In Days Gone By: Summer in 19th Century New York City

Nineteenth-century New York was a city with many different faces. The population grew from 96,000 in 1810 to 3,437,202 by 1900 (nyc.gov). It was not only the population that grew, but the boundaries also expanded when in 1898 New York City was incorporated and Brooklyn, the Bronx, Staten Island and Queens became part of Greater New York.

The influx of immigrants to New York City in the nineteenth-century led to overcrowding in some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. Five Points, a neighborhood in lower Manhattan is famously known as a disease and a crime ridden slum. The Lower East Side where new immigrant groups settled became the subject late in the nineteenth-century of Jacob Riis’s photography and later his book, How the Other Half Lives, depicting the living and working conditions of some of the poorest children in the city. Summer for these children and their families usually was confined to the streets where they lived and worked, but for the lucky ones who could afford the transportation, they might venture on a Sunday by the mid-century to one of the new parks.

“Central Park, in the midst of the great Metropolis, affords a refuge from the heated marts most refreshing and delightful, open alike to the inmates of crowded tenement houses as from the more luxurious houses.” ( L.H.P, “Summer Days In and About New York City.” Friends’ Intelligencer, Vol. 46, no. 29 (July 20, 1889): 457 )

By the end of the century Coney Island became a huge attraction, and different classes of New Yorkers took advantage of the beach and amusement areas.

Upper-class New Yorkers lived further uptown, away from the overcrowding and unhealthy living conditions of the poor. As the century progressed they kept moving further uptown where brownstones gave way to mansions. One of the pastimes during the summer months was a visit to one of the new pastoral cemeteries. The two most well-known are Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn and Woodlawn in the Bronx. Spending Sundays wandering the grounds of these beautiful cemeteries was a popular nineteenth-century pastime. Also popular for all New Yorkers was a visit to one of the new parks, where the rich and poor might be found. Prospect Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux in Brooklyn and Central Park, in Manhattan, also designed by these architects attracted a variety of visitors.

Looking back might be nostalgic, but it is certain that life in nineteenth-century New York was difficult for a good percentage of the city’s inhabitants and finding a few hours of rest and relaxation in the summer months was welcomed by all.

green

Entrance to Greenwood Cemetery, 1883 (NYPL) https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e1-0f73-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

map

Map of the Woodlawn Cemetery
1870 (NYPL)
https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/a6a42f20-f94a-0130-073e-58d385a7bbd0

Central Park

Central Park (summer)
c. 1860s https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/5e66b3e9-2077-d471-e040-e00a180654d7

Madison

In Madison Square, In Front Of Dr. Parknurst’S Church.
1894-1895 (NYPL)
https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e0-d7f7-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

swings

Swings in Central Park
1871 (NYPL)
https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e1-101d-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a991871 (NYPL)

hot night

A hot night on the East Side
1899 (NYPL)
https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e0-ccfa-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

ice cream

A Summer Scene in the Streets of N.Y.–The Ice-Cream Man
1885 (NYPL)
https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e0-db2d-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

music

Sheet Music
1916
(nyheritage.net)
http://nyheritage.nnyln.net/cdm/singleitem/collection/bpl_smp/id/63/rec/33

Sousa

Music
1893
(nyheritage.net)
http://nyheritage.nnyln.net/cdm/singleitem/collection/bpl_smp/id/12/rec/64

Long Island

Rockaway–The Woodsburgh House
1870 (nypl)
https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e1-27b3-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

amusement park

Luna Park
1906-7
(nypl)
https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e1-2d75-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

book

Image of Amusing the Millions by John Kasson (1978)
Durst Collection

music

Music
1911
(nyheritage.net)
http://nyheritage.nnyln.net/cdm/singleitem/collection/bpl_smp/id/58/rec/35

music

Music
1896
(nyheritage.net)
http://nyheritage.nnyln.net/cdm/singleitem/collection/bpl_smp/id/23/rec/47

Selective Bibliography

Asbury, Herbert, The Gangs of New York: An Informal history of the Underworld. Garden City, N.Y.: Garden City Publishers, 1928.

Burrows, Edwin G. and Mike Wallace, A History of New York City to 1898. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Riis, Jacob, How the Other Half Lives, Studies Among the Tenements of New York. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1970. Edited by Sam Warner.

