The Children’s Migration

It moved more boys and girls than the Children’s Crusade of the Middle Ages—and to far happier conclusions

Among the thousands of homeless children deposited at the Children’s Aid Society in 1875 by orphan asylums, courts, and other institutions was a four-year-old named Willie, sent by the New York Prison Association. “Almost beyond hope” was the verdict of the society’s agent into whose care the “irrepressible young Irishman” was placed. Read more »

Before Urban Renewal

A visit to New York when it was little, not very old, and rather more attractive

New York during the Revolution was, a loyalist wrote, “a most dirty, desolate and wretched place.” And indeed it was. No other American city suffered as much from the war. It had been dug up by Americans for defense, shelled by British warships, ravaged by two severe fires, looted by enemy soldiers, even denuded of its trees for firewood. More than half its citizens had fled when the British began their seven-year occupation in the fall of 1776. Yet, astonishingly, by the turn of the century New York was on the threshold of becoming the largest city in the new Republic.Read more »

Oscar And The Opera

AN IMPRESARIO NAMED HAMMERSTEIN SET HIS SIGHTS ON TUMBLING AN INSTITUTION CALLED THE MET

The curtain of the Manhattan Opera House rose for the first time at nine o’clock on the night of December 3, 1906. But the crowds of curious New Yorkers who came to have a look at the new theatre and its audience had begun lining the sidewalks of Thirty-fourth Street before seven. By eight o’clock the block was so jammed with carriages that the cross-town streetcar lines were brought to a standstill.Read more »

“well, What Are You Going To Do About It?”

Thus Boss Richard Croker breezily dismissed charges of corruption. But the fortune he made from “honest graft” was not enough to buy him what he most wanted

The most glamorous and the most powerful —of the Tammany bosses who ran New York City for much of the century between Boss Tweed and Carmine DeSapio was Richard Croker. Read more »

The Capital Of Capitalism

Ever since 1792, bulls and bears together have tripped the light fantastic on Wall Street’s sidewalks—and sometimes just tripped

On a cold Saturday in December, 1865, the 350 members of the New York Stock Exchange gave a party to celebrate moving into a new building on Broad Street, near the corner of Wall—the first home of their own. “One of the finest temples of Mammon extant,” the New York Times observed. Visitors poured through the spacious lower hall and up the wide stairs to enjoy refreshments in the high-ceilinged, black-walnut-panelled Board Room, whose acoustics had already been tested at a brief stock auction that morning.Read more »

The Life And Death Of Thomas Nast

HIS GRANDSON RECALLS:

To his contemporaries Thomas Nast was unquestionably America’s greatest and most effective political cartoonist, attacking corruption with a brilliant and often vitriolic pen, harrying the bosses, creating the political symbols that still remain the emblems of our two major political parties. His grandson’s impression is quite different. He remembers him as a gentle and witty companion, as the creator of our conception of Santa Claus, as a sad and lonely man whose life ended poignantly in a foreign land.Read more »

“New York Is Worth Twenty Richmonds”

One day in late October of 1864, as the Civil War was moving into its final stages, eight young men in civilian clothes arrived in New York City from Toronto by train. Though they spoke with southern accents, they were quickly caught up in the swirl of the city’s life, for there were thousands of Southerners in New York—businessmen and planters who had come north to protect their interests; families fleeing from ruin; and ex-Confederate soldiers, prisoners of war on parole, looking for a way to return home.Read more »

Urban Pollution-Many Long Years Ago

The old gray mare was not the ecological marvel, in American cities, that horse lovers like to believe

To many urban Americans in the 1970’s, fighting their way through the traffic’s din and gagging on air heavy with exhaust fumes, the,automobile is a major villain in the sad tale of atmospheric pollution. Yet they have forgotten, or rather never knew, that the predecessor of the auto was also a major polluter. The faithful, friendly horse was charged with creating the very problems today attributed to the automobile: air contaminants harmful to health, noxious odors, and noise.Read more »

American Heritage Book Selection: The Body Snatchers

Columbia College presented a peaceful exterior in 1788, but inside its medical laboratories something strange was going on; and under cover of darkness freshly interred bodies were disappearing from nearby burying grounds

It was February 15, 1788, a Friday morning, in the offices of the New York Daily Advertiser at 28 Hanover Square in New York City. Francis Quids, the paper’s printer and editor, had just received a letter from a reader who asked that the letter be published. Because New York was small, extending only as far north as Chambers Street and containing only thirty thousand people, almost everyone knew what was going on in it. Still, the letter was shocking —not in the sense that it told Mr. Childs something he did not know about the city, but because it declared openly what was being discussed privately in tavern, home, and coffeehouse.

Tammany Picked An Honest Man

The 1910 race for the mayoralty of New York looked like a tough one.

In the early years of this century, the manager of Delmonico’s famous restaurant in New York was sometimes heard to lament that all his customers looked alike, dressed alike, and even talked alike. In 1910 there occurred an instance of individualism run wild, if not rampant and amuck, that sufficiently stifled his lamentations. This refutation was the unloosing upon the New York scene of William Jay Gaynor, the city’s new and extraordinary mayor. Delmonico’s served as background for the eruption.