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Horatio Gates, Samuel Washington, and America’s Original Sin
July 28, 2015

By Julia Lipkins, Reference Archivist, Manuscripts Department. Archival collections from the Revolutionary War period are thick with stories of heroic soldiers and their battles won and lost. Although less evident, collections of this era also contain documentation of what President Obama describes as the “nation’s original sin,”[i] i.e. the institution of slavery. I recently examined the papers…

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“Profligate, abandoned, and dissipated”: New York City’s Last Colonial Mayor
June 10, 2015

This year marks 350 years since Governor Richard Nicoll appointed New York’s first mayor, Thomas Willett, in 1665. Much has changed since the office’s earliest days, including the expansion of the mayor’s powers. New York mayors are now known far and wide while a comparatively small number of the 109 overall are familiar to the average New Yorker. Among this less recognizable cohort…

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The Everywhere Footprints of Captain John Montresor
December 18, 2013

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…

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Mr. Mitchell’s Muscular Map
February 14, 2012

Post written by Eric Robinson It’s hard to believe, but a document with the imperious title A Map of the British and French Dominions in North America was the cartographic basis for our American republic. John Mitchell’s 1755 masterpiece provided the lens with which the founding generation negotiated independence and plotted westward settlement. Needless to…

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Occupying Manhattan’s Public Spaces: 1776 and Today
November 4, 2011

Post written by Eric Robinson. Love it or hate it, the forlorn but determined group camped out at Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan thrust New York City back into the center of a national debate. Our city has long been considered a political outlier because of its progressive voting patterns and ability to weather recessions,…

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An Occasion for a Rare “Screaming” Headline
October 14, 2011

Written by Mariam Touba, N-YHS Reference Librarian Even as we are told that newspapers are a dying medium, each of us can remember their banner headlines announcing momentous events.  Such headlines, however, did not always come with newspapers.  How then did early newspapers alert their readers to important occurrences?  The answer is, “very subtly,” at…

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