Tag Archives: New York Historical Society

Ron Chernow Awarded American History Book Prize


By on

0 Comments

Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of the New-York Historical Society, announced today that Ron Chernow has been chosen to receive the Society’s sixth annual American History Book Prize for his most recent work, Washington: A Life (Penguin Press, 2010). The Historical Society will present Chernow with an engraved medal, the title of American Historian Laureate and a cash award of $50,000 at the beginning of its annual Weekend with History event, hosted by the Chairman’s Council, on April 8, 2011.

Ron Chernow’s previous books include The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance (for which he received the National Book Award), The Warburgs: The Twentieth-Century Odyssey of a Remarkable Jewish Family, Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. and Alexander Hamilton.

Roger Hertog, Chairman of the New-York Historical Society’s Board of Trustees, stated, “With his studies of Hamilton, Rockefeller, the Warburgs and the House of Morgan, Ron Chernow has become the biographer’s biographer. His Washington will undoubtedly become the definitive life of our first President.”

“How can I not be thrilled to receive an award bestowed by a jury that includes distinguished historians under the auspices of one of our foremost historical societies?” Chernow asked. “We are living through an unusually rich period of historical writing, and I have no doubt that the field was crowded in 2010 with many worthy competitors for the prize.”

Washington: A Life
was selected from a pool of 99 submissions made by a committee comprised of historians and New-York Historical Society leadership.

In its award citation, the award jury stated, “Ron Chernow’s Washington: A Life is an exceptionally well-written book and offers a truly fresh perspective on the personality of Washington, bringing him to life and paradoxically making him more sympathetic because of the faults (vanity, aloofness, ambition) that are delineated.”

Pam Schafler, Vice Chair of the New-York Historical Society and Chair of the Chairman’s Council, added, “We are delighted that Ron Chernow is being recognized for this latest biography, which joins his distinguished body of work. His remarks are sure to be a highlight of our Weekend with History gala dinner on April 8.”

Now being presented for the sixth year, Weekend with History offers participants the opportunity to engage in two days of presentations and informal conversations with leading historians and cultural figures. The event is hosted by the Chairman’s Council, comprised of the Historical Society’s most committed supporters. Individuals may be invited to join the Council by Trustees and senior staff of the Historical Society and by existing members of the Council.

The American History Book Prize was previously awarded during Weekend with History to Doris Kearns Goodwin for Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln; David Nasaw for Andrew Carnegie; Daniel Walker Howe for What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815–1848; Drew Gilpin Faust for This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War; and Gordon S. Wood for Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815.

An honors graduate of Yale and Cambridge, Ron Chernow has received wide acclaim for his deeply researched yet vivid explorations of the course of individual lives within the structures and institutions of American history. In addition to winning the National Book Award, Chernow received the prestigious George S. Eccles Prize for Best Business Book for The Warburgs and was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award in biography for his lives of both John D. Rockefeller and Alexander Hamilton. Alexander Hamilton was also the first recipient of the influential George Washington Prize for the year’s best book on the founding era.

For more information on Weekend with History or the Chairman’s Council, please contact Corrie Manis at 212-485-9221 or cmanis@nyhistory.org.

FDR, Eleanor Roosevelt Discussion Event


By on

0 Comments

The New-York Historical Society will host a discussion on Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Thursday, March 31, 2011, 6:30 p.m, at the New York Society for Ethical Culture, 2 West 64th St. at Central Park West, to be presented in conjunction with the building of the FDR Four Freedoms Park. The program features historian Douglas Brinkley, Ambassador William J. vanden Heuvel, Roosevelt scholar William E. Leuchtenburg, and author Hazel Rowley.

In his State of the Union Address on January 6, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt looked forward to a world in which everyone enjoyed four essential freedoms: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. These values were central to both Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, who made it her personal mission to codify those rights in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Experts discuss the speech and its far-reaching influence, and also delve into this extraordinary couple’s influence on one another.

William E. Leuchtenburg is a professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a former Bancroft Prize winner, and the author of six books on FDR. Hazel Rowley is the author of several books, including Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: An Extraordinary Marriage. William J. vanden Heuvel is Chairman of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, LLC, as well as Founder and Chair Emeritus of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute. Douglas Brinkley (moderator) is a professor of history at Rice University and a fellow in history at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. He is a member of the board of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute.

The cost is $20 for non-members; $10 for members. Call SmartTix at 212 868-4444 or visit SmartTix.com to purchase tickets.

Photo: The Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park is a memorial to Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Four Freedoms, located at the southernmost point of Roosevelt Island, in the East River between Manhattan Island and Queens in New York City. It was designed by the architect Louis Kahn.

New-York Historical Society Closing for Construction


By on

0 Comments

To accommodate its major construction project, the New-York Historical Society (N-YHS) galleries will close to the public today, Tuesday, February 1 until its grand reopening on November 11, 2011. The N-YHS Library will to remain open until June 3, 2011, with its reopening scheduled for September 9, 2011.

The galleries are scheduled to re-open on November 11, 2011. Re-designed by Platt Byard Dovell White Architects, the renovation will bring a new level of openness to the building, improve the Society’s ability to engage and inspire the public and showcase its collection and exhibitions. Also included in the Historical Society’s transformation will be the new DiMenna Children’s History Museum and the new Barbara K. Lipman Children’s History Library, designed by Lee H. Skolnick Architecture & Design Partnership, and an 80-seat Italian restaurant by Stephen Starr.



The N-YHS Reading Room and the Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections will close on Friday, June 3, 2011 as part of the renovations of the museum. The facilities will be upgraded with new carpeting and the stained glass windows will be cleaned and re-installed to provide improved lighting.

There will be limited telephone reference service during the closing, and mail and email service will continue during the renovations. To email Printed Collections: reference@nyhistory.org. To email Manuscripts: mssdept@nyhistory.org. To email Graphic Collections printtroom@nyhistory.org. Phone Numbers: Printed Collections: 212-485-9225, 212-485-9226, Manuscripts: 212-485-9265, Graphic Collections: 212-485-9227. The library will re-open on September 9, 2011.

Hudson River School Focus of Major Travelling Exhibit


By on

0 Comments

Forty-five paintings from the collection of the New-York Historical Society will tour the United States in 2011 and 2012 in the major traveling exhibition Nature and the American Vision: Masterpieces of the Hudson River School. Though very seldom loaned, these iconic works of 19th-century landscape painting will now be circulated to four museums throughout the country as part of the Historical Society’s traveling exhibitions program Sharing a National Treasure.

Nature and the American Vision
will allow audiences to enjoy and study superb examples of the Historical Society’s collection of Hudson River School paintings while the galleries of the N-YHS are closed for a transformative $65 million renovation project.

