December 2012: Encyclopedia of New York City, 2nd Ed. published by Yale University Press

Encyclopedia of New York CityYale University Press released the 2nd Edition of the Encyclopedia of New York City on 1 December. I contributed an article about public executions, and a table of New Yorkers executed over the years.

Since  the best-selling and beloved ENCYCLOPEDIA  OF NEW YORK CITY first appeared on shelves 15 years ago, the Big Apple has  changed in so many ways. The World Trade Center no  longer dominates the skyline, a billionaire businessman named Bloomberg has  become the first three-term mayor in 70 years, Chelsea Piers, the High Line,  and DUMBO are now familiar terms, and Williamsburg, the South Bronx, and the  Lower East Side have been transformed from once-dismal areas into  hot spots. To keep up with these vast  and intriguing changes, this definitive, one-volume  resource has been revised and expanded.

Executions used to be extremely popular in New York City. Crowds of up to 50,000 people, one-third of the metropolis, jammed downtown. Spectators tore clothes from the condemned (for use as good luck charms) and fought for prime viewing spots. In 1829, disturbances forced New York to move killings inside prison walls. The city appears to have been the first jurisdiction in the world to take this step. Audiences then lined adjacent rooftops. Scalpers hawked tickets to the prison yard which held the gallows. Electric chair executions began on 6 August 1890 deep inside Sing Sing prison in upstate Ossining, New York and these morbid spectacles ended in New York City.

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About Bob Neer

Core Lecturer in History at Columbia University in the City of New York.
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