Tag Archives: NYC

Animal Fancy At The Armory Spring Show, NY


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 Clinton Howell Gallery

Rosewood Lion. India. Clinton Howell Antiques

Lions, toucans, dolphins, dogs, cocks, — critters galore tread the echoing halls of the Park Avenue Armory in this year’s annual Spring Show, NYC of Art and Antiques.

Made of glass, paint, leather, rosewood, bronze, silver and precious jewels these fanciful creatures are testimony to the enduring pleasures of the animal kingdom as a theme in art and design. And since the ASPCA is the sponsor and even beneficiary of a portion of some sales at this year’s event, tracking the artistic fauna forges a trail through the riches of an extravagant spring ritual. Continue reading

NY Heritage Announces 14 New Additions


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New York Heritage Digital Collections has added fourteen new digital collections to its cooperative site at newyorkheritage.org , including three from Queens College; two each from the Brooklyn Public Library, CUNY Graduate Center, Yeshiva University, and Brooklyn College; and one each from SUNY Maritime College, Lehman College, and Metropolitan New York Library Council. These collections total 3016 items, and represent a broad range of research interests, including Brooklyn Democratic Party Scrapbooks, Fulton Street Trade Cards, Murray Hill Collection, Sailors’ Snug Harbor Archives, Waterways of New York, Breslau Memorial and Prayer Book, and Bronx Business for Everybody collections.

NewYorkHeritage.org is a project of the NY3Rs Association, which uses OCLC’s CONTENTdm Multisite Server to bring previously digitized collections together, allowing researchers to search across all items simultaneously. This project provides free, online access to images of cultural and historical significance in New York State.

Participants in New York Heritage Digital Collections are committed to enhancing the site by adding both content and contributing institutions on a regular basis. The goal of the project is to eventually connect one thousand collections and one million items from throughout New York State. All institutions interested in participating in the project are encouraged to contact the 3Rs organization that serves their region.

The New York 3Rs Association is a partnership among New York’s nine reference and research resource systems. The New York 3Rs was incorporated in 2003 to further the ability of those systems to provide statewide services. The members of the New York 3Rs Association are: the Capital District Library Council, Central New York Library Resources Council, Long Island Library Resources Council, Metropolitan New York Library Council, Northern New York Library Network, Rochester Regional Library Council, Southeastern New York Library Resources Council, South Central Regional Library Council, and Western New York Library Resources Council.

New Book On The Woolworth Building


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The New York Times is reporting on a new book by Gail Fenske, a professor of architecture at Roger Williams University: The Skyscraper and the City: The Woolworth Building and the Making of Modern New York.

On the evening of April 24, 1913, President Woodrow Wilson pressed a tiny button inside the White House, lighting up the Woolworth Building in Manhattan. It was “the tallest structure in the world, with the one exception of the Eiffel Tower in Paris,” The New York Times reported, and it was a marvel of architecture and engineering.

Of course, the Woolworth Building has been surpassed in height — by the Chrysler Building in 1930 and by the Empire State Building in 1931 — and it has at times seemed to recede into the fabric of Lower Manhattan. The building’s owners at one point considered converting the building into luxury apartments, but now the structure is being refurbished as top-end offices.

The book places the Woolworth Building in the context of its time and place: the booming commercial culture of early 20th century New York; the often unsettling experience of modernization; advances in technology and communications; and a new phenomenon of “urban spectatorship” that made skyscrapers sources of public wonder and admiration.

Many innovations set the Woolworth Building apart. It contained a shopping arcade, health club, barber shop, restaurant, social club and even an observatory. Its use of technology — including an innovative water supply system, a electrical generating plan, high-speed electric elevators providing both local and express service and what Professor Fenske calls “the first prominent use of architectural floodlighting in the world” — also set it apart. So did the construction process, run by the builder Louis Horowitz of the Thompson-Starrett Company, who managed to avoid labor conflict, rationalize the building process and set a record for speed — paving the way for the famously rapid completion of the Empire State Building nearly 20 years later.

