Archives for white plains history

Local History: The Hudson River

The Hudson River shapes nearly every area of our lives in some way: from topography, patterns of human settlement, and military decisions to energy production, human health, commerce, and culture. This summer, impress your fellow travelers with some knowledge about the Hudson Valley and the Hudson River gained from the White Plains Collection. Below is a bibliography of historical and contemporary titles from many different genres and eras.   Histories: Narrative, Revolutionary, and Social The Hudson from the Wilderness to the Sea by Benson J. Lossing (1866): A wonderful, illustration-rich vintage title donated by former White Plains librarian Clara F.
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Categories: History and Homepage.

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: WWII & the OPA

On April 11, 1941, FDR signed an executive order creating the Office of Price Administration.The Reporter Dispatch wrote that the purpose of the OPA was the “protection of the consumer” and to make supplies available to the public “after military needs are met.” Many goods were rationed during World War II, including sugar, meat, coffee, building materials, and gasoline. The OPA issued ration books to individuals a number of times during the war. Below are two examples of ration coupons for heating oil that were donated to the White Plains Collection by Library Trustee Paul Schwarz. They show the address
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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: WPA in White Plains

On April 8, 1935, President Roosevelt signed a law creating the Works Progress Administration, or WPA. The WPA was created to create employment opportunities for millions of unemployed Americans and material benefit to communities throughout the country. White Plains and Westchester were no exception, with significant public works projects and make-work efforts, where jobs in local agencies were supported by federal funds. The White Plains Collection contains some examples of the works created through the WPA and a few records that describe projects the federal government supported in Westchester County. In 1939, the National Muncipal League’s Consultant Service completed field
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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: Black History Month

It’s February, a month recognized as Black History Month across America. Sometimes also called African American History Month, wide-scale public recognition of the history of Black Americans began in 1915 when Dr. Carter G. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History. In 1926, Negro History Week was established through the ASALH. The commemoration was updated in 1975 and given its current form by an act of Congress and a Presidential Proclamation in 1986. A full history of the public commemoration can be found here. In 2016, the National Museum of African American History and Culture
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Categories: History.

Local History: Richard Crandell Collection

We regularly receive donations to the White Plains Collection, but there are just a handful of people who made large donations of materials or funds. John Rosch and Renoda Hoffman, both official city historians, donated or created some of the most important items in our collection. Richard Crandell, while never officially the city historian, also had a huge impact on the promotion and dissemination of local history and added some vital pieces to the WPC.   In 1954, Crandell published This Is Westchester: A Study of Suburban Living, a book that illuminates some of Westchester’s history. Mostly, however, the book
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Categories: History.

Local History: Bronx River Parkway

If you ever walk along the Bronx River Parkway and want to supplement your experience with some local history, check out the White Plains Collection. Below are some examples of materials that illuminate more than just the history of the parkway. We have documents about the building of the parkway and the economic impact of the parkway. One could also trace the history of “green spaces” in American planning or how publicly funded projects supported the growth of the suburbs.                                        
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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.