New York: An Illustrated History
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The companion volume to the PBS television series, with more than 500 full-color and black-and-white illustrations
This lavish and handsomely produced book captures all the beauty, complexity, and power of New York -- the city that seems the very embodiment of ambition, aspiration, romance, desire; the city that has epitomized the entire parade of modern life, with all its possibilities and problems. Chronicling the story of New York from its establishment as a Dutch trading post in 1624 to its global preeminence today, the book is at once the biography of a great city and a vivid exploration of the myriad forces -- commercial, cultural, demographic -- that converged in New York to usher in the contemporary world.
Weaving the strands of the city's sweeping history into a single compelling narrative, New York carries us through nearly four centuries of turbulent growth and change -- from the first settlement on the tip of "Manna-hata" Island to the destruction wrought by the Revolutionary War; to the city's stunning emergence in the nineteenth century as the nation's premier industrial metropolis; to the waves of early-twentieth-century immigration that forever transformed the city and the nation; to New York's transfiguration as the world's first modern city -- pioneering skyscrapers, apartment houses, subways, and highways -- and its role as the birthplace of so much of American popular culture. Along the way, we witness the building of the city's celebrated landmarks and neighborhoods, from the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty to the Empire State Building and the United Nations; from Wall Street and Times Square to the Lower East Side, Harlem, and SoHo.
The book brims with vibrant illustrations, including hundreds of rare photographs, paintings, lithographs, prints, and period maps. The narrative incorporates the voices and stories of men and women -- statesmen, entrepreneurs, artists, and visionaries -- who have lived in and built the city: an extraordinary cast of characters that includes Peter Stuyvesant, Alexander Hamilton, John Jacob Astor, Walt Whitman, Boss Tweed, Jacob Riis, Emma Lazarus, J. P. Morgan, Al Smith, F. Scott Fitzgerald, George Gershwin, Fiorello La Guardia, Robert Moses, and Jane Jacobs.
Accompanying the book's narrative are interviews with Robert A. Caro, David Levering Lewis, and Robert A. M. Stern, and essays by a group of distinguished New York historians and critics -- Kenneth T. Jackson, Mike Wallace, Marshall Berman, Phillip Lopate, Carol Berkin, and Daniel Czitrom -- who add their insights about the city to this splendid history.
From the Hardcover edition.
There are a million stories in the wicked city, and New York: An Illustrated History contains hundreds of them. From its 17th-century beginnings as a small Dutch colony on the far edge of an empire to its late-20th-century status as one of the world's greatest cities, New York has been home to millions of fascinating people. Take, for example, Edward Hyde, royal governor of New York from 1702 to 1708. Hyde, cousin of Queen Anne, was heartily disliked by the colonists--in part because he was reputed to dress in women's clothing ("I represent a woman, and ought in all respects to resemble her as faithfully as I can," Hyde was reported to have said). Or Al Smith, son of immigrants, a day laborer, who worked his way up the political ladder and eventually became Governor of New York. Or Rosie Safran, a seamstress who survived the horrible fire that claimed 146 of her coworkers at the Triangle shirtwaist factory.
PBS darling Ric Burns (brother of Ken) teamed up with James Sanders and Lisa Ades to produce this spectacular volume and the accompanying 12-hour series. Some 500 illustrations enhance the narrative, while essays by and interviews with prominent New Yorkers-- Robert A. Caro, Carol Berkin, and David Levering Lewis among them--highlight their visions of the metropolis, past and present. New Yorkers or not, readers will enjoy stories of how the city grew and changed over time--such as in 1699, when the old Dutch city wall was torn down and a later-to-be-famous street laid out in its place; or in a 10-day period in 1930, when 14 new floors of the Empire State Building were erected. Along the way, the authors debunk a few myths: the Dutch didn't really pay only $24 for Manhattan, and no immigrant's name was known to have been changed by the Ellis Island inspectors--though the ships' manifests they were consulting may have been incorrect.
Burns and company are clearly enamored of New York, seeing it as "the ultimate city of dreaming and desire, a place of passage and transformation, of possibility and exchange, of mingled cultures and identities." They also see New York, with all its ups, downs, problems, and triumphs, as a microcosm of the modern world. Lavish, thorough, and pleasantly warm, New York: An Illustrated History reminds us that, yes, it's a wonderful town. --Sunny Delaney
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