The building has survived the Woolworth Corporation itself. The company announced in 1997 that it would close its remaining discount stores. The company was renamed the Venator Group, began focusing on athletic wear, and since 2001 has done business under the Foot Locker name. Although there are no longer Woolworth’s stores in the United States, the Woolworths Group, a former subsidiary of the American company, continues to operate hundreds of retail stores in Britain.

Historic Central Park Concert Numbers Questioned


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The historical memory of recent Central Park concerts has been called into question in a recent New York Times article. Apparently the great concerts of central park weren’t so great after all, at least in terms of attendence numbers.

Here is an official history of attendance at great public gatherings in Central Park: James Taylor played in Central Park’s Sheep Meadow in the summer of 1979, and officials announced that 250,000 people came. A year later, Elton John performed on the Great Lawn, and the authorities said he drew 300,000 people. Then Simon and Garfunkel performed in September 1981, and city officials and organizers reported that 400,000 people had packed into the park. Ten years later, it was announced that Paul Simon drew 600,000. The biggest concert of all, it seems, was by Garth Brooks, on Aug. 7, 1997, at the North Meadow, with a reported attendance of 750,000 people.

This month’s Bon Jovi concert was actually counted and seems to have put serious doubt in these numbers.

Bon Jovi played on the Great Lawn, and the city’s official head count came to 48,538 people — a number tallied by parks workers with clickers at the entryways to the lawn. This total includes only the people admitted to the 13-acre oval that makes up the Great Lawn, and not any of those gathered in the walkways and swaths of ground to the east and west of the lawn.

Still, the Bon Jovi crowd was a fraction of the colossal throngs that are part of the city’s collective mythic memory. If fewer than 50,000 people were able to fill the oval, how could a half million more people get anywhere near the Paul Simon concert held in the same space?

Apparently, they didn’t. Former city parks administrator Doug Blonsky explained the previous numbers like this: “You would get in a room with the producer, with a police official, and a person from parks, and someone would say, ‘What does it look like to you?’ The producer would say, ‘I need it to be higher than the last one.’ That’s the kind of science that went into it.”

The record corrected?

Treasure Trove of Vinyl Heads to Syracuse


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The New York Times is reporting that some quarter-of-a-million 78 records (one of the worlds largest collections of 78s) from the New York City vintage gramophone record shop Records Revisited will be headed to Syracuse University’s Belfer Audio Laboratory and Archive:

Records Revisited was packed floor-to-ceiling with discs of a vintage and variety that drew a steady stream of record buffs to 34 West 33rd Street. The shop, more like an archive than a store, held approximately 60 tons of swing, big band jazz and other styles on vinyl, forming one of the largest collections of 78s in the world.

The shop has been closed since Mr. Savada’s death in February. Last Thursday, his son, Elias Savada, was poring over a cardboard box, one of 1,300 being filled with records and put on waiting trucks. The collection will be sent to Syracuse University’s Belfer Audio Laboratory and Archive, which will now have the second-largest collection of 78s in the United States, after the Library of Congress, university officials said…

The Syracuse University archivists couldn’t be more pleased with the obscure records arriving in numbered boxes. Not only is there a huge swing collection, but also recordings of country, blues, gospel, polka, folk and Broadway tunes. Suzanne Thorin, the university’s dean of libraries, said the truckloads of Mr. Savada’s records — at least, the tiny percentage sampled so far — has revealed fascinating auditory treasures, including Carl Sandburg reading his own poetry while accompanying himself on the guitar, and Hazel Scott, the pianist and singer. There are also many rare recordings preserved only on V-Disc records produced for American military personnel overseas in the 1940s.

New York Genealogical and Biographical Society Gives Up Collection


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Now that the news has trickled down that the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, popularly known as the “G & B,” has given its enormous genealogical collection (75,000 volumes, 30,000 manuscripts and 22,000 reels of microfilm) to the New York Public Library – I thought we’d take a look at the fall out.

