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The Play-o-Graph, or How we “watched” the game before television

Back before the internet was ubiquitous, before television was in every home, and before FDR’s fireside chats, there was the Play-o-Graph.  Between 1905 and 1921 (and for several years after), eager fans across the county would huddle around their local newspaper buildings to “watch” the World Series games, play-by-play information coming in over the telegraph wires and be displayed to the waiting crowds on a specialized electronic scoreboard.

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The Curious Case of Diedrich Knickerbocker

In late 1809 a mystery enraptured New York.  A curious old man disappeared from his hotel room, where he had been staying for over a year.  His disappearance was covered in the newspapers, with updates coming by letters from several individuals who claimed to have known or seen the elderly gentleman.  It was revealed that, in his stead, the old man had left behind a most wonderful history manuscript.  The book, published by the innkeeper to recoup his losses, would not only elevate the literary career of a young writer but also help to give a growing New York City an identity it embraces to this day.

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The Story of Rufus Willis Lampman

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My sister came by the house the other day and passed along a sword, a family heirloom, to me.   The scabbard is steel, the grip leather wrapped with wire, and the blade decorated with acid etchings.  Both sword and scabbard are covered with a warm patina.  The sword, as the family legend goes, belonged to an ancestor who fought in the Civil War.  I was intrigued, and decided to dig deeper, to learn what I could about my family’s history and, if possible, how this sword fit into it. Continue reading “The Story of Rufus Willis Lampman”

Where is the Center of New York City? – ‘City Full of History’ Episode 10

Last time on “City Full of History”, we climbed the last Shot Tower in Manhattan!  Come along now as we go from Queens to Brooklyn looking for the geographical center of New York City!

Embedded in the sidewalk at the intersection of Queens Boulevard and 58th Street in Woodside lies a curious marker denoting that spot as the geographical center of New York City.  There’s only one small problem with this: it isn’t actually the geographical center of New York City.

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Youle’s Shot Tower – ‘City Full of History’ Episode 9

Last time on “City Full of History”, we paid a visit to Frederick Catherwood’s Panorama!  Come along now as we climb George Youle’s Shot Tower and dive into the unique process for manufacturing lead shot in Old New York!

If you head to the block between 53rd and 54th Streets overlooking the East River, you’ll find a charming little sliver of a park.  Behind it stands two high-rise apartment complexes, but if you were here in 1823 you would be looking at one of the most interesting manufacturing centers in New York City: the shot tower belonging to George Youle.

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Catherwood’s Panorama – ‘City Full of History’ Episode 8

Last time on “City Full of History”, we traveled to Inwood Hill Park to visit the Native American caves.  Come along this week as we pay a visit to Frederick Catherwood’s Panorama, one of the most popular entertainment spots in early New York City!

By the time Frederick Catherwood arrived in New York City in 1836 he was already well-traveled beyond his 37 years of age.  Born in London in 1799 he served as an architect’s apprentice for 6 years, took art classes at the Royal Academy, and spent 13 years studying and drawing ancient ruins around the Mediterranean.  Returning to London he worked for Robert Buford at his panorama in Leicester Square, where he learned the business of popular entertainment.  Buford painted several panoramas based on Catherwood’s drawings, while Catherwood gave lectures on his travels to an interested public.

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Inwood Native American Caves – ‘City Full of History’ Episode 7

Last time on “City Full of History”, we flew with the ‘Bremen’, the first airplane to cross the Atlantic Ocean non-stop from East to West!  Come along this week as we visit Inwood Hill Park and dig in to the history behind New York City’s Native American Caves!

Inwood Hill Park is a unique place on the island of Manhattan.  While Central Park, Manhattan’s other sprawling woodland area, was designed and built from the ground up, the area that would become Inwood Hill Park was largely undeveloped.  By the end of the nineteenth century only a few small farms and the occasional mansion called the northern tip of Manhattan home.  Because it went mostly untouched the Washington Heights and Inwood areas were ideal for archaeological digging and in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s a dedicated group of amateur archaeologists answered the call.

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