History Detectives

Happy Birthday Alexander Hamilton!

Alexander Hamilton turned 257 on Saturday, January 11. He was born in 1757 in Nevis in the British West Indies, and by the age of 11 Alexander was working in a local office of the New York trading firm Cruger and Beekman. He kept the paper work in order, handwriting copies of documents, book keeping, etc. He later said that this job was the most useful part of his education, because he learned about trade. He learned how materials were grown and processed and shipped, how money was made and spent, how good business decisions were made, and he later put these lessons to important work. This drawing shows Alexander at exactly 16 years old – perhaps a birthday present!

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Unidentified artist, A. Hamilton Drawn from Life, January 11, 1773. Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-11091 

He came to New York to attend school but he did not finish college. He had arrived in city just as the colonists were moving toward revolution and he was swept up in the fiery political atmosphere. He served most of the war as General George Washington’s aide-de-camp, his right hand man.

Alexander was 26 when the American Revolution ended, but he had not yet begun the work that would make him famous – helping to design the government of a new nation, the United States. In addition to being a part of the convention that drafted a new constitution, he became the first secretary of the treasury – appointed by his former general, George Washington.

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Charles Wilson Peale. Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804), late 18th or early 19th century. Gift of Duncan C. Pell, 1841.2

The currency in the U.S. was a confused mess before the Revolution, and war had made it worse. All sorts of money was in circulation, produced by foreign countries, states, and even private companies.

Spanish Coin Reales 27376

Unidentified maker. Spanish coin (2 Reales), 1789. The Susan Mount Collection, INV.13710.5

 To further complicate matters, much of the currency was worthless or fake. Trade was suffering, and we needed to repay our debts to foreign powers from the war. During Hamilton’s time as treasury secretary, he created a national bank so the country would have a place to keep its money, and a way to make loans and pay debts. He created a national currency, the same system we use today, and he established the U.S. Mint to manufacture our coins.

To learn more about this amazing founding father, visit our website from our groundbreaking 2005 exhibition. Take a quiz, explore a timeline, and take a virtual tour of the exhibition.

Want to make your own currency? Join us for our second annual family benefit party on January 25, 2014 – History Surprises! Create a motto for your coin, meet our Alexander Hamilton re-enactor, and join in many other fun activities. Tickets are on sale now!

 

Reading into History: Interview with Martin Sandler

impossiblerescueHow did a few men and two giant herds of reindeer rescue hundreds of whalers trapped in Northern Alaska in the middle of winter in 1898? This Sunday, the Reading into History family book club will meet to discuss Martin Sandler’s book about this epic mission, The Impossible Rescue: The True Story of an Amazing Arctic Adventure. We will be joined by Michael Dyer, Senior Maritime Historian at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, who also worked on the book. Mr. Sandler won’t be with us but he kindly spent some time answering our author questions. Check out his answers and come to the book wrap at 3 pm this Sunday here at the museum. We’ll talk about the rescue mission and the history of the whaling industry.

DiMenna Children’s History Museum: What is your favorite time period in American history? Why?

Martin Sandler: I find things in every period of American history that fascinate me. My main goal is to make history come alive by discovering a story that is remarkable, important, and unknown or little known and telling it in the most compelling way possible.

DCHM: What were you like between the ages of 9 and 12?

MS: I was totally consumed with both playing and watching baseball, football, and basketball. I was also an incorrigible prankster and was, no doubt, not nearly as funny as I thought I was.

DCHM: What is your favorite place in New York?

MS: I am deeply and emotionally affected by Ellis Island and it is impossible for me to stand there without being filled with an abiding appreciation of how much we owe to those who passed through its hall. And, I LOVE New York delis.

DCHM: What made you want to write The Impossible Rescue?

MS: From the moment I discovered this story,  knew it was a story of such courage and dedication that it was crying out to be told, particularly to young people. The fact that I was able to find the diaries written by the key participants helped me to truly bring the story to life.

DCHM: What three words best describe The Impossible Rescue?

MS: Amazing – Unforgettable – INSPIRING

If you have questions about the book club, email familyprograms@nyhistory.org. See you on Sunday!

Seasons of Light: How Animals Used to Light America

S_1_CandleLightEffectMarketScene_VenMeler

S. F. Van Meller, Candle Light Effect, Market Scene, 19th century, Collection of the New-York Historical Society: S-1

If you come to the New-York Historical Society this winter break you can go on the Seasons of Light scavenger hunt. This hunt celebrates the holiday season by exploring how America has been lit through the centuries. Our museum has so many artifacts related to light it was hard to choose what to put on the hunt!

