The History of New York City

Originally published on The Purchase Brick.

Many New York City enthusiasts showed up on Thursday night for the book signing for The Encyclopedia of New York City, 2nd Edition. The Purchase College Library was the host for the event. Over a 100 people showed up for the event, already with their own copies on the book in hand. 41 copies were sold that night, almost clearing out their entire stock at the signing.

Purchase’s own, Professor Lisa Keller, was in charge of the event, partly because she was Executive Editor of this endeavor.  The second edition of this unusual encyclopedia took many years to finish, mainly because of the 15 year gap between the first edition that was first published in 1995.

“We had to have the book catch up with 15 years of history. So we have more than 800 new entries”, says Keller.

It was also the reason why Keller stepped down as the head of the Journalism program two years ago. With her combined skills of being a historian, a journalist, and a tough editor, Keller believed she “fit the bill perfectly” for Professor Kenneth Jackson, Editor-in-Chief of the both editions.

“We tried to make the editing tighter because we had 5000 entries. In order to have room for things we had to make the editing tight and I think Lisa’s editing experience, the school newspaper here, being a journalist in Europe, running the journalism program here, and being a writer herself, a historian herself. Many people don’t bring those skills. She has a PhD and she’s a journalist” says Jackson about Keller.

Former Purchase student, Meghan Lalonde was the Senior Project Editor for the book. Lalonde who just graduated this past May was a journalist student who jumped on the project after Keller mentioned it to her. “I liked the work that I was doing for it. It was a lot of practical application of a lot of things I was learning in undergraduate. So a lot of copy-editing, a lot of photojournalism, I took a lot of pictures for the book too. And it was just a lot of the nitty gritty you don’t necessarily see in order for a book to be published and that definitely drove me too it”, said Lalonde.

Even with the internet as a tool that is used often in this technological era, Keller believes this book could be helpful by saying, “It’s very useful. I hope students will look at it. I know everyone likes to look on it online, but here’s the important thing; you look at things online you’re not sure who wrote them and the authority behind them. When you look at this book which comes out of a very respectable press, you know who writes it, you know the entries have been looked at my professionals.”

The second edition has over 5000 entries, from metro cards, to easy pass, and to September 11th. There were also historical records that most people weren’t aware, Keller included until she started on this project.  Elizabeth Jennings, an African American woman, refused to give up her sit on the bus in New York City over 100 years before Rosa Parks did. She eventually sued which caused New York to be one of the first places for an integrated bus system.

“I bet nobody knows that? How would you find that on the internet because you don’t know her name?”


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