History

Greenpoint, History, Museums

Image courtesy of Gregg Richards

The first-ever Lenape-curated exhibition in New York is coming to Brooklyn. Presented by the Brooklyn Public Library and The Lenape Center, Lenapehoking features a collection of masterworks by Lenape artists and educational programs that teach visitors the story of the Lenape community. The collection is curated by Joe Baker, the co-founder and executive director of the Lenape Center and enrolled member of the Delaware Tribe of Indians. The exhibition opens on Thursday, January 20 at the Greenpoint Library and Environmental Education Center and runs through April 30.

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History, Museums

Left: Carte-de-visite of Frederick Douglass, late 19th century. Patricia D. Klingenstein Library, New-York Historical Society. Right: Douglass scrapbook, Beinecke Library, New-York Historical Society

The work of one of America’s most influential advocates for liberty and equality will be on view in New York City this Black History Month. On February 11, the New-York Historical Society will open Our Composite Nation: Frederick Douglass’ America, a special installation that honors the legacy of one of America’s most prolific freedom fighters. Named after one of Frederick Douglass’ most iconic speeches written at the end of the Civil War, the installation aims to paint a picture of Douglass’ optimistic vision of a new America during the era of Reconstruction.

Details here

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Features, History

Central-Park Winter, 1862, via NYPL Digital Collections

While we haven’t had much snow yet this year, New York is already a winter wonderland thanks to the many ice skating rinks found across the city. If you choose to glide through the season on ice, taking a spin anywhere from Central Park to Coney Island, you’re sliding into a New York winter tradition that includes the nation’s first organized ice rink, a decade of “Icetravaganzas” that drew millions, a glittery trend of hotel ice gardens throughout Midtown, and even a relationship to the origins of baseball. So lace up, and read on for a history of ice-skating in New York City.

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Features, History, holidays

Ever the New Yorker, Santa catches the trolly to Bloomingdales! The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Picture Collection, The New York Public Library, NYPL Digital Collections

Saint Nicholas arrived in New York with the Dutch and became the Patron Saint of New York City in the early 19th century, but Santa, as we know him, is a hometown boy. New York’s writers and artists were the first to depict the modern Santa Claus, transforming the figure of Dutch lore into a cheerful holiday hero. The illustrious Claus gained his sleigh in Chelsea and his red suit on Franklin Square. With a little help from the likes of Washington Irving, Clement Clarke Moore, and Thomas Nast, jolly old St. Nick became the merriest man in Manhattan.

More about Santa’s New York Roots!

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Features, History, holidays, Midtown

The 1931 tree, courtesy of Tishman Speyer

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, considered the “worldwide symbol of Christmas,” will be lit on Wednesday, marking the 89th tree lighting ceremony. After last year’s event was closed to spectators because of the pandemic, the tree lighting will once again welcome the public to kick off the holiday season. Ahead of the event, learn about the history of the iconic spruce, from its start as a modest Depression-era pick-me-up for Rockefeller Center construction workers to World War regulations to its current 900-pound Swarovski star.

More on the history here

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Features, History, holidays

Hanukkah celebration by the Young Men’s Hebrew Association at the Academy of Music in New York City, 1880, via Wikimedia Commons

Hanukkah is engrained into New York’s holiday season, but roughly 100 years ago the Festival of Lights was big news to many New Yorkers. Look at the newspaper coverage back in the day regarding the holiday, and most “took an arms-length approach,” as Bowery Boys puts it. “More than one old Tribune or World carried a variant of the headline “Jews Celebrate Chanukah,” as though there might have been some doubt. A 1905 headline even informed readers that, “Chanukah, Commemorating Syrian Defeat, Lasts Eight Days.”

Such headlines weren’t just the result of ignorance–New York’s Jewish population was low through the 1800s, and even within the religion, Hanukkah has traditionally been a minor festival. But a boom in Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe and a reassertion of religious traditions in a new country completely changed the fabric of New York. Eventually, the eight-day festival of light–which commemorates the victory of the Maccabees over the Greeks over 2,000 years ago–emerged as an important tradition of the city.

Here’s what happened

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Features, History, holidays

Photo via the Library of Congress

Before Thanksgiving became a holiday known for stuffing down food with the people you love, it looked a whole lot like Halloween. That is thanks to the Thanksgiving “ragamuffins,” children who dressed up in costume and wandered the streets in search of swag, asking passerby and shop owners, “Anything for Thanksgiving?” The practice could be found everywhere from Missouri to Los Angeles, but it was a particularly strong tradition in New York City.

“Thanksgiving masquerading has never been more universal,” said a New York Times report from 1899. “Fantastically garbed youngsters and their elders were on every corner of the city. Not a few of the maskers and mummers wore disguises that were recognized as typifying a well-known character or myth. There were Fausts, Uncle Sams, Harlequins, bandits, sailors. All had a great time. The good-humored crowd abroad was generous with pennies and nickels, and the candy stores did a land-office business.”

Read more about the ragamuffins

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Features, History, holidays

thanksgiving day parade, macy's,

Pilgrim balloon in 1946. Photo via Macy’s Inc.

There are many famous traditions synonymous with New York City, and Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is at the top of that list. The first parade marched down Broadway in the winter of 1924, and in the years since, it’s grown into an event with more than 3.5 million spectators. After a television-only event last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, the iconic Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is returning this year with in-person spectators. Ahead, learn all about the parade’s 97 years and see some incredible archival photos.

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Flushing, History

Photo: NYC Parks/ Malcolm Pinckney

Hundreds of New Yorkers, mostly African and Native American residents, who were buried in Flushing at least 150 years ago were finally honored with a memorial this week. The city’s Parks Department and Queens officials on Tuesday cut the ribbon on a new commemorative plaza at the Olde Towne of Flushing Burial Ground. The site, located north of 46th Avenue between 164th and 165th Streets, was used as a public burial ground starting as early as 1840, with over 1,000 individuals buried there until 1898. A new memorial wall includes the name of the sacred site, a brief history, and 318 recorded names of those buried there, and the new plaza has a butterfly garden and surrounding benches.

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Brooklyn, History

Screenshot courtesy of the Brooklyn Public Library

Discover the fictional places where novels are set and the real-life apartments where authors once lived as part of a new audio tour launched this month by the Brooklyn Public Library. The self-guided literary walking tour, which can be downloaded on your smartphone or opened via web browser, covers eight miles of the borough, from Fort Greene to Bushwick.

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