It might surprise you to know that before electric light, animals were crucial to lighting American homes. How? Well, when European settlers first came to America in the 1600s, there was no electricity (if you are reading this blog, you probably already knew that). These settlers would have lit their homes with…you guessed it…candles. You may think these candles were made from beeswax; however, bees are not native to North America. Colonists did start bringing over honey bees in the early 1600s, but by far the cheapest and most common candle found in this time was made from tallow. Tallow is animal fat. These candles were cheaper to make or buy than any other type of candle (other candles were made from beeswax, myrtle wax, bayberries, or something called spermaceti that we’ll talk about in a bit.)

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Chamber candlestick circa 1780-1830. Collection of the New-York Historical Society: 1937.1493a

If a person lived in a remote place, not near a chandler (professional candle maker), he or she would save the drippings from his/her cooked meat for a long time and then boil them all at once to make that year’s  worth of candles. Can you imagine the smell coming from a cauldron of boiling, rotten fat? Now can you imagine how the candle made from that fat would smell, especially when burning? Tallow candles, though cheap, were the worst smelling of all candles. That said, no seventeenth or eighteenth century home would have had many of them lit at once. If you traveled back to a colonial, candle-lit home it would seem very dim with perhaps only one or two candles lit and only where activity was happening.

Spermaceti was the most expensive substance used to make candles. It was also used later in oil lamps. Spermaceti was an expensive but popular source of lamp oil until the invention of electricity because it burns brightly, gives off no smoke, and has no odor. Interestingly, it comes from a whale. More interestingly, it comes from the head of a sperm whale! A large sperm whale could have as much as three tons of the substance in its head. Sperm whale blubber could also be converted into oil, another source of fuel for light, a bit inferior to spermaceti. Today it is illegal in most countries to hunt and kill whales but it was big business in the nineteenth century. Deep ocean whaling began off the cost of Nantucket in 1712. By 1850, New Bedford, Massachusetts was the wealthiest city in the nation per capita because it was the heart of the whaling industry. Nineteenth century whalers killed hundreds of thousands of sperm whales for their blubber and spermaceti.  Here is an oil lamp from our collection made to hold whale oil or spermaceti.

whale oil lamp_1896_6_img1

This pewter lamp, circa 1800-1850 was made to burn whale oil. Collection of the New-York Historical Society: 1932.6

Eventually kerosene, derived from petroleum, became a cheaper and more abundant source of lamp oil. Even a home lit by oil lamps, whether whale oil or kerosene, would seem dim compared to a home lit by an electric bulb.

If you want to know more about light, come do the scavenger hunt. If you want to know more about whaling, or at least an amazing rescue mission of trapped whaling ships in 1898, read the Impossible Rescue and come talk about it with us at our book club meeting on Sunday, January 5. Most of all, have a happy holiday from all of us here at the DCHM!

All Aboard with Brian Floca, Locomotive, and Historical Toy Trains

This weekend we will be celebrating all things trains for ages young and old. Our terrific case of toys and trains Batteries Not Included showcases example of toys from 1850–1945.

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Caboose, ca. 1902. Elie Nadelman Collection, New-York Historical Society. INV.7621

 Included in this case you’ll find a variety of train cars—a caboose, a fruit car, a Heinz ketchup box car, and a locomotive, among others. On Saturday and Sunday you can search for them all, have fun with our performer Conductor Bob, and create your own train car collage.

Train examples

On Saturday at 3 pm, we are honored to host author and illustrator Brian Floca who speak with families about the Transcontinental Railroad, being inspired by train travel, and his new incredible book Locomotive! The story follows one family as they travel west on the newly built railway, and captures the excitement and newness of this westward route.

Locomotive Family - Floca

Brian Floca, from his book Locomotive.

Recently, Brian spoke with Publishers Weekly about this book, his love of train travel, and the everlasting appeal of trains. Here are some excerpts of what he had to say:

Brian on what is cool and geeky (in the best way!) about trains: “I think what initially attracts many kids to trains are the “cool” things: strength, size, agency, speed. But trains also operate within a world of systems, schedules, codes, and fine distinctions. Enter the geeks. What I personally love most about trains is that they are transporting, that they take us places – literally and otherwise.”

