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The Hulk passes through Washington Square Park in The Amazing Spider-Man, issue 381, 1993

The Hulk passes through Washington Square Park in The Amazing Spider-Man, issue 381, 1993

Ta-Nehisi Coates hit the nail on the head when he said, “Comics are so often seen as the province of white geeky nerds. But, more broadly, comics are  the literature of outcasts, of pariahs, of Jews, of gays, of blacks. It’s really no mistake that we saw ourselves in Doom, Magneto or Rogue.” Since their inception, comic books have been a place for fantasy, wish fulfillment and political commentary. Much like science fiction, a genre decades old by the time comic books became popular in the United States, comic books often reflected the fringes of American society. They told the stories of outcasts and aliens, people who didn’t step in time with the rest of humanity. It’s unsurprising that someone like William Moulton Marston, psychologist and creator of Wonder Woman, would find himself so drawn to the medium.

This phenomenal development of a national comics addiction puzzles professional educators and leaves the literary critics gasping. Comics scorn finesse, thereby incurring the wrath of linguistic adepts. They defy the limits of accepted fact and convention, thus amortizing to apoplexy the ossified arteries of routine thought. But by these very tokens the picture-story fantasy cuts loose the hampering debris of art and artifice and touches the tender spots of universal human desires and aspirations, hidden customarily beneath long accumulated protective coverings of indirection and disguise. Comics speak, without qualm or sophistication, to the innermost ears of the wishful self.”

Front page to The Sound of Her Wings from Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes, Issue 8, 1991.

Front page to The Sound of Her Wings from Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes, Issue 8, 1991.

Marston wrote this for a 1943 issue of The American Scholar, a year after Wonder Woman debuted in her first solo book, Sensation Comics. He was a blacklisted psychologist who lived in a polyamorous relationship with two women, Olive Byrne and Elizabeth Holloway. All three worked, wrote and helped raise their four children. A self-identified feminist, Marston infused Wonder Woman with his politics, hoping to create a new feminine ideal. Perhaps, then, it is even less surprising that Marston’s inspiration was found largely in the radical communities of Greenwich Village.
Wonder Woman was not the only superhero to have passed through the Village. Comic book writers and artists have been sending their characters to the quintessential home of radical counterculture for decades. Wonder Woman herself lived in the Village in the sixties and seventies. Madame Xanadu, a sorceress based on the Arthurian legend of Nimue, had her salon on Chrystie Street. Peter Parker, that most relatable of high school geeks and New York native, swung through the Village regularly. Kyle Radnor, one of the iterations of the Green Lantern, was an artist whose studio was in a Greenwich Village loft. It made sense to place these characters here. Like the folk music that permeated the Village in the 1950’s and 60’s, comic books told stories  that were always meant for the common person, but also for those who didn’t quite feel like they were in sync with the rest of the world. People found shelter in the Village, and it was no different on the pages of Spider-Man or Wonder Woman.

A shadowy figure approaches the Sanctum Sanctorum, home of Doctor Stephen Strange, which first appeared in Strange Tales, issue 116, 1951. The Sanctum existed in multiple dimensions, but the front door was on Bleecker Street.

A shadowy figure approaches the Sanctum Sanctorum, home of Doctor Stephen Strange, which first appeared in Strange Tales, issue 116, 1951. The Sanctum existed in multiple dimensions, but the front door was on Bleecker Street.

Outside comic books, Greenwich Village was home to people like socialist writer Max Eastman, who published Child of the Amazons and Other Poems in 1913. Charlotte Perkins Gilman published Herland, a utopian novel about an egalitarian world without men, in her magazine Forerunner in 1915. Clearly Amazonian society had been on the minds of many Village feminists, not just Martson’s.
Because of their format, and their intended audiences, comic book creators had room to do the daring, to challenge social mores. Sometimes they didn’t succeed, and often they ended up just reproducing the same prejudices they were attempting to subvert. Despite the efforts of people like Marston, the comic book industry has been dominated by white men, its path dictated by what they think their audience of white teenage males want to see. But comic books still have their roots in counterculture, and are so identified with bohemian Greenwich Village that author Michael Chabon set much of his novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Claythere. His characters, Joe, Sammy and Rosa, called the Village home, often finding refuge there through a storm of homophobia, sexism and anti-semitism.
Supergirl is sent to the Village to speak to Madame Xanadu in Wonder Woman, issue 292, 1982

