The Importance of Partisanship in New York City, ca. 1769–1775

Alexander McDougallOn April 25, 1775, hundreds of New Yorkers acknowledged receiving “a Good firelock, Bayonet, Cartouch Box, and Belt.” Six days after the Battles of Lexington and Concord, and three days after Israel (Isaac) Bissell told New Yorkers the news, Alexander McDougall mobilized support against the British. The War of American Independence had reached New York and, with hundreds of supporters, McDougall was ready to fight.[1] By April 1775, McDougall was a revered figure across colonial America, widely known as “the Wilkes of New York.” He was an individual who, like John Wilkes, was perceived as willing to fight for the liberties of the press, the people’s welfare, and against arbitrary rule.[2] McDougall’s popularity, by 1775, had been five years in the making. But, in 2015, historians are yet to fully appreciate the role he played in the coming of the Revolution. In this post, I want to reemphasize his influence in affecting New Yorkers’ allegiances. Continue reading

Ballin’ Ben Franklin, Father Knickerbocker, and Lucky the Leprechaun: Representations of Early American History in NBA Team Logos

3588_philadelphia_76ers-secondary-2015Big news out of Philadelphia earlier this week, as the city’s NBA team, the 76ers, introduced an “updated brand identity.”[1] For now, the team has released the new logo set, though updated uniforms are also reportedly in the works. That new logo set  amounts mostly to slight revisions of existing logos, but also includes a secondary logo featuring a bespectacled Benjamin Franklin donning a blue jacket emblazoned with “76,” red culottes so as to expose knee high and team colored-striped socks, and blue sneakers. Suffice it to say that my excitement about my prospective move to Philadelphia this fall just increased ten-fold. Continue reading

Review: Kyle T. Bulthuis, Four Steeples over the City Streets

Kyle T. Bulthuis, Four Steeples over the City Streets: Religion and Society in New York’s Early Republic Congregations. New York: New York University Press, 2014.

foursteeplesIn many respects, Four Steeples over the City Streets is a story about different ways of being Anglican in New York City. It’s also a story about how external social changes influenced and threatened a vision of social order without destroying it. And it’s a story about how different kinds of New Yorkers in the early republic–black and white and male and female–experienced their community in religious terms. Continue reading

The Story of “Evacuation Day”

A century after the end of the War for Independence, New Yorkers continued to celebrate a holiday known as “Evacuation Day,” commemorating the leaving of the last British troops from New York City on November 25, 1783. It marked the end of a seven-year occupation by the British army who used the city as the headquarters for its North American operations during the war. But it also marked the beginning of a holiday that would be enthusiastically celebrated by New Yorkers for a century to come. On this anniversary, I offer the following narrative account of a day that played a large role in the city’s historical memory of the Revolution for more than a century, but was eventually displaced when it became incompatible with contemporary circumstances. Continue reading

Guest Post: Seneca Village Memory: The Problem of Forgetting

Today’s guest post comes from Alexander Manevitz (@historicities), a Ph.D. candidate in History at New York University.

Detail from Egbert Viele’s 1856 topographical survey of the area to become Central Park, which shows some of the buildings and gardens of Seneca Village just before its destruction. When I started my doctoral program, “memory studies” struck me as more of a trend than a field. Something everyone talked about doing but couldn’t really define. After all, isn’t all history sort of a study of memories and how they’re made and used? Well, as with all things trendy, I was late to the party.[1] My first year of graduate school, I read Michele-Rolph Trouillot’s Silencing the Past and David Blight’s Race and Reunion within a few weeks of one another, and I realized how wrong I’d been, and my interest has only grown from there.[2] I have since turned to questions of memory and amnesia in my own scholarship.

My work focuses on Seneca Village, a once-vibrant community in upper Manhattan where community activism and urban development collided when the city evicted the residents to clear land for Central Park in 1857. Despite its significant role in the development of African-American social activism in the early republic and its place in relation to one of the young nation’s largest urban development projects, Seneca Village has been almost entirely forgotten in popular and scholarly memory.[3]

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Looking for “a World of Love”: Jonathan Edwards in the Big City

nyc1728Jonathan Edwards is so strongly identified with Connecticut and Massachusetts that it’s easy to overlook where his pastoral ministry began: near the waterfront of New York City. In 1722, Edwards took a temporary position as the minister to a small Presbyterian congregation in Manhattan. He was about nineteen years old.

Edwards’s months in New York shaped him in at least two ways. First, according to his own account, Edwards developed a stronger desire for personal holiness. In New York, he wished increasingly to be “in everything a complete Christian.” Second, he grew in missionary zeal. Holding long religious conversations with his host family (who were immigrants from England) and observing life in the Atlantic port, he came to a more global awareness of the faith. He put it this way:

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Guest Post: The Problem of Loyalism before the American Revolution

Today’s guest poster is Christopher Minty, a PhD candidate at the University of Stirling. His dissertation focuses on Loyalists in New York. 

Patriots and Loyalists

Over the past four years, I’ve been fortunate enough to work on a group of colonists who would go on to become Loyalists in the American Revolution. My dissertation examines 9,341 future Loyalists during the imperial crisis, 1763–1775, in New York and, essentially, tries to follow their collective paths to either voluntarily signing their name to a declaration, petition and/or subscription list affirming their continued allegiance to the prevailing political order or taking the oath of allegiance. Continue reading