New-York Historical Society

Category Archives: General

“Don’t Give Up the Ship”

Written by Mariam Touba, Reference Librarian for Printed Collections Such a challenge seems unheard of in modern warfare, but, nearly a year into the War of 1812, Captain Philip Bowes Vere Broke of the British frigate Shannon wrote to Captain James Lawrence of the United States frigate Chesapeake promising that their ships could duel outside [...]

“Get Me A Radium Highball!”: New York and the Radium Craze

This post was written by Kate Burch, Library Page. Radium, a naturally occurring element first isolated by Marie and Pierre Curie in 1898, fascinated the world with its radioactive and luminescent properties. With no understanding of the ill effects of radiation poisoning, radium became a fashionable trend, a medical cure-all, and an industrial wonder. Newspapers [...]

The Cherokee Nation and the Birth of a New Script

Written by Geraldine Granahan, CLIR project cataloger The Patricia D. Klingenstein Library of The New-York Historical Society has several items in its collections that were printed in the Cherokee language. One example is the above almanac, Cherokee Almanac 1861, which is written in Cherokee (or Tsalagi), an Iroquoian language used by the Cherokee people. The [...]

“Fleeting Magic Designs”: Arnold Genthe and the Dance

Written by Maureen Maryanski, Reference Librarian for Printed Collections. In the early 20th century, a new form of dance was emerging, one fostered by periods of experimentation in European cities and transferred to American stages by impassioned personalities led by Isadora Duncan. As this new, modern dance both challenged and influenced other dances from ballet [...]

Historians and America’s First Secret Societies

This posting was written by Kevin Butterfield, a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow at the New-York Historical Society, 2012-1013. Much of what we know about the past we know for one simple reason: someone took the care to record and to preserve some record of his or her time. Thankfully, people like New York’s [...]

Happy 100th Anniversary, Woolworth Building!

Written by Marybeth Kavanagh, Print Room Reference Librarian April 24, 1913, 7:30pm:  President Woodrow Wilson presses a telegraphic button in Washington, DC, illuminating eighty thousand bulbs in the newly constructed Woolworth Building at 233 Broadway in New York City, and ushering in the era of the modern skyscraper. Constructed in neo-Gothic style by architect Cass [...]

James Vick and his Illustrated Floral Guides

Spring fever was as common 150 years ago as it is now, and for many winter-weary souls, the illustrated seed catalogs that began appearing in that era are still the closest thing to a cure. Among the many fine examples of early seed catalogs in our collections, my personal favorites were produced by James Vick, [...]

Beyond “A Photographic Mask”: An Introduction to Arnold Genthe

This post was written by Maureen Maryanski, Reference Librarian for Printed Collections. One of the best known American photographers of the early 20th century, Arnold Genthe (1869-1942) taught himself photography, experimenting with focus, retouching, and color processes along the way. Trained as an academic in his native Germany, it wasn’t until he moved to San [...]

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 [...]

Where to Live in New York: the Women of the Ladies Christian Union

Everyone knows how hard it is to find housing in New York.  However, locating safe housing for young women in New York City in the mid-nineteenth century was particularly difficult. In 1858, a prayer group known as the “Ladies’ Christian Association” recognized this as a common problem and decided to provide housing for young women [...]

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