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History > U.S. History > Local and Regional > Middle Atlantic

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Church and Estate Cover

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Church and Estate

Religion and Wealth in Industrial-Era Philadelphia

By Thomas F. Rzeznik

In Church and Estate, Thomas Rzeznik examines the lives and religious commitments of the Philadelphia elite during the period of industrial prosperity that extended from the late nineteenth century through the 1920s. It reveals the influence their wealth and status afforded them within their religious communities, while simultaneously tracing how religious beliefs informed their actions and shaped their class identity. In tracing those connections, it shows how religion and wealth shared a fruitful, yet ultimately tenuous, relationship.

City at the Water's Edge Cover

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City at the Water's Edge

A Natural History of New York

Betsy McCUlly

Concrete floors and concrete walls, buildings that pierce the sky, taxicabs and subway corridors, a steady din of noise. These things, along with a virtually unrivaled collection of museums, galleries, performance venues, media outlets, international corporations, and stock exchanges make New York City not only the cultural and financial capital of the United States, but one of the largest and most impressive urban conglomerations in the world. With distinctions like these, is it possible to imagine the city as any more than this?

City at the Water's Edge invites readers to do just that. Betsy McCully, a long-time urban dweller, argues that this city of lights is much more than a human-made metropolis. It has a rich natural history that is every bit as fascinating as the glitzy veneer that has been built atop it. Through twenty years of nature exploration, McCully has come to know New York as part of the Lower Hudson Bioregion-a place of salt marshes and estuaries, sand dunes and barrier islands, glacially sculpted ridges and kettle holes, rivers and streams, woodlands and outwash plains. Here she tells the story of New York that began before the first humans settled in the region twelve thousand years ago, and long before immigrants ever arrived at Ellis Island. The timeline that she recounts is one that extends backward half a billion years; it plumbs the depths of Manhattan's geological history and forecasts a possible future of global warming, with rising seas lapping at the base of the Empire State Building.

Counter to popular views that see the city as a marvel of human ingenuity diametrically opposed to nature, this unique account shows how the region has served as an evolving habitat for a diversity of species, including our own. The author chronicles the growth of the city at the expense of the environment, but leaves the reader with a vision of a future city as a human habitat that is brought into balance with nature.

 

Collecting Shakespeare Cover

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Collecting Shakespeare

The Story of Henry and Emily Folger

Stephen H. Grant

In Collecting Shakespeare, Stephen H. Grant recounts the American success story of Henry and Emily Folger of Brooklyn, a couple who were devoted to each other, in love with Shakespeare, and bitten by the collecting bug. Shortly after marrying in 1885, the Folgers started buying, cataloging, and storing all manner of items about Shakespeare and his era. Emily earned a master's degree in Shakespeare studies. The frugal couple worked passionately as a tight-knit team during the Gilded Age, financing their hobby with the fortune Henry earned as president of Standard Oil Company of New York, where he was a trusted associate of John D. Rockefeller Sr. While a number of American universities offered to house the collection, the Folgers wanted to give it to the American people. Afraid the price of antiquarian books would soar if their names were revealed, they secretly acquired prime real estate on Capitol Hill near the Library of Congress. They commissioned the design and construction of an elegant building with a reading room, public exhibition hall, and the Elizabethan Theatre. The Folger Shakespeare Library was dedicated on the Bard's birthday, April 23, 1932. The library houses 82 First Folios, 275,000 books, and 60,000 manuscripts. It welcomes more than 100,000 visitors a year and provides professors, scholars, graduate students, and researchers from around the world with access to the collections. It is also a vibrant center in Washington, D.C., for cultural programs, including theater, concerts, lectures, and poetry readings. The library provided Grant with unprecedented access to the primary sources within the Folger vault. He draws on interviews with surviving Folger relatives and visits to 35 related archives in the United States and in Britain to create a portrait of the remarkable couple who ensured that Shakespeare would have a beautiful home in America.

Columbia Rising Cover

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Columbia Rising

Civil Life on the Upper Hudson from the Revolution to the Age of Jackson

John L. Brooke

Brooke explores the struggle within the young American nation over the extension of social and political rights after the Revolution. By closely examining the formation and interplay of political structures and civil institutions in the upper Hudson Valley, Brooke traces the debates over who should fall within and outside of the legally protected category of citizen. The story of Martin Van Buren threads the narrative, since his views profoundly influenced American understandings of consent and civil society and led to the birth of the American party system. Brooke's analysis of the revolutionary settlement as a dynamic and unstable compromise over the balance of power offers a window to a local struggle that mirrored the nationwide effort to define American citizenship.

