By now everyone knows that Eliza Hamilton, the wife of Alexander Hamilton, burned her husband's love letters before she died—and November 9th will be the 162nd anniversary of her death on that day in 1854 at the age of 97. But if you're an astute historian, you might notice that Alexander Hamilton was killed in that famous duel way back in 1804. Eliza carried on being fabulous for another 50 years after the death of "my Hamilton." And not all the letters between Eliza and Alexander were burned, either.
Eliza was born Elizabeth Schuyler in 1757, the daughter of an important landowner and Revolutionary War general. During her girlhood in upstate New York, she and her sisters lived in a world that might be best described as a cross between every Jane Austen novel that you've ever read and James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans. The Schuyler girls fussed over finery and danced the minuet at balls with dashing young officers, first in British red coats and later in the "buff and blue" of the American troops, late into the night. But instead of fancy needlework, they strung wampum for trade with the local American Indians, and, after a certain party in Boston, taking tea was not in fashion.
One of those young officers was Alexander Hamilton, who came riding in on horseback one day to deliver a message to her father. When they met again the next time, at an officer's ball during the American Revolution, they were smitten and, soon, married. While they lived at times in upstate New York, in Philadelphia, and in army camps, their most important family home was a mansion in Harlem, known as The Grange, where they raised a passel children—some of them their own and at least one foster child, a little girl named Fanny, the orphan of a Revolutionary War hero. They also planned together an astonishingly ambitious garden that was years in the making.
That marriage lasted from 1780 until Alexander Hamilton's death in 1804, and, of course, there were some bumps along the way involving a unfortunate period of indiscretion with a certain Maria Reynolds. But Alexander's rise to fame and glory was a wild ride that profoundly shaped the young American democracy, and Eliza was deeply proud of her husband.
The current exhibition at The New York Public Library, Alexander Hamilton: Striver, Statesman, Scoundrel(on view until December 31 in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building) tells that story of Alexander Hamilton's rise and his genius, as well his peccadillos and his duel with Aaron Burr, and puts on display as well more than two dozen rare items from the collection that offer an intimate peek into the lives of the Hamilton family. One of those items is an 1803 letter from Alexander to Eliza—sent with "tenderest affection"—talking about their planned apple orchard and his dreams for the gardens.
After Alexander's death the next year, Eliza was left impoverished, and her youngest child was only two-years old. But she was ultimately able to save The Grange (open to the public today as a New York State museum, 414 W. 141st Street) from a public auction and remained the steward of the Hamilton family home.
Although Eliza's story often ends there in the telling of the Hamilton history, Eliza didn't just spend those next 50 years tending flowers in Harlem. A single mother who by her 40s had delivered eight children, a foster mother to one little girl, and the wife of a man who had been orphaned himself in childhood, Eliza was passionate about the lives of children. In 1806, along with several other social activists in New York City, Eliza was one of the founders of the first private orphanage in the city, the New York Orphan Asylum Society. She was there in 1807 when the orphanage laid its first cornerstone, and she was indefatigable in her efforts to raise money and support the society, becoming its director in 1821. She remained involved until her 90s. That organization she helped to found—Eliza's "living legacy"—exists today as Graham Windham, thanks to Eliza and her fellow activists the oldest non-profit and non-sectarian child welfare agency in America.
Learn more about the legacy of Eliza Hamilton at Eliza's Story, and follow along with the celebration of her life on #ElizasStory and #ElizaHamilton.
Wow! Now that all the dust has cleared on an exhilarating 2016 Major League Baseball postseason, one team remains standing, and that team is the Chicago Cubs. I'm sure it was never drawn up to be "108 years in the making", but the team and the city are certainly smiling today, and for good reason. Congratulations to the World Champion Cubs, and to their incredibly loyal, patient, and dedicated fanbase! To celebrate the North Side Nine's first championship win in over a century, why not check out a book on them? Take a look at some of our offerings.
Stories From The Field
Game of My Life, Chicago Cubs: Memorable Stories of Cubs Baseball by Lew Freedman: Veteran sportswriter Lew Freedman (formerly of the Chicago Tribune) brings us this book of anecdotes, as Cubs legends from yesteryear come forward to entertain us with insider tales. Laugh and be merry as Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, and Kerry Wood amongst others bring us entertaining stories from the field, the dugout, and the clubhouse, right to you through this charming book.
Cubs Nation: 162 Games, 162 Stories, 1 Addiction by Gene Wojciechowski: A similar book to Game of My Life. There are more stories from former players (this time, one story for every day of the regular season totaling 162) and it's another fun read. Lots of history, and lots of interesting photographs for those looking to study up on their Chicago Cub history.
In his farewell address, George Washington famously cautioned Americans against both “the baneful effects of the spirit of party,” or partisanship, and the “insidious wiles of foreign influence,” which Washington decried as “the most baneful foes of republican government.” Washington was not trying to predict future problems. Beginning even before Washington’s presidency, the intertwining of global trade and diplomacy shaped domestic politics and partisanship in the United States in ways that many Americans found alarming. Washington could do little to halt this tendency.
Before Alexander Hamilton served as the first Secretary of the Treasury, before even there was a Treasury department or a Constitution for that matter, the United States Congress created a Board of Treasury to manage the nation’s finances. In a 1786 report to the state legislatures, the Board sounded the alarm about the United States’ financial situation. The nation had racked up debts to European creditors in order to pay for the Revolutionary War, but did not have the revenue to pay it off. Under the Articles of Confederation, Congress could only request funds from the states, which retained the power to tax. The Board of Treasury believed it was their “duty ... to awaken it to a sense of its danger and to urge the adoption of such measures as may avert the calamities with which it is threatened.” Despite the looming threat of angry European creditors, the states proved unable to agree on reforms to the national financial system.
But the United States Constitution, drafted a year later, aimed in part to address just these sorts of concerns about the United States’ financial relationship with Europe. For one thing, it gave Congress the power to lay and collect taxes, a significant transfer of authority from the states to the national government. If we are to believe certain merchants, by strengthening the central government in this way, the Constitution also might have altered the future of American involvement in global trade, and the United States’ relationships with European nations. People like the New York merchant Lewis Ogden both followed the debate over ratification and kept their European trading partners apprised of the situation. Writing to business associates in London, Ogden opined that the new governing charter “will be particularly favourable to the commerce of this country.”
A few months later, shortly after Virginia became the tenth state to ratify the constitution in July 1788, Ogden informed his colleagues that it was “now certain the new American government will take place.” This left him optimistic that “the Commerce of this country with yours on a Basis mutually advantageous.” American entanglements abroad influenced both the framing and the ratification of the Constitution.
Foreign commerce continued to shape American domestic politics. In 1795, the United States and Great Britain signed a commercial treaty known as the Jay Treaty (named for John Jay, the American negotiator). Negotiated and adopted in the midst of the French Revolutionary Wars, the Treaty was a flashpoint in the United States’ increasingly vitriolic partisan politics, which pitted pro-British Federalists against Jeffersonian Republicans, sympathetic to France’s revolutionary struggle. Writing from Liverpool, the American merchant and Consul (in this period, consuls were not professional bureaucrats), James Maury noted that “I see this unfortunate treaty still hard of digestion” back home. In fact, he shared many Americans’ disdain for the treaty; he “severely regret[ted] its ever having been.” Maury, nevertheless, “humbly conceive[d] it should take effect.” The world simply looked different from his perch in England than in his home state of Virginia, where opposition ran rampant.
