Extent: 1 box
The Dorothy Dignam Collection on Gramercy Park consists of material focused on the Gramercy Park area. The primary formats represented in the collection are newspaper clippings, magazine articles, and Gramercy Graphic, which is a publication distributed for Gramercy Park residents. They discuss neighborhood improvement, human interest stories of former and current residents, local events, and items that would concern local Gramercy Park residents.
Historical and Biographical Note:
The Gramercy Park (also known as Gramercy) neighborhood is named for the 2 acre park located on the east side of Manhattan between East 21st and 22nd Street at Lexington Avenue. The neighborhood boundaries are roughly defined by First Avenue, Park Avenue South, East 14th Street, and East 23nd Street; with Stuyvesant Town to the east, the Flatiron District to the west, Union Square to the south, and Rose Hill and Kips Bay to the north. In 1831, Samuel Ruggles purchased the “Gramercy Farm” from James Duane, son of Mayor James Duane and a descendant of Peter Stuyvesant, including the “crooked little swamp,” or Krom Moerasje, the Dutch term from which the area’s name originates. Ruggles filled the swamp and began developing it, laying out an eventual 60 plots around “Gramercy Square,” and deeding rights of the square to the property owners surrounding it. As a result, Gramercy Park remains one of only two private parks in New York City – the other located in Sunnyside Gardens, Queens. Residents of the Gramercy Park neighborhood must pay an annual fee in order to receive a key to enter the park, and key access is largely limited to owners of the original lots, and members and guests of organizations which reside on the park such as the Players Club and National Arts Club. In 1966, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission recognized the Gramercy Park Historic District and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Gramercy Park has had many notable residents including Thomas Edison, John Barrymore, Edwin Booth, Samuel Tilden, O. Henry, George Bellows, John Steinbeck, the Steinway family, Washington Irving, and more recently actors Julia Roberts and Jimmy Fallon, and musician Rufus Wainwright.
Dorothy Dignam (1896-1988) worked as a commercial writer for 44 years. She began her advertising career in Chicago in the 1920s, and was later an active member and biographer of the Advertising Women of New York (AWNY), the first organization solely for women in the advertising and communications industry in America. Dignam became one of the chief female copywriters in the advertising business, working for several companies, primarily Ayer Advertising, in Philadelphia and New York City. Much of her advertising work was in the fields of fashion, beauty, and homemaking, but she was also known for her campaign to sell the 1936 Ford V-8 to women. Dignam lived at No. 18 Gramercy Park for 22 years.
Scope and Content
The Dorothy Dignam Collection on Gramercy Park spans the years 1931-1964, with the bulk of the material dating from 1945-1961. The collection consists of newspaper clippings, magazine articles, and historical research on Gramercy Park and the surrounding area, including several volumes of the Gramercy Graphic, spanning nearly two decades. Although not a complete run, this collection includes most editions of the Gramercy Graphic published between 1944 and1961. Dignam often wrote articles for The Villager and Gramercy Graphic that concerned the local happenings and people of Gramercy Park.She was also the assistant editor of Gramercy Graphic for several years, accounting for her significant collection of the publication. The material in the collection features research, statistics, and information on specific locations, events, and residents in Gramercy Park. Some documents focus on people who lived or used to live in Gramercy Park like author O. Henry, National Arts Club resident Ludwig Bemelmans, artist George Bellows, custodian of the park James A. (Teck) Hannan, columnist Elsa Maxwell, and Eleanor Stierham, first woman fiction editor of Collier’s. The materials also feature locations in or in the vicinity of the Gramercy Park area like the Flatiron Building, the Irving Hotel, Delmonico’s Restaurant, and other buildings that have been home to well known individuals. The collection also documents events directly related to Gramercy Park, such as its 125th Anniversary; or events that affected it, like the 1947 snowstorm that hit New York City.
Series I: Publications on Gramercy Park, 1931-1964
Series II: Gramercy Graphic, 1944-1961
Series III: Historical Notes on Gramercy Park, ca. 1950-1964