Antonio Meucci, inventor of telephone

Antonio Santi Giuseppe Meucci (13 April 1808 – 18 October 1889) was an Italian inventor and is best known for developing the first telephone in Staten Island, NY. Meucci set up a form of voice-communication link in his home that connected the second-floor bedroom to his laboratory. He submitted a patent  for his telephonic device to the U.S. Patent Office in 1871, but there was no mention of electromagnetic transmission of vocal sound in his application. That mention was made by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876. Meucci was admitted to Florence Academy of Fine Arts at the age of 15, as its youngest student, where he studied chemical and mechanical engineering. He was not… Read More

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Gustav A. Mayer, oreo cookie inventor

Gustav A. Mayer was a New York businessman, confectioner and inventor who is credited with the Oreo cookie and the sugar wafer. Mr. Mayer learned the confectioner’s trade in his native Germany before coming to the United States at age 19 in the late 1850s. The Nabisco plant he worked from is the current home of the Chelsea Market, which was recently purchased by Google. Mr. Mayer designed decorative cookie molds, allowing for cookies to be uniform and decorative. This technique was also used to create Christmas tree ornaments. He lived in a beautiful Italianite home in Staten Island which  may… Read More

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John de Morgan, author, Staten Island park advocate

Frank Sheridan a.k.a. John de Morgan, (1848-1926) was an Irish-born writer with a background in the classics. He worked as a tax-collector in Staten Island, New York. He  was a regular contributor of historical novels (specializing in Colonial and American revolutionary War stories), science fiction and other subjects for serials for Norman L. Munro’s Golden Hours from 1888 and also published three serials in George Munro’s Fireside Companion. He also wrote parodies and essays using the pseudonyms Captain Luther Barr, John L. Douglas, Frank Sheridan, and An Old Salt”. Mr. de Morgan lived on Staten Island from 1883 until his death… Read More

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Edna Cobelentz, art collector (aka Jacques Marchais)

Edna Cobelentz was born Jacques Marchais, (1887-1948). She was named Jacques by her father. He did not feminize the family name. She became an actress in her youth and used the name Edna to avoid confusion. She supported her mother on her earnings as an actress, her father died when she was quite young. In 1916, after a failed marriage and 3 children, she moved to NYC and began using her original name in her acting career. While in New York, she surrounded herself with a circle of friends that shared a common interest in art, spirituality and Buddhism. In… Read More

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Elizabeth Alice Austen, photographer

Elizabeth Alice Austen (March 17, 1866 – June 9, 1952) was a Staten Island photographer. She lived in a house built in the 17th century, but was expanded during the 19th century by her grandparents. The house was called Clear Comfort and was dedicated as a National Historic Landmark on April 8, 1976. It is also known as “Alice Austen House” and is located in the Rosebank neighborhood of Staten Island. This house is where Alice discovered photography when her uncle brought a camera home in 1876. Alice’s uncle was a chemistry professor and helped her build a darkroom on… Read More

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Nathaniel Britton, botanist

Nathaniel Lord Britton (January 15, 1859 – June 25, 1934) was an American botanist and taxonomist who co-founded the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, New York. He was born on Staten Island in New York City and bound for religious studies, but took to the study of nature early in life and made that his calling. Mr. Britton graduated from Columbia University and taught geology there. He joined the Botanical society there and met his wife,  Elizabeth Gertrude Knight, a bryologist (study of non-vascular plants), in 1885. They were lifelong collaborators in botanical research. She is the one that proposed a Botanical Garden in The Bronx after visiting one in… Read More

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George Bechtel, Brewer

George Bechtel, Brewer (January 19, 1841-July 16, 1889). He was born in Germany, but moved to the U.S. with his parents at just six-months-old. His father was John Bechtel, who founded a brewery on Staten Island, New York, in 1853. This brewery was the first legal brewery on the island. Staten Island  had a large German population settle in the neighborhood. It was initially was known as the John Bechtel Brewery, but in 1865, he sold the brewery to his son, George Bechtel, who renamed it the George Bechtel Brewery. The Bechtel Brewery was the earliest business to convert to… Read More

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