One of the most action-packed but least talked about periods in New York City history is the era immediately following the English takeover of the city in 1664. In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, it seems that there was always someone in the city on the verge of revolt, from the enslaved African population to those citizens who chafed under royal rule. (We write about this era through the perspective of the Delancey family in Footprints in New York.)
In the midst of all this turmoil, Robert Hunter was appointed the royal governor of the colony in 1710. He arrived with 3000 refugees from Germany who he'd promised to resettle in the Hudson Valley, which immediately made him an unpopular figure. (To put this in perspective, New York City's population at the time was probably about 5000 people.)
Hunter locked horns with many figures in New York, perhaps most prominently the Rev. William Vesey, the rector of Trinity Church. At one point, someone broke into the sacristy of the church and befouled the priest's vestments. Vesey blamed Hunter, though no one was ever caught.
Normally, this might be the sort of story we learn about through diaries, or official letters between the governor and his bosses in London. But Robert Hunter, a friend of Jonathan Swift, was also a playwright, and in 1714 he produced the very first play ever published in the American colonies, Androboros ("man eaters"), a thinly veiled satire of his troubles as governor.
The play has never been produced.... 'til now.
On November 4, 5, and 6 -- just in time for the election -- the Peculiar Works Project is staging Androboros in a boxing ring on Bleecker Street. (And it's free!)
Find out more about this production and the play at http://www.peculiarworks.org/androboros2.html.
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Read more about NYC history in
Footprints in New York: Tracing the Lives of Four Centuries of New Yorkers
Inside the Apple: A Streetwise History of New York City