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Blog Posts by Subject: New York City History

Branch Special Collections

Several branches throughout the three boroughs have special collections that focus on local history or are of special interest to their respective communities.Read More ›

Palaces of Consumption: The History of Department Stores

A.T. Stewart opened New York City’s first department store in 1846. New Yorkers flocked to the palazzo style “Marble Palace," on Broadway between Chambers and Reade Street to browse through a wide array of merchandise arranged by department.Read More ›

Three Reads: Bad Guys of Gilded Age New York

Here are three books about some of our fine city's bad guys, lying, cheating, and stealing their way through the 1890s.Read More ›

Memory Circles Bring History to Life at Jefferson Market Library

Jefferson Market Library was alive with the energy of storytelling last Thursday, March 13th as storytellers and interviewers for the Greenwich Village Oral History Project took over the library. It was an evening of Memory Circles, or recorded group oral histories, in which participants talked with each other about their shared recollections on particular Greenwich Village themes.Read More ›

March Author @ the Library Programs at Mid-Manhattan

A new approach to health care reform ... 20 years of Harlem Street Portraits ... humanist architecture ... The Extreme Life of the Sea ... New York City's unbuilt subways ... mothers ... the power of storytelling ... a century of candy ... New York's lost amusement parks ... the public library ... 11 missing men of WWII ... great city planning.Read More ›

February Author @ the Library Programs at Mid-Manhattan

Who was Miss Anne in 1920s Harlem? How did George Washington define the American presidency? What is keeping a majority of Americans from eating well? Can the world’s most endangered big cat be saved? How can we improve brain performance at any age? What fascinating stories does Murray Hill have to tell? Find out at Mid-Manhattan this month!Read More ›

January Author @ the Library Programs at Mid-Manhattan

A mystical history of NYC below Chambers Street… the link between our financial and environmental crises… the life and photographs of Ansel Adams… our

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ON THE AIR: Music Landmarks in NYC - Yankee Doodle to Jay-Z

Pearl Street Native/Indigenous

AIR is a Native American and ancient colloquialism for music and voice, as heard upon the earth. Musicians and singers performed at festivals at sacred places like Pearl Street, where shells mounded for centuries, in Lenape tradition, to honor and "give thanks" for the sun, moon, stars, rain, wind and all elements of the air.

New Amsterdam. ca. 1625 - People arrived to the various ceremonies and festivals along the East River shoreline via rafts, canoes and by walking down the main island trail (widened for vehicles in the 

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December Reader's Den: An Introduction to Caleb Carr's The Alienist

"An ungodly pummeling on the door of my grandmother's house at 19 Washington Square North brought first the maid and then my grandmother herself to the doorways of their bedrooms at two o'clock on the morning of March 3, 1896."

The gruesome case at the heart of Caleb Carr's The Alienist begins at this ungodly hour in an ungodly time of New York City's history, the turn of the 20th century, that brutal period when Teddy Roosevelt served as New York City Police Commissioner. This 

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November Author @ the Library Programs at Mid-Manhattan

Is Detroit City really the place to be? What happens in a typical day at a busy NYC hospital? How does a traveler lose himself all over the globe? Is it possible for the government to achieve full employment in 

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Classroom Connections: 'New York, Then & Now' Immigration to Washington Heights/Inwood (Gr. 6-8)

The story of immigration to America is a rich tapestry whose opposing threads, oddly for how much they reject each other's reality, hang together as one. It outrages us and gives us hope in frighteningly equal measure.

Nowhere is this truer than New York City, a city of extremes in every sense. The community known as Washington Heights/Inwood originally spanned from 135th Street north to the top end of Manhattan Island, surrounded by the Hudson River on the west and the East River with Spuyten Duyvil's deadly currents in between. Its land is the highest ground in 

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Reader's Den in September: Unterzahkn by Leela Corman

In the graphic novel Unterzakhn Leela Corman introduces Fanya and Esther Feinberg through dramatic events and their reactions to those events. The sisters are young jewish girls growing up in the early 20th century living secluded lives with little future but a marriage and babies. Under the controlling gaze of their mother, Minna, the girls are sheltered from education so as to "not become too goyish." Yet Fanya and Esther are resourceful and will rise out of the expected path regardless of the 

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Classroom Connections: 'Grace Aguilar's American Journey,' A Common Core-aligned Research Experience (Gr. 11-12)

By 1900, New York City and the United States were undergoing waves of dramatic, traumatic change. Industrialization, Reconstruction and a surge of immigrants from across the globe were remaking every aspect of life, from transportation to education, leisure, labor, race relations and the status of women. One response to the dislocations and turmoil of this era was the reform efforts that we now classify as the “Progressive Movement.”

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Classroom Connections: Lists for Lesson Planning (Gr. 6-12)

Aguilar Library, 1938 - Librarian w/ students. Want to know more about our current educational initiatives? See The ABC of Education: Why Libraries Matter by Maggie Jacobs, Director of Educational ProgramsWe have just shuttered the doors on our first Education Innovation @ NYPL Summer Institute. During this three week Institute, master teachers from NYC (and further afar) met curators from our Research 

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How to Search The New York Times

Over the years working at the reference desk, I get this question a lot: "Do you have the New York Times on [given date]?" I reply, "YES! Which formats are you interested in seeing? We have some bound copies, microfilms and digital resources." It is one of the most popular primary sources that patrons often want to see.

Whatever the patrons are researching, the NYT is quite useful for a variety of subjects: genealogy, history, social sciences, etc.; the newspaper covered and still covers many international, national, regional and local issues. We 

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Inspired by Jack Finney's Time and Again: A Gilded Age Reading List from 1882 New York

"The great demand is for fiction!"

"Among all classes of people, do you think?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then you mean to say," persisted the reporter, "that the principal portion of the reading public of New York is composed of novel readers."

"That is it exactly, so far as library patrons are concerned," replied the librarian.

—The New York Times, January 22, 1882

Welcome back to the Reader's Den. I hope you enjoyed reading

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Playing With Matches: Jewish Deli Ephemera

Hot pastrami. Three decker sandwiches with chopped liver, corned beef, tomatoes and bermuda onion. Hungarian beef goulash with noodles. Stuffed derma with kasha. These artery-clogging delicacies are no longer available at the Stage Delicatessen, which closed late last year after 75 years as a New York City landmark. The Stage was one of the relatively few remaining "Jewish-style" (but decidedly unkosher) delicatessens in New York.

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June in the Reader's Den: Time and Again by Jack Finney - Part 2, Discussion Questions

"It had become habit, leaving the Dakota, to walk out and back into the winter of 1882."

Welcome back to the Reader's Den! I hope you enjoyed taking a trip to the New York of 1882 along with Si Morley, the protagonist in Jack Finney's classic 1970 novel, Time and Again. If you've been reading the book, why not share your thoughts with us through the comments form at the end of the post? There are some discussion questions (which include a few spoilers!) that can be used as a starting 

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June Author @ the Library Programs at Mid-Manhattan

Should we worry about a Medicare Meltdown? Is a newly identified autoimmune disease responsible for instances of demonic possession recorded in the past? What is the Secret History of Coffee, Coca & Cola? How can we best care for

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Not For Sale: The Iconic Brooklyn Bridge Celebrates 130 Years

For 130 years, the Brooklyn Bridge has been an icon of the New York City landscape—longer if you account for the 13 years required to construct it. This beloved connection between boroughs is still in use while many of its contemporaries have been replaced or dismantled worldwide.

When the bridge opened in 1883, New York was a different sort of town. Also referred to as either the New York Bridge or East River Bridge until its official naming in 1915, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world when it was built. New York and Brooklyn were still

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