In his short novel, Washington Square, Henry James wrote about New York women of the Gilded Age; elegant ladies who strolled the sidewalks of the city’s shopping district, Ladies’ Mile.
These New York women admired window displays of shirtwaists, an elegant button-down blouse with rows of tiny and elaborate tucks. The shirtwaist was favored by New York women as a symbol of chic modernity. But the silhouette of fashionable ladies came at a price paid by their downtrodden sisters, immigrant women living in the city’s tenements. These newest New York women worked long hours for low wages in the city’s notorious sweatshops. Continue reading
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
The Center for the Study of Women’s History at the New-York Historical Society is holding the Diane and Adam E. Max Conference in Women’s History, which will take place on March 6.
The day-long event, occurring during Women’s History Month, will explore the garment industry and its historical impact on women. Continue reading
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
On Saturday, April 2, 2016, the New York Folklore Society is holding a conference for folklorists, architects, historic preservationists, museum professionals, community members, and students.
Speakers will address questions concerning the significant crisis in the understanding of everyday landscapes and the built environment, including: 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