Category Archives: Books

Art Deco Mailboxes: An Illustrated History


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art deco mailboxesArt Deco Mailboxes: An Illustrated Design History (W.W Norton & Co., 2015) by Karen Greene and Lynne Lavelle features a full-color photographic survey of early mailboxes, located in New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and beyond. Many of these mailboxes have since been removed, forgotten, disused, or painted over, others are still in use, are polished daily, and hold a place of pride in lobbies throughout the country.

As American art deco architecture flourished in the 1920s and 1930s, mailboxes and their chutes became focal points in landmark buildings and public spaces such as the GE Building, Grand Central Terminal, the Woolworth Building, 29 Broadway, the St. Regis Hotel, the Waldorf Astoria, and more. Continue reading

Biographical Sketches of New York’s First 21 Governors


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biographical sketches of NY's first 21 governorsNew York State’s first 21 Governors had a profound impact on the development and growth of the State and Country from 1777-1864. The stories of their extraordinary lives show how the State of New York and the United States developed from the Revolutionary War through the Civil War.

Todd Elzey’s book Biographical Sketches of New York’s First 21 Governors (Be Informed Books, 2015) presents intriguing stories of these men, including: Continue reading

Eleazer Williams: Professional Indian


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professional indianMichael Leroy Oberg’s new book Professional Indian: The American Odyseey of Eleazer Williams (2015, Univ. of Pennsylvania Press) follows Eleazer Williams on his odyssey across the early American republic and through the shifting spheres of the Iroquois in an era of dispossession.

Oberg describes Williams as a “professional Indian,” who cultivated many political interests and personas in order to survive during a time of shrinking options for native peoples.

He was not alone: as Oberg shows, many Indians became missionaries and settlers and played a vital role in westward expansion. Through the larger-than-life biography of Eleazer Williams, Professional Indian uncovers how Indians fought for place and agency in a world that was rapidly trying to erase them. Continue reading

The Bible In Early America


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ben_franklins_worldWhat role did the Bible play in the development of British North America and early United States?

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, we address this question by exploring the place of the Bible in early America. Our guide for this exploration is Mark Noll, the Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame and the author of In the Beginning Was the Word The Bible in American Public Life, 1492-1783 (Oxford University Press, 2015). You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/073

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Gardens of Eden: Long Island’s Planned Communities


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gardens of edenRobert B. MacKay’s new book Gardens of Eden: Long Island’s Early Twentieth Century Planned Communities (2015, W.W Norton & Co.) examines Long Island at the turn of the twentieth century, and how it saw an explosion of architectural ambition.

Well-known for the country houses that bloomed through the Progressive Era as seasonal havens for the captains of New York finance and industry, Long Island also afforded people of more modest means the opportunity to strike out from the city.

Gardens of Eden tells the story of Long Island’s “residential parks,” richly gardened suburbs with such distinctive directives as the exclusive housing of teachers, public outreach by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and a taboo on right-angled intersections. Continue reading

History Book Considers America in the 1990s


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america in the 90sNina Esperanza Serrianne’s new book America in the Nineties (2015, Syracuse University Press) takes a step back to the decade of the 1990s, from the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

This book delves into the post–Cold War and pre–War on Terror era which was a unique moment in American history regarding both foreign and domestic policies. Continue reading

A Short History of the Finger Lakes Wine Country


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finger lakes wine countryThe new book Finger Lakes Wine Country (2015 Arcadia Publishing), by Finger Lakes local author Sarah S. Thompson, is a photographic journey covering 150 years of viticulture and winemaking in New York’s Finger Lakes region, and its pivotal role in American wine history.

The book is a regional history of the wine industry, told through more than 200 vintage images from collections of area wineries, museums, historical societies, archives and passionate residents. Continue reading

The DePeyster Family: From Loyalists to Loyal Citizens


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from loyalists to loyal citizensAuthor Valerie H. McKito’s new book, From Loyalists to Loyal Citizens: The DePeyster Family of New York (2015 SUNY Press) takes a look at the DePeyster family, one of the first families of New Amsterdam. The family ranked among the wealthiest of New York during the early days of the American Republic. The DePeysters were also unapologetic Loyalists, serving in the King’s forces during the American Revolution.

After the war, the four sons left the United States for Canada and Great Britain. Ten years later, one son, Frederick DePeyster, returned to New York, embraced his Loyalist past, and utilized his British connections to become a prominent and successful merchant. The DePeysters went on to become true Patriots, zealously supporting US interests in the War of 1812. Continue reading

Saratoga and Hubbardton, 1777


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ben_franklins_worldHistorians refer to the Battle of Saratoga as the turning point of the American Revolution.

They argue the patriot army’s defeat of British General John Burgoyne’s forces convinced the French to enter the War for Independence. Together, French and American forces cornered Charles, Earl Cornwallis at Yorktown in 1781 and ended the war.

This is the quick version of Saratoga, but as we know, history is more complicated.

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, we explore the Saratoga Campaign of 1777 in more depth with Bruce M. Venter, author of The Battle of Hubbardton: The Rear Guard Action that Saved America (Arcadia, 2015). You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/071.

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‘No One Helped’: The Myth of Urban Apathy


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no one helpedMarcia M. Gallo takes a look at one of America’s most infamous crime stories, in No One Helped (2015 Cornell University).  This new book examines  the 1964 rape and murder of Catherine “Kitty” Genovese, in a middle-class neighborhood of Queens.

Front-page reports in the New York Times incorrectly identified thirty-eight indifferent witnesses to the crime, fueling fears of apathy and urban decay. Genovese’s life, including her lesbian relationship, was also obscured in media accounts of the crime.

Fifty years later, the story of Kitty Genovese continues to circulate in popular culture. Although it is now known that there were far fewer witnesses to the crime than was reported in 1964, the moral of the story continues to be urban apathy. No One Helped traces the Genovese story’s development and resilience while challenging the myth it created. Continue reading