Archives for local-history

Local History: Murals

As the renovations continue and you rediscover the main floor of our library, we hope you look up–you’ll see three unique murals. Hung high over the east wing (sit back in one of our new lounge chairs!) are murals by two artists who called White Plains home: Edmund F. Ward and Stanley P. Klimley. That’s Klimley on the left standing in front of his mural when it was still in the lobby of the White Plains Hotel (image courtesy of the Westchester County Historical Society). Check out information on the artists and their works below!   White Plains resident and
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Categories: History.

Local History: Remembering Jack Harrington

Local history legend Jack Harrington passed away on Sunday, May 14, at age 97. As a tireless advocate of preservation and conservation (historical and environmental), Harrington knew more about White Plains than just about anybody. To learn more about his life and legacy, check out his oral histories on our website or contact the White Plains Historical Society.
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Categories: History.

Local History: Almanacks & Almanacs

Almanacs (sometimes spelled with a “k”) are an American institution. Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack and The Farmer’s Almanac are the best-known examples, but thousands of other more particular, peculiar, and provincial almanacs have been published since the genre was established in the 17th century (the Library of Congress’ American Almanac Collection contains 3,986 unique titles). To view some almanacs online, view the results of this basic search on the Digital Public Library of America’s site, which produced over 2,000 results. Viewing the results in the timeline view shows the majority of items come from the 19th century, which comports with
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Categories: History.

Local History: “Mundane Recording Angel”

In the pages of his monthly magazine, The Westchester County Magazine, editor Alvah P. French described himself as a “mundane recording angel.” His magazine was “an historical, commercial, and social publication” whose diverse contents seem to be a reflection of French’s many interests. Each issue’s contents was a disarray of editorials on local politics, legal notices, obituaries for people either famous or not known outside of Westchester, Emily Post-style admonitions about social conduct, local history vignettes, classifieds, advertisements for local businesses, and unattributed pronouncements (usually philosophical in nature) seemingly written by French. We have a nearly complete set of issues
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Categories: History.

Local History: Library Hand

An offhand comment to a colleague about his handwriting lead us to this blog post about “library hand,” the formalized style of penmanship librarians were taught to use from the late 19th century until typewriters made the skill obsolete. Before typewriters and automated cataloging systems, librarians maintained handwritten accession books that listed purchasing and bibliographic information for books acquired by the library. Below are various examples of documents from the White Plains Collection that contain “library hand” and some that obviously do not. Even where writers used the style they were likely taught in library science school, there are variations
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Categories: History.

Local History: House History

Discovering the history of houses or apartment buildings is one of the best uses of the White Plains Collection. Whether it’s discovering architectural changes or getting to know your historical predecessors, you are sure to come away with some stories. Below are some of the resources in the White Plains Collection that can help you learn the story behind your home. Real Estate Record: Published by the Westchester Record Company, the digitized version of the Record we have runs from 1905 to 1931. It is composed of listings of real estate transactions, short articles on building and development news, and
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Categories: History.

Local History: Researching Greenburgh

All kinds of curious researchers find their way to the library and discover the White Plains Collection can help answer their questions. I’ve helped people find their yearbook picture, learn about the people who used to live in their house (no American Horror Stories uncovered yet), unearth lost city reports, and find photographs they didn’t know existed. Two recent research queries covered similar topics, and all the researchers are generating interesting projects about Greenburgh.   The Greenburgh African American Historical Alliance is a newly formed community-based organization created to assist in the historical preservation of African American heritage, history and
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Categories: History.

Local History: Depends On What You’re Looking For…

Photographs are great ways of learning about the past. They hold different levels of meaning and must be viewed critically to gain a true sense of what they represent. For instance, a seemingly straightforward picture of a row of houses might contain valuable information about the way houses were used or redesigned. A street scene with people scattered along the sidewalk might not be an accurate depiction of street life at the time–were the people posed? Did they show up because they knew a photograph was being taken? Here is a list of more questions I ask myself when using
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Categories: History.

Local History: Anti-Communism

The renovations at the library meant that we had to move the White Plains Collection to a storage area in another part of the library. In the course of the move, I came across a binder I had never seen before. It had label on the front that said it contained the “Westchester Spotlight 1955-1974.” Since that publication was not familiar to me, I opened the binder. The contents of the binder bring to life a complicated and troubling history.     The Westchester Spotlight was a counter-subversive newsletter published by the Westchester County Committee on Un-American Activities, part of
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Categories: History.

Local History: Why Data Isn’t Boring

Data is not boring, especially if you are interested in establishing historical truth. In the past year, Americans have been exposed to an immense amount of data about age, health, economic status, and opinions. A number we hear a lot about these days is 77,7440–the votes in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin that helped Donald Trump win the electoral vote even though Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by about 2.8 million votes. With increasing levels of partisan skepticism influencing news consumers and creators alike, outlets like FiveThirtyEight and Vox can offer refreshingly empirical perspectives to those who enjoy studying history.
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Categories: History.

