The earlier half of the 19th century presents many pivotal changes to the physical, economic and cultural landscape of New York City. Probably one of the greatest catalysts of change is the opening of the Erie Canal begins operating, setting the City up as a nexus of global trade and a gateway to the New World. The New York Stock & Exchange Board is established and City Hall is built, along with the Staten Island Ferry, Madison Square Park and Fulton Fish Market.
The advent of steam power also represents a significant turning point in the city’s technological trajectory, thanks to the inventive efforts of Robert Fulton. Harnessing new forms of energy would prove pivotal in establishing New York as a place of great innovation and automation which would encompass an Industrial Revolution a century later.
As the population grows the city also faces unprecedented social issues, including public safety from fires, poorly constructed buildings or the threat of violence from a population which is as polarized as it is diverse. Great Fires and public clashes lead to the establishment of new building codes, protocols and governing entities to ensure the safety of a population which shows little signs of slowing its exponential growth.
A conceptual sketch of a design proposal for New York's City Hall by architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe.
A bird's eye view of downtown Manhattan and New York Harbor with plenty of ships.
An illustration of the Harlem Plains in 1812 when it was a rural settlement.
A painting of the Palisades - a line of steep cliffs along the west side of the lower Hudson River in Northeastern New Jersey and Southeastern New York.
Drawing shows lower Manhattan across the East River with sailboats, sailing ship, and steamship in the river.
View of the Murrays Hill Reservoir - the terminal, or distributing, reservoir of the original Croton Aqueduct.
Illustration of pedestrians walking near City Hall. Saint Paul's chapter is visible in the background skyline.
An engraved perspective of City Hall in New York taken from Wall Street.
Black and white illustration of City Hall in New York.
Engraved illustration depicting the corner of Broadway & the Bowery in downtown Manhattan.
Panoramic illustration of Manhattan's skyline, taken from the perspective of Weehawken, New Jersey.
An illustrated view of City Hall and the park fountain.
An aerial view of people, horses and wagons crossing Union Square Park.
Black and white etching of Manhattan looking south from a bird's eye perspective. Union Square Park is visible in the foreground.
An illustrated perspective of Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Hudson River from the Navy Yard.
1800: The population of New York City is around 60,515, according to the United States Census. This marks a significant increase from the city's population of around 33,131 in 1790, reflecting the rapid growth and development of the city during this period. The increase in population is fueled by a range of factors, including immigration, economic opportunity, and the city's status as a cultural and commercial center. New York City has become a hub of trade and commerce, with a thriving port and a diverse range of industries, including shipping, finance, and manufacturing. The growth of the city during this period has a profound impact on American history and culture, shaping the development of the country's economy, politics, and social fabric.
1801: On November 16, the first edition of the New York Evening Post is printed. The newspaper is founded by Alexander Hamilton, who sees the need for a publication that would support the Federalist Party and provide a counterbalance to the Republican Party's newspaper, the New York Aurora. Under Hamilton's leadership, the New York Evening Post quickly becomes one of the most influential newspapers in the country, with a reputation for journalistic excellence and political insight. Over the years, the New York Evening Post undergoes a number of changes and mergers, eventually becoming the New York Post in 1934. Today, the New York Post remains one of the most widely read newspapers in the city, with a focus on breaking news, politics, and celebrity gossip.
1802: The Manhattan Company is established by a group of businessmen led by Aaron Burr, who is serving as vice president of the United States. The company is initially chartered to provide clean water to the growing city of New York, but it also has a second, secret purpose: to establish a bank that would rival the powerful Bank of New York (founded by his rival Alexander Hamilton). Under Burr's leadership, the Manhattan Company begins operating as a bank in 1803, and it soon becomes a major player in the financial world of New York City. Today, the legacy of the Manhattan Company lives on in J.P. Morgan Chase, which remains one of the most influential and powerful banks in the world.
1807: On August 17, Robert Fulton launches his steamboat, the Clermont, on its maiden voyage from New York City's North River (now known as the Hudson River). The journey begins at the foot of Cortlandt Street in Manhattan and ended in Albany, New York, a distance of about 150 miles in 32 hours, a dramatic improvement over the previous modes of transportation. Fulton has to overcome a number of technical challenges and engineering obstacles in order to build and operate the steamboat, including developing a reliable steam engine, designing an efficient propeller system, and constructing a sturdy and seaworthy hull. The success of the Clermont helps to spark a revolution in transportation and industry, marking the beginning of steam-powered transportation a new era of technological innovation and progress in the United States.
