By Sandra Roff
Publishing periodicals was an exciting step in advancing knowledge and providing information to a news hungry audience. Philadelphia, Boston and New York in the early part of the 19th century established themselves as publishing centers and they all had newspapers, book publishers and an active periodical press. As their respective populations grew so did the demand for periodicals that were cheap, portable and served as an outlet for aspiring authors. These publishing centers as early as the late 18th century published magazines and journals many of which proved to be short lived. By the beginning of the 19th century the readership grew and so did the number of successful magazines.
While these three cities competed with each other for publishing prominence, there was another growing presence in the periodical world. Brooklyn, New York considered the first suburb of New York City was just a ferry ride across the East River and its population increased substantially during the 19th century leading to a demand for more intellectual pursuits. Spooner’s Brooklyn Directory for 1824/1825, listed the census of Kings County taken in August, 1820. Kings County consisted of Brooklyn, the Navy Yard, Bushwick. Flatbush, Flatlands, Gravesend and New Utrecht and had a total of 11,183 occupants.  As the county began to fan out and settle areas beyond Brooklyn Heights, the citizenry founded more libraries, literary societies, schools, clubs and other venues appropriate for new magazines and journals.
Today on Gotham, something different: a podcast.
From now on, we'll occasionally be featuring not just written but oral interviews on the blog, with authors of recent books dealing with New York City history. The series is a partnership with the New Books Network, a consortium of academic podcast channels whose very admirable goal is, like ours here at The Gotham Center, to raise the level of public discourse by introducing serious research to much wider audiences than normally get scholarly work. The largest academic podcasting organization in the country, NBN publishes 100 new interviews every month, with more than 9 million downloads yearly.
Click below to hear the first episode, on Lisandro Perez's Sugar, Cigars and Revolution: The Making of Cuban New York.
The History of the Future: Contextualizing the Exhibition of the Fourth Regional Plan for the New York Metropolitan Region
By Kristian Taketomo
The first of the small exhibition’s three areas summarizes the guiding principles and major points of the Fourth Plan: its values (equity prosperity, health, and sustainability), its action areas (institutions, climate change, transportation, and affordability), and selections from its sixty-one recommendations. The second area showcases the winning proposals from the 4C Project — a design competition for the region’s four corridors, as identified by RPA. The last area reviews RPA’s organizational history.
Although the exhibition overviews the major themes and proposals of the Fourth Plan, it’s not merely a condensation of the 383-page publication, The Fourth Regional Plan: Making the Region Work for All of Us, which you can download for free by visiting RPA’s website (www.rpa.org). Instead, the exhibition brings the Fourth Plan to life with large-scale maps, detailed landscape and architectural renderings, and a host of other graphics and illustrations, offering a uniquely immersive glimpse into RPA’s vision for the future of New York.
Introduction by Nick Juravich
Fifty years ago this fall, the United Federation of Teachers went on strike three times, closing NYC public schools for more than six weeks. The legacy of these strikes continues to reverberate through the city's schools today.
By the fall, the conflict in Brooklyn had engulfed the city. Nearly 57,000 teachers walked picket lines, and over 1 million students were out of school.
New Yorkers have battled over school governance for more than two centuries, and the struggle continues in ongoing debates over mayoral control. The 1968 conflict, however, did not simply transform the school system. It reshaped political alliances, social movements, and labor organizing in the city for decades to come.
The Board of Education abandoned the community control experiment one year after the strikes, but the school system was decentralized by the state legislature into quasi-independent districts with elected community school boards in 1970. This system, in turn, was eliminated in 2002 at the request of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who won control of the city’s schools from the state legislature.
This centralization has not gone unchallenged. Parents regularly demand more democracy and transparency from the city, and state lawmakers now reconsider mayoral control nearly annually. Fifty years on, many of the questions that New Yorkers struggled with in 1968 remain urgent and unresolved.
Who will teach the city’s children and how will they do it? How will the city address persistent racism, segregation, and educational inequality in its schools? Who will be held accountable to the children and parents schools serve, as well as to the teachers employed by the system?
Gotham, in partnership with Chalkbeat, asked eight historians and scholars of education to reflect on how this history remains relevant for NYC public schools today. Here’s what they told us.
By Nathan Braccio
In many senses, New York (and New Amsterdam/New Netherlands) should be considered the center of cartography in Colonial North America. Starting with the skilled Dutch cartographers, the mapping of New York was more regular and detailed then that of other colonies, including its neighbors in New England. As Patricia Seed has argued, the Dutch believed detailed records legitimized their claim to the region. English colonists in New England did not treat maps the same way. They came from more parochial backgrounds in which maps were novelties and curiosities, not useful tools. However, when New York fell into English hands, a different kind of Englishman arrived there. Its new administrators, such as Governor Edmund Andros, were not parochial English townsmen like their New England neighbors. Like the Dutch, they saw the power of maps and wielded them as powerful weapons. The New York City-based administration of Andros would eventually come to export mapping as a tool and force the colonists of the region to acknowledge their import. Under Andros and other governors sent from England, both New York and New England became visualized through countless property maps and detailed maps of the boundaries between colonies.
By Julia Guarneri
“I thought I knew every nook and angle of this village, but it seems your staff are ferreting out new and interesting bits every week.” In 1919, subscriber Charles Romm sent this letter to the New York Tribune, praising the paper’s new “In Our Town” section. The Tribune — like the World, the Times, the American, and many of the city’s other daily papers — had begun printing a special local section on Sundays. These metropolitan sections, as they were often called, did not print local news, exactly. They were not the places to look for accident reports or the latest in city politics. Instead, metropolitan sections gave readers glimpses of the everyday city. They brought the sights, accents, and clamor of the city into readers’ laps, to be enjoyed from a living room couch or a lunch counter. Newspapers’ metropolitan sections packaged up city life for quick, enjoyable consumption.
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