First a recap of the news from the New York Times:

Faced with a dwindling endowment, the members-only G & B, as it is known, sold its four-story building on East 58th Street in Midtown Manhattan last year for $24 million. It bought an office condominium in Midtown where it will now focus on grant-giving, tours, lectures and other means of encouraging genealogical research. One of the first grants was about $1 million to the library for a four-person staff to process and catalog the G & B collection within two years.

The heaviest criticism comes from members themselves. Dick Hillenbrand of the Upstate New York Genealogy Blog has been following the struggle inside the G & B for over a year. Members posting to the blog decried last year what they called a plan to “disenfranchise all members of the NYG&BS and absolutely and forever empower a board of 15 to unilaterally make decisions about the NYG&B’s assets and future.” They were apparently right about that.

Hillibrand’s latest post laid out some of the opposition positions:

Looks like the present total membership of the G&B of 15 members, made an unrecoverable decision. If you are a former member and donated your time, money, effort, books and manuscripts to the G&B because you thought that they would be there forever, guess what? When you voted your rights away and became former members it was all over.

The statements that we were told about moving the society to new quarters to be able to keep the collection available to all former members, well would you consider those as untruths? . You will never be able to roam through the open stacks of your old friends. At the NYPL you must fill out a call slip of the book you want and wait for a runner to bring it to you. You will never again have the pleasure of finding the rarity treasure sitting on the shelf right near the item you were interested in.

The official blog of Genealogy Bank, took no position, but had this context to add:

The NYPL’s genealogy collection – more formally called: The Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy has long been known for its strong collection of research materials gathered for over a century – from the founding of the NYPL in 1848.

When I first began using the NYPL in the 1960s it was administered by Gerald D. McDonald who served from 1945-1969 and then by Gunther Pohl (1969-1985) and John Miller (1985-1987). The Division is currently under the capable leadership of Ruth Carr long serving Chief of that Division.

Randy Seaver, blogging at Genea-Musings said: “I welcome this move since it brings records out of the ‘members only’ repository into a public repository. Of course, I wasn’t an NYG&BS member and I don’t have an emotional attachment to NYG&BS or NYPL.” He also called on the NYPL to:

1 – Put the NYG&BS catalog on their web site – either as part of the current NYPL catalog or as a separate catalog until the NYG&BS material can be integrated into the NYPL catalog. That way, researchers in the genealogy world can identify records of interest to be searched.

2 – Digitize as many unique records as possible and make them publicly available on a web site, subject to copyright restrictions.

3 – As NYPL catalogs and/or digitizes the NYG&BS collection, index the names in the manuscript and/or estate papers collections? The records that nobody knows what’s in them. If they can’t or won’t do that, would they please request volunteers to do it with them or for them?

Schelly Talalay Dardashti at Tracing the Tribe: The Jewish Genealogy Blog condensed the NY Times historical context:

G&B was founded in 1869 and moved into the recently sold building in 1929. Early members were interested in 17th-18th century Dutch and English roots. Holdings include censuses, deeds, baptisms, births, deaths and wills. However, after WWII, the group had almost disappeared with members conflicted about its direction, despite the increasing popularity of genealogy following the major impact of “Roots,” Ellis Island’s restoration and database, and commercial websites devoted to family history.

Here is the press release from the NYPL.

New York Historical Society Revising Development Plans


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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.

New Nathanael Greene Biography


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Nathanael Greene – the seemingly forgotten (yet most successful) American general of the American Revolution, is the subject of a new biography by Rhode Island journalist Gerald Carbone.

The publisher blurb for Nathanael Greene: A Biography of the American Revolution promises to expose Greene’s “dark side”:

Despite his huge military successes and tactical genius Greene’s story has a dark side. Gerald Carbone drew on 25 years of reporting and researching experience to create his chronicle of Greene’s unlikely rise to success and his fall into debt and anonymity.

