, Resources, and Scale at Adirondack Bloomery Forges by Gordon C. Pollard and Haagen D. Klaus in the Journal of The Society For Industrial Archeology issue Volume 30, No. 1, 2004. The article explains:

Ironworks that owned or leased a mine were able to depend upon that one ore source. The state-run Clinton Prison at Dannemora, which owned and leased mines within or very near the prison walls, was a prime example. The Averill Mine at Dannemora (Figure 1, mine B) also provided ore to 10 forge sites of the Saranac River valley between 1842 and 1872. Ore from the extensive Chateaugay beds to the east of Upper Chateaugay Lake at Lyon Mountain (Figure 1, mine A), between 1874 and 1907, were worked in the fires of at least eight forges, including three sites on the Big Chazy River, three on the Saranac River, as well as the large, nearby bloomery operations at Bellmont and the forge and blast furnace works at Standish.

Click image to access full map image and article on the website of the History Cooperative, a pioneering nonprofit humanities resource offering top-level online history scholarship. The American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, the University of Illinois Press, and the National Academy Press launched the History Cooperative in 2000. .

Dear Bob:
Thank you for your interesting letter.

First of all let me tell you that the credit for winning that case against the Chateaugay Ore and Iron Company is all yours for I did only what you asked me to do.

It seems to me that you became interested when we just happened to stumble on to one of the original corners of the so-called Vaughan Allotment which did not jibe with the western boundary of the [Dannemora] State Prison land.

The company had just finished cutting the virgin timber on their side when we first went over this line.

You found out that a surveyor named Vaughn divided Township-5 Old Military Tract, into mile-square lots and later on a paper allotment called the "Hannah Murray Allotment" was drawn up and a map recorded in the County Clerks Office in P1attsberg.

Since many conveyances were made in accordance with this paper allotment, the only way they could be located on the ground was to locate the original Vaughan lot and then divide it into thirds since the Hannah Murray lots were a mile in length (North & South) and 1/3 of the length of the South Line.

Surveyor Johnson told us that he was instructed to locate the State boundaries in this way although he knew from his work in locating Hannah Murray lots within the framework of the Vaughan lots that there was a big overrun in Township-5 from East to West.

The State won, I believe, because it was held to be entitled to its share of this over-run.

I was never called as a witness in the case but I once did bring Mr. Johnson to Albany on the train and had a hard time getting him from the railroad station across the street to the old Keeler Hotel for he was very badly crippled.

David C. Wood was the surveyor who had overall charge of the re-survey. I had already located the southeast corner of Township-5 and pointed it out to him. Two survey crews began at this corner. One was in charge of Pete Gaylord and Al King took the other.

Above is an image detail from an illustration accompanying Part 2 (The Prison Mine Plan) of a Brief History of Clinton Prison by Ron Roizen elsewhere on the New York Correction History Society (NYCHS) website.

The detail shows is the entrance shack (labeled "r") for the Thomas and Watson Mine on the prison grounds and its Tram Railroad track (labeled "r").

Below is an image detail from an illustration accompanying Part 3 (After the Mine Closed) of the Brief History of Clinton Prison elsewhere on the NYCHS website.

The detail shows is at the top the entrance shack (labeled "q") for the Hall Mine outside the prison grounds. Also shown is smoke rising from various facilities processing the ore on the prison grounds.

Clicking the image above accesses Part 2 of the prison history by Prof. Roizen; clicking the image below accesses Part 3.

One went West on the South line and the other North on the East line and they went entirely around the township. This survey proved the big over-run.

Sorry I am such a poor typist.

Yes, I do remember our trip to Montreal and I also remember that we ran out of money and got real hungry.

As we were waiting in the railroad station for the train back to Plattsburgh (luckily we did have return tickets) a lady sitting near us took an earlier train, leaving a large paper sack in her seat.

When she had gone out of sight, we retrieved the sack -- it was full of bananas. Your comment was "Manna from Heaven."

Ernest Blue

Obviously, EWB wrote the letter in direct response to a written request by RR about two specific events -- their extremely low-budget visit to Montreal and their getting Dannemora land back for the State from an iron ore company.

The RR ms Pages 12 through 36 cover such subjects XYZ.

Page 37 has the heading "Chapter IV: Jails I have Been In."

In my forestry days, I started work outside the wall with the prisoners in the eight New York’s State Prisons, reformatories and juvenile custodial institutions. (I also started and worked with inmates at 15 Insane Asylums” (now called ‘Hospitals) and other state institutions, and many private ones.

