Yes, sometimes even the best spaces need a little sprucing up!  Please note that our library is officially closed for the summer for renovation and will re-open to the public on Saturday, September 10th.  Until then, continue to follow the library collections on our blog.

Library floor looking north from balcony, showing Librarian Alexander J. Wall, Jr. near the moving cartons, June 22, 1937. (N-YHS Archives, box 3, folder 6).

Archives Buildings

Librarians Miss Lent, Miss Barck (presumably the ghostly figure in the middle), and Miss Welde, packing for the move during the construction of wings and back corridor, June 22, 1937.  (N-YHS Archives, box 3, folder 6).  The N-YHS building was closed to the public from May 1937 until March 1939.

May 24th marks the 128th anniversary of the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge.  While the name John Augustus Roebling is widely associated with the bridge’s design and production,  the contributions of the six other men involved in the bridge’s engineering is rarely acknowledged in popular history.

Paine (believed to be second from right), pictured on the Brooklyn Bridge during construction, undated. (William H. Paine Papers, MS 475)
One of those men is William H. Paine, an assistant engineer for the project, whose papers reside at the New-York Historical Society.  For 14 years, Paine worked on the engineering and construction of the bridge’s cable railway system, obtaining 14 patents for new or improved technologies.
In 1848 Paine began a career as a land surveyor in the young state of Wisconsin and shortly after, tried his hand at gold mine engineering in California at the height of the Gold Rush.

“Map of the Gold Regions of California”, 1852. (William H. Paine Papers, MS 475)
He joined the Union Army in 1861, as a topographical engineer and served in this position for the entirety of the Civil War, mapping land in Washington D.C. and Virginia. Post-war, Paine settled in Brooklyn and worked as a consulting engineer for major projects, including the Niagara Suspension Bridge, the 10th Avenue Railway line and the Hudson River Tunnel.

Paine in military uniform, undated. (William H. Paine Papers, MS 475)
Taken as a whole, the William H. Paine Papers document his diverse interests and involvement with modern innovations of his time, as well as his accounts of major events, particularly the Gold Rush and the Civil War. It is not often that we investigate the little-known names associated with major projects like the Brooklyn Bridge, but when we do, the results can be rich and exciting — as they are with the papers of William H. Paine.
Cassie Brewer is in the Archives and Public History Program at NYU and has spent the spring semester as an intern in the Manuscript Department of the N-YHS Library. You can see the product of her hard work by clicking here to view the finding aid she produced for the William H. Paine Papers.


To celebrate the occasion, here is one of my personal favorites from the Bella Landauer Collection of Business and Advertising Ephemera:

A delightful departure from the sentimental view of motherhood most often associated with the Victorian era, this advertisement features a mother reclining on a chaise lounge and sipping a Pabst Malt Extract — “The ‘Best’ Tonic” — while a nanny tends to her apparently new-born baby.  Now that’s my brand of motherhood!

In the late 1800′s, many  brewing companies began producing “tonics” — malt beverages containing as much as three and a half percent alcohol — that were marketed to women as well as men (beer was for men only).   These “malt extracts” were promoted as health tonics for everything from insomnia to indigestion (for example, one 1903 ad reads “For all men, and for all women — at all times, everywhere — Pabst Malt Extract is a builder of health, strength, vigor and vitality).”   Their benefits for new mothers were especially extolled.  After all, “‘Just before baby comes’” is the time when a woman needs ‘poise’ and ‘balance,’”  as a 1915 Pabst malt extract advertisement points out.  “Pabst extract prepares the way for happy, healthy motherhood,” promises another 1913 ad.

Or maybe not.  During prohibition, the government issued special permits to Pabst and Annheuser Busch to make and sell medicinal malt tonic, but a 1926 Time magazine article noted that there was no need for the temperance societies — or thirsty beer drinkers — to get excited:  “One slimy gulp of it is unpleasant, two are unspeakable, three undrinkable.”   It may have been more than just doctors’ orders that made pregnant women quit drinking the “best” tonic!

Creative: Tronvig Group