The Historical Society’s rich holdings of American art date back to the second half of the 19th century, when the museum acquired, through generous donation, the extensive painting collections formed by pioneering New York art patron Luman Reed (1787-1836). By 1944, the Society was also home to the extraordinary collection of Hudson River School art amassed by Robert Leighton Stuart (1806-1882), another of New York’s prominent 19th-century art patrons. Works once belonging to these pioneering American collectors form the core of the traveling exhibition.

“Our mission for the Sharing a National Treasure program is to ensure that audiences throughout the United States have access to the great artworks and priceless artifacts of the New-York Historical Society, New York City’s first museum and one of the nation’s oldest collecting institutions,” stated Louise Mirrer, President and CEO. “Nowhere is this mission more vital than in the traveling exhibition Nature and the American Vision. This tour keeps in public view some of the most important works of Thomas Cole, Frederic Church, Albert Bierstadt, John Kensett, Jasper Cropsey, Asher B. Durand, George Inness and many others: the first artists to have created a consciously American tradition of painting.”

The Hudson River School emerged during the second quarter of the 19th century in New York City. There, a loosely knit group of artists and writers forged the first self-consciously American landscape vision and literary voice. That American vision—still widely influential today—was grounded in a view of the natural world as a source of spiritual renewal and an expression of national identity. This vision was first expressed through the magnificent scenery of the Hudson River Valley region, including the Catskills, which was accessible to writers, artists and sightseers via traffic on the great river that gave the school its name.

The exhibition tells this story in four thematic sections. Within these broad groupings, the paintings show how American artists embodied powerful ideas about nature, culture and history—including the belief that a special providence was manifest to Americans in the continent’s sublime landscape.

The American Grand Tour
features paintings of the Catskill, Adirondack, and White Mountain regions celebrated for their scenic beauty and historic sites, as well as views of Lake George, Niagara Falls and the New England countryside. These were the destinations that most powerfully attracted both artists and travelers. The American Grand Tour also includes paintings that memorialize the Hudson River itself as the gateway to the touring destinations and primary sketching grounds for American landscape painters.

American Artists A-Field
includes works by Hudson River School artists who after 1850 sought inspiration further from home. The paintings of Frederic Edwin Church, Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Hill and Martin Johnson Heade show how these globe-trotting painters embraced the role of artist-explorer and thrilled audiences with images of the landscape wonders of such far-flung places as the American frontier, Yosemite Valley and South America.

Dreams of Arcadia: Americans in Italy features wonderful paintings by Cole, Cropsey, Sanford R. Gifford, and others celebrating Italy as the center of the Old World and the principal destination for Americans on the European Grand Tour. Viewed as the storehouse of Western culture, Italy was a living laboratory of the past, with its cities, galleries, and countryside offering a survey of the artistic heritage from antiquity, as well as a striking contrast to the wilderness vistas of North America portrayed by these same artists.

In the final section of the exhibition, Grand Landscape Narratives, all of these ideas converge in Thomas Cole’s five-painting series The Course of Empire (c. 1834-36), imagining the rise of a great civilization from an unspoiled landscape, and the ultimate decay of that civilization into ruins scattered in the same wilderness. These celebrated paintings explore the tension between Americans’ deep veneration of the wilderness and their equally ardent celebration of progress, recapitulating the larger story told in Nature and the American Vision.

Nature and the American Vision: Masterpieces of the Hudson River School will travel to The Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, TX (February 26- June 19, 2011); the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA (July 30 – November 6, 2011); the Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia, SC (November 17, 2011 – April 1, 2012); and the new Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR (May – August, 2012). The paintings will then return to their renovated home.

The ideas and beliefs explored in the exhibition are also investigated in an award-winning 224-page catalogue by Linda S. Ferber: The Hudson River School: Nature and the American Vision, published by Skira Rizzoli Publications, Inc. Featuring 150 full-color illustrations of works from the acclaimed collection of the New-York Historical Society, the catalogue places the splendid paintings in the traveling exhibition into a broad historical and cultural context. Dr. Ferber received the 2010 Henry Allen Moe Prize for Catalogues of Distinction in the Arts from the New York State Historical Association for the volume.

Times Square Photos Wanted by New-York Historical Society


By on

0 Comments

Photographers are encouraged to share their perspective on historic location in New York City by January 31, 2011 for a chance at a first place prize of $500. The New-York Historical Society is soliciting digital photographs of contemporary Times Square from West 42nd to 47th Streets at Broadway or Seventh Avenue. Photographers should look to capture exterior architecture, outdoor portraits, group snapshots, billboards and advertisements and interior images of notable area buildings. Everyone, from serious amateur photographers to tourists is welcome to participate.

Photograph submissions should be sent to contest@nyhistory.org in either GIF, JPG, or PNG format, and be at least 3000 x 3600 pixels to 6000 x 7200 pixels (or 20” x 24”). Please include a title for the photo, a description of the relevance of the photo to Times Square, where and when the photo was taken and the identity of each person who is depicted in the photo and the photographer’s name so work can be attributed. Complete submission guidelines are online.

Photo: Times Square, 1922.

NY Historical Society SeeksTimes Square Photos


By on

0 Comments

The New-York Historical Society is soliciting digital photographs of contemporary Times Square from West 42nd to 47th Streets at Broadway or Seventh Avenue. Photographers are encouraged to share their perspective on historic Times Square in New York City by submitting photos taken between November 21, 2010 to March 31, 2011

Photographers should look to capture exterior architecture, outdoor portraits, group snapshots, billboards and advertisements and interior images of notable area buildings. Everyone, from serious amateur photographers to tourists are invited to submit photographs.

Photograph submissions should be sent to photos@nyhistory.org in either GIF, JPG, or PNG format, and be at least 1,200 x 1,500 pixels *or 8” by 10”. Include the photographer’s name so work can be attributed. Complete submission guidelines are online.

Photo: Times Square, 1922.

Important Slavery Collection Goes Online


By on

0 Comments

The New-York Historical Society has announced the launch of a new online portal to nearly 12,000 pages of source materials documenting the history of slavery in the United States, the Atlantic slave trade and the abolitionist movement. Made readily accessible to the general public for the first time at www.nyhistory.org/slaverycollections, these documents from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries represent fourteen of the most important collections in the library’s Manuscript Department.

The collections include account books and ship manifests documenting the financial aspects of the slave trade; legal papers such as birth certificates and deeds of manumission; and political works and polemics. The materials range from writings by the abolitionists Granville Sharp, Lysander Spooner and Charles Sumner to the diary of a plantation manager and overseer of slaves in Cuba, Joseph Goodwin, and that of a former slave in Fishkill, New York, James F. Brown.

