Podcasts Politics and Protest Wartime New York

The Deadly Draft Riots of 1863: New York City and the American Civil War

This month we are marking the 160th anniversary of one of the most dramatic moments in New York City history – the Civil War Draft Riots which stormed through the city from July 13 to July 16, 1863. Thousands of people took to the streets of Manhattan in violent protest, fueled initially by anger over… Read More

Parks and Recreation

Reservoir Square — 150 years ago!

Here are three stunning stereoscopic views of old Reservoir Square, the park next to the Murray Hill Reservoir that became sadly vacant after the fiery destruction of the Crystal Palace.  These stereoscopes — ancestors to the View-Masters which some of you may remember from childhood – were taken in 1865. Now without its dazzling occupant, the park… Read More

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


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… Read More

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… Read More

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… Read More

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… Read More

Tammany Hall hosts the city’s first Democratic Convention: Susan B. Anthony, the KKK, and a reluctant nominee

Many of you may remember New York’s sole Republican National Convention, held in 2004 at Madison Square Garden, celebrating the re-election bid of George W. Bush. Some may recall any one of New York’s three recent Democratic National Conventions — two (1976, 1980) for Jimmy Carter, and a rather memorable one in 1992 that placed… Read More

The Civil War Draft Riots, presented in miniature

The BBC America series ‘Copper‘, set in the famed Five Points neighborhood, begins this Sunday at 10pm EST. I’ll be Tweeting along during the show and hope to have a reaction post to it on the blog the next day. The video above gives me hope for a program that takes its historical depiction and… Read More

Violence across time: the riots of London and New York

Above: The 1863 Draft Riots and the aftermath of violence in London In a couple weeks, Tom and I will finish off our three-part Civil War series with a strange tale taking place during the war’s final years. But it seems I can’t quite get our last subject — the 1863 Draft Riots — out of my… Read More

The legendary police headquarters at 300 Mulberry Street

There is nothing extraordinary at 300 Mulberry Street anymore, just a standard five-story apartment complex and a parking garage, hugged to its south by a Subway sandwich shop. But for much of the Gilded Age, this address was the grand headquarters for New York’s police department. The Mulberry Street building was New York’s center of law enforcement from… Read More

The other Draft Riots: Brooklyn infernos, Queens bonfires

You probably know something about the Civil War draft riots that kept New York paralyzed during the week of July 13, 1863. But New York only meant Manhattan back then. What about the rest of the future boroughs? The conscription act initiated draft lotteries throughout the area as, by 1863, the Union struggled to fill… Read More

Charming mayor A. Oakey Hall: coy, clueless or corrupt?

An early portrait of A. Oakey Hall as photographed by Matthew Brady KNOW YOUR MAYORS Our modest little series about some of the greatest, notorious, most important, even most useless, mayors of New York City. Other entrants in our mayoral survey can be found here. Mayor A. Oakey Hall In office: 1869-1872 Few leaders of… Read More


PODCAST: McSorley’s Old Ale House

Grab yourself a couple mugs of dark ale and learn about the history of one of New York City’s oldest bars, serving everyone from Abraham Lincoln to John Lennon — and eventually even women! Listen to it for free on iTunes or other podcasting services. Or you can download or listen to it HERE McSorley’s… Read More

Couldn’t they have just written a sternly worded letter?

Think of what it would take for you to go out into the streets of New York City, wielding a ballbat or a knife, to join in a mad unstoppable riot. Then amble over to the corner of 5th Avenue and 44nd Street, across the street from the Best Buy, and put yourself in a… Read More