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November 2001


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Scott Monje <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
A LISTSERV list for discussions pertaining to New York State history." <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 12 Nov 2001 09:13:16 -0500
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I have two questions for the group regarding the institutional history of New York City. They are rather simple and straight forward, but they're the sort of question that recent histories, like Burrows and Wallace's "Gotham," don't address directly, the profession's concerns having moved in other directions.

Starting with James Duane (1784) until 1820, the mayors of New York were appointed by the Council of Appointments in Albany. Starting with Cornelius van Wyck Lawrence (1834), they were elected by the voters of the city. Between these two points, they were appointed by the predecessor of the City Council. My first question is: what was that body called? I have seen references to both the Common Council and the Board of Aldermen, although in both cases it appears the members were called aldermen. Assuming these terms refer to the same body, can anyone tell me which was the official name at the time?

My second question is: Who was the first mayor picked in this manner? Most references put the change in 1820. According to New York City's official list of mayors (published in "The Green Book"), Stephen Allen became mayor in 1821, making him a possible candidate for the position of first locally appointed mayor. But an older history, John William Leonard's "The History of the City of New York" (1910), mentions the Council of Appointment turning out Cadwallader D. Colden and replacing him with Stephen Allen. Does anyone know what the story is here? Was Allen named by the state and then confirmed by the city after the function was transferred? Was he named by the state to his first term and later reappointed by the city? (He was mayor until 1824.)

Many thanks,
Scott Monje
Senior Editor
Encyclopedia Americana