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Blog Posts by Subject: New York City History

Learn About Astor Place with New York City Explorers

Fall is a wonderful time to be in New York City. Take advantage of the cooler climate by exploring all NYC has to offer! Saturday September 15, the Ottendorfer Library will proudly present the New York City Explorers. This wonderful duo will give a brief 30 minute lecture at the library before bringing you on a walking tour of historic Astor Place.

Ever wonder who this Astor fellow was and why his name is everywhere in New York? Astor parlayed his fur-trading fortune 

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How Did the Pigeon Get to NYC?

One can scarcely think of any park in NYC — or any city, really — without envisioning the ubiquitous pigeon there as well. Despite signs requesting you not feed the birds in adjacent Bryant Park, the library has more than its share of feathered patrons.

But how did this non-native species become the bird most associated with New York City? Pigeons are certainly not indigenous, but they have made themselves quite at home in the Big Apple. In

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Special Library in Focus: The New-York Historical Society Library

While I was in the neighborhood (visiting the library of the American Museum of Natural History - AMNH), I serendipitously noticed that the New-York Historical Society (NYHS) was next door. After visiting the AMNH, I decided to check out the library of the historical society. I was happy to discover that it is open to the public free Tuesday-Friday 9 a.m.-3 p.m. and on Saturdays 10 a.m.-1 p.m, and they have a wealth of resources! In addition to their physical 

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The New York City Historical GIS Project

In 2010, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) awarded The New York Public Library's Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division a three-year grant for its New York City Historical Geographic Information Systems project, which builds digital cartographic resources from NYPL's historical paper map and atlas 

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Direct Me NYC 1786: A History of City Directories in the United States and New York City

Before the telephone directory, there was the city directory, a book that listed the names, addresses, professions, and in some cases ethnicity, of people in a particular town or city. Many of these directories have been digitized for your 

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Extra! Extra! Read All About the Newsboys Strike of 1899

This year the musical Newsies got nominated for eight Tony Awards. The popularity of the Disney Broadway show based on the Disney film has led many of our younger patrons to ask about the newsboys and the strike they led in 1899 on which the film and play  are based.

If you are interested in learning more about the strike 

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Wiki Gangs of New York: Editathon Recap

It was time to represent New York City and the Wikipedians showed up in force to do so! Wiki Gangs of New York was a Wikipedia editathon which took place at the Stephen A Schwarzman building on April 21, 2012 using the specialized collections of the Milstein Division of U.S. History, Local History and Genealogy and the Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division. With so much great material on hand to reference, Wikipedia grew with specialized local information about New 

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Gilded Love: Stokes and Sargent

The last time I was in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, being classy, I literally stopped in my tracks when I saw this painting:

It's called Mr. and Mrs. I.N. Phelps Stokes and it was painted by

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Direct Me NYC: NYPL Helps You Find New Yorkers in the 1940 Census

The genealogy world is buzzing with today’s release of the 1940 Federal Census, but some have been disappointed to discover that the newly released data cannot yet be searched by name. Never fear, NYPL to the rescue!

NYPL Labs has created a fantastic new online tool to help you locate New Yorkers in 1940. In conjunction with the Milstein Division, One-Step, and the

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Linsanity at NYPL: Resources

For the past several weeks, the world has been eyeing a young rising athlete named Jeremy Lin. Lin plays as a point guard for the New York Knicks. At age 23, he has been captivating the globe with his personality, skills, and victories.

Over the course of one evening, Lin became an international superstar in the field of basketball. 

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Ghost Light: Illuminating Our City's Theaters: RKO Coliseum

A thing of beauty is a joy forever... — Keats

(quoted in opening night program, B. S. Moss' Coliseum Theatre, 1920)

The end of 2011 also brought the quiet demise of the last movie theater in WashingtonHeights, Coliseum Cinemas. Known to most residents as the RKO Coliseum, the large theater, occupying the entire corner of 181st and Broadway, has been a fixture of the neighborhood for over 90 years. As the community now debates the future of the Coliseum 

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Telling Time on New Year's Eve: Why the First Ball Was Dropped in Times Square

On New Year's Eve all clocks are synchronized for the epitome of countdowns. The clinking of champagne glasses and the first kiss of the New Year will all be coordinated to the descent of a 12-foot-wide glowing geodesic sphere stationed on top of One Times Square. When all of its 11,875 pounds reach the bottom of its pole, we will know that the New Year has officially begun.

It wasn't always that way. But thanks to a time-honored tradition involving a lowered ball, a one-shot opening celebration has morphed into a spectacle that attracts one million revelers to Times 

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Skyscrapers and the Wertheim Study

Who doesn't like a skyscraper? Acrophobists. But who else can resist those clean (usually) lines, impressive (always) feats of engineering, massive symbols of power (the jury's out on that one)?  New Yorkers are lucky that we have, still have, so very many admirable ones about. Perhaps my favorite is one close to the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building — the Springs Building.

It's deceptively simple, with as clean a line 

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The Sixties: An Era of Pop Cultural Revolution in America

I ♥ G-Dubs: A Love Letter to the George Washington Bridge on Its 80th Birthday

The George Washington Bridge (Photo: Jason Megraw)

Most New Yorkers, when asked to name NYC landmarks, will conjure up the familiar array of iconographic symbols that make up our city: the Statue Liberty, the Empire State Building, Times Square, the Ground Zero Memorial, etc. — but having grown up in Washington Heights, I can’t help but place the George Washington Bridge among the great monuments of Gotham pride. Ever since its completion in 1931, this stunning suspension bridge has remained a sight that never gets old, one which 

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Social Movements in America: A Research Guide

Who Lived In a House Like This? A Brief Guide to Researching the History of Your NYC Home

The Library's Milstein Division is home to one of the largest free United States history, local history, and genealogy collections in the country, and many of our patrons are writing their family histories. Many reference questions pertain to building histories, especially in the light of genealogy. Afterall, those ancesters lived somewhere, and it's natural to wonder what it was like where they lived.

Sometimes patrons are curious about the buildings they live in, when the buildings were built, and by whom. They might wonder, "Who lived in my apartment 

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The Book of Khalid Turns 100!

Deep inside the NYPL’s Bryant Park Stack Extension (known as BPSE to insiders — pronounced as “Bip-See”) lay many literary treasures and secrets; some are academically obscure and rare while others are widely known and read. The Book of Khalid by Ameen Rihani fits in 

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9/11/01

From "Drugstore Photographs, Or, A Trip Along the Yangtze River, 1999;" Lower Manhattan Block-by-Block by Dylan Stone. Block 084: West Thames Street between South End Avenue and the Hudson River Esplanade (north side), Digital ID 504218, New York Public LibraryWhere were you? Uptown, midtown, downtown. Queens, Staten Island, the Bronx. Brooklyn, Manhattan, New Jersey. On the ferry, on the train, in the air, below ground. At the library, at school, at home, at work. Maybe you were somewhere 

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