The Dream Machine: A Landmark in the History of Higher Education

The beginnings of the municipal college system began after the American Revolution, as the spread of democracy led to the secularization of higher education and the extension of opportunities to the newest immigrants in urban communities. However, even those colleges that were supported largely by public funds weren’t free for all, sometimes offering a limited number of scholarships for study in specific disciplines.

The College of Charleston, South Carolina was chartered in 1785 as a private college with state support, and it became a municipal institution in 1837. Even though the municipality controlled it, it continued to charge tuition, and it was not until 1920 that free tuition to Charleston residents was instituted.

The Free Academy was founded in New York City in 1847 and for the first time in America’s short history, higher education was made available “for the poor man’s children.” Townsend Harris, president of the New York City Board of Education from 1846, strongly believed that the city should support public higher education. He argued that “If the wealthy part of the community seek instruction to enlarge the minds of their children, why should not the opportunity be given to the sons of toil to give the same advantages to their children?” On June 7, 1847 a groundbreaking law was passed establishing the Free Academy, and a site was soon chosen on the southeast corner of Lexington Avenue and Twenty-third Street, where classes began on January 15, 1849.

Horace Webster
Copy from an original in the City College Archives.

Cover of the Bill Authorizing the Board to Establish the Free Academy
This is a reproduction of the original pamphlet. The original is from the City College Archives.

Free Academy 1849 Manual of the Corporation of The City of New York for the year 1849. By D.T. Valentine (1849) Durst Collection.

Free Academy 1849
Manual of the Corporation of The City of New York, for the Year 1849. By D.T. Valentine. (1849) Durst Collection

Although this was a momentous occasion for New Yorkers, it also proved to be a landmark for higher education. What was to follow in New York as well as throughout the country was a democratic equalizer, the opportunity for higher education, for the children of immigrants. Women as well as men, were invited into the circle of those offered advanced education–the Normal College, later Hunter College was founded in the City of New York in 1870. Outside New York City municipal colleges were founded with great zeal–many of them are the foundations of our great state university systems.

The Morrill Act was passed in 1862 providing for grants of federally owned land to the states to be used to help fund state colleges. Many states including Wisconsin, California, Missouri and Georgia established state schools, and like the Free Academy they too responded to the needs of their new citizenry. Agricultural or mechanical training was important to these communities, and the educational paths of their students were often limited. The Free Academy provided for practical studies as well as classical education, a paradigm that other institutions would not follow for decades. An 1850 article praising the Free Academy said that it would fulfill the “Reasonable expectations of its founders,” and that the Free Academy was an institution where “the rich and the poor will be upon an equality,” justification to use the academy as a “model” for American education. (“Dr. Webster and the New-York Free Academy,” 1850-51, p. 445-7)

That first class of 149 young men who entered the original building at 17 Lexington Avenue in 1849 had no way to know that the Free Academy was the seed from which other municipal colleges were to spring. These early students, sons of ship-joiners, carpenters, laborers and porters were to share the educational opportunities previously available to only a select few in society. What followed in New York was a demand for higher education that outgrew the building on Lexington Avenue. Campuses were added to the system and it became the City University of New York. Outside New York City a great State University of New York grew, and a college education became the hallmark of upward mobility in America. (Roff, Cucchiara and Dunlap)

The new campus of City College c. 1925
De Luxe Edition. New York Illustrated (N.Y. 1927). Durst Collection

The vision of Townsend Harris and his supporters, has been realized and millions of citizens have received an education that would have been unattainable had it not been for our great municipal system. Baruch College remains on the site of the original Free Academy, and as the legions of students pass this building each day, the legacy of their forebears echoes in its hall, and should not be forgotten.

Bibliography

“Dr. Webster and the New-York Free Academy,” The International Magazine of Literature ,Art, and Science (Vol.2, 1850-1), 445-7.

Sandra Roff, Anthony Cucchiara and Barbara Dunlap. From the Free Academy to CUNY: Illustrating Public Higher Education in New York City, 1847-1997. New York: Fordham University Press, 2000.

We Stand United: Union Square and Madison Square as Venues for Change

When we look back at the history of Baruch College and the beginnings of CUNY, we find that our origins are here on 23rd Street and Lexington Avenue, where the Free Academy was built in 1847 as an experiment in higher education. What was our neighborhood like when the academy opened? The neighborhood around the Free Academy was more residential than it is today, since there was little development north of 23rd Street. However, while the formidable Free Academy was nearing completion, Madison Square Park was also being prepared for its inaugural opening. A bill was passed to establish the Free Academy on May 7, 1847 and Madison Square Park opened three days later, on May 10th.