Foreign affairs affected local elections as well. Elbridge Gerry—the namesake of gerrymandering—had served on an ill-fated diplomatic mission to France in 1797. When it became clear that France had no intention of negotiating, Gerry’s co-envoys left, but he stayed behind. This haunted Gerry during his failed run for the Massachusetts governorship in 1800. One friend informed Gerry that his opponents “say that you are too much attached to the French.” He sensed something more nefarious afoot. “Party spirit is too persistent,” Gerry’s friend proclaimed. He went so far as to suggest that “british emissaries are establishing the vile principles of dividing for the sake of conquering.” Hyperbolic as this rhetoric appears, that it seemed possible that British officials might attempt to influence a Massachusetts gubernatorial election, meant that Washington’s fears were close to being realized.
Washington not only thought partisanship and foreign influence were “baneful,” but that the two were interconnected and mutually reinforcing. Partisanship, he wrote, “opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions.” Twenty years after the heady summer of 1776, independence seemed, somehow, still precarious. Perhaps because Washington raised concerns about these “baneful” tendencies, fears about how foreign intrigues might influence domestic politics outlive him. Indeed, this remains a stubbornly potent rhetorical trope in American political culture.
About the Early American Manuscripts Project
With support from the The Polonsky Foundation, The New York Public Library is currently digitizing upwards of 50,000 pages of historic early American manuscript material. The Early American Manuscripts Project will allow students, researchers, and the general public to revisit major political events of the era from new perspectives and to explore currents of everyday social, cultural, and economic life in the colonial, revolutionary, and early national periods. The project will present online for the first time high quality facsimiles of key documents from America’s Founding, including the papers of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. Drawing on the full breadth of the Library’s manuscript collections, it will also make widely available less well-known manuscript sources, including business papers of Atlantic merchants, diaries of people ranging from elite New York women to Christian Indian preachers, and organizational records of voluntary associations and philanthropic organizations. Over the next two years, this trove of manuscript sources, previously available only at the Library, will be made freely available through nypl.org.
October’s Open Book Night took place on one of the most bone-chilling days we have had this year. As the darkness descended and the leaves swirled along the sidewalk, we sat in a circle with our books in our hands, too nervous to disturb the silence in the dimly lit Corner Room.
Our conversation started slowly but surely, as we gave nods to classic horror writers, acknowledged modern horror tales, and debated the merits behind the horror film genre. We also peeled back the layers beyond short stories, and discussed the correlation (but not causation!) between the authors and their horrifying tales.
Melissa recalled reading this pulp paperback as a child and vividly recounted a scene where a young boy dreamt he was on the beach during a storm and saw dancers burying two people in the sand. When she picked up the book the second time around to search for the scene, she found it in the prologue. This powerfully disturbing scene is only the start of the strange tales of Clark’s Harbor—the eerie coastal village and its population of overprotective townspeople. When outsiders start to settle in the little town, bodies begin to pop up, but never those of the locals.
Susen finally got around to reading Joe Hill’s latest book after renewing the title six times. She thought the novel was gorgeously written, menacingly dark, and intensely realistic—for a tale about an apocalyptic plague and the survivors who attempt to recreate some semblance of their former life. Not for the faint hearted, Hill’s novel takes the reader to some perilously dark places. Best read away from fire and by the phone.
Alice found Jackson’s short story to be a mix of horror and psychology, related to “group think.” She also thought the tale of a long-running tradition with insidious results highlights the perils of community and cruelty. We held a discussion on Jackson's life and wondered how her difficult upbringing and wayward husband infuenced her writing.
Liz read this in one sitting spanning two hours. She found the story of a teenage girl with psychic abilities who uses her powers for revenge gory, horrifying, and mesmerizing.She enjoys stories with a strong female protagonist, much like Ginger in Gingersnaps and Sarah in The Craft.
Authors known for their thrilling tales, both classic and modern, were also discussed and it was a general consensus that the classic tales are scarier than modern ones.
As all good chats about things that go bump in the night goes, we would be remiss to not discuss some foreign horror movies that have terrified and shocked us. The Japanese horror genre was noted for their use of psychological terror to heighten the horror factor of their movies, such as in the 1998 film The Ring and the 1999 film The Audition. Check out the 20 Best Horror Movie Roles by Nicholas Parker for more thrills and chills.
Thanks to all those who joined us for October's Open Book Night. Check out these other reading lists for books recommended at past Open Book Night Sessions. November’s Open Book Night will focus on Food & Celebration. Do you have a favorite book featuring food, family, and friends? Have you read about a real or fictional celebration you’d love to take part in? Because of the Veterans Day holiday on November 11, we’re meeting on the third Friday of the month at Mid-Manhattan Library. Join us for a delicious and joyous talk!
Donnaley Gonez, the Schomburg Center's Public Programs Pre-Professional, writes about the importance of the African immigrant narrative explored in Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue, whose novel was the subject of our October 2016 "Between the Lines" program:
Imbolo Mbue’s critically acclaimed book, Behold the Dreamers, illuminates the conflicts many immigrants face, and the perceptions they have about the American Dream. In telling the story of a Cameroonian couple and their struggle to assimilate to an American lifestyle, the narrative offers an integral voice for African immigrants. Mbue offers a realistic look at immigrants who desperately want to escape the realities of poverty and provide a new life for their families in America.
Mbue, who recently took to the Schomburg Center stage for our “Between the Lines” conversation with veteran journalist Lola Ogunnaike, revealed she was inspired to write this story from her own personal experience. She admitted that she never really knew much about America, and assumed all Americans were rich like the characters she saw on TheFresh Prince of Bel-Air and The Cosby Show. It wasn’t until she was laid off from work during the 2007 U.S. recession when she realized that America was far from what she’d seen on television. She found herself questioning what life in America truly was.
Behold the Dreamers explores the relationship between the two main protagonists, Jendi and Neni, who are struggling to achieve the American Dream with great sacrifices. As Jendi awaits the approval of his immigration papers, beginning to question his life in America, he lands a job with Lehman Brothers. But when the company goes bankrupt, the relationship between Jendi and his wife, Neni, is strained as a result of financial difficulties. Still, Mbue illuminates the resilience of her characters, who are willing to endure the grueling barriers of modern day America, even if it means conforming to a whole new culture and identity.
With Behold the Dreamers, Mbue connects the story of the African immigrants with the struggles many of us face as we seek the American Dream. We can all find ourselves in the same positions as the protagonists in Mbue’s story. But it is how we overcome these hurdles that define us.
Behold the Dreamers may not be the definitive story for every immigrant, but it offers a voice for those who often are trivialized in modern day America. Seeing the embodiment of resilience in each of these characters, who also faced obstacles in love, makes me happy because for once I saw my story acknowledged. Behold the Dreamers is just not a dream for immigrants but for everyone.
To revisit highlights from the Schomburg Center's “Between the Lines: Imbolo Mbue and Lola Ogunnaike” program, click here.
It’s a classic plot device: What do people do when they’re stranded? What happens to society when our connections dissolve and individuals have to function on their own?
What does it mean to be marooned?
With Robert Louis Stevenson’s birthday approaching, our NYPL book experts are thinking about Treasure Island—one of the original desert island stories.
So we asked: What’s a book in which characters find themselves marooned, literally or metaphorically?
