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Blog Posts by Subject: New York City History

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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Once Upon a Movie Theater: The Story of Belmont Library

Nestled on a small tree-lined side street just off Arthur Avenue in "the heart of Little Italy, the Bronx" rests the Belmont Library and Enrico Fermi Cultural Center, proudly celebrating 30 years of service this fall. "What the Hester and Mott Street corner is to Little Italy in Manhattan," wrote the New York Times in 1980, "the Arthur Avenue and East 187th Street corner is to the Italian shopping district in the Bronx. It is a central location." The 

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Celebrating the Centennial: The Tilden Library

Detail of Vernon Howe Bailey's drawing of the "Tilden Library" reading roomContrary to what you may have heard — or thought you heard, at least — this year does not mark the centennial of The New York Public Library. The centennial marks the opening of what many still think of as the Library's "main branch" on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, the Beaux-Arts landmark recently rechristened the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. But we could also call it the centennial of the Tilden Library, as I'll 

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New York City Land Conveyances 1654-1851: What They Are and How They Work

On microfilm, in olde worlde language, in undecipherable hand writing. Who cares? This is digitized, right? Yes, sometimes, often, and not yet. Being a librarian, I spend a lot of time rummaging through old documents, seemingly dull and indecipherable tracts that often prove to be invaluable sources of the good stuff. Land conveyances are just such a document. The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society recently donated to the New York Public Library's 

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The General Slocum Disaster of June 15, 1904

Illustration by Samuel Ward StantonThe General Slocum Disaster occurred on June 15, 1904. This tragedy is much less well known compared to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of March 25, 1911, and the Titanic Disaster of April 15, 1912. Perhaps these two shocking events happening within a year focused people's attention elsewhere. But the aftermath of the sinking of the PS Slocum radically altered the 

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History on the Half-Shell: The story of New York City and its oysters

Blue Points, Saddle Rocks, Rockaways, Lynnhavens, Cape Cods, Buzzard Bays, Cotuits, Shrewsburys -- raw on the half shell. Fried oysters, oyster pie, oyster patties, oyster box stew, Oysters Pompadour, Oysters Algonquin, Oysters a la Netherland, a la Newberg, a la Poulette, oysters roasted on toast, broiled in shell, served with cocktail sauce, stewed in milk or cream, fried with bacon, escalloped, fricasseed, and pickled.  If you have spent any time transcribing for NYPL's What’s on the Menu? project, you’ve seen a lot of ways to 

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"The Biggest Library in the World Opens Today": NYPL in the Yiddish Press

You probably already know that the New York Public Library's flagship building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street will celebrate its centennial on May 23. There will be galas, games, lectures, and all kinds of activities for young and old. But what about opening day in 1911? There was less gaming, probably, and no smartphone apps to help you locate treasures. Nevertheless, according to newspaper accounts, it was a grand event for New York and the entire country, attended not only 

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The Queen B: Miss Buttolph and Her Menus

If you've transcribed even one menu, you've likely seen her stamp. A blue oval bearing her name, "Buttolph Collection", as graceful as a branding iron over asparagus, Russian caviar, or Boston baked beans.

Miss Frank E. Buttolph stamped nearly every menu she collected for the New York Public Library, twenty-three years worth, amounting to roughly 25,000 menus under her tenure 

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