A New York Public Library Outstanding Reference Book
The rich and eminently browsable visual guide to the history of New York, in an all-new
The Historical Atlas of New York City, second edition, takes us, neighborhood by neighborhood, through four hundred years of Gotham's rich past, describing such crucial events as the city's initial settlement of 270 people in thirty log houses; John Jacob Astor's meteoric rise from humble fur trader to the richest, most powerful man in the city; and the fascinating ethnic mixture that is modern Queens. The full-color maps, charts, photographs, drawings, and mini-essays of this encyclopedic volume also trace the historical development and cultural relevance of such iconic New York thoroughfares as Fifth Avenue, Wall Street, Park Avenue, and Broadway. This thoroughly updated edition brings the Atlas up to the present, including three all-new two-page spreads on Rudolph Giuliani's New York, the revival of Forty-second Street, and the rebuilding of Ground Zero.
A fascinating chronicle of the life of a metropolis, the handsome second edition of The Historical Atlas of New York City provides a vivid and unique perspective on the nation's cultural capital.
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Eric Homberger is the author of Mrs. Astor's New York and Scenes from the Life of a City. An American by birth, he is a professor of American studies at the University of East Anglia.
Alice Hudson is curator of the Map Division of the New York Public Library.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
PART 1 NIEUW AMSTERDAM OFTE NUE NIEUW IORX T.TEYLANT MAN The southern tip of Manhattan, with the settlements along the Hudson (left) and the East River, as seen from a ship in the harbor. The large buildings on the left were the Dutch West India Company’s storehouse. The Stadt Huys (City Hall) was at the outer edge of the community when this drawing was made in the 1650s. “On this river there is great traffick in the skins of beavers, otters, foxes, bears, minks, wild cats, and the like. The land is excellent and agreeable, full of noble forest trees and grape vines, and nothing is wanting but the labor and industry of man to render it one of the finest and most fruitful lands in that part of the world …” Johan de Laet, Nieuwe Werldt ofte Beschrijvinghe van West-Indien (New World, or Description of West-India) Leyden, 1625. Chapter 1 Hilly Island
The geography of New York City was the city’s supreme advantage. It surpassed Philadelphia as the nation’s principal port not because of the superiority of its people, but due to the superiority of its harbor, and its unimpeded access up the Hudson River to the rich agricultural lands to the west. The city’s natural setting was a blessing occasionally mentioned in a sermon or patriotic address but there was little knowledge of geology or of the processes which had led to the formation of the seemingly solid and immovable material upon which the city’s streets and buildings were built. Nor was there much inclination to explain how or why the coastal plain upon which New York was located had emerged from the sea. Until the work of Louis Agassiz in the 1840s, there was no notion that most of the city had been covered by the great Laurentide glacier only some 20,000 years ago. Traces of the past in New York are buried, hidden, and need deciphering. Before the native tribes acquired European weapons, bows and arrows, and axes and knives were the staples of war materièl. Tactics – as represented by European writers and engravers-bore an uncanny resemblance to the conduct of sieges by European armies. More commonly, struggles between tribes were a tale of lightning raids, ambushes and high mobility. Europeans attributed these tactics to an innate disposition for deception and deceit among the natives. Why did the Dutch come in the first place? In the 15th century, the European trading and mercantile powers extended their economic interests over much of the globe. The hope of finding gold, the great commercial value of the sugar produced on the Cape Verde islands, and the slave trade (which provided the labor force for the sugar plantations) were powerful motives for maritime activities, particularly after the conquistador Hernando Cortes encountered the Aztec empire in Mexico in 1519. The Spanish, with skills honed on the reconquest of Spain from the Moors (Granada, the last great Moorish territory in Spain, surrendered in 1492) led the way in plunder and conquest. Merchants in northern Europe were determined to muscle their way into this lucrative trade. After the accession of Philip II of Spain as ruler of the 17 provinces of the Netherlands in 1555, the bitter and violent revolt against Spanish rule was extended outwards into direct attacks upon Spanish economic interests throughout the world. The Union of Utrecht in 1579 formed a Dutch Republic of seven provinces. When the Spanish reconquered Antwerp six years later, Protestant refugees, Flemish and Walloon, flooded north into the province of Holland, making it the leading commercial center of resistance. Although the combined fleets of Spain and Portugal were the largest in the world, Sir Francis Drake’s raid on the Spanish settlement at St. Augustine in 1586 showed that hungry, daring men might prosper at the expense of the Spaniards. The defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, and the successful military campaigns of Maurice, stadtholder of Holland and Zeeland, in 1590-94, sharpened the enthusiasm of the Protestant powers for the task of supplanting the Spanish in the New World and the Portuguese in the East. For this purpose the Dutch East India Company was formed in 1602 with a monopoly of the valuable spice trade. Four years later the English Crown gave to the Virginia Company a charter which included virtually the whole territory of North America.
