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Blog Posts by Subject: History

United States Sanitary Commission Processing Project: Harvests for Health

The United States Sanitary Commission records might not be the first port of call for anyone interested in studying 19th-century American agriculture or the culinary arts, but the visit could well repay the effort. 

From the first days of its existence, the USSC concerned itself with identifying suitable ingredients for a soldier's diet. A healthy diet kept men in fighting strength and in good spirits, prevented disease, and helped them recuperate more quickly from wounds and sickness. The Commission and 

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Special Collections Highlights: Mary Löwenkopf Weiss Papers

In December 1938, Mary Löwenkopf, a 13 year old Jewish girl from Nazi-occupied Vienna, left on a Kindertransport and settled in The Netherlands for the next 8 years. After liberation, she emigrated to the United States.

The Mary Löwenkopf Weiss Papers, a small archival collection in the Dorot Jewish Division documenting this World War II refugee, is a great example of how the remnants of 

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From the Archives: Executions at San Quentin Prison

March 3, 1905, was not an auspicious day for Hy Brown.

Brown, an 18-year-old man from California with no known occupation, had been sentenced to death for the murder of Patrick Dunne, an aged storekeeper. On March 3rd, his sentence was carried out, making him the 149th of over 200 men executed by hanging at the California State Prison at San Quentin between 1893 and 1937.

San Quentin was erected between 1852-1854 to replace the overcrowded prison ship Waban. It rose in response to the violent crime boom in California that followed in the wake of the Gold Rush 

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Thanksgiving Ragamuffin Parade

When searching for Thanksgiving images in our Digital Gallery, you might be surprised to find a set of about 20 images of Thanksgiving "ragamuffins."  Who are these young beggars and what do they have to do with Thanksgiving?

Before Halloween was the holiday known for dressing up in costume and begging for candy (this practice did not become common until the 1940's and 

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Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters: A Review

The Sullivan family’s Christmas began in the traditional way that year. The six Sullivan siblings opened their gifts. Daddy-o made pancakes for breakfast and Ginger contributed her signature dish to the feast (sliced grapefruit halves sprinkled with Splenda).

Christmas would take an unexpected turn at the Sullivan’s annual holiday dinner with the family matriarch–unaffectionately known by family, friends, enemies, and most of Baltimore as “Almighty Lou.”

One of the Sullivans has deeply offended Almighty.

Subsequently the entire 

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Music manuscripts from the composer of the Star-Spangled Banner

It’s been a while since my last post, but the genesis of this post began with July 4th, 2010.  I was thinking:  What better way to observe the anniversary of the United States of America than with the national anthem. (The image above ‑ seen through mylar protection ‑ is of the first edition of the Star-Spangled Banner owned by the Music Division – one of 

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Now That's History!

Ancient History, Middle Ages, Industrial Revolution... Does history homework make you feel like you are in the Dark Ages? Well be enlightened by the library's resources!

You can find complete, trustworthy information a lot faster using the library’s databases and apps.

Here’s how to access NYPL’s databases: 1. Go to www.nypl.org 2. Click on ‘Find Books, DVDs, & More’ in the top menu 3. Click on ‘Articles and Databases’ in the left sidebar 4. Databases are listed 

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USSC Processing Project: the U.S. Sanitary Commission's Archive Department

As we work towards our goal of providing optimal access to the collection, we encounter, learn about, and engage with the work of our 19th-century predecessors—the staff of the USSC’s Archive Department and their successors.

Metropolitan Fair stationery, 1864Although the USSC’s military campaign relief services were essentially completed in the summer of 1865, and many of its offices closed, others carried on, finishing their relief work and distributing remaining supplies to the 

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USSC Processing Project: Diving In

Our first blog post announced the United States Sanitary Commission Records Processing Project, a three-year project to comprehensively process (arrange, describe, and physically preserve) the archival records of the United States Sanitary Commission, a civilian organization that supported the health, comfort and efficiency of Union forces during the American Civil War.

A glimpse of USSC in the stacksIn the meantime, we have been planning our work, evaluating the collection from top to bottom, studying the Sanitary Commission’s operations, acquiring supplies, 

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A Week in the Life of James Dean, or The Force is Strong With This One

What if someone told you that you had one week to live? What would you do? What places would you visit? Would you read any books? Listen to any particular music? Would the common and insignificant things you pass every day become more meaningful? Would that apple taste any better if you know it was your last one? Who would you thank? Who would you apologize to?    This week fifty-five years ago was the last week in the life of ... Read More ›

Wertheim Study and the Allen Room writers celebrate Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Free public lectures in the South Court Auditorium by the writers and scholars of the Research Study Rooms began last week, and with a bang.