Known as the Parade Ground, it was built on land which had been a potter’s field, originally established in 1797. In 1814 it was named Madison Square after President James Madison. In 1845, Madison Square extended from 23rd to 26th streets between Fifth and Madison Avenues. (Berman, 9-12) In 1857, the park took on an important function of squares–to serve as a public gathering place. Thousands watched as a military procession carried the coffin of Major General William Jenkins Worth, who served in the War of 1812 and was a Mexican War hero, from City Hall to Madison Square, where he was buried. (Berman, 15-16)

This was not the only coffin which passed Madison Square Park during these early years. On May 1, 1866, the name of our college was changed by the act of the Legislature from the New-York Free Academy to the College of the City of New York. To celebrate the event, students organized a funeral procession the night before, marching from Reservoir Park (now Bryant Park) to the college in order to ceremonially bury the old Free Academy. (New York Times, May 1, 1866, p.2)

Baruch College Archive (copy), 1866

 

Madison Square Park Parade Commemorating the Centennial of Washington’s Inauguration, 1889
Museum of the City of New York

Eight blocks south of Madison Square was Union Square Park. Where Madison Square Park was a respite from city life, Union Square Park was from its early creation an outlet for protests, demonstrations, and celebrations. The function of the park as a venue for demonstrations has deep roots in the 19th century. After the fall of Fort Sumter, at the start of the Civil War, a mass meeting in support of the Union took place in Union Square on April 20, 1861. The New York Times published an article the next day with the headline: “-THE UNION FOREVER. Immense Demonstration in this city. THE ENTIRE POPULATION IN THE STREETS. Over One Hundred Thousand People at Union-square.” (April 21, 1861). The entire New York population was under a million at the time, meaning that this gathering marked a spectacular outpouring of civic fervor. Patriotic celebrations continued during the war years. After the war, the rights of workers became an ongoing theme of Union Square demonstrations. The parade at the Labor Day celebration on September 5, 1883, went by the reviewing stand at Union Square. Women’s suffrage was another cause for demonstrations and protest meetings. Once again, Union Square was the rallying place.

Union Square South from the Plaza c.1888
Illustrated New York (1888), p.59. Durst Collection, Baruch College Archives

 

 

American Memory–New York Historical Society repository, July 10, 1862

The Funeral of President Lincoln passing Union Square, April 25, 1865
Museum of the City of New York

By the 20th century, students  at the College of the City of New York were able to express their views by joining protests, and demonstrations in the vicinity of the college. Union Square was the venue for rallies against closing night schools, May Day protests, suffrage protests and anti-war demonstrations. Fifty years ago, in 1967, The Ticker looked back at the history of Union Square. “In the heyday of the International Workers of the World, anarchists and communists, the square was the Common Man’s Hyde Park. Its inhabitants then were the street-corner socialists, who embraced the radical doctrines of social security and minimum wage that are now the foundations of American labor law.” (Unger, Ticker, Dec. 12, 1967, p.3) In the 1930s, strong opposition to international involvement in armed conflicts was cause for student mobilization, and Madison Square Park became the site of a mass rally, in November 1935. “Three hundred determined students who wanted to further demonstrate their peace consciousness, massed in Madison Square Park after the assembly mobilization…Seven months ago, on April 12, on the same meeting ground, fourteen hundred School of Business students bolstered in numbers by eight hundred from Hunter, Washington Irving, and Townsend Harris repeated this same pledge. [Oxford Oath]” (Ticker, November 12, 1935, p.1)

Union Square, May 1, 1908
Museum of the City of New York

Women’s Suffrage Parade, Madison Square Park, 1917
Museum of the City of New York

Communists in Union Square, June 9, 1941
Museum of the City of New York

These two parks have a rich history and remain an integral part of the Baruch College community. It is noteworthy that citizens were able to mobilize large crowds even in the days before social media, to protest, support or celebrate special events or people. At a time when there is political and economic discontent these two parks may once again become destinations where the public comes together to peacefully protest.

Bibliography

Berman, Miriam. Madison Square: the Park and Its Celebrated Landmarks. Salt Lake City: Gibbs-Smith Publisher, 2001.

“Burial of the New-York Free Academy,” New York Times (May 1, 1866):2.

“In and about the city: labor unions in line, over six-thousand workman parade with significant banners,” New York Times (September 6, 1883): 8.

