Hamilton FI
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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“With a happy open smile”: An New Yorker’s 1859 Visit to the Vatican
September 22, 2015

The city is certainly abuzz with preparations for Pope Francis’ impending visit. Naturally, a pope’s visit is uncommon, and therefore an historic occasion, but it’s a surprisingly short history since the first visit to the United States didn’t occur until Paul VI’s arrival in 1965. Still, that didn’t stop Americans from the visiting the pope. The diary of dry goods…

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“Taken By Certain Resemblances”: Revisiting Jefferson and Sally Hemings
August 18, 2015

Although the prospect of Thomas Jefferson having fathered children with Sally Hemings, his slave, is now widely accepted, a few weeks ago I made a little discovery on the subject. As is often the case, it was largely a matter of happenstance. At the time I was skimming letters of Jared Sparks, an early editor of George…

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“Some relicks of Genl. Washington”: The Misadventures of the Washington Papers
July 1, 2015

On December 18, 1836, Henry Van Der Lyn penned a letter to his nephew describing a visit to the Georgetown home of Col. George Corbin Washington, with a former student, Congressman Aaron Ward. As they prepared to leave, George Washington’s grand-nephew called them back to show them “some relicks” of his esteemed great uncle. In his…

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“Profligate, abandoned, and dissipated”: New York City’s Last Colonial Mayor
June 10, 2015

This year marks 350 years since Governor Richard Nicoll appointed New York’s first mayor, Thomas Willett, in 1665. Much has changed since the office’s earliest days, including the expansion of the mayor’s powers. New York mayors are now known far and wide while a comparatively small number of the 109 overall are familiar to the average New Yorker. Among this less recognizable cohort…

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“The unadulterated Irish language”: Irish Speakers in Nineteenth Century New York
March 17, 2015

The June 13, 1857, issue of Harper’s Weekly ran this short anecdote under “Things and Otherwise”: A woman a short time since appeared at the lower police court in New York city, and, going up to the judge, addressed him, as nearly as our reporter could understand, as follows:“R-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r!” The judge at once called the interpreter of the court. “Here, F—,…

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“Rank Abolitionists”: a New Yorker Responds to Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin
February 25, 2015

On September 22, 1852, New York dry goods merchant Edward Neufville Tailer sat down to record his latest diary entry as he did religiously from 1848 until very nearly the day of his death in 1917. On this particular occasion he reflected on his reading of one of the most famous American literary works, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, published…

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A Pictorial Record of New York’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial March, April 5, 1968
January 15, 2015

Margot Gayle is synonymous with historic preservation. A leading figure in the movement which found its voice following the tragic loss of Pennsylvania Station in 1963, Gayle played a seminal role in the creation of New York’s Landmark Preservation Law two years later. For sixteen years she penned an architecture column in the Daily News while  helping to found the Victorian…

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From “Splendid” to “Usurper”: The fickle story of the Ailanthus tree
December 31, 2014

Historians are accustomed to constructing human history through surviving texts, architecture, and images but the living world  can help us understand our past in its own unique way. A particularly good example of this is the Tree of Heaven, or Ailanthus altissima. Although now widely regarded as a weed, at one time it was a heralded exotic plant. Most will also…

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