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Bowery Boys Bookshelf True Crime

‘The Vapors’: How an Arkansas spa town became a New York gangster paradise

Owney Madden was one of New York’s most infamous gangsters, a bootlegger and murderer who seemed to cross paths with every major cultural marker of the Roaring 20s. He opened the Cotton Club (with Jack Johnson), dated Mae West, and operated a liquor smuggling racket that catered to the city’s busiest speakeasies. In essence Madden […]

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf It's Showtime

‘Lady Romeo’: The unconventional life of actress Charlotte Cushman

Without moving images or sound recordings to guide us, it can be hard to imagine the lives and careers of famous theater actors from the 19th century. And yet the American theater produced a list of wildly famous performers whose names were repeated in households that often had no possibility of ever seeing a major […]

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf Landmarks

‘Walking Broadway’: A splendid guide for a summer stroll through Manhattan

Manhattan’s 13-mile stretch of Broadway — as you’ve heard us say many times — has an extraordinary history. Thanks to its unique path up the length of the island, it crosses through a wide variety of fascinating neighborhoods and historical eras. And as it turns out — it also makes for a beautiful stroll. WALKING […]

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A Most Violent Year Bowery Boys Bookshelf

‘Murder in the Garment District’: Unraveling the labor unions in mob-controlled Manhattan

By the 1930s, New York City’s thriving garment industry had moved from the Lower East Side to Midtown Manhattan*, housed within nondescript buildings with hundreds of showrooms and shop floors. The streets were lined with idling trucks, racks of dresses pulled along the sidewalk by loaders and truck men. The streets where American fashion was […]

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf

The menagerie of New York: A colorful look at the ‘Wild City’

While traipsing through Red Hook a couple months ago, I happened upon a family of raccoons camped out underneath a pick-up truck. New York City is actually a bit of a zoo — if you open your mind to what constitutes a star attraction. Sure, we don’t have lions wandering around (thankfully), but what zoo […]

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American History Bowery Boys Bookshelf

Sweet Taste of Liberty: Celebrating the life of Henrietta Wood

One hundred and fifty years ago this month, Henrietta Wood sued the man who kidnapped her and sold her back into slavery. In his lifetime, that man — a prison warden and general scoundrel named Zebulon Ward — often bragged about losing the case, saying “he was the last American ever to pay for a […]

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf

‘Separate’: The origins of a catastrophic and disgraceful Supreme Court decision

The 1896 landmark Supreme Court decision Plessy v. Ferguson embedded and legitimized the practice of “separate but equal” into American life in the 20th century. The decision built racism into the fiber of everyday activities — schooling, housing, medical care, public transportation — and elevated personal prejudices into the realm of legality. It raised white and […]

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf Sports

Opening Day at Shea Stadium: A nostalgic trip to the New York Mets’ beloved old home

Shea Stadium has been gone ten years now. With mourning fans looking on, the final section of seats were torn out on the morning of February 18, 2009. Awaiting fans a short distance away was the sparkling new Citi Field which would open for business with a thrilling game between the San Diego Padres and the field’s home […]

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American History Bowery Boys Bookshelf

WILD BILL: The real man behind a Western legend — and a reluctant Broadway stage star

“Hickok was a celebrity. He was famous. He was feared. He was already a legend. It is estimated that over fifteen hundred dime novels were written just about Buffalo Bill Cody, beginning in 1869, when he was only twenty-three, into the 1930s, and during the early years. Wild Bill was in that category of iconic […]

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf

Eleven holiday gift ideas for New York history buffs: The Bowery Boys favorite books of 2017

For this holiday season, what single present can satisfy a native New Yorker, a history buff enchanted with the city’s rich heritage, or a person who’s dreamed of coming here to visit one day? A book of course! Here are our picks for ideal gifts this year — from hard-hitting non-fiction to nostalgic memoir, from the Revolutionary […]

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf

‘Greater Gotham’: Admiring the biggest, most important New York City history book of the year

Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898, by Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace, is my bible. It sits with my reference books, not with the other history non-fiction, foundational in its importance to this subject. I’ve read every page, although not in one or even 50 sittings. It winds through about 275 […]

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf

‘The Creative Destruction of New York City’: The Tools For Fighting Back Against Unwanted Change

Talk of hyper-gentrification, skyrocketing real estate and the ‘end of New York’ comes bundled with despair and helplessness. Walk down 59th Street and gaze as the super-talls blocking the sun, built for foreign investors who may never once step inside these luxury caverns. Or stroll along Smith Street in Cobble Hill, observing the rows of […]

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Revolutionary History

The Martyr and the Traitor: Choosing Sides In The Revolutionary War

You may know Nathan Hale well from history books or from New York’s numerous memorials as a symbol of American patriotism, dying for his country long before anybody actually thought it would ever be a country. The British hanged him in New York as a spy in the aftermath of the Great Fire of 1776. He had performed […]

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf Politics and Protest

‘Fear City’: The unthinkable tale how New York City almost went bankrupt

Fear City: New York’s Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics, the title of Kim Phillips-Fein’s riveting new book on the 1970s financial catastrophe, isn’t wantonly comparing New York City to the devilish landscape of a horror film. It’s the actual title of a grim pamphlet the New York Police Department distributed to tourists in 1975, […]

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf Brooklyn History

The New Brooklyn: The ups and downs of a very frenetic borough

The subtitle to Kay S. Hymowitz‘s engaging and often provocative new book The New Brooklyn: What It Takes To Bring A City Back is a bit of a misnomer. Brooklyn is not back in any conventional sense of the word. It has not returned to any kind of sense of normalcy or financial stability. In fact, Brooklyn has […]