Supergirl is sent to the Village to speak to Madame Xanadu in Wonder Woman, issue 292, 1982

Comic books have certainly changed over the years, and so has the Village, but their shared history continues to draw people for similar reasons. They have the ability to show us our fantasies and desires, reflecting them back to us for better or worse. Idealists, radicals, outcasts and sometimes just lonely kids looking for companionship – those are the people who still hold comic books closest, and comic book creators owe much of that to the influence of the Village.

Related Reading:

Gaiman, Neil. Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes. New York: DC Comics, 1991.

Chabon, Michael. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. New York: Random House Publishing, 2000.

Daniels, Les. Wonder Woman: The Life and Times of the Amazon Princess: The Complete Story. San Francisco: Titan Books, 2000.

Schwartz, Judith. Radical Feminists of Heterodoxy: Greenwich Village 1912-1940. Norwich, Vermont: New Victoria Publishers, 1986.

 

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In the mid 2000s, the internet saw the slow death of dial up and the emergence of wireless internet.  Gone are the days where you would wait five minutes for your dial up to make garbled screeching noises before you could hear “you’ve got mail!” Never again will we wait ten minutes to load and watch a buffered minute long video attached to an e-mail from a relative that was not as funny as the “HILARIOUS COMMERCIAL” subject line suggested. The days where it was once a necessity to plug a laptop or desktop computer into a modem have surely passed, and formerly fantastical modern alternatives have crept into daily life. Laptops, tablets, and cell phones are and have been Wi-Fi ready for quite some time now.

This capability to connect so efficiently brings massive amounts of news, entertainment, and yes even educational tools directly to the user. Whether you’re on a plane forty thousand feet in the sky or underground in the few lucky subway stations with Wi-Fi accessibility, our current availability to resources has become enormous and easily accessible. Educators are bringing these resources directly to their classrooms and reaping the benefits of going beyond the text book and lecture to entice students into enjoying their education on another level. People who are not connected to the academic world can learn what others are learning in the classroom or at least see history in a different light. One of the most utilized internet tools impacting our education today is YouTube.

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In 2005, YouTube was launched as a website where user created video content could be shared to the entire world. Amateurs and professionals contribute their content on channels much like television but instead of being run by corporate television networks they control their own content. YouTube has become so popular that people colloquially referred to as “YouTubers” have created careers from sharing content. Today you can find a variety of YouTube videos that range from entertainment to educational. While some videos vary in quality of content depending on editing programs and resources, they all have something to contribute to the internet for the world to watch, grow, and learn from.

One educational program comes from well-known young adult author and YouTuber John Green, and is located on the YouTube channel “Crash Course.” The educational videos cover topics such as science education to history education. The flagship program on the channel is crash course American History that is narrated and hosted by John Green himself with the help of historians and media professionals. The videos are typically 12-15 minutes long, and break down complex topics in American History into brief narratives. They are not your typical educational type of lecture captured on camera. Instead they are interactive, colorful narratives chock full of clever quips on American history such as a “‘murica” moment where John Green essentially pats America on the back for doing something right rather than the often dark history of our nation’s past.  Essentially John Green breaks down prior glorified conceptions of the American past and presents them in a more realistic and sometimes even cynical way.

Green and his team prepare primary resources the go beyond the basic “Declaration of Independence” and dive into a more complex social history. The Crash Course video titled “Growth, Cities, and Immigration: Crash Course US History #25,” discusses the major theme of immigration into United States cities at the peak of immigration rates. The video uses primary resources such as interactive maps that highlight areas Green discusses. He highlights New York City as “a leading city” in the United States at the turn of the 20th century. In the video he discusses the impact of mass immigration during the industrial revolution and Gilded Age. In one part of the series he must read a primary resource and then guess the author of the resource, if he gets it wrong he must zap himself with a buzzer pen. While not always one hundred percent educational, it still proves to be a comical way to make history more interesting for the general public, rather than students sitting in an undergraduate or graduate course at a university.