The site also provides access to the archives of abolitionist organizations such as the New-York Manumission Society and the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, as well as the records of the African Free School, which document the education of free blacks in early nineteenth-century New York.

“The creative use of digital technology is a key priority in making the Society a highly accessible world-class resource for all,” stated Jean Ashton, Executive Vice President of the Historical Society and Director of the Library. “This project is a landmark achievement in our efforts to offer scholars, educators and students anywhere in the world immediate access to materials from the Society’s museum and library collections.”

The project was completed with the support of a $190,000 appropriation secured by Senator Charles E. Schumer’s office to digitize the Historical Society’s library collections. “As more and more of our world goes online, we must make sure that our historical records keep up,” said Senator Schumer. “By digitizing thousands of pages of materials documenting the history of slavery in the United States, the New-York Historical Society will make this collection accessible to any American interested in our history.”

Over the past six years, the New-York Historical Society has showcased documents, art and artifacts relating to the abolitionist movement and the network known as the Underground Railroad by publishing the papers of the African Free School in print and on the web, and through the following exhibitions:

Grant and Lee in War and Peace

Lincoln and New York;

Alexander Hamilton

Slavery in New York

New York Divided: Slavery and the Civil War;

French Founding Father: Lafayette’s Return to Washington’s America.

Established in 1804, the New-York Historical Society (N-YHS) comprises New York’s oldest museum and a nationally renowned research library. N-YHS collects, preserves and interprets American history and art; its mission is to make these collections accessible to the broadest public and increase understanding of American history through exhibitions, public programs and research that reveal the dynamism of history and its impact on the world today. N-YHS holdings cover four centuries of American history and comprise one of the world’s greatest collections of historical artifacts, American art and other materials documenting the history of the United States as seen through the prism of New York City and State.

Grateful Dead Exhibit at the NY Historical Society


By on

0 Comments

Tracing the career and achievements of a band that became one of the most significant cultural forces in 20th century America, the New-York Historical Society presents The Grateful Dead: Now Playing at the New-York Historical Society. The exhibition, on view until July 4, 2010, represents the first large-scale exhibition of materials from the Grateful Dead Archive, housed at the University of California Santa Cruz.

Through a wealth of original materials, the exhibition will explore the musical creativity and influence of the Grateful Dead from 1965 to 1995, the sociological phenomenon of the Deadheads (the band’s network of devoted fans) and the enduring impact of the Dead’s pioneering approach to the music business. Among the objects in the exhibition will be documents, instruments, audio and video recordings, album art, photographs, platinum records, posters, programs, newsletters, tickets, and t-shirts and other merchandise. Highlights will include the band’s first record contract, tour itineraries, backstage guest lists, decorated fan mail, rare LP test pressings, drawings for the fabled Wall of Sound amplifier array, scripts for the Grateful Dead ticket hotline, notebooks of Dead archivist Dick Latvala, life-size skeleton props used in the band’s “Touch of Grey” video and large-scale marionettes and other stage props.

“Despite the Grateful Dead’s close association with California, the band and New York have been an important part of each other’s history from the first time the Dead played here in 1967 to the band’s year-on-year performances in New York from the late 1970s through 1995,” commented Dr. Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. “This exhibition not only celebrates the band’s relationship with New York but its tremendous impact on American culture.”

“The Grateful Dead Archive is one of the most significant popular cultural collections of the 20th century,” said Christine Bunting, the head of Special Collections and Archives at the University Library at UC Santa Cruz. “We are delighted that the Historical Society is presenting this unprecedented exhibition, providing the public and the thousands of fans with such an exciting overview of the band’s musical journey.”

The Grateful Dead: Now Playing at the New-York Historical Society provides unique glimpses into the political and social upheavals and artistic awakenings of the 1960s and 1970s, a tumultuous and transformative period that shaped our current cultural and political landscape, and examines how the Grateful Dead’s origin in northern California in the mid-1960s was informed by the ideology and spirit of both the Beat Generation and the burgeoning Hippie scene, including the now-legendary Acid Tests. The exhibition also explores how the band’s refusal to follow the established rules of the record industry revealed an unexpected business savvy that led to innovations in a rapidly changing music industry, and also to a host of consumer-driven marketing enrichments that kept fans in frequent contact with the band.

Co-curated by Debra Schmidt Bach, Assistant Curator of Decorative Arts, and Nina Nazionale, Director of Library Operations at the New-York Historical Society, the exhibition will be organized thematically, beginning with an examination of the Grateful Dead’s early days in the Bay Area and its first performance in New York City. Other major exhibition themes include the band’s musical artistry, the business of the Grateful Dead, and the band’s special relationship with its fans.

Materials in the exhibition will be drawn almost exclusively from the extraordinary holdings of the Grateful Dead Archive, established in 2008, along with a small number of objects on loan from Grateful Dead Productions and private collectors. A series of public programs will complement the exhibition.

About the Grateful Dead Archive

The Grateful Dead Archive, housed at the University of California at Santa Cruz, University Library, represents one of the most significant popular cultural collections of the 20th Century. It documents the Dead’s incredible creative activity and influence in contemporary music history from 1965 to 1995, including the phenomena of the Deadheads, the band’s extensive network of devoted fans, and the band’s highly unusual and successful musical business ventures.

The Archive contains original documents, clippings, media, article and other publications about the Dead and its individual members, its tours and performances, productions, and business. Among the resources that will be invaluable for researchers are show files, programs, newsletters, posters, cover art, photographs, tickets and stickers. These artifacts document three decades of the band’s recordings and its performance of thousands of concerts. A collection of stage props, tour exhibit material, and, of course, tee-shirts gives dimension and visual impact to the collection. An unusual feature of the Archive will be the correspondence and art contributed over the years by supportive Deadheads and held as very important by the Dead.

The Archive, when processed, will be widely and freely accessible to fans and scholars It will be housed on the UCSC campus, and material from it will be prominently displayed and available for listening, viewing, and research in a dedicated Grateful Dead room located in UCSC’s new and renovated McHenry Library.

It is expected to take two years to process the Archive; parts of the collections will be debuted in stages as processing progresses. Material in the Archive will be physically preserved, its content described in detail in an electronically available finding aid, and digital copies, when appropriate, will be offered for viewing and listening from a UCSC Grateful Dead web site.

Photo: Amalie Rothschild, Fillmore East Marquee, December 1969. Special Collections, University of California, Santa Cruz. Grateful Dead Archive. Provided.

