New-York Historical Society

Author Archives: Edward O'Reilly

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 […]

The Traveller and the Stone: John Ledyard and the Central Park Obelisk

John Ledyard’s far from a household name in his own country even though he’s arguably the United States’ first explorer, and, had Catherine the Great not abruptly ended his circumnavigation of the globe in 1787-1788, could very well have achieved what Lewis & Clark accomplished fifteen years later. Ledyard also attended Dartmouth, participated in Cook’s Third […]

“Jeff: Davis, aint this a Go?”: Hiram Rhoades Revels takes his seat in the Senate

On February 25, 1870 Hiram Rhoades Revels, a preacher from Mississippi was sworn into the United States Senate. That occasion marked the first time a man of African descent served in either house of congress. While his service is a landmark in American history, Revels would not seek a second term but did go on […]

Snakes in the Mail

Although he lived at the Waldorf-Astoria, died at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital and is interred at Green-Wood Cemetery, George A. Treadwell spent the bulk of his career as a mining engineer out west, much of it in the sweltering Arizona desert. Naturally, his papers document this mining work but they also contain some curious incoming […]

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