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Thursday, July 12, 2018

Postcard Thursday: Depicting the Hamilton-Burr Duel


On July 12, 1804, Alexander Hamilton died at his friend William Bayard's home on Jane Street, having been shot the day before by Aaron Burr in Weehawken, New Jersey.

Over the years, numerous illustrations have shown the dramatic moment of the duel when Burr shot Hamilton:









What all of these illustrations have in common is that all of them are wrong. While there were other people present at the duel, there were no witnesses. As we write in Footprints in New York, Hamilton and Burr
arrived in Weehawken about a half an hour apart. Burr and his party got there first and began clearing the dueling grounds. Hamilton, Nathaniel Pendleton, and David Hosack, a physician, arrived around seven in the morning. By prearrangement, the seconds were to keep their backs turned away from Hamilton and Burr. Since dueling was illegal, this would give them the chance, if questioned, to say they hadn’t seen anything. 
Hamilton, as the challenged, had brought the pistols, and he was given the choice of his weapon. Hamilton took his time getting into position. He cleaned his glasses. He repeatedly tested his aim. Was this a show of nerves—or was he trying to provoke Burr? The pistols belonged to Hamilton’s brother-in-law, and he may have had the opportunity to practice with them. Did that give him an unfair advantage? Even if it did, it turned out not to matter.
Hamilton fired first. His bullet flew above Burr’s head, lodging in a cedar tree. 
Then Burr fired. His aim was true, and his shot lodged in Hamilton’s spine, having first lacerated his liver.
Notice that in every picture of the duel, the seconds are looking on helplessly. If the custom of the day was followed, their backs would have been turned.

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Want to hear more about NYC history?

Inside the Apple has recently been released for the first time as an audio book!

Visit Amazon or Audible to download today


Thursday, July 5, 2018

Postcard Thursday: The End of Slavery in New York



It is easy in modern New York to forget that New York's economic strength from the seventeenth-nineteenth century was tied to the slavery. In the mid-1800s, forty percent of white families in the city owned at least one enslaved person, and the city's Meal Market on Wall Street did a brisk trade in the selling of humans as chattel.

As we write in Inside the Apple*:
Slavery had been a contentious issue through America’s brief history as a nation, in no place more than New York. By the turn of the 19th century, it had become the largest slave-holding city in the north—and the nation’s second-largest slave-holding city, after Charleston, South Carolina. New York’s Manumission Society, whose founders included John Jay and Alexander Hamilton, was instrumental in banning the sale of enslaved Africans in the state and instituting a gradual manumission beginning in 1799. However, by 1817, slavery was still abundant and Governor Daniel Tompkins prompted the state legislature to set a date for total emancipation. The date selected—a decade away—was July 4, 1827, when all slaves in the state were freed.
Because African-American leaders felt that the celebrations of emancipation would get lost amidst the general hubbub of Independence Day, they decided to mark manumission with a parade on July 5, 1827. A group of nearly 4,000 marchers ("accompanied by several bands of music") headed down Broadway and ended at the AME Zion Church, which then stood at the corner of Church and Leonard streets. Other celebrations included a night at the Mount Pitt Circus on Grand Street, where a "Grand Celebration of the Abolition of Slavery" was held, including a performance of the melodrama The Secret Mine, which evidently combines elements of horsemanship, Hinduism, and a Chinese slave. Whether this was the most appropriate conclusion for the day's events is unclear.

Some New Yorkers were not emancipated at July 5; unscrupulous owners failed to inform some of those who'd been enslaved of their freedom.
The most famous New York State slave not to gain his freedom was Caesar, who died in 1852 as a “house servant” at Bethlehem House, the estate of the Nicoll family, descendants of New York’s first English Governor, Richard Nicolls (somewhere along the line, the final “s” was dropped from their surname). Caesar had been born in the house in 1737 and served his entire 115-year-life in service to three generations of the Nicoll family, totally unaware that after 1827 he was a free man. Caesar’s fate is only known because a later Nicoll descendant wrote up the story of his life. How many other Africans continued in enslavement or indentured servitude because their owners hid the truth from them?

