New-York Historical Society

Author Archives: Edward O'Reilly

What does the ‘S’ in Ulysses S. Grant stand for?

You might expect to hear this kind of question in a game of Trivial Pursuit, and if you’re inclined to say “Simpson”, you’re right – sort of. In truth, Simpson was not part of his name at all and that’s on the authority of the man himself. On June 23, 1864, Grant wrote to Congressman [...]

“An abomination in the eyes of sportsmen”: The early days of professional football

On April 4, 1865, New Yorker James F. Maury wrote in his diary “Very fine day. I celebrated the capture of Richmond by breaking my leg while playing football.” Although the injury will not be new to today’s football fan, the game played that day might not have been quite as familiar. In 1865, football [...]

A 19th-Century Fad: The Illustrated Gift Annual

This post was written by Miranda Schwartz, cataloging assistant. The New-York Historical Society’s Patricia D. Klingenstein Library has a rich collection of about 500 English and American gift annuals. What is a gift annual? the modern reader may well ask. It’s an annual compendium of poetry and prose, usually heavily illustrated, gilt-edged, and bound in [...]

The X-Rays of Melville E. Stone, Jr.

Scrapbooks are unpredictable. Each page turn may reveal some obscure, interesting piece of ephemera, photograph or letter. But it’s still a bit surprising to unearth x-rays of a man’s head and chest as we found in one of  two enormous scrapbooks of Melville E. Stone Jr. Born in Chicago in 1874, Stone was an 1897 graduate of Harvard [...]

Assassination in the Adirondacks: the murder of Orrando Perry Dexter

On the afternoon of September 19, 1903,  49-year-old millionaire lawyer Orrando Perry Dexter met his end on the road leading from his estate to the town of Santa Clara, NY. As usual, he had been on his way to collect his mail when a man stepped into the road from behind “a clump of hemlock [...]

Redwoods and Hitler: the link between nature conservation and the eugenics movement

In 1931, the California State Park Commission presented this engrossed certificate in gratitude to Save the Redwoods League founders  Henry Fairfield Osborn, Madison Grant and John C. Merriam. From all appearances, it’s an attractive reminder of the achievements of the early conservation movement. What is less apparent is a darker link between the three founders [...]

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!

This post was written by Tammy Kiter, Manuscript Reference Librarian Who among us doesn’t enjoy a cold, creamy treat on a hot summer day? In honor of July being National Ice Cream month, I thought we’d take a little trip down creamery lane to celebrate ice cream in all its delicious glory. It is estimated [...]

Before the Declaration of Independence…

The line between historical obscurity and fame is often a fine one. It’s not surprising then that on July 4th no one thinks about the most important document produced by Congress before the Declaration of Independence: the Declaration of the Causes and of the Necessity of Taking Up Arms. As its title implies, it was a justification for [...]

Enlightenment in the Cemetery: The Adams Memorial and Buddhism in 19th Century America

Even in a city with as many monuments as  Washington, D.C., the Adams Memorial is exceptional. Commissioned on the death of his wife by Henry Adams, it is one of the most widely celebrated pieces of American funerary art. Adams’ wife Clover committed suicide in December 1885. The loss so shook Adams that she is [...]

“However, be you Scotch or Irish”: Thomas Addis Emmet’s letter to his daughter Jane

For many significant figures, the historical spotlight is focused on their public accomplishments but being able to appreciate the aspect of their lives outside the public sphere often presents an important context for those accomplishments. An excellent example is a cache of letters by famed early nineteenth century Irish-American revolutionary and lawyer Thomas Addis Emmet [...]

About

This is a blog created by staff members in the library to draw attention to the richness and diversity of our collections.

Bookmark and Share

Subscribe

Support n-yhs

Help us present groundbreaking exhibitions and develop educational programs about our nation's history for more than 200,000 schoolchildren annually.