history

For more than 150 years the Gowanus Canal has been called a cesspool, an industrial dumping ground, and a blemish, but it is also one of the most important waterways in the history of New York Harbor. Yet its true origin, man made character, and importance to the City has been largely forgotten. In his new book, Gowanus: Brooklyn's Canal, Brooklynite, author, and Journalist Joseph Alexiou shares the little known history of the small waterway in Brooklyn.

Alexiou is the author of Paris For Dummies; ​he is also a licensed New York City tour guide; and his writing has appeared in The New York Observer, Gothamist, and New York Magazine's Daily Intel.  

You might know that Uncle Sam, the personification of the United States, is based on a real person. Samuel Wilson, a meatpacker who lived in Troy, New York from the late 1700s until his death in 1854, is said to be the original Uncle — but even that is up for debate. Either way, a group of Trojans this weekend is hoping to bid on what could be the only known photograph of Wilson.

  Juan Williams is a top political analyst for Fox News Channel and will be with us this morning to discuss his new book, We the People: The Modern-Day Figures Who Have Reshaped and Affirmed the Founding Fathers' Vision of America.

In the book, Williams tells us who would be on his modern day Mount Rushmore.

  Taylor Mac is a playwright, actor, singer-songwriter, performance artist, director and producer who is currently creating a 24-hour durational concert called, “A 24-Decade History of Popular Music.”

6 hours of the project, representing the six decades between 1836 and 1896, will be performed at MASS MoCA in North Adams Massachusetts this Saturday, April 9th from 4 to 10pm. Audience members are encouraged to come and going during the performance.

Taylor Mac was recently name-checked in a New York Magazine article about why New York Theater is thriving and The New York Times said “Fabulousness can come in many forms, and Taylor Mac seems intent on assuming each and every one of them.”

  The struggle between individual rights and the good of the community as a whole has been the basis of nearly every major disagreement in the history of the United States, from the debates at the Constitutional Convention and in the run up to the Civil War to the fights surrounding the agendas of the Federalists, the Progressives, the New Dealers, the civil rights movement, and the Tea Party.

In American Character, Colin Woodard traces these two key strands in American politics through the four centuries of the nation’s existence.

  In The Geography of Genius, acclaimed travel writer Eric Weiner sets out to examine the connection between our surroundings and our most innovative ideas. He explores the history of places, like Vienna of 1900, Renaissance Florence, ancient Athens, Song Dynasty Hangzhou, and Silicon Valley, to show how certain urban settings are conducive to ingenuity. 

Eric Weiner is a former NPR correspondent and the author of the New York Times bestseller The Geography of Bliss and the critically acclaimed Man Seeks God.

  More than fifty years before the American Revolution, Boston was in revolt against the tyrannies of the Crown, Puritan Authority, and Superstition.

In The Fever of 1721, Stephen Coss tells the story of a year that changed the course of medical history, American journalism, and colonial revolution.

During the worst smallpox epidemic in Boston history Cotton Mather convinced Doctor Zabdiel Boylston to try a procedure that he believed would prevent death—by making an incision in the arm of a healthy person and implanting it with smallpox. “Inoculation” led to vaccination, one of the most profound medical discoveries in history. Public outrage forced Boylston into hiding, and Mather’s house was firebombed.

  In the new book, The Immortal Irishman: The Irish Revolutionary Who Became an American Hero, National Book Award winner Timothy Egan illuminates the dawn of the great Irish-American story -- with all its twists and triumphs, is told through the improbable life of one man, Thomas Francis Meagher.

A dashing young orator during the Great Famine of the 1840s, in which a million of his Irish countrymen died, led a failed uprising against British rule, for which he was banished to a Tasmanian prison colony. He escaped and six months later was heralded in the streets of New York — the revolutionary hero, back from the dead, at the dawn of the great Irish immigration to America.

  In the early seventeenth century, a crippled, graying, almost toothless veteran of Spain's wars against the Ottoman Empire published a book. It was the story of a poor nobleman, his brain addled from reading too many books of chivalry, who deludes himself that he is a knight errant and sets off on hilarious adventures. That book, Don Quixote, went on to sell more copies than any other book beside the Bible, making its author, Miguel de Cervantes, the single most-read author in human history. Cervantes did more than just publish a bestseller, though. He invented a way of writing.

In The Man Who Invented Fiction William Egginton explores Cervantes's life and the world he lived in, showing how his influences converged in his work, and how his work--especially Don Quixote--radically changed the nature of literature and created a new way of viewing the world.

  Eternity Street tells the story of a violent place in a violent time: the rise of Los Angeles from its origins as a small Mexican pueblo. In his narrative, John Mack Faragher relates a dramatic history of conquest and ethnic suppression, of collective disorder and interpersonal conflict. Eternity Street recounts the struggle to achieve justice amid the turmoil of a loosely governed frontier, and it delivers a piercing look at the birth of this quintessentially American city. 

John Mack Faragher is the Howard R. Lamar Professor of History and American Studies at Yale University. He is the author of many books on the American frontier, including Daniel Boone: The Life and Legend of an American Pioneer, which received a Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and, most recently, A Great and Noble Scheme.

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