Category Archives: New York City

Why I Chose to Write About Ellis Island

Ellis Island, Grace's PicturesYou would be surprised how many times people ask me that question. Well, maybe you aren’t surprised. Maybe you would ask it yourself because you are curious how an author decides what to write about. Fair enough. But it surprises me because…why wouldn’t I? Ellis Island is iconic. Immigrants to the island passed by The Statue of Liberty and thought about what it would mean to live in America. It’s American pride in our heritage, in the struggles our ancestors endured to come here.

I Am Not From This Tradition

So far as I have been able to research, I have no roots coming through Ellis Island. The first line in which I was able to trace an immigrant ancestor marked his immigration from Ireland as coming in 1771. Ellis Island opened in 1892. The next line I traced back to the Massachusetts Bay Company. He came over from Wales around 1640. I’ve also been told of a possible connection to the Mayflower. There are more lines to trace but it seems pretty obvious I’m not going to find an Ellis Island ancestor.

Cindy Thomson's Ellis Island Series

So this answers another question I often get. Grace and Annie and Sofia–the main characters of my books in the Ellis Island series–are not based on my ancestors. So, why write about Ellis Island? I believe those immigrants, the ones who came over during the late 19th century and early 20th century, contributed greatly to the world we live in today and I wanted to honor their sacrifices by helping people to remember.

They Built America

Serbian ImmigrantsThe railroads, the Industrial Revolution, modern roadways, the Unions, Women’s Rights, motion pictures, subways…I could go on forever but most of these things were built and created and invented by Ellis Island immigrants or by those who came in the decades right before the immigration center was built. So, they are a part of all of America, a part of the past of all of us.

New York City History

1900s ManhattanAnother answer is the fascinating history of that era in New York. It was definitely something I was interested in. The vast divide between the poor and the rich. The corruption of the police department. The fledging publishing industry. The melting pot of first and second generation immigrants. Sofia’s Tune will end this series, and I’ll feel a little sad to let it go. I’ll probably be reading other novels set in that era and continue to think about those Hawkins House girls.

Are you interested in Ellis Island? Tell me why. 🙂

Macy Day Parade

Guest Post by Tamera Kraft

I will be guest posting over at Tamera’s blog today. Please click here.

Macy's Thanksgiving

Photo by gigi_nyc

Macy Day Parade has become a tradition on Thanksgiving Day. My earliest memories of Thanksgiving were watching the parade and waiting for Santa to appear. Every child in my school knew that the real Santa was the one who appeared in the parade. But did you know that when the Macy Day Parade first started in 1924, it took place on Christmas Day? Store workers dressed as clowns, cowboys, and other characters and walked the entire six miles hike from Herald Square to Harlem. Professional bands and the Central Park Zoo along with their animals joined them in the parade. Santa rode into Herald Square at the end as he has every year since.

The parade was meant to bring attention to the Macy’s Store in downtown New York City, and it worked. The first year, 250,000 people showed up. After that, it was an annual event in the city that continued to grow even during the Depression. The first radio broadcast of the parade was made in 1932, and the first TV broadcast was made as early as 1938.

Balloons have been a part of the parade, almost since the beginning. In 1927, Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company from Akron premiered their first parade balloon, Felix the Cat, but he wasn’t filled with helium until the next year. In the early years, people didn’t bother to deflate the balloons. They would release them into the air with an address attached. Rarely were the balloons returned. Mickey Mouse made his debut in the 1934 parade, and Bullwinkle first appeared in 1961. Today over a dozen large balloons are in the parade.

Floats were in the first parade and also had a large part over the years. Floats were still drawn by horses until 1939. Snoopy holds the record for the most floats. More than thirty parade floats are now featured in the parade.

The Macy’s Day Parade, although very popular in New York City, gained popularity throughout the nation after the movie, Miracle on 34th Street, was released in 1946. In Miracle on 34th street, the real Santa Claus steps in to replace a drunk Santa and decides to be Macy’s Store Santa to help fight commercialism.

But the Macy’s Day Parade didn’t always have smooth sailing. In 1942 through 1944, the parade was cancelled because rubber and helium were needed for the war effort. After the assassination of President Kennedy, the parade went on as scheduled to boost the morale of the nation. In 1971, heavy rains forced the parade to ground all balloons.

Today, over 8,000 people participate in the Macy’s Day Parade and over 3.5 million are expected to attend. It has become, not just a New York City Thanksgiving tradition, but a tradition for all of the United States of America.

Author Tamera Lynn KraftTamera Lynn Kraft has always loved adventures and writes Christian historical fiction set in America because there are so many adventures in American history. She is married to the love of her life, has two grown children, and lives in Akron, Ohio.

Tamera is the leader of a ministry called Revival Fire For Kids where she mentors other children’s leaders, teaches workshops, and is a children’s ministry consultant and children’s evangelist. She has curriculum published and is a recipient of the 2007 National Children’s Leaders Association Shepherd’s Cup for lifetime achievement in children’s ministry.

You can contact Tamera online at these sites.

Word Sharpeners Blog: http://tameralynnkraft.com

Revival Fire For Kids Blog: http://revivalfire4kids.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TameraLynnKraft

Twitter: https://twitter.com/tamerakraft

Tamera’s Latest BookA Christmas Promise by Tamera Lynn Kraft

A Christmas Promise:

A Moravian Holiday Story, Circa 1773

During colonial times, John and Anna settle in an Ohio village to become Moravian missionaries to the Lenape. When John is called away to help at another settlement two days before Christmas, he promises he’ll be back by Christmas Day.