Distinguished historian and biographer Susan Butler spoke about her forthcoming book, Roosevelt and Stalin: Winning the War: Shaping the Peace.  For it, she discovered 300 unpublished hot-war messages, researched the Tehran and Yalta conferences, and we learned all sorts of things - 

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POP! goes the Picture Collection: Warhol at NYPL

Self-Portrait, 1967.(1)He came from my hometown. As a teenager, he collected photographs of movie stars. A few years later, I clipped fan zines featuring Hayley Mills and the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and the Dave Clark 5 and

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In the Neighborhood: Theodore Roosevelt's Birthplace

Of all the reference questions I expected upon coming to work at the Andrew Heiskell Library in its current location on West 20th Street in Manhattan, "Where is Teddy Roosevelt's birthplace?" was nowhere on my list. I quickly learned that the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace Historic Site is a short two blocks east, at 28 East 20th Street, and that this question comes up mostly during the summer tourist season. Since then, I've often walked past this now familiar, unassuming townhouse and 

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The Names of Things: Visual Dictionaries Are for Adults, too

Have you ever encountered an entirely new landscape or situation and simultaneously noticed that you don’t have the words to describe it or to ask questions about it? It’s not that you’ve forgotten the words or have suddenly regressed to a state of preverbal babbling, you realize, but that you’ve found a corner of experience that is still remote to you, a forest still overgrown with your own ignorance - your "unknown unknowns" have waxed into "known unknowns," and the effect has left you speechless.

Pretend 

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Changing the Changing City

Seeking further enlightenment into the city we call home, I recently took a class on the literary and cultural history of New York City. Among the many themes common to New York City novels we discussed was the portrayal of the city itself as a character with power to shape the lives of its citizens.

Many of us New Yorkers have felt this pressure in our own lives: we choose where to live based on our budgets, our hobbies, our family situation, and often our ethnic, linguistic or religious 

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Leading a Double Life: Agent Zigzag

Has the recent roundup of Russian spies left you wanting to read up on the wide world of espionage?  Then I have the book for you: Agent Zigzag, by Ben Macintyre.

His name was Edward Arnold Chapman. The British police also knew him as Edward ... Read More ›

Maurice Wertheim

The Wertheim Study is a hidden gem at The New York Public Library, though certainly treasured by the writers and scholars that use it.  But who was Maurice Wertheim?

Born in 1886 and a Harvard graduate, he wore many hats.  He began his career at the United Cigar Manufacturers Company, moving on to Hallgarten & Co., the Underwood Corporation, the Cuban Atlantic Sugar Company, the Hat Corporation of America, the Bond Stores Company, and his own company, Wertheim & Co.  During WWII he 

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A Language of Our Own: America’s English and the Influence of Noah Webster

Most people are familiar with the name Noah Webster as the father of the American Dictionary, a book that we all grew up with and still use today.  What many people may not know is that besides being a lexicographer, he was also a dedicated orthographer and philologist, working in spelling reform and lingustics, and had a large influence on the early American language.

Webster began his career as a schoolteacher and recognized a need for a quality teaching tool for children learning grammar and 

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Lamenting the Greater Fall: 19th Century Prison Reform and The Women's Prison Association Records

An entry from Isaac T. Hopper's logbook of released prison inmates

November 27, 1846: "William Haynes, a native of Ireland, has been in this country about two years and six months.  He was sent to Blackwells Island three months for selling pernicious books."

December 30, 1846: "John H. Gilman, 41 years old, a native of Vermont, was convicted in this city for forgery in passing counterfeit money and sentenced to Sing Sing for seven years and three months."

January 22, 1847: "Cecelia Elizabeth Doremus, a native of this City 

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Best of Reference 2010: Thrifty Reference

Knowledge is power, and in hard times, finding the best information can be even more important. These books, websites, and electronic resources, available through your local library, can save you both time and money! 

Selected and presented by librarians from all three NYC library systems, Best of Reference is sponsored by The New York Library Association's Reference and Adult Services Section.

Coupon Clipping   Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend Anthony S. Mercatante and James R Dow, eds. ... Read More ›
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