Making Connections: Bridges of New York City

The majestic spectacle of the great bridges of New York City connecting a city has made them the inspiration for artists, poets, authors and musicians for centuries. They are a defining symbol of an expanding city uniting, but yet separated by its diversity and uniqueness.

The most famous of the bridges, and the one that is most recognizable world-wide is the Brooklyn Bridge, which opened in 1883 to great fanfare, and changed New York City forever. Brooklyn before the bridge, was considered the first suburb of New York, relying on ferries to transport its citizenry to Manhattan. Walt Whitman, a Brooklyn resident and poet in his famous poem, “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” (1855) describes the ferry trip across the East River. From the time the bridge was proposed (1860s), until it finally opened, the population of both Brooklyn and Manhattan had grown considerably and were thriving economically. The great engineering feat of completing the bridge inspired a romantic vision of a city.

Opening Ceremonies of the New York and Brooklyn Bridge, 1883. Durst Collection.

Opening Ceremonies of the New York and Brooklyn Bridge, 1883. Durst Collection.

cover page

Opening Ceremonies of the New York and Brooklyn Bridge, 1883. Durst Collection.

Brooklyn Bridge anniversary article

1983 New York Times Book Review of ‘The Great East River Bridge’ found in ‘Opening Ceremonies’ Book, marking the 100 year anniversary of the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge. Durst Collection.

Brooklyn Bridge 1880

Chromolithograph print of Brooklyn Bridge by Chas. (Charles) Hart, c.1880. MCNY Digital Collections: http://collections.mcny.org/Collection/Brooklyn%20Bridge-24U39Y54GEI.html

Brooklyn Bridge 1903

“The Brooklyn Bridge Promenade taken facing Manhattan. A dozen or so pedestrians walk across the bridge. The Manhattan skyline is visible in the background,” 1903 MCNY Digital Collections: http://collections.mcny.org/Collection/%5BBrooklyn%20Bridge.%5D-2F3XC58SGXDC.html

Brooklyn Bridge March by H. King, 1883. Library of Congress Digital Collections: http://www.loc.gov/resource/sm1883.11492.0/?sp=1

Brooklyn Bridge March by H. King, 1883. Library of Congress Digital Collections: http://www.loc.gov/resource/sm1883.11492.0/?sp=1

broklyn sheet

Brooklyn Bridge March by H. King, 1883. Library of Congress Digital Collections: http://www.loc.gov/resource/sm1883.11492.0/?sp=1

Although the Brooklyn Bridge would be hard to surpass, other bridges have been built in New York City which are worthy of praise. The Washington Bridge opened in 1889, a few years after the Brooklyn Bridge. It spanned the Harlem River in New York City between Manhattan and the Bronx. As yet not a part of Greater New York until 1898, the Bronx at the time was part of Westchester County and was still sparsely populated with farms and estates dotting the landscape. By the early 20th century with the expansion of the subway into the Bronx, the population moved into the borough.

Washington Bridge Harlem River New York City, 1889. Durst Collection.

Washington Bridge Harlem River New York City, 1889. Durst Collection.

DURST Collection bookplate

Seymour Durst’s Bookplate.

Previously part of John Hopskins Library. Durst Collection.

Previously part of John Hopskins Library. Durst Collection.

Washington Bridge, 1901. NYPL Digital Collections: http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e1-2391-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Washington Bridge, 1901. NYPL Digital Collections: http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e1-2391-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Washington Bridge 1905

Washington Bridge, 1905. MCNY Digital Collections. http://collections.mcny.org/Collection/[Washington Bridge.]-2F3XC5I54PW1.html

In our wonderful Durst collection we have an account of the Williamsburg Bridge opening ceremonies in 1903. The book is signed by the Alderman of the 56th District, Noah Tebbetts. This signature gives the book additional historical importance and connects it to a contemporary who actually witnessed the event.

william

Williamsburg Bridge, 1903. Durst Collection.

noah

Signed by Noah Tebbetts. Durst Collection.

necro

Williamsburg Bridge Necrology. A list of people that died during the construction of the bridge. Durst Collection

The Williamsburg Bridge is a suspension Bridge which at the time of construction (1896-1903) was the longest suspension bridge in the world. It connected the Lower East Side of Manhattan at Delancy Street with the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. At the time, the Lower East Side was a bustling area crowded with newly arrived immigrants and the new bridge provided an incentive for some immigrants to move to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Again a bridge fostered population movement to the outer boroughs.