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The Contagious City

The Politics of Public Health in Early Philadelphia

by Simon Finger

By the time William Penn was planning the colony that would come to be called Pennsylvania, with Philadelphia at its heart, Europeans on both sides of the ocean had long experience with the hazards of city life, disease the most terrifying among them. Drawing from those experiences, colonists hoped to create new urban forms that combined the commercial advantages of a seaport with the health benefits of the country. The Contagious City details how early Americans struggled to preserve their collective health against both the strange new perils of the colonial environment and the familiar dangers of the traditional city, through a period of profound transformation in both politics and medicine.

Philadelphia was the paramount example of this reforming tendency. Tracing the city's history from its founding on the banks of the Delaware River in 1682 to the yellow fever outbreak of 1793, Simon Finger emphasizes the importance of public health and population control in decisions made by the city's planners and leaders. He also shows that key figures in the city's history, including Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Rush, brought their keen interest in science and medicine into the political sphere. Throughout his account, Finger makes clear that medicine and politics were inextricably linked, and that both undergirded the debates over such crucial concerns as the city's location, its urban plan, its immigration policy, and its creation of institutions of public safety. In framing the history of Philadelphia through the imperatives of public health, The Contagious City offers a bold new vision of the urban history of colonial America.

Crossing the Hudson Cover

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Crossing the Hudson

Historic Bridges and Tunnels of the River

Donald E. Wolf

Fog, tide, ice, and human error--before the American Revolution those who ventured to cross the vast Hudson Valley waterway did so on ferryboats powered by humans, animals, and even fierce winds. Before that war, not a single Hudson River bridge or tunnel had been built. It wasn't until Americans looked to the land in the fight for independence that the importance of crossing the river efficiently became a subject of serious interest, especially militarily. Later, the needs of a new transportation system became critical--when steam railroads first rolled along there was no practical way to get them across the water without bridges.


Crossing the Hudson continues this story soon after the end of the war, in 1805, when the first bridge was completed. Donald E. Wolf simultaneously tracks the founding of the towns and villages along the water's edge and the development of technologies such as steam and internal combustion that demanded new ways to cross the river. As a result, innovative engineering was created to provide for these resources.


From hybrid, timber arch, and truss bridges on stone piers to long-span suspension and cantilevered bridges, railroad tunnels, and improvements in iron and steel technology, the construction feats that cross the Hudson represent technical elegance and physical beauty. Crossing the Hudson reveals their often multileveled stories--a history of where, why, when, and how these structures were built; the social, political, and commercial forces that influenced decisions to erect them; the personalities of the planners and builders; the unique connection between a builder and his bridge; and the design and construction techniques that turned mythical goals into structures of utility and beauty.

The Cubans of Union City: Immigrants and Exiles in a New Jersey Community Cover

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The Cubans of Union City: Immigrants and Exiles in a New Jersey Community

As a result of the conflicts between Cuba and the United States, especially after 1959, Cubans immigrated in great numbers. Most stayed in Miami, but many headed north to Union City, making it second only to Miami in its concentration of Cubans. In The Cubans of Union City, Yolanda Prieto discusses why Cubans were drawn to this particular city and how the local economy and organizations developed. Central aspects of this story are the roles of women, religion, political culture, and the fact of exile itself. 

 

As a member of this community and a participant in many of its activities, Prieto speaks with special authority about its demographic uniqueness. Far from being a snapshot of the community, The Cubans of Union City conveys an ongoing research agenda extending over more than twenty years, from 1959 to the 1980s. As a long-term observer who was also a resident, Prieto offers a unique and insightful view of the dynamics of this community’s evolution.

Culture, Class, and Politics in Modern Appalachia Cover

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Culture, Class, and Politics in Modern Appalachia

Essays in Honor of Ronald L. Lewis

Edited by Jennifer Egolf, Ken Fones-Wolf, and Louis C. Martin

Culture, Class, and Politics in Modern Appalachia takes stock of the field of Appalachian studies as it explores issues still at the center of its scholarship: culture, industrialization, the labor movement, and twentieth-century economic and political failure and their social impact. A new generation of scholars continues the work of Appalachian studies’ pioneers, exploring the diversity and complexity of the region and its people. Labor migrations from around the world transformed the region during its critical period of economic growth. Collective struggles over occupational health and safety, the environment, equal rights, and civil rights challenged longstanding stereotypes. Investigations of political and economic power and the role of social actors and social movements in Appalachian history add to the foundational work that demonstrates a dynamic and diverse region.

David Franks Cover

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David Franks

Colonial Merchant

Mark Abbott Stern

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