Locomotive cover (1)

Brian Floca, from his book Locomotive.

 Brian on his writing, illustrating and researching process:  “I can never pick a hard start date for a book – they creep up more than they start – but from first real effort on Locomotive as it exists now to completion was about four years. There was other work in there, too, and then a lot of fumbling and restructuring of the book as I realized that I wanted to make something not just about a locomotive, but about the first transcontinental route, too. Traveling that route became a hugely memorable trip for me, a wonderful experience, one that injected a lot of life into the histories I’d been reading, and I hope life into Locomotive, too. I met curators, historians, and a fireman and an engineer who gave essential help in making the book.”

Come join the fun this weekend!

Meet the Author! Joe McKendry and One Times Square

This Sunday we will be joined by children’s book author and illustrator Joe McKendry. Joe’s book One Times Square: A Century of Change at the Crossroads of the World is a terrific look at the history, usage, and people of one location in New York City. Did you know the neighborhood used to be called Bloomingdale? Do you know what the “Zipper” in Times Square did? In what year did the New Year’s celebrations in Times Square start?

OTS illustration Discover these answers and more from Joe and from One Times Square on Sunday, December 8 at 2 pm. We asked Joe to answer some questions to get us ready for Sunday’s Meet the Author program.

Joe McKendry

1. What is your favorite time period in American history?  Why?

I seem to be drawn to the late 1800s, early 1900s.  I think it’s recent enough and well documented enough with photography and some video that we can really start to imagine what life would have been like.  In some ways life wasn’t too different.  In other ways it was VERY different – and I think those two aspects make it a really interesting time period.

2. What were you like as a kid?

I loved to climb trees and play in the woods. Lots of fishing and hanging out with friends.  Looking back, the days and summers especially seemed to last forever.   I was always interested in drawing – mostly cartoony type stuff until my later years in high school. I think even then I had a fascination with objects that had a story and history, like old coins.

3. What is your favorite place in New York City?  Why?

I actually don’t know the city that well.  I’m a Boston native, and really only started exploring New York while researching the book.  I really love walking into the art galleries in Chelsea, and hanging out with friends in Brooklyn.  But I’d have to say Central Park is my favorite.  It’s really amazing that this huge swath of nature has been preserved in the city.  And even though I’ve never lived in New York, I’ve spent enough time here that I know saving that enormous plot of land was absolutely essential in making New York a livable city.

4. What made you want to write One Times Square?

Times Square is fast paced, hyper modern, and flashy.  But at one point horses and carriages plodded along its cobblestoned streets. I was really interested in taking a place that is universally known for its modernity, and contrasting that image with its lesser known past.  Very few places in America have changed as dramatically as Times Square.  And visually it’s amazing, which is fun for an illustrator.

One Times Square cover

5. What three words best describe One Times Square?

If you were to ask that question to New Yorkers in their 90′s, their 60′s and their teens you would get very different answers.  Since I never lived in the city, the words I would use to describe it would be impressions that I’ve learned through reading about its history. So I’ll try to pick three words that reflect it through the years: glamorous, sleazy, capitalistic.

 

1926 One Times Square

All illustrations by Joe McKendry.

At the Kids’ Thanksgiving Table

In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday, and since then Americans have come up with a number of foods to celebrate with! At our most recent At The Kids’ Table program, we talked a lot about food tools of the past, like an apple parer from 1890, or things like this celery vase.

celery vase_1952_66a

88615d_ThanksgivingNewEnglandFarmhouse

We also used that apple peeler to make mini apple pies! Below is a recipe you can use to make pies at home (with more modern devices, of course).

novATKT_appleparer2

Easy Mini Apple Pies
yield: 1-2 pies, depending on size of apple
Equipment:
knife, cutting board, mini pie tins (2 per medium apple)
Ingredients:
One granny Smith or Braeburn apple, peeled and sliced
Sweeteners: molasses, caramel, brown sugar, honey, white sugar
Spices: pumpkin pie spice mix, curry powder, chili powder, rosemary
Extra ingredients: chopped pecans, dried cranberries, dark chocolate chips, shredded coconut, shredded cheddar cheese
frozen pie crust, cut to fit over mini pie tins
Directions:
1.Peel and slice an apple. Braeburns and Granny Smiths are great for pies.
2. Fill the base of a mini pie tin with your apple slices.
3. Mix in a little bit of sweetener, spice, and extra ingredient. You choose your flavor combination.If you have enough apple for two pies, try making two completely different ones.
4. Cover mixture with pre-made pie crust. Crimp the edges of the crust and slice some holes in the top of the pie.
5. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes or until golden brown on top.
6. Let cool before eating.
novATKT_kidwithpie

History is served up in our monthly series of At the Kids’ Table cooking classes on How the Kitchen has ChangedGilded Age DiningA Civil War Pantry and more. Guided by Four Pounds Flour blogger Sarah Lohman, families look at food-related artifacts in New-York Historical’s collection, prepare ingredients using historic tools, and make delicious treats.

