Photo © James and Karla Murray for 6sqft
The debate around American immigration policy has become so contentious and dispiriting that the acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services has actually suggested amending “The New Colossus,” Emma Lazarus’ immortal words of welcome inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty. But at the same time, writer Joan Marans Dim and artist Antonio Masi have brought out “Lady Liberty: An Illustrated History of America’s Most Storied Woman.”
After getting a sneak peek of the new book, it seemed timely to take a deep dive into the history of the Statue of Liberty, which represents not only our city but one of the most vital and necessary of all American values. Ahead, discover 10 things you might not know about the Statue of Liberty, from its beginnings on “Love Island” to early suffragette protests to its sister in Paris.
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What do Woody Guthrie, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Frank Schubert (the nation’s last civilian lighthouse keeper) have in common? They all lived in Sea Gate, a private community at the westernmost tip of Coney Island. Sea Gate began as a 19th-century playground for the rich, turned into a hotbed of Yiddish literature and Socialist labor activism in the 1930s, and sported at least one commune in the early ‘70s. Today, Sea Gate is home to about 8,000 residents who enjoy private beaches and expansive views of the Verrazano Bridge.
If you want to “get in the Gate,” as the locals say, but aren’t ready to relocate west of the Wonder Wheel, you can snag a summer membership at the Sea Gate Beach Club, where even non-residents can while away the hours under a cabana. Or, you can read on for the history of a Coney Island beach town you’ve probably never been to.
Bowne & Co. Stationers today, via Flickr cc
Bowne & Co. Stationers, which the South Street Seaport Museum bills as the city’s “oldest operating business under the same name,” has been a presence in Lower Manhattan since 1775. That year, Robert Bowne opened a dry goods and stationery store at 39 Queen Street. Following the American Revolution, Bowne & Co. grew along with the Port of New York, providing the advertising, stationary, and financial printing that made it possible for life and commerce at the port to function and thrive. Because New York’s printers were responsible for printing everything from stock certificates to tugboat notices, steamship broadsides to cargo invoices, fishmongers’ business cards to bankers’ prospectuses, the industry helped the city emerge as the world’s busiest port, and its preeminent financial center.
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This year, the American Museum of Natural History celebrates its 150th anniversary. Though best known for its spectacular T. Rex skeletons and incredible hanging blue whale, the story of this Upper West Side museum isn’t just one of dinosaurs and dioramas. For example, did you know that Ulysses S. Grant laid the cornerstone? Or how about that in the 1930s, there was a proposal to build a promenade through Central Park to connect the Museum with the Met? Ahead, we’ve rounded up eight things you might not know about the American Museum of Natural History.
All photos in this post were taken during the Central Park Moon-In, July 20th, 1969, by Parks Photographer Daniel McPartlin. Courtesy of the NYC Parks Photo Archive.
This Saturday, July 20, will mark 50 years since Neil Armstrong made one giant leap for mankind and set foot on the lunar surface. On Earth, hundreds of millions of people held a collective worldwide breath, then let out an ecstatic whoop of awe and excitement as man met moon. Earthlings around the globe may have wished to be aboard Apollo 11, but New Yorkers knew at least one thing for sure: If they couldn’t go to the moon, they could definitely dress up as the moon, head to Central Park, and witness the out-of-this-world walk from any of three 9’ X 12’ screens, offering coverage from NBC, CBS, and ABC. So began the greatest watch party in New York’s history. Roughly 8,000 New Yorkers, dressed all in white, sprawled across the Sheep Meadow for a blowout celestial-celebration known as The Moon-In.
