New-York Historical Society logo

Guide to the New-York Historical Society Scholarship Essay Submissions

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
(212) 873-3400

New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Larry Weimer

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on August 05, 2022
The finding aid is written in English. using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Descriptive Summary

Creator: New-York Historical Society
Title: New-York Historical Society Scholarship essay submissions
Dates [inclusive]: 1925-1933
Abstract: The record group includes twelve essays concerning New York City history submitted by Columbia University undergraduates in connection with the competition for a scholarship sponsored annually by New-York Historical Society from 1925-1933.
Quantity: 0.83 Linear feet in two document boxes
Location: Materials in this collection may be stored offsite. For more information on making arrangements to consult them, please visit
Language: The documents in the collection are in English.
Call Phrase: NYHS-RG 13
Sponsor: This record group was processed as part of the 2015-2016 N-YHS Institutional Archives project, made possible by a generous grant from the Leon Levy Foundation.

Return to Top »

Biographical/Historical Note

In January 1925, a New-York Historical Society officer, Librarian Alexander J. Wall, approached Columbia University's Department of History with a proposal to sponsor a scholarship intended to encourage undergraduates interested in pursuing graduate studies in American history. Professor Harry Carman, in consultation with Dean Herbert Hawkes, accepted the proposal and suggested criteria by which the scholarship would be awarded. The plan was presented by Wall to the N-YHS Executive Committee (Wall was also Secretary of the Committee) at its meeting of January 20, 1925, and the plan was approved.

The scholarship was a $300 cash prize to be awarded to the member of the Junior Class of Columbia University who wrote the best essay on a designated topic of American history. The topic was selected annually by Wall and Carman. The scholarship opportunity was described in Columbia's annual catalogue, which indicated the essay was to be 5,000-7,000 words. The topics for 1925 and 1926 concerned New York City's Whig movement of the 1770s and its literary societies of the 1820s, respectively. For 1927, the topic was New York as seen by the foreign traveler before 1830. Winners were mentioned in the Commencement program and catalogue. Essays were submitted to the Secretary of Columbia University by May 1, and Carman arranged for their reading and judging within the school. Wall was notified when there was a suggested winner. He was provided with a copy of the winning essay, apparently reserving the right to decline it, and then acquired the Executive Committee's approval to send $300 to Columbia to fund the student's award.

There were winners in each of the first three years of the award, for 1925, 1926, and 1927. There were no winners in 1928, 1929, and 1930. In at least one of these years, 1928, essays were submitted, but were not deemed by the judges at Columbia to be worthy of the award, which created some complaint from Kendall Kimberland (or perhaps his mother, Angie) in connection with his paper. In 1930, Columbia proposed changes to the award to improve participation. These changes were accepted by N-YHS's Executive Committee on February 18, 1930. These changes opened the competition to both juniors and seniors, divided the $300 award into a $250 first prize and a $50 second prize, and provided that essayists could choose from a short list of topics, rather than be limited to one defined subject. Columbia changed the category of the award in its catalogue from a "scholarship" to a "prize." In 1931, Carman and a Mr. McKee (likely Samuel McKee) awarded both the first and second prizes, but again none were awarded in 1932.

At the February 21, 1933, meeting of N-YHS's Executive Committee, Wall proposed that the prize be discontinued because the lack of regular competition for it suggested that the expenditure was not warranted. The Committee agreed, but given the timing N-YHS agreed to make a 1933 payment if winning essays appeared. Two final winners were selected by Columbia in that spring of 1933, and the program was then ended.

(Principal print sources for the above include the Annual Reports of New-York Historical Society and the catalogues of Columbia University for 1925-1933, though the catalogues have some omissions as to the 1925 winner and required topics. There is a brief reference to the scholarship in R.W.G. Vail's  Knickerbocker Birthday. For primary sources in the N-YHS Archives, see the Related Archival Materials Note.)

Return to Top »

Scope and Contents Note

The record group includes twelve essays submitted by Columbia University undergraduates in connection with the competition for a scholarship sponsored annually by New-York Historical Society from 1925-1933. During that period, seven essays won awards; six of those winning essays are in the record group. The seventh winning essay, by Leon Hirsch Keyserling, does not appear to be in the record group, though it is possible that the essay submitted under the pseudonym C.F.M in 1927 is Keyserling's. The record group also includes some essays that did not win an award although it is certain that not all essays submitted to Columbia are in the record group.

Arrangement Note

The essays are arranged in chronological order.

The container list entry includes the name of the essayist as presented on the title page. Some of the essayists used pseudonyms; where the actual name is known, it follows the pseudonym in [brackets].

