By Andrew Urban
In November, 2018, the Public Historian published a review that I wrote of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum’s newest tour: Under One Roof. The tour interprets the lives of three families who lived in the tenement at 103 Orchard Street — which was acquired by the museum in 2007 — from the 1940s up until the recent past. Addressing post-World War II immigration and migration to the Lower East Side, the educators leading the tours that I took did an excellent job highlighting how Americans have frequently been reluctant to welcome the world’s “huddled masses,” national myths notwithstanding. For instance, visitors are introduced to surveys conducted with Americans in 1946, in which a majority of respondents rejected proposals that would have suspended quota restrictions in order to permit Jewish survivors of the Holocaust and other Displaced Persons from Europe to enter the United States. One of the Under One Roof tours I took occurred in January 2018, a few days after President Trump expressed a desire for the United States to receive immigrants from Norway rather than from “shithole countries” such as Haiti. In 1946, the educator explained, Scandinavian countries also scored favorably with the American public as the most desirable sources of immigration. Through framings such as this, the Under One Roof tour rightly insists that the United States will only be able to come to terms with the controversies and debates that surround immigration policy today if it honestly evaluates its own history — racist attitudes included.
Samantha Grace Lewis, “Occupy the MoMA January 13, 2012.” Occupy Museums, an activist movement that originated as an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street in 2011, has been a leading critic of the relationship between art museums and capitalism. Recent actions have included a 2017 protest at MoMA calling for the removal of board member Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock Inc., whose “investment management company” has used campaign donations and the political appointments of former employees to attack and weaken regulations directed at the finance industry.
By Kim Dramer
On March 25, 1911, fire swept through the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. Trapped by locked doors and only a single flimsy fire escape, 146 workers, mostly young Jewish and Italian immigrants, perished in the conflagration itself or jumped from windows to escape the flames and died from the fall. The Triangle Fire was the most fatal workplace tragedy in New York City history until 9/11. Today, New Yorkers walk by three small plaques marking the spot of the tragedy, many unaware of the events that unfolded at the spot more than a century ago. 
This article will examine three current efforts by New York women memorializing the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire workers. Significantly, many of these women are the descendants of immigrants who plied the needle trades in search of the American dream. While the dreams of the young immigrant women who perished in the Triangle fire put an end to their quest, their legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of New Yorkers.
By Marie Warsh
On November 16, 1966, an unprecedented event took place on the Sheep Meadow in Central Park. Beginning at midnight, thousands of New Yorkers convened on the park’s largest lawn to watch the Leonid meteor showers, which were expected to be particularly brilliant. Although the crowd was let down — dense cloud cover prevented visibility — the gathering nonetheless offered a convivial atmosphere. Spectators brought chairs, blankets, and hot beverages, and the event became an after-dark picnic, with some marveling at the novel scene. One woman observed, “All these people in the park after midnight, and no one is getting mugged.”
New York’s Parks Commissioner, Thomas Hoving, had conceived of the event, which he’d dubbed the “Heavenly Happening,” and it epitomized his approach to revitalizing Central Park. The event was a direct response to concerns about safety in the park. Incidents of crime began to increase in the late 1950s, and this reality, as well as often ominous or even sensationalized press coverage, contributed to a growing reputation of the Central Park as a “hoodlum haven,” as J. Edgar Hoover declared in 1964.
Cartoon Performance, May 15, 1966. The first happening in Central Park involved the installation of a 105-foot-long canvas across the lawn known as Cedar Hill for the public to paint on. Capturing the open-ended nature of the happening, the press release for the event stated that “The performance will end when the painting is finished, or when it rains, or when it grows too dark to continue.”
By Jeffrey Patrick Colgan
And there is the Andy Warhol that portrayed the quotidian, that perceived and engaged with the latent power of public images and brands, and that worked to blur the boundary between art objects and everyday objects—what philosopher and critic Arthur Danto called mere real things.
Heidi Waleson's Mad Scenes and Exit Arias: The Death of the New York City Opera and the Future of Opera in America
By Joanna Steinberg
In 1968, Village Voice critic Jill Johnston proclaimed that between 1962 and 1964 a “revolution” had occurred at Judson Memorial Church. With its exhibition Judson Dance Theater: The Work is Never Done, MoMA brings visitors into this seminal moment when a collective of choreographers and downtown artists across disciplines came together to create and show new works in non-commercial spaces, works that transformed the definitions of art and how we experience it. MoMA pushes the boundaries and conventions of the museum space as well, beginning the exhibition in the Atrium, where a video installation and a series of live performances take place daily, showing the work of preeminent choreographers from Judson Dance Theater: Yvonne Rainer, Deborah Hay, David Gordon, Lucinda Childs, Steve Paxton, and Tricia Brown. As the subtitle suggests, “the work is never done.” The performances embody the idea that experimentation is ongoing, as is the interpretation by both artists and audiences who come together in the present moment.
By Stephen R. Duncan
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Amazon’s Emmy-winning comedy series, doesn’t pull its punches. Within the first episode, the show’s titular character — an almost cartoonish 1950s middle-class, Upper West Side housewife — explodes into a drunken rant about the travails of family life during a profanity-laden performance that includes baring her breasts to the audience of a Greenwich Village nightclub. Miriam “Midge” Maisel’s impromptu comedic monologue packs quite a proto-feminist wallop, smacking down already-tenuous myths of midcentury domestic bliss. But what the show needs, if it truly wants to portray the New York underground nightclub milieu where Midge finds her comic footing, is a stronger left hook. The real history of the 1950s nightclub underground was far more radical than the hilariously foul-mouthed Midge would care to admit.
Gotham is a blog for independent and professional scholars of
New York City history
We invite submissions
Click below to follow us on social media
using any feed reader
View the material as a broadsheet
See our list of
We are currently reorganizing our search categories.
Please use the broadsheet above to scan our 300+ publications.
Visitors looking for
"The Gotham Blotter"
will find it here,
revised as blog posts