After that very brief paragraph reference to the 8 state prisons, 15 state asylums and other facilities, the rest of Page 37 and next 13 pages of the manuscript focus mostly on NYC Correction's Orange County "honor farm."

In l9l1 and 1915, I started the New York City Reformatory at New Hampton, developing it on an honor basis, and building with inmates the temporary buildings which housed then; operated a very large farm; built railroad sidings, and the foundations, water supply, sewage disposals and roads for the permanent institution, and developed educational programs, and even more important, selected and trained the staff.

In his autobio, RR recalled riding a City Island monorail on his circuitous journey to the NYC Reformatory on Hart Island. The image above shows how the monorail looked from outside. The image below shows how it looked on the inside. Both images, circa 1910, are derived from larger Library of Congress photos appearing on Wikipedia.

Historian Bill Twomey, in his book The Bronx: Bits and Pieces, mentions "The monorail that operated from the Bartow station also terminated at Marshall's Corner. It was operated by the Pelham Park and City Island Railroad and was nicknamed The Flying Lady. It plied the route from 1910 to 1914.

For a Google Books preview of a City Island part of Twomey's book The Bronx: Bits and Pieces, click the above image. For a mini-history of Hart Island by Twomey appearing elsewhere on our NYCHS site, click the image below.

It was important that staff work along with the inmates and "teach them by doing" just as the inmates "learned by doing."

Rosenbluth recalled how at the beginning, New Hampton Farms had no operating budget appropriation and how

I begged and borrowed equipment (mostly broken-down, needing extensive repairs) and also begged live-stock, educational material and everything else needed.

Youths were transferred from the old NYC Reformatory on Hart Island.

I well recall the first time I went to Hart Island; I came into New York City by the Erie Railroad to Jersey City, by ferry to New York; by horsecar to the Brooklyn Bridge and by the elevated train to the Bronx. Then by monorail to City Island; then walked to the dock and finally took a rowboat, manned by inmates to Hart Island (a three-hour trip in all).

The taking of the first prisoners from Hart Island to the new Reformatory site at New Hampton received newspaper coverage. The prisoners were transported in a prison van to the Erie Railroad station in Jersey City, where they were transferred to RR's custody, without any guards accompanying them the rest of the way.

RR acknowledged the "complete and unswerving" support of "the famous Katharine Bement Davis, the best Commissioner the city has ever had." He also credited the help of "my principal assistant [who] had worked with me at Dannemora" [the name of Ernest Blue is written in] and the son-in-law of another Dannemora worker [who] became the head farmer.

He, his wife and his children lived in the only habitable house on the 600-acre farm, while the rest of us lived with the inmates in a house which was not habitable until we repaired it, and then built bunk houses as the population expanded.

Above is an image of a security tower erected on the grounds of the former New York State Training School for Boys at Warwick after the State Department of Correctional Services acquired it for prison use and it became the Mid-Orange Correction Facility. Click image to access its history appearing elsewhere on our NYCHS site.
Among the inmates, who averaged from 19 to 21 years of age, Rosenbluth recalled one as standing out in memory "a real tough, from "Hell’s Kitchen."

When ready for parole, RR placed him on a farm and enrolled him in correspondence courses. Then, in World War I, the ex-inmate distinguished himself as a soldier, and 20 years later, when Rosenbluth helped establish the New York Training School for Boys, RR made him Assistant Superintendent, in which position "he achieved outstanding success."

One of the more amusing "Recollections" tells the tale of a civilian member of the parole board that decided questions of Reformatory inmate releases.

The meetings [of the NYC Reformatory parole panel] always started this way: The Commissioner [Davis] would call the Board into session and one of the members, always smoking a big black cigar, would immediately address the Commissioner with this question: "I am informed that Mr. Rosenbluth provides the inmates at New Hampton with cigarettes and I ask him whether this is true, since it is contrary to law."

I would, of course, answer "Yes, because these 17 to 20 year-old youths had been smoking for years; would always smoke; and that more violations of institutional discipline took place because of illegal attempts to get cigarettes than for anything else, and, since the cigarettes I gave them (one after each meal) was a better and more adequate source than any other, and since cigarette smoking, law or no law, never got anyone into trouble or made anyone delinquent, I gave them cigarettes and got in return, not only great cooperation, but also one of the best ways of reformation."

