Author 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
Marcia 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
Ginger Adams Otis’ new book Firefight: The Century-Long Battle to Integrate New York’s Bravest (2015 Palgrave MacMillan) offers a fresh look at New York City’s firefighters’ critical Civil Rights history.
Firefight is a narrative from veteran reporter Ginger Adams Otis that delves deep into the struggle of black firefighters to truly integrate the FDNY – the largest fire department in the U.S.
It sheds light on the long, painful effort to achieve the still-elusive post-racial America and shares the untold history of the black men and women who battled to join the Bravest. Continue reading
A new book, Liber A of the Collegiate Churches of New York, Part 2, provides new insight on colonial New York as a diverse New World economic hub. This volume includes a more-complete set of records of early life in the church, a cornerstone of colonial life.
Liber A Part 2 contains 17th-century records from the Reformed Dutch Church of the City of the New York, founded in 1628, which later became the Collegiate Churches of New York. The book includes details about daily life, baptism and marriage practices from this period, providing fundamental context. This volume is a companion to Liber A , published in 2009, and includes the church’s earliest moments such as details of its construction and the royal charter that led to its founding.
The Museum of the City of New York is presenting a new exhibit, “Picturing Prestige: New York Portraits, 1700-1860,” an ensemble of iconic New Yorkers presented through portraits, which were commissioned as status symbols and painted by the very best artists a young nation had to offer. Continue reading
The Morris-Jumel Mansion in Washington Heights was built in 1765, and is Manhattan’s oldest surviving house. George Washington made it his headquarters during parts of the Revolutionary War, and today it is a not-for-profit museum open to all, yet the mansion flies mostly under the radar of even the most erudite of New Yorkers.
Margaret A. Oppenheimer sheds light on the mansion and its most notorious occupant in her new book, The Remarkable Rise of Eliza Jumel: A Story of Marriage and Money in the Early Republic (2015 Chicago Review Press). Continue reading
Although his father was said to have been born as a slave, and was later a junk dealer in the Augusta, Georgia area, Sumner H. Lark came to be a trend-breaking black leader in New York State who worked to establish an African-American community in Putnam County.
Sumner Lark was born in in 1874 to a father later described as “a pioneer race business man in his home town and accumulated a considerable fortune at one time.” He grew up in the Augusta area, and attended the Haines Institute before attending Howard University, graduating in 1897. He then returned to Georgia, taught Chemistry and Physics at Haines and ran a local newspaper for about a year, having edited a student-run newspaper in college. After marrying he relocated to Brooklyn, New York just after the start of the 20th century. There, he ran his own printing business, and started The Eye, a newspaper which reported information of interest to African Americans. Continue reading
“The street has provided generation after generation with a mystical flash of belonging… experiences of mortal peril, dissipation and adventure…” writes Ada Calhoun in her new book St. Marks’s Is Dead. Her wry and witty journey through history notes that each generation plunged in the excitement and grunge of the Lower East Side street proclaims its own moment “the golden age,” while bemoaning subsequent events as the death of the place’s “true essence.” That heart might be an immigrant’s dream, revolution, creativity, dissent, fashion experiment or altered consciousness.
Her bedlam of voices making these claims is entertaining and illuminating, the voluble chatter of participants, residents, business folks and dissidents who gave the street its gritty allure. Calhoun conducted over 200 interviews to assemble this history, and they range from obscure rantings of yesteryear to tales of the poor and famous. You will hear from Leon Trotsky, W.H. Auden, Debbie Harry, Klaus Nomi, street people, skate-boarders, drag queens and theater operators. Emma Goldman, famed anarchist, ran the Modern School for a while, where ardent revolutionaries could learn from the works of Mikhail Bakunin and Karl Marx. Pamela Moore, a pulp novelist of the 1960s described the creative invasion of the 1950s as “their own brand-new Beatnikville where the artists had moved in on the Slavic factory hands and all lived together in glorious, outrageous, dedicated poverty!” 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
Grand Central Terminal, which turns 103 today, has recently produced a new history video series about the iconic building. The series features Grand Central Terminal historian Dan Brucker.
Among the Grand Central treasures Brucker shines a spotlight on, are the world’s largest example of Tiffany glass; the Main Concourse ceiling; the famous Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant; the whispering gallery; and The Campbell Apartment, Grand Central Terminal’s own speakeasy. Continue reading