50 Years After The JFK Assassination: LeVar Burton Shares His Story

 

LeVar Burton

LeVar Burton

Special guest post by LeVar Burton, Co-Founder Reading Rainbow Kidz, Actor/Producer

I was 6 years old and in the 1st Grade at Holy Angels Elementary School in Sacramento, California, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22nd, 1963. Being a Catholic school, there was of course, a considerable amount of pride associated with the fact that JFK was the first American president of Irish Catholic descent! It is hard to believe now but in those days, Kennedy’s faith was a pretty big deal for Americans. It was almost as large an issue as Barack Obama’s racial heritage was in the presidential campaign of 2008. In those days, all of the nuns and priests in the local parochial system hailed from Ireland and there was a natural sense of shared achievement in that a son of County Limerick, had risen to the highest office in the land.

Just before lunch, an announcement was made that the young President had been shot and an impromptu prayer vigil for his safe recovery was conducted over the PA system. The next thing I knew, we were informed that the unthinkable had happened; the President was dead! Classes were cancelled for the remainder of the day and we were all sent home. I remember being surprised that day by the presence of my mom, who was normally at work. She called me to her side, gathered me in her arms and for the next several days we sat together as a family, watching the black and white TV as events unfolded in gradations of grey.

I believe the fact that they are so totally dependent on the adults in their lives, makes children highly attuned to the moods and emotions of the grown-ups around them. From the obviously shaken priests and nuns at school, to the teary-eyed network anchors, to my own Gibraltar solid, rock of a mother, the adults in my life; those who normally provided all of the safety and stability a child thrives on, were gripped by a sudden, uncontrollable and overwhelming sense of grief and loss! As the days progressed we sat glued to the TV, hugging one another and weeping and were witness to events both profane and profound; the unbelievable assassination of the assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, by Jack Ruby, on live TV, the indelible images of the funeral cortège, a stoic Jackie Kennedy, elegant even in her grief, John-John’s salute of his father’s passing casket. The nation wrapped itself in a blanket of sorrow and mourned our common loss. I had no way of knowing then that my childhood was to become one where the assassinations of significant political leaders and social pioneers would become so frequent as to almost seem commonplace.

As we commemorate this 50th anniversary of that tragic day in Dallas, and move further in time from those dark days, let us remember not only the events themselves, but let those events be a constant reminder to us all, of the genuinely tragic nature of potential unfulfilled. As was said recently by Kerry Kennedy, one of JFK’s own nieces, “What we should be looking at is not how these men died, but how they lived.”

Indeed… how they lived, and what might have been had they lived long enough to finish the work they began.

LeVar Burton and Reading Rainbow’s mission is to inspire a love of reading in children and connect them to the world they live in through quality literature so they believe that they can “go anywhere, be anything.”

Try our FREE iPad app in the App Store, download any of our Classic Reading Rainbow episodes on iTunes or learn more about Reading Rainbow and all our digital products at www.readingrainbow.com.

 

Another Gettysburg Address

One hundred and fifty years ago today, thousands gathered in Gettysburg, PA for the dedication of a national cemetery for those who died at the Battle of Gettysburg in July, 1863. The three days of this battle left over 51,000 Union and Confederate soldiers dead, missing, captured, or wounded. The country needed to heal from these great losses.

Collection of the New-York Historical Society

Collection of the New-York Historical Society

This image was drawn from a photograph of the dead at Gettysburg. At the time of the ceremony, some bodies were still rotting on the battlefields.

Speeches were the highlight of the ceremony, especially that of the event’s headliner. This headliner was known as one of the greatest orators of his day: a politician of tremendous charisma, eloquence, and fame. You may think you know who he was, but you probably don’t. His named was Edward Everett.

