There are several claimants to the title of New York’s most famous nurse. That distinction probably can be laid at the feet of Long Island native Walt Whitman, though it was not his nursing skills during the Civil War that garnered him his fame. Some might argue it is the still not positively identified nurse who was photographed in Times Square celebrating the surrender of Japan in 1945 through a passionate kiss from a sailor. Again, though, it was not her skills as a nurse that earned her recognition. Another contender was Mary Breckinridge, whose Frontier Nursing Service brought healthcare to poor rural America. While her fame came about as a result of her nursing, she was born in Tennessee and gained her fame in Kentucky, only acquiring her nursing education in New York.
I happen to believe the title of New York’s most famous nurse belongs to Lillian Wald. Though born in Cincinnati, her family brought her to New York as a girl. She would spend the rest of her life there, gaining fame for her work in bringing healthcare to the poorest of New York’s immigrant population. Even after her death in 1940 her impact on New York continued to be felt, and her legacy lives on to this day. Continue reading
January 29th is the birthday of Albert Gallatin. The Lower Manhattan Historical Society will hold a brief ceremony at 4:30 pm in which students from New York University will lay a wreath on Gallatin’s grave in Trinity Church Cemetery. The ceremony will be followed by a lecture on Gallatin at 5:30 at the Museum of American Finance at 48 Wall Street in Manhattan.
Although not as well known as some of the more famous residents of Trinity’s cemetery, Albert Gallatin, was an important figure who fought for regular Americans and a more democratic society. Continue reading
There is a neighborhood in Manhattan that some of its old timers call “España Chica” – Little Spain. From the late 19th century to the present time it served as the social and cultural nerve center of Spanish immigrants who settled in New York City.
Little Spain sits just above the West Village, mostly along West 14th Street, but the casual non-Spanish pedestrian would hardly know they were in a Spanish ethnic enclave. If this stroller were a vexillologist (or a fan of the Real Madrid Soccer team) she would no doubt know that the flag hanging in front of the nondescript brownstone at 239 West 14th Street, home of the Spanish Benevolent Society, was that of Spain. Continue reading
The remarkable saga of the Chinese in America is one of prejudice and progress, marked with fierce struggles against injustice and precedent-setting legal cases. An ongoing exhibition at the New-York Historical Society (through April 19, 2015) excavates intriguing materials to document the history of these conflicts, drawing on cartoons, adversarial proceedings in immigration offices and family archives to tell heart-rending stories.
Opinions from period voices track the evolution of attitudes. The African-American statesman Frederick Douglass summons the ultimate American vision of inclusion formulated shortly after the end of slavery: “The voice of civilization speaks an unmistakable language against the isolation of families, nations and races, and pleads for composite nationality as essential to her triumphs.” Continue reading
What are the dynamics of cultural equity and how does a community encourage its own cultural arts? Ellen McHale, Executive Director of the New York Folklore Society, will speak about the 21st century demographics of Schenectady and the Mohawk Valley and will provide some thoughts towards a culturally inclusive community on December 13th, at the Mabee Farm historic Site. Continue reading
The 2014-2015 series Exploring Schenectady’s Immigrant Past at the Schenectady County Historical Society will celebrate the rich cultural heritage of Schenectady County and will explore the history and significance of immigration in the region.
As part of the series, SCHS is has announced a Call for Submissions for its upcoming community-curated art exhibit, Where Do You Come From. The exhibit, made possible in part by a grant from the Schenectady County Initiative Project, will explore the wide range of cultures that makes up Schenectady County today. Community members, local artists, and students are all invited to submit their artwork, including but not limited to paintings, collages, photography, sculpture, or whichever medium best answers the title question. Continue reading
There are just two weeks left to see Palaces for the People: Guastavino and the Art of Structural Tile – a major exhibition examining the engineering and architectural beauty of spaces designed and built by Spanish immigrant Rafael Guastavino and his son, Rafael Jr. Continue reading
Last week, I asked readers to “consider what might happen if Empire State Development and I Love NY actually promoted New York State History and reached out to tour operators to visit historic New York.”
That drew a comment from “Cathy” about her experience in Rockland County: Continue reading
Immigration has always been an important part of New York history. If one considers the story of the state from the Ice Age to Global Warming, then we and/or our ancestors all arrived here from somewhere else. Even if we were born an American and reside here now we may not have been born in New York. And if we were born in New York, we may not now live in the community where we were born or grew up. People move around a lot. How often do you hear the story of someone who has only been a resident of the community for 10, 20, 30 years and is still considered a newcomer?
Telling the story of immigration in New York provides an opportunity for us to connect with the world. What country doesn’t have residents in this state? So here is an opportunity for New York to tell the story about what it means to be a New Yorker by examining the lives of people who became New Yorkers. Continue reading
Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries will host the reinterment of the 19th Century Immigrants at Court House (Marine Hospital) Cemetery at Central Avenue and Hyatt Street in Staten Island on April 27th. The event is open to the public by seating is limited.
Between 1799 and 1858, Staten Island was home to the Marine Hospital Quarantine Station. ALL ships entering New York Harbor during those years were stopped and if New York medical inspectors found anyone on the ships suffering from infectious diseases they were removed and held at the Staten Island facility to await their outcome. Local residents from Staten Island, Manhattan and the adjacent communities in New Jersey were also sent to this facility. Continue reading
The working class Irish neighborhood of old and new law tenements immediately west of the theater district in Manhattan was once one of the toughest areas in the City where the Irish street gangs, bootleggers, gamblers and mobsters held sway. However, it is today home to major law, accounting and advertising firms, off-broadway theaters and trendy bars and restaurants as well as upscale apartment buildings in which actors and young professionals reside.
