Reading Publics: New York City’s Public Libraries, 1754-1911.
By Tom Glynn.
Fordham University Press, 460 pp., $35.00.
Reviewed by Rob Koehler
Tom Glynn’s Reading Publics provides a richly detailed history of the development of libraries in New York City from the first -- the New York Society Library, founded in 1754 as a library for the new King’s College -- to the coalescence of the New York Public Library in 1911. In nine chapters, he examines a variety of institutions, including subscription, circulating, research, and collegiate libraries, giving a sense of the breadth of individual, corporate, and institutional sponsors who founded libraries in the city and the various purposes those libraries were to serve.
This is the history I tried to capture in Hell’s Kitchen and the Battle for Urban Space. It was, admittedly, a task that exceeded my talents, but I have tried to bring it to life in its various locations: the tenement rooftop, the hold of the cargo ship, the sidewalk, the ash heap, the dead horse, the spaces of daily living where real people form real relationships, where shifting loyalties, new solidarities, old divides, and modes of resistance and acquiescence form the daily stuff of historical change.
Click below to read an excerpt from “Hell, Death, and Urban Politics,” Chapter Six of Hell’s Kitchen and the Battle for Urban Space (Monthly Review Press, 2013)
By Jennifer Fronc
On September 28, 1912, George Francis O’Neill headed out to Marshall’s Hotel, a black-owned establishment that offered comfortable accommodations, delicious food, cold drinks, and hot jazz. Located in two neighboring brownstones in the heart of the Tenderloin district, Marshall’s Hotel featured live music and attracted throngs of fashionable New Yorkers -— both black and white -— every night of the week. Indeed, Marshall’s revolutionized social life for black New Yorkers, who began to abandon the older clubs downtown. According to James Weldon Johnson, by 1900 Marshall’s had become the center “of a fashionable sort of life that hitherto had not existed.” The “actors, the musicians, the composers, the writers, and the better-paid vaudevillians” congregated at Marshall’s; white actors and musicians also spent evenings there in the company of their black friends. Luminaries such as Rosamond Johnson, James Reese Europe, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Florenz Ziegfeld, and W.E.B. DuBois all frequented the establishment. In short, Marshall’s Hotel was not a gin-soaked, rat-infested, honky-tonk, but an important gathering place for New York’s black cultural elite.
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