New-York Historical Society Celebrates Immigrant Heritage


By on

0 Comments

On Tuesday, April 20 from 4:30-6:30 pm, the New-York Historical Society will participate in the citywide Immigrant Heritage Week observance with a panel discussion about the upcoming exhibition, Nueva York. During the first half of the program, curators will discuss highlights of the exhibition, which explores how Spanish-speaking people have affected virtually every aspect of the City’s development from commerce, manufacturing and transportation to communications, entertainment and the arts from as early as the 17th century through today.

The second half (45 minutes) of the program will be a workshop for teachers and others interested in exploring how this dynamic history can be brought to life for learners of all ages through a rich collection of documents, manuscripts, photographs, and multimedia resources, including film and music.

All attendees must enter the New-York Historical Society through the loading dock at 5 W 76th Street. RSVPs are welcome to schoolprograms@nyhistory.org. Admission is free.

This event will serve as a preview to Nueva York, an exhibition exploring New York’s long connection with Spain and Latin America. Organized by the New-York Historical Society and El Museo del Barrio, Nueva York will be on view from September 17, 2010, through January 9, 2011.

This year, Immigrant Heritage Week is celebrated from April 15 to April 21. Throughout the week, a collection of family friendly events, film screenings, art exhibits and walking tours will promote and reflect the diversity of the immigrant communities in our City.

Photo: Ellis Island Immigrants by National Photo Co., ca. 1909-1932. Library of Congress Photo.

New-York Historical Society Wins Lincoln Award


By on

0 Comments

The 2009 Barondess/Lincoln Award was presented at the Round Table’s 537st meeting by Len Rehner, Past President of the CWRT of New York and Chairman of the Awards Committee, and Charles Mander, Current President. Accepting the award for the The New-York Historical Society were three recipients: Dr. Louise Mirrer, President and Chief Executive Officer; Harold Holzer, Chief Historian; and Richard Rabinowitz, Chief Curator for the Exhibit.

The Barondess/Lincoln Award was established in 1960. Dr. Barondess was a distinguished charter member and former vice president of the Civil War Round Table of New York, and this award is presented in his memory. These awards, in the form of a copy of a bust of Lincoln, is given annually “to any person or institution and for any contribution to the greater appreciation of the life and works of Abraham Lincoln.” Previous winners have included Doris Kearns Goodwin, Craig Symonds, Gabor Boritt, William Gienapp, William C. Davis, Gary Wills, William Safire, and Gore Vidal, just to name a few.

In its exhibit, “Lincoln and New York,” Awards-Committee Chairman Len Rehner described to the audience how “Lincoln can be seen and felt through the incredible artifacts and memorabilia on display.” He explained how “This evocative show takes one back in time to the visit Lincoln paid to New York in February, 1860 to deliver his Presidential credentials speech at the Cooper Union. Room after room reveals the New York City of then and the political whirl over the impending Presidential election. You step into another dimension—be it a saloon with its spittoons or the handbills advertising the excitement of this new man’s appearance.”

ABOUT THE RECIPIENTS

A preeminent educational and research institution, The New-York Historical Society is home to New York City’s oldest museum and one of the nation’s most distinguished independent research libraries. Founded in 1804, the Society is dedicated to presenting exhibitions and public programs and fostering research that reveals the dynamism of history and its influence on today’s world. Its holdings cover four centuries of American history, and include one of the world’s greatest collections of historical artifacts, American art, and other materials documenting the history of the United States as seen through the prism of New York City and New York State.

Named President and Chief Executive Officer of The New-York Historical Society in 2004, Dr. Louise Mirrer holds a Ph.D in Spanish and Humanities from Stanford University and has over 20 years of experience as an academic administrator, most recently serving as Executive Vice Chancellor for Academics at CUNY. An eminent scholar in her field, Dr. Mirrer has published widely on language, literature, medieval studies, and women’s studies, both books and articles, in Spanish and English. Her most recent book is Women, Jews, and Muslims in the Reconquest Castile.

One of the leading public historians in the United States with over thirty years of experience in creating new museums, exhibits, media presentations, and educational programs, Richard Rabinowitz is the founder and president since 1980 of the American History Workshop. A scholar of American social and religious history, Dr. Rabinowitz has taught at Harvard, Skidmore and Scripps colleges. His book, The Spiritual Self in Everyday Life: The Transformation of Personal Religious Experience in Nineteenth-Century New England has been recognized as a “thoughtful analysis of what it has meant to be religious in America.” An award-winning museum and exhibit planner, Dr. Rabinowitz graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College and received his Ph.D in History of American Civilization from Harvard University.

A prolific writer and lecturer and a frequent guest on television, Harold Holzer was Co-Chairman of the United States Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. He has authored or co-authored over thirty books on Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. Mr. Holzer has won four Barondess/Lincoln Awards from the Civil War Round Table of New York; a 2005 Lincoln Prize, perhaps the most prestigious award in the field, for Lincoln at Cooper Union(2004); the coveted Nevins-Freeman Award from the Civil War Round Table of Chicago; and three Awards of Achievement from the Lincoln Group of New York. Educated at the City University of New York, he is currently senior vice president for external affairs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
ABOUT THE CIVIL WAR ROUND TABLE OF NEW YORK

Founded in 1951, The Civil War Round Table of New York generally meets the second Wednesday of the month from September to June. Members assist each other with research, discuss preservation strategy for endangered battlefield, and listen to a distinguished speaker talk about a particular aspect of the war. For the year 2009/2010, the meeting location will be the 3 West Club, 3 West 51st Street in Manhattan.

For more information on the Civil War Round Table of New York, please contact The Civil War Round Table of New York at our mailing address: 139-33 250th Street, Rosedale, New York 11422. Or, if you prefer, call , or email us at basecat@civilwarhome.com. Check out our website at www.cwrtnyc.org.

ABOUT THE LINCOLN MASK

A number of years ago, Dr. Mark D. Zimmerman was attempting to negotiate the purchase of a Roman death mask at an antique store. Hanging nearby was a plaster mask the origin of which no one seemed to know other than it had been included in a large estate sale whose contents were not well documented. As it turned out, it happened to be the mask of Abraham Lincoln.

After several years of Internet searches and endless phone calls to private individuals, major museums, private collections, and many other sources, Dr. Zimmerman realized that this mask was an authentic 19th century cast from the original 1860 Leonard Wells Volk life mask. The mask was evaluated at a major university archival research center. Comparisons were made with their own authentic Lincoln Plaster Mask, and the facial markings, structure and measurements necessary to provide authenticity were exact.

Dr. Zimmerman took the plaster cast to the Bronzart foundry in Sarasota, Florida, and they carefully reproduced the exact mask in bronze from the plaster using the “lost wax technique.” The Bronze mask weighs approximately 15 pounds with the base of polished black absolute granite weighing 14 pounds. Abraham Lincoln’s exact signature is inscribed in the front of the base. The face swivels on a brass pin imported from Italy. The total height is approximately 15 inches and the mask alone is 12.5 inches.

