Building the Empire State


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ben_franklins_worldAfter seven, long years of occupation, Americans found New York City in shambles after the British evacuation on November 25, 1783.

Ten to twenty-five percent of the city had burned in 1776. The British used just about every building that remained to billet officers, soldiers, refugees, and their horses. Plus more refugees and animals crammed into vacant lots, streets, and alleyways.

New York City stood in need of a lot of repair. Which raises the question: How did New Yorkers rebuild New York City? Where did they get the money to rebuild, improve, and encourage the economic development that would transform the city into the thriving metropolis and economic hub that it would be come?

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, Brian Murphy, an Associate Professor of History at Rutgers University-Newark, takes us through part of this amazing story with details from his book Building the Empire State: Political Economy in the Early Republic (Penn Press, 2015).

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Being A NYC Yellow Cab Driver in the 1960s


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jules-stewart-cab-driverThe afternoon I crashed my Yellow Cab into a fire hydrant in West 17th Street I discovered that Gotham Hospital, where I happened to be born, had long ceased to exist. That was not the hospital blown up by The Joker in The Dark Knight. Mine was quietly shut and bulldozed in the 1960s. But this perhaps helps explain a Batman fixation that endures to this day, the 77th birthday of Gotham’s caped hero. Continue reading

Champlain Canal Region Social Reform Movements Roundtable


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champlain-canal-lockHistorians, museums, libraries, cultural groups, political leaders and community members are invited to a roundtable discussion on “Social Reform Movements of the 19th Century in the Champlain Canal Region of New York” on Friday, January 20 from 10 am to 2 pm in the Schuyler Room of the Saratoga Town Hall.

Stories gathered at the roundtable will be used to design public humanities programs on themes related to social reform movements during the Industrial Revolution. Continue reading

The Flour Riot of 1837


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flour riot 1837Generally speaking, riots tend to happen on hot summer days but the Flour Riot erupted on a cold winter night in February of 1837. The attack on warehouses was sparked by a fear that food was being hoarded by wealthy merchants in lower Manhattan and people in the lower classes might face starvation. In reality, the rumors which inflamed the crowd were greatly exaggerated, lasted about a day and the vandalism which resulted was fairly minor, especially when compared to such later disturbances such as the Astor Place Riot or the colossal Draft Riots. Nonetheless, the Flour Riot was a significant affair because it underscored a growing divide in the city between New York’s prosperous merchant class and a quickly growing lower class of newly arrived Irish immigrants. The riot was also memorable because new method of communication, the “penny press,” had helped to inflame tensions. These cheap newspapers, widely available to the poor, had spread dangerous rumors and provoked a mob to attack a warehouse where flour was stored. Continue reading

Emancipation Watch Night in Peterboro New Year’s Eve


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corpin-bowenIn honor of President Lincoln’s January 1, 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, and Gerrit Smith’s connection to the copy of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in the New York State Library, Retired Navy Commander Owen Corpin will provide a program and prepare the watch fire for the Watch Night commemoration at 4 pm Sunday, December 31, 2016.

The program will begin at the Smithfield Community Center, 5255 Pleasant Valley Road, Peterboro, and will move to the watch fire site on the Peterboro Green. Owen Corpin, a descendant of 19th Century freedom seekers who came to Peterboro, will describe the long wait through the night of December 31, 1862. Corpin organized the first Peterboro Watch Night for the Sesquicentennial of the Emancipation Proclamation. Continue reading

New Book: The Dutch Moment


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the-dutch-moment-bookIn The Dutch Moment: War,Trade, and Settlement in the Seventeenth-Century Atlantic World (Cornell University Press, 2016), Wim Klooster shows how the Dutch built and eventually lost an Atlantic empire that stretched from the homeland in the United Provinces to the Hudson River and from Brazil and the Caribbean to the African Gold Coast. The fleets and armies that fought for the Dutch in the decades-long war against Spain included numerous foreigners, largely drawn from countries in northwestern Europe. Likewise, many settlers of Dutch colonies were born in other parts of Europe or the New World. The Dutch would not have been able to achieve military victories without the native alliances they carefully cultivated. The Dutch Atlantic was quintessentially interimperial, multinational, and multiracial. At the same time, it was an empire entirely designed to benefit the United Provinces. Continue reading

A History of Brooklyn Bridge Park


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a-history-of-brooklyn-bridge-parkNancy Webster and David Shirley’s new book, A History of Brooklyn Bridge Park (Columbia University Press, 2016), recounts the grassroots, multi-voiced, and contentious effort, beginning in the 1980s, to transform Brooklyn’s defunct piers into a beautiful, urban oasis.

By the 1970s, the Brooklyn piers had become a wasteland on the New York City waterfront. Today, they have been transformed into a park that is enjoyed by countless Brooklynites and visitors from across New York City and around the world. The movement to resist commercial development on the piers reveals how concerned citizens came together to shape the future of their community. Continue reading

New York History Around The Web This Week


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