1811: The Commissioners' Plan of 1811 is adopted by the New York State Legislature, which establishes a street grid system for much of Manhattan. The plan is developed by a team of three commissioners appointed by the state, aiming to create a standardized and logical layout for the growing city. The resulting plan is a radical departure from the city's previous layout, which has been a hodgepodge of winding streets and narrow alleys that often made navigation difficult and inefficient. A grid system of streets and avenues is designed to cover much of Manhattan island, with numbered streets running east-west and avenues running north-south. The plan also includes provisions for public parks and open spaces, such as Central Park, which is created later in the 19th century. The plan helps to spur the city's growth and development, as it provided a framework for future expansion and development.
1817: The New York Stock and Exchange Board is renamed the New York Stock Exchange. The renaming of the New York Stock and Exchange Board to the New York Stock Exchange is an important moment in American finance history because it marked the beginning of the NYSE's rise to global prominence. The exchange has already become a major player in the American financial markets by the early 1800s, but its name change solidifies its position as a hub for global finance. The NYSE has played a critical role in the development of the American economy, providing a platform for companies to raise capital and investors to trade securities. Today, the NYSE remains one of the largest and most influential stock exchanges in the world, with a market capitalization of over $25 trillion and an average daily trading volume of over 1 billion shares.
1825: The Erie Canal is completed on October 26, after eight years of construction. The canal is a major engineering feat, stretching 363 miles from Albany to Buffalo and connecting the Great Lakes region to New York City and the Atlantic Ocean. It is the longest canal in the world at the time of its completion, and its success helps to establish the city as a major center of commerce as it becomes the largest port in the country by the mid-19th century. New York City is officially considered to be the gateway and transportation hub into the United States. Construction of the Erie Canal begins on July 4, 1817, with an official groundbreaking ceremony held in Rome, New York. The project is championed by Governor DeWitt Clinton, who recognized the economic potential of connecting the Great Lakes region to the East Coast.
1831: The New York and Harlem Railroad Company is chartered by the New York State Legislature, and it becomes the first railroad to operate in New York City. The line runs from Prince Street in Manhattan to Harlem, with a branch to the village of Fordham. The initial construction of the railroad is done using horse-drawn carriages, with the first trip taking place on November 26, 1832. The railroad quickly becomes popular and helps to spur development in the areas surrounding the railroad stations, leading to the growth of new neighborhoods in Upper Manhattan and the Bronx. The success of the New York and Harlem Railroad inspires the construction of other railroads throughout the city and the country, helping to transform transportation and commerce in the United States.
1835: The Great Fire of New York City in 1835 is one of the most devastating disasters in the city's history. The fire, which begins on the evening of December 16, 1835, engulfs hundreds of buildings, leaving thousands of residents homeless. The fire had started in a warehouse at 25 Merchant Street (now called Beaver Street) and quickly spread due to strong winds and freezing temperatures. The cold weather causes the water in the city's reservoir to freeze, rendering the fire department's equipment virtually useless. The blaze destroys a significant portion of Manhattan's Lower East Side, including the city's financial district, causing an estimated $20 million in property damage, a staggering sum for that time period. In the wake of the disaster, city officials enact stricter building codes and regulations to reduce the risk of future fires. The rebuilding effort following the Great Fire of 1835 lays the foundation for modern New York City.
1837: The Panic of 1837 is a severe financial crisis that struck the United States, leading to widespread economic hardship, particularly in New York City. The crisis begins in May 1837 and persists for several years, resulting in bank failures, business closures, high unemployment, and a significant contraction of the national economy. The panic has far-reaching consequences for the United States and New York City, which is, at the time, emerging as the nation's financial capital. The crisis exposes the vulnerabilities of the nation's financial system, leading to calls for reform, including the establishment of a central bank and the adoption of more stringent banking regulations. Although these measures are not immediately implemented, the panic served as a catalyst for the eventual creation of a more stable and regulated financial system.
1842: The Astor Opera House opens its doors in New York City, marking a significant milestone in the development of the city's cultural landscape. Situated on the corner of Astor Place and Lafayette Street in Manhattan, the Astor Opera House is a symbol of refinement and elegance in a rapidly growing city. Funded by John Jacob Astor, one of America's wealthiest men at the time, the opera house was designed to be an exclusive venue catering to New York's upper-class society. The venue has a seating capacity of approximately 2,000, and its stage is large enough to accommodate full-scale operatic productions, which is a rarity for American theaters of that time. The Astor Opera House helps to set the stage for the creation of other prestigious cultural institutions, such as the Metropolitan Opera and Carnegie Hall, which continue to define New York City as a global center for artistic excellence.