Above: John Green’s Crash Course Episode, “Growth, Cities, and Immigration: Crash Course US History #25”

YouTube can be educational as well as entertaining in regards to New York City other than just a “Crash Course” video that highlights the city. Educational and travel-based videos of New York exist all over YouTube. One major highlight is the ever popular Greenwich Village. While I have the luxury of regularly seeing culturally important buildings and sites by attending school in Greenwich Village, not everybody has the same convenience. You can read up on the history of Greenwich Village all over the internet to learn where to visit or learn a little bit of history about the area. What YouTube and many other user created content video servers can offer is the chance to have the most realistic view of Greenwich Village without actually stepping foot in New York City. Greenwich Village is rich with history reaching back to the 18th century to contemporary history. It is quite an eclectic community and there is so much to see in such as small part of the city. But, if you cannot physically visit the city you can always take a walking tour on YouTube.

One walking tour from the channel “Jetset Extra” titled “The Big Onion Walking Tour: Greenwich Village” features more traditionally educational and factual content on Greenwich Village. The channel prides itself as, “An online resource for seasoned globetrotters and novice travelers interested in learning more about a variety of destinations and exciting travel opportunities.” So while it is not a traditional educational resource, it offers insight into Greenwich Village’s history. However, one must use caution with using this as an educational resource and with everything fact check to ensure accuracy. What the video does offer is a visual beyond photos of staple Greenwich Village attractions such as the Centennial Arch in Washington Square Park or the Stonewall Inn, which is often seen as the birthplace of the east coast gay rights movement. There is something for every century and every community in Greenwich Village, as evidenced by the casual tour with video’s tour guide, Seth Kamil. The “Big Onion” video is fifteen minutes long and gives a brief glimpse of the long history. Is the video self-promoting in order to relay that Big Onion Walking Tours can be taken in New York City and Greenwich Village? It sure is. But watching the video can give a short insight and visual to the history of the village making it a useful tool to learning history online.

Above: JetSet Extra’s Greenwich Village Walking Tour guided by Big Onion Waling Tours

While some videos promote travel and specific tours available in Greenwich Village that people can physically take with tour guides, others on YouTube allow those who are unable to visit to get an experience as if they were there. Tools like YouTube make history more enthralling by bringing it beyond textbooks and lectures. The ability to see images and first person walking tours provides the awareness that history is more than a story.  It gives tangibility to culturally and socially significant moments in history, something Greenwich Village has seen a lot of. Beyond  Greenwich Village, bringing history out the academic sphere and putting it in a more public setting makes it accessible to a larger demographic of people. Even major companies such as The History Channel have taken to uploading clips that are of educational relevance because of the success of YouTube in general. YouTube can be used as a tool to tell the countless stories of history to everyone in an entertaining style.

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In the documentary The Tao of 9 Second Avenue, architect John Shuttleworth states that the Church of All Nations “was always a community-oriented building…[cutting] across ethnic boundaries.” He continues to recount that it inherited a “great history of community service,” beginning in 1874 when the Germania Assembly Rooms occupied the site at 9 Second Avenue, then alternatively known as 291 Bowery.

Germania Manhattan Guide

Excerpt from ‪The Manhattan Guide‬: ‪Greater New York Red Book‬.

The Germania Assembly Rooms, which are included in The Manhattan Guide’s list of the public halls of greater New York, functioned primarily as a settlement house for German immigrants. In his King’s How to See New York: A Complete Trustworthy Guide Book, Moses King calls the institution “a dance and meeting hall.” The Telegraph Herald adds that members of the Arion Singing Society used the Germania Assembly Rooms as a communal space.

King's Germania

Excerpt from King’s How to See New York: A Complete Trustworthy Guide Book.

By the early twentieth century Hadley Rescue Hall and Wesley Rescue Hall occupied the site, with 293 Bowery as their addresses. Members of the Church of All Nations ran the halls, providing food, shelter, and religious support to “destitute” and “outcast” locals in the Bowery. The Christian Advocate in particular details the Wesley Rescue Hall’s rehabilitation of over 15,000 men and solicits donations of clothing and shoes for its members. The New York Charities Directory lists Hadley Rescue Hall as a place where “drunkards and criminals of both sexes are welcome and assistance is given when necessary.”

