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Posts by Kate Cordes

Absolute Sale! NYC Land Auction Catalogs in the Map Division

Nearly one hundred land auctioneering pamphlets from the 1860s to 1920s and covering the Bronx, Manhattan, and Brooklyn were digitized this past year. With their richly designed covers, these promotional brochures provide modern day researchers with a window onto neighborhood development and changing patterns of land use in the city. Read More ›

Better Living Through Selective Breeding

When reading family histories, as I often find myself doing in the Milstein Division, I frequently come across glowing depictions of people’s ancestors, of the grandmother who made the best peach cobbler this side of the Mississippi, or the aunt who was adored by all the neighborhood children and stray cats. For obvious reasons, less favorable descriptions of one’s family are not as common. Rarely do we come across stories of the egotistical great-grandfather or the lay-about uncle. Even 

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Researching New York City History

This Friday, the Milstein Division will be offering a free class on the best online resources to use in researching New York City’s history. I invite all students, history buffs and library lovers to come to the Humanities and Social Sciences Library to find out more about all the databases and websites used to research the people and the events that contributed to our city’s history. For this month’s class, I’ll be focusing on the history of this library’s immediate neighborhood – from the Crystal Palace and the Croton Reservoir to the 

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Untapped Genealogical Treasures

Before her death in 1852, Nancy Nicol carefully cut a lock of hair from each of her three young children, her husband and herself, and sat down to make a memento for the family she would be leaving behind. Nancy had drawn out a family register, covered with curlicues and other inky flourishes, listing the milestone dates of births and marriages – there had been no deaths to record, yet. Next to each name, her husband David, her own and the children, George, Catherine and Martha, she fastened the curls of hair to the paper with ribbon and wax.

After Nancy Nicol’s 

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Riots, Strikes, and Mobs in New York City history

In my last post a few weeks ago I wrote of the history of rioting and protesting in Tompkins Square Park. New York has always been a riotous city, where citizens have time and time again taken to the streets to demonstrate, strike and protest. Over the centuries the nature and character of these events has evolved, as has the reaction of the general public and the police to these group manifestations of displeasure. The subject of popular disorder and collective action or violence tends to be a fairly popular topic among researchers at the library and 

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Tompkins Square Riots

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the protest in Tompkins Square Park that devolved into a 5-hour long clash between police, East Village residents and other park habitués. The day following the riots the New York Post dubbed the incident "Night of Rage" while the Daily News ran with "Tompkins Park Fury." However, there wasn’t just one violent confrontation to be remembered. Rather there were a series of demonstrations and pitched protests during the eighties and early nineties between older residents, newcomers to the neighborhood, the police, 

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Digital Gotham

Everyday here in the Milstein Division, we get questions from all over the city and around the country about the history of New York City. Questions range from the very specific, “What was the weather in Manhattan on May 7th 1864?” to the dauntingly vague, “My great-grandfather lived in New York, his name was Patrick Murphy. Could you send me information on him?” Fortunately, the library’s collection of reference material on New York City history is astounding and rare 

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Velocipede Mania!

While riding the subway over the past weeks I couldn’t help but notice the posters promoting the month of May as the month of the bike. Since 1990, May has been officially designated as Bike Month NYC, celebrating cyclists, bicycles and generally, all things bike, by sponsoring bike tours, rallys, and other events. Every May I see thousands of bicyclists pedaling through my neighborhood in the Five-Boro Bike Tour (which sold out rapidly this year) and every year I’m 

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Free Produce Societies

Last week, while doing some research on abolitionism in one of our best historical newspaper databases, I came across some references to organizations called Free Produce Societies. As I had previously never come across these groups, I decided to do some further research. Free Produce Associations were formed in the early decades of the 19th century by radical abolitionists, generally Quakers and free blacks, who hoped to disengage themselves from participating in a culture they found to be both un-Christian and un-American. Through 

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New Additions to the Digital Gallery

Additional images from the NYC Tenement House Department collection of photographic negatives have been added to the Digital Gallery recently. This Summer a number of images from the collection were uploaded, most of which showed the outhouses the Tenement Department photographed for their records. With the new images, we get to see some interiors of the buildings. Having these images on the Digital Gallery is especially good news as this collection cannot be fully accessed by the 

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The Birth of Freedom of Religion - Flushing Remonstrance, December 27, 1657

350 years ago, 30 Quaker farmers from the Flushing, Queens area signed an appeal to the governor of New Netherland, Peter Stuyvesant, to allow them to freely practice their religion. Stuyvesant had banned all religions outside of the Dutch Reformed Church from being practiced in the colony, which led to the persecution of Quakers, among others. In response to this petition the government of New Netherland threw some of the signers in jail and replaced the government of the town of Flushing with more reasonable substitutes.

A few years later, John Bowne of Flushing (then known as 

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U.S. Passport Applications on Ancestry Library Edition

Ancestry Library Edition is one of the most heavily used subscription databases in the NYPL system. Some of you may already be familiar with this database as it is one of the best for genealogy research. Recently it has added a new collection to their content, U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925. Prior to the digitization of these records, genealogists and other researchers could only access these applications at the National Archives and Records Administration. The information found on these applications includes birth and marriage dates, names 

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Sixth Avenue Elevated Train

Here is a photograph of the corner of 42nd Street and Sixth Ave. It is part of the Street and Townscape of Metropolitan New York City Collection in our Digital Gallery. Notice anything strikingly different about this picture from the present state of the location?

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