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New York is a city like no other. Through the centuries, she’s been embraced and reviled, worshipped and feared, praised and battered—all the while standing at the crossroads of American politics, business, society, and culture. Pulitzer Prize winner Teresa Carpenter, a lifelong diary enthusiast, scoured the archives of libraries, historical societies, and private estates to assemble here an almost holographic view of this iconic metropolis. Starting on January 1 and continuing day by day through the year, these journal entries are selected from four centuries of writing—revealing vivid and compelling snapshots of life in the Capital of the World.
“Today I arrived by train in New York City . . . and instantly fell in love with it. Silently, inside myself, I yelled: I should have been born here!”—Edward Robb Ellis, May 22, 1947
Includes diary excerpts from Sherwood Anderson • Albert Camus • Noël Coward • Dorothy Day • John Dos Passos • Thomas Edison • Allen Ginsberg • Keith Haring • Henry Hudson • Anne Morrow Lindbergh • H. L. Mencken • John Cameron Mitchell • Julia Rosa Newberry • Eugene O’Neill • Edgar Allan Poe • Theodore Roosevelt • Elizabeth Cady Stanton • Alexis de Tocqueville • Mark Twain • Gertrude Vanderbilt • Andy Warhol • George Washington • Walt Whitman • and many others
“The most convivial and unorthodox history of New York City one is likely to come across.”—The New York Times “A must-read for anyone who has fallen in love with the Big Apple.”—New York Journal of Books “An absolute masterpiece.”—The Atlantic
Under the Cover
An excerpt from New York Diaries: 1609 to 2009
Yet another year has overtaken me and how much advance can I reckon for myself. . . . My taste in writing is chastened some. My social position is not only elevated but widened though my visiting circle is very much limited. I called today only upon about 25 families. Professionally I do not feel that I have advanced at all.
On duty at the office all day between 12 & 1 o’clock helping give out new year’s cake at the Hall. In the evening went up to the 18th ward Station House saw there the young man who was thrown out of the sleigh & killed at the corner of Madison Avenue & 29th St. I called on Alderman Atwood [sic] had a good time of it— went home.
Inspector William H. Bell
Played golf today with [Robert] Henri and [Edward Wyatt] Davis. We welcome the New Year at James B. Moore’s “Secret Lair Beyond the Moat”—450 West 23rd Street. A very small party . . . I’m going to try to do a bit less smoking this year.
[The “Secret Lair” in question was the home of one café proprietor, James B. Moore, a flamboyant bohemian and host of bawdy parties.]
A blissful moment alone with Julian [Beck] in the apartment, drinking to the year with wordless laughter.
Then four friends arrived: Jerry Newman and John Clellon Holmes, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, and we drank port and got high on gage.
Holmes is the author of Go, a novel now popular among the vipers [potheads], and he it was who wrote that New York Times Magazine oddity, “The Beat Generation.” . . .
Jack Kerouac, who he credits with inventing the phrase, . . . is a novelist who was a contemporary of Julian’s at Horace Mann. He was the football champ who surprised everyone by winning scholastic honors.
Kerouac is a hero, a free- flowing spirit. He can’t do anything except display his talent. Sardonic and handsome to a fault, he became raucous, drunk and incoherent as the night wore on to morning. But a hero on the binge is still a hero.
Yesterday was New Year’s Day, and I had lovely presents. We had 139 callers, and I have an ivory tablet and I write all their names down on it. . . . Some of the gentlemen come together and don’t stay more than a minute; but some go into the back room and take some oysters and coffee and cake. . . . My cousin is always the fi rst to come, and sometimes he comes before we are ready, and we fi nd him sitting behind the door, on the end of the sofa, because he’s bashful. The gentlemen keep dropping in all day and until long after I have gone to bed; and the horses look tired, and the livery men make a lot of money.
Catherine Elizabeth Havens
After breakfast took Alice out to drive in the Park.
Mr. Lawrence, the Mayor, kept open house yesterday, according to custom from time immemorable [sic], but the manners as well as the times have sadly changed. Formerly gentlemen visited the mayor, saluted him by an honest shake of the hand, paid him the compliment of the day, and took their leave; one out of twenty perhaps taking a single glass of wine or cherry bounce and a morsel of pound cake or New Year’s cookie[s]. But that respectable functionary is now considered the mayor of a party, and the rabble considering him “hail fellow well met,” use his house as a Five Points tavern.