Return to Top »

Access Points

Subject Names

  • Donovan, John L.
  • Elpern, George S.
  • Freedman, Emanuel R.
  • Greenwald, Frank
  • Heymsfeld, Ralph Taft
  • Koch, G. Adolf (Gustav Adolf), 1900-
  • Noble, John Friend
  • Palmieri, Edmund L.
  • Seasonwein, Milton
  • Wood, James Playsted, 1905-1983

Document Type

  • Competition entries
  • Essays.

Subject Organizations

  • Columbia University. Department of History
  • New-York Historical Society -- Archives.

Subject Topics

  • School contests -- New York (State) -- New York.

Subject Places

  • New York (N.Y.) -- History -- Societies, etc.
  • United States -- History -- Study and teaching.

Return to Top »

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Materials in this collection may be stored offsite. For more information on making arrangements to consult them, please visit

Use Restrictions

Taking images of documents from the library collections for reference purposes by using hand-held cameras and in accordance with the library's photography guidelines is encouraged. As an alternative, patrons may request up to 20 images per day from staff.

Application to use images from this collection for publication should be made in writing to: Department of Rights and Reproductions, The New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024-5194, Phone: (212) 873-3400 ext. 282.

Copyrights and other proprietary rights may subsist in individuals and entities other than the New-York Historical Society, in which case the patron is responsible for securing permission from those parties. For fuller information about rights and reproductions from N-YHS visit:

Preferred Citation Note

This record group should be cited as New-York Historical Society Scholarship essay submissions (NYHS-RG 13), The New-York Historical Society.

Related Archival Materials Note

This finding aid relates to just one record group of the New-York Historical Society archives. For information about the other record groups and for overall information about the archives, please see the Guide to the New-York Historical Society Archives (NYHS-RG Archives). Other record groups that are processed and available to researchers and are especially related to the New-York Historical Society Scholarship essay submissions (NYHS-RG 13) are as follows:

The establishment, modification and termination of the Scholarship program, as well as individual annual payments to Columbia University, were approved by the N-YHS Executive Committee. For the minutes of those meetings, especially for the January 20, 1925, meeting at which the Scholarship was created, see the New-York Historical Society management committee records (NYHS-RG 1).

For the correspondence between Alexander J. Wall and Columbia University (principally with Harry Carman) concerning the Scholarship, see New-York Historical Society general correspondence (NYHS-RG 2). Depending on the year, the relevant correspondence is filed either with correspondents beginning with "Co" or in a standalone "Columbia University" file. 1928 correspondence with the Kimberlands concerning their complaints is filed with correspondents beginning with "Ki."

Processing Information Note

This record group was processed by project archivist Larry Weimer in October 2015.

Return to Top »

Container List

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Offsite-Box: 1 Folder : 1 Betsy Rho [Milton Seasonwein]. The Whig Movement in New York City, 1770-1776

Scope and Contents Note

Winning essay of 1925.

1925 May 1
Offsite-Box: 1 Folder : 2 Robert Y. Mine [Edmund L. Palmieri]. The Growth of Whig Sentiment in New York City, 1770-1776

Scope and Contents Note

Essay received an Honorable Mention.

[1925 May]
Offsite-Box: 1 Folder : 3 Diedrich Knickerbocker [Ralph Taft Heymsfeld]. Literary Societies and Associations in New York City, 1790-1830

Scope and Contents Note

Winning essay of 1926.

Offsite-Box: 1 Folder : 4 G. Adolf Koch. Literary Societies in the City of New York from 1770-1830
Offsite-Box: 1 Folder : 5 James P. Wood. Literary Societies and Associations of New York City, 1820-1830
Offsite-Box: 1 Folder : 6 C.F.M. New York as Seen by Foreign Travelers, 1800-1830

Scope and Contents Note

It is possible that C.F.M. is the pseudonym for Leon Hirsch Keyserling, and that this is therefore the winning essay for 1927.

1927 May
Offsite-Box: 1 Folder : 7-8 George S. Elpern. A Social and Descriptive History of New York City, Volumes I and II (2 folders)
1927 May 1
Offsite-Box: 2 Folder : 1 Charon. The Ferries of New York

Scope and Contents Note

It is possible that Charon is the pseudonym of Kendall Kimberland and that this is the essay that generated a dispute between Angie Kimberland and the Scholarship judges.

1928 May 1
Offsite-Box: 2 Folder : 2 John L. Donovan. Textile Manufacture in New York State

Scope and Contents Note

1st prize essay of 1931.

Offsite-Box: 2 Folder : 3 Emanuel R. Freedman. Advertising in New York City Newspapers and Magazines in 1870

Scope and Contents Note

2nd prize essay of 1931.

Offsite-Box: 2 Folder : 4 Frank Greenwald. The Cemeteries of New York City Before 1830

Scope and Contents Note

1st prize essay of 1933.

Offsite-Box: 2 Folder : 5 John Friend Noble. Christian and Henry Bergh

Scope and Contents Note

2nd prize essay of 1933.

1933 May 1

Return to Top »