cover image Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919

Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919

Mike Wallace. Oxford Univ., $45 (1,200p) ISBN 978-0-19-511635-9

A metastasized New York straddles the turn of the 20th century in Wallace’s magisterial follow-up to his Pulitzer-winning Gotham (coauthor, with Edwin G. Burrows). Wallace, the director of the Gotham Center for New York City History, takes the 1898 municipal consolidation of New York’s five boroughs, which made it the world’s second-largest city, as a peg for an exploration of a new socioeconomic order based on consolidated corporations—usually headquartered in Manhattan—that tamed chaotic markets and made New York the capital of capitalism and epicenter of such industries as insurance, biscuits, and musical theater. Wallace traces this theme in the city’s struggles to manage explosive growth; zone forests of skyscrapers; dig a subway system; forge a regulatory state to solve health, housing, and economic crises; and unify its immigrant masses into a new kind of Americanism. It’s a tumultuous, often violent story pitting Republican plutocrats and Progressive reformers against corrupt Tammany pols, WASPs against Catholics, strikers against sweatshop owners, cops against gangsters, militant socialists against reformists, and Greenwich Village bohemians against everything holy. Miraculously, Wallace shapes this sprawl into a coherent, engrossing narrative that’s nicely balanced between historical sweep and colorful detail. The result sets a standard for urban history, capturing both New York’s particularities and its protean dynamism. Illus. (Oct.)