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Blog Posts by Subject: New York City History

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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As Patience and Fortitude Look Forward, They Leave Behind Their Wreaths

Update: Wreaths Returning to The New York Public Library’s Iconic Lions (12/05/13)

Visitors to the New York Public Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building have been greeted for nearly 100 years by Patience, the proud lion statue which guards the south side of the main steps and Fortitude, guardian of the north side. Together, they are iconic and 

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A Tour of the Stacks

On Sunday, December 5, the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building was the site of the 2010 Holiday Open House, the Library's annual thank-you celebration for donors at the Friends level ($40) or above. Besides enjoying building-wide party fun, attendees were offered a rare opportunity to glimpse a part of the Library that is normally hidden from public view: the building's central stacks 

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Charlotte Moorman meets the Wertheim Study

Nam June Paik, 'Robot K-456' and Charlotte Moorman (1964). Photo by Peter Moore @ Estate of Peter Moore/VAGA.NYNew York in the 1970s, without cellphones, the internet, globalization, etc., was a very different place and arguably more vibrant (though I'm glad Central Park isn't like it used to be.)  Photographer extraordinaire Peter Moore tirelessly went about the City capturing just about everyone and everything, and became particularly known 

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More Radical Women in the Wertheim Study

Food is a Feminist IssueTuesday is the second of the Wertheim Study scholars' lecture series: Singular and Collective: Radical Women Artists [in NYC during the 1970s].  This one, by Dr. Aseel Sawalha, is the collective part.  She's going to examine the scene from the perspective of anthropology, focusing on two women's arts collectives: The

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Thanksgiving Ragamuffin Parade

When searching for Thanksgiving images in our Digital Gallery, you might be surprised to find a set of about 20 images of Thanksgiving "ragamuffins."  Who are these young beggars and what do they have to do with Thanksgiving?

Before Halloween was the holiday known for dressing up in costume and begging for candy (this practice did not become common until the 1940's and 

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Survey and the City: An Imaginary Conversation With E.L. Viele

Egbert Ludovicus Viele (Vee-lee) was born June 17, 1825 in Waterford, New York. He was a member of Congress, U.S. Civil War Union Army officer and was commissioner of New York City parks from 1883 to 1884. The West Point graduate surveyed the island of Manhattan and was appointed engineer-in-chief of Central Park in 1856, and engineer of

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History of the St. George Library Center

Photo dated 1915, showing the now gone entrance and stairway leading up from the bottom of Hyatt Street. To the right is the long since demolished Tiedeman mansion, currently the site of the St. George Theater.A brief history of the St. George Library Center from pamphlet "St. George Library Center," 6/89:

"Ferry service between the Battery and Staten Island began in 1886. Soon afterward, a town developed around the ferry landing and up the slopes of Fort 

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Wertheim Study and the Allen Room writers celebrate Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Free public lectures in the South Court Auditorium by the writers and scholars of the Research Study Rooms began last week, and with a bang.

Distinguished historian and biographer Susan Butler spoke about her forthcoming book, Roosevelt and Stalin: Winning the War: Shaping the Peace.  For it, she discovered 300 unpublished hot-war messages, researched the Tehran and Yalta conferences, and we learned all sorts of things - 

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9/11/01: A select list of materials available at the New York Public Library

Primary documents, personal accounts, commentary and video covering the events of nine years ago today.

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In the Neighborhood: Theodore Roosevelt's Birthplace

Of all the reference questions I expected upon coming to work at the Andrew Heiskell Library in its current location on West 20th Street in Manhattan, "Where is Teddy Roosevelt's birthplace?" was nowhere on my list. I quickly learned that the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace Historic Site is a short two blocks east, at 28 East 20th Street, and that this question comes up mostly during the summer tourist season. Since then, I've often walked past this now familiar, unassuming townhouse and 

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Rats with Wings: A Love Story

From the film Keep ‘Em Flying by Renee Fraser and Ann Carol Grossman.© Ann Carol Grossman.

