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Blog Posts by Subject: United States History

President's Day Biography Reading List

Presidents' lives have always been favorite subjects for biographers. Here is a list of the some of the latest examples at the NYPL branches.

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American Rags-to-Riches Mythos: The Madam C. J. Walker Saga, Part 1

"I am a woman who came from the cotton fields of the South. From there I was promoted to the washtub. From there I was promoted to the cook kitchen. And from there I promoted myself into the business of Manufacturing hair goods and preparations. I have built my own factory on my own ground. Madam Walker National Negro Business League Convention, July 1912." Bundles, A'Lelia. Madam C.J. Walker, 2009.

Almost every school child has heard of

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Review of Fusiliers: The Saga of a British Redcoat Regiment in the American Revolution

Fusiliers: The Saga of a British Redcoat Regiment in the American Revolution by Mark Urban should be required reading for all aspiring historians on the American Revolutionary War. Many older historians should also take note of this fine book. Mark Urban purports to tell the story of one British regiment, the 23rd, or Royal Welch Fusiliers, but it is really about the whole British expereince in the war that the book concerns itself. While focusing on this one illustrious corps the author provides us a means to evaluate 

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United States Sanitary Commission Processing Project: Giving

A colorful USSC emblemIt may seem surprising to learn that even though the United States Sanitary Commission was officially endorsed by the U.S. government in June 1861, by mutual agreement this civilian organization did not receive federal funding for its work. The USSC's extensive activities—camp and hospital inspections, medical studies and publications, and especially, a wide variety of relief efforts for soldiers—were bankrolled entirely by the private sector.

Project archivists Melissa Haley, working on the records of the California Branch and 

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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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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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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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Historical Fiction Review: My Name is Mary Sutter

"Get out," he said. "I'm staying." "I don't need you." "Don't be a fool. You need someone." "Not you." The boy lifted his head from the table. "Don't you talk like that to this nice lady," he slurred.

A decision had to be made.  This argument occurred during the United States Civil War, 1861-1865, in the historical fiction My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira.  Her protagonist, Mary Sutter is a young midwife determined to become a surgeon in 

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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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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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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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The United States Sanitary Commission Records Processing Project

The Manuscripts and Archives Division has embarked on a three-year project to comprehensively arrange, describe, and physically preserve the United States Sanitary Commission Records, made possible by a generous donation enabling The New York Public Library to expand access to its archival collections. This blog will introduce you to the organization, its records, and the processing project, with further explorations and updates to 

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Endurance Racing: First Leg, the Bunion Derby

Vacationers traveling in the United States usually do so by car, plane or train, but in 1928 (and again in 1929), approximately 200 runners signed on for the challenge of crossing the country coast-to-coast on foot. These were the runners in the Transcontinental Footrace, jokingly called the “Bunion Derby” by the newspapers. The race was used to advertise everything from foot products to the new Route-66 highway to Madison Square Garden, and was managed by a sports promoter of questionable character named C.C. Pyle, whose legal troubles added an additional bit of entertainment 

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Lady Drivers!

For symbols of the freedom of the road, you can't beat the wind in your hair, piles of crinkly state road maps at your side, and a whole continent of asphalt spilling out underneath your wheels. The devil-may-care excitement that goes with exploring the American continent has lured many a traveler since the invention of the automobile.

But would one ever call taking a road trip a feminist activity? I don’t mean Thelma and Louise on a tear in a Ford Thunderbird, shooting criminals and running from the law. 

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A Mystery in Astor Hall

I recently received a research question that posed a bit of an unusual mystery. The question was why John Jacob Astor, a founder of the library, was listed as a benefactor on one of the Astor Hall marble columns not once, but twice.

The question sent me over to Astor Hall to investigate, where I found the first four benefactors listed as John Jacob Astor, William Backhouse Astor, James Lenox, and John Jacob Astor, in that order. Hmm, a mystery indeed.   To answer the question, I began with the first issue of the ... Read More ›

The Pony Express: History and Myth

Nearly everything you thought you knew about the Pony Express is wrong. Well, perhaps not wrong, but exaggerated or romanticized. If you’re like me, you’re probably imagining men dressed in fringed leather uniform on horses, riding at break-neck speeds to carry important business and love letters hundreds of miles, perhaps while simultaneously shooting their Wincester rifles in the air. When not dashing across the prairie, the riders would be found roping cattle, drinking and playing cards in saloons, hunting buffalo, and dodging Black-Hatted Bandits and 

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Using NYPL resources to enrich your African American History studies

Toussaint Louverture, about 1795 (NYPL Digital Gallery)Use the resources of NYPL to engage your students with the rich and complex history of African Americans. The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture has several online exhibitions that make NYPL resources easily accessible and usable in your classroom: 

In Motion: The African-American Migration Experience: http://www.inmotionaame.org/home.cfm

African Americans in American Politics: 

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