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* Did you know that Inside the Apple has recently been released for the first time as an audio book?


Visit Amazon or Audible to download today!


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Thursday, June 28, 2018

Postcard Thursday: The Elevated Railway


Earlier this week, James had a story appear in Curbed about the history of New York's elevated railways. Next week marks the 150th anniversary of the first successful run of what would become the Ninth Avenue El.

You can read the full story at https://ny.curbed.com/2018/6/27/17507424/new-york-city-elevated-train-history-transportation

One small detail the story mentions is the "View of St. Paul’s Church and the Broadway stages, N.Y.," by Hugh Reinagle, a painting that illustrated all the different stage coaches that plied Broadway in the 1830s. Since the print itself wasn't able to be included in the story, we've posted it here.

Enjoy the story!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Reminder: June 24 FOLK OUT! Walking Tour of Greenwich Village

 

SUNDAY

June 24 at 11:00 AM

In January 1961, Bob Dylan arrived in Greenwich Village during the "coldest winter in seventeen years." Though many today think of the folk revival in terms of Dylan and the 1960s, Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger had lived in the Village two decades earlier, and -- with the Almanac Singers -- had been a major influence on the shape of post-war American music.
This walking tour will trace the evolution of the folk scene in the Village, including stops at the (mostly former) sites of the coffee houses and clubs where everyone from Dylan to Joan Baez to Tiny Tim played. We'll also talk about the Beat Poets and the influence of the Italian-American community on the development of Greenwich Village as America's "Bohemia."

COST: There's still time to save!

Reservations made on or before June 18 are $20 per person.

Reservations made June 19 and later are $25.

TO RESERVE: Email your name, cell phone number, and the number in your party to walknyc@gmail.com. (You can also reply to this email.)

You'll receive a confirmation with details of where to meet within 24 hours of making your reservation. Payment can be made by cash or credit card at the start of the tour.
 
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Thursday, June 7, 2018

Postcard Thursday: James Renwick + June Folk Walk in Greenwich Village


One hundred and seventy-five years ago, architect James Renwick -- most famous for building St. Patrick's Cathedral -- began his career in New York City with the fountain in Bowling Green Park. While that original fountain is now gone, there are many other examples of his work you can see, which James details in a story in the Real Estate section of today's New York Post.


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In other news, we will be leading a tour of the music scene in Greenwich Village in the era(s) of Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan.

The tour is Sunday, June 24, at 11:00AM; that's the same day as the Pride March, but we will be creating a route that bypasses the parade.


In January 1961, Bob Dylan arrived in Greenwich Village during the "coldest winter in seventeen years." Though many today think of the folk revival in terms of Dylan and the 1960s, Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger had lived in the Village two decades earlier, and -- with the Almanac Singers -- had been a major influence on the shape of post-war American music.
This walking tour will trace the evolution of the folk scene in the Village, including stops at the (mostly former) sites of the coffee houses and clubs where everyone from Dylan to Joan Baez to Tiny Tim played. We'll also talk about the Beat Poets and the influence of the Italian-American community on the development of Greenwich Village as America's "Bohemia."

COST: It pays to book now! If you reserve on or before Sunday, June 10, the cost is just $15 per person.

Reservations made between June 11-18 are $20 per person.

Reservations made June 19 and later are $25.

TO RESERVE: Email your name, cell phone number, and the number in your party to walknyc@gmail.com.

You'll receive a confirmation with details of where to meet within 24 hours of making your reservation. Payment can be made by cash or credit card at the start of the tour.





Thursday, May 31, 2018

Postcard Thursday: The End of an Era

On May 31, 1927, the first great era in American automotive history came to an end when the Ford Motor Company ceased production on the Model T.