Nevertheless, many do not realize that the political leadership of the area has remained the same for the last 100 years. For the past 50 years, the Democratic party district leader of the area has been the legendary Jimmy McManus, fourth generation of the McMani of Tammany Hall, whose McManus Midtown Democratic Club is the oldest continuously functioning Democratic Club in New York City, and has controlled the area politically since 1892 when Jim’s great grand uncle defeated Tammany leader George Washington Plunkitt. Another notable figure the tour will discuss is Frances Perkins. Perkins, a social worker in Hell’s Kitchen who later became FDR’s Labor Secretary and creator of Social Security, got her start in New York politics in 1910 by a chance meeting with Thomas J. McManus. Continue reading
There are people whose contributions to baseball history went far beyond mere batting averages or stolen bases. They didn’t just play the game, they changed the game. For generations of American Jews and other minorities, they served as athletic, cultural, and ethical role models.
On March 13, 2014 the National Museum of American Jewish History will open a new exhibition, Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Becoming American, being billed as “the first large-scale exhibition to use the story of Jews and baseball as an opportunity to highlight ways in which our national pastime is part of the history, and ongoing story, of how immigrants and minorities of many different backgrounds—including Italians, Asians, Latinos, African-Americans, and many others—become American, to feel a part of the society in which they might otherwise be on the margins.” Continue reading
The New-York Historical Society has acquired a first edition of Jacob Riis’s How the Other Half Lives: Studies among the Tenements of New York.
The newly acquired volume is heavily annotated by the author with pages scrawled with moral indignation towards slumlords, asides about tenement residents, and copyedits. Continue reading
Ancestry.com, the world’s largest online family history resource, has announced the availability of an index to more than 10 million New York City birth, marriage and death records, spanning 1866-1948, for free online at Ancestry.com/NewYork.
The new index, made possible through a relationship with the New York City Department Of Records/Municipal Archives, enables people exploring their family history to discover and learn more about their possible New York roots. Continue reading
The Center for Public Scholarship at The New School in New York City is hosting a free public event celebrating the University in Exile, on Thursday, January 30, 2014.
The University in Exile was created by The New School’s first president, Alvin Johnson, as a haven for scholars whose careers and lives were threatened in Germany in 1933, when the Nazi Party came to power and acted to expel all Jews and political opponents from German universities. Continue reading
Peacefully sharing a space-time continuum does not come easily to our species. The challenge of doing so was played out in colonial New Amsterdam/New York in the 17th and 18th centuries especially from Albany and Schenectady westward throughout the Mohawk Valley.
There, and north to the Champlain Valley and Canada, multiple peoples who had not yet become two-dimensional cliches struggled to dominate, share, and survive in what became increasingly contentious terrain. Battles were fought, settlements were burned, and captives were taken, again and again.
By the 19th century, much of that world had vanished save for the novels of James Fenimore Cooper. By the 20th century, that world existed in state historic sites, historical societies and local museums, Hollywood, and at times in the state’s social studies curriculum. Continue reading
With nearly 49,000 people living in city shelters, including almost 21,000 children—a modern-day record that may well be broken—there has never been more of a need to step back and understand how New Yorkers have confronted poverty and homelessness over time.
The Poor Among Us: A History of Family Poverty and Homelessness in New York City (2013, White Tiger Press), puts current policies in perspective through the lens of nearly 300 years of public and philanthropic efforts to alleviate poverty in New York City. Continue reading
Although the role of the Dutch in Early American history has been largely ignored, the facts are that New Netherland antedates New England, and religious toleration and ethnic diversity in the United States began with the Dutch.
Why isn’t this better known and taught in our schools? Because, until now an easy to read, short introduction to the history of New Netherland has been lacking. Firth Haring Fabend of Montclair, NJ, a recognized historian of the field, was commissioned by the New Netherland Institute to write New Netherland in a Nutshell (New Netherland Institute, 2012) to fill the gap. Continue reading
In All Standing: The Remarkable Story of the Jeanie Johnston, The Legendary Irish Famine Ship (Free Press, 2013), Kathryn Miles recounts the dramatic tale of a legendary ship, the Jeanie Johnston, that ran between Ireland and North America during the height of the Irish famine. During this time, the people of Ireland emigrated to North America in search of job opportunities and a better life, crowding onto aptly named “coffin ships,” whose gruesome conditions rivaled those of slave transports.
But unlike every other coffin ship, the Jeanie Johnston never lost a passenger. While over 100,000 people died aboard other coffin ships, the combined efforts of the Jeanine Johnston’s crew allowed thousands of individuals to find safety and fortune throughout the United States and Canada. Continue reading
What were the consequences of the 1568 revolt which began in the Low Countries against the Habsburg Empire and lasted 80 years? People were displaced – some fleeing the ravages of war; others were fleeing religious persecution.
A disconnect from the Empire meant a disruption in normal commercial activity. Markets and waters once friendly turned hostile. Trading companies eventually replaced the former commercial routes and exploration for new routes and markets was undertaken. On October 5th in New York City five Dutch and Belgian speakers will give illustrated lectures about the effects of this revolt on the Low Countries and the settlement of North America. Continue reading