In 1729, the City Charter established the Municipal Archives, however, its lack of funding and resources left much to be desired. In the mid 1970's, City leaders set about establishing a new agency, the Department of Records & Information Services also known as DORIS. It would be comprised of the Municipal Reference Library, Municipal Records Management, as well as the Municipal Archives. At that time, City leaders anticipated that the Municipal Archives would benefit from partnering with a private organization, outside City government, that was dedicated to it's well being. Thus began the private group known today as the New York Archival Society (NYAS). It was officially incorporated in 1976; and the new Department became a reality in 1977. The creation of this organization, which acts as a fiscal agent, advocate, and promoter of other archival programs, such as the archives of the Department of Records & Information Services, has greatly supported the collection and restoration of these archives. Shortly after its creation, NYAS had enough archival papers to stretch over 70 miles high! Through outreach to other organizations and self fundraising, the Society has supported the DORIS throughout a variety of projects, which otherwise might not have been possible. The money that funds many DORIS operations, that some organizations cannot directly give to the Archives, might not be donated if it was not for the availability of the Society, which is tax exempt under 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
Still, why is it so important to maintain the archives? The archives preserve our history, as well as tons of interesting facts (like how Mark Twain went bankrupt). Furthermore, as a resident of New York, the archives are personal to you. The DORIS can trace NY ancestry and history back hundreds of years, all of which would not be possible without the partnership of the New York Archival Society. Below are just a few of the many projects that the Society has been able to complete so far. Click the pictures to enlarge them
Lindbergh-Hauptmann Case Papers
NYAS SPRING 1982 NEWSLETTER: In 1979, the Bronx District Attorney's Office presented their case papers from the 1932-1934 kidnapping of Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr., 20-month old son of renowned aviator Charles Lindbergh, to the Municipal Archives. These files, including copies from the NYPD as well as originals, document the search and trial of the alleged kidnapper and murderer, Bruno Richard Hauptmann of the Bronx. A few of the papers also investigate one of the case's "mystery men," Isidor Fisch. After being caught trying to collect ransom money in the Bronx, Hauptmann was charged with extortion by the Bronx Grand Jury in 1934 and executed two years later. Many other interesting case records similar to this are also kept by the Municipal Archives, such as the 1943 murder of Carlo Tresca, the Murder Inc., the Lucky Luciano, and the Alice Crimmins cases.
Brooklyn Bridge Drawings Project
NYAS FALL 1982 NEWSLETTER: In 1970, 11,500 original drawings of the Brooklyn Bridge were discovered under the Williamsburg Bridge in Brooklyn by the Department of Highways and Transportation Administration. Shortly after, in 1979, The Municipal Archives Division of the Department of Records and Information Services began a three year project to help restore these damaged drawings. These documents showcase each step of the bridge building process, including experimentation from the designer that was never carried through to construction. To continue the preservation of the collection for future use, the National Endowment for the Humanities gave a $52,343 grant to the Municipal Archives. With further donations by the Mellon Foundation, Astor Foundation, and many more, the DORIS exceeded their goal by over $25,000. The drawings are now cataloged and on microfilm and are available to anyone interested.
LOWER EAST SIDE HISTORIC CONSERVANCY: The New York Archival Society also sponsored historical tours around the city for its members. For example, the "Peddler's Pack" series. This tour walked you through the life of a tenement resident on the Lower East Side during the early 20th century. Looking through buildings on Eldridge Street, tourists learned about the people who lived there, mostly Jewish, Irish, and Chinese immigrants who continued to preserve their cultural ties while still adapting to the American way of life. On top of the tenements, you would also see tea houses, synagogues, schools, settlement houses, sweatshops, union halls, theaters, etc. Throughout the tour, participants were also given a Peddler Pack, which consisted of photographs, writing, maps, censuses, schoolbooks, religious objects, sweatshop regulations, and household objects from the time. These tours, led by expert historians, were originally only five to ten dollars when they first began during the 1980's. Other tours, such as those of Hell's Kitchen, showcased the neighborhood of 19th century gangs such as the Parlor Mob, the Gorillas, the Gophers, and the Lady Gophers.