Author Archives: Jaya Saxena

Jaya Saxena

About Jaya Saxena


Jaya Saxena is a copy editor at the New-York Historical Society.

She also writes a webcomic about mysteries in New York City.

When Goats Roamed New York City’s Central Park


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Frank M. Ingalls, New York City: two unidentified girls in a goat cart, Central Park, 1908., New-York Historical Society, Photographs From New York City and BeyondEveryone in New York City is pretty familiar with the sight of Handsome Cabs, the horse-drawn carriages that take visitors on tours of Central Park. But that wasn’t always the horse’s job. Sometimes goats pulled people around!

According to the Parks Department, “In 1869 goat carriage rides were introduced into Central Park to cater to children.” They were a popular sight on the Mall. Continue reading

New Yorkers of Summers Past…They’re Just Like Us!


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rockawayHow are you planning on spending your summer? Visiting Rockaway Beach? Biking in a city’s parks? Perhaps getting away from it all with a visit to the country? Well the New York City residents of the past spent their summers in a very similar way, as seen in these images from these photographs from New-York Historical Society’s digitized library collection!

New Yorkers have always hung out at the beach, whether it’s Rockaway (shown here in an undated photograph by John S. Johnson (c. 1890-1899)… Continue reading

When The City Celebrated The Queensboro Bridge


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936full-manhattan-posterOn June 12, 1909, New York City began an eight-day celebration of the connection of the East Side of Manhattan with Long Island City in Queens with the Queensboro Bridge, designed by Henry Hornbostel.

Though it officially opened to traffic on March 30, 1909, the June festivities drew over 300,000 people (larger than the population of Queens at the time) to see the bridge lit up with electricity, and hear 1,500 children sing the “Star-Spangled Banner” in its honor. It meant that crossing the East River was no longer an obstacle to the development of the borough of Queens. Continue reading

Coney Island Souvenirs Throughout The Years


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Gambling wheel, 1900-1920. Wood, glass, metal. Purchase, 1995.2In May 1654, the early settlers of Gravesend, Brooklyn purchased what is now known as Coney Island from the local Native Americans. Back then it was just a beach, but by the 1840s it had morphed into how many of us know it now: a vacation getaway right in our own city.

Roads and steamships around that time made travel time from New York City around two hours, making Coney Island an accessible beach destination for anyone.  By the 1920s it was even more popular, after the subway made its debut. But visitors weren’t content with just beaches and hotels. There were games to be played, rides to be ridden, and souvenirs to take home! Here are a few from the New-York Historical Society‘s collection.
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Great Souvenirs From The 1939 World’s Fair


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Salt and pepper shaker, 1939. Plastic. Gift of Bella C. Landauer, 2002.1.1928

Salt and pepper shaker, 1939. Plastic. New-York Historical Society. Gift of Bella C. Landauer,

On April 29, 1939, the largest world’s fair of all time came to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in New York. The 1939-40 New York World’s Fair promised visitors a look at “the world of tomorrow.” And part of that included cool souvenirs.

The Perisphere and the Trylon, known together as the “Theme Center,” were two of the main draws of the 1939 World’s Fair. Connected to the Trylon’s spire was at the time the world’s longest escalator, and inside the Perisphere’s dome was a diorama called “Democracity,” which depicted the city-of-the-future. But you could take these structures home as fun salt shakers! Continue reading

Happy Birthday Washington Irving!


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Erastus Dow Palmer, Washington Irving (1783-1859), 1865. Gift of Mrs. Anna T. E. Kirtland, as a memorial to Mr. Jared T. Kirtland, 1865.4On April 3, 1783 Writer and satirist Washington Irving was born in New York City. He best known for his short stories “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “Rip Van Winkle,” but I will always love him best for coining the name of New York’s basketball team!

In 1809, Irving published his first major book, A History of New-York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, by Diedrich Knickerbocker. Through the Knickerbocker pseudonym, Irving poked fun at the city’s self-important Dutch elite, in which Knickerbocker was a fairly common last name. He also pulled an elaborate prank in anticipation of the book’s release, posting “missing person” adverts in city newspapers, claiming Knickerbocker, a Dutch historian, had gone missing from his hotel room. Continue reading

A Short History of Manhattan’s Water Supply


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Section of water pipe, ca. 1804. Wood. New-York Historical Society, Gift of Stoughton and Stoughton, 1953.308SMany New Yorkers say the reason you can’t get a good bagel anywhere else is because of New York City’s tap water, and indeed, we have some of the best in the country.

But that wasn’t always the case. Early 18th century inhabitants rarely had clean drinking water (in fact, beer was a more trusted drink than water), but that all changed in 1799 with the founding of the Manhattan Water Company and pipes like this. Continue reading

What Was New York City Like in 1670?


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Daniel Denton, A Brief Description of NEW-YORK: Formerly Called New-Netherlands, 1670. Book. New-York Historical Society Library, LIB.Y.1670.DenIn 1670, New York had been New York for just six years—the name changed to honor the Duke of York when English forces seized control of the Dutch colony.  But the city was open for business, and many back in Europe were curious about this center of trade across the Atlantic, open in the midst of the Age of Exploration.

Daniel Denton was a town clerk in Jamaica, Long Island, and from 1665-1666 served as justice of the peace for New York. He returned to England briefly in 1670, where he composed this pamphlet, “A Brief Description of New-York,” aimed at encouraging English settlers to come to the New World. Continue reading

James Hazen Hyde: A Gilded Age Scandal


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Théobald Chartran (French, 1849 –1907), James Hazen Hyde (1876-1959), 1901. Oil on canvas. New-York Historical  Society, Gift of James Hazen Hyde, 1949.1This portrait has captured the imaginations of New-York Historical Society visitors. Who was this dapper man, with his seductively villainous good looks? Why this dashing, bold pose for what seems to be an official portrait?

The man is James Hazen Hyde, though that name may not ring a bell these days. The son of Henry Baldwin Hyde, the founder of the Equitable Life Assurance Society, James was famous for his social and financial success, and the dramatic scandal that caused his downfall. Continue reading

New York City: What Is Your World War Two Story?


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When the New-York Historical Society set out to create its WWII & NYC exhibit, we knew that personal histories would be an important part of our presentation and our approach to soliciting visitor responses. Many visitors would have served on the home front or war fronts, or experienced the “War Emergency” as children. Others would have heard stories from their parents and grandparents. Continue reading