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Blog Posts by Subject: New York City History

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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A Helluva Town: The Origins of New York’s Hellish Place Names

"New York, New York, a helluva town. The Bronx is up but the Battery's down." —On the Town

With at least three "Hell" based place names within its boundaries—Hell Gate, Hell's Kitchen, and Hell's Hundred Acres—New York City is indeed a helluva town. But in spite of name and reputation, these places are now far from infernal.

Hell Gate  Hell Gate is the oldest place name of these three.  Dating back to New Amsterdam's Dutch colonial period, Hell Gate ... Read More ›

Tricky Menu Tips: Ditto Marks, Prices, and More

Wow. We're sitting here with our mouths agape, simply overwhelmed --and thrilled! -- by the response to What's on the Menu? We knew you guys liked food, but holy (broiled) mackerel!

We launched WOTM very quietly, just three days ago, and, as of this typing, we have over 22K dishes transcribed! And it's evident, from the emails and tweets we've been receiving, that we have some very enthusiastic participants out there. Thank you!

But as you may have noticed, each menu is very different. Each has its quirks and 

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Doin' the Dishes!

Saratoga ChipsCorned Beef Hash.  Large Pot of Oolong Tea

Okay, so they’re not included in the works of Shakespeare (as far as I know), but that doesn’t mean these dishes aren't of value to researchers and scholars and the generally curious who read menus in order to learn more about the food served and consumed in restaurants throughout history.

But until now this kind of information (the food!) was 

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NYC Reads: Books on the Subway

"I hope you are not here because you like to read." It was the opening salvo for my interview with the admissions director at the University of Maryland's Graduate School of Library & Information Services. I don't remember what, or if, I countered. It was 1967.

Answer or no answer I was admitted, matriculated, and graduated. After a long library career, I am now retired and a recent volunteer at NYPL. The admissions director is long gone, but I would like to reply. "I love to read. Did then, still do. And I love to know what people are 

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A Short History of the Kingsbridge Library

The Kingsbridge Library will soon be moving to a new building and as we start to plan for our move, I can't help but reflect on the long and rich history the Kingsbridge Branch has had through the years.

The Kingsbridge Library lends its beginnings to the Kingsbridge Free Library, established in 1894 and housed above Hecht's drugstore on what is now 230th St. between Kingsbridge Ave and Corlear Ave. It quickly became clear that the small space was not adequate and it grew even more imperative that the library needed a new and more 

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The Jefferson Market Courthouse/Library Archive: A Sneak Peek with Barbara Knowles-Pinches

Did you know that the Jefferson Market library has an archive of images, papers and press clippings dating back to the 1800s?  This collection of Greenwich Village history has recently been processed and made available to the public by archivist and librarian Barbara Knowles-Pinches, who began working at Jefferson Market in 2009.  The digitizing process has just begun; images and a finding aid will be available online in the near future. Here, Barbara tells us about some of her favorite items from the 

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The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, which took place 100 years ago today, was a tragic incident in New York City's history but also a turning point in the early labor movement.

One hundred and forty-six workers died, mostly young women from immigrant families. The fire was deadly because of the height of the building, the amount of fabric and flammable material inside, the lack of proper fire escapes, and exits that were locked to prevent workers from taking breaks. Many fell or jumped to their deaths. The tragedy brought greater awareness to sweatshop conditions, which led to 

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Beware of Zombies: The Grim Origins of Washington Square Park

Centered on Washington Square Park, Greenwich Village is a neighborhood made legendary by the world famous artists, musicians, and writers that have flourished and created within steps of its arch.  However, what lies beneath that splendid, recently re-landscaped and renovated outdoor sanctuary is a bit more morbid.  

In his 2003 book Around Washington Square, Luther S. Harris posed the question, “What had made 

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Hubert Harrison: Harlem Radical

Dr. Jeffrey B. Perry will discuss his book, Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918, Saturday March 5th 2pm @ Hamilton Fish Park Library.

"Hubert Harrison is the most significant Black democratic socialist of early-twentieth century America." —Cornel West 

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Any Given Sunday: The New York Jets and A Dream Placed on Hold

The dust has finally settled over New York City, there are no more time outs left to use, the clock has unfortunately hit zero, and the final score was 24-19. The season is over and with it the dream of a city is placed on hold for yet another season. The National Football League's New York Jets nearly pulled off what they as an organization have not been able to do since the 1969-1969 season with Broadway Joe Namath. They came close to 

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Jacob Wrey Mould: Architect of Central Park and Lyricist

Angel of the Waters Fountain and Bethesda Terrace, Central Park, New York City - photograph by Ahodges7, used under Creative Commons license from Wikipedia

Each week for many years, Christopher Gray has written the Streetscapes column for the Sunday edition of the New York Times, focusing on out-of-the-way stories of curiosity, beauty, 

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Dot, Dash, Splash, and Splatter: Abstract Expressionist New York @ MoMa

Pull out your black turtleneck and a beret! The Musuem of Modern Art presents through April 25, 2011 the exhibit Abstract Expressionist New York. Whether or not you think a painting by Jackson Pollock is a work of genius, or something your kid brother could easily do, this exhibit is a treat for the eyes. Suitable for the whole family, consider a visit sometime during or after the Holiday season.

The Abstract Expressionists (Arshile 

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