American History

As Garfield fights for life, Arthur lays low in Murray Hill

There are several enemies in Candice Millard‘s ‘Destiny of the Republic‘, the terrific narrative history of the assassination of President James Garfield during the summer of 1881. The most obvious foe is the delusional Charles Guiteau, who believed himself the nation’s savior when he shot President Garfield twice at a Washington DC train station on… Read More

Mad Men

‘Mad Men’ returns: a guide to eating (and drinking) options

Drama for dinner: ‘Mad Men’ meals go down best with fifteen cocktails AMC’s ‘Mad Men’ returns for its fifth season this March. Until somebody goes ahead and develops a TV show about Peter Stuyvesant and New Amsterdam, the award-winning Madison Avenue drama is the closest we’ll get to straight-up New York City history TV. The… Read More

Jack Finney’s ‘Time And Again’, preservation by sci-fi

The Dakota Apartment circa the 1890s: If you arranged everything just right, could you go back to it? The writer Jack Finney, who was born a hundred years ago this week, on October 2, 1911, turned the Dakota Apartments into a time machine in his 1970 novel ‘Time And Again’. He inspired a legion of New… Read More

The cat’s meow: NYC in the 1920s, through a gauzy haze

Capital of the World: A Portrait of New York City in the Roaring 20sBy David WallaceLyons Press REVIEW ‘Capital of the World’ is a delicious but high-calorie Whitman’s sampler of New York City delights during the 1920s. It is no surprise to find that it is authored by journalist David Wallace, whose publishing career is… Read More

McKim, Mead & White, no marble stone left unturned

The Villard Houses, a Madison Avenue masterpiece by the firm McKim, Mead and White, was mostly the inspiration of their associate Joseph Wells, according to the author. [courtesy NYPL] Triumvirate: McKim Mead & WhiteArt, Architecture, Scandal, and Class In America’s Gilded Ageby Mosette BroderickAlfred A. Knopf, New York, PublisherBOOK REVIEW I’ve been going back and… Read More

Buried treasure: The beauty of ‘Past Objects’, underfoot

Much of our fair city is built on a foundation of yesterday’s trash. Studying an early map of Manhattan and comparing it to the island’s current shape reveals the city’s growth by landfill, a staggering — albeit slow and piecemeal — project as great as any superior monument or skyscraper. (From this view, you can… Read More

Bowery Boys Bookshelf: Film history and a morning Danish

I feel as though I am partly responsible for the death of actress Patricia Neal, who passed away this past Sunday. Last Wednesday I was finishing up Sam Wasson’s indulgent little “Fifth Avenue 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast At Tiffany’s, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman” and admired the author’s anecdotes about Neal, who… Read More

Bowery Boys Bookshelf: New York City writes about itself

No city has been more savaged and disparaged, more exalted and varnished, than New York City — and this from the very writers who lived here. The man who exclaimed “Manhattan crowds, with their turbulent musical chorus!” also wrote, “Silence? What can New York-noisy, roaring, rumbling, tumbling, bustling, story, turbulent New York-have to do with… Read More

Those other, wascally Bowery Boys: now every Saturday

For those of you looking for the old Bowery Boys — not the podcasters, not the rock band, not the gallery show from last month, not the 19th century gang (the real Bowery Boys) — but the comic movie stars from the 1930s and 40s — Turner Classics Movies now shows their films every Saturday… Read More

Bowery Boys Bookshelf: ‘Butchery’ and beauties

On January 31 1857, the body of dentist Harvey Burdell was found mangled on the floor of his suite at 31 Bond Street. In Benjamin Feldman’s look at the murder and its famous trial, ‘Butchery on Bond Street‘ he uncovers so many potential suspects that entire episodes of ‘Murder She Wrote’ could be scripted from… Read More