Shobal Vail Clevenger, Edward Everett (1794-1865), Collection of the New-York Historical Society. Inventory Number: 1840.2

Shobal Vail Clevenger, Edward Everett (1794-1865), Collection of the New-York Historical Society. Inventory Number: 1840.2

Mr. Everett spoke first, reciting a roughly 13,600 word, two-hour-long epic oration. He was followed by President Abraham Lincoln who spoke 272 words in two minutes. Today, we remember all of Mr. Lincoln’s words and none of Mr. Everett’s. Why is this?

Edward Everett was a highly accomplished preacher, educator and politician in his lifetime. Between 1825 and 1854, he was a Congressman, Governor, and Senator of Massachusetts; the US Ambassador to the United Kingdom; the President of Harvard University; and the 20th Secretary of State. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said of Everett, his favorite teacher, “Nature finished this man. He seems perfectly built, perfectly sound and whole; his eye, voice, hand perfectly obey his thought.” Everett raised over $69,000 for the Mount Vernon Ladies Association towards the purchase of George Washington’s Virginia home so that it could be turned into a museum. All of that money came from speeches about Washington that he delivered over several years. That’s how good he was. So why don’t we remember his Gettysburg address?

everett lincoln flag

Campaign flag, 1863, Collection of the New-York Historical Society, Inventory Number 1946.243. This campaign flag was first used for the failed 1860 Presidential campaign of John Bell and his Vice President, Edward Everett. Both names were replaced with Lincoln and Johnson for the 1864 election.

First, Everett’s style of speech making (long and flowery) fell out of favor in the 20th century, whereas Lincoln’s style (concise and direct) became more common. What does flowery sound like? Try reciting the first two sentences of Everett’s speech out loud:

Standing beneath this serene sky, overlooking these broad fields now reposing from the labors of the waning year, the mighty Alleghenies dimly towering before us, the graves of our brethren beneath our feet, it is with hesitation that I raise my poor voice to break the eloquent silence of God and Nature. But the duty to which you have called me must be performed; -grant me, I pray you, your indulgence and your sympathy.

Phew, that’s a lot of adjectives! Compare this to the first two sentences of Lincoln’s speech:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.

Modern ears like the sound of Lincoln more than Everett, it seems.

More important than style, in 1863 and today, is substance. Lincoln’s few words made a clear point, whereas Everett’s long, meandering speech failed to do so. The New York Times reported on November 20th, 1863 that Everett’s speech was “listened to with marked attention throughout” but that multiple cheers were given to Lincoln. Everett himself acknowledged this when he wrote to Lincoln for a copy of his speech, saying “I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.” Everett’s speech recounted the entire battle that had just happened, argued against the South’s right to secede, and even managed to discuss ancient Greek funerary practices. Lincoln did not go into any battle details, or even mention the South directly, but rather reminded his audience of the greater point of the war, a “new birth of freedom.” At Lincoln’s funeral, those who eulogized him commented on the importance of his Gettysburg address as a landmark achievement of American speech-making. The New York Times obituary for Everett does not even mention his Gettysburg address.

If you want to read all of Everett’s speech (good luck!), check it out here. While you are at it, take another look at Lincoln’s beloved words from that day (here you can read transcriptions of the five versions Lincoln hand-wrote. They are all slightly different). You can even read an entire version on this commemorative scarf in our museum collection (that’s how short it is!).

gettysburg scarf_1941_635

Echo Scarfs, Kerchief, 1941, Collection of the New-York Historical Society, Inventory Number 1941.635

And if you are not in Gettysburg today celebrating this anniversary, why not come see some Civil War artifacts here at the New-York Historical Society?

“It was as if we had all done something wrong.” Frances Perkins and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

flesh and blood so cheap

This November, the Reading into History Family Book Club is digging into Albert Marrin’s Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and its Legacy. We’ll meet to discuss this book on Sunday, December 8th, at 3 pm. This work of non-fiction tells the story of how a fire broke out on the upper floors of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory on March 25th, 1911 and killed 146 workers, mostly young immigrant women. The origins of the fire are a tale of tragedy and corruption, and its aftermath is a tale of hard-won triumph for working people.

