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Blog Posts by Subject: New York City History

Blue Pencil in the Blue Room: City Tabloids, Old Laws, and the Painted Ladies

This past month in New York City, political issues have surrounded the Painted Ladies of Times Square like googly-eyed tourists with cameras on selfie sticks. The uproar fittingly abides the municipal brouhaha over the last 100 years that has possessed the behavioral pressure cooker of Times Square. 'Twas ever thus.Read More ›

The Digital Villager: Summertime, 1945

August 2, 1945: The high temperature in New York City was 84 degrees, and the second World War was drawing to a close. Where were Greenwich Villagers going to wile away the hot evening hours? Why, Little Shrimp, The Golden Eagle, and Dick the Oyster Man, of course!Read More ›

August Author @ the Library Programs at Mid-Manhattan

If the mention of social media, art, birding, presidential politics, houseplants and Sinatra are enough to get your attention, this month's programs at Mid-Manhattan Library are sure to interest you. Read More ›

New York on the Front Line: The Black Tom Island Explosion, July 1916

On Sunday morning, July 30, 1916, at 2:08 a.m., one of the worst terrorist attacks in American history took place at Black Tom Island, New Jersey, a shipping facility located in New York Harbor. Read More ›

Sea Blazers and Early Scriveners: The First Guidebooks to New York City

The first guidebooks to New York City were written by the navigators, explorers, crewmen, trail-makers, and settlers who sailed west from Europe across the Atlantic Ocean in the 16th and 17th centuries. Read More ›

Occupying Ellis Island: Protests In the Years Between Immigration Station and National Park

Ellis Island is powerfully symbolic in American culture. For many it marks the beginning of their American identity. For Native Americans and African Americans, it became a powerful place to stage a protest in the 1970s.Read More ›

Historic Central Park Maps

The Library's collection includes a diverse range of cartographic material including well-known topographic surveys depicting the landscape before the park’s construction as well as numerous maps published after its completion with indexes that list amenities and places of interest.Read More ›

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 ›
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