After its official opening at 9 Second Avenue on February 15, 1923, the Church of All Nations continued to provide services to the local community. Many interviewees in The Tao of 9 Second Avenue echo Shuttleworth’s comments, noting that the Church accepted and embraced people of all races and religions. Members could attend religious services in its chapel, which were given in Polish, Chinese, Russian, and English. According to Judy Sutula, a local synagogue even used the chapel for its Passover celebrations.

NY Charities Directory

Excerpt from The New York Charities Directory .

The New York Charities Directory chronicles other activities hosted by the  “settlement house,” including the Church’s English, Yiddish, Italian, Chinese, Russian, and German events. It also offered educational classes and kindergarten for young children in addition to gymnastics and sewing school. The Church’s “Fresh Air Fund vacations,” funded completely through donation, sent city children on free summer getaways in June, July, and August.

In 1951 the New York Times advertised free puppet shows and demonstrations hosted by the Church’s Pioneer Youth Camp Program. Older Church of All Nations members could take part in theatre performances, which were either presented as part of the works division of the Department of Public Welfare or held as fundraisers for the Church.

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Church of All Nations members in their athletic uniforms. Photograph courtesy of Gloria Weilandis.

Local athletics clubs, like the Chinese Athletic Club and the Young People’s Christian Foundation, used the building’s sports facilities for friendly games. A rent-control station opened in the Church in 1947, allowing Lower East Side tenants to get information about their landlords and apply for rent reductions.

Milk

Excerpt from “‪RISE IN MILK PRICE TO BE FOUGHT HERE; Consumers’ Protective Group Calls Public Meeting for Oct. 11 to Plan Action‬” article in the New York Times.

The Church of All Nations also served as a forum where local residents could voice their opinions and exchange ideas about particular issues. In 1928 Russian members attended a speech on Christianity, communism, and materialism hosted by the Reverend Dr. Timothy Peshkoff, the Church’s Russian pastor. Union laborers on strike over low WPA wage scales gathered in the building in 1935 to send a telegram to Mayor LaGuardia refusing to return to work. When the price of milk increased by half a cent in 1939, the Consumers’ Protective Group called a public meeting and planned a protest in the Church’s auditorium.

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Image of the Church of All Nations taken in February 1967. Photograph courtesy of Gloria Weilandis.

The Church of All Nations was not the only institution committed to community service in Manhattan in the early part of the twentieth century. Much like other organizations listed in The Manhattan Guide and The New York Charities Directory, it supplied essential social, health, and religious services to local residents. The Church of All Nations also provided its members with a space to form and strengthen communal bonds, which permanently ceased with the building’s demolition in 2005.

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The East Village is often viewed as a younger, edgier sibling of Greenwich Village. A depiction that is accurate considering that the neighborhood is quite new as far as New York City neighborhoods are concerned. Throughout much of New York City’s history the area located east of 3rd Avenue between Houston and 14th Street was simply known as the Lower East Side. By the mid-20th century, however, the neighborhoods of the Lower East Side and Greenwich Village began to merge, and as boundaries changed the area’s population transformed as well.

The term East Village first appeared in the early 1960s when artists from Greenwich Village started moving east to escape the rising cost of rent. This move to the Lower East Side was partly tied to the destruction of the Third Avenue El in 1956 that had served as a physical and social divide between the two neighborhoods. As the artist community spread east, real estate brokers followed closely behind hoping to cash in on the areas’ growing connection to the bohemian scene. Relators began referring to the neighborhood as “East of the Village” or the “Village East” and hippies began flocking to the area. Indeed, the first mention of the East Village in The New York Times came on Feb 7, 1960, and even at this early stage the article remarked upon real estate interests in the neighborhood.

