World War II and New York: Walking Tour of Lower Manhattan

Cal Snyder
Lucy Oakley
Sun, 06/02/2013 - 11:00
Sun, June 2nd, 2013 | 11:00 am

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From Battery Park to the Army Ocean Terminal, New York Harbor vividly records the city’s role in WWII. Join us to hear the story of the harbor and its people in wartime and explore how New York City remembers those who fought to protect the free world. Walking tours are limited to 35 guests per tour. Please buy tickets in advance.

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Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America’s Fight Over World War II

Lynne Olson
Tom Brokaw (moderator)
Thu, 03/28/2013 - 18:30
Thu, March 28th, 2013 | 6:30 pm

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At the center of the debate over American intervention in World War II were the two most famous men in America: President Franklin D. Roosevelt and aviator Charles Lindbergh. The stakes could not have been higher; the combatants were larger than life. Join us for a frank discussion of the bitter clash that divided the nation, with the future of democracy and the fate of the free world hanging in the balance.

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Beauty’s Legacy: Gilded Age Portraits in America

September 27, 2013
March 09, 2014

Beauty’s Legacy: Gilded Age Portraits in America examines the remarkable critical and popular resurgence of portraiture in the United States during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century. The exhibition —presenting over sixty works of art as well as period photographs and graphic materials, all from the New-York Historical Society—will investigate the strong cultural and social legacy of the American portrait tradition, with particular emphasis upon the New York sitters so well represented in New-York Historical's rich collection. With the amassing of great fortunes founded on industrial expansion, came the impetus to document the appearance of those who propelled and benefited from burgeoning wealth, thus echoing a cultural pattern reaching back to the colonial era.

Théobald Chartran (French, 1849 –1907), James Hazen Hyde (1876-1959), 1901. Oil on canvas. New-York Historical  Society, Gift of James Hazen Hyde, 1949.1

Beauty’s Legacy will include portraits of prominent New York sitters including Emma Thursby, Samuel Verplanck Hoffman, Mary Barrett Wendell, Reverend Henry Codman Potter, and Mary Gardiner Thompsonby done by such American artists as John Singer Sargent, James Carroll Beckwith, George Peter Alexander Healy, Daniel Huntington, Eastman Johnson, and Benjamin Curtis Porter. Paintings of other New Yorkers including James Hazen Hyde, Georgina Schuyler, Samuel Ward McAllister, Cortlandt Field Bishop, Leonard and Rosalie Lewisohn, and Samuel Untermyer by Léon Bonnat, Bouguereau, Carolus-Duran, Alexandre Cabanel, Anders Zorn, and Théobald Chartran reflect the vigorous American demand for portraits by European artists.

A selection of twenty-five miniature portraits of reigning social celebrities from Peter Marié’s Beauties of The Gilded Age will also be displayed. Deepening the historical context of these works, photographs and graphic materials will document the opulent residences built for the sitters and their images in fancy dress for lavish costume balls and society weddings. In addition, advertising graphics will record the fashions and cosmetics popular among the belles of New York society.

A catalogue will accompany the exhibition which will include essays by Dr. Gallati as well as Dr. Valerie Steele, Director and Chief Curator of the Museum at The Fashion Institute of Technology. It will be published by the New-York Historical Society in association with D Giles Limited, London.

Women and the White House, Part II

Kati Marton
Cokie Roberts
Gil Troy
Lesley Stahl (moderator)
Tue, 02/07/2012 - 18:30
Tue, February 7th, 2012 | 6:30 pm

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Continuing the conversation from last year’s program, we look back at the many influential and important women in the history of America’s highest elected office and discuss the impact women are having on the 2012 election. Although America has yet to elect a woman to the presidency, many women have played important parts in shaping previous presidential administrations and in changing the roles and the perceptions of women in politics.

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Dangerous Ambition: Rebecca West and Dorothy Thompson

Susan Hertog
Wed, 11/16/2011 - 18:30
Wed, November 16th, 2011 | 6:30 pm

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Dorothy Thompson was the first female head of a European news bureau, and a columnist and commentator whom Time magazine once ranked alongside Eleanor Roosevelt as the most influential woman in America. Rebecca West blazed a trail for herself as a journalist, literary critic, novelist and historian.

