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Amusements and Thrills Bowery Boys Bookshelf

The literary Coney Island

Everybody sees Coney Island a little differently. Most people know it for the amusements but not everybody has the same feeling about them. One person craves the beaches, the food. Another prefers a stroll along the boardwalk, fireworks, an evening Cyclones game. Others live nearby, too familiar with the swelling weekend crowds. And some people… Read More

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf Health and Living

Hog Heaven: The wonderfully messy tale of ‘Taming Manhattan’

Here is New York — not the evened tree-lined avenues with fashionable ladies and shiny new carriages.  Not an ordered town of impressive architecture and manicured parks, emulating and even surpassing the trappings of European society.   Those things would arrive by the 1880s; before then, they were mostly aspirational designs. Here is New York as it actually was.… Read More

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf

Ten holiday gift ideas for history buffs: The best reads of 2014 with Robert Moses, Coney Island and the Statue of Liberty

Illustration from Robert Moses: The Master Builder of New York City GIFT GUIDE What do you get for that history fanatic in your life?  Afraid of buying them a book that they may have already read?  Here are nine books published in 2014 that I’ve had the pleasure of reading this year, illustrating wild and colorful… Read More

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf

“Bohemians, Bootleggers, Flappers & Swells”: What a party! Courtesy Vanity Fair and the toasts of the Jazz Age

Bohemians, Bootleggers, Flappers & Swells: The Best of Early Vanity Fair Various authors Edited by Graydon Carter with David Friend Penguin Press BOOK REVIEW  Bohemians, Bootleggers, Flappers & Swells: The Best of Early Vanity Fair sounds like a soirée in book form, but it’s a lot more than that.  If anything, the book’s title is a… Read More

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf

“A History of New York in 101 Objects” by Sam Roberts: or why you should never throw anything out

BOOK REVIEW Looking at history as a collection of objects is a pursuit best suited for a hoarder.  Every item strewn along the timeline has the potential of being totemic to human experience.  A similar review of your own life might imbue symbolic power to such things as an old teddy bear or a dried… Read More

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf Mysterious Stories

Spectropia, or How to Make Ghosts in Your Home

Above: The cover of the New York edition of Brown’s optical illusion book One of the hottest books in New York City in the fall of 1864 was an optical illusion collection that conjured ghosts through a simple trick of the eye. Spectropia, or surprising spectral illusions showing ghosts everywhere and of any colour was… Read More

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf

Happy birthday Herman Melville! Some New York City trivia Plus: News on our upcoming podcasts

“Of a Sunday, Wall-Street is deserted as Petra; and every night of every day it is an emptiness.” — Herman Melville, Bartelby the Scrivener.  The lithograph above is what Wall Street would have looked like in Melville’s day. (NYPL) Herman Melville, one of America’s greatest writers of the 19th century, was born 195 years ago… Read More

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf Revolutionary History

25 Great Books About the Founding Fathers (and Mothers)

Independence Day may be over, but our celebration of the Founding Fathers continues all this week, culminating in a brand new podcast this Friday! I thought I’d share some of my favorite books on the subject of America building, great reads on the personalities of the men and women who helped form America.  Included here… Read More

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf Uncategorized

Maya Angelou 1928-2014

A photo from her nightclub and theater years, G. Paul Bishop Jr. photographer ““I never agreed with Thomas Wolfe,” she remarked quietly. “I never thought you can’t go home again. I’ve been coming home to Harlem for 50 years.”— from a terrific story in the New York Times from 2007 about her ornately colorful Harlem… Read More

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf

The location of the X-Men’s home and its dark historical secret

The next time you read an X-Men comic book or see one of their blockbuster films, remember that the whole thing is taking place in Westchester County, just 50 miles north of New York City. The address of Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters (aka mutant teenagers) is 1407 Graymalkin Lane, a fictional street near… Read More

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf Skyscrapers

Supreme City: The ascent of Midtown Manhattan in the 1920s

A view of Midtown Manhattan, looking southeast, by the Wurts Brothers (NYPL)Supreme CityHow Jazz Age Manhattan Gave Birth to Modern Americaby Donald L. MillerSimon & Schuster Supreme City, by Donald L. Miller, certainly one of the most entertaining books on New York City history I’ve read in the past couple years, is also one of… Read More

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf

The Alienist by Caleb Carr, released 20 years ago this week: Retracing the steps of this Gilded Age murder mystery

NOTE: This article has a few plot spoilers but no major twists are revealed or discussed.  I’ve tried to write the descriptions within the interactive map as vaguely as possible. The Alienist by Caleb Carr was published 20 years ago this week, an instant best-seller in 1994 that has become a cult classic among history… Read More

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf

Solomon Northup’s ominous journey to New York City, 1841

An engraving featured in Solomon Northup’s narrative Twelve Years A Slave, published in 1853. The New York farmer and musician Solomon Northup was sold into slavery in 1841, tricked by two supposed members of a circus troupe, promising Northrup work in their traveling show.  Instead, Northrup awoke in bondage, eventually smuggled to New Orleans where… Read More

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf Museums

Edgar Allan Poe: Terror of the Soul at the Morgan Library: Genius from a dark place, his strange torment on display

An illustration by Eduardo Manet from a 1875 French reprinting of “The Raven” We are all too comfortable with Edgar Allan Poe in the abstract.  His fingerprints seem to be on everything these days.  His morbid tastes and the flowering dark genres he helped create appear just underneath much of American pop culture in the… Read More

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf

‘The Big Crowd’: Kevin Baker takes on an unsolved mystery, the murder of Kid Twist and the secrets of a fallen mayor

New York City, 1953, the setting for Kevin Baker’s The Big Crowd. Photo by Eliot Elisofen, courtesy Life/Google imagesBOWERY BOYS BOOK OF THE MONTH Each month I’ll pick a book — either brand new or old, fiction or non-fiction — that offers an intriguing take on New York City history, something that uses history in… Read More