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.