Mayor Seth Low and officials crossing Williamsburg Bridge 1903. MCNY Digital Collections: http://collections.mcny.org/Collection/[Mayor%20Seth%20Low%20and%20officials%20crossing%20Williamsburg%20Bridge]-2F3XC5QZ0PR.html

Mayor Seth Low and officials crossing Williamsburg Bridge 1903. MCNY Digital Collections: http://collections.mcny.org/Collection/[Mayor%20Seth%20Low%20and%20officials%20crossing%20Williamsburg%20Bridge]-2F3XC5QZ0PR.html

Williamsburg Bridge Postcard, 1915. MCNY Digital Collections: http://collections.mcny.org/Collection/Williamsburg Bridge, New York.-2F3HRGMENUXC.html

Williamsburg Bridge Postcard, 1915. MCNY Digital Collections: http://collections.mcny.org/Collection/Williamsburg Bridge, New York.-2F3HRGMENUXC.html

There are other bridges that span the waters surrounding New York City and each has a story to tell. The Durst collection is an excellent window into some of these stories which await archive researchers.

The Beautiful Bronx

Manhattan and Brooklyn are the “hot” boroughs of New York City, having shed their previous image of being crime ridden, dirty and dangerous. Gentrification has been ongoing for several years, and newly created destinations such as the High Line in Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge Park in Brooklyn, have contributed to the boroughs popularity.

001

The Borough of the Bronx by Harry T. Cook, 1913

002

Several books within the Durst Collection also contain signatures from the author.

With the recent reopening of the High Bridge, New York City’s oldest standing bridge, connecting the neighborhoods of Washington Heights in Manhattan with Highbridge in the Bronx, the Bronx now also has a destination worthy of visitors.

005

Derived from The Beautiful Bronx 1920-1950 by Lloyd Ultan

The Bronx wasn’t always part of New York City. In 1898 the borough of Brooklyn, the Bronx, Staten Island (Richmond), Queens  and Manhattan were consolidated as Greater New York City. Before consolidation what is now the Bronx included the town of Westchester and the towns of Yonkers, Eastchester and Pelham. In the 19th century this was a rural area with farms dotting the landscape. However, by the turn of the 20th century, the pull of urban development reached the new borough and new neighborhoods developed and commercial life flourished. In 1904 the first subway connecting the Bronx to Manhattan opened and the population grew rapidly.

003

Derived from ‘The Story of the Bronx’ by Stephen Jenkins, 1912.

We still find many reminders of an earlier time if we travel through the borough. An amazing one-quarter of the Bronx is open space, and includes such iconic landmarks as the Woodlawn Cemetery (1863), Van Cortlandt Park (1888), Pelham Bay Park (1888), the New York Botanical Garden (1891) and the Bronx Zoo (1899). It is also home to several colleges and universities which trace their roots to the 19th century. Fordham University was originally St. Johns University and was founded in 1841, New York University (now the campus of Bronx Community College) opened its campus in 1894, the College of Mount St. Vincent began classes in 1847 and Manhattan College traces its beginnings to 1853.

004

Derived from ‘The Story of the Bronx’ by Stephen Jenkins, 1912.

The Bronx has evolved over the years to accommodate the influx of different ethnic groups and diverse cultures. It has undergone some difficult years with poverty reaching new highs and crime a constant problem. Hopefully the Bronx is coming back and once again it will be the borough of choice for New Yorkers to live and tourists to visit.

006007

The Country in the City–Central Park

Summer is almost here and thoughts turn to vacations and some respite from city life. However, in the 19th century for families that were not wealthy and could afford a summer retreat outside the city, the city was hot, dirty and disease ridden. For years concerned citizens argued for a central park to offer the population a reprieve from city life, but it was a hard sell and the “park question” was debated by the press into the 1850s.

Public Parks vs Public Health, New York Times 1853.

The appeal of the pastoral for city folk drew New Yorkers to the cemeteries which were built with public visitors in mind. Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn was opened in 1840 with 478 landscaped acres and 20 miles of pedestrian paths. Although Brooklyn was not yet part of greater New York, it attracted middle-class visitors who strolled on Sunday through a “pleasure ground.” Although the new cemeteries certainly brought a bit of the country to the city, they did not have the advantage of being within traveling distance for the average working New Yorker.