Above is an aerial view of the NYC Reformatory in New Hampton, Orange County, from the New York City Department of Correction 1954 annual report by Commissioner Anna M. Kross.

The photo appears in that report on a page outlining the reformatory's history up to that point and describing its 1954 operations. The text from that page appears elsewhere on our site. Click the image to access it.

The image below shows a portion of a 1941 letterhead of the New York City Parole Commission, a panel begun by Correction Commissioner Katharine Bement Davis in 1915. The full letterhead appears elsewhere on our NYCHS site in a page detailing its history and operations. Click the image to access that page.

Note that the list of parole panel members on the letterhead includes the name Henry L. Gehrig, better known as Lou Gehrig. The page also tells the story of his service on the board after he could not longer play first base for the New York Yankees.

Baseball's "Iron Man" took his appointment to the commission by Mayor LaGuardia quite seriously, visiting the Tombs and Rikers, attending board meetings, interviewing parole applicants as well as reading all he could on the theory and practice of parole.

The NYC parole board ceased functioning in 1967 when the maximum sentence of incarceration that could served in any of NYC's correctional facilities was set at 1 year, with the state prisons to receive all those convicts sentenced to more than 1 year.

Continuing to smoke his big black cigar, this Parole Board member would say, "Commissioner, since Mr. Rosenbluth admits violation of the law, I move that his case be turned over to the District Attorney for prosecution."

The Commissioner, laughing, would then say, "Is there a second to the motion?" Invariably, there was none, and we would go on with the parole hearing.

Of course, in our own time, cigarettes are once again jail contraband, and even the complaining member would be in violation of the law if he smoked his "big black cigar" at an official government agency meeting. . . .

The RR ms goes on to suggest that the New Hampton Farms parole board served as the precursor for the NYC Parole Commission that Commissioner Davis initiated and on which she served first chairperson in 1915 and 1916:

One particularly good thing came out of the New Hampton Parole Board meetings; namely that for the first time, a small full-time, all-paid Parole Board was created for all New York City's Correctional Institutions . . . . Subsequently, this same principle of a full-time paid parole board was extended to New York State for all the State Correctional Institutions.

Dr. Davis' experiences presiding over the New Hampton parole panel may well have reinforced the progressive principles that she brought with her to the post of NYC Correction Commissioner after 13 years of running Bedford Hills Reformatory (where she also a significant parole role). But RR's remarks seem to imply that the NYC Parole Commission begun by her and eventually the state parole board were the direct happy byproducts of the reformatory parole proceedings in which he played a part.

Progressive penology pioneer Zebulon Reed Brockway opened the world's first reformatory for young men in 1876 at Elmira, N. Y.

One of the features of the Elmira Reformatory scene, beginning in the late 1880s, was its military-like precision marching drills program.

Click either image -- the main building above or inmates on parade -- to access the facility's history appearing elsewhere on our NYCHS site.

New Yorkers' experience with reformatories, indeterminate sentences, good conduct credits, parole proceedings and parolee supervision -- core elements of progressive penology -- traces back at least more than a generation before New Hampton farms ever opened. Elmira Reformatory, generally credited as the first young men's reformatory embodying the key principles of progressive penology, opened in 1876. In subsequent years, other such institutions sprang up around the state (and the country), including the Bedford Hills facility, over whose opening Dr. Davis had presided, and the NYC Reformatory on Hart Island.

Was the NYC Reformatory experience at New Hampton one of the factors that figured in the city parole panel's emergence? Quite likely. Was it as a decisive a factor as RR's remarks suggest. Quite unlikely. The decisive factor was Commissioner Davis.

Instead of returning to forestry after expiration of his two-year commitment at New Hampton Farms, Rosenbluth accepted a position as assistant director of the Institute for Public Services headed by Dr. William H. Allen, one of the pioneers of what has become known variously as municipal research, performance measurement, and government accountability. His work for the Institute -- what today we would call a think tank -- occasionally involved analysis and recommendations concerning correctional systems in other states.

In later years (1928 - 1935), as NYS Department of Social Welfare Assistant Commissioner, Rosenbluth

. . . I went into government research (which needs a chapter in itself). then into World War I, and subsequently into Welfare and other activities, including working now as Assistant Director of Cook County (Chicago) Department of Welfare, because, fortunately among other things, there is no compulsory retirement here because of age.

It was as Assistant Director that RR signed off his 5-page response to J. S. Stokes.

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