At the same time East Village had begun experiencing other serious demographic changes. The older immigrant community largely of Eastern European descent was being replaced by the city’s rapidly growing Puerto Rican population. Between 1940 and 1970 the city’s Puerto Rican population exploded, growing from a minority of about 100,000 to over a million. Many of the new immigrants settled in the Lower East Side, and by the time the hippies arrived there was a large Puerto Rican presence in the neighborhood.

Screen shot 2013-09-29 at 4.06.21 PM

Through the influence of hippies, artists, and real estate agents the name East Village had become common among New Yorkers by the late 1960s. In a June 5, 1967 article titled “The 2 Worlds of the East Village” the Times pointed to the general acceptance of the term noting that the area had already “come to be known” as the East Village, but it also hinted that some New Yorkers were uneasy with the changes in the neighborhood. Referencing clash between city police and about 200 hippies, the article claimed that there was a large divide between the officers and residents of the “seething streets”. The author, which tellingly only interviewed police officers, declared that cops in their “trim, blue uniforms and highly polished shoes find it difficult to understand the world of the unkempt, long haired hippies, the Puerto Ricans with their strange language and customs, and the Negroes.” Indeed, for this author and the officers he interviewed, the residents of the East Village did not conform to what he called “middle-class society and values”. One of the officers described hippies saying, “You feel like vomiting,” while another complained of Puerto Ricans that they “like to congregate on the streets,” and “play their guitars at all hours of the night”. These descriptions did not represent everyone’s view of the East Village, but for the author and his clean-cut cops, the neighborhood seemed like an unfriendly place.

Despite the critics, the East Village continued to grow in popularity and became a large draw for tourists in the 60s and 70s. One young hippie described the appeal of the neighborhood the best simply stating, “You go where the action is.”

Sources

 
Edmond J. Bartnett, “‘Village’ Spills Across 3D Ave.” New York Times, February 7, 1960: R1.
 
Sylvan Fox, “The 2 Worlds of the East Village,” New York Times, June 5, 1967: 63.
 
Paul Hoffman, “Hippies’ Hangout Draws Tourists,” New York Times, June 5, 1967: 63.
 
Ira Rosenwaike, Population History of New York City (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1972), 174.

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While researching the impact that World War One had on Greenwich Village, I came across the Abingdon Square Doughboy.  This statue, located in Abingdon Square Park near the intersection of 8th Avenue and Hudson Street, was commissioned by the residents of Greenwich Village in order to memorialize the soldiers from their neighborhood who had lost their lives during World War One.  However, the Doughboy is connected to the Village in more ways than one.  The sculptor who created this particular memorial was a man named Philip Martiny, whose studio was located on MacDougal Alley.

The Abingdon Square Doughboy

Martiny was born in 1858 in France, where he trained under a sculptor by the name of Eugene Dock.  At age 20, he immigrated to America for what was, in his own words, “the most sordid of reasons:” to evade army service in France.  Upon his arrival in America, Martiny began to study with the sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who was widely considered to be one of the greatest American sculptors of the Beaux Arts movement.   He proved to be an adept student, and by the early 1900’s, Martiny had already received a number of very prominent commissions.

The turn of the 20th century was a good time to be a sculptor in America, and even more so in New York City.  The Beaux Arts movement, with its goal of beautifying urban environments, was in full swing in New York.  Beautifully decorated classical style buildings were popping up like daisies, and sculptors were in high demand.  Martiny, having been trained by the great Saint-Gaudens, was a highly sought out sculptor for the Beaux Arts projects being erected all over Manhattan.  He created a number of sculptures to be placed on the Chamber of Commerce building on Liberty Street in Manhattan.  These sculptures have disappeared from the side of the building, though, and their current location seems to be a bit of a mystery.  All that remains on the Chamber of Commerce building are empty spaces between the columns where the statues were formerly housed.

The Chamber of Commerce Building with and without Martiny’s statues:

66 Liberty Street (Broadway - Nassau Street)  

However, Martiny’s work is still visible elsewhere in the city.  He, along with other famous sculptors of the day, created sculptures to grace the outside of the Appellate Court on 25th Street and Madison Avenue.  He also designed the eagles that decorate the famous Greenwich Village Landmark: the Washington Square Arch.