See more photos and learn all about the event
“Gertrude Ederle Parade,” 1926, via Wikimedia Commons
When the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team walks along the Canyon of Heroes from Broadway up to City Hall today in the city’s 207th official Ticker-Tape Parade, they will be in good company. For more than 120 years, politicians, aviators, adventurers, generals, and sports teams have been showered with felicitations and falling office paper. But this beloved tradition actually originated spontaneously on October 28, 1886, when Wall Streeters began throwing ticker-tape out their office windows as an enraptured public marched down Broadway to the Battery to celebrate the dedication of “Liberty Enlightening the World,” or the Statue of Liberty as we know her. Ahead, learn the entire history of Ticker-Tape Parades in NYC, from George Washington and Teddy Roosevelt to Jesse Owens and Joe DiMaggio.
“Banana Docks, New York” c. 1906. Via The Library of Congress
If you’ve ever grabbed a bushel of bananas at your corner bodega, then you’ve nabbed a few of the 20 million bananas distributed around NYC every week. Today, our bananas dock at small piers in Red Hook, or, more often, make the journey by truck from Delaware. But, from the late 19th century until well into the 20th, New York was a major banana port, and banana boats hauled their cargo to the city’s bustling Banana Docks on the piers at Old Slip.
Surveying that cargo in August 1897, The New York Times wrote that the banana trade thrived in New York year-round, but the bulk of bananas hit the five boroughs between March and September. “They are brought to New York in steamers, carrying from 15,000 to 20,000 bunches…There is quite a fleet of small steamers engaged almost exclusively in the banana trade, and during the busy season many more steamers of greater size are employed.”
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“Harlem Street Scene Showing Local Businesses,” 1939, Photographer: Sid Grossman, Street Scenes Collection, Photographs and Prints Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture courtesy of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
“A Ballad for Harlem,” the new exhibit now on view at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, explores the history of the neighborhood and celebrates Black placemaking in 20th and 21st century America. The exhibit uses photographs, manuscripts, objects, art and sculpture from the Schomburg’s collection to revisit “Harlem’s places, people, and moments—both known and underrepresented—that capture the realities of community and hardship experienced by Black Americans.” Ahead, hear from curator Novella Ford to learn more about the show.
Map of the Western Canadian Fur Trade, ca. 1750-1759. The North American Fur Trade Began with French Merchants in Canada. Via NYPL Digital Collections
The fur trade has such deep roots in New York City that the official seal of the City of New York features not one but two beavers. Fur was not only one of the first commodities to flow through the port of New York, helping to shape that port into one of the most dynamic gateways the world has ever known, but also, the industry had a hand in building the cityscape as we know it. John Jacob Astor, the real estate tycoon whose New York holdings made him the richest man in America, began as an immigrant fur trader. Later, as millions of other immigrants made the city home, many would find their way into the fur trade, once a bustling part of New York’s sprawling garment industry. Today, as the nation’s fashion capital, New York City is the largest market for furs in the United States.
A new bill sponsored by Council Speaker Corey Johnson could change that. Aimed at protecting animals from cruelty, the bill would ban the sale of new fur garments and accessories, but allow for the sale of used fur and new items made out of older repurposed furs. The measure has drawn impassioned criticism from a diverse set of opponents, particularly African American pastors who point out the cultural importance of furs within the black community, and Hasidic rabbis, who worry that wearing traditional fur hats would make Hassidic men vulnerable to hate crimes. And those in the fur industry fear the loss of livelihoods and skilled labor. After prompt pushback, Johnson said he plans to rework the bill to make it more fair to furriers. But given New York’s current debate around fur, we thought we’d take a look at the long history of the city’s fur trade.
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A man wearing a fez selling drinks in Little Syria in the early 1900s, via Wiki Commons
Three structures on Lower Manhattan’s Washington Street–St. George’s Syrian Catholic Church at 103 Washington Street, The Downtown Community House at 105-107 Washington Street, and the block’s sole surviving tenement at 109 Washington Street--are the last standing architectural vestiges of the once-thriving community of Little Syria. The area served as home to immigrants from Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Moravia, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, Ukraine, Germany and Ireland that flourished on the Lower West Side in the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries. Before that surviving history is lost, local preservationists are calling for the structures to become part of a mini historic district, citing a “landmarks emergency.”
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