Earlier this week, the view from my kitchen window in Brooklyn yielded a peculiar sight: spread across the rooftop of the building next door were rows upon rows of neatly arranged bread chunks. As a group of pigeons descended to claim their meal, I came to realize that my dear neighbor belongs to a subset of New Yorkers who enjoy the company of pigeons. From the folks who scatter birdseed in the park to devoted

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Central Park Blogger

If you live in New York City and have the means and resources, you are probably experiencing the summer months at the seashore or mountains, far from the insulating properties of pavement and the incubatory effect of a subway platform.  Those New Yorkers who can or must withstand the heat, however, are not without certain benefits that elude us during the milder months: the stores are empty, the streets are empty and the sidewalks are positively navigable.

And yet there is one place which is not empty. Paradoxically, the more crowded it becomes, the more 

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Changing the Changing City

Seeking further enlightenment into the city we call home, I recently took a class on the literary and cultural history of New York City. Among the many themes common to New York City novels we discussed was the portrayal of the city itself as a character with power to shape the lives of its citizens.

Many of us New Yorkers have felt this pressure in our own lives: we choose where to live based on our budgets, our hobbies, our family situation, and often our ethnic, linguistic or religious 

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Lamenting the Greater Fall: 19th Century Prison Reform and The Women's Prison Association Records

An entry from Isaac T. Hopper's logbook of released prison inmates

November 27, 1846: "William Haynes, a native of Ireland, has been in this country about two years and six months.  He was sent to Blackwells Island three months for selling pernicious books."

December 30, 1846: "John H. Gilman, 41 years old, a native of Vermont, was convicted in this city for forgery in passing counterfeit money and sentenced to Sing Sing for seven years and three months."

January 22, 1847: "Cecelia Elizabeth Doremus, a native of this City 

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You are here: 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue in 1857

I am at the corner of 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue. According to plate 78 of my map atlas—Williams Perris’s 1857 “Maps of the City of New York”—the massive (2) block long stone structure at the southwest corner of this Manhattan intersection is not the ... Read More ›

A Clue to a Cue

“I’m looking for a pool hall that used to be on 14th street on the east side. I’m not sure what of its name. It was open at least as late as 1989, and it was next to a nightclub. Can you tell me the name of the hall?”

This was an interesting reference challenge. Normally when one is faced with a business name question, it’s as simple as heading to the yellow pages or reverse directory (also known as an address directory) for the time period in question. Without an exact 

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John Tauranac Talks New York City Subway Map History

Stephen J. Voorhies 1931 transit map coverA subway map of New York City appears to be completely utilitarian and to the untrained eye even pedestrian. In the eyes of another it is a document rife with information. What can be found in the subway maps of New York City is management lineage, a design statement, design history, history of the city, history of business, social history, aesthetics and intention. The adage of “read between the lines” reveals much when looking at a subway map.   At the onset of the New York City subway system, there were three ... Read More ›

History of the Name Spuyten Duyvil

For people not familiar with the Northwest Bronx, the name of the  Spuyten Duyvil Branch Library (\ˌspī-tən-ˈdī-vəl\) can be a tongue twister.  Dating back to the 17th century, the name Spuyten Duyvil originates from the Dutch settlers who gave the name to the creek that flowed around what is today the Marble Hill neightborhood.  The creek has since been filled in, but the name stuck, with several theories about its origin.

Washington Irving 

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Not Just Another New York Travel Guide

In these tight economic times, we’re all looking for ways to save money, and as summer approaches this applies to vacation plans as well. About this time of year Americans start to dream of vacations to faraway places, respite from the daily grind and a little sun and relaxation. Conventional wisdom says that in recessions we lean towards travel options light on the wallet, heading to locales closer to home, such as a national park or an American destination city.   Well, the budget ... Read More ›
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