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First Ladies Of New York And The Nation

March 22, 2005
July 31, 2005

We are pleased to announce that our exhibition: First Ladies of New York and the Nation: Eleanor Roosevelt and Jacqueline Kennedy has been extended until July 31, 2005.

Two of the nation's most revered and influential First Ladies, Eleanor Roosevelt and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who also achieved great professional success and personal fulfillment as life-long New Yorkers, are explored in a special loan exhibition at the New-York Historical Society, First Ladies of New York and the Nation.

The Historical Society loan exhibition, featuring some rarely displayed personal items of Mrs. Roosevelt and Mrs. Onassis from the Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy Presidential Libraries and the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site, opens March 22 and runs through July 31.

The Historical Society exhibition will run in tandem with First Ladies: Political Role and Public Image, a Smithsonian traveling exhibition that celebrates and showcases the achievements and contributions made by First Ladies throughout American history. U.S. Senator and former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton inaugurated the opening of the two exhibitions at the Historical Society's annual Strawberry Festival benefit luncheon on March 21.

First Ladies of New York and the Nation explores how the life experiences of Eleanor Roosevelt and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis as consummate New Yorkers not only shaped their early development as accomplished young women, but ultimately defined who they were to become and what they achieved from their unique vantage points. The exhibition follows shared trajectories and self-defined milestones in each woman's multi-faceted life, from childhood and school days, through marriage, motherhood and support for powerful husbands, to proud professional achievements after life in the White House. In addition to exploring commonalities in their paths through life, the exhibition examines the relationship between the two, as Eleanor Roosevelt not only forged new ground as First Lady, but also encouraged Jacqueline Kennedy as she assumed that role. "New York is the home of two of America's most famous First Ladies. They were creative and dynamic women who indelibly changed the role of First Lady," said Dr. Mirrer, New-York Historical Society President and CEO. "The modern First Lady is a political campaigner, a spokesperson to the press, someone who actively shapes and promotes the direction of public policy and advocates social causes," Mirrer further noted.

The life of Eleanor Roosevelt is revealed through photos of her as a young New York socialite, her letter to Jacqueline Kennedy offering advice on raising children in the White House, and through her important work as an advocate for the poor and for human rights worldwide. The exhibition shows how Eleanor was instrumental in reshaping the role of the modern First Lady as a powerful advocate for improving the lives of immigrants and the working poor in New York City, and her creation of Val-Kill Industries-located on the Roosevelt estate in Hyde Park, NY-which was a successful social experiment in improving the lives of farmers and the economy of Upstate New York. Although she had already won international respect and admiration in her role as First Lady to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eleanor's later work as a delegate to the United Nations and the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights would become her greatest legacy. She was, without a doubt, the most influential member of the UN's Commission on Human Rights, and this work is explored through the N-YHS exhibition.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis' impeccable taste and sense of style influenced far more than fashion. While First Lady she undertook the most ambitious period restoration of the White House in history. Later, her passionate interest in historic preservation and active membership in the Municipal Arts Society resulted in preserving Grand Central Terminal and other cherished landmarks in New York City. Mrs. Onassis' report cards as a student at The Chapin School in Manhattan, to photos of her as an editor at Viking Press, a Carolina Herrera gown she wore at an American Ballet Theater benefit and correspondence from her campaign to save Grand Central Terminal, this exhibition demonstrates how she helped change the way Americans, and the world, perceive our First Ladies. Mrs. Onassis' life is also explored through images from her early childhood, her life with President John F. Kennedy, and her dealings with world leaders in art and politics, including architects I. M. Pei and Philip Johnson, Gloria Steinem, Ed Koch, and former Congressman Adam Clayton Powell. Photographs and objects reflecting her career as an editor at Viking Press and her steadfast and generous support for a number of New York's artistic and cultural institutions, provide a deeper insight into this quintessential New Yorker.

