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Blog Posts by Subject: New York City History

Independence Day Booths: Fourth of July Feasting in 19th Century New York

Ready for Fourth of July barbeques? Of course you’ll be having some pickled oysters, egg nog, and lobster, right? If you think these are some interesting cuisine choices for Independence Day festivities, 19th century New Yorkers would disagree.Read More ›

Neighborhood Nostalgia: Bushwick, Brooklyn Photos

Remember how the neighborhood used to look? Well, for a very happy #TBT, we're indulging in some neighborhood nostalgia for Bushwick, Brooklyn.Read More ›

Researching New York City Neighborhoods

Redefined by the city’s growth, changing populations, and the plans of real estate developers, New York City neighborhoods are ever-evolving entities. They can be researched through our collections—useful materials include neighborhood and borough-specific histories, NYC guidebooks, city agency reports, local newspapers, clippings, statistical data, and maps.Read More ›

Subway Construction: Then and Now

Recent photos, compared side by side with photographs of the construction of New York’s first subway, which opened in 1904, provide stark contrasts. They are evidence of an industry drastically changed: the methods of construction used, the condition and expressions of the workers, and the scale of the projects differ in striking ways.Read More ›

May Author @ the Library Programs at Mid-Manhattan

Dance in unexpected places... walking through literary New York... New York's incredible abandoned spaces... photographing fashion's trendsetters... recipes in literature... unusual hiking destinations... coming of age in postwar America... the art and science of what we eat... southern Italy's most celebrated gardens... urban transformation in Chelsea... the influence of our infrastructure...Read More ›

How did YA Become YA?

“Why is it called YA anyway? And who decided what was YA and what wasn’t?” The short answer: librarians.Read More ›

The Arm That Clutched the Torch: The Statue of Liberty’s Campaign for a Pedestal

France proposed to bestow the Statue of Liberty to the United States, while Americans were asked to fundraise for its pedestal. The plan to raise money? Her arm went on tour.Read More ›

NYC Rapid Transit in Maps, 1845-1921: The Street Railroads of New York and Vicinity

We can gain a deep understanding of the development of the city’s public transit infrastructure simply by examining nine maps published between 1845 and 1921. Read More ›

Why Is New York City Called the Big Apple?

New York is a city of nicknames. The City That Never Sleeps, Empire City, The City So Nice They Named It Twice… and of course Gotham, which we’ve covered before. Today let’s just look at the Big Apple.Read More ›

The Changing Face of Times Square

Which way to Longacre Square? Now known as Times Square, the area at the intersection of Broadway and Seventh Avenue has long offered both the high life and the underbelly of New York City.Read More ›

Ottendorfer Over the Years

When the library first opened, its collections were half in German and half in English, and the purpose was to help German immigrants in the area assimilate and learn English. The Ottendorfer Library opened in 1885, a time when it was customary to have closed stacks in libraries. Much has changed in the East Village since the library first opened its doors. Read More ›

You Must Remember This: The Jeff Kisseloff Oral History Interviews

Between 1986 to 1988, Kisseloff traversed the city with a cassette recorder to interview former longshoreman, bootleggers, pickle makers, butchers, community activists, housewives, and writers in an attempt to capture stories of old Manhattan. Read More ›

December Author @ the Library Programs at Mid-Manhattan

The lost tribe of Coney Island... building the Statue of Liberty... a culinary history of America in 100 bites... the sinking of refugee ship The Wilhelm Gustloff during World War II... a close-up of the planet Mars... forgiving, remembering, and forgetting in personal and political contexts... a road trip through presidential libraries... curious New York activities... what online data can tell us about ourselves... reducing inequality in the 21st century... the history of New York's mass transit systems between 1940 and 1968... tales from a world traveler...Read More ›

Evacuation Day: New York's Former November Holiday

A once-annual holiday local to New York City, Evacuation Day was formerly equal in importance to the Fourth of July. Referring to the evacuation of British troops from New York City following the Revolutionary War, the celebration of the troops’ departure was observed yearly throughout the early 20th century. Read More ›

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 ›

More of Our Favorite, Most Absorbing, Compelling, and Pleasurable [True!] Tales of New York City… on Film

A few months ago, the NYPL Milstein Division of United States History, Local History & Genealogy put our collective local history obsessive minds together to bring you a list of our favorite NYC non-fiction books. Now we reveal our favorite New York documentaries. These documentary films best depict New York, either in moments or over lengths of time, providing a capsule of a New York experience.Read More ›

Class Act: Researching New York City Schools with Local History Collections

The history of education in New York City is fraught with strikes, moral stewardship, ethnic discrimination, caritas, religious debate, political bias, Fame, and Welcome Back, Kotter. This guide will serve as a springboard for researching primary and secondary school history at NYPL and elsewhere.Read More ›

A Digitized History of The New York Public Library

The History of the New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations provides a thorough account of 19th century New York City libraries, their consolidation into a unified system, and the construction of NYPL’s central library (now known as the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building).Read More ›

TeachNYPL: Lists for Lesson Planning

From July 28-Aug 1 we welcomed our second group of teachers from NYC or our second annual Education Innovation @ NYPL Summer Institute.Read More ›

Play Strike! Exploring NYC Playgrounds Through Historical Newspapers

At the turn of the 20th century, children’s lifestyles were not quite what they are today. Child labor laws were not declared constitutional until 1938 and children largely socialized with their adult co-workers in dance halls, gambling dens, and gin mills. It was this children-as-adults culture that sparked the play movement, removing children from the “physical and moral dangers of the street” to playgrounds, under the direction of trained play leaders.Read More ›
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