Entrance to Greenwood Cemetery, 1954.  NYPL Digital Collections: http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e1-0f76-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Entrance to Greenwood Cemetery, 1854. NYPL Digital Collections: http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e1-0f76-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Crowd at Greenwood Cemetery on Decoration Day, 1899.  Image from MoCNY Digital Collections:  http://collections.mcny.org/Collection/Greenwood%20C.-2F3XC58PVHW9.html

Crowd at Greenwood Cemetery on Decoration Day, 1899. Image from MCNY Digital Collections: http://collections.mcny.org/Collection/Greenwood%20C.-2F3XC58PVHW9.html

After much controversy, in 1853 the New York State Legislature enacted into law provisions to set aside over 750 acres of land in Manhattan to create what would be America’s first major landscaped park–Central Park. Frederick Law Olmstead was selected as the architect, and he believed that the park would improve public health and contribute to the formation of a civil society.

First Annual Report of the Board of Commissioners of the Department of Public Parks, 1871.

First Annual Report of the Board of Commissioners of the Department of Public Parks, 1871.

Unfortunately, even in the 19th century, gentrification had its downside. Creating Central Park caused the displacement of many of the city’s poor, including Irish pig farmers and German gardeners. What was known as Seneca Village, founded by freed blacks was also part of the parcel, and it existed from 1825 to 1857 and was located on about 5 acres of land between 82nd and 89th streets.

The park was officially completed in 1873 but not long after the upkeep of the park started to decline, due in part to the political machine of Tammany Hall. In the 20th century this changed and now the park is a major destination for New Yorkers as well as tourists, all of whom seek a bit of the country in the city.

Laws Respecting the Central Park and Other Works Under the Control of the Department of Public Parks, 1870.

Laws Respecting the Central Park and Other Works Under the Control of the Department of Public Parks, 1870.

"Central Park Museum" from First Annual Report of the Board of Commissioners of the Department of Public Parks, 1871.

“Central Park Museum” from First Annual Report of the Board of Commissioners of the Department of Public Parks, 1871.

The Mall from Terrace. Image of Central Park from The Metropolis Explained, 1871.

The Mall from Terrace. Image of Central Park from The Metropolis Explained, 1871.

Who Knew? Ghost in the Lexington Building

New York City preservationists are the protectors of our historic structures, and on occasion architecturally significant buildings are reused to serve contemporary needs.

The building which houses the Baruch College Library and Technology Center, 151 East 25th Street, is a building with a past, part of which is revealed in the December 14, 1895 edition of the Record and Guide which is part of our Durst Collection.

The Lexington Building,  Record and Guide 1895

The Lexington Building, Record and Guide 1895

The article tells us that: “The building which has just been completed for the Lexington Avenue Cable Road to be known as the Lexington Building, is a monument of strength and beauty, and marks the era of a new departure in modern and progressive building for that vicinity.”

Although the Metropolitan Street Railway Company occupied the lower portion of the building, offices were available on the upper floors, and the publishing houses that were making their home in the surrounding area were possible new tenants.

McClure’s Magazine, beginning in 1896 (Trow’s, 1896) occupied 141 East 25th Street (the address of the building was 141-151 East 25th Street) and remained a tenant through 1903 (Trow’s, 1903). McClure’s Magazine is significant in periodical history for having started the tradition of investigative journalism known as muckracking, which helps define the reform movements of the early 20th century. Some of the contributors over the years were Willa Cather, Lincoln Steffens and Ida Tarbell.

McClures Magazine 1901. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McClure's

McClures Magazine 1901. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McClure’s

At the same time that McClure’s Magazine occupied 141 East 25th Street, our distinguished alumnus, Upton Sinclair was attending classes two blocks away at 17 Lexington Avenue, the home of the College of the City of New York, graduating in 1897. After college he achieved his fame when he joined the ranks of the muckrackers. His investigation of the Chicago meat-packing industry, resulted in his writing The Jungle in 1906 which immediately became a success.

Upton Beall Sinclair Jr.  Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upton_Sinclair

Upton Beall Sinclair Jr. Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upton_Sinclair

The experiences of Upton Sinclair during his years as a student at the College of the City of New York were the seeds from which his genius grew.  Upton might have walked past 141-151 East 25th or he might even have visited the offices of McClure’s. We will probably never know, but we do know that this building has undiscovered ghosts which remain for the researcher to discover.

“Mysteries in the Archive”

Working in an archive, an archivist never knows what might turn up. This week when researching information for another blog post I was reading through a 1900 edition of Washington Irving’s The Knickerbocker History of New York, when I turned the page and nestled between the pages was a certificate for perfect attendance for Susie Wright at P.S. 38 in New York City. How it got there or why it was in this book is a mystery which will never be solved. However, we can conjecture that perhaps this was her book and she placed the certificate there later in life for safe-keeping, but no one can be certain.

