Category Archives: Books

Citizen Sailors: Becoming American in the Age of Revolution


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ben_franklins_worldWhat did it mean to be a citizen during the late-18th and early-19th centuries?

Why and how did early American sailors seem intent on proving their citizenship to the United States?

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, we explore citizenship and maritime life during the Age of Revolutions with Nathan Perl-Rosenthal, author of Citizen Sailors: Becoming American in the Age of Revolution (Belknap Press, 2015). You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/076

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Brooklyn Heights: An Industrial History


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brooklyn heights book coverRobert Furman’s book Brooklyn Heights: the Rise, Fall and Rebirth of America’s First Suburb (The History Press, 2015) is a substantial illustrated history of Brooklyn. The book takes a look at the moving forces of history, and shows that technology is the great creator and destroyer, especially in the rise and fall of cities.

Brooklyn was once a great industrial city, like many others. It was enabled by transportation technology: steam ferries, railroads, canals. It was once the largest freight port in the world, in particular in Red Hook’s Atlantic and Erie Basins. They were the discharging end of the Erie Canal, and later expanded into international shipping. Continue reading

Review: The Remarkable Rise of Eliza Jumel


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the remarkable rise of Eliza JumelShe’s the woman who dueled with Aaron Burr and won. Move over Alexander Hamilton. The life of Eliza Jumel is a tale about a woman who pulled hard on her Yankee bootstraps to make good on the American dream.

Margaret Oppenheimer’s splendid book, The Remarkable Rise of Eliza Jumel: Marriage and Money in the Early Republic (Chicago Review Press, 2015), takes readers along on a tale of intrigue, scandal and innuendo. Far from a steamy beach read featuring men in white wigs, this meticulously-researched tale paints a detailed and scholarly portrait of New York City and the way in which the city’s growth provided fertile ground for the ambitions of its heroine. Continue reading

New Book: Fading Structures in the Finger Lakes


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Tfading structures in the finger lakes bookhe new book Fading Structures in the Finger Lakes: Images and Verse (Fast Pencil, 2015) by Michael W. Duttweiler explores 24 structures in the Central Finger Lake Region. These structures once stood strong, but have since been run down and abandoned.

Each image is paired with a poem conveying the allure and intrigue of the deserted structures. Poems by Conant, Kilmer, Frost, Dickinson, Whitman, Tennyson and other well-known authors are included.

Duttweiler hopes that by conveying the beauty of these fading structures, local organizations will be encouraged to support historic preservation. Continue reading

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