Through his generosity, Dr. Zimmerman donated these pieces of art to the Civil War Round Table of New York to be used as the Barondess/Lincoln Award.

Photo: Recipients of the Barondess/Lincoln Award for The New-York Historical Society: Harold Holzer, Chief Historian; Valerie Paley, Historian For Special Projects (accepting for Dr. Louise Mirrer, President and CEO); and Richard Rabinowitz, Chief Curator (Photo Credit: R. L. Burke)

Mellon Fellowship at the New-York Historical Society


By on

0 Comments

The New-York Historical Society invites qualified applicants who are within 3-5 years of having received the Ph.D. to apply for one of two Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowships for research and writing in any field relevant to the Society’s library and museum collections. Awardees are expected to be in residence for the academic year commencing on September 1, 2010, and carry an academic year stipend of $60,000. The
deadline for applications is March 1, 2010, with decisions to be announced by April 23.

Applicants should send a cover letter, including date of PhD, current institutional affiliation and rank, mailing and e-mail addresses, telephone and fax numbers, and title of project; a two to three page description of project, including resources to be used; a curriculum vitae; and three letters of recommendation to Jean Ashton, Executive
Vice President and Library Director, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024. Postmark deadline is March 1, 2010; electronic applications must be received by 11:59 p.m. on that date.

Collection descriptions may be found on the New-York Historical Society website.

Role of White House Advisors Subject of FDR Exhibit


By on

0 Comments

With unemployment soaring and many of the nation’s banks in uncertain straits, a newly elected President adopts the activist agenda of “wooly-headed professors” and soon is being bitterly accused of seeking dictatorial power.

This scenario, which has its uncanny echoes in today’s political scene, was played out beginning in 1932 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the circle of Columbia University scholars who became his close advisors. The story of this epoch-making alliance between the White House and academia is told in the New-York Historical Society exhibition FDR’s Brain Trust, on view now through March 1, 2010.

“No President in the past century took office in such difficult circumstances as did Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and no President moved ahead more quickly and forcefully,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. “This new exhibition explores how Roosevelt, while still a candidate for President, did something that was unprecedented at the time and sought counsel from academics. We see how this decision led directly to the daring innovations that became known as the New Deal, and that remain with us to this day.”

Curated by Jean W. Ashton, Executive Vice President and Director of Library division, the exhibition is designed to evoke both the desperation of the Great Depression and the hope and energy of a nation rebuilding itself. FDR’s Brain Trust presents rarely seen photographs, cartoons, documents, artifacts, and newsreels drawn from the New-York Historical Society collection and the archives of Columbia University. These materials bring to life the personalities, convictions and circumstances of FDR and the people who were at first known jokingly as his “Privy Council”—Columbia University professors Raymond Moley, Adolf Berle and Rexford G. Tugwell. Dubbed “The Brains Trust” in July 1932 by a New York Times reporter—the “s” was eventually dropped—these men were eventually joined in the new Roosevelt administration by Harry Hopkins, founder of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), and Frances Perkins, who as Secretary of Labor became the first female cabinet member.

Highlights of the exhibition include:

· an etching by Martin Borne titled Hooverville on Hudson (1934), showing a camp of the unemployed and homeless that would have been visible from the Columbia University campus

· a map from the Real Estate Record and Guide (March 25, 1933) showing the spread of foreclosed properties across Manhattan

· broadsides depicting street demonstrations

· an executive order requiring that all gold be deposited in a Federal Reserve Bank

· editorial cartoons from the Chicago Tribune and Des Moines Register depicting FDR and his advisors as Soviet-style socialists

Despite the vehemence that the Brain Trust aroused, the speed and scope of the New Deal they advocated were unprecedented. Less than four months after Roosevelt took office, his administration stabilized the banks and the economy, saved homes and farms from foreclosure, and began to institute a vast range of programs (including Workmen’s Compensation, a federal minimum wage, child labor laws and Social Security) to address the dire needs of Americans.

John Brown Anniversary Exhibit at NY Historical Society


By on

0 Comments

When John Brown led his now-legendary raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, in 1859, hoping to secure weapons for a slave insurrection, he failed in his immediate goal but succeeded in raising tensions to a fever pitch between pro-slavery and anti-slavery forces. The conflict he had intensified, and which he had now come to symbolize, would lead by 1861 to secession and civil war.

One hundred and fifty years after John Brown’s raid, the New-York Historical Society in partnership with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History presents the exhibition John Brown: The Abolitionist and His Legacy, exploring the beliefs, activities and continuing significance of this critical figure, vilified by some as a murderer and venerated by others as a martyr.

On view from through March 25, 2010, this exhibition of rare materials from the Gilder Lehrman Collection and the New-York Historical Society also sets the stage for the culminating presentation of the Historical Society’s Lincoln Year, with the landmark exhibition Lincoln and New York, opening October 9, 2009.

“John Brown’s attack at Harpers Ferry convinced Southerners that their political and economic survival was threatened, while outrage over his execution rallied and unified Northern abolitionists,” according to Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. “As we continue our year-long celebration of Abraham Lincoln, we hope these extraordinary and seldom-seen materials will not only shed light on Brown himself but will help illuminate events that led to Lincoln’s election in 1860.”

“John Brown: The Abolitionist and His Legacy examines Brown in the context of growing national divisions over slavery in the 1850s,” commented James G. Basker, President of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. “Most African Americans and abolitionists saw John Brown as a martyr for a noble and humane cause. Others saw him as a terrorist who attacked legal institutions and was willing to kill to achieve his goals. This exhibition invites people to examine the tension between these divergent views at the critical moment in American history, with repercussions down through the Civil Rights movement of the 20th century.”

John Brown expected that his attack on Harpers Ferry, carried out by both white and black raiders, would inspire enslaved people to escape from plantations across the South. According to his plan, the former slaves would join him in safe havens in the mountains, where he would arm and train them for guerrilla warfare. The loss of slaves and the fear of insurrection would destabilize the South and build political support in the North.

On Sunday, October 16, 1859, Brown led twenty-one men (sixteen of them white and five black) to Harpers Ferry, Virginia, where they captured the armory, arsenal and rifle factory. A local mob quickly surrounded the town, preventing the raiders from escaping, while federal troops led by Robert E. Lee rushed to the scene. On Tuesday, October 18, soldiers successfully stormed the stronghold, seriously wounding Brown. He was tried and convicted of inciting slave insurrection, treason against Virginia, and murder. Before being hanged on December 2, 1859, Brown wrote prophetically: “I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.”