Knickerbocker's History of New York by Washington Irving, 1900.

Knickerbocker’s History of New York by Washington Irving, 1900.

Testimonial of Merit is Awarded to Susie Wright PS 38, March 1878

Testimonial of Merit is Awarded to Susie Wright P.S. 38, March 1878

What secrets can this certificate reveal?  How can we go about finding more information? The first task is to identify what kinds of primary sources can be used for finding more information. The possible sources that might help in our quest include New York City directories, directories of the Board of Education, maps, photographs, and possibly contemporary periodical or newspaper articles.

To locate the directories I used our database Gateway to North America: People, Places and Organizations of 19th Century New York. I wanted to see where P.S. 38 was located and the Directory of the Board of Education of the City and County of New York, January, 1878, provided that information. I found that it was on the corner of 118th Street and Avenue A. Miss Helen E. Boyce had signed the certificate as the Principal of the school and she was listed in the directory with her home address which was 525 East 86th Street.

Miss. Helen E. Boyce, Principal of Primary School 38, corner of 118th street and Avenue A, Twelfth Ward.  Courtesy of Directory of the Board of Education of the City and County of New York, 1878.

Miss. Helen E. Boyce, Principal of Primary School 38, corner of 118th street and Avenue A, Twelfth Ward. Courtesy of Directory of the Board of Education of the City and County of New York, 1878.

I checked the same directory for the year 1877 and Miss Boyce was listed. Unfortunately the database doesn’t have directories for 1874-1876 and the 1873 one is incomplete. I checked the 1870 volume and Miss Boyce was not there, concluding that she began her tenure at P.S. 38 between 1871 and 1877. She does show up in the 1879 volume but by 1881 she disappears. To find out more about Miss Boyce I checked Trow’s New York City Directory where her occupation and street address would be listed. In the 1880 volume she is listed as a teacher with a new street address, 227 East 116th Street, very close to the school. However, our story ends because the next year, 1881, she is no longer in the directory.

Now, can we find anything about our scholar, Susie Wright? That is more difficult and unfortunately I was unable to unlock anything about her. The route I took to try and find out information was to check the New York City directory for 1878 for Wrights but that is a very common name and many Wrights lived in the vicinity of the school, so that would take a search of census records and using Ancestry.com I did not yield any positive results.

What would other sources reveal? Using the New York Public Library Digital Gallery I had access to Sanborn Fire Insurance Atlases which began to be published in 1867 and showed in detail what was on every street in New York City. An 1885 image showed the school and the surrounding area. What we also discovered was that a year after Susie received her certificate, Avenue A became Pleasant Avenue. We also located some pictures of the street in 1920 which was a surprising find.

Map of Primary School 38, Pleasant Ave (Former Ave. A) and 118th street. Courtesy of NYPL: http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e2-09a6-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Map of Primary School 38, Pleasant Ave (Former Ave. A) and 118th street. Courtesy of NYPL: http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e2-09a6-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Views of the block of PS 38 118th Street, between Pleasant Ave and the East River Drive (FDR Drive).  Image on Left: Students playing on the street of P.S. 38 (can be seen on the far right), Circa 1920s courtesy of NYPL: http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dd-171e-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99 Image on Right: Contemporaneous image of 118th street.  Courtesy of Google Maps.

Views of the block of P.S. 38 118th Street, between Pleasant Ave and the East River Drive (FDR Drive).
Image on Left: Students playing on the street of P.S. 38 (can be seen on the far right), Circa 1920s courtesy of NYPL: http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dd-171e-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
Image on Right: Contemporaneous image of 118th street. Courtesy of Google Maps.

Building on the left, former PS 38.  Courtesy of Google Maps

Building on the left, former PS 38. Courtesy of Google Maps

Susie Wright would have been forgotten had it not been for this single sheet of paper and two inquisitive archivists.

English.mingle.com: Gilded Age Dating

At the end of the 19th century there emerged a new class of wealth in America. Fortunes had been made by industrialists, businessmen and other enterprising entrepreneurs who lived extravagantly and often flaunted their fortunes. They were able to obtain everything that they wanted, but often entrance into the social elite world of old American money was unobtainable. To strengthen their case for acceptance, many of these fathers sent their daughters to England to find a husband among the aristocracy, consequently giving their daughters status and a title.

