The Gilded Apple

From Five Points to Fifth Avenue.

Island of Vice

By Richard Zacks

Before he became the famed “Rough-Rider” of San Juan Hill, Governor of New York, or the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt assumed the mantle of police commissioner in a crime-ridden Manhattan overseen by violent gangs and corrupt cops.  The Republican reformer was welcomed by New Yorkers when he was appointed in 1895 — at least, until he began to enforce the law that said saloons should be closed on Sundays.  And it only got worse when Roosevelt declared that Sunday began at precisely 12:01 a.m. What followed was a rebellion that pitted determined crusader against an outraged populace.


By Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace

In this majestic Pulitzer Prize-winning volume, Edwin Burrows and Mike Wallace wrestle a sprawling span of New York’s history into a coherent narrative. The panoramic view they offer sweeps from Manna-hata’s earliest Native American settlers all the way up to 1898 when the five boroughs were consolidated, with stops along the way in Dutch-ruled New Amsterdam, British-occupied Brooklyn Heights, and New York’s time as the capital of the United States. More than 20 years in the researching and writing, Gotham is unmatched in its scope, attention to detail, and sympathy with the life of the great city it chronicles.

The Gangs of New York

By Herbert Asbury

Don’t mess with the Bowery Boys, the Plug Uglies, or the Dead Rabbits. Gangs with such colorful names (and folks like Hell-Cat Maggie and Bill the Butcher) dominated the criminal underworld of New York at the turn of the last century and fill Asbury’s 1928 guide through the city’s nastiest spots. Pulled together from police reports and first-hand interviews with criminals (and embellished by Asbury’s taste for the dramatic), it inspired Martin Scorcese’s film of the same name. A delightful rogue’s gallery of ne’er-do-wells who were probably less appealing in the flesh.

The Age of Innocence

By Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton, who once said that “the air of ideas is the only air worth breathing,” explores what happens when Newland Archer, a New York gentleman engaged to marry his sweet-but-conventional upper-class fianceé, falls for a scandal-plagued woman he’s just met, Countess Ellen Olenska. The first Pulitzer Prize-winning work of fiction by a woman, this novel brilliantly memorializes the social life of Gilded Age Manhattan, as it weaves a timeless tragedy out of the tensions between duty and passion.

Morgan: American Financier

By Jean Strouse

In an age of excess defined by the unprecedented consolidation of wealth in the hands of a very few robber barons, J. Pierpont Morgan ruled over all. But Strouse’s vibrant biography does more than just showcase the one-man bank who brought together the nation’s railroads and built entities like General Electric and U.S. Steel into titans of industry. She introduces us to Morgan as the husband of two wives, the father of four children, the lover of many mistresses, and the victim of a surprisingly serious case of depression, not to mention the avid patron of the arts who endowed the Morgan Library.