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Monday, November 29, 2010

"Inside the Apple" Contest ends at Midnight

Happy Cyber Monday!

Today is your last chance to enter our contest to win a free, autographed copy of Inside the Apple: A Streetwise History of New York City (and to let your friends know how they can enter). Just read our blog entry at for all the details and then tweet to win.

Good luck!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Enrico Caruso and the Monkey House Incident

Enrico Caruso made his operatic debut in New York on November 23, 1903, to great acclaim; exactly three years later, he was back in the news for a more infamous reason--on November 23, 1906, he was convicted of inappropriately touching a young woman named Hannah Graham in the monkey house at the Central Park Zoo.

Caruso had been arrested a week earlier after being watched for three-quarters of an hour by police officer James J. Cain. As Cain later testified at the trial, he allegedly observed Caruso going up to a number of women in the monkey house; sometimes he stood close behind them so that his legs touched theirs; sometimes he touched women by reaching his hands out through slits cut in his coat's pockets. However, for reasons unknown, Cain did nothing to intervene until Caruso harassed Mrs. Graham. The singer was arrested and quickly brought to trial.

Other than Cain's testimony, the prosecution had very little to go on. They were unable to produce Mrs. Graham and a quick search of her address in the Bronx revealed no Hannah Graham in residence. Cain's excuses for not arresting Caruso sooner seemed flimsy and some observers wrote off the trial as yet another attempt to harass the Italian population. (When Italian New Yorkers flocked to the courthouse to support Caruso, the prosecution argued that their very presence is what had deterred Mrs. Graham from appearing in court.)

In the end, however, the judge sided with the prosecution and fined Caruso ten dollars--the maximum fine for disorderly conduct. Though Caruso vowed to appeal, he eventually let the matter drop, perhaps fearing that any additional publicity would not work in his favor. Five days after the verdict, he appeared on stage at the Metropolitan Opera to a chorus of cheers; he may have lost at trial, but he had surely won in the court of public opinion.

Win an autographed copy of Inside the Apple:

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Read more about Italians in New York in

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Win a Signed Copy of "Inside the Apple"

'Tis the season of gift giving and we thought we'd get things started by giving away an autographed copy of Inside the Apple: A Streetwise History of New York City.

The contest is very simple and involves following us on Twitter. Between November 18 and November 29, all you need to do is the following:

1) Become a follower of Inside the Apple on Twitter (if you aren't one already) at
2) Tweet something along the lines of: "I just entered to win a free copy of Inside the Apple by following @insidetheapple. Rules at:" The exact wording of your tweet doesn't matter but it MUST include our handle (@insidetheapple) and the link to the official rules (

The contest will end at 11:59 p.m. on Monday, November 29. We'll announce the winner on our blog and on Twitter on Tuesday, November 30. For more details, read the official rules at

Good luck!

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Literal Crash on Wall Street: November 12, 1929

Everyone knows about the Wall Street crash of October 1929 that triggered the Great Depression. But there was another, much more literal crash a couple of weeks later. Eighty-one years ago today, one of the great skyscrapers races of all time was coming to a close: The Bank of the Manhattan Company at 40 Wall Street was topping out and thus becoming the tallest building in the world. But an hour before the ceremonies, Wall Street was a scene of chaos.

As The New York Times reported, crowds were gathering around noon for the ceremonies to mark the completion of the world's tallest structure when "a half-ton block of limestone fell from the thirty-fifth floor of the new seventy-story building of the Bank of the Manhattan Company, crashed through the roof of the eighth-story setback down to the fifth floor and scattered debris over the street below."

Luckily, only three people were mildly injured in the accident. A woman in a parked car was cut when a piece of debris shattered the car's window; a steamfitter was struck by a piece of scaffolding in the shoulder; and a young office clerk crossing Wall Street had his leg cut by a shard of granite. As one police officer noted at the scene, "it was miraculous that no others were injured."

One the dust had settled and the injured persons treated at the scene or sent to the hospital, the work of topping out the building commenced. About an hour later the highest piece of structural steel was put atop 40 Wall Street--and, as the papers duly noted the next, it had become the world's tallest building.

Just four days later, the truth would be revealed: the Chrysler Building on 42nd Street had already surpassed 40 Wall Street's height. (You can read our more detailed entry about the skyscraper race from last year for further details.)

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Read more about the race between the Chrysler Building and 40 Wall Street in

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

November 4, 1825: "The Wedding of the Waters"

On this day in 1825, New York's governor, DeWitt Clinton, stood on the deck of a packet boat anchored off Sandy Hook and poured a barrel of water from Lake Erie into the Atlantic Ocean. This "wedding of the waters," as it came to be known, was the symbolic completion of the Erie Canal, the most important waterway of its day and the engineering project that once and for all sealed New York's fate as the most important commercial city in America.

We devote many chapters in Inside the Apple to DeWitt Clinton--perhaps the greatest unsung hero of 19th-century New York City--and we won't recap it all here. But it is worth remembering how central the Erie Canal was to New York's consolidation of economic power. Prior to the canal's opening, it was cheaper to bring goods from Liverpool to New York than to haul them overland from Illinois. Once the canal was finished, not only did New York have access to plentiful raw materials from the Midwest, finished products could now also speed to the heartland, opening up new markets for the city's burgeoning manufacturing base.

The canal opened on October 26, 1825, and a cannon was fired in Buffalo to mark the moment. A series of cannons along the canal and the Hudson River had been set up for the occasion and as each gunner heard the shot, he fired his own; in 90 minutes the news passed, cannon to cannon, along the waterway to New York City. Ten days later, the first boat arrived in New York and Governor Clinton poured the water from Lake Erie into the Atlantic. Over the next century, New York's port would expand exponentially, quickly becoming the busiest in America. By the time of the Civil War, New York's control over shipping was so complete that nearly all the cotton being shipped from the south to Europe was being sent out of New York harbor rather than directly from southern ports.

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Read more about DeWitt Clinton and the Erie Canal in

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