Grey [sic], rainy days, how I hate you! I am almost twenty- two, and still unloved. You remind me that beauty is a brief thing. You remind me that death hovers over me on dark wings. You even make me want to think of death . . . I don’t for a moment suppose it’s the weather that ails me. Too much New York cheer, no doubt! I am exhausted, mentally and physically, unable to see things as they are. Straight normalities have a dark and crooked look when I am low and fagged. I cannot write any more— it requires the living death of loneliness and solitude to make me write— and no writing ever done is worth it.
To dinner, in Rye, and I ordered a great steak for myself, but so many wanted it I went from the table as hungry as when I sate down. So at cards till late, and I had fair success, but [New Yorker publisher] Raoul Fleischmann had a royal fl ush, and there was talk of calling him Royal Flushman, but nought [sic] more momentous than that was said the whole night, and so to bed a moment or two before dawn.
Franklin P. Adams
The Snow continued very deep in the Streets. Some people froze to Death.
Jan[y] 4th 1798. Our Theatrical business is still bad except Monday [the] fi rst of Jan a house of 494 Ds:. With much diffi culty we prevailed in having the fi nishing of [the] New Theatre postponed and a temporary close made of [the] business so that we play in it, in 2 or 3 weeks. William Dunlap
Used D. Wilke’s eyewash last night and think it has a good effect, also this morning. Office. Dinner. Read some of Burton’s anatomy of melancholy which Henry Goodhue lent me. It is a rather curious book for its learning and superstition. But it is a compilation rather than a production . . . I went up stairs and the full moon was shining in my window. I tried to feel sentimental but failed. I got out my telescope and looked and I think the magnifying power had some effect on the sentimentals [sic] but not much. I drew a picture of the appearance. . . . It looks very beautiful through a telescope. . . . Do they say that the bright part is the sea, and the dark land, or which way. It seems altogether absurd to suppose that they are mountains & valleys as they are great surfaces of often a regular brilliancy.
Snowed all day. Commenced to take out our Guns.
William B. Gould
Opening bill at [Provincetown Playhouse] under directorship of Kenneth, Bobby & me. Strindberg’s “Spook Sonata” (using masks— my suggestion).
Attended Chemical Lecture,—to obviate costiveness, with which I am much troubled, I had recourse to a very agreeable remedy—eat 11b½ of Raisins,— . . . About 4, came home and engrav’d—return’d and took out medicines,—came home again, at 7—Before 1—I finished the wooden cut.
Dr. Alexander Anderson
I was indefatigable this morning and tonight I stayed quietly at home, smoked volcanically, and read Burns, of whose writings I ought to know more than I do.
George Templeton Strong
Brooklyn Navy Yard. Verry cold. Giveen charge of the Wine Mess Ward Room.
William B. Gould
Great cold and like to continue. To the playhouse to see Mr. Lew Fields do “The Hen- Pecks,” which I liked not at all save when Mr. Fields is doing his anticks. For him I can laugh at greatly and he did nothing more than to mouth the alphabet, his manner being the drollest ever I saw, yet with a sad note therein, as ever in the best drolleries. To a publick where I have a beaker of ale and so to bed.
Franklin P. Adams
Beautifully, beautifully pleasant for the season. . . . Stopped at the shoe maker’s to get measured for a pair of shoes. Learned coming from the hospital after lecture [that] Ludlow was taken by the undersheriff. . . . Was informed by the constable who stood at the door, [that] he was now in jail. The reason was because he had committed a rape, upon the daughter of a Parson H[ettelafs] at Long Island. Most horrid idea. I cannot conceive the truth of it. It made me feel cold when I was informed of it. He has been a dissipated character, but of late has very much attoned [sic] so as to become quite Studious and attentive to his business. If it is true, poor unfortunate lad[,] it will leave an eternal blott upon his character . . . also an excommunication by our club. Had it not been poor L. this would not have . . . happened.
Teach my children: read in Gibbon & NY Mag: for Decr . Write additional songs for Sterne’s Maria.
Studies now fairly under way again. I think I shall do well in all except French 4, and very well in the Natural History courses. I am boxing with my “Tutor” five times a week; I am going to try hard for the light weight cups in boxing and wrestling.