New-York Historical Society

Category Archives: General

Generations a Slave: Unlawful Bondage and Charles Carroll of Carrollton

This post was written by Julita Braxton, EBSCO Project Cataloger Challenges to the legality of bondage, shown in acclaimed director Steve McQueen’s film 12 Years a Slave—which won the Best Picture for Drama at the Golden Globes on Sunday night—are not without precedence, as evidenced by a document held in the manuscript collections of the [...]

A 19th-Century Fad: The Illustrated Gift Annual

This post was written by Miranda Schwartz, cataloging assistant. The New-York Historical Society’s Patricia D. Klingenstein Library has a rich collection of about 500 English and American gift annuals. What is a gift annual? the modern reader may well ask. It’s an annual compendium of poetry and prose, usually heavily illustrated, gilt-edged, and bound in [...]

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 [...]

“A Real Santa:” the portrait photography of Theron W. Kilmer

Long before SantaCon, Theron W. Kilmer found — and photographed — “A Real Santa” in New York City. Although largely forgotten now, in his own time Theron W. Kilmer was aptly described as “an amazing person.”   He was a distinguished physician, an associate professor of pediatrics, a writer, a lecturer, an honorary police chief, [...]

The Everywhere Footprints of Captain John Montresor

This post was written by Mariam Touba, Reference Librarian for Printed Collections. Fictional works—movies, most memorably—depict characters like Forrest Gump or Woody Allen’s Zelig who manage to turn up at every major historical event alongside the world’s movers and shakers.  A nominee for such a real-life character in 18th-century America would be John Montresor. Unlike [...]

A Wintry Dionysiaca

This post was written by Joseph Ditta, Reference Librarian. Pick any contentious global issue. Drinking red wine with fish, perhaps. Or wearing white after Labor Day. Do you hang a paper towel roll over or under? You’re either on one side or the other (always the right side, of course). No shilly-shallying. How do you feel [...]

“Speak to the past and it shall teach thee”: Wilberforce Eames, the Self-Taught Bibliographer

Written by Maureen Maryanski, Reference Librarian for Printed Collections. Last week a copy of The Whole Booke of Psalmes, the first book printed in English in North America, set a record as the most expensive book ever sold at auction – for $14.2 million. Published in 1640 by Stephen Daye in Cambridge, Massachusetts, only 11 [...]

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 [...]

Rare photographs of Hart Island, New York’s potter’s field

Off-limit to the public for over 35 years, Hart Island — a mile-long island off the eastern coast of the Bronx — has remained one of New York City’s most closely guarded secrets.  It is the home of New York’s “potter’s field,” for those who can’t afford to pay for burial, or whose identity is [...]

Horse Thieves Beware!

This post is by Brenna McCormick-Thompson, Print Room Reference Assistant In the autumn of 1815, a group of concerned citizens in Westchester County, New York banded together to put a stop to one of the most egregious crimes plaguing the region: horse stealing.    Having identified a very real threat to their homes and communities, a [...]

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