New-York Historical Society

Author Archives: Edward O'Reilly

“The unadulterated Irish language”: Irish Speakers in Nineteenth Century New York

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—, […]

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

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 […]

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

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 […]

From “Splendid” to “Usurper”: The fickle story of the Ailanthus tree

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 […]

MGs, Fords, Bugattis, Austins, Willys and Maserati: Early Photos of American Car Racing

This post was written by Alison Barr, Manuscript Department volunteer With the advent and popularity of NASCAR in America, long forgotten is New York’s road racing circuit in the tradition of the European Grand Prix. Between the two wars, in 1934, the Collier Brothers (Barron, Samuel and Miles) and Thomas Dewart founded The Automobile Racing […]

The Half Moon Club

Few people are aware that the Half Moon Club even existed and this probably wouldn’t have bothered its members very much. Although it wasn’t a secret society, its surviving club “log” suggests that it was on par with other leading Progressive Era social organizations — elite, sophisticated and enormously selective. Beginning in 1906, the Half […]

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 […]

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