New-York Historical Society

Author Archives: Edward O'Reilly

The Briton’s Game: Early Promotion of Soccer in America

Many commentators billed yesterday’s World Cup Round-of-16  match between the United States and Belgium as the biggest in the team’s history, and it’s at the very least an arguable point. Even in defeat, the United States’ gritty campaign is a welcome advertisement for the game of soccer in America. Just maybe, it has even sparked [...]

“The Science of Government” and the U.S. Constitution

While preparing for a presentation about the intellectual foundations of American political thought, I consulted Donald Lutz’s book A Preface to American Political Theory which offers an interesting introduction into an extremely complicated aspect of American history. Among several things that piqued my interest was Lutz’s discussion of the Enlightenment origin and conception of “political science,” a term [...]

“To blossom as a rose”: the Society and the New York Wilderness

While the rain falls outside and spring continues to give us only tantalizing glimpses, it seems like a good time to visit a curious little story about the conflicted relationship we Americans have long maintained with nature. In fact, it actually involves the New-York Historical Society itself. By September 1809, just shy of five years [...]

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 [...]

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