On Tuesday, April 14, 1903, an Irish woman named Frances Connors leaned out of her window from the fifth floor tenement house at 743 East 11th Street on Avenue D, New York City, and discovered a man’s body stashed inside a wooden barrel.
The man, who sported a thick mustache speckled with gray hairs and a scar shaped like the letter ‘v’ on his left cheek, had been viciously stabbed, his neck almost severed from side to side. Inspectors on the scene had an inkling the man was one of the many Italian immigrants who had recently made their way into New York, and who perhaps had become involved with La Mala Vita, the bad life. Continue reading
This week on “The Historians” podcast Albany Times Union reporter Paul Grondahl talks about his recent series of articles on the history of immigration in the Capital District. You can listen to the podcast here. Continue reading
Lowell Thing’s book The Street that Built a City: McEntee’s Chestnut Street, Kingston, and the Rise of New York (Black Dome, 2015) takes a look at the city of New York and the street that built it — or much of it. The street is on a quiet hilltop overlooking the Hudson River a hundred miles north of New York’s harbor.
Chestnut Street’s first resident, James McEntee, was an engineer who helped build the Delaware and Hudson Canal, which brought millions of tons of coal from Pennsylvania to the port at Rondout to be hauled down the Hudson River on barges pulled by steamboats belonging to another Chestnut Street resident, Samuel Coykendall, to fuel a rapidly growing New York City. Seven owners of brickyards lived on the street, and their hundreds of millions of bricks rose skyward in New York while bluestone slabs shipped from nearby Wilbur paved the city’s sidewalks. Continue reading
In Crossing Broadway Washington: Heights and the Promise of New York City (Cornell University Press, 2014), Robert W. Snyder explores New York City in the 1970s.
When the South Bronx burned and the promise of New Deal New York and postwar America gave way to despair, the people of Washington Heights at the northern tip of Manhattan were increasingly vulnerable.
The Heights had long been a neighborhood where generations of newcomers — Irish, Jewish, Greek, African American, Cuban, and Puerto Rican — carved out better lives in their adopted city. But as New York City shifted from an industrial base to a service economy, new immigrants from the Dominican Republic struggled to gain a foothold. This was followed by the crack epidemic of the 1980s, and the drug wars. Continue reading
The first Western-trained Chinese physician to practice in the U.S. lived most of his life in Brooklyn, where he established America’s first modern hospital for Chinese patients. A strong civil rights advocate at a time when his community could boast few of them, he spoke out frequently and forcefully against the injustices to which Chinese in America were subjected.
China-born Joseph Chak Thoms (1862-1929), known in his native Cantonese dialect as Tom Ah Jo, arrived in California as a teenager in the mid-1870s. He had a gift for language and soon mastered English with hardly an accent. After being baptized by a Presbyterian missionary – which earned him a beating from his uncle – he took a job as a cabin boy and sailed around the world on a steamer, visiting Japan and India before returning to America. Continue reading
Philipse Manor Hall State Historic Site is designing an exhibit about the rise of Yonkers as an immigrant city, set for a phased opening beginning in September 2016. From its start as a Lenape fishing village and Dutch patroonship, to the industrious peak of the 1900s, and into modern times, the growth of Yonkers can be attributed to the various ethnic groups that have settled in the area.
The site is seeking local first- and second-generation immigrants to assist with the creation of this exhibit. Interviews will be conducted on an ongoing basis through the remaining months of 2015. Continue reading
On July 8-9, New York City-based auction house Guernsey’s will be conducting an unreserved auction of an extraordinary collection of patriotic posters relating to World War I, believed to be the largest such collection known to exist.
The collection is that of Brooklyn-born Edward H. McCrahon, who joined the French Army two years before the United States entered the war. Once the U.S. became involved, McCrahon returned home, joined the U.S. Army, rising to the rank of Colonel. During his stint in France he became interested by war poster art. At the end of the war, McCrahon began assembling his collection and by the mid-1930s his collection was widely exhibited. Continue reading
In Pamela Newkirk’s Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga (Amistad / Harper Collins, 2015) the award-winning journalist reveals a little-known and shameful episode in American history, when an African man was used as a zoo exhibit — a shocking story of racial prejudice, science, and tragedy in the early years of the twentieth century.
Ota Benga, a young Congolese man, was featured as an exhibit at the St. Louis World’s Fair. Two years later, in 1906, the Bronx Zoo displayed him in its Monkey House, caging the slight 103-pound, four-foot eleven-inch man with an orangutan. The attraction became an international sensation, drawing thousands of New Yorkers and commanding headlines from across the nation and Europe. Continue reading
The Sixth Annual Schenectady Celtic Heritage Day, presented by a partnership of the Schenectady County Historical Society and the Schenectady Ancient Order of Hibernians, will be held at the Mabee Farm Historic Site in Rotterdam Junction on June 6, 2015 from 11 am to 7 pm.
This year’s event brings live music from regional Celtic favorite Triskele, as well as Dublin Train Wreck, and the Fiddler’s Tour plus Celtic dance performances by the Braemor Highland Dancers and the Farrell School of Irish Dance. Continue reading
Those of us in the local history museum business sometimes struggle to connect with the large segment of the general population that doesn’t see the relevance of history. They are busy with their everyday lives; schedules of work, family and leisure time. Trying to get their attention and then bring them to a history based event can be challenging.
A few years ago at a Fenton History Center Board of Trustee meeting (Fenton History Center is in Jamestown, Chautauqua County, NY) we were brainstorming about how to collect and disseminate more local Italian genealogy and the stories that go with the families involved. One of the Fenton History Center Trustees suggested we hold a pizza judging event. We tabled the idea until last year when we started the “Slice of History Pizza Challenge”. Continue reading