The Model T had first been produced nineteen years earlier in October 1908. Fifteen million cars later, it was time to call it quits. In fact, on May 26--just five days earlier--Henry Ford had presided over a ceremony in Detroit as car no. 15,000,000 rolled off the line.


Over the next week, an additional 7,003 cars were produced before the company quietly ceased production on the "Tin Lizze." The following October, the first Model A would roll of the line. Available for less than five years, Ford would sell close to 5 million of the car in that time, an unqualified success.

Image result for advertisement 1928 model a

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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Postcard Thursday: Bob Dylan's Birthday

Image result for bob dylan 1960

Happy 77th Birthday to Nobel laureate Bob Dylan, who was born May 24, 1941, in Duluth Minnesota. His birth name was Robert Zimmerman, and, as we write in Footprints in New York:
he grew up in the tight-knit Jewish community in Hibbing, his mother’s hometown. After graduating high school in 1959, he enrolled at the University of Minnesota but only lasted one year. While he was there, he tapped into the burgeoning folk scene and began consistently using the stage name Bob Dylan. Having been a rock and roller, Dylan’s musical trajectory changed around this time when he was introduced to the music of Woody Guthrie, which, in Dylan’s words, “made my head spin.” 
In January 1961, he arrived in New York City determined to do two things: perform in Greenwich Village, the center of America’s folk music revival, and meet Woody Guthrie. By the end of his first week, he’d done both. Dylan probably got to the city January 23, the day the front page of the New York Times proclaimed it the “coldest winter in seventeen years,” a line Dylan would borrow for one of his earliest compositions, “Talkin’ New York.” In No Direction Home, Martin Scorsese’s documentary on Dylan’s early career, the singer remembers that first day: “I took the subway down to the Village. I went to the Cafe Wha?, I looked out at the crowd, and I most likely asked from the stage ‘Does anybody know where a couple of people could stay tonight?’” 
Singer-songwriter Fred Neil presided over the bar’s eclectic all-day lineup. Dylan showed his chops by backing up Neil and singer Karen Dalton on the harmonica and was hired to “blow my lungs out for a dollar a day.” 
Immersing himself in the music scene, Dylan soaked up everything he heard, from live acts in the bars and coffee houses south of Washington Square to the records he’d spin at Izzy Young’s Folklore Center down the street from Cafe Wha?. In the meantime he continued to embellish his back story. In No Direction Home, Izzy Young recalls Dylan telling him, “I was born in Duluth, Minnesota, in 1941, moved to Gallup, New Mexico; then until now lived in Iowa, South Dakota, Kansas, North Dakota (for a little bit). Started playing in carnivals when I was fourteen, with guitar and piano. . . .” 
Later, newspapers picked up the fake biography, writing about the cowboy singer from Gallup. Stretching all the way back to the city’s Dutch pioneers, people have come to New York to reinvent themselves, to cast off their old identities and strike out in new directions. Dylan’s fanciful back story may have been an extreme case, but it was effective.
Today, Dylan's career shows no sign of slowing down. In 2016, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, becoming the first musician to be given the honor. In 2017, he released Triplicate, a triple album of standards, many of which had been recorded by Frank Sinatra. And he continues to tour regularly, with a swing through Asia, Australia, and New Zealand coming up this summer.

This summer we'll conduct a tour of Bob Dylan's New York -- watch this blog for details.

In other news, our blog recently had its millionth visitor. Thank you all so much for your support!




Thursday, May 17, 2018

Postcard Thursday: The Buttonwood Agreement


On May 17, 1792 (226 years ago today), the New York Stock Exchange was founded by a group of twenty four individuals and firms under a buttonwood tree near 68 Wall Street (just west of Pearl Street).