Visitors will also have an opportunity to view the famous 1962 CBS TV program, "A Tour of the White House with Mrs. John F. Kennedy," in a special screening on May 17 at 6:30 p.m. and the A&E Network has produced a 10-minute documentary about the life of Eleanor Roosevelt exclusively for this exhibition. Judith Lieber's handbag designs for four First Ladies will also be on view in the exhibit devoted to Eleanor Roosevelt and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

The N-YHS special exhibition complements the Smithsonian's First Ladies: Political Role and Public Image, which is drawn from one of the most popular permanent exhibitions at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. The installation features a variety of White House artifacts, campaign memorabilia, personal belongings and an impressive display of evening gowns worn by First Ladies over the past 200 years, including a black pants suit worn by another First Lady with a distinctly New York presence, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Organized by the National Museum of American History and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), First Ladies: Political Role and Public Image is made possible by the A&E Network.

In addition, a mini-exhibition has been curated in the N-YHS library display cases, by Interim Library Director Nina Nazionale. Included are hand-written letters written by Abigail Adams, Martha Jefferson, Mary Todd Lincoln, Lucretia Garfield and Eleanor Roosevelt.


October 05, 2012
May 27, 2013

The Second World War (1939–1945) was the most widespread, destructive, and consequential conflict in history. WWII & NYC is an account of how New York and its metropolitan region contributed to Allied victory. The exhibition also explores the captivating, sobering, and moving stories of how New Yorkers experienced and confronted the challenges of “total war.”
Want to see everything—from lectures to films to behind-the-scenes stories—related to WWII & NYC? Click here to visit the WWII & NYC site!

Irving Boyer, Prospect Park, ca. 1942–1944. Oil on academy board. The New-York Historical Society, Gift of Selwyn L. Boyer, from the Boyer Family Collection, 2002.49

When war broke out in 1939, New York was a cosmopolitan, heavily immigrant city, whose people had real stakes in the global conflict and strongly held opinions about whether or not to intervene. The attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 brought the U.S. into the war, and New York became the principal port of embarkation for the warfront. The presence of troops, the inflow of refugees, the wartime industries, the dispatch of fleets, and the dissemination of news and propaganda from media outlets, changed New York, giving its customary commercial and creative bustle a military flavor. Likewise, the landscape of the city acquired a martial air, as defenses in the harbor were bolstered, old forts were updated, and the docks became high security zones.

The exhibition examines the experiences of New Yorkers on the home front and those who served. In New York City, workers mobilized to assist in wartime production, from shipbuilding at the Brooklyn Navy Yard to uniform manufacturing at Brooks Brothers. Families grew victory gardens and dealt with the challenges of rationing. Military training camps sprang up throughout the city, and nightclubs and theaters opened their doors to the droves of servicemen passing through. Each day in the crowded port a logistical miracle occurred. Sixty-three million tons of supplies and 3,300,000 men shipped out from New York Harbor—at war’s height, a ship left every 15 minutes. 900,000 New Yorkers served in the military; twelve of their stories are told through individual profiles, and in a 20-minute film shot by a Signal Corps combat cameraman trained in Queens.

Installed throughout all floors of the New-York Historical Society, the exhibition features more than 400 images and objects, including artifacts, paintings, maps, photographs, posters, music, radio broadcasts, and thirteen short films made for the exhibit, many featuring interviews with actual participants. The exhibition draws upon extensive collections at the New-York Historical Society and on important loans from the US Navy, the Museum of WWII, Boston, the Smithsonian Institution, the Mariners’ Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, among other institutions.

West Gallery

War for Civil Rights describes a “Double V” campaign waged by African Americans during WWII, which argued that the black men and women who fought for victory abroad deserved full civil rights and victory over racism at home. The exhibit, comprised of photographs, posters, and two new short films, focuses on three aspects of the Double V campaign in New York City: the Negro Freedom Rallies; the fight against Red Cross blood segregation; and the effort to integrate the Stuyvesant Town housing development.

Cabinet Gallery

GI Sketch Diary: Ben Brown’s World War II Drawings features the artwork of Bronx-raised Ben Brown, a corporal who fought in North Africa and in the bitter and bloody Italian campaign. Brown carried sketchbooks with him throughout his time on the front. The sketches seen in this exhibit—a fraction of the art Brown produced during the war— illustrates his experiences and the people and places he encountered.