Aomame has somehow left 1984 and entered the parallel universe of 1Q84 in Haruki Murakami’s epic novel, 1Q84. Her existence in and journey to return from this other world interweaves with a mysterious series of events involving a religious cult, strange creatures called Little People, and a cast of characters whose lives intersect in curious ways. It’s a book of love, mystery, magic, and a tale so twisted it will keep you turning all 1000+ pages. —Rabecca McDonald, Kingsbridge
In Sword of the Bright Lady by M.C. Planck, Arizonan Christopher Sinclair is out for a walk. From one step to the next, he leaves the Arizona clime and falls into a winter storm in a land where magic is real and he is drafted by the gods as a priest of war. He seeks to return from his unwilling exile to his wife back in Arizona while learning the brutal rules of this strange new land. —Joshua Soule, Spuyten Duyvil
Galápagos by Kurt Vonnegut has the last fertile people on Earth shipwrecked on Santa Rosalia in the Galapagos Islands. They successfully repopulate but then the species begins to evolve into semi-water creatures. Kilgore Trout makes an appearance, there’s a computer that can translate, diagnose, and give wonderful literary quotes for any occasion, and Vonnegut delivers some classic satire. —Laura Stein, Grand Central
Set in and around the Niagara region, Emily St John Mandel’s Station Eleven maroons our characters in a dystopic post-civilization following a catastrophic series of events. With multiple narrators, shifting timelines, and a healthy range of unexpected plot elements—such as a traveling Shakespearean troupe and A Canticle for Leibowitz-esque comic book—this novel asks, ‘what would we do if marooned and abandoned? Would we forsake art and beauty?’ For me, this novel lingered long after I had finished it. —Amie Wright, MyLibraryNYC
Margaret Atwood Novels
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood centers on one of the last survivors of humanity: a character who calls himself “Snowman.” Set on an idyllic island populated by unfamiliar creatures, this post-apocalyptic world was devastated not by storm or flood but by an array of scientific advancements gone wrong. First in a trilogy, and probably my favorite Atwood work. —Alessandra Affinito, Chatham Square
I’m reading Margaret Atwood’s newest book, Hag-Seed, which is a retelling of The Tempest set in a prison. A literal marooning set in a metaphoric one! —Lauren Bradley, 53rd Street
I, too, thought of a Margaret Atwood novel. In The Heart Goes Last, a down-on-their-luck couple resigns themselves to a prison sentence as part of the Positron Project in the town of Consilience. It ends up being quite different than what they had envisioned. —Jenny Baum, Jefferson Market
Philip K. Dick Novels
In Ubik, an anti-telepath named Joe Chip is double-crossed by his employer and trapped on a Moon base that’s set to explode. When the Moon base blows up, he is somehow blasted into an alternate reality. Now, he has to hunt down a mysterious material called “Ubik” that he hopes will return him to his home reality. —Benjamin Sapadin, Morris Park
Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said is the story of a world-famous performer, living in a dystopian future, who wakes up one day and discovers that everyone has completely forgotten who he is... and in this world, non-existence is a serious crime! The revelation at the end kind of blew my mind; it definitely won’t be what you expect. —Isaiah Pittman, Inwood
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray is perhaps one of the funniest books I have ever read. Teen beauty queens struggle to survive (and hopefully still compete) after the plane carrying them to the pageant crash lands and they end up on a (seemingly) deserted island. Mayhem, madness and mascara ensue. —Dawn Zimmerer Collins,West Farms
Matt de la Peña’s YA duology, The Living and The Hunted, is about what happens when multiple tsunamis strike a luxury cruise ship and so much more. It has assassinations, epidemiological tragedy (rooted in corporate greed, of course), euthanasia, helicopter chases, love triangles, and shark attacks. —Jennifer Brinley, Parkchester
In The Lord of the Flies by William Golding, a group of young British choirboys find themselves alone on an island. The beauty of the tropical paradise isn’t quite what it seems and their civilised public school social skills are not what is required for survival. A chilling and macabre tale. —Virginia Bartow, Rare Materials
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell. A teenage girl and her brother must struggle to survive on an island after being separated from the rest of their tribe. —Althea Georges, Mosholu
No one has yet mentioned any of the classics in the "Robinsonade" genre—so called after the granddaddy of them all, Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. One I remember fondly from a family reading when I was a child is The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss: A father, a mother and their four sons are stranded on a desert island with only the supplies and provisions they can carry from the wreck of the ship that brought them there. They survive, indeed flourish, by drawing on their own ingenuity and the island’s exotic natural resources. First published in 1812 and abounding in the didacticism of children’s literature of the day, the tale contains enough of the sheer excitement of facing and overcoming the unknown to retain its appeal. It has appeared in a myriad of adaptations, including the television series Lost in Space. —Kathie Coblentz, Rare Materials
The Black Stallion by Walter Farley. A ship goes down at sea, the only survivors are a young boy and a magnificent, untamed, black stallion. Marooned together on an island they form an unbreakable bond and when they eventually make it off the island they hit the racing world, taking it by storm. A perfect story in every way. —Susan Aufrichtig, Terence Cardinal Cooke-Cathedral
Comics & Graphic Novels
Btooom! by Junya Inoue- Btooom is a popular fictional video game where players use various types explosives to execute one another. It’s Ryouta Sakamoto’s favorite online game; however when he and other people around Japan are mysteriously transported to an island resembling the game, where they must kill one another in order to survive, it may not be as enjoyable as he first believed! —Joe Pascullo, Grand Central
I’ll recommend the comic book series Y: The Last Man, in which all mammals with a Y chromosome have mysteriously died — except our protagonist, Yorick, and his monkey. The series ran from 2003 to 2008, and will supposedly become a TV show at some point in the nearish future. —Kay Menick, Schomburg Center
In I Hate Fairyland, Vol. 1: Madly Ever After by Skottie Young, Gert has been stuck in Fairyland for over 30 years while her body has remained that of a child. Follow Gert and her axeas she carves a dark and sometimes humorous swath of blood and violence trying to escape back to the real world. —Brian Baer, Mulberry Street
It is rare to find a character more metaphorically marooned than the narrator in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. The narrator lives surrounded by people in one of the world’s most populated cities, yet moves through life completely undetected. His racial identity along with the “color-blindness” that permeates the society in which he lives force him into a nearly solitary world where he exists almost entirely alone. —Katrina Ortega, Hamilton Grange
In Evelyn Waugh’s brutally funny 1934 novel A Handful of Dust, Tony Last sets off on an exotic journey following great personal tragedy and disillusionment only to find himself trapped in the Amazon jungle reading Dickens to a madman. —Elizabeth Waters, Mid-Manhattan
In The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy, Ivan Ilyich is physically and metaphorically marooned on his death bed. As Ivan comes to terms with the reality of his mortality, those around him seek to flee from the truth: “We shall all die alone.” —Susan Aufrichtig, Terence Cardinal Cooke-Cathedral
Although he is surrounded by people in St. Petersburg, the narrator of Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground has spiritually stranded himself on an island of bitterness, contempt, and loathing—both for himself and others. If a message in a bottle is a desperate call for rescue and reintegration, these tortured notes are just the opposite. —Gregory Barry, Parkchester
Written in America during second world war in exile from Germany, Theodore Adorno’s Minima Moralia : Reflections on a Damaged Life is a collection of thoughts by a man marooned from culture—his own German roots as a German-Jewish intellectual as well as the circus of contradictions that he found in capitalist American culture, a world where “the good life” is no longer possible. Bleak, sour, meandering, yet incredibly insightful. —Andrew Fairweather, Seward Park
Another classic, predating even Defoe, is Shakespeare’s The Tempest, featuring a father and his infant daughter, abandoned on an exotic isle by malicious kinfolk. He is a sorcerer and the rightful heir to a dukedom; she is destined to become the bride of his worst enemy’s son, when his foes are shipwrecked there years later by his magic spells. In supporting roles are two creatures of the island, the half-human Caliban, savage and deformed, and the ebullient sprite Ariel. Also much adapted, notably as the science fiction classic Forbidden Planet. —Kathie Coblentz, Rare Materials
Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch is one of the most intense and heartbreaking survival stories that I have read. This haunting, visceral tale leaves you with the lesson that though the sea is a brutal mistress, it is really your own actions that you have to survive. —Carmen Nigro, Rare Materials
Set 2,000 years ago, Quarantine by Jim Crace finds a wife and her ailing husband left behind in a desert by the caravan they were traveling with. Yet they are not totally alone, in nearby caves are a small assortment of others who for their own individual reasons are spending time alone in the desert, including a young man who is out to face his torments and temptations to find his true calling—Jesus. It is an imaginative and simple read that makes for good discussion afterward. —Christopher Platt, Library Services
My favorite book features a band of spinsters marooned in a surreal old folks home. The Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carrington is a Surrealist adventure told through the voice of Marian Leatherby, a quick-tongued 92-year-old woman who receives a “Hearing Trumpet” before her family consigns her to an old folks home/institution. Marian and her friends, a crew of fierce old women, strike out from the institution as the apocalypse seems to unfold. A dreamlike black comedy, perfect for fans of fairy tales and the surreal. —Eric Parker, Mid-Manhattan
Adam is an American poetry fellow in Madrid, marooned by his perceived inability to think and write poems in Spanish. Ennui, displacement and espresso are the fuel for his pretend writing project in Leaving the Atocha Stationby Ben Lerner. —Charlie Radin, Inwood
Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you’d recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations!
