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“So terrible a calamity”: Timothy Pickering, Slavery and the Declaration of Independence
July 1, 2016

Americans have spilled quite a lot of ink discussing the Declaration of Independence’s five words “all Men are created equal.” As with any historical text, their meaning in eighteenth century America is important to avoid drawing anachronistic conclusions. In particular, many would point out that many contemporaries commonly wouldn’t have regarded African Americans as commensurate with “all Men.” This underscores slavery’s denial of…

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Mr. Egyptology and his “Outline of a Grand Chronological Atlas”
June 3, 2016

Few of us would have the temerity to summarize world history in a single volume but that is what the Swiss educator, cartographer and geographer Henri Venel attempted in the 1840s. We would hardly be aware of his name though were it not for a translation of that work by the English-born American Egyptologist George Gliddon. As it…

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NOW ON VIEW: A Celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr., with selections relating to African American history
February 3, 2016

Through March, the Patricia D. Klingenstein Library at the New-York Historical Society is displaying a number of documents reflecting the long history of African Americans in North America. These complement a particularly important new acquisition, an original letter from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to publisher Henry Luce, that came to N-YHS as part of the recent…

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A closer look at the origins of the “skyscraper”
January 28, 2016

Some words wear a patina of history that make them appear to have been around forever. Others, like “skyscraper,” seem inherently modern, embodying the age which first saw the buildings they describe. By complete accident, while looking at an early 19th-century log book in the papers of Philadelphia physician and botanist, William Darlington, we recently stumbled across the word…

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“Information from another quarter”: Washington writes to his spy master
January 20, 2016

Few things inspire curiosity like a George Washington letter…or a letter about spies. This past fall, a very generous donor presented to the New-York Historical Society a most interesting item: a George Washington letter about spies! Dated August 21, 1780, Washington writes to Major Benjamin Tallmadge regarding the Culper Spy Ring, one of Washington’s most successful intelligence-gathering networks during the American…

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N-YHS Institutional Archives Finding Aids Now On-line (Part 1)
January 6, 2016

This post was written by Project Archivist Larry Weimer. Over the course of its 211 year history, the New-York Historical Society has been steadily accumulating the records of one of New York and America’s pre-eminent cultural institutions; of an organization that ranks as the second oldest state historical society in the United States and the…

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Young John Remsen’s Christmas Poem “To His Honoured Parents”
December 23, 2015

With Christmas just two days away, it seems a good time to post this little bit of history. In one sense it’s self-explanatory, a poem written out by hand and signed by John Remsen on Christmas Day, 1803. But it’s also a perfect example of a slightly more obscure practice. It is precisely what the Encyclopedia of Ephemera describes…

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Jeannette Rankin: “old maid pacifist”
December 8, 2015

Few would argue that the events of December 8, 1941 match in significance the catastrophic events of the previous day but it’s worth recalling that this was the day Congress actually voted to declare war on Japan. Though the vote was all but a foregone conclusion, there was yet a lone voice of dissent to which Milton Halsey Thomas, then curator of…

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NOW ON VIEW – Hamilton: A life in Documents
October 20, 2015

In conjunction with the success of the Broadway musical Hamilton, the Patricia D. Klingenstein Library at the New-York Historical Society is exhibiting a selection of original manuscript documents and contemporary printed works in the library reading room evoking the remarkable life of America’s first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton (1757?-1804). Like a great number…

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