3. New York City History


37.  Johannes Nevins (1627-before 1672).  Document pertaining to a plot of land. Manuscript document, signed, with wax seal. New York, 6 July 1658. RBML, Van Courtlandt Papers

The seal on this document is the first seal of the City of New York, granted to New Amsterdam in 1654 and used until 1659. The document, signed by Johannes Nevins, the Clerk of the Burgomasters from 1658 to 1665, confirms Oloff Stevenszen Van Courtlandt's (1600-1684) ownership of a plot of land on Stone Street.

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Cremin, 1970

38.  New York City, Coroner's Office.  Minutes of the Coroner's Proceedings in the City and County of New York. Manuscript on paper, 1747-1758. RBML

These early reports kept by John Burnet for New York City and County document colonial attempts to establish causation of injuries related to untimely and unnatural death. They offer an invaluable insight into the history of forensic pathology in America, showing the fees and duties of the coroner as well as documenting court testimony in criminal and civil proceedings.

Gift of Mrs. Charles Blyth Van Courtlandt Martin

39a.  Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827).  Portrait of Alexander Hamilton. Watercolor on ivory, (4.5 x 3.5 cm.), ca. 1780. Office of Art Properties

39b.  Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804) and Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton (1757-1854).  Gold double-band wedding ring of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, and wedding handkerchiefs of Alexander and Elizabeth Hamilton, 1780. RBML, Hamilton Memorabilia

American portrait painter, naturalist, and patriot, Charles Willson Peale was a distinguished painter of American statesmen of the Revolutionary era; of George Washington alone, he painted some sixty portraits. This miniature of Hamilton (1755-1804) is thought to have been painted in 1780, the year of his marriage, at the instance of his wife, Elizabeth Schuyler. She is credited with embroidering the silk mat. At the time, Hamilton was serving as Washington's secretary and aide-de-camp. He studied at King's College in 1773 and 1774, but his education was interrupted by the American Revolution. The renamed Columbia College granted him an honorary master's degree in 1788.

(Portrait) Gift of Edmund Astley Prentiss; (Wedding Ring and Handkerchiefs) Gift of Furman University Library through the suggestion and assistance of the Hamilton family descendents: Mrs. Marie Hamilton Barrett and Mrs. Elizabeth Schuyler Campbell, 1988

40.  Tammany Society.  Journal & Rules of the Council of Sachems of Saint Tammany's Society. Manuscript on paper, 1789 - 1796. RBML, Kilroe Tammaniana Collection

The Tammany Society was founded in New York City by William Mooney, a Revolutionary War soldier, as a patriotic fraternal order in opposition to the Society of the Cincinnati, an organization of officers. This volume records its first meetings. In order to mock the aristocratic Cincinnati, the society was named for Tammany, an Indian chief, and used American Indian names, imagery and ceremonies. Focused on youth, young men who could not normally participate in political events could experience something of politics within the society, and it developed into a political club, its clubhouse known as Tammany Hall.

Led by Aaron Burr, the Society helped to carry New York for Thomas Jefferson in the election of 1800. It became increasingly political by the nineteenth century and enjoyed the support of newly arrived immigrants through its program of aiding and helping them to become citizens. "Boss" William M. Tweed, the society's most powerful member, ruled New York like a despot, and Tammany Hall became synonymous with City Hall. Tammany retained considerable influence into the twentieth century until Robert Wagner was elected mayor on an anti-Tammany ticket.

Gift of Edwin Patrick Kilroe, 1942

41.  Archibald Robertson.  New York from Long Island. Ink and color wash on paper, (43.8 cm. x 62.2 cm.), ca. 1795. Office of Art Properties

Immigrating from Scotland in 1791, Robertson set up practice in New York City as a miniaturist. In addition, he also made numerous landscapes and city views. Together with William and Thomas Birch, who worked in Philadelphia, he helped to introduce the English topographical watercolor tradition in the United States. This view across the East River to Manhattan, depicting an expansive landscape, stems from that tradition. The building at the right is George Washington's headquarters. The location is identified in an inscription across the bottom of the sheet.

Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan

42.  DeWitt Clinton(1769-1828).  Letterbooks. Bound manuscript on paper, Vol. 17, 1808-1816, of 24, 1785-1828. RBML, DeWitt Clinton Papers

Congress established the First Bank of the United States, headquartered in Philadelphia, in 1791. By 1816, Congress chartered the Second Bank of the United States. In the manuscript from DeWitt Clinton's own letterbooks shown here, Clinton argues passionately that New York City deserves to be the home of the national bank, writing: "New York is the commercial capital of the union. In her center is one third of our commerce and from here is derived one third of our revenue. There are ten times more goods purchased here." Clinton's wish prevailed, marking the commercial and political ascendancy of New York over its rival Philadelphia. The library's DeWitt Clinton holdings contain 15 volumes of letters received by Clinton (1785-1828), 8 volumes of letterbooks of his own letters and writings (1793-1828), and one volume of miscellaneous papers in various hands.

Gift of William Schermerhorn, 1902

43.  Alexander Jackson Davis (1803-1892).  United States Custom House. Watercolor and black ink on paper, (21 cm. x 36.5 cm.), ca. 1834. Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Drawings and Archives, Alexander Jackson Davis Collection I

In 1833, Davis and his partner Ithiel Town won the competition for the U.S. Custom House to be built on the site of Washington's inauguration, down the street from Trinity Church. The architects lost control of the construction, that being given to Samuel Thomson, and the finished building lacks the majesty of this drawing particularly in the reduction of the dome. A magnificent section, this drawing shows Davis in full command of his artistic and architectural powers. The proportion and harmony of the design are wedded to a direct and rich exposition of the architectural structure and detail.

It is hard to overestimate Davis's position in American architecture of the nineteenth century before the Civil War. Davis designed civic and urban buildings for the burgeoning city of New York, and with his friend, the landscape designer Andrew Jackson Downing, brought to life the romantic vision of Gothic cottage in the Hudson Valley. Fortunately his work survives in large numbers in three major repositories: the Avery Library, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the New-York Historical Society.

Purchase, 1940

44.  Trinity Church, New York, perspective view. Watercolor on paper (52.6 x 67 cm.), ca. 1840. Avery Library, Drawings and Archives, Upjohn Collection

At the head of Wall Street stands Trinity Church built by the dean of American Episcopalian architects, the Englishman Richard Upjohn. Upon his arrival in the United States, Upjohn passed the first five years in Boston where he met Dr. Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright, who became the Rector of Trinity in 1838. The standing structure of the church was found to be unstable and the new rector called in Upjohn to build a new church, which was dedicated in 1846. This rendering, thought to be executed by Fanny Palmer, an artist for Currier & Ives, portrays the urban church as a typical English countryside church rather than the dominant element of its neighborhood.

Upjohn was joined in his practice by his son, Richard Michell Upjohn, most famous for his design of the Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford. His son, Hobart, also became an architect, with a practice in the New York area and North Carolina. Hobart's son, Everard, also an architect, taught at Columbia for many years. Upon the request of Avery Librarian Talbot Hamlin, Everard and his children gave his family's architectural drawings to the library through a series of donations, the last in 1983. The papers of the firm were donated to the New York Public Library.

Gift of the Upjohn Family

45.  Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865).  Manuscript letter in John Hay's hand, signed by Lincoln, to Columbia University President Charles King. Washington, D.C., June 26, 1861. RBML, Columbia College Papers

At commencement exercises held at the Academy of Music on June 27, 1861, President King announced that the University was conferring an honorary Doctor of Laws degree on President Lincoln. Preoccupied by the events of the Civil War, Lincoln could not travel to New York to receive the degree, so Professor Francis Lieber was sent to Washington to present the diploma. Lincoln wrote to President King to thank him for the honor. Signed by Lincoln, the text of the letter is in the hand of John Hay, one of Lincoln's two private secretaries. The divisiveness of the Civil War, as well as the election of 1860, was doubtless in the President's thoughts when he wrote of preserving the country's institutions and of the honor being a gesture of "confidence and good will," awarded two months after the war began.

Gift of Janet Haldane and her children, 1983

46.  Louis Prang (1824-1909).  Views in Central Park, New York. Boston: L. Prang & Co., 1863-1869. 5 series of 12 chromolithographic cards, (6.3 x 10.1 cm. each) Avery Library, Classics Collection

By the mid-nineteenth century, New York City had expanded northward at such a precipitous pace that the question of open space was addressed by legislators, who passed an act to create a large public park. In 1857, the same year that Columbia College moved uptown to Forty-ninth Street and Madison Avenue (where it remained until 1897), a competition was announced for the design of Central Park. The entry selected for the site (which originally extended from 60th to 106th Streets between Fifth and Eighth Avenues) was the now-famous Greensward Plan, created by Calvert Vaux (1824-1895) and Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903).