The New York City Labor Market Information Service, Center for Urban Research (CUNY) in October 2016 released its latest Career Map: Bookkeeping and Accounting, with support from Kingsborough Community College. Information is as follows:
More than 100,000 people in New York City work in the bookkeeping and accounting field, and these jobs are growing faster than the average for all jobs in the city. The career map is based on the typical experience of actual people. The information comes from real online work histories of people who started off as accounting clerks and bookkeepers in the New York City metropolitan area.
There are two clear paths. Most people remain accounting clerks and bookkeepers or become supervisors. Over time and with greater experience, they earn more in these positions. Some eventually become office managers or business managers.
On the second path, about a quarter of those who were accounting clerks and bookkeepers complete their bachelor's degrees and become professional accountants or financial managers. The earnings for this second group are significantly higher. They may move into different branches of accounting. They may go into a specialty area related to accounting.
The most common jobs include:
Accounting clerks carry out various tasks. Their job titles often describe the work they do, such as:
Accounts Payable Clerks make sure their companies pay their bills. These jobs are mostly entry-level and involve posting details of transactions, adding up accounts, determining interest charges, and processing payments.
Payroll Clerks make sure employees get paid. They enter data, like employees' hours worked, and they evaluate timesheets for correctness.
Account Receivable Clerks make sure their companies get paid. This job involves a higer degree of responsibility and trust, since a company must get paid in order to stay in business. With more experience and education, accounting clerks can advance into supervisory, and eventually. managerial roles. Accounting clerks typically work for larger companies, like banks or health care systems. They may also work for payroll companies or accounting firms. Employers prefer candidates with prior experience, but a certificate in accounting or bookkeeping helps.
Bookkeepers have a broader set of skills. They are often responsible for some or all of an organization's accounts, known as the general ledger. They record all transactions and post revenues and expenses. Bookkeepers prepare bank deposits by compiling data from cashiers, verifying receipts, and sending cash, checks, or other forms of payment to the bank. They handle payroll, make purchases, prepare invoices, and keep track of overdue accounts. They prepare financial records for accountants to review. They may work part-time for one or several small businesses. For this type of job, it helps to have some college-level courses in accounting.
Accountants organize, maintain, and examine a company's financial records. Private (or corporate) accountants work directly for a company. They provide a range of accounting, auditing, tax, and consulting services. They oversee the work of accounting clerks. They make sure taxes are paid properly and on time. They work with bookkeeprs employed by their clients. Some accountants work as auditors. They make sure financial records are accurate and comply with laws and accounting principles. A bachelor's degree in accounting is required to work for an individual company or a public accounting firm. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license is often preferred.
On October 17, 1993, John Baxter Black wrote his 21,110th diary entry, where he noted:
"[T]he head of the New York Public Library's "Humanities Collection" is very interested in getting my diaries after my death…. Am very happy about this. It will mean a real berth for them with someone professional and important who cares about them and will not be shocked. Which is what, I think, they deserve."
Black was the son of a wealthy Ohio family; a writer (published once);
a soldier for the duration; a student of English history, family history, and genealogy; a sometimes-teacher; a man of leisure who moved in New York and London's literary circles; and a born diarist. He wrote a diary entry for every day of his life from January 1, 1936 (when he was 11) until shortly before his death at 90. Some entries were not written the day-of, due to extenuating circumstances, but he kept a record of every day he lived until October 2014.
In 2016, the diaries finally found their way to NYPL's Manuscripts and Archives Division. As one of the archivists in the library's Archives Unit, I was assigned to prepare them for researchers.
Part of my job is to write descriptions that will help researchers locate archival materials that they may find useful. Each keyword, concept, and name is a potential access point for users, whether they approach through our catalog, our archives search portal, or the wider web. It's sort of like creating an online dating profile for the collection—I want to attract interested researchers, and not to waste anyone's time with false advertising.
But collections can be hard to summarize; 78+ years of diary entries contain multitudes. The preoccupations of a 13 year-old at boarding school are different from those of a 28 year-old trying to make it as a writer in New York City and struggling with his homosexuality; and even if the John Baxter Black of 1960 is still recognizable in the John Baxter Black of 2000, the world he’s moving through and reacting to has changed a great deal.
When he first started keeping diaries, young John wrote unadorned, straightforward entries. His entry of April 3, 1936 reads, "I wrote on the typewriter and playd soldger. Some books about Englands royal came. Went to school." By July 19, 1940, he's grown a bit more editorial: "Roosevelt 'feels it is his duty to run for a 3rd term.' Stuff and nonsense."
As the diaries evolve to include more of his inner life, it's easier to see why Black would want the diaries to find a home with people who would "not be shocked." On January 2, 1943, Black casually contemplates suicide to avoid going into the army; in a morbid sort of bookend, his 2014 diary shows him, weeks before his death, considering suicide again. After moving to New York in 1950, diary entries find Black attending sessions with a Jungian psychoanalyst and weaving plans to marry various women of his acquaintance. Black describes his sex life without coyness. He criticizes his friends and acquaintances frankly and frequently throughout. In short, he writes like a man who was writing for himself, in the moment, and not for friends, family, or posterity.
