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Main page » Non-Fiction » How New York Became American, 1890--1924

How New York Became American, 1890--1924


How New York Became American, 1890-1924 was originally Angela M. Blake's doctoral dissertation, which is very much in evidence when you consider that there are sixty-five pages devoted to reference notes and sources. Blake refers to herself as an interdisciplinary and cultural historian and as she mentions in her Essay on Primary Sources that appears at the back of her book, cultural historians ask questions about meaning, not just about when, where and how. Consequently, in writing her dissertation she was obliged to consult many sources that offered a diverse range of perceptions and interpretations. In How New York Became American, 1890-1924, Blake analyzes and presents her findings that were derived from map collections, postcards, stereographs, guidebooks, municipal archives and the Smithsonian Institution's museums. On the whole, Blake's methodology focuses on an examination of various images and arguments of different interest groups that were employed to make New York City "knowable" to their constituents and consumers. The objective of these interest groups, as she states, was "to stabilize the city's image as a verifiable and worthwhile `American' place. It should be borne in mind that the period studied was one in which New York had an appalling reputation as a city wherein it was perceived as being dangerous, dirty, and downright un-American-something that certainly would keep tourists away rather than attracting them. Blake's thesis revolves around the investigation of the power and cultural "importance of representations of Americanness during a period-from `closing' of the American frontier to the closing of the nation's doors to most immigrants." It was an era when the establishment of what and who was American became of prime importance in order to create national markets, set national boundaries, construct an industrial workplace, launch America power in Europe, and come to terms with the diverse population and electorate. The book divides itself into six chapters preceded by a general introduction. These chapters expose such topics as reforming New York's image in the 1890s; tourism as it related to New York during this era; architecture, Americanism and a "New" New York 1900-1919; New York as not being America, where we learn about immigrants and tourists in New York after World War I and finally an analysis of brand New York and the making of Midtown in the 1920s. In essence, these chapters explore the connections between public images, politics, business, immigration, national identity, and urban tourism. Moreover, considerable ink is devoted to the different perceptions of New York offered by the social reformers, tourism promoters and businessmen in the 1890s and 1920s. These perceptions, as we learn, played an extremely important role in the first generation of New York's skyscrapers that had a great deal to do with creating a national identity implanted in a unique American landscape. How New York Became American, 1890-1924 is a testament to Blake's impressive writing and research skills offering the reader a comprehensive study of an era in which the roots of New York City as we know it today were firmly planted. And while the book was initially a doctoral dissertation, it nevertheless should appeal not only to the academic but also to casual readers interested in learning more about the development of major North American cities. Norm Goldman, Publisher & Editor Bookpleasures


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Tags: American, 18901924, Blake, image, Became