One of the people responsible for this triumph was a woman named Frances Perkins who witnessed the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. She later became our nation’s first female member of the U.S. Cabinet, serving as Secretary of Labor from 1933-1945 under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (a fellow New Yorker).

francesperkins

Enit Zerner Kaufman, Frances Perkins, ca. 1940-45, Collection of the New-York Historical Society, 1947.182

Have you ever witnessed a historic event or one that changed your life? Witnessing the fire, and the desperate ways in which the workers tried to escape from it, deeply affected Perkins. Below is an excerpt of a speech she gave about her experience that awful day at Cornell University on September 30, 1964. In it, she discusses the horrors she witnessed and the role that Al Smith, later a governor of New York, played in grieving with the families of the lost. The full text of this speech can be found here on Cornell’s excellent online exhibition called Remembering the 1911 Triangle Factory Fire.

This made a terrible impression on the people of the State of New York. I can’t begin to tell you how disturbed the people were everywhere. It was as though we had all done something wrong. It shouldn’t have been. We were sorry. Mea culpa! Mea culpa! We didn’t want it that way. We hadn’t intended to have 147 girls and boys killed in a factory…

I remember that, the accident happened on a Saturday, I happened to have been visiting a friend on the other side of the park and we heard the engines and we heard the screams and rushed out and rushed over where we could see what the trouble was. We could see this building from Washington Square and the people had just begun to jump when we got there. They had been holding until that time, standing in the windowsills, being crowded by others behind them, the fire pressing closer and closer, the smoke closer and closer. Finally the [firemen] were trying to get out …a net to catch people if they do jump, there were trying to get that out and [the workers] couldn’t wait any longer. They began to jump…the weight of the bodies was so great, at the speed at which they were traveling that they broke through the net…everybody who jumped was killed. It was a horrifying spectacle. We had our dose of it that night and felt as though we had been part of it all. The next day people, as they heard about it in all parts of the city, they began to mull around and gather and talk.

I remember that Al Smith, who was not a governor at that time but a member of the legislature…found that many many of these young people were residents of the same district he was a resident of and he did the most natural and humane thing…He went to the places where they lived; he went to the tenement they had occupied to see their father and mother and tell them how sorry he was or their husband, as the case might be, or their wife, to tell them of his sympathy and grief…He also got to the morgue, I remember, at just the time when the survivors were being allowed to sort out the dead and see who was theirs and who could be recognized.

…the next Sunday a meeting was called in the Metropolitan Opera House, which was a large available place and thereby this time we got a little sense of organization of something must be done. We’ve got to turn this into some kind of victory, some kind of constructive action…

alsmithmedal

This medalion was presented to then-governor Al Smith and others at a dinner in his honor in 1923.The medal depicts the New York City street where Smith grew up.
Quayle Enamel Company, Medallion from the Albany Legislative Correspondents’ Association annual dinner, 1923, Collection of the New-York Historical Society, 2009.33.9

 

If you want to know more about the victory Perkins speaks of, and of course more about the fire itself, read Marrin’s excellent book and come discuss it with us on December 8th.

Little New-Yorkers Projects for Kids: Laundry Day

Laundry Day cover

Each week in Little New-Yorkers we explore the theme of New York with our littlest historians. In October we were inspired by Maurie J. Manning’s Laundry Day and created clothesline necklaces with cut cloth pieces. We explored how diverse New York City is through this beautiful book, set in the Lower East Side. It follows a little shoeshine boy surprised by a piece of red silk that falls from the sky. While trying to find its owner he meets all the people who lived in the tenement, climbing up the balconies and balancing on the clothesline. This gorgeous story not only introduces children to different cultures, but it also teaches them foreign words and phrases.

After reading the book we made our very own necklaces based on the clothesline that the boy climbs across. You can make one too!

You’ll need pieces of fabric – we used felt but any fabric pieces will do. You’ll also need scissors, string, and a hole punch.

What you'll need

How to make your clothesline:

1. Choose the different fabrics with your child.Step 2
2. Carefully cut out clothing shapes. Easy shapes include squares for bed sheets or triangles for skirts, but encourage your child to try cutting out shirts with sleeves, or pants.
3. Add one or two holes to each piece of laundry. If you don’t have a hole punch, you can cut the holes using scissors.
Step 3
4. Once you have all your pieces of laundry, start stringing them together. Leave a long piece at the beginning as this will go around the back of your neck.

Step 4
5. Add a little knot between the pieces to keep them from bunching up together.

Step 5
6. Leave a long piece of string at the other end too.
7. Tie the two end pieces together to create a necklace.

Step 7

Here are some pictures of necklaces made by our little New-Yorkers.

Example 1

Example 2

Join us each week for a fun and creative project, inspired by this great city!

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