The numbers of directions a diary can take you—as a researcher or just as a curious reader— are past counting. Sometimes I scanned the diaries for concrete biographical information, sometimes for Black's reaction to contemporary events, sometimes to trace the course of his relationships. Of course, when you're skimming documents, it's often the names that catch your eye. I'm only human, and I like a good celebrity sighting. I noticed that the "landscape architect, Miss Coffin of New York," was in Mansfield, Ohio on April 27, 1938; that on September 7, 1966, Black sat near "two of the Rolling Stones" at the Hungry Horse, "a supposedly queer restaurant somewhere along the Fulham Road" in London; and that on December 3, 1967, Black spent an apparently tiresome evening at Jimmy Baldwin's place.
But a name is just a drop in the ocean of 28,780 (or so) diary entries. When I'm writing a description of a sprawling collection, I sometimes ask myself, "What is this collection about?" What's the overarching theme, the major threads? But a long- and well-kept diary can easily defy synthesis.
Black's gayness or queerness will make these diaries of interest to some researchers; the Ivy League schools he attended, places he lived, or the events he witnessed may do it for others. The famous writers and artists he spent his time with in New York in the 1950s will be an attraction for certain researchers. Perhaps his and his brother's efforts to take care of his ailing and aging parents will be a data point in some monograph on how we care for the elderly in America.
There are so many variables: who Black was, where he was and when, what he was doing with whom when he was there, and—most of all— what he had to say about it. I can only make educated guesses as to what aspects of the diaries might be a draw for researchers and use Black's own writing as my guide to what he thought should be emphasized. The diaries took over 78 years to create—their second life will hopefully be longer and even more fruitful.
As a bonus, the collection contains diaries of Black's uncle, who served in France in the First World War, as well as letters and whatever other items Black happened to have wedged into his diaries.
"I have been for a visit to Mr. Schomburg's library. It is a marvelous collection when one considers that every volume on his extensive shelves is either by a Negro or about a Negro."
—Zora Neale Hurston, "Mr. Schomburg's Library", (1922) African Fundamentalism: A Literary and Cultural Anthology of Garvey's Harlem Renaissance (1991)
The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture has a long standing history of and commitment to preserving and making accessible materials related to the the Black experience throughout the African Diaspora. We are continuing this commitment with the creation of research guides on various subjects related to our collection holdings.
This guide is an overview of materials held across our five divisions here at the Schomburg Center related to publisher, entrepreneur, orator, and early Pan-African leader Marcus Mosiah Garvey (1887-1940) and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). Marcus Garvey immigrated to the United States from Jamaica in 1916, and created the Harlem branch of the UNIA, originally created in Jamaica in 1914, shortly thereafter. Garvey formed the Harlem branch of his UNIA, a benevolent fraternal organization founded on the principles of economic self sufficiency, racial pride and uplift, as well as an independent Black nation in Africa to escape the pressures and realities of racial oppression and colonial domination.
Please review the materials listed, and contact the specific divisions listed for more information regarding access to the materials.
Note: this list is not all inclusive. Please view our catalog and/or Archives Portal to find additional materials related to Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association.
During the week, it can be tough to stay on top of everything. On Fridays, though, we suggest kicking back to catch up on all the delightful literary reading the internet has to offer. Don’t have the time to hunt for good reads? Never fear. We’ve rounded up the best bookish reading of the week for you.
No need to get up! Join our librarians from the home, office, playground — wherever you have internet access — for book recs on Twitter by following our handle @NYPLrecommends from 10 AM to 11 AM every Friday. Or, you can check NYPL Recommends any day of the week for more suggestions.
Think one voice doesn't matter? Think again. Each state's popular vote determines which candidate gets its electoral votes, which determines the presidential winner. One vote can be vital in our judicial system as well. Just look at the Supreme Court's historical decisions, many of which are 5 - 4. Had any one of the supporting justices concurred with the dissenting side, life in America would have taken a different turn: Schools could have remained segregated, and/or criminal suspects might have been deprived of their Constitutional right to remain silent and to have an attorney present while being questioned by law enforcement.
Every Vote Matters, written by a judge and his criminal defense attorney daughter, explores why young people need to make their voices heard regarding issues in society and in their communities that they care deeply about. For example, creating a petition for something that they want in their schools, such as a Genders and Sexualities Alliance Network (GSA), can be successful. Teens and kids can write to or email their elected officials to let them know about issues in their communities that deserve attention. Reading books about activism and being involved in the student body will also help. We want and need civic-minded individuals in our democratic society, and our youth can perpetuate our freedom.
Preparing for the exhibition A Curious Hand: The Prints of Henri-Charles Guérardthat is currently on view on the third floor of the Library's Schwarzman Building, Madeleine Viljoen, Curator of Prints, came across an autograph drawing by Guerard in the Avery collection. She contacted me because she was interested in exhibiting the work and knew that it could not be shown in its present state.
Guerard drew this self portrait in graphite on blue paper with white gouache highlights. Color change is a common problem with lead white gouache (also known as opaque watercolor). The lead white pigment reacts with hydrogen sulfide gas, which is present in small amounts in the air, and creates a new colorant: lead sulfide, which is brown or gray in color. (When lead white is in oil paint, as opposed to gouache, this problem is much less commom because the binders in the paint and/or varnish protect it from the atmosphere.)
Conservators treat lead white darkening by applying hydrogen peroxide. The hydrogen peroxide converts the lead sulfide to lead sulfate, which is not the same pigment that was originally applied, but is also white, and is more stable1. There are many ways to apply the hydrogen peroxide, such as in liquid, gel, or vapor form. It is important to find a method that will result in the most complete color reversion with the least disruption in paint or paper surface.
After testing many methods, the one that I found to be the most successful for this drawing was to add a 7% solution of hydrogen peroxide to a gel made of agarose, a polymer extracted from seaweed. The gel was then placed on the darkened areas with a thin layer of Japanese tissue in between to make it easy to remove and limit residue. After 3 - 5 minutes, the gel was removed. The area was blotted with a second piece of Japanese tissue, and then a small blotter square and weight were placed on top to ensure that the paper did not wrinkle. If further lightening was needed in spots, 7% hydrogen peroxide was applied with a fine-point brush and allowed to sit on the area until dry. Here are photomicrographs of three areas before and after treatment.
This treatment was only done in areas that had already turned brown. There may still be some basic lead carbonate present in other places, which means that this drawing may darken in spots in the future. After exhibition, the object will be placed into a sealed package for storage to limit air exposure.
Athough small amounts of brown can still be seen in the pigment, especially under the microscope, the overall tone is white. I felt that this appearance was acceptable, rather than risking more treatment, which can result in disruption of the surface of the pigment layer.
Here is the drawing after treatment. It now has the appearance that the artist intended. it can be viewed in this state until the exhibition comes down on February 26, 2017.
1 Vincent Daniels and David Thickett, "The Reversion of Blackened Lead White on Paper," in Sheila Fairbrass, editor, the Conference Papers Manchester 1992(London: the Institute of Paper Conservation, 1992), pp. 109-113.
Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you’d recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations!
Ever since its launch in 1925, the New Yorker has been a fixture of newsstands, coffee tables, and commuter bags, offering news coverage, short fiction, and its signature cartoons to borough residents and the world that surely revolves around New York City. The New York Public Library recently acquired the New Yorker Digital Archive, a database that provides access to every issue of the New Yorker, often including new issues days before their print release. Every article, ad, and cartoon is available in its original full-color format, so you can flip through the digital pages just like you would a physical copy. And since this resource is available remotely, you can read the New Yorker from home, school, or anywhere else in the world with an internet connection and your library card.
