Museum of the City of New York Collection on Education and Religion, 1705-2003

Extent: 6 boxes, 2 oversize drawers
The Museum of the City of New York Collection on Education & Religion consists of ephemera spanning from 1705-2003 related to public and private schooling, colleges, and religion in New York City.

Historical Note
In colonial New York City, private tutors and schoolmasters provided education for children on a variety of topics, including basic writing and arithmetic, dancing, and French. The Dutch Reformed and Anglican churches opened some of the earliest schools in the city, which primarily served poor families. The Regents of the University of the State of New York was created in 1784 to oversee the state’s secondary education and Columbia College. George Clinton, the first governor of the State of New York, believed that education was essential to the preservation of liberty, and the state began to fund public education in 1795. In New York City, these funds were distributed to charity schools. The Free School Society was established in 1805 with the goal of providing a better education to poor and working class children. The “ward school” system established by the society became the city’s de facto public schools until 1842, when the New York State legislature established a public school system