Visitors to the exhibition will encounter manuscripts never before exhibited, including dramatic letters by John Brown to his followers; a letter by Frederick Douglass praising Brown but distancing himself from the raid; Brown’s parting words on the eve of his execution; a letter from the mother of a Kansas murder victim, damning Brown on the scaffold; and reminiscences by Brown’s children and other eyewitnesses.

Lending dramatic context to these materials are powerful images, such as the 1859 sculpture “The Slave Auction” by John Rogers; the heroic 1867 painting by Thomas Satterwhite Noble, “John Brown’s Blessing”; photographs of Brown and his family members; photographs of his supporters, the “Secret Six”; and photographs of other key participants. Among the other important objects on view will be a “John Brown Still Lives!” broadside from 1859; a rare printing of the Emancipation Proclamation; a 1926 lynching poster; and other artifacts of the Jim Crow and Civil Rights eras.
The majority of the objects in the exhibition are drawn from the Gilder Lehrman Collection, currently on deposit at the New-York Historical Society.

‘Lincoln and New York’ Opens At New York Historical Society


By on

0 Comments

From the launch of Abraham Lincoln’s 1860 Presidential campaign with a speech at Cooper Union through the unprecedented outpouring of grief at his funeral procession in 1865, New York City played a surprisingly central role in the career of the sixteenth President—and Lincoln, in turn, had an impact on New York that was vast, and remains vastly underappreciated.

Now, for the first time, a museum exhibition will trace the crucial relationship between America’s greatest President and its greatest city, when the New-York Historical Society presents Lincoln and New York, from October 9, 2009 through March 25, 2010. The culminating presentation in the Historical Society’s Lincoln Year of exhibitions, events and public programs, this extraordinary display of original artifacts, iconic images and highly significant period documents is the Historical Society’s major contribution to the nation’s Lincoln Bicentennial. Lincoln and New York has been endorsed by the U.S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.

Serving as chief historian for Lincoln and New York and editor of the accompanying catalogue is noted Lincoln scholar and author Harold Holzer, co-chairman of the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. He has also organized the Historical Society’s year-long Lincoln Series of public conversations and interviews. Serving as curator is Dr. Richard Rabinowitz, president of American History Workshop and curator of the exhibitions Slavery in New York and New York Divided: Slavery and the Civil War at the New-York Historical Society.

Lincoln and New York brings to life the period between Lincoln’s decisive entrance into the city’s life at the start of the 1860 Presidential campaign to his departure from it in 1865 as a secular martyr. During these years, the policies of the Lincoln administration damaged and then re-built the New York economy, transforming the city from a thriving port dependent on trade with the slave-holding South into the nation’s leading engine of financial and industrial growth; support and opposition to the President flared into a virtual civil war within the institutions and on the streets of New York, out of which emerged a pattern of political contention that survives to this day.

To begin this story, visitors follow the prairie lawyer eastward to his rendezvous with “the political cauldron” of New York in the winter of 1860. Visitors will learn something of his background and of the rapidly accelerating political crisis that had brought him to the fore: the battle over the extension of slavery into the western territories.

Then, in the six galleries that follow, visitors will discover the interconnections between these two unlikely partners: the ambitious western politician with scant national experience, and the sophisticated eastern metropolis that had become America’s capital of commerce and publishing.

Campaign (1859—1860) immerses visitors in the sights and sounds of the city, then the fastest-growing metropolis in the world, while re-creating Lincoln’s entire visit in February 1860 when his epoch-making address at the Cooper Union and the photograph for which he posed that same day together launched his national career. The displays will cast new light on the lecture culture of the antebellum city, the political divisions within its Republican organization, the strength of its publishing industry and the bustling, somewhat alien urban community that Lincoln encountered. The video re-creation of Lincoln’s Cooper Union speech, produced on site with acclaimed actor Sam Waterston’s vivid rendering of Lincoln’s arguments, brings that crucial evening to life. Visitors will re-enact for themselves how Lincoln posed for New York’s—and the nation’s—leading photographer, Mathew Brady, whose now-iconic photograph began the reinvention of Lincoln’s public image. As Lincoln himself said, “Brady and the Cooper Union speech made me President.”

Objects on view will include the telegram inviting Lincoln to give his first Eastern lecture, the lectern that he used at Cooper Union, the widely distributed printed text of his speech, photographic and photo-engraving equipment from this era and torches that were carried by pro-Lincoln “Wide Awakes” at their great October 6 New York march. Also on view will be a panoply of political cartoons and editorial commentary generated in New York that established “Honest Abe” and the “Railsplitter” as a viable and virtuous candidate, but concurrently began the tradition of anti-Lincoln caricature by introducing Lincoln as a slovenly rustic, reluctant to discuss the hot-button slavery issue but secretly favoring the radical idea of racial equality.

The next gallery, Public Opinions (1861—62), registers the gyrating fortunes of the Lincoln Administration’s first year among New Yorkers—especially the editors and publishers of the city’s 175 daily and weekly newspapers and illustrated journals, who wielded unprecedented power. In the wake of his election, and the secession of the Southern states, the New York Stock Exchange had plummeted and New York harbor was stilled. Payment of New York’s huge outstanding debts from Southern planters and merchants ceased, and bankruptcies abounded.

Scarcely one docked ship hoisted the national colors to greet the new President-Elect in February 1861 when he visited on his way to Washington and the inauguration, and eyewitness Walt Whitman described his welcome along New York’s streets as “ominous.” Mayor Fernando Wood proposed that the city declare its independence from both the Union and the Confederacy and continue trading with both sides. Even New Yorkers unwilling to go that far desperately tried to find compromises with the South that in their words, “would avert the calamity of Civil War.”

Just two months later, though, in the wake of the attack on Fort Sumter, it suddenly appeared that every New Yorker was an avid defender of Old Glory. After war was declared, business leaders, including many powerful Democrats, pledged funds and goods to the effort. The Irish community, not previously sympathetic to Republicans, vigorously mobilized its own battalion in the first wave of responses to Lincoln’s call for troops to crush the Rebellion. But after the Confederate victory at Bull Run, the wheel turned again. From July 1861 onward for more than a year, the news was unremittingly bad. Battlefield mishaps, crippling inflation, profiteering among war contractors, corruption in the supply of “shoddy” equipment and clothing for the troops, the ability of Confederate raiders to seize dozens of New York merchant ships right outside the harbor, the imposition of an income tax and a controversial effort to reform banking, alarming New York’s regulation-wary financial institutions: all these led to relentless press and public criticism of Lincoln. New York’s cartoonists, as shown in the exhibition, found every possible way to caricature the President’s homely appearance and controversial policies. Even abolitionists and blacks despaired of the President’s reluctance to embrace emancipation and the recruitment of African-Americans into the Union war effort. Former allies such as Horace Greeley slammed Lincoln for putting reunification above freedom as a war goal.