Probably a former Quaker by the time of the war began, the Rhode Islander Greene is mostly remembered for his leadership of the Southern Campaign. Take it from the great Wiki:

Greene’s Southern Campaign showed remarkable strategic features. He excelled in dividing, eluding and tiring his opponent by long marches, and in actual conflict forcing the British to pay heavily for a temporary advantage; a price that they could not afford. He was greatly assisted by able subordinates, including the Polish engineer, Tadeusz Kościuszko (recently of the Mohawk River Bridge), the brilliant cavalry officers, Henry (“Light-Horse Harry”) Lee and William Washington, and the partisan leaders, Thomas Sumter, Andrew Pickens, Elijah Clarke, and Francis Marion.

Greene gave us Greene County, actually fourteen of them, stretching as far west as Iowa and including our own Greene County, NY. His most popular victories came in the South, and combined with a New York tendency toward Knox, Gates, and Putnam and Greene settling in the South after the war, New Yorkers have pretty much forgotten him – how many remember that “e” at the end of Greene?

Greene commanded the rebel city of Boston after it was evacuated by Howe in March 1776 but then spent a lot of time in New York during the war. He was in command of the Continental Army troops on Long Island, and commanded the construction of Fort Putnam (now Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn’s first).

He was sick during the Battle of Long Island, and made the controversial argument to evacuate New York City and destroy it’s usefulness with the torch. It will be interesting to see what Carbone’s new biography says about that.

In New Jersey, he commanded Fort Lee and Fort Washington, commanded at the battles of Trenton, Brandywine (Greene commanded the reserve), and Germantown. He became Quartermaster General in 1778 at Valley Forge (another particularly interesting point worthy of a book in itself), and led the right wing of the army at Monmouth that Spring. In August, Greene (with Lafayette) commanded the Battle of Rhode Island and led at the Battle of Springfield. He also battled with Congress over how to fund the war, and commanded West Point. In 1780 he presided over the court that sentenced Major John André to death.

Then he was asked to command the South.

Strange Maps to Strange Ideas


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One of the blogs we follow here at the New York History Blog, is Strange Maps, a blog of some of the weirdest, wackiest, and thought provoking maps in the world. Here is are some samples of some recent posts you may not have seen, they are not all New York History related, but they do point to unique uses of mapping that NY historians can appreciate:

Federal Lands in the US
The United States government has direct ownership of almost 650 million acres of land (2.63 million square kilometers) – nearly30% of its total territory. These federal lands, which are mainly used as military bases or testing grounds, nature parks and reserves and indian reservations, are managed by different administrations, such as the Bureau of Land Management, the US Forest Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the US Department of Defense, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the US Bureau of Reclamation or the Tennessee Valley Authority. [New York is tied with Iowa for 2nd from last at .8%; Connecticut and Rhode Island are tied for last with just .4% - of course they don't count New York's state lands (Adirondack, Catskills, and more), so the map is not really reflective of actual government ownership.]

Where News Breaks

Researchers extracted the dateline from about 72,000 wire-service news stories from 1994 to 1998 and modified a standard map of the Lower 48 US states (above) to show the size of the states in proportion to the frequency of their appearance in those datelines. New York is the largest news provider of the country, of course nearly all originating in New York City (pop. 8.2 million; metro area 18.8 million). Compare this to Illinois, home of the the nation’s third largest city, Chicago (pop. 2.8 million; metro area 9.5 million). Especially when considering metropolitan areas, Chicago/Illinois should be half the ‘news size’ of New York City/New York, while in fact it seems to be less than one fifth. Could this underrepresentation be down to another ‘capital effect’ (i.e. New York being the ‘cultural capital’ of the US)?

Area Codes in Which Ludacris Claims to Have Hoes
“In [the song "Area Codes"] Ludacris brags about the area codes where he knows women, whom he refers to as ‘hoes’,” says Stefanie Gray, who plotted out all the area codes mentioned in this song on a map of the United States. She arrived at some interesting conclusions as to the locations of this rapper’s preferred female companionship:

Ludacris heavily favors the East Coast to the West, save for Seattle, San Francisco, Sacramento, and Las Vegas.