Local History: Winter in Westchester

The local history blog will be taking a short break during the next two weeks, returning to weekly posting in 2017. To finish out the year, I thought it was appropriate to look at the history of winter in Westchester. While this post is by no means scientific, it will hopefully serve to help readers appreciate our climate and persuade some to venture into it! The earliest mentions of Westchester’s weather in the White Plains Collection are from the published journals of English colonists. Daniel Denton arrived in New Netherland (as New York was then called) in 1644 and was
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Categories: History.

Local History: Societies & Clubs

Between the late 1920s and the mid 1980s, librarians amassed a large collection of pamphlets, flyers, photographs, newsletters, and yearbooks from all kinds of organizations in White Plains and filed them under “Societies & Clubs.” Below are a few examples–some pulled at random, some pulled because I found them amusing–of the fascinating, often quirky contents of the Societies & Clubs folders. As with all of the material posted on this blog, these items are available for the public to view in the library. If you’re interested in doing so, email or call ahead to schedule an appointment!      
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Categories: History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Art Bennett

Art Bennett (alto saxophone/flute) was born and raised in White Plains. Art was active in the ‘Loft Jazz’ movement in New York City during the 1970’s. This subsequently led to appearances at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully and Avery Fisher Halls and other New York venues. Art has performed with many notable musicians such as Lonnie Liston Smith, Rashied Ali, Roy Brooks, James “Blood” Ulmer, William Parker, Marion Meadows and an impressive list of musicians in the Free Jazz art form. He was also a member of the New York Musicians Organization (NYMO), which secured grants to provide musical education programs,
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Categories: History and Oral History.

Local History: Slow Down with a Book

If you are reading this, you probably read more than just quaint blog posts. You might have a list of trusted sites you regularly browse, or perhaps you let an algorithm assemble content for you. Either way, information is liable to come at you fast in the form of tawdry headlines illustrated with photographic click-bait or in tweet-size bursts that belie the complex stories hidden behind shortened links. In the midst of all the media vying for our attention, I’d like to offer a classic suggestion: the book. All of the books below are part of the library’s local history
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Categories: History.

Local History: Lester Associates, Inc.

Lester Associates, Inc. was a giant in the world of miniatures. Based out of Thornwood for a time, the firm was responsible for constructing scale models, exhibits, and custom technical displays for some of the most well-remembered endeavors of the 1960s. Although its most famous work is the Panorama of New York City that debuted at the 1964 World’s Fair, Lester Associates also built a giant “time zone mural map” for IBM and intricate models of space craft for NASA. The images in this post come from a catalog sent to the library by Lester Associates in 1964.    
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Categories: History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Jack Harrington

Jack Harrington arrived in White Plains in June 1951. He moved here on assignment from the insurance company he worked for. During his long residency in White Plains, Jack has done a tremendous amount for the preservation of historical resources and the conservation of green spaces. Barbara and Rod Carlson, two active members of the White Plains Historical Society and knowledgeable students of local history, conducted these oral histories over a period of months. The creation of the Greenway, the politics of urban renewal, the character of White Plains, and the importance of historical preservation are some of the topics
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Categories: History and Oral History.

Local History: Contentious Politics

Political battles are a near-ubiquitous part of our history. White Plains was the site of numerous political dramas in the late 19th- and early 20th-century. As the seat of the county and the home of many individuals who fancied themselves powerful and important, what happened in White Plains was news throughout the state. Rather than have you read two blog posts, I will direct you to a highly informative article written by local history expert Cliff Blau. The political cartoons in his article are by John Rosch, and can be seen in Rosch’s scrapbooks or in Historic White Plains. The picture
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Categories: History.

Local History: 1960 Thanksgiving Day Parade

Here are some pictures of a Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 25, 1960 in White Plains. The parade route ran along Main Street, Martine Avenue, and Mamaroneck Avenue. These photographs are from the Peter Kanze Collection, detailed in a previous blog post.                                                                                
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Categories: History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Johnnie Pantanelli

Colonel Johnnie Pantanelli knew two things when she graduated from Scarsdale High School in the early 1940s. First, she wanted to fly airplanes. Second, she liked driving motorcycles even though her mother and aunt tried to tell her riding was not a proper hobby for girls. As you will hear in this oral history, Johnnie (her given name is “Joan”) did not listen to anyone who tried to discourage her and charted a determined, adventurous course from an early age through her 90s. Johnnie joined the Civil Air Patrol during World War II. The CAP is the official auxiliary of
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Categories: Oral History.

Local History: Urban Renewal Collection

The Urban Renewal Collection is a set of documents, photographs, newspaper clippings, and publications that tell part of the story of urban renewal in White Plains between the mid-1950s and the late-1970s. All of the information in this post is drawn from sources in that collection and the White Plains Collection more broadly. In White Plains we throw around the phrase “urban renewal” rather casually, but it actually first referred to a specific set of laws, projects, and changes. The phrase “urban renewal” was codified in the Housing Act of 1954. Ironically, the Housing Act of 1954 actually increased the
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Categories: History.