Historic, but not famous

Jeffrey Richman, Green-Wood Cemetery historian

Jeffrey Richman graduated from NYU Law School in the 1970s and started working with criminal defendants for the next 33 years, both at the trial and the appellate level. He loved the challenge and helping those who were underrepresented and poor.

While working in law, he started to collect stereoscopic cards from the 1800s. Though many were available, he concentrated on images of New York. There were so many stereoscopic views of New York City in the second half of the 19th century–hundreds were taken of just the omnibuses, carts, and pedestrians along Broadway in Manhattan, but he kept coming across some marked Green-Wood cemetery. They became a focus of his collection.

In 1987, he saw an ad for a photo tour of Green-Wood, which limited photography on the grounds without permission at that time. That tour changed Mr. Richman’s life. The tour brought together his many interests like 19th century photography, taking photographs, cemeteries, sculpture, and landscape design. He returned to the cemetery and was able to get a courtesy pass with photography allowed and he knew something had changed for him.

In 1990, he decided to become a tour guide as well as keeping his day job. He set up his own schedules and did his own publicity as Green-Wood did not have tours. He began to write a book on the cemetery and it was published by Green-Wood in 1997. In 2007 he became the cemetery historian, the second in Green-Wood cemetery’s 150+ year history. He left the law practice.

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Historic, but not famous

Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes, architect, writer
I.N. Phelps Stokes standing behind his wife Edith née Minturn, (painting by John Singer Sargent, 1897). Painting was given as a wedding present.

Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes (1867 – 1944) was an architect and pioneer in social housing who co-authored the 1901 New York tenement house law. His most important contribution to NYC may have been his  The Iconography of Manhattan Island, a six volume compilation he worked on for over 20 years and published between 1915 and 1928. It became one of the most important research resources about the early development of the city.

He was educated at St. Paul’s School, Concord, and Berkeley School in New York City before graduating from Harvard in 1891. He later took post graduate courses at Columbia University and then in Italy and at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Upon returning to the United States, design several charitable building projects including: the Tuskegee tenement building in New York (1901); St. Paul’s Chapel at Columbia University (1907); Berea College Chapel (1906); Woodbridge Hall at Yale (1901); two tenements called the Dudley complex at 339-349 East 32nd Street, New York (1910); an outdoor pulpit for St. John the Divine Cathedral (1916) and memorial gates at both Harvard and Yale universities among many others.

While compiling the work The Iconography of Manhattan Island, Stokes had become an obsessive collector and spent large sums with dealers in America and Europe. He bequeathed the prints from his collection to the New York Public Library as well as selling others when eventually in need of funds.

The Iconography of Manhattan Island Vol. 1 (1915)
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Historic, but not famous

Clayton Patterson, artist, photographer, videographer, historian

Clayton Patterson (born 1948) is a Canadian-born artist, photographer, videographer, member of the No! Art movement and folk historian. He moved to New York City in 1979 and focused almost exclusively on documenting the art, life and times of the Lower East Side in Manhattan.

In 1972, his partner, Rensaa gave him his first camera and in 1980 he began photographing life in the Lower East Side of New York City. In 1985, Patterson began photographing kids from the neighborhood in front of his front door. Over the years, he has taken hundreds of photos, and displaying them on his “Hall of Fame” in his storefront window. As more photographs appeared in the window, more kids demanded their photo be taken in front the graffiti covered door.

Kids at the grafitti door for the “Hall of Fame”

His painting and drawing is heavily informed and influenced by tattoo and graffiti culture. Some of his large scale murals have appeared throughout the Lower East Side. From 1980-1982, Patterson’s work was shown in a number of downtown galleries. As Patterson grew disenchanted with the SoHo art world, he distanced himself from the traditional gallery scene and moved deeper into the underground scene of Lower East Side.

In 1983, Patterson and Rensaa bought a two-story former sewing factory and storefront at 161 Essex Street. In 1986 he converted the small storefront into an art gallery and Clayton Cap store. From 1986 to 2003, they showcased a variety of New York artists, writers, neighborhood personalities. The Clayton cap was the first baseball cap to have the embroidery all around the cap, and had the first signature and label on the outside of the cap. An embroidered signature on a repeated design, and a hand signed label for the custom one-of-a-kind designed caps.

A Clayton Cap

In August of 1988, Patterson began taping the Tompkins Square Park incident in full detail. He had come to the area with his video camera to get footage of a band performing at the Pyramid Club across the street from the park, but was pulled away by the police invasion of the park to remove the people living there. His footage from the night’s events (some 3+ hours) became instrumental in exposing police brutality in New York City that was often reported but never videotaped. As a result, the New York District Attorney ordered Patterson to surrender his tapes and camera. Patterson refused the order and was sentenced to 90 days in jail. After a 10-day hunger strike, Patterson’s lawyers negotiated a deal that would allow the city to get a copy of the tape while allowing Patterson the right to keep the original.

Patterson left NYC in 2014 leaving a legacy of over 1/2 million photos, hundreds of thousands of digital photos, thousands of hours of video tape in multiple formats and numerous artworks. You can learn more about him in the documentary Captured from 2008.

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Historic, but not famous

Charles Austin Beard, Historian
Beard in 1917

Charles Austin Beard (1874 – 1948) was born in Indiana, expelled from Quaker school, finally graduated from High School and eventually ran the area newspaper with his brothers. He attended DePauw University, running the newspaper there and graduating in 1898. He continued his studies at Oxford in 1899 and returned to the US with his wife in 1902 where he studied at Columbia University. He received his doctorate in history in 1904 and immediately joined the faculty as a lecturer.  In order to provide his students with reading materials that were hard to acquire, he compiled a large collection of essays and excerpts in a single volume: An Introduction to the English Historians (1906). This became a standard in education.

He moved through the ranks at Columbia, teaching in Public Law and Barnard College. He continued to write for journals, textbooks and political magazines. He  also coached the debate team and wrote about public affairs, especially municipal reform. He left Columbia University during the first World War as he disagreed with how the University was being managed, but still wanted to be involved in education.

He was not the last to leave the University in a dispute about academic freedom and management of faculty. His friend James Harvey Robinson also resigned from Columbia in May 1919 to become one of the founders of the New School for Social Research and serve as its first director. The Beards were active in helping Robinson found the New School for Social Research  where the faculty would control its own membership. Charles never taught there and did not seek a permanent position ever again. He lived off the royalties from the many textbooks and articles he continued to write.

Beard’s political views often went against the mainstream, but added perspective to interventionist and isolationist philosophies. By the 1950s his economic interpretation of history had fallen out of favor; only a few prominent historians held to his view of class conflict as a primary driver in American history.

Beard died in New Haven, Connecticut, on September 1, 1948 on the farm he shared with his wife.

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