Categories
Amusements and Thrills

The fire at Barnum’s American Museum 155 years ago

One hundred and fifty-five years ago (on July 13, 1865), New York City lost one of its most famous, most imaginative and most politically incorrect attractions. When P.T. Barnum opened his museum in 1841, the kooky curiosities contained within the building at the corner of Broadway and Ann Street — at the foot of Park […]

Categories
New York Islands Podcasts

The history of Hart Island, a place of strangeness and sorrow

Few people are allowed to go onto Hart Island, the quiet, narrow island in the Long Island Sound, a lonely place in sight of the bustling community of City Island. For over 150 years, Hart Island has been New York’s potter’s field, the burial site for over one million people — unclaimed bodies, stillborn babies, […]

Categories
Wartime New York

“To the memory of the Brave Soldiers and Sailors Who Saved the Union”

This Monday (May 27, 2019), a Memorial Day observance will be held from 10 a.m to noon at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Riverside Park. In honor of the holiday, we’re rerunning this 2015 article on this oft-forgotten monument. The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument on the Upper West Side has been the centerpiece for Memorial […]

Categories
Podcasts Politics and Protest

New York City and the Underground Railroad: Escaping to freedom through a hostile city

PODCAST For thousands of people escaping the bonds of slavery in the South, the journey to freedom wound its way through New York City via the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad was a loose, clandestine network of homes, businesses and churches, operated by freed black people and white abolitionists who put it upon themselves — […]

Categories
Bowery Boys Bookshelf Wartime New York

‘Shooting Lincoln’: The Complicated Story Behind America’s First Wartime Photographs

Alexander Gardner is a bit of a Nikola Tesla-like figure in American history in that his contributions were largely overlooked in his day, concealed within a partnership with a famous business titan. That titan was Mathew Brady, the most famous photographer of the 19th century, with studios in New York and Washington D.C. that captured […]

Categories
Bronx History

Robert E. Lee in the Hall of Fame? There were concerns even back in 1900

On Wednesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the busts of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, located on the campus of Bronx Community College, would be permanently evicted, following the removal and dismantling of several sculptural depictions of the Confederate generals across the country in recent days. There are many great Americans, many of them […]

Categories
American History

History in the Making 4/9: The Appomattox Surrender Edition

“PEACE DOES NOT APPEAR TO BE SO DISTANT”: One hundred and fifty years ago today,  Robert E Lee surrendered the Virginia army to Ulysses S. Grant. This ended the American Civil War, more or less. It took several days for the news to get around of course. The last recognized battle of the Civil War […]

Categories
True Crime

That rascal Daniel Sickles, the beloved politician and veteran who killed the son of Francis Scott Key

We don’t have large, parade-like funeral processions marching up the avenues as they once did during the Gilded Age and in the early years of the 20th century. These events were times of public mourning and a bit of festivity.  Most often they involved the passing of a well-connected political leader or a popular entertainers. […]

Categories
Holidays

Months after the Draft Riots, New York celebrates the first national Thanksgiving, in the shadow of war and lunar eclipse

Above: A Thomas Nast illustration from Harper’s Weekly, November 1863, clearly putting the event in the context of war and hardship.  In practice, Thanksgiving celebrates the supposed feast between the Pilgrims and their Native American neighbors in Massachusetts. But meals of ‘thanksgiving’ have been part of the Western world customs for hundreds of years, and […]

Categories
On The Waterfront

In 1863, the Russians invaded New York City

In 1863, New Yorkers flocked to the waterfront to see a startling sight — Russian war ships in New York Harbor. The fleet of Russian ships, sailing into New York Harbor in September 1863, as depicted by Harper’s Weekly. They were here as a display of force, but not to threaten the United States. Russia’s […]

Categories
Know Your Mayors

George Opdyke: The mayor during the Civil War Draft Riots and his unsavory connection to New York’s fashion industry

KNOW YOUR MAYORS A modest little series about some of the greatest, notorious, most important, even most useless, mayors of New York City. Other entrants in the Bowery Boys mayoral survey can be found here.Mayor George OpdykeIn office: 1862-1863 The wealthy merchant and politician George Opdyke died on June 12, 1880, attended to by his family from […]

Categories
American History Wartime New York

It’s the 150th anniversary of the 1863 Civil War Draft Riots. Why should we care?

Police try to restore order in front of the New York Tribune building, a pro-Lincoln publication being attacked by rioters. Why are there no permanent remembrances of any significant kind in New York City to the Civil War Draft Riots?   It was the most grave, the most tumultuous event in New York City history […]

Categories
American History Wartime New York

Calm before the storm: Saturday before the Draft Riots, an ominous silence before New York’s most violent days

   A list of the nine draft offices where lotteries would occur that Monday, July 13th. It would have already begun in Jamaica and at the Ninth District Office that Saturday. One hundred and fifty years ago today, on July 11, 1863, the first round of lotteries to select able-bodied men for conscription into the Union Army […]

‘The Abolitionists’, first of three parts tonight on PBS

PBS’s American Experience debuts its three-part series on American abolitionists of the 19th century.  With two very different films about slavery in movie theaters (Lincoln, Django Unchained), ‘The Abolitionists’ is certainly a well-timed series, featuring the stories of Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison and Harriet Beecher Stowe (no doubt brother Henry Ward Beecher will make an […]

‘The Abolitionists’, first of three parts tonight on PBS

PBS’s American Experience debuts its three-part series on American abolitionists of the 19th century.  With two very different films about slavery in movie theaters (Lincoln, Django Unchained), ‘The Abolitionists’ is certainly a well-timed series, featuring the stories of Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison and Harriet Beecher Stowe (no doubt brother Henry Ward Beecher will make an […]