York City's vast history: we've had the long of it-the massive 1999
Pulitzer Prize-winning Gotham by CUNY historians Edward Burrows
and Mike Wallace--and now comes the short of it, co-authored by
John Jay College professor of English and Melville scholar Jane
cover of A Short and Remarkable History features a detail
from Thomas Benecke's lithograph of Barnum's Museum on Broadway
at Ann Street. P. T. Barnum, who revolutionized the economics
of mass entertainment, is seen at lower right with one of
his prize offerings, the Swedish Nightingale Jenny Lind.
the soul of A Short and Remarkable History of New York City, which
has just appeared from Fordham University Press. The volume has
been organized by Mushabac and local writer Angela Wigan as a single-file
march of short entries through a year-by-year time line extending
from 1524 ("The great sails of Giovanni da Verrazano's caravel Dauphine
appear in New York Bay.") to 1998 ("The vast and ornate main reading
room at the 42nd Street branch of the New York Public Library opens
after a $15 million renovation.").
This long march is enlivened by numerous quotations from writers
on the city and unexpected observations that are interspersed along
the way. Short and Remarkable also contains nearly 200 illustrations,
largely from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York.
Serendipity reigns between the opening pages on the Lenape nation
that resided here for 1,500 years (they called the area Lenapehoking)
and a 1998 entry on the closing of the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten
Island. You will learn when the first postal service was established
(1673, New York-to-Boston), when a Brooklyn baseball player threw
the first curve ball (1867), when the world's first typing class
was held (1877), and when a Brooklyn couple invented the teddy bear
(1902)--also whose presidential permission was granted for it. And
of course you will learn when and how our fair city got the Gotham
Following are several entries that highlight the educational history
of New York City:
- 1638 The
Dutch Reformed Church schoolmaster Adam Roelantsen opens a school
for girls and boys, the forerunner of the Collegiate School, New
York's oldest school. Tuition: two beaver pelts a year.
- 1806 The
Free School Society (later called the Public School Society) begins
educating the children of immigrants and the poor.
- 1831 New
York University is founded as an alternative to upper-crust, Episcopal
- 1840 Irish
immigrant Bishop John Hughes asks the City to help the struggling
Catholic schools, since the free schools are anti-Catholic. The
City says no, and soon establishes the Board of Education. Hughes
sets up the parochial school system; he also founds St. John's
College, which will become Fordham University.
- 1847 A free
academy is called for by City-wide referendum. It eventually becomes
City College of New York. Naysayers ask why on earth the City
would need so many college graduates.
- 1870 Eugenio
Marķa de Hostos-Puerto Rican educator, writer, and reformer-moves
to New York to continue fighting for the liberation of Puerto
Rico from Spain. In 1968 a branch of the City University of New
York in the Bronx is named after him.
- 1940s Mamie
Phipps Clark and Kenneth Clark, both Columbia PhDs, research children's
self-image, using white and black dolls. Their findings will play
an important role in the breakthrough 1954 U.S. Supreme Court
decision, Brown v. Board of Education.
- 1976 The
City charges tuition at CUNY for the first time since it was founded
- 1996 The
Board of Education is one of the nation's largest consumers of
anthracite coal and uses it to heat more than 250 of the City's
schools, even though coal furnaces have long been banned in most