File:Washington Square by Matthew Bisanz.JPG

Washington Square Arch (note Martiny’s eagle smack in the middle)

The Arch would have been just a short walk from Martiny’s studio on MacDougal Alley.  The alley was a busy place in the early 1900’s.  A New York Times reporter remarked that the street had “quite as many stables as studios.”  Martiny’s studio, though, was unique.  By 1904, Martiny was receiving so many commissions that he had to hire an office staff of accountants to process them all.

Perhaps Martiny’s status as a local helped him gain one of the last commissions of his career.  The Jefferson Democratic Club selected Martiny to create a World War I memorial across from their headquarters on West 12th Street. Martiny accepted the commission and in 1921, the Abingdon Square Doughboy was dedicated.   It stands proudly in the park until this day, reminding the Village of their lost sons and the local artist who immortalized them.

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Sources:

New York Times, “A Sculptor Who is Also a Captain of Industry,” March 27, 1904. http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=F40716FB355F13718DDDAE0A94DB405B848CF1D3 (accessed September 30, 2013).

“Abingdon Square Monuments – Abingdon Square Doughboy : NYC Parks.” New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/abingdonsquare/monuments/1942 (accessed October 1, 2013).

Cauldwell, William . “Philip Martiny.” The Succesful American, January 1902.

Van Alfen, Peter. “Monuments, Medals, and Metropolis, part I: Beaux Arts Architecture.” ANS Magazine 2, no. 2 (2003): 17-23. http://ansmagazine.com/Summer03/Monuments (accessed September 29, 2013).

“War Memorials in Parks : NYC Parks.” New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. http://www.nycgovparks.org/about/history/veterans#world-war-I (accessed October 1, 2013).

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There are many surprising ways in which issues with the water supply have altered the path of New York City’s history. As the population exploded during the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, the water supply and its quality shaped the growth of urban development. Poor water supply systems created a constant threat of water-born diseases for early Manhattanites — in particular, yellow fever.  While Lower Manhattan (specifically Wall Street) has been America’s center of finance for over two centuries, for brief periods in the nineteenth century Greenwich Village housed bankers and businessmen (as well as many other New Yorkers) seeking to escape periodically vicious outbreaks of yellow fever.

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Aaron Burr, courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog

After a particularly deadly outbreak of yellow fever in 1798, Aaron Burr along with his associates petitioned to create a private company that would supply the city with water from fresher and “safer” sources. The Manhattan Company was thereby created. However, it was actually Burr’s intention to use the company as a front in order to establish a bank — an immensely complicated undertaking in that era. A brief annotation to the Manhattan Company’s charter allowed for excess stock to be used “in the purchase of public stock or in any other monied transactions or operations not inconsistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States.” Unfortunately, since the company’s main goal was to establish a bank, The Manhattan Company was slow and inept at creating a systematic and safe water supply for the city, and the outbreaks of yellow fever persisted.

The Bank of New York — the oldest bank in the United States and founded by Alexander Hamilton — started a trend of banks moving temporarily northward to escape yellow fever, galvanized by a clerk at the bank’s Wall Street headquarters contracting the disease during the 1798 outbreak. Subsequent epidemics in 1803, 1805, and 1822 pushed other banks, such as Bank of the Manhattan Company and Phenix Bank, to the same block of land inhabited by the temporary sanctuary of the Bank of New York. This cluster of businesses resulted in the naming of the strip “Bank Street,” which is still present today in the West Village.

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The Bank of New York, watercolor by John William Hill, The Phelps Stokes Collection, New York Public Library

1822 marked the last great yellow fever outbreak in lower Manhattan. One 1823 report of the epidemic by Dr. Peter S. Townsend recalled “the timely and almost total abandonment of all that part of the city south of Fulton-street…”  One citizen described how “[f]rom daybreak till night, one line of carts, containing boxes, merchandize and effects, were seen moving towards Greenwich Village and the upper parts of the city.” However, business was soon as bustling as before in their temporary Greenwich Village retreat:

Within a few days thereafter, the Custom House, the Post Office, the Banks, the Insurance Offices, and the printers of Newspapers located themselves in the village… where they were free from the impending danger, and these places almost instantaneously became the seat of the immense business usually carried on, in this great metropolis.

