American History Podcasts

Andrew Carnegie and New York’s public libraries: How a Gilded Age gift transformed America

EPISODE 308 In the final decades of his life, steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie — one of the richest Americans to ever live — began giving his money away. The Scots American had worked his way up from a railroad telegraph office to amass an unimaginable fortune, acquired in a variety of industries — railroads, bridge… Read More


Seward Park Library: One of New York’s most beautiful branch libraries also had a rooftop view

Below is a picture, facing east, of Seward Park Library in the Lower East Side at 192 E. Broadway (picture taken in 1911). This spectacular branch library, funded by Andrew Carnegie, opened in November 1909, two years before the 42nd Street main branch opened.  All of the housing behind the library to the east has… Read More

Planes Trains and Automobiles Podcasts The Jazz Age

The Holland Tunnel: How a Jazz Age engineering marvel forever changed New York and New Jersey

EPISODE 307 The Holland Tunnel, connecting Manhattan with Jersey City beneath the Hudson River, is more important to daily life in New York City than people may at first think. Before the creation of the Holland Tunnel, commuters and travelers had painfully few options if they wanted to get to and from Manhattan. And for… Read More

Bowery Boys Podcasts

Here are the top Bowery Boys podcast episodes of 2019. Thanks for making this our greatest year yet!

Wow it’s been a busy time on the podcast this year. Twenty-seven new episodes of the Bowery Boys: New York City History podcasts in 2019 — along with seven episodes of the Bowery Boys Movie Club, four of The Takeout and other bonus audio for those who support us on Patreon. That’s a lot of talking! We visited the neighborhoods of Downtown… Read More

Food History Podcasts

Just Desserts: The origins of New York cheesecake, cannoli and other glorious sweet things

EPISODE 306 Recorded live at the WNYC Greene Space In this special episode, the Bowery Boys podcast focuses on the delicious treats that add to the New York experience. These aren’t just the famous foods that have been made in New York, but the unique desserts that make the city what it is today. The origins of some of these… Read More

Know Your Mayors

A short history of New York City mayors who ran for President of the United States

Last week former mayor Michael Bloomberg very unofficially — and somewhat belatedly — entered the 2020 presidential race by filing paperwork for next year’s Alabama primary. This over a month after current New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio entered and dropped out of the race this year, never catching fire with the Democratic electorate.… Read More


How the Kosciuszko Bridge got its wonderfully bewildering name

“That sound that crashes in the tyrant’s ear – Kosciuszko!” Lord Byron was talking about Polish hero Tadeusz Kościuszko, who was (most likely) born on this date in 1746.  Tomorrow a new bridge bearing his name will open to the public,  hoping to eliminate the many grievances of those stuck upon its predecessor during rush hour. But how did the original 1939 span over… Read More


Eero Saarinen and his three gifts to New York

A toast to the great 20th-century architect Eero Saarinen! The Modernist icon was born on this date in 1910 in Finland. He immigrated to the United States with his parents when he was thirteen years old. His father Eliel Saarinen was himself a brilliant architect; his son would learn from the best. Eero Saarinen was a versatile furniture designer… Read More

Writers and Artists

6 facts about Herman Melville, born 200 years ago today in Manhattan

Herman Melville, one of America’s greatest writers of the 19th century, was born 200 years ago today.  Here are five New York-centric facts about Melville that you may not have known: 1)  Melville was born at 11:30 pm on August 1, 1819, at 6 Pearl Street. Today, across the street from that approximate location of the address sits a… Read More

Bowery Boys Bookshelf Science

Miracle ABOVE 34th Street: A rainmaker trys to keep NYC quenched

It seems like a conspiracy theory from 2019 — a government plot to conjure weather conditions favorable to New York City by literally seeding the sky from government planes. But it really did happen in 1950. The results, however, were a bit more — shall we say — chilling. Howell’s StormNew York City’s Official Rainmaker and… Read More

Bowery Boys Bookshelf Health and Living Uncategorized

The Guarded Gate: NYC’s grotesque involvement with the eugenics movement

Eugenics, as with any creation from a mad scientist, was developed to advance the human race, built from the studies of Charles Darwin and Gregor Mendel. Shouldn’t we pass only mankind’s most laudable attributes to the next generation? Who wouldn‘t want to weed out disease and deformity? Instead, it became one of the most insidious tools of the 20th… Read More


The Earthquake of 1884! A few parallels to today’s quake

New York has never suffered severely from the effects of an earthquake. Most recently, the one felt in 2011— reportedly of 5.8 or 5.9 magnitude, centered around Virginia and affecting many Northeast metropolitan areas — ranks quite high on the list of tremors felt here. There’s no way to compare that local event to the really early quakes, as the Richter… Read More

Bowery Boys Bookshelf True Crime

The Belle of Bedford Avenue: Wild Brooklyn teens in a shocking real-life 1902 murder mystery

I finished reading Virginia A. McConnell‘s true-crime page-turner The Belle of Bedford Avenue and promptly went to listen to my favorite musical cast album — Chicago. Florence Burns, the ‘bad girl’ of McConnell’s tale, easily could have been the inspiration for Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly had she been a 1920s flapper. Burns’ real-life troubles, however, predate those of… Read More

Wartime New York

New York doughnut history: From Washington Irving’s olykoeks to doughnut huts in Union Square

Today is National Doughnut Day which is not a real holiday although that shouldn’t stop you from celebrating in whatever powdered, glazed, creme-filled way you see fit. However you will be surprised to learn that this day traces its roots to the Salvation Army and World War I. To provide for the American troops fighting in France in… Read More


In 1895 a deadly tornado hit Woodhaven, Queens, and the ruins became a tourist attraction

The destructive force of tornado season has made itself abundantly evident in the Midwest this week, and New Yorkers can sometimes develop a false sense of security by the rarity of twister activity here. But tornados do occasionally make their way to the five boroughs. In fact Staten Island was under a tornado warning just this past… Read More