The New Yorker has achieved some memorable moments over its 90 years of publication. Here I’ll point out some of my favorites and share how to find these and other features in the digital archive.
Probably the most famous cover of the New Yorker, other than those featuring mascot Eustace Tilley, is the View of the World from Ninth Avenue. This bird’s-eye view of the United States as a land of New York, LA, and not much else became a symbol of derision for the self-absorption of New Yorkers and East Coast elitists generally that was simultaneously embraced as a point of pride by the very people it lampooned. It’s a fitting image for a publication sometimes criticized for highbrow snootiness.
You can find links to the New Yorker Digital Archive in our online catalog and our list of Articles & Databases. Opening the database will bring you to its home page, pictured below. (If you’re outside the library, you will be asked at this point to log in with your library barcode number and PIN.)
Navigating the Archive
The home page displays brief instructions, the most recent issue of the New Yorker, and at the bottom of the screen, the menu bar.
From here, you can select any issue of the New Yorker (or view all of their covers) by clicking “Browse Issues.” Issues are organized chronologically. Once you’ve opened an issue, you can turn its pages with the arrows to the left and right of your screen. You can also:
Type a specific page number into the menu bar’s text box to go directly to that page.
Click “This Issue” to find a specific section within the issue, like the Table of Contents, Goings On About Town, or the Cartoon Caption Contest.
As you read, you can click on any page to zoom in for larger text, and click again to zoom back out.
Searching the Archive
Click “Search” in the menu bar to look for a particular word or phrase within the complete text of the digital archive. The site will search the currently-open issue in one tab and all other issues in a second tab. If you’re searching for a phrase, do not include quotation marks — just the words you want in the correct order. Unlike many of our other databases, you cannot fine-tune your search by fields like Author, Title, and Document Type. However, we do have CD-ROM copies of 1925-2005 issues of the New Yorker that support this advanced searching at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, in the Main Reading Room and the Microform Room.
Saving Your Research
Click “Print” in the menu bar to select one page or multiple pages from the currently-open issue for printing. If your computer has a “Print to PDF” option, you can use this feature to save these pages as a PDF file.
If you would like to create a direct link to a specific page in the New Yorker, navigate to that page in the digital archive, then copy the URL that displays in your browser’s address bar. These are permanent URLs that will not change or expire.
For More on the New Yorker
In addition to the digital copies available online, the Library holds issues of the New Yorker in microfilm, print, and on CD-ROM.
For more information on the history and art of the magazine, consider:
Enrollment Now Open: SAGEWorks Boot Camp on Monday 14 - Friday 18, 10- 11:30 am at The SAGE Center, 305 7th Ave. New York, NY 10001. Get free insight from a panel of experts on what managers and HR departments are really looking for. Registration required. SAGEWorks assists people 40 years and older in learning relevant, cutting-edge job search skills in a LGBT-friendly environment.
UncommonGoods LLC will present a recruitment on Thursday, November 17, 2016, 9:45 am - 4 pm, for Seasonal Operations Associate (50 F/T & P/T openings), at UncommonGoods LLC, 140 58th Street, 5th Floor, Side 5A, Brooklyn, NY 11220. Operations associates perform tasks in a warehouse shipping operation. These tasks include: picking, packing, shipping, gift boxing, receiving, staging, etc.
MPower Direct LLC will present a recruitment on Thursday, November 17, 2016, 10 am - 2 pm, for Field Sales representative (5 openings) at Bronx Workforce 1 Career Center, 400 East Fordham Rd., Bronx, NY 10458. Good knowledge of English, multilingual a plus.
Spanish Speaking Resume Writing workshop on Thursday, November 17, 2016, 12:30 - 2:30 pm. at Flushing Workforce 1 Career Center, 138-60 Barclay Avenue, 2nd Floor, Flushing, NY 11355. All interested jobseekers will learn to organize, revise and update resumes.
Basic Resume Writing workshop on Thursday, November 17, 2016, 1:30 - 3 pm at Brooklyn Workforce 1 Career Center, 250 Schermerhorn Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201. Participants will learn the purpose of a resume, chronological and combination resumes and select the appropriate type for their specific needs.
The New York City Employment and Training Coalition (NYCE&TC) is an association of 200 community-based organizations, educational institutions, and labor unions that annually provide job training and employment services to over 750,000 New Yorkers, including welfare recipients, unemployed workers, low-wage workers, at-risk youth, the formerly incarcerated, immigrants and the mentally and physically disabled. View NYCE&TC Job Listings.
Digital NYC is the official online hub of the New York City startup and technology ecosystem, bringing together every company, startup, investor, event, job, class, blog, video, workplace, accelerator, incubator, resource, and organization in the five boroughs. Search jobs by category on this site.
St. Nicks Alliance Workforce Development provides Free Job Training and Educational Programs in Environmental Response and Remediation Tec (ERRT). Commercial Driver's License, Pest Control Technician Training (PCT), Employment Search and Prep Training and Job Placement, Earn Benefits and Career Path Center. For information and assistance, please visit St. Nicks Alliance Workforce Development or call 718-302-2057 ext. 202.
Brooklyn Workforce Innovations helps jobless and working poor New Yorkers establish careers in sectors that offer good wages and opportunities for advancement. Currently, BWI offers free job training programs in four industries: commercial driving, telecommunications cable installation, TV and film production, and skilled woodworking.
CMP (formerly Chinatown Manpower Project) in lower Manhattan is now recruiting for a free training in Quickbooks, Basic Accounting, and Excel. This training is open to anyone who is receiving food stamps but no cash assistance. Class runs for eight weeks, followed by one-on-one meetings with a job developer. CMP also provides Free Home Health Aide Training for bilingual English/Cantonese speakers who are receiving food stamps but no cash assistance. Training runs Mondays through Fridays for six weeks and includes test prep and taking the HHA certification exam. Students learn about direct care techniques such as taking vital signs and assisting with personal hygiene and nutrition. For more information for the above two training programs, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, call 212-571-1690, or visit. CMP also provides tuition-based healthcare and business trainings free to students who are entitled to ACCESS funding.
Nontraditional Employment for Women (NEW) trains women and places them in careers in the skilled construction, utility, and maintenance trades. It helps women achieve economic independence and a secure future. For information call 212-627-6252 or register online.
Grace Institute provides tuition-free, practical job training in a supportive learning community for underserved New York area women of all ages and from many different backgrounds. For information call 212-832-7605.
Please note this page will be revised when more recruitment events for the week of November 13 become available.
Wole Soyinka is the first African Nobel Prize winner in literature. A writer of prose, poetry, and drama, Soyinka has brought political engagement to the forefront of his work, levying wide-ranging critiques, ranging from apartheid to corruption in the government of Shehu Shagari. For this week's episode of the New York Public Library Podcast, we're proud to present Wole Soyinka discussing reparations, Hollywood, and being mistaken for Morgan Freeman.
Soyinka has written over two dozen plays over the course of his career. Asked about the effects of Hollywood on theater, he dismissed the claim that Hollywood has dealt a death knell to the stage:
"There is film, and there's Hollywood. I must praise this. The positive side of Hollywood, the way that Nigerians took to the medium, that medium of film, is really remarkable, but for me not surprising. We can debate the quality from here to eternity. But the way it was adapted like a kind of extension of the narrative, storytelling, all storytelling, occasionally even painting is really remarkable. That has enabled, in fact, the improvement of quality, experimentation already begun, a greater consciousness of aesthetics which I think also derived from traditional art forms. I'm talking even about those horror scenes where special effects. Sometimes it's comic, ridiculous. You can actually see what is being attempted and of course a few films have come out of it. But I don't think that it signals the death of theater."