Today, it would be impossible to imagine Manhattan without this urban oasis. In the park's first decades, its distinctive blend of English picturesque and more rugged American style captivated the entire nation. Numerous prints, stereograph photographs, and souvenir books celebrated what quickly became one of New York City's major tourist attractions. These color lithograph album cards, issued in series for mounting in scrapbooks (a Victorian pastime), depict favorite landmarks. The first three series were published in 1863, and the last two in 1869, by the Louis Prang firm, one of the finest lithographic concerns in the United States. All five series in full are known to exist only at Avery.


47.  Architectural Iron Works of New York.  Illustrations of Iron Architecture, Made by the Architectural Iron Works of the City of New York. New York: Baker & Godwin, Printers, 1865. Avery Library, Classics Collection

This catalogue of buildings, storefronts, and architectural elements is a noteworthy example of Avery Library's unrivalled collection of more than ten thousand catalogues from the American building trades. Daniel D. Badger's Architectural Iron Works was one of the larger American foundries producing cast-iron architecture. In 1865 Badger decided to advertise his firm's work with this volume listing its principal productions, including about four hundred buildings and storefronts in New York, but also ones in Richmond, Virginia, and Sacramento, California–not to mention Alexandria, Egypt, and Panama. The book also featured claims for cast iron as a new building material and, most important, 102 lithographic plates of architectural details as well as whole facades, printed by the prominent firm of Sarony Major & Knapp.

Plate III (one of a handful of color plates) shows the E. V. Haughwout Building (1857), designed by architect J. P. Gaynor as an emporium for the sale of glassware, silverware, clocks, and chandeliers, and the first New York City store to have an elevator for customers. The cast-iron facades at the northeast corner of Broadway and Broome Street recall the arched windows set between columns at Venice's Biblioteca Marciana, testimony to Badger's assertion "that whatever architectural forms can be carved or wrought in wood or stone, or other materials, can also be faithfully reproduced in iron." The Landmarks Preservation Commission designation report quotes an architectural historian on the significance: "In this one building are combined the two elements that provided the basis for today's skyscraper–the load-bearing metal frame and the vertical movement of passengers."

In parallel, one might say that in this one publication are combined the elements that provided the basis for the flourishing of trade catalogues for decades to come -- promotional writing and mass printing technology, in the service of prefabricated materials and building parts.

Purchase, 1944

48.  Daly's Theatre, New York.  Account book. Manuscript on paper, 1872. RBML, Dramatic Museum Manuscripts

Augustin Daly (1838- 1899), playwright, adaptor and critic, is considered one of America's greatest theatrical managers. Daly's first original work was the wildly successful melodrama Under the Gaslight (1867). He opened his first New York theater, The Fifth Avenue, in 1869, and a few years later established Daly's Theatre on Broadway with a stock company in which John Drew and Ada Rehan were stars, and many other nineteenth century luminaries appeared from time to time. Some stars, like Clara Morris, left the fold, but others, like Ada Rehan, John Drew, Mrs. Gilbert, and James Lewis stayed with him for years.

The library's Daly's Theatre records include ten volumes of business records connected with the daily operations of the theater from 1872 through 1899, including income and expenditures, rosters of personnel, attendance books for members of the company, salary accounts, receipt books and one volume with directions for the settings for various plays.

Brander Matthews Dramatic Museum Collection, transferred to RBML, 1956

49.  Charles Follen McKim (1847-1909).  Typed letter, signed, to Stanford White, with initial sketch of Low Library. New York, July 24, 1894.  Avery Library, Drawings and Archives, Stanford White Collection of Correspondence and Drawings

When Columbia purchased the property on Morningside Heights, it was the first time that the university had acquired land with the express purpose of building a campus. The university had previously occupied existing buildings on other sites. At the 49th Street campus, the university utilized the buildings of the Deaf and Dumb Asylum even after new buildings by Charles Coolidge Haight were erected. A competition for the new campus was announced and McKim, Mead and White were chosen from the competitors, who included Richard Morris Hunt, Haight himself, and Ware and Olmsted.

The focal point of the new campus was the library, named in honor of Abiel Abbot Low by his son President Seth Low, who donated one million dollars to erect this building. In this draft of a letter to his partner Stanford White, Charles McKim, the lead designer, explains that he cannot go golfing in Europe with White as President Low has cut out such a lot of work for him. On the verso of this letter emerges the conception of Low Library, remarkably close to the final version.