“Our master and his mate determined to try some of the chief men of the country, whether they had any treachery in them. So they took them down into the cabin and gave them so much wine and aqua vita that they were all merry. In the end one of them was drunk … for they could not tell how to take it.” Robert Juet, a member of Hudson’s crew
Hudson At first it was only a handful of maritime districts on the west coast of England and in the Iberian peninsula which possessed the seafaring navigational skills, shipbuilding expertise, and capital resources needed to launch extended voyages of exploration and trade. But skilled mariners like Columbus, a Genoese by birth, who provided invaluable technical skills necessary for the extension of national power and commercial interest, could be hired by trading cartels or crowned heads. By the end of the 16th century, there was a flourishing army of explorers for hire. Henry Hudson was one such. An experienced navigator and trader, he was hired in 1607 by the Muscovy Company, an English trading cartel, to discover a northern route to the spice islands and to China, a voyage which was both dangerous and slow by the traditional route around the Cape of Good Hope. Hudson sailed north from Holland and reached the island of Spitzbergen, 80° north, in 1607. A year later he tried again, but found the route blocked by frozen seas. Still fervently believing in a route to the east beyond 83° north, he was hired in 1609 by the Dutch East India Company to try the northern route again. He reached as far north as Novaya Zembla in the Barents Sea, but failed once again to discover the Northeast Passage. Rather than abandon the voyage altogether, Hudson followed the advice of another English explorer-promoter, Captain John Smith, and turned the Halve Maen (Half Moon), a vessel of 80 tons, west to Newfoundland, and then followed the southerly route along the coast. At each estuary he paused, looking for an entrance to the fabled great northern route to the east. On September 2, 1609 Hudson entered the bay formed by the “Great River of the Mountains,” “as fine a river as can be found, wide and deep, with good anchoring on both sides.” He was not the first European to visit the waters of New York. Giovanni da Verrazano, in the employment of the King of France, sailed from Dieppe in 1524 and briefly entered the Lower and Upper Bay of the Hudson. With their voyages, the European history of New York begins. The seal of New Netherlands. New Netherland was, in the eyes of Dutch merchants, a source of furs. From the first voyages, an active trade with the natives brought beaver pelts on to the Dutch market for resale throughout Europe. In the 16th century there was an immense demand for otter and beaver pelts. They were used to trim clothes, and make hats and cloaks. It was believed that beaver fur had medicinal properties. “Friendly and polite people” Unlike the rather more benign images commonly made in the 19th century of Hudson’s meeting with the natives, he found the native inhabitants of the lower part of the river to be warlike and threatening (two large canoes filled with armed natives greeted his ship, and in the ensuing confusion one member of his crew was killed by an arrow), but upriver there were “friendly and polite people” who were happy to trade valuable skins and pelts for what the Europeans regarded as trinkets. In truth, relations with the natives were from the first uneasy. An officer on the Halve Maen published a diary of Hudson’s third voyage recording the tense, violent passage of the ship: “This after-noone [October 1, 1609], one Canoe kept hanging under our sterne with one man in it, which we could not keepe from thence, who got up by our Rudder to the Cabin window, and stole out my Pillow, and two shirts, and two Bandeleeres. Our Masters Mate shot at him, and strooke him on the breast, and killed him. Whereupon all the rest fled away, some in their Canoes, and so leapt out of them into the water. We manned our Boat, thinking to get our things againe. Then one of them that swamme got hold of our Boat, thinking to overthrow it. But our Cooke tooke a Sword, and cut off one of his hands, and he was drowned. By this time the ebbe was come, and we weighed and got down two leagues …” The first settlement on Manhattan, 1626. Detailed knowledge of an exceptionally good port on the North American coast, and the existence of a broad river enabling navigation far into the unknown interior, excited much interest in northern Europe. Hudson’s reports to the East India Company formed the basis of the Dutch claim to their colony on the Hudson. The Dutch East India Company took no immediate action on the news of Hudson’s voyage. In their eyes, the voyage was a failure. Hudson had not discovered a northern route to the east. But other commercial interests in the United Provinces, particularly the fur traders, were interested in news that the Hudson River promised to be a rich fur-trading region, and agitated for the creation of a West India Company. The Dutch came to New York, like so many after them, to make a buck. Stone, Water, Ice The stone upon which New York City sits is hard metamorphic rock, Manhattan schist, and Inwood dolomite, formed during the Archeozoic Era. That is, the dark stone which nudges above the surface of Central Park, and which was so forcefully striated during the Ice Age, dates virtually from the formation of the earth’s crust. The erosion of the late Mesozoic period (between 70 and 220 million