In this gallery, the objects that tell the story will include colorful recruitment posters for the Union army, the great, seldom-lent Thomas Nast painting of the departure of the 7th Regiment for the Front, rare original photographs of the great rally in Union Square on April 21, 1861, and the bullet-shattered coat of Lincoln’s young New York-born friend, and onetime bodyguard, Colonel Elmer Ephraim Ellsworth, the first Union officer killed in the war.

Gallery 3, titled Bad Blood (1862), illustrates the mutual animosity of New York’s pro- and anti-Lincoln forces by exhibiting bigger-than-life, three-dimensional versions of the era’s political cartoons. On one side are the Democratic Party politicians and their backers, caricatured by their opponents as bartenders in a political clubhouse, “dispensing a poisonous brew of sedition and fear.” On the other side, a caricature of Lincoln’s New York supporters—officials of the United States Sanitary Commission—shows them enjoying a sumptuous feast, celebrating the ethic of economic opportunity for the rich and the values of hard work, obedience, and self-discipline for the poor. Visitors will see how a powerful New York party of Peace Democrats, or Copperheads, portrayed Lincoln as a despot, warned against “race mongrelization,” and encouraged desertion and draft-dodging. At the same time, the gallery will show how some New Yorkers reaped the benefits of the war, given that their city was the principal home of many of the industries and services Lincoln needed: munitions, shipbuilding, medical supplies, food supplies, money lending and more. Interactive media in Gallery 3 will help visitors (especially of school age) explore the economic issues that so bitterly divided New York.

Gallery 4, Battleground (1862—1864), re-creates seven different conflicts in the city between 1862 and 1864. In each one, the visitor is invited to choose a side, listen to “the talk of the town,” and locate historic landmarks that survive from this era. Among the political and social flashpoints were Lincoln’s issuance of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation; the suspension of habeas corpus and press freedom; the institution of a military draft; the promotion (by Lincoln’s elite Protestant supporters) of a new ethic of civic philanthropy, industrial progress, and national expansion; and the bitter Presidential campaign of 1864. Visitors will be brought into the setting of Shiloh Presbyterian Church (on the corner of Prince and Lafayette Street) on “Jubilee Day,” January 1, 1863, when emancipation was proclaimed; re-live the four-day Manhattan insurrection of July 1863 known as the Draft Riots, which claimed more than 120 lives before they were put down by troops from the 7th Regiment, recalled from Gettysburg; glimpse the crowded pavilions of the loyalists’ Metropolitan Sanitary Fair of April 1864; and see a multitude of cartoons, engravings, pamphlets, flags, posters, lanterns, and campaign memorabilia.

The evolution of Lincoln’s image—from Railsplitter to Jokester to Tyrant to Gentle Father—is the subject of Gallery 5, Eyes on Lincoln. Four iconic portraits, all enormously influential, mostly from life, and none ever displayed together in such a suite—one by Thomas Hicks, one by William Marshall, and two by Francis Bicknell Carpenter (of Lincoln alone and of the assembled family)—anchor the investigation. Interactive programs allow visitors to learn more about the creation and re-production of these images, their iconographic roots in western art, and the artists’ biographies.

The last major gallery, The Loss of a Great Man (1865), takes the visitor from Lincoln’s victory in the 1864 election to his New York funeral procession, perhaps the largest such event yet held in world history, involving hundreds of thousands of participants and inspiring an outburst of mourning among whites and blacks, Christians and Jews, that signaled the transfiguration of the late president’s heretofore-controversial image. A video documents the triumphant events of March and April 1865: the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment outlawing slavery, the delivery of the second inaugural address, and the surrender of the Confederate armies. In New York, a gigantic parade celebrated Lincoln on March 5, 1865. And then, after Lincoln’s assassination on April 15, the fierce political antagonisms surrounding Lincoln suddenly evaporated, and a new image emerged of a Christ-like, compassionate, and brooding hero who gave his life so that the nation would enjoy a “new birth of freedom.”

A superb collection of memorial material produced and distributed in the city is accompanied by artwork representing Lincoln’s apotheosis. Included will be the recently discovered scrapbook of a New Yorker who roamed the streets after Lincoln’s death sketching the impromptu written and visual tributes that sprung up in shop windows and on building façades in the wake of Lincoln’s murder. Perhaps the greatest memorial of all was New Yorker Walt Whitman’s poem “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d.”

As a coda, the exhibition concludes with a brief tour of how New Yorkers have continued to memorialize Lincoln—in the names of streets and institutions; in the development of an egalitarian national creed; in a powerful sense of nationhood; and in a constantly evolving sense that this is the most representative and inspiring of all Americans.

Catalogue

The exhibition will be accompanied by an illustrated, full-color catalogue edited by guest historian Harold Holzer, who has also contributed an introductory essay and a chapter on the city’s publishers and the making of Lincoln’s image in New York. Additional essays have been written by historians Jean Harvey Baker, Catherine Clinton, James Horton, Michael Kammen, Barnet Schechter, Craig L. Symonds, and Frank J. Williams, with a preface by New-York Historical Society President and CEO Louise Mirrer, all featuring seldom-seen pictures, artifacts, and documents from the Society collections.

Support for Lincoln and New York

Objects in the exhibition come from the New-York Historical Society’s own rich and extensive collections; from the Gilder Lehrman Collection, on deposit at the New-York Historical Society; Brooks Brothers; and from other major institutions including the Library of Congress, The Cooper Union, Chicago History Museum, John Hay Library at Brown University, Union League Club, New York Military Museum, Cornell University, the University of Illinois, and the New York Public Library.

In addition to generous funding from JPMorgan Chase & Co., the U.S. Department of Education Underground Railroad Educational and Cultural (URR) Program, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, additional project support for the exhibition and related programs has been provided by The Bodman Foundation, public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the Motorola Foundation, Brooks Brothers, Con Edison, and the New York Council for the Humanities. Thirteen, a WNET.ORG station, is media sponsor.

About the New-York Historical Society

Established in 1804, the New-York Historical Society (N-YHS) comprises New York’s oldest museum and a nationally renowned research library. N-YHS collects, preserves, and interprets American history and art. Its mission is to make these collections accessible to the broadest public and increase understanding of American history through exhibitions, public programs, and research that reveal the dynamism of history and its impact on the world today. N-YHS holdings cover four centuries of American history and comprise one of the world’s greatest collections of historical artifacts, American art, and other materials documenting the history of the United States as seen through the prism of New York City and State.

