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Posts in Progressive Era
Theodore Roosevelt: A Man for the Modern World

Theodore Roosevelt: A Man for the Modern World

Reviewed by Kathleen Dalton

“Theodore Roosevelt: A Man for the Modern World” greets visitors in the entrance as they enter the Old Orchard Museum to buy tickets to visit his house, Sagamore Hill. The current exhibit, on view until December 2019, is a temporary addendum to Sagamore Hill’s extensive permanent exhibit on Roosevelt’s life  and argues that TR was “A Man for the Modern World” who embraced new technologies in order to communicate better with the public. Born into a world of the horse and buggy, he became president at a time when telephones, movies, radio, and automobiles were changing daily life for average Americans. However, the actual central theme of the exhibit is broader than the idea of TR as technologically modern; the exhibit also gathers in moments that exemplify TR as a modern political thinker and reformer.

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The Decorated Tenement: How Immigrant Builders and Architects Transformed the Slum in the Gilded Age

The Decorated Tenement: How Immigrant Builders and Architects Transformed the Slum in the Gilded Age

Reviewed by Paul Ranogajec

Violette’s important book opens a new chapter on urban housing in architectural history and helps the reader understand a whole set of buildings—indeed, whole swathes of the cityscapes of both New York and Boston—that are prominently visible but often overlooked. Amplifying elite architects’ and reformers’ disdain for so-called tenement “skin-builders,” architectural historians have studied in detail bourgeois design but have paid much less attention to buildings built by and for the working class. The Decorated Tenement helps to correct the historical record, treating the immigrant-built tenement commensurate with its prominence in the two cities. It is a timely book for that, even if the author does not explicitly make the connection to today’s immigration debates.

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Suffrage and the City: New York Women Battle for the Ballot

Suffrage and the City: New York Women Battle for the Ballot

Reviewed by Susan Goodier

Just when we thought there simply couldn’t be another thing to say about the New York women’s suffrage movement, Lauren Santangelo presents us with an immaculately researched, well-written book that adds a new and provocative dimension to the topic. At the center of this monograph is New York City itself, with its myriad public spaces and its fascinating complexity, and Santangelo draws us into her rendition of suffragism in the city that never sleeps. Suffrage and the City does not presume to replace the historiography of the movement, but it raises the bar for casting a wide net for sources, for contextualization of a social movement, and for bringing a historical period (in this case, the Gilded Age and Progressive Era) to life. She convincingly argues that the city—Manhattan in particular—is more than a setting; it is an essential part of the drama of the women’s suffrage movement.

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Remembering George McAneny: The Reformer, Planner, and Preservationist Who Shaped Modern New York

Remembering George McAneny: The Reformer, Planner, and Preservationist Who Shaped Modern New York

By Charles Starks

The power to shape the built environment on a metropolitan scale is inevitably shared, contested, and compromised, especially in a city-region as large, diverse, and fragmented as New York has been for the last two centuries. Despite the fervent wishes of more than a few of its leading citizens, the city has never been friendly ground for would-be visionaries seeking to brusquely mold the city’s form to suit their wills—the tech mogul Jeff Bezos being only the latest to find himself chagrined by Gotham’s aversion to imperious planners.

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Distant Islands: The Japanese American Community in New York City

Distant Islands: The Japanese American Community in New York City

Reviewed by Olga Souudi

Daniel H. Inouye’s Distant Islands is a richly detailed, extensive account of the lives of Japanese living in New York City between 1876 and the 1930s. Little scholarly work on the lives of Japanese in New York, and on the East Coast in general, exists, either historical or contemporary, and Inouye’s book is a valuable contribution to this underexplored field.

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"All the Single Ladies": Women-Only Buildings in Early 20th c. NYC

"All the Single Ladies": Women-Only Buildings in Early 20th c. NYC​

By Nina E. Harkrader

The growth of manufacturing and industry in Northeastern cities during the early to mid-nineteenth century increased demand for female labor in the United States. As a result, the number of single working women living in urban areas grew significantly. These newly arrived women workers were expected to find their own lodging, but there were no precedents for housing single women in cities. On top of that, the much lower wages paid to female workers greatly limited their housing choices, and many ended up living in squalid situations: shared bedrooms in tenement buildings or hired rooms in boarding houses with male lodgers. For women workers in cities, two problems emerged: a literal housing crisis, but a figurative one as well, as this was a period when female chastity, innocence, and domesticity were celebrated and expected of women, who would perform the role of “the angel in the house” and rarely, if ever, appear unaccompanied in public.

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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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How Do We Mourn Publicly? Memorialization and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

How Do We Mourn Publicly?: Memorialization and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

By Kim Dramer

Around the turn of the 20th century, the shirtwaist, a type of blouse, was the choice of fashionable New York women. Stylish women in shirtwaists embellished by intricate tucks and lace inserts cut an elegant figure on the streets of New York. But the ample cut of the shirtwaist also gave the freedom of movement required by women who toiled in the city’s sweatshops where the shirtwaists were cut, sewn and trimmed. Across lower Manhattan, garment factories sprang up in which row after row of young women sat behind sewing machines. In their pursuit of the American dream, they toiled long hours for low wages, enduring dangerous working conditions. At the turn of the 20th century, there were more than 500 blouse factories in New York City, employing upwards of 40,000 workers.[1]

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Ephemeral Reminders of the Good Government Movement

Ephemeral Reminders of the Good Government Movement

By Sandra Roff and Sarah Rappo

For an archivist, opening a box from an unexpected archival collection can reveal strange and often wonderful items that can shed light on persons, places or events. Much of what is found between the pages of reports, tucked into scrapbooks, or loosely scattered in cartons can prove to be unexpected treasures for researchers. Under the umbrella term ephemera, the value of these archival finds has been chronicled in assorted journal articles and in the publications of the Ephemera Society.

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World War I Preparedness and the Militarization of the NYPD

World War I Preparedness and the Militarization of the NYPD

By Matthew Guariglia

As the rest of the world continues to ruminate on the 100-year anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I, New Yorkers also must grapple with the lasting impact the “Great War” had on their city. In the years leading up to, during, and following the United States’ 1917 entrance into the war, “preparedness” became the watchword that signaled New York’s increasing awareness of its connection to the world and the conflicts happening beyond the harbor. From food rationing to drafting soldiers, preparedness and all it involved included a full-scale reorganization of American society, including the New York City Police Department.

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