Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Using eBay ® -- of All Things! -- To Assist You With Your Research Into Local History

Please visit the HistoricPelham.com Web site
Located at

As you read this, there are many people out there rummaging through their attics, digging through their drawers and reviewing their old papers, postcards and photographs to find things that they might offer for sale online via the eBay® Web site. You should be thankful. Each of them is doing historical research for your benefit.

As odd as it may sound, you can learn a lot about Pelham history -- as well as the history of any locality you choose -- by watching the eBay® Web site closely and searching it wisely. This posting will address one such example intended as a teaching tool to help those who would like to learn how they might use the eBay® Web site the same way.

Not long ago, one of the many searches I ran on eBay® (using, of course, the advanced search feature) was a search for the simple and common-sense term "Pelham". Among the hundreds of items that the search query returned was a very odd item. It was a four-page "Programme" for the "Spring Meeting" of the "Country Club Steeplechase Association" held in "Pelham, Friday, June 1st, 1888." An image of the cover of the program appears immediately below.

There are references in many of the materials relating to the history of Pelham to a "race track" near the little red school house on Split Rock Road. But, I had never heard of the "Country Club Steeplechase Association". Another mystery was born. And, what is local history research other than trying to solve such "mysteries"?

Perhaps the most interesting part of this "mystery" is the fact that someone who did not live in Pelham, did not know anything about Pelham and was not interested in the history of Pelham had found this item in some old papers and made it available to a worldwide audience because she offered it for sale on eBay®.

My first step was the tried, true and tested step of searching the ProQuest® Historical Newspapers' New York Times Database. I repeatedly have blogged about that database and how to access it for free and use it properly to perform research. (For example, click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to read the February 8, 2005 posting entitled "Searching Historic Newspapers Online for Information About Pelham".)

I structured the following query, using quotation marks around the phrase and associating the phrase -- by using the term "AND" -- with Pelham: "Country Club Steeplechase" AND Pelham. The search query returned twelve articles, every one of which dealt with the very association responsible for the "Programme" I had seen on the eBay® Web site. A review of those twelve articles provided a wealth of data that allowed me to structure more and more queries that turned up more and more articles about the Steeplechase Races in Pelham that attracted "blood of the bluest tinge" from New York Society (according to one of the reports).

I have since been able to locate the track on maps from 19th Century Atlases and have developed a wealth of data about the Spring and Autumn runnings of the event during the 1880s to permit me to prepare an article that will be the next local history article for publication in The Pelham Weekly. And, for those who might have been wondering, the race track was located on lands near the little red school house on Split Rock Road.

Please visit the HistoricPelham.com Web site
Located at http://www.historicpelham.com/.


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