Ludacris travels frequently along the Boswash corridor.

There is a ‘ho belt‘ phenomenon nearly synonymous with the ‘Bible Belt’.

Ludacris’s ideal ‘ho-highway’ would be I-95.

Ludacris has hoes in the entire state of Maryland.

Ludacris has a disproportionate ho-zone in rural Nebraska. He might favor white women as much as he does black women, or perhaps, girls who farm.

A World Map of Manhattan
This map celebrates that diversity by assembling Manhattan out of the contours of many of the world’s countries. Danielle Hartman created the map based on data from the 2000 US Census. In all, 80 different countries of origin were listed in the census. The map-maker placed the country contours near the census area where most of the citizens of each country resided.

The Comancheria, Lost Homeland of a Warrior Tribe
Under the presidency of Sam Houston (1836-’38, 1841-’44) the then independent Republic of Texas almost came to a peace agreement with the tribal collective known as the Comanche. The Texas legislature rejected this deal, because it did not want to establish a definitive border with the Comanche; for by that time, white settlers were pushing into the Comancheria, the homeland of one of the most fearsome Native American peoples the Euro-Americans ever had to deal with.

Thomas Jefferson’s Plan for the division of the Northwest Territory into 10 new states.

Regionalism and Religiosity

A Map of the Internet’s Black Holes

A Diagram of the Eisenhower Interstate System

Birthplaces of Mississippi Blues Artists

Ancient Mississippi River Courses

New Tenement Museum Reflects Irish Immigration


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From the New York Times comes a report on the newest Tenement Museum in New York City:

The [Joseph and Bridget Moore family] place will become the sixth apartment of former immigrant residents of 97 Orchard Street to be recreated. The apartments are all nearly identical in size at about 325 square feet. One represents the home of a German Jewish family soon after the father disappeared; another a Lithuanian Jewish family whose father had just died. Another is the remade home of Italian Catholics about to be evicted.

The museum was established in 1988 in 97 Orchard, an 1864 brick building, and attracts 130,000 visitors a year. The building is a time capsule of primitive bathrooms and windowless passageways. In 1935, the building’s owners sealed off most of the 20 units rather than make changes to meet new housing codes.

The fourth-floor apartment for the Moores — it is not known exactly where in the building they lived — will be the museum’s earliest simulation and the first to reflect the huge influx of Irish immigrants in the 19th century.

“We take these dynamic, compelling family stories, and use them to draw people into the greater historical context of immigrants in America,” said Stephen H. Long, the vice president of collections and education at the museum. Members of the staff began researching the Moores five years ago.

The Moores’ experience, Mr. Long added, also made for teachable moments about the history of medicine and public health. “When the Moores lived here,” he said, “the mortality rate for Irish immigrant children was 25 percent.”

Only four of the Moores’ eight children, all girls, reached adulthood. Mrs. Moore died in 1882, when she was 36, shortly after giving birth to her eighth daughter. Curators speculate that the malnutrition that killed Agnes was brought on by drinking swill: milk from diseased cows, which street vendors ladled out of dirty vats and sometimes adulterated with chalk or ammonia.

A Virtual tour of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum is available on the web.

NY Oysters: Urban History and The Environment


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I just finished reading Mark Kurlansky’s The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell. It’s basically a short history of New York City told through the city’s natural environment and one of its most significant natural resources (possibly second only to its natural harbor) – the oyster.

I’ve also read, and can highly recommend, three of Kurlansky’s previous books.

Cod: A Biography of The Fish The Changed the World

The Basque History of the World

Salt A World History

All have implications for New York History – according to esteemed Iroquoisian Dean Snow, the word Iroquois is derived from a Basque word, a demonstration of their subtle impact in our region during their search for Cod off the Grand Banks, Cod they then salted to preserve. Throughout all three books Kurlansky includes historic recipes and other culinary history.

The Big Oyster is a must read for those interested in natural history, marine history, the Atlantic World, and food history as well as those with a taste for urban history and the New York City underworld of oyster cellars, cartmen, and seedy public spaces of all kinds.