This letter was found within the office correspondence of Stanford White, where it had been kept under M for McKim. Avery Library received the incoming and outgoing correspondence from the White family along with other gifts. From the successor firm, Walker O. Cain Associates, the library acquired many of the architectural drawings of the Columbia campus. The bulk of the firm's archive, more than one hundred thousand drawings as well as papers and files, was donated to the New-York Historical Society.

Gift of the Stanford White Family, 1981

50.  William Barclay Parsons (1859-1932).  Diary, Rapid Transit System of New York. Typescript, 4 vols., with author's initials in vol. 1, 1900 - 1904. RBML

William Barclay Parsons attended Columbia University and graduated in 1882. He was the co-founder of the Spectator and became one of the great developers of the civil engineering projects that ushered America into the modern age of industrial design. He was chief engineer for the Rapid Transit System of New York, and designed the original plans for the Interborough Rapid Transit system which opened one hundred years ago, in 1904. His thorough examinations of Manhattan's topography resulted in his use of the less expensive and more efficient cut-and-cover construction method for the first subway lines.

Parsons made an important survey of Chinese railroads (1898-99), was on the board of consulting engineers for the Panama Canal (1905), and was Chief engineer for the Cape Cod Canal (1905-14). He served as a colonel in the Spanish American War and a general in World War I. Even his overseas duty did not diminish his dedication to improving Columbia University, as he was chairman of the Board of Trustees, a founder of what would become the Starr East Asian Library, and a confidant of Nicholas Murray Butler during this time. In addition to this diary, Columbia received Parson's diaries kept during his work on the Panama Canal and during World War I, as well as his fine collection of railroad prints.

Gift of William Barclay Parsons, Jr., 1958

51.  Lewis Hine (1874-1940).  Welder, Empire State Building, New York. Photograph (40 x 49.3 cm.), 1930-1931. Avery Library, Drawings and Archives, Empire State Building Archive

At the time of its construction, the Empire State Building was the tallest building in the world, a fascination to everyone. As part of the publicity for the building, the Empire State Corporation hired photographer Lewis Hine to take photographs of the workers. Renowned for his social documentary of immigrants, child labor, and the poor and working classes, Hine was compelled by the economic realities of the Depression to take this advertising job. His photographer's eye was, however, unchanged by those realities and delivered an intimate and often heroic vision of American workers, published as Men at Work: Photographic Studies of Modern Men and Machines (Macmillan Company, 1932).

The Hine photographs are part of the Empire State Building archive. Included in this collection are over four hundred demolition and construction photographs taken during the razing of the Waldorf-Astoria and the building of the new skyscraper. There are more than twenty scrapbooks of news items collected by clipping services that document the publicity blitz promoting the building. Post-construction the publicity machine continued with the photographs of dozens of celebrities and political figures who found the Observation Deck of the Empire State Building the perfect photo opportunity.

Gift of the Empire State Building Corporation, 1971

52.  September 11th 2001 Oral History Narrative and Memory Project. Oral History Research Office

The Columbia University Oral History Research Office [OHRO], in collaboration with the Institute for Social and Economic Research Policy [ISERP] at Columbia University, has undertaken a major oral history project on the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and their aftermath. More than 300 audiotaped interviews have been conducted with a wide variety of people who were directly and indirectly affected by the catastrophe. Many of the interviews were conducted within six to eight weeks of the attacks, in order to document the uniqueness and diversity of experiences of and responses to the catastrophe as close to the events as possible. Initial funding for the project was provided by the National Science Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and Columbia University. The early success of the project was also made possible by a concentrated effort of volunteer oral historians, historians, sociologists, journalists and student interviewers.

The objective of the Oral History Memory and Narrative Project is to gather as many different perspectives on the impact of September 11th as possible, by asking individuals to narrate their experiences of the events and their aftermath through the telling of their life stories. The project is designed to return to the same individuals at least twice, over a period of two years, to assess the influences of September 11th on their self-understanding over time. While the nucleus of the project is in New York, an effort has been made to collect life stories around the country, and the scope of the project will expand internationally pending future funding. Interviews have been conducted over a broad spectrum of ethnic and professional categories, and include those who have been discriminated against or lost work in the wake of the events. Through the support of the Rockefeller Foundation, clusters of interviews have been conducted with Afghan-American immigrants as well as refugees, Muslims and Sikhs, Latinos, and community and performance artists whose lives and work have been influenced by the September 11th events.