Soyinka described how he came to advance one position on reparations:
"When the movement for reparations heated up, a real local was one of the inspirations for my proposal that, look, we'll talk about reparations for slavery, reparations for imperialism, colonialism, despoilation, etc. Let's do a deal. Let all the European robbers return all the artifacts they stole from Africa, and we'll call it quits."
As an internationally renowned artist, Soyinka is much-sought. He described numerous commitments, so many that, he explained, he enjoyed sometimes being mistaken for Morgan Freeman:
"You lose your anonymity. You lose your leisure. There is always a demand for one reason or another. In fact, things get so bad, I actually feel happy when I'm mistaken for Morgan Freeman... People come up to me and say 'You must be the writer. No, Morgan Freeman! Can I have an autograph?'... It got so bad one day, that I had to sign Morgan Freeman for a family until they would leave me alone because they refused to accept. They were describing in fact a film I'd acted in, and they said, 'How did you manage to get one woman. You were on that sign, and then you appeared on the other, in a totally different mood.' I said, 'Well, you know, we get trained for these things.'"
You can subscribe to the New York Public Library Podcast to hear more conversations with wonderful artists, writers, and intellectuals. Join the conversation today!
Welcome to our biweekly update on events happening during the next two weeks at the Library. With 92 locations across New York City, a lot is happening at The New York Public Library. We're highlighting some of our events—including author talks, free classes, community art shows, performances, concerts, and exhibitions—and you can always find more at nypl.org/events. If you want our round-up in your inbox, sign up here. We look forward to seeing you at the Library.
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
LIVE from the NYPL
11/18: James McBride: James McBride, a composer, saxophonist, National Book Award winner and bestselling author, comes to the LIVE stage to discuss his book Kill 'Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul, about the life and struggles of musical icon James Brown. Celeste Bartos Forum, 7 PM.
11/29: Tom Wolfe: The author of a dozen books, including the contemporary classicsThe Bonfire of the Vanities and The Right Stuff, comes to the LIVE stage to discuss his seminal work The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, which unleashed the literary genre of New Journalism. Celeste Bartos Forum, 7 PM.
Free Events at The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
11/15: "Munich '72 and Beyond" Film Screening: Nearly 45 years after the Munich Massacre, "Munich '72 and Beyond" chronicles the struggle of the victims' families to find answers about what happened to their loved ones and their mission to create a memorial to the fallen Israeli athletes. Celeste Bartos Forum, 6 PM.
11/19: NYPLarcade: International Games Day: The Library will be hosting a variety of activities, including videogames, tabletop games for all ages, and virtual reality demos (ages 12 and up) for International Games Day. Presented by MyLibraryNYC, NYPLarcade, and TeenLIVE. Celeste Bartos Forum, 11 AM.
The Schomburg Center
11/28: Between the Lines: Rich Bline, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, and Kiese Laymon: The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race, edited by Jesmyn Ward, uses James Baldwin's 1963 examination of race in America, The Fire Next Time, to engage "eighteen of today's most original thinkers." Rich Blint will moderate this conversation with two of the book's contributing writers, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, The Weight, and Kiese Laymon, Da Art of Storytellin' (a prequel). The Schomburg Center, 6:30 PM.
The Library for the Performing Arts
11/17: LPA Cinema Series: Amadeus: Join us for a screening of Amadeus in conjunction with the Library's latest exhibition, Curtain Up: Celebrating the Last 40 Years of Theatre in New York and London. This 1984 American film version of Peter Shaffer's Olivier-nominated and Tony-winning British play is the winner of eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Actor (F. Murray Abraham). Bruno Walter Auditorium, 6 PM.
11/19: Strings in the Earth and Air: Music for Voice, Piano, and Strings: Mezzo-soprano Amy Gluck and pianist/composer Richard Pearson Thomas are joined by a string quartet for a concert of specially curated pieces featuring works by Handel, Debussy, Grieg, Kauder, and Barber. Gluck and Thomas will also perform the New York premiere of "Singing like the larks," Thomas' award-winning composition scored for piano quintet and based on Willa Cather's writings. Bruno Walter Auditorium, 2:30 PM.
11/21: What the Eye Hears: Brian Seibert on the History of Tap: Brian Seibert, dance critic for The New York Times, comes to the Library to celebrate the release of What the Eye Hears, his authoritative account of the great American art of tap. Join Seibert on a virtual tour of the Library’s vast archive of historic tap performances on film and tape. Bruno Walter Auditorium, 6 PM.
11/17: Undisclosed Files of the Police: Cases from the Archives of the NYPD: Get an insider's look at more than eighty real-life crimes that shocked the nation, from arson to gangland murders, robberies, serial killings, bombings, and kidnappings. Presented by journalist Philip Messing, NYPD lieutenant Bernard Whalen, and retired NYPD detective Robert Mladinich. Mid-Manhattan Library, 6:30 PM.
11/22: Trostky in New York, 1917: A Radical on the Eve of Revolution: Hear the little-known story of Leon Trotsky's sojourn to New York City on the eve of the Russian Revolution in 1917. Author Kenneth B. Ackerman presents a portrait of a towering yet all-too-human political figure on the cusp of history, as well as a snapshot of New York City at a special moment in our collective memory. Mid-Manhattan Library, 6:30 PM.
11/15: Tax-Saving Moves to Make Before Year End: Opportunities for certain 2016 tax credits and deductions expire at midnight on December 31. Learn what tax-saving moves to make now to enjoy a lower tax bill on April 15. Conference Room 018, 6 PM.
11/16: Startup Leadership: Why do so many entrepreneurs create innovative enterprises, only to find themselves failing as leaders? Because, according to Derek Lidow, "being an entrepreneur is fundamentally different from being a business leader." Drawing from his book, Startup Leadership, Lidow will provide you with the skills and tools to become an entrepreneurial leader and transform your ideas into successful businesses in this talk. Conference Room 018, 6 PM.
This is the fourth in a series of posts highlighting some of the fascinating stories—Bergen Point Lighthouse, Keeper Carlsson, women keepers and children's dolls of Kill Van Kull—from the historical Staten Island newspapers now being digitized and uploaded to the web. Learn more about this project.
The Bergen Point light operated for about a century, from 1849 to around 1951. It stood in the middle of the Kill Van Kull between Staten Island and Bergen Point, New Jersey, just West of the Bayonne Bridge.
To teachers and scholars who stay away from school on account of the weather, the story of a girl who is always in her seat on time will be interesting. Annie Carlsson is (12?) and attends the Curtis High School. She lives in Bergen Point Lighthouse of which her father is the keeper. Every morning she rows over the Kill von Kull, except when it is too rough and then her father takes the oars.This is surely the pursuit of knowledge under difficulties. Two weeks ago in the teeth of a gale blowing N N W her father came after her with an oil-skin coat and an extra pair of oars. She donned the oil-skin and the two rowed away in the rain and wind to the Lighthouse.
Annie Carlsson is a bright, pretty girl and was born in Finland, coming to this country twelve years ago with her parents. Prior to entering Curtis High School she attended P.S. 22 Mariners’ Harbor where she was graduated at the Spring examinations.