Erik Baard of the blog Nature Calendar:Your Urban Wilderness Community posted an interesting interview with Kurlansky last week, and also points us to the upcoming Spring/Summer 2008 Oyster Gardening Event:

This program, in collaboration with NY/NJ Baykeeper and the New York Harbor School, seeks to increase stewardship among residents of the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary by working with volunteers from schools and community organizations in New York City to help prepare an oyster reef off the Tribeca waterfront. The project builds on the results of NY/NJ Baykeeper oyster reef restoration in New Jersey and research conducted by The River Project at its Pier 26 field station in New York.

A taste of the interview with Kurlansky:

Erik Baard: The Dutch and British settlers used that shell lime to construct stone homes. And I’m kind of curious about the many ways oysters were used. It’s a very versatile product, the meat, the shell being used for construction of buildings… How else were they used?

Mark Kurlansky: They were used in roads, you know, paving roads and in landfill. They were use to fertilize soil, to increase the lime content of the soil, which used to be called “sweetening the soil.” You could just plow oysters under. In fact, Europeans who visited were surprised to see that. The European way was always to grind it up and create this lime powder that you use as fertilizer, but New York farmers used to just take whole shells and put them in the earth.

Erik Baard: And this would lower the acidity?

Mark Kurlansky: Right. Okay.

Erik Baard: Now also, Pearl Street, you clarified some mythologies on that.

Mark Kurlansky: Yes, for some reason there’s a lot of mythologies about Pearl Street. I was just on Pearl Street last Saturday, I was thinking about this. Pearl Street was the waterfront in Dutch times, in the original Manhattan. It continues now several blocks further because of landfill. And there’s lots of stories about why it was called Pearl Street. But the real reason seems to be that on the waters edge there, the Indians had left large piles of shells.

Erik Baard: It wasn’t paved with the oyster shells?

Mark Kurlansky: No you often hear that but, one of the first things I noticed when I was researching this book was that the street got its name before it was paved

Disappearing NYC Inspired Blogs


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Disappearing New York City landmarks have inspired two blogs worthy of note.

Check out Jeremiah Moss’s “ongoing obituary for my dying city” Vanishing New York, subtitled “The Book of Lamentations: A Bitterly Nostalgic Look at a City in The Process of Going Extinct.”

A second blog, Brooks of Sheffield’s Lost City, declares itself “A running Jeremiad on the vestiges of Old New York as they are steamrolled under or threatened by the currently ruthless real estate market and the City Fathers’ disregard for Gotham’s historical and cultural fabric.”

Both are worth a read, and can be found at our blogroll at right.

If you have tips for the New York History Blog about relevant blogs, sites, events, or news, drop us a note via our e-mail address at right.

1840s New York Smut Revisited


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Last Tuesday’s Village Voice included a great review (by Tom Robbins) of The Flash Press: Sporting Male Weeklies in 1840s New York by Patricia Cline Cohen, Timothy J. Gilfoyle, and Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz. Robbins writes:

Like [Al] Goldstein’s Screw, the publishers [of long-forgotten sex rags from the early 1840s] chose titles that got right to the point: The Whip, The Rake, The Libertine, The Flash, and others with even shorter publishing lives. One of these, The New York Sporting Whip, offered a kind of mission statement: “Man is endowed by nature with passions that must be gratified,” the newspaper asserted, “and no blame can be attached to him, who for that purpose occasionally seeks the woman of pleasure.”

The so-called “father of the smutty papers” was William J. Snelling, a hard-drinking Bostoner who dropped out of West Point, hunted with the Dakota Indians, and helped found anti-slavery organizations. Inspired by a sex scandal involving a wealthy theater producer, Snelling launched The Sunday Flash in 1841 together with an eccentric minstrel singer named George Washington Dixon. They didn’t mince words: The theater producer in question, they wrote, was “a hoary leper,” a “Scoundrel whom even Texas vomited from her afflicted bowels.”

