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Posts in Excerpts
New York Recentered: Building the Metropolis from the Shore

New York Recentered: Building the Metropolis from the Shore

By Kara Murphy Schlichting

In 1865 New York City park commissioner Andrew Haswell Green came to the conclusion that the city had outgrown Manhattan Island. In a report for the Board of Commissioners of Central Park, Green argued that the city’s future should include its mainland environs of Westchester County north of the Harlem River. He articulated a river-spanning future for New York. Green reasoned that lower Westchester was “so intimately connected with and dependent upon the City of New York, that unity of plan for improvements on both sides” of the Harlem was “essential.”

Reprinted with permission from New York Recentered: Building the Metropolis from the Shore, by Kara Murphy Schlichting, published by the University of Chicago Press. © 2019 by the University of Chicago Press. All rights reserved.

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The Earliest Sculptures in Central Park

The Earliest Sculptures in Central Park

By Dianne Durante

In Olmsted and Vaux’s Greensward Plan, the only sculpture was one atop the fountain at the center of Bethesda Terrace. The commission for the sculpture was given in 1863 to Emma Stebbins (1815-1882), an American-born sculptor working in Rome who happened to be the sister of a member of the Board of Commissioners of Central Park.

This post is an excerpt from the author's new book, Central Park: The Early Years.

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Lincoln’s Near Duel-to-the-Death with an Irish Rival

Lincoln’s Near Duel-to-the-Death with an Irish Rival

​By Niall O'Dowd

Abraham Lincoln’s long-standing and colorful history with the children of Ireland played a major role in his political rise, his presidency, and ultimately the Union victory in the Civil War. Much of that history has never been told, such as the near duel between Lincoln and rival — and future Union general — James Shields, reminiscent of Hamilton — ​Burr.

Excerpted from Lincoln and the Irish: The Untold Story of How the Irish Helped Abraham Lincoln Save the Union with author's permission. ​Copyright © 2018 Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.

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"People of the City": Children in the City

“People of the City”: Children in the City

By Robert A. Slayton

The Ashcan artists viewed the people of the city from a unique perspective. Unlike the elites, they did not consider these individuals their biological inferiors. Yet they also differed from the reformers, in that they rejected the notion that the people who lived in dense city neighborhoods were inherently subjects of pity. Instead, Henri, Sloan, Myers, and the others painted children and women and men, each from these individuals' own, unique perspective, rather than imposing a worldview on them. By so doing, in their paintings and drawings, they gave working-class individuals agency, showing how these people adapted to the world around them in a myriad of ways, ways that often enabled them to attain a measure of control over some parts of their lives.

Copyright © 2017 SUNY Press. Excerpted from Beauty in the City: The Ashcan School with the author's permission. All rights reserved.

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"Vision From An Ashcan": A Radical Exploration of New Subjects

"Vision From An Ashcan": A Radical Exploration of New Subjects

By Robert A. Slayton

The Ashcan school represented a challenge to its era. In a fundamental reinterpretation of art’s appropriate subject matter, it threw down a gauntlet, of canvas and paint, to the art world both of the right and of the left. It did not see the city through the narrow peephole of the elites, instead introducing new landscapes, new characters. But these perspectives were also different from what the reformers saw. This new approach painted the rest of the city, with beauty, endowing urban and working-class individuals of all ages and genders with agency and will. In so doing, the Ashcan artists created one of the great American art forms.

Copyright © 2017 SUNY Press. Excerpted from Beauty in the City: The Ashcan School with the author's permission. All rights reserved.

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Sneaky Pete: A Bowery Story

Sneaky Pete: A Bowery Story

By Stephen Paul DeVillo

The Bowery emerged from the Depression greatly the worse for wear. But the old days remained the same at McSorley’s, despite some changes of ownership. When the childless Bill McSorley felt the heavy hand of age settling on him, he sold the place in March 1936 to a retired policeman named Daniel O’Connell. Bill McSorley died on September 21, 1938, and Dan O’Connell followed him in December 1939. Dan willed the saloon to his daughter Dorothy O’Connell Kirwan, who found herself inheriting a saloon that, as a woman, she had never been allowed to enter. After some reflection on the matter, Dorothy decided to continue John McSorley’s venerable no-women tradition. She allowed herself no excep­tion to this rule, setting foot in the place only when it was closed on Sun­day mornings to tally up the week’s receipts.

This post excerpted with permission from The Bowery: The Strange History of New York’s Oldest Street by Stephen Paul DeVillo. Copyright © 2017 by Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.

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"The Dutch": Bouweries and Early Settlement in New Amsterdam

"The Dutch": Bouweries and Early Settlement in New Amsterdam

By Alice Sparberg Alexiou

The settlement was to be called New Amsterdam, and it would serve as headquarters of New Netherland, which stretched from New England to Virginia. The Dutch had claimed the vast territory — a claim the English refused to recognize — after Henry Hudson in 1609 sailed the Half Moon up the river that would bear his name.

From Devil's Mile: The Rich, Gritty History of The Bowery by Alice Sparberg Alexiou, copyright 2018 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin's Press.

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"Most Everything Was Still Dutch”: Against the British Era Declension Narrative

"Most Everything Was Still Dutch”: Against the British Era Declension Narrative

By Joyce D. Goodfriend

The tenacity with which many Dutch commoners held to their native language — even as it diverged from the Dutch spoken in the Netherlands — did not escape the notice of influential New Yorkers. In the midst of the hotly contested election of 1768, politicians courting the vote of the city’s Dutch-speakers arranged to print a Dutch version of “A Kick for the Whipper by Sir Isaac Foot,” a partisan essay, in the New-York Gazette. In February 1775, when the printer of the New-York Journal published the “whole proceedings of the continental congress, held in Philadelphia in September and October 1774,” he alerted readers that his edition included “the principal parts, translated into Low Dutch.” Improbable as it may seem in light of the fact that English had long been “the language where power... resided,” Dutch remained a living language in New York City long after members of the elite assumed it would be displaced by English.

Reprinted from Who Should Rule at Home? Confronting the Elite in British New York City, by Joyce D. Goodfriend. Copyright © 2017 by Cornell University. Used by permission of the publisher, Cornell University Press.

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Remembering the Columbia Protest of '68: "Outside Agitators"

Remembering the Columbia Protest of '68: "Outside Agitators"

Fifty years ago this week, students at Columbia shut down the university for seven days, in protest of plans to build a gymnasium in a nearby Harlem park, university links to the Vietnam War, and what they saw as Columbia’s generally unresponsive attitude to student concerns.

Today on Gotham, we continue a weeklong series featuring excerpts from a new collection of more than sixty essays, edited by Paul Cronin, reflecting on that moment. A Time to Stir reveals clearly the lingering passion and idealism of many strikers. But it also speaks to the complicated legacy of the uprising. If, for some, the events inspired a lifelong dedication to social causes, for others they signaled the beginning of a chaos that would soon engulf the left. Taken together, these reflections move beyond the standard account, presenting a more nuanced Rashoman-like portrait. On Monday, we considered the remembrances of students (male, female, black, white, visiting, resident, pro, anti), followed on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday by select views of faculty, police officers, and government officials. ​Today, we hear from some of the "outside agitators" often blamed at the time for stirring up the trouble.

Copyright (c) 2018 Columbia University Press. Used by arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved.

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