Behind The Scenes

Author Archives: Jaya Saxena

Ellis Island’s Busiest Day

On April 17, 1907, Ellis Island had its busiest day ever, processing 11,747 individuals who just arrived to America. An average day had them processing about 5,000, so this must have overloaded them! According to the Ellis Island Foundation, “During this historic month [April 1907] of American immigration, the Port of New York received 197 ships [...]

Quilting: Not Just For Women

Quilting, and many other domestic crafts, has long been considered the realm of women (and sometimes was dismissed because of that). But quilting is a serious art, and it’s not just for women. Homefront & Battlefield: Quilts & Context in the Civil War, now on view at the New-York Historical Society, features this quilt made [...]

William Woolley’s “Patent Improved Bedstead for Invalids” and Other Antebellum Inventions for Disability

This post is brought to us by Laurel Daen, a 2014 Patricia D. and John Klingenstein Fellow. For more information on our fellowship programs, click here.   In 1836, William Woolley, a cabinetmaker from New York City, won a Silver Medal from the American Institute for his “bedstead for invalids.” As the editors of the [...]

Let’s Pretend It’s Spring in New York

It is still so cold in New York. We had a Nor’easter Bomb yesterday and now it’s still cold and dreary, so let’s fantasize about the warmth and sun and color that comes in spring. Technically that’s supposed to be right now, but we’ll just have to dream for another week or so. The above [...]

What Typhoid Mary Meant In 19th-Century New York

On March 27, 1915, Mary Mallon, known as Typhoid Mary, was permanently quarantined at this hospital on North Brother Island. From 1900 until her second quarantine in 1915, she was presumed to have infected 49 people, three of whom died, due to her being an asymptomatic carrier. Typhoid is a bacterial disease commonly spread by [...]

Find Audubon’s Masterpieces in Central Park!

On March 21, Audubon’s Aviary:Parts Unknown will open at the New-York Historical Society, featuring over 100 of Audubon’s watercolors for the Birds of America. Some of these birds will seem exotic to North Americans, but did you know that many of them can be found in the city’s own backyard: Central Park? Some birds are [...]

How Bill Cunningham’s New York Has Changed, And Stayed The Same

From 1968 through the mid-70s, photographer Bill Cunningham set out to photograph models in period costumes in front of beautiful historic settings around the city in a project called Facades (an exhibition of which opens at the New-York Historical Society on March 14). A lot can happen in New York in 40 years, but thankfully, [...]

The Speech That Won Lincoln New York

On February 27, 1860, Abraham Lincoln stood before a crowd at Cooper Union on 8th Street in New York City, attempting to convince a strongly Democratic city that he, a Republican, deserved the presidency. Until then he was thought of mostly as a country lawyer, but his speech at Cooper Union let New York Republicans [...]

Woolworth’s May Be Gone, But We Still Have The Woolworth Building

On February 22, 1878, F. W. Woolworth opened the first Woolworth store in Utica, New York. That store failed, but he reopened in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and began one of the most successful chain businesses in America. As a kid, I remember our local Woolworth’s as a one-stop shop, with everything from halloween costumes to alarm [...]

Puffins: Audubon’s Lovebirds

We can all tell that Atlantic Puffins are some of the most adorable birds out there, but did you know they’re also hopeless romantics? To mate, puffins form long-term relationships, where the male builds the nest and both parents incubate the egg and feed the chick, known as a “puffling.” Happy Valentine’s Day! When John [...]