From the consolidation of the city into five boroughs to the massive upheavals after World War I.
After the Pulitzer Prize–winning first volume, Gotham (1998), by Wallace (History/John Jay Coll. of Criminal Justice; A New Deal for New York, 2002, etc.) and Edwin G. Burrows, which traced the city’s founding up to 1898, this massive second installment explores themes of business consolidation, construction, and the backlash that would accompany such intensive growth—e.g., labor unrest through World War I. This is a huge undertaking, and Wallace organizes the work tidily. He first identifies the key players in the creation of this modern city (“Who Rules New York?”), which, at the time, replaced London as the financial hub of the world. These figures and organizations included, among countless others ably delineated by Wallace, J.P. Morgan, Tammany Hall trough-feeders, ferocious reform groups like the Women’s Municipal League and muckraker Lincoln Steffens, and maverick publishing mogul William Randolph Hearst. Everyone wanted a piece of the building boom, as evidenced by the skyscraper boom in the first two decades of the new century: “the skyline replaced the harbor as New York’s emblem, just as financiers supplanted merchants in the city’s economy.” The author captures the frenetic mood of the time, as many New Yorkers were “gripped by a Promethean frenzy.” As the author writes, “for these Gothamites, soaring buildings signaled prosperity, power, and movement into the front rank of world-class cities.” On the other hand, as trains, bridges, subways, tunnels, terminals, stations, docks, and islands evolved to meet the needs of the huge influx of immigrants and workers, there emerged an important reform movement to address the poor, sick, and disenfranchised. From “Progressives” to “Repressives,” Wallace devotes an entire block of chapters to New York gangs, crime, and cops, as well as to “Radicals,” “Bending Gender,” “Black Metropolis,” and “Insurgent Art,” among numerous other lively strands.
True to its subject, a monumental work of myriad vantage points.