“An invaluable window on how New York self-consciously and very publicly transformed itself from a city that was merely ‘the largest’ to an undisputed world-class metropolis. . . . A rich historical record of newspapers, manuscripts, artifacts, photographs, and graphics . . . offers a new lens to examine identity, industry, and environment.”—Kenneth T. Jackson, from the Foreword
For two weeks in the fall of 1909, New York City threw itself the biggest party it had ever seen—attracting millions of people to a sprawling festival 150 miles long, from Brooklyn up the Hudson River to Albany. This extraordinary event, the Hudson-Fulton Celebration, was officially meant to commemorate the 300th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s discovery of the river bearing his name and the centennial of Robert Fulton’s first successful run of his steamship Clermont. But in an era of grand world’s fairs, the Celebration was really created to showcase New York’s coming of age as a world metropolis. On city sidewalks and along the river, millions enjoyed a nonstop circus of fireworks, concerts, museum exhibitions, children’s festivals, and military and naval parades, each designed to link past glories to present challenges and future progress. And to show the world that its biggest city worked.
For city leaders, the Celebration was to be a gaudy catalyst for change—technological, commercial, cultural, and political. There were great flotillas of the world’s navies. New, glittering electric lights illuminated bridges and skyscrapers. Jawdropping flyovers by Wilbur Wright and Glenn Curtiss introduced New Yorkers to the airplane. The Queensboro Bridge had just been built, as had new subway lines. Thousands of children in ethnic costumes marched to celebrate the new American melting pot. No one had seen anything like it.
This fascinating book commemorates that commemoration. With a rich selection of full-color images—photographs, graphics, memorabilia, paintings, and much more—it tells the story of what those two weeks meant to four million New Yorkers and one million out-of-town guests. Johnson brings back a city feverishly at work and play, from the grand schemes of the planners to the way the Celebration put the city and its people on a world stage.