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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 […]

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Podcasts Writers and Artists

Walt Whitman at 200: Celebrating his life and legacy in the cities of New York and Brooklyn

A very special episode of the Bowery Boys podcast, recorded live at the Bell House in Gowanus, Brooklyn, celebrating the legacy of Walt Whitman, a writer with deep ties to New York and its 19th century sister-city Brooklyn. On May 31, 1819, the world will mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Whitman, a journalist who revolutionized American […]

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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 […]

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf

The Doomsman: an apocalyptic view of New York City in 2015, written in 1906 by America’s foremost golf expert

From the original illustrations of  The Doomsman: a look up Park Row in 2015, a decrepit row of deteriorating structures. You can clearly see the ruins of old Post Office at the foot of City Hall Park.  Compare this view to the photograph at the bottom of this post. “Such is the world, or, rather, […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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Pop Culture

The real Sleepy Hollow didn’t have a Starbucks

An 1864 wood engraving of ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ for Harper’s Magazine (NYPL) The new Fox television show Sleepy Hollow debuted last night.  The storyline involves Continental Army soldier Ichabod Crane who confronts a masked Hessian soldier on the battlefields of Westchester County in 1781.  He chops off the Hessian’s head but is knocked unconscious. […]

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf

Here’s 25 essential historical novels set in New York City. Help me expand the list to 50 titles!

As a follow-up to last month’s list of essential non-fiction books about New York City, here’s my list of 25 favorite historical fiction novels written in the past one hundred years, using the history of the city as a backdrop for drama, mystery, fantasy and romance. There are really two types of historical fiction — […]

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf

Thieves of Book Row: Strange treasure among the stacks inspires New York’s most intellectual black market

The used bookstores of Book Row, the above shot from Fourth Avenue and 10th Street, 1938 (courtesy NYPL)BOWERY 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 a […]

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf

The readers have spoken! A revised list of 50 essential non-fiction books on New York City history

Last week I posted a list via Riffle Books of my personal choices for 25 books on New York City history that I think everybody should read.  But it was a far from perfect list, so I solicited your help to choose 25 more. And all I can say is — WOW! I got almost […]

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf

Here’s my 25 favorite books about New York City history. Help me choose 25 more!

Over the weekend, I put together this Riffle list of my favorite 25 book on the subject of New York City history, published over the last one hundred years. I’ll admit that this list reflects what’s on my shelf at the moment and is not in any way yet complete. (For instance, I’m obviously sparse […]