Robert H. and Clarice Smith New York Gallery of American History

Several World War II-related displays can be found in The Robert H. and Clarice Smith New York Gallery of American History. Small objects from the home front, including jewelry, matchbooks, and games, are on view in cases embedded in the floor. Six video columns feature a slideshow of images, including battlefront photographs, recruitment posters, patriotic textiles, among others. And the monumental History Showcase exhibit displays wartime uniforms and related posters.

Lowlight Gallery

Visualizing Liberty and Democracy: The Four Freedoms, December 14, 2012 through January 1, 2013. Almost a year before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that propelled the United States into World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed Congress in a State of the Union speech. The president spoke of threatened international security and articulated the hope for a new world order founded upon four essential human freedoms: the freedom of speech and expression; the freedom of worship; the freedom from want; and the freedom from fear. The Four Freedoms, as they immediately came to be known, provided a facile explanation to Americans about their country’s ultimate participation in the war. Yet by 1942, only one-third of the public was familiar with what they were. Unable to serve his country in other ways, the artist Norman Rockwell became driven to illustrate Roosevelt’s vision. The Manhattan-born, Vermont transplant specialized in commercially popular, sentimental scenes of small-town life, and his four paintings of each “freedom” were no exception. Rockwell’s series succeeded in making the American public visualize Roosevelt’s lofty rhetoric, and helped them to understand what the world was fighting for. Today, The Four Freedoms endure as four of Norman Rockwell’s most iconic works, and also offer a lesson in World War II ideology and propaganda.

Luce Center

A display in the Luce Center highlights the role of the New-York Historical Society during WWII. The exhibit includes information and objects from staff members who went to war; ephemera and photographs from wartime exhibitions; acquisitions collected during and after the war; and insight into the changes made throughout the museum to adapt to the war.


WWII & NYC was made possible, in part, by:

Bernard & Irene Schwartz
The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation
May and Samuel Rudin Family Foundation, Inc.
Eric & Fiona Rudin
Jack & Susan Rudin
Elizabeth B. Dater & Wm. Mitchell Jennings, Jr.
Ruth & Harold Newman
Ernest Tollerson
Laurie & Sy Sternberg
Charles Rosenblum
The Weiler Family

This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department
of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.

The New-York Historical Society is grateful to New York City Councilmember
Gale A. Brewer for her support.

Support for the exhibition publication was generously provided by
Futhermore: a program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund

Media Sponsor:

FDR’s Brain Trust and the Beginning of the New Deal

November 06, 2009
March 26, 2010

In his search for a new national message during the 1932 presidential primary, FDR gathered around him a number of political, economic and legal scholars. The core of this group were Columbia University professors, who knew and trusted each other, and were willing to take risks and work long unpaid hours to promote a candidate that they believed could turn around a nation in crisis.

Irving Browning Buy My Apples, 1929 Gelatin Silver Print New-York Historical Society, Gift of Irving Browning.

Although at first a casual circle, the group became tightly organized after FDR's nomination. After the election, they were publicly christened the "Brain Trust," and became the central component of the New Deal. This exhibition will focus on the three key members of the Brain Trust—Raymond Moley, Rexford Tugwell, and Adolph Berle—and two of the New Deal cabinet members with whom they worked to bring about FDR's radical changes—Frances Perkins and Harry Hopkins. Using contemporary photographs, cartoons, broadsides, articles and newsreels, this exhibition will be supplemented by audio reminisces from the collection of the Columbia University Oral History Research Office.


Franklin, Eleanor, and the Four Freedoms

William E. Leuchtenburg
William J. vanden Heuvel
Douglas Brinkley (Moderator)
Thu, 03/31/2011 - 18:30
Thu, March 31st, 2011 | 7:30 pm

In his State of the Union Address on January 6, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt looked forward to a world in which everyone enjoyed four essential freedoms: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. These values were central to both Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, who made it her personal mission to codify those rights in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Experts discuss the speech and its far-reaching influence, and also delve into this extraordinary couple’s influence on one another.

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