New-York Historical Society

Author Archives: Edward O'Reilly

Before Rosa Parks: Taking on New York’s Segregated Street Car Companies

Post written by Eric Robinson  So much has been written about the struggle against slavery and segregation in the American south that it is easy to forget that race relations in the north have been just as knotty. It is comparatively unknown that nineteenth-century New York City’s public transportation systems were racially segregated: African-Americans were [...]

“Undesirable edifices generally”: The 1916 Zoning Resolution

The built environment, especially in so eclectic a place as New York City, has a way of hiding history in plain sight. With that in mind, if you have never noticed how many of the profiles of early 20th century buildings in New York retreat incrementally from the sidewalk as the building grows taller, then [...]

Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?

It sounds like an easy question, right? Well, Thomas Jefferson certainly wrote it — in terms of authorship. But do you know whose hand it was that literally produced the famous handwritten copy? If you’re not sure, don’t worry, historians aren’t completely certain either. That said, there is consensus that it was “probably” Timothy Matlack, of [...]

Golf and the Gilded Age at Newport Golf Club

It’s probably no consolation for last week’s heat wave but if you were a well-heeled New Yorker living in the late nineteenth century, you would probably be spending the sultry days of summer living it up in Newport, RI. Not surprisingly, the story of Newport and New York’s richest dwellers is well documented at the N-YHS. [...]

Who put the “Williams” in Williamsburgh?

Today uttering Williamsburg  is more likely to precede a snarky comment about hipsters than it is to spur thoughts of its namesake. After all, time has heaped layers of meaning onto New York’s place names, and while places like Fort Greene and Fort Tryon require little effort to discover that they were once military installations, other [...]

New York cyclists and the “Orange Riding District”

It’s National Bike Month again, and it so happens that Albert B. Barkman’s Road-Book of Long Island (1886) recently crossed our path. It’s an unassuming book at best, but like a great deal of our collections, when given a dose of context it turns out to be an interesting little piece of bicycling and mapmaking history. The Road-Book contains [...]

The Promise and Loss of the Hindenburg

Post written by Mariam Touba This spring we have heard much that commemorates the disaster that befell the ocean liner Titanic, but it is not the only mournful anniversary of the destruction of a beautiful, efficient and luxurious way to cross the Atlantic. Seventy-five years ago, on May 6, 1937, the airship Hindenburg caught fire [...]

“High class freight”: The Titanic and its cargo

With the centennial of its sinking having arrived, the Titanic is a big ticket these days. Fittingly, most commemorations  recognize the terrible loss of life associated with its sinking but there are certainly less somber aspects of this catastrophe too. Aside from its great quantity of passengers, the Titanic also sailed with a modest cargo, [...]

Henry Bergh: Angel in Top Hat or the Great Meddler?

Written by Tammy Kiter, Manuscript Reference Assistant. Many of us are familiar with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or ASPCA. But lesser-known and truly inspiring, is Henry Bergh, its founder and the man who worked so diligently to maintain it. A native New Yorker, Bergh was born in 1813 and [...]

American Eagle and Irish Harp: The Story of the New-York Hibernian Volunteers

A great deal of the work done on the Irish immigrant experience focuses on the refugees of Ireland’s potato blight in the late 1840s. However, the epic story of the Irish in America, and the challenges it encountered, did not begin there. One obscure chapter of this story is captured in the tale of the [...]

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