The popular television show “Downton Abbey” provides a fictionalized account of a woman who married for a title. During the period from 1870 to World War I at least 350 American heiresses married British aristocracy. These unions had a dual purpose. For the wife, she achieved the status of a title, and for the husband, he received an influx of money, which was often needed for the upkeep of their immense estates.

As part of the Durst collection, we have a rare copy of Titled Americans. A List of American Ladies Who Have Married Foreigners of Rank (New York: Street & Smith Publishers, 1890). It claims that it is revised annually, but there is no evidence another edition was printed until 2013 when there was a reprint published of the 1890 volume probably in response to the popularity of “Downton Abbey.”

Titled Americans: A List of American Ladies Who Have Married Foreigners of Rank, 1890

Titled Americans: A List of American Ladies Who Have Married Foreigners of Rank, 1890

The volume included a listing of eligible bachelors listing their income, property value and net worth. It was a who’s who of British aristocracy.

Another section listed the women who had married aristocracy. Among those listed was Jennie Jerome, mother of Winston Churchill. Jenny was born in the Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn in 1854 (Brooklyn was not part of New York City until 1898). Her father was a financier, sportsman and speculator. He sent his daughter abroad where she married Lord Randolph Churchill in 1874.

Miss Jennie Jerome. Source: http://s289.photobucket.com/user/EnaBatt/media/JENNIE/Jenncloseup.jpg.html

Miss Jennie Jerome. Source: http://s289.photobucket.com/user/EnaBatt/media/JENNIE/Jenncloseup.jpg.html

Miss Jennie Jerome, Daughter of Leonard Jerome, Esq., of New York.

‘Miss Jennie Jerome, Daughter of Leonard Jerome, Esq., of New York’ from Titled Americans, 1890.

Earl of Dudley. Source of http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/10/William_Humble_Ward_2nd_Earl_of_Dudley.jpg

Earl of Dudley. Source of http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/10/William_Humble_Ward_2nd_Earl_of_Dudley.jpg

Earl of Dudley

Earl of Dudley’s family jewels worth $3 million ($77,848,502 in today’s money).

Earl of Dalkeith's inheritance of $4,000,000 would be $103,798,003 in today's money.

Earl of Dalkeith’s inheritance of $4,000,000 would be $103,798,003 in today’s money.

Although the 20th century saw a few American women marrying foreign nobles, the attraction of a European union lost popularity.

Happy Women’s History Month!

Valentine’s Manual–A Manual of Love Potions?

David T. Valentine in 1841 realized that what the young city of New York needed was an annual compilation of historical information to show the citizenry the progress the city made each year. It was published under the title, Manual of the Corporation of the City of New York, a compendium of historical materials with illustrations, but it became known as Valentine’s Manual. It included maps, lithographs and woodcuts, and contained many statistical tables, lists of social institutions, banks, schools, churches etc. Unfortunately, it did NOT contain love potions.

Manual of the Corporation of the City of New York, 1847

Manual of the Corporation of the City of New York, 1847

The volumes are considered the first illustrated histories of New York City. Valentine published the volumes from 1841 until his death in 1866. For the next three years the manuals were published by Joseph Shannon in 1868 and 1869 and in 1870 by John Henry.

Manual of the Corporation of the City of New York 1868

Manual of the Corporation of the City of New York 1868

The Durst collection does not have any of Valentine’s original manuals as part of its collection, but does have the volume published by Joseph Shannon. However, the Baruch Library, Special Collections, does house several years of the original Valentine’s Manuals.

It is interesting to note that there was enough of a demand for the volumes that a second set was published from 1916 to 1923 by Henry Collins Brown, founder of the Museum of the City of New York. In our Special Collections we have copies of many of these volumes.

University of the City of New York, 1868

University of the City of New York, 1868

Monthly List of Prisoners Confined in the Provost 1868

Monthly List of Prisoners Confined in the Provost, 1868

View in 6th Avenue Between 55th and 57th Streets Looking West 1868

View in 6th Avenue Between 55th and 57th Streets Looking West, 1868

View of 6th Avenue and 56th Street Looking West (Google Maps), 2015

Comparatively, a View of 6th Avenue and 56th Street Looking West (Google Maps), 2015

Association for the Benefit of Colored Orphans 1868

Association for the Benefit of Colored Orphans 1868

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. (19--). A valentine message. Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-faee-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. (19–). A valentine message. Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-faee-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99