1845: The Knickerbocker Club is founded in New York City, quickly becoming one of the city's most exclusive private clubs. The club is established by a group of prominent New York gentlemen who are dissatisfied with the existing clubs and sought to create a more refined and intimate social environment. The Knickerbocker Club's founding members includes influential businessmen, politicians, and cultural figures, giving it an air of prestige and exclusivity from the outset. Located initially in a rented space on the corner of Broadway and Bond Street in Manhattan, the Knickerbocker Club soon outgrows its original location and moves to several different addresses over the years. Today, the Knickerbocker Club remains a testament to the enduring appeal of private clubs as centers of social interaction and cultural enrichment.
1846: The first recorded baseball game takes place on June 19, in Hoboken, New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from New York City. The game is played at Elysian Fields, a large park and popular recreation area during the 19th century. The match is organized between two amateur clubs, the New York Knickerbockers and the New York Nine, with the New York Nine emerging victorious in a 23-1 win. The historic game at Elysian Fields marks the beginning of baseball's evolution from a casual pastime played in streets and open spaces to an organized sport with standardized rules and dedicated playing fields. The popularity of the game grows rapidly in the years following the first match, with new clubs forming throughout the New York metropolitan area and eventually across the country.
1849: The Astor Place Riot occurs on May 10, resulting in a violent clash between supporters of two rival actors, Edwin Forrest, an American, and William Charles Macready, a British actor. The confrontation took place outside the Astor Opera House. The riot left 22 people dead and more than 100 injured, highlighting the social and cultural tensions that permeated the city at the time. The conflict is rooted in a broader context of national pride, class divisions, and cultural identity. Many working-class Americans, especially those of Irish descent, view Forrest as a symbol of American strength and talent, while Macready is seen as a representative of British refinement and elitism. In the aftermath of the riot, city officials and cultural leaders take steps to address some of the underlying issues that has contributed to the violence, including efforts to promote social harmony and cultural inclusivity.
1849: The discovery of gold in California in 1848 sparks a massive wave of migration known as the California Gold Rush. Although gold is discovered in January 1848, the news does not reach the East Coast until later that year. As a result, the rush of fortune seekers primarily takes place between 1849 and 1855. As the largest city in the United States at the time, New York City serves as a major point of departure for those heading to California. Thousands of people from the East Coast, Europe, and other parts of the world arrive to prepare for their journey westward. New York City also becomes a critical center for outfitting and supplying those bound for the goldfields. Businesses in the city capitalized on the influx of fortune seekers by offering specialized equipment, clothing, and provisions tailored to the needs of the miners.
Welcome to the History of New York City - A Unique Online Gallery of NYC's Origins, Curated and Digitally Restored by Fine Print New York.
We're opening our archives to present this Collection of Vintage Photos, Historical Images and Rare Lithographs. This Exclusive Series of High Quality Art Prints are only Available for Purchase Exclusively on this Site.
We cover a great portion of the city's history, ranging from its earliest days as New Amsterdam to the late 1980s. Artists are currently working on photos from the 90s to present day,
Here's a current list of what is covered:
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NOTE: Any form of commercialization or redistribution of these images, either as tangible goods or third party licenses, is expressly forbidden.
Joseph Gornail, printer/photographer and founder of Fine Print New York. Joseph grew up in SoHo, Manhattan and is part of a long lineage of NYC printers, learning the family trade from his grandfather. While working for Dolo Records/Stretch Armstrong in 1996, Joseph founded All City Marketing & Printing, and in 1999 Co-Founded the legendary street wear company "Orchard Street " with lifelong friends Benjamin Holloway and Greig Bennett. Fine Print NYC was established in 2004 with a Nike project being the launchpad for a commercial printing company that has not only survived, but thrived in the digital age.
Steven Garcia, designer/illustrator and creative director of Fine Print New York. Born and raised in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Steven attended Fashion Industries High School and F.I.T. before building a successful career at Saatchi & Saatchi for as a professional retoucher and storyboard artist in 1995. Steven started ShinyDesign in 1998 and partnered with Fine Print in 2004 as the exclusive design firm for the company. Steven has independently worked on major advertising campaigns for many brands over the years, such as Snapple, The Waldorf Astoria and Sony to name a few.
Together, Joseph & Steven are responsible for the curation and direction of the History101.nyc project, which has been under development since 2006. They have a long history of collaborating together, going back as far as 2001 when Joseph was gallery manager and Steven was a curator at The New York City Urban Experience, an art gallery & museum that was located at 85 South Street and owned by Mike Saes of the Nike Bridge Runners and True Yorkers.
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History101.NYC is an ad-free learning resource available to the public at no charge.
This project is dedicated to exploring New York’s fascinating heritage through the restoration of vintage photographs and prints.