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Excerpt from James Hardie’s “An account of the yellow fever, which occurred in the city of New-York, in the year 1822”

The rustic appeal of Greenwich Village would not last much longer. By 1837, construction of the Croton Aqueduct would begin: soon the city would have an abundant and clean water supply and the yellow fever outbreaks would subside. Greenwich Village would thereafter become home to factories and tenements — a far cry from its bucolic beginnings. However, before this development, the village provided sanctuary to the citizens of lower Manhattan, and allowed New York bankers to continue business as usual.

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Only 29 years after the end of the American Revolution, the United States and Great Britain were once again at war.  In large part due to British impressment of American sailors and seizure of American ships, what would become known as the War of 1812 began June 18, 1812. The unit which would become the 9th New York State Militia served in Manhattan during this conflict.  To protect New York City from British invasion, the predecessors of the 9th NYSM manned the guns of the North and West Batteries.  Though these soldiers did not see action, the experienced gained during this time made this unit more well trained than many other state militia units.  With the end of this war and the signing of the Treaty of Ghent on December 24, 1814, the duties of the 9th NYSM changed from defending forts to quelling different riots in New York City.

Political corruption, racial tensions, and gang violence in New York City prior to the Civil War caused many conflicts.  The predecessor unit of the 9th NYSM helped subdue a riot over abolition in January 1835 and that same year assisted in fighting the Great Fire of December 17th.  1857 saw a need for state militia to stop violence in the city because of two major riots.  The first of these riots was the Police Riot which occurred on June 16-18, 1857.  Tensions between the newly-disbanded New York Municipal Police and the new Metropolitan Police started this riot.  After incredible corruption in the police force under Mayor Fernando Wood, the State of New York dissolved the Municipal Police and instituted the Metropolitan Police which a five man board appointed by the Governor of New York controlled.  Some Municipal Police members supported the mayor and others joined the Metropolitan Police in support of the governor.  Tensions began when Mayor Wood forcefully rejected a commissioner appointed by the governor from City Hall.  A Metropolitan Policeman attempted to arrest the mayor but was thrown out of City Hall by members of the Municipal Police.  More Metropolitans came to serve the arrest warrant but a larger group of Municipal Policemen drove them back.  After yet another attempt to arrest Mayor Wood, Major General Charles Sandford of the New York State Militia surrounded City Hall with militiamen (members of what would become the 9th NYSM were involved) and forced Mayor Wood and his Municipals to surrender.  A total of 53 people were injured during this conflict.

The next month tensions between immigrant and native gangs in New York City came to a boil on July 4, 1857.  The Dead Rabbit gang led a group of gangs from the famed “Five Points” to attack the native Bowery Boys.  After fighting each other for a few hours, police arrived to intervene.  The gangs, however, turned on the police and drove them away.  The police needed the assistance of the New York State Militia.  The predecessor to the 9th NYSM arrived with fixed bayonets to drive the gangs and other rioters back.  Late in the day of July 5th, New York Police and the Militia quelled one of the largest riots in New York City history.  The casualties from this riot were 8 people dead and almost 100 wounded.  Fortunately, no members from the militia were injured. 

Experience in subduing rioting gangs would be quite different than the experience awaiting the men of the 9th NYSM.  As the country moved toward disunion in 1860, the 9th NYSM continued to have routine drill in preparation for active service.  At the outbreak of the American Civil War, President Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to put down the southern rebellion. One of the first units to answer this call in May 1861 was the 9thNew York State Militia.  Equipped by the armory on West Fourteenth Street these men from Greenwich Village marched to war with very little experience in conventional battles.

Sources:

http://www.history.com/topics/war-of-1812

Headley, J.T. The Great Riots of New York, 1712 to 1873, Including a Full and Complete Account of the Four Days’ Draft Riot of 1863. New York: E.B. Treat, 1873

“9th New York State Militia” NY Military Museum and Veterans Research Center.” New York Division of Military and Naval Affairs. Web. 11 Dec. 2011. http://dmna.state.ny.us/historic/reghist/civil/infantry/9thInfNYSM/9thInfNYSMMain.htm

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