The Bergen Point Lighthouse is located opposite Elm Park and is in plain view from the Terrace. The dwelling looks much like any other house, and ladies from the City who have never seen a lighthouse before invariably ask, “Why did that man build his house in the water?” The male escort who is showing her about always answers, “To keep his wife from talking over the back fence.” The joke dates from 1850 when the Lighthouse was built. No extra charge for it.
In 1859 the government rebuilt the house. It is equipped with a revolving white light of the fourth magnitude and may be seen at a distance of more than (12?) miles. Annie with her father and mother are at home to visitors who bring their boats with them in the pleasant weather.
The Advance article above raises an interesting border question. Though the lighthouse was located in the state of New Jersey, Annie Carlsson spent her school career in NYC public schools. Bergen Point Light's mail was also delivered to the Staten Island post office. It's not clear if Annie's Staten Island school attendance was a case of border interpretation, a second address on Staten Island or just a practicality of getting to school by rowboat.
According to the New Jersey Lighthouse Society the Bergen Point Lighthouse, located near what is now the Bayonne Bridge, was built "50 feet from the New Jersey/New York Border. In the 1891 map below it is called the "Kills Light."
1891 map showing the Kill Van Kull and three lights: Corner Stakelight, Kills Light (Bergen Point) and Robbins Reef.
A gathering of family and friends, probably at the Staten Island Lighthouse on Lighthouse Hill, circa 1912. Annie Carlsson appears to be in the front row, left end. John Carlsson is pictured in uniform in the back row, second from left. Collection of the National Lighthouse Museum.
A Keeper's Life, Excerpted from: Northeast Lights: Lighthouses and Lightships, Rhode Island to Cape May New Jersey by Robert G. Bachand.
John Carlson (Carlsson) was twenty-eight years old when he joined the Light House Establishment. His career began aboard the Sandy Hook Lightship, LV51, where he remained for six years. He was then transferred to the tender Larksupur, a twin-screw steamer that was used as a buoy tender that resupplied and inspected light stations in the Third District. His stay aboard the tender was brief, and he moved on to a three-year tour of duty at Latimer Reef Light, off Stonington, CT. On March 10, 1906, Carls[s]on was named keeper of the Bergen Point Light.
The Carls[s]on family was elated; though the lighthouse was surrounded by water, it was the first family quarters to which John had ever been assigned. The dwelling had a kitchen, a dining room, and a sitting room on the first floor and three bedrooms on the second floor…
In 1913, he spotted two boys whose skiff had capsized in the Kill Van K[u]ll. Reaching the site in the station’s boat, he managed to pull one of the boys from the water, but the other had already slipped below the surface...
A Commendation for Keeper Carlsson
In 1915 John Carlsson saved the Bergen light from a fire caused by a burning oil barge:
John and Anna Carlsson came from Finland in 1896 but they spoke Swedish at home. John was born in 1870 and probably served at Bergen Point until about 1916. He supported his family on an (initial) annual salary of $540. He then became the keeper at the New Dorp Lighthouse and remained there for about twenty years. He lived at several addresses nearby. The 1920 Census lists his address as Walden Place, Staten Island, in 1930 it was Altamont Avenue and, in 1940, St. Stephens Place. In 1920 Annie Carlsson's profession was listed as a stenographer at a drug store.
He supervised three lights on the Island including the Staten Island Light. John Carlsson died in 1953 and is buried in the New Dorp Moravian Cemetery, just down the hill from The New Dorp Light.
John R. Carlsson makes the final entry in his keeper's log. His wife Anna Carlsson lived until age 94 and in 1966 and was buried in Moravian Cemetery. She was an active member of New Dorp Moravian Church. Friends remembered her passing with her phrase from her lighthouse days: "The light is out." Collection of the National Lighthouse Museum.
Women Keepers of the Kill Van Kull
Women were not limited to the roles of wives and daughters of the keepers on the Kill Van Kull. The two lights at each end of the Kill are noted for having a history of female keepers. In 1873 Hannah McDonald took the job of Bergen Point keeper following the death of her husband John and served six years until 1879 when her son John took over. Five years later Katherine Walker became the keeper of the Robbins Reef Light at the St. George end of the Kill, following the death of her own husband. She served there until 1919. Like the Carlssons, Kate Walker is also remembered for rowing her children to Staten Island for schooling, even though Robbins Reef also falls on the New Jersey side of the state line.
Bergen Point Light, 1874. Engraving from Harper's New Monthly Magazine. Collection of the Library of Congress.
Robbins Reef Light. Collection of the Bayonne Public Library.
Briefly, starting in February 1902, navigational safety at both ends of the Kill was maintained by women. 30 year old Robert Gray (or Ray) was appointed keeper of the light on February 4. On February 15 he rowed away from the lighthouse to pick up groceries, leaving his aunt, Mrs. Mary Kelly, and her three sons alone. Gray never returned. His body was later raised from the water near Livingston by boaters on their way to see the launch of the German Kaiser's yacht Meteor at Shooter's Island. Mrs. Kelly signaled for help by hoisting the light's American flag upside down but failed to attract the attention of any passing vessels . On the seventh day the light's food stores ran out. The family went another two days without eating. On the ninth day, a retired Bayonne policeman, Frederick Lumbreyer, saw Mary's distress signal and rowed out to rescue the family. Despite her ordeal, Mary Kelly had kept the light burning every night. She was soon appointed acting keeper of Bergen Point Light retroactive until February 15. She served opposite Katherine Walker at Robbins Reef Light, for about a month, (though some sources list her departure as late as August 1902).
Children's Dolls of the Kill Van Kull
A Carlsson family doll wearing a button, from John's Lighthouse Service Captain's uniform, around her neck. Collection of the National Lighthouse Museum.
Walker family dolls at Robbins Reef Lighthouse. Noble Maritime Collection, Walker Family Collection.
Mrs. Kelly was succeeded by August Kjelberg, who was newly married to Bertha Leutzen on Staten Island in April of 1902. Mr. Kjelberg was nearly drowned rowing a friend to shore in the ice floes of February 1905. His boat overturned at midnight. The two clung to the boat screaming for help for two hours, the ice cementing their arms to the upturned keel. They were heard by the passing Pennsylvania Railroad tug Media, broken loose from their hull, and warmed in the tug's engine room before being taken to shore. Kjelberg served until the appointment of John Carlsson in 1906.
A forest of masts line the busy shipping channel of the Kill Van Kull. Collection of The Bayonne Public Library.
Original caption: "An extensive view up Newark Bay from the Bayonne Bridge at Newark Avenue. Note the railroad viaduct and Bergen Point Light, on the right; on the left Shooters Island and Elizabeth, New Jersey...The Gulf Refining Co. plant in the foreground, is at the foot of Newark Avenue....May 19, 1935. P.L. Sperr"
Staten Island is filled with these fascinating, but little known, places and stories: More to come.
The Richmond County Advance was digitized and uploaded to the web from the collections of Historic Richmond Town. Funding for the digitization of Staten Island newspapers was provided through The New York Public Library's Innovation Project, which is made possible by a generous grant from the Charles H. Revson Foundation.
Thanks to Kraig Anderson, The National Lighthouse Museum, Jeanette Torres-Hanley at The Bayonne Public Library, Historic Richmond Town, and The Noble Maritime Collection.