The papers were an immediate hit. Newsboys hawked them for six cents apiece at ferry landings and oyster bars. Paid circulation averaged 10,000 to 12,000 per issue. Among the surefire circulation-building devices were in-depth reviews of the city’s hundreds of brothels. “Princess Julia’s Palace of Love,” a story in the June 6, 1841, edition of a weekly called Dixon’s Polyanthos, depicted a popular brothel run by a fashionable madam named Julia Brown: “On ascending the second story, up the splendid steps, you fall in, with apartment No. 1. This room is occupied by Lady Ellen, and a glorious lady she is, with the dark flashing orbs, and full of feeling—so full of intellect that one might stand and gaze, and gaze . . .”

The full review is here.

2008 America’s Most Endangered Historic Places


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Two locations in New York State have been listed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s annual list of America’s Most Endangered Places. The non-profit membership organization hopes that saving the places where great moments from history – and the important moments of everyday life – took place, will help revitalize neighborhoods and communities, spark economic development, and promote environmental sustainability.

This years list includes eleven threatened one-of-a-kind historic treasures. Listing them as threatened raises awareness and helps rally resources to save them. The two New York locations on the list are:

The Lower East Side, New York City – The Lower East Side embodies the history of immigration, one of the central themes of American history in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, yet development threatens to erase the surviving historic structures. This includes houses of worship, historic theaters, schools and the tenement, a unique architectural type which, by the sheer numbers who lived in such a building, had an impact on more Americans than any other form of urban housing. A New York City landmark designation and contextual zone changes within the neighborhood would preserve the physical character of the neighborhood. [At left Lower East Side Tenement by Greg Scaffidi]

Peace Bridge Neighborhood, Buffalo, N.Y. – The neighborhood and the site, with homes and buildings dating to the 1850s on two National Register Olmsted parks, is an iconic section of the City of Buffalo. The Public Bridge Authority (PBA) proposes to expand Peace Bridge and include a 45 acre plaza that will eliminate over 100 homes and businesses (dozens of which are eligible to the National Register) and diminish the Olmsted parks. Suitable alternate sites exist, but PBA refuses to properly consider them. [At right: Peace Bridge Neighborhood by Catherine Schweitzer]

A complete list along with a video produced by the History Channel is located at www.PreservationNation.org

P.T. Barnum’s American Museum On The Web


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The New York City History blog The Bowery Boys has a great post on Barnum’s American Museum that includes a podcast, lots of images and a link to The City University of New York website devoted to Barnum’s, The Lost Museum. Both sites are worth checking out.

Barnum’s American Museum was located at the corner of Broadway and Ann Street in New York City from 1841 to it was destroyed by fire in 1865 [pdf of NY Times Article]. P.T. Barnum’s partner was John Scudder the original owner of the museum (then known as Scudder’s American Museum). Scudder recently found new fame as character inspiration for the HBO series Carnivale – a must see for those interested in carnies, the ballies, flying jennys, sugar shacks, the midway, and oh, the Great Depression.

According to wikipedia:

Barnum opened his museum on January 1, 1842 to create a place where families could go for wholesome, affordable entertainment but his success drew from the fact that he knew how to entice an audience. Its attractions made it a combination zoo, museum, lecture hall, wax museum, theater and freak show,that was, at the same time, a central site in the development of American popular culture. At its peak, the museum was open fifteen hours a day and had as much as 15,000 visitors a day.

On July 13th, 1865, the American Museum burned to the ground in one of the most spectacular fires New York has ever seen. Animals at the museum were seen jumping from the burning building, only to be shot by police officers. Barnum tried to open another museum soon after that, but that also burned down in a mysterious fire in 1868. It was after this time that Barnum moved onto politics and the circus industry.

While we’re talking Phineas Taylor Barnum, we should point readers to Robin Freeds’ “In Business for Myself: P.T. Barnum and the Management of Spectacle.”

Also, the Disability History Museum has the full text of Barnum’s 1860 catalog online.