The Reading Room’s collection of materials relating to New York State history, with an emphasis on that of the Bronx, is the most heavily consulted segment of its holdings. Titles range from privately printed accounts such as Bronx Cheer: A Memoir, by Julius Jacobs (1976), The History of the Morris Park Racecourse and the Morris Family, by Nicholas Di Brino (1977), and Westchester’s Forgotten Railway, by Roger Arcara (1972), to standard works like The Bronx and Its People: A History (1927), The Story of the Bronx, by Stephen Jenkins (1912), and The Borough of the Bronx, 1639-1913, by Harry Cook (1913). The breadth of New York history is reflected in the collection, beginning with works on its archaeology such as Alanson Skinner’s Exploration of Aboriginal Sites at Throgs Neck and Clasons Point, New York City (1919), and William Ritchie’s The Pre-Iroquoian Occupations of New York State. Historical figures are not forgotten. Three titles, for example, deal with the controversy surrounding an infamous Bronx resident, Anne Hutchinson, while several others discuss the Pell family. A collection of newspaper articles, authored primarily by John McNamara, spans a forty-year period and reflects the on-going record of Bronx history. Arranged chronologically, the collection is indexed geographically, providing easy access to articles discussing a particular Bronx neighborhood.
This special Reading Room collection is not limited to the Bronx. Several of its titles are guidebooks, gazetteers, and manuals covering all of New York City and/or including the State of New York as a whole. D.T. Valentine’s Manual of the Corporation of the City of New York for 1856, for example, is complemented by subsequent editions patterned after that classic work. J. H. French’s Gazetteer of the State of New York (1860) expands coverage such as Valentine’s to include the entire state. New York’s history is also accessible through heavily used works such as the Historical Atlas of New York State. The collection also holds a modern atlas of New York. New York City guidebooks abound in this collection. Readers can get a real sense of what the city was like in 1892 by consulting Moses King’s King’s Handbook of New York City. On a more practical level, recently published guidebooks such as New York Open to the Public lead readers to today’s information. Both are complimented by works such as the Federal Writers’ Project publications.
The library has a growing collection of historic photographs of the Bronx, particularly of the Westchester Square area. Ships and coal barges in Westchester Creek, the 1922 World War I Honor Roll in the Square, and transportation ranging from horse-drawn hearses to the construction of the elevated railroad are featured in this collection, as is the birthplace of Ezra Cornell, the founder of Cornell University. The Westchester Square area was the scene of a great deal of activity during the Revolutionary War. Sites associated with many well-known Bronx names from the colonial era, such as Pell, Ferris, and Ponton, appear in the library’s photograph collection. The library has put much of this collection on slides. It regularly hosts programs featuring its photographs.