The short document read:
We the Subscribers, Brokers for the Purchase and Sale of the Public Stock, do hereby solemnly promise and pledge ourselves to each other, that we will not buy or sell from this day for any person whatsoever, any kind of Public Stock, at a less rate than one quarter percent Commission on the Specie value and that we will give preference to each other in our Negotiations. In Testimony whereof we have set our hands this 17th day of May at New York, 1792.
Among those who were members of that original exchange were Leonard Bleecker, whose brother Anthony was namesake of Bleecker Street, Isaac M. Gomez, whose father's home in Marlboro, New York, built ca. 1714, is the oldest Jewish home in America, Benjamin Seixas, a president of Congregation Shearith Israel and former privateer, and Samuel Beebe, in whose offices in 1817, the stock exchange would be reorganized and receive the name "New York Stock and Exchange Board."

Image result for tontine's wall

The exchange may have actually met under the tree in good weather, but in the early years they mostly convened inside the Tontine Coffee House (above, with the balcony) on Wall Street near the corner of Water Street. Later, they rented an office on the second floor of the Bank of New York for $200 a year (which included heat) before moving into the Merchant's Exchange at 55 Wall Street and, finally, two successive buildings on the current spot on Broad Street. Today, a scraggly buttonwood stands in front of the exchange to mark this event.

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Read more about NYC history in

 




Thursday, May 10, 2018

Postcard Thursday: The Astor Place Riots

On May 10, 1849, New York was the scene of a deadly riot that centered around...an acting dispute.


While there were many conflicts in 19th-century New York between rich and poor, immigrant and native-born, this riot stands out. After all, how often do troops fire on citizens who are fighting over rival Shakespearean actors?

As we write in Inside the Apple:
In 1849, [the Astor Place Opera House] invited acclaimed British tragedian William Macready to perform Macbeth during his tour of the United States. This annoyed the patrons of the Bowery Theater, who were champions of American actor Edwin Forrest. Forrest had recently returned from a disappointing European tour (where he’d been hissed and booed in London by Macready’s fans), so to tweak Macready, Forrest had embarked on a tour of the same cities Macready was playing doing his rival version of Macbeth. Thus, when Macready was scheduled to appear at the Astor Place Opera House, the Bowery Theater downtown would mount Forrest’s production of Macbeth. 
Had this been nothing more than two rival Shakespeareans treading the boards, things might have remained calm. However, the audience at the Bowery Theater, led the rowdy Bowery B’hoys (a quasi-gang), turned it into a violent clash over class and values. Was Macready, an imported British actor, better than Forrest, his American rival? They set out to prove he was not.... 

On May 7, 1849, Macready took the stage at the Astor Place Opera House and was greeted with rotten eggs, old shoes, and other objects smuggled into the theater by Five Pointers who’d infiltrated the audience. Macready refused to go on the next two nights, but on May 10, he agreed to continue. All the day before, Bowery B’hoys and Isaiah Rynders—a political heavyweight in the Five Points and personal fan of Edward Forrest—had posted flyers around town encouraging people to come to Astor Place. As the flyer announced in all capital letters: Shall Americans or English rule in this city
By the time the performance began, a crowd of between 10,000 and 20,000 people surrounded the theater, pelting it with bricks and paving stones. New York’s elite militia, the Seventh Regiment, was called in to quell the riot—the first time a military unit had been asked to do so in peacetime. When the crowd did not disburse, the soldiers were given the order to fire and by the end of the evening scores had been injured and eighteen people had been killed; four more people would die from their injuries over the next few days.
It's interesting to note that while today New York is filled with theaters, in 1836 (a decade before the riot) the city still only had a total of five theaters. More astonishingly, the New York Mirror complained this was too many. “The resident population would not more than adequately support one” and visitors “might possibly eke out a respectable audience for two more—but for five! that’s too great a supply for the demand.”

The Astor Place Opera House is now gone, replaced by the Mercantile Library (aka Clinton Hall)--the building with Starbucks in it.

[Adapted from a post on May 10, 2011]

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