When he doesn’t show up, Anna works hard to not fear the worst while she provides her children with a traditional Moravian Christmas.

Through it all, she discovers a Christmas promise that will give her the peace she craves.

Available at these online stores:

Amazon

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GM59GN4/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_tmb

Pelican Book Group

http://pelicanbookgroup.com/ec/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=37_47&products_id=512

Christian Books.com

http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?item_no=48711EB&item_code=WW&netp_id=1206746&event=ESRCG&view=details

Places in My Novel Grace’s Pictures

One of the places in my novel (Grace’s Pictures) where a lot of the action takes place is Battery Park.

Not only is Battery Park a beautiful place to visit where you can watch boats and observe the Statue of Liberty, it is full of history–the very spot many of our ancestors first embarked after leaving Ellis Island.

Immigrants arriving in Battery Park.

When I was there I admired this statue and the old trees surrounding it, imagining that many early immigrants must have sat near it and rested from their journeys. If you read Grace’s Pictures, you’ll remember this statue.

At the edge of Battery Park is Castle Clinton, which at the time of my Ellis Island series was an aquarium.

Today

In 1917

So much history exists on that small stretch of a park. Certainly much has changed. There are many statues now, not just the Ericsson one. The trees have grown large. On the weekends the park is filled with tourists, many who are preparing to take the ferry over to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Street hawkers rest here, but there were certainly those in the era of my novels. And I noted something else. A rat scurried past me when I was there, and so Grace experiences the same thing in my novel. But don’t let that deter you if you have the chance to visit. Go sit on a bench and watch the sunset and think about our immigrant ancestors arriving in that spot over a hundred years ago. That’s what I was doing when I took this photograph.

©2012 Cindy Thomson

Peeking Into the Time Period of the Ellis Island Series

Sometimes, while working on my books, I crave some visual inspiration. I can’t go back in time, but things like this help put me into the world my characters live in.

By the way, I do not agree with the romantic notion that this time period was when America was truly great. There were many injustices and crippling poverty. No time period can claim greatness more than another. (And I was also amused by the credits at the end: “curiosity of…” Spell checkers can’t be completely relied upon. It occurs more than once!)

Do Native New Yorkers Exist?

Photos from the New York Times
From left, DeRuiter Family; Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times
Christian DeRuiter strolls along the Hudson, which runs through his family’s long history in the city, dating back to Dutch colonial days. Left, Johannah de Bloch and Frederick DeRuiter, Mr. DeRuiter’s paternal grandparents.

I ran across this interesting article in the New York Times by Constance Rosenblum. It reminded me that we’re all immigrants here in America, with only rare exceptions. Rosenblum notes that the majority of New Yorkers today came from somewhere else.

The article also drove home for me the reason I wrote Grace’s Pictures. I thought I’d share it here with you. Can you relate to any of the people in this article?

Family Tree New York

What Police Corruption?

History of Police Corruption

In Grace’s Pictures I write about police corruption in New York City at the turn of the 20th century. If you know history, you probably know Teddy Roosevelt headed the police commission from 1895-1897 and brought wide sweeping changes. Together with a photographer named Jacob Riis (who makes an appearance in my novel) they traipse through Lower Manhattan neighborhoods in the middle of night, waking up sleeping patrolmen and taking flash photographs of the horrid living conditions.

Roosevelt was familiar with Riis previous to taking the position on the commission, having read his book, How the Other Half Lives. Roosevelt was a reformer, but his primary interest was wider in politics, so he only served in this role for two years. Perhaps if he’d been there longer, more changes might have been made sooner. He did bring attention to the corruption and insisted the police department act more professionally. He required firearm training for the force, for one thing, authorizing the purchase of Colt revolvers for his men. Yes, believe it or not, before that not every policeman was armed, and those that were did not necessarily know how to shoot a gun.

Roosevelt Did Not Clean up the Police

Tammany Hall, the political force that influenced elections in the city, was strong, and with Roosevelt and Mayor Strong (who supposedly supported a bipartisan agenda) gone, the police department continued to be an “every man for himself” kind of operation. Not to say there weren’t good men, and their work wasn’t effective. Some steps were made in the right direction, but at the time of my story gangs still ruled the streets, and shopkeepers not only had to make them happy, but also the local patrolman who collected “protection” money.

One thing they seemed to excel at: parading. Here is a Thomas Edison film from 1899.


It’s a myth that Teddy Roosevelt cleaned up the New York Police Department, but with Jacob Riis’s help he certain cast light on the problems.

Below is a good summary from The History Channel. The part about Roosevelt’s role in the New York City Police lasts until about the 3:00 mark.


Our Ancestors Endured

This part of history is another facet in the story of our immigrant ancestors. How they managed to not only get through it, but to thrive enough to raise their families is nothing short of courageous.

Unfortunately police corruption still exists in places, but nothing in this country compares to that time in history. If you couldn’t trust the police, who could you trust? This is the question foremost in Grace McCaffery’s mind in Grace’s Pictures.

What part of this history, if anything, surprises you? Our history classes did not teach it all, I don’t think.