years ago) produced most of the geological features which have remained until the present, especially the Hudson River and the drainage system which cut a deep and narrow gorge through the Hudson Highlands which lie south of the Catskills. (The Hudson is a tidal inlet which opened the land as far as Troy to the Atlantic tide.) An era of subtropical temperatures began about 65 million years ago, and persisted until about one million years ago. This was the period of the emergence of modern mammals. New York disappeared below the sea approximately 25 million years ago, before the coastal plain rose in time for the Hipparion, the three-toed horse, and the mastodons which followed. The climate then perceptibly cooled, and an era of glaciation followed. The earliest records of Palaeo-Indians in North America date from about 25,000 years ago, some 5,000 years before the period of maximum glaciation. The settlement of New York by homo sapiens was disrupted by the vast ice sheet of the Laurentide glacier as it slowly flowed south and west from Canada. The maximum territory covered by the Laurentide ice sheet some 20,000 years ago reached a line dipping south to the Missouri and Ohio Rivers, and running east to New York. It is this period of glaciation which accounts for the erratic boulders strewn across New York’s landscape, with its gravel ridges, striated rock, and deposits of surface drift. For a billion years after the formation of the Earth’s crust, New York City lay beneath the shallow seas which covered most of the gradually subsiding land mass of North America. By 350 million years ago, the climate had warmed, and the land around New York was swampy. It was with the rise of the Appalachian range, which began 220 million years ago, that the state of New York – like most of the American continent – emerged significantly above sea level (maps left). The map (above right) shows the maximum territory covered by the Laurentide glacier. The farthest terminal moraines, deposited when the glacier began to retreat about 17,000 years ago, are found from Cape Cod to Long Island, and on a line across Brooklyn and Staten Island (map right). It was only in 1840 that the Swiss scientist Louis Agassiz offered an explanation for the presence of mysterious scattered boulders and deposits of surface drift across the landscape of New York. Agassiz, in Etudes sur les glaciers, argued the central role of glaciers in changing the landscape, and proposed the existence of an Ice Age. The geological cross-section (below) is taken along a line through midtown Manhattan. Manahatta When the Dutch came to New Netherland, they intruded upon a native culture of the “eastern division” of the Algonquian family, a linguistic stock of tribes occupying the Atlantic coast from Maine to the Chesapeake. The many tribes and sub-groups making up the Upper Delawaran or Munsee formed a confederacy which occupied the entire Delaware basin, including eastern Pennsylvania and southeastern New York. The Delawares encountered on the lower Hudson called themselves Lenape, or “real men”. The inhabitants of Manhattan were the Manates, a Munsee tribe, who were regarded by the Dutch as troublesome and aggressive. After selling Manahatta (variously translated as “hilly island” or “the small island”), for trinkets in 1626, the tribe moved west of the Bronx River. The Canarsies in Brooklyn, Matinecooks in Flushing, Rockaways (who settled near Rockaway Beach in Queens) and the Wecquaesgeeks (a Mahican tribe in the vicinity of Yonkers) made their own accommodation with the settlers. The Lenape were hunters and fishermen, with substantial woodland clearings where they cultivated Indian corn (to make maize or meal for bread cakes), beans, pumpkins, and tobacco. The long, narrow native canoe was carved out of a hollowed tree trunk, and was used for fishing, whether with hooks made of bone, spears with sharpened stone or bone heads, or nets woven of “Indian hemp”, a milkweed which grew in the swamps. Meat and fish were dried for consumption in the winter. They introduced the Dutch to maple sugar, hominy and succotash, as well as tobacco. Natives on Manhattan ate oysters in great quantity, leaving piles of discarded shells near their settlments. The Dutch named Pearl Street after the piles of shells which lined the shore. Beans, meat, fish and roots were all cooked as a mash in large, clay pots. They used wooden plates, made water buckets out of bark, and had mats and baskets made of rush, husks, grasses and bark. Every item of domestic use was decorated with woven designs or painted figures of animals. Tanned animal skins were used for clothing, and feathers and embroidery for decoration. In summer, a simple leather breech-cloth sufficed for the men; in the winter, robes of bear, beaver or deerskin were worn. For ceremonial and warlike occasions the men decorated their faces with paint. The women wore decorated headbands, and a cloth around their bodies which was fastened by an ornamented girdle which extended to the knee. The French explorer, Samuel Champlain, encountered Iroquois on the border between Canada and New York state (below) in 1609, the year Henry Hudson reached New York. He used his musket to shoot two chiefs – the Iroquois had never seen firearms before and this alienated the powerful Iroquois confederacy. The French made common cause with the Huron. The Dutch made alliances with local tribes and were occasionally drawn into...
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