Photo: Print by Currier and Ives “The Rail Candidate, 1860″ Lithograph. New-York Historical Society.

Underground RR Audio Tour at NY Historical Society


By on

0 Comments

The New-York Historical Society is presenting an audio tour exploring the Underground Railroad during the time of the Civil War, highlighting how issues of slavery and freedom influenced national politics and the actions of Ulysses S. Grant (1822–1885), commander of the Union armies, and of Robert E. Lee (1807–1870), commander of the Confederate forces. The Run for Your Life audio tour adds a layer of interpretation to the current exhibition Grant and Lee in War and Peace and can be accessed when you visit the gallery and at nyhistory.org or on iTunesU.

Over the past five years, the New-York Historical Society has showcased documents, art and artifacts relating to the abolitionist movement and network known as the “Underground Railroad” by publishing the papers of the African Free School in print and on the Web and through the exhibitions on Alexander Hamilton; Slavery in New York; New York Divided: Slavery and the Civil War; and French Founding Father: Lafayette’s Return to Washington’s America.

This year, the N-YHS takes the story of the abolitionist movement and Underground Railroad through the Civil War, focusing significant attention on its role in the turbulent 1850’s through the time that the resources of the Underground Railroad were drawn on to assist four million freed people to participate in a new, unified democracy.

These activities, including the Run For Your Life audio tour, are developed with grant funds from the U.S. Department of Education Underground Railroad Educational and Cultural (URR) Program.

The tour is comprised of seven thematic stops:

Introduction

When Grant and Lee attended West Point, no men of color were allowed to enlist in the US Army, however by the close of the Civil War over 180,000 African Americans had fought for the Union – many of them recently escaped from slavery. The larger saga of escaping slaves and relentless political struggle show how the African American quest for freedom held the country accountable to the principles so forcefully stated in the Declaration of Independence.

Black Seminoles Flee South

As enslaved people in Georgia and Florida sought sanctuary with the Seminole tribe, the U.S. government became more and more determined to conquer (in three different wars) the various Seminole groups who received these fugitives. Some bands became known as Black Seminoles because of the massive influx of African Americans and subsequent intermarriage.

John Brown: Escapes and Revolt

Abolitionist John Brown not only fought pro-slavery militias in Kansas in the mid-1850s, he led a band of fugitive slaves openly through the territories up to Canada, trying to prove that the Fugitive Slave Law was blatantly defied by antislavery citizens. Fulfilling the nightmare that haunted the South, he then tried to spark a general slave uprising, after capturing arms at Harper’s Ferry. When Brown was sentenced to death he gave a farewell address in which he linked his Underground Railroad expedition to Canada with his attempted insurrection.

Lee at Arlington – Wesley Norris

Right before the Civil War, Lee inherited a large number of slaves at the Arlington estate through his wealthy wife. By the terms of her father’s will, the Arlington slaves were to be freed upon his death. Lee’s slowness in doing this, and his policy of breaking up families by hiring people out to distant plantations angered Mary Custis Lee’s slaves. Some fled, since they considered themselves already free. One such fugitive slave ended up living as a freedman on the very Arlington estate where he used to work.

Grant and the Davis Plantation

The story of Isaiah Montgomery is a startling window into the chaotic period of the war when the newly freed and the newly fleeing joined together to improvise new lives. From the beginning of the war thousands of enslaved people liberated themselves and fled to Union lines, as Federal forces secured pockets of Southern territory. Grant settled them in contraband camps or arranged for their protection on plantations of their former owners seized as punishment for supporting the Confederacy. The most notable of these were the properties of Jefferson and Joseph Davis in the Mississippi River, where the former slaves took control and successfully planted cotton and ran their own schools. Benjamin and Isaiah Montgomery, slaves only two years before, turned a profit of $160,000 in 1865 on the plantation of their former owners.

Lincoln, McClellan and Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass, the leading black statesman, condemned Lincoln’s policy of returning fugitive slaves and refusing to allow them to enlist in Union forces: “We are striking the guilty rebels with our soft white hand, when we should be striking with the iron hand of the black man, which we keep chained behind us. We have been catching slaves, instead of arming them… Slavery has been, and is yet the shield and helmet of this accursed rebellion.” Soon, however, Lincoln declared that slave labor was supporting the Rebel war effort. Then some of his more openly abolitionist generals, such as Benjamin Butler, could treat the escaping people as “legitimate contraband of war” seized from the enemy to prevent aid to the Rebel cause. The flight of thousands of slaves is called by some the Last Chapter of the Underground Railroad, as African American southerners added their efforts to the Union side, and subtracted their labor from the rebels.

About the New-York Historical Society

Established in 1804, the New-York Historical Society (N-YHS) comprises New York’s oldest museum and a nationally renowned research library. N-YHS collects, preserves and interprets American history and art; its mission is to make these collections accessible to the broadest public and increase understanding of American history through exhibitions, public programs, and research that reveal the dynamism of history and its impact on the world today. N-YHS holdings cover four centuries of American history and comprise one of the world’s greatest collections of historical artifacts, American art, and other materials documenting the history of the United States as seen through the prism of New York City and State.

New York Historical Society Revising Development Plans


By on

0 Comments

The New York Times is reporting that the New York Historical Society’s plans to build an enormous tower in Central Park West has been seriously revised following heavy pressure from historic preservation interests:

After a year and a half of controversy and intense opposition by preservationists and neighborhood groups, the New-York Historical Society at 77th Street and Central Park West has abandoned its pursuit of a $100 million, 23-story luxury condominium tower, along with a five-story annex that would have risen above an adjacent empty lot the society owns at 7-13 West 76th Street.

Instead, the society has embarked on a $55 million, three-year renovation of its galleries, entrance and facade that will create a permanent main-floor exhibition hall showcasing some of its treasures, an interactive multimedia orientation program in its auditorium, an 85-seat cafe and a below-ground children’s gallery and library, society officials said…

A wide coalition of opponents had criticized the height of the tower — 280 feet, doubling the 136-foot height of the current structure — and had charged that the tower would deform the skyline of Central Park West and cast a shadow on Central Park. The society’s building has landmark status individually, and as part of the Upper West Side-Central Park West Historic District and a smaller domain, the Central Park West-76th Street Historic District.

The New York Historical Society is the city’s oldest museum and research library. It was founded on November 20, 1804. Facing economic distress and inadequate management the society limited access to its collections in the early 1990s. In 1988 hundreds of paintings, decorative art objects, and other artifacts were discovered in horrendous conditions in a Manhattan art warehouse. That same year, the board dismissed nearly a quarter of its museum staff, closed half of the gallery space and curtailed visiting hours. James B. Bell, the society’s director since 1982, resigned.