George Petrie, YMCA founder in NYC

George Petrie (1828 – 1902), a young New York City businessman, was instrumental in the founding of the YMCA in New York City after being inspired by his visits to the London YMCA while visiting the Great Exhibition of 1850. Petrie brought back literature on the London facilities and organized a committee around the ideas of the London YMCA. With the help of Mercer Street Presbyterian’s Rev. Isaac Ferris, Petrie set up a temporary facility in rooms on the third floor of the old New York City Lyceum at 659 Broadway. Many men new to the city, flocked to the… Read More

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John G. Coster, merchant

John G. Coster and his older brother, Henry, were born in Holland.  Henry arrived in New York prior to the Revolution and John (who had been educated at a physician) followed a few years later.  They established Brothers Coster & Co., later renamed “Henry A. and John G. Coster.” In The Old Merchants of New York City, published in 1863, the brothers are mentioned as some of the finest merchants in New York City. Walter Barrett wrote “No better merchants ever lived in this city than these two.  When these two honest, guileless merchants formed a partnership in the town”. They sold… Read More

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Harold Rome, composer, lyricist

Harold “Hecky” Jacob Rome (May 27, 1908 – October 26, 1993) was an American composer, lyricist, and writer for musical theater. He was born in Connecticut and played piano in local dance bands and was already writing music while studying architecture and law at Yale University. He graduated in 1929 with a Bachelor of Arts, and continued into Yale Law School. He moved to NYC as an architect, but continued to write music. Much of the music hewas writing at this time was socially conscious and of little interest to the mainstream audiences. In 1937, he made his Broadway debut as co-writer, composer, and lyricist of the topical revue Pins and… Read More

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John Bunny, comedian, silent film star

John Bunny (September 21, 1863 – April 26, 1915) was an actor who was often described as “the first internationally recognized film comedian.” Between 1909 and his death in 1915, Bunny was one of the top stars of early silent film, as well as an early example of celebrity. Bunny was born in New York City and raised in Brooklyn. The son of English immigrants, he initially worked as a clerk in a general store before joining a small minstrel show at the age of twenty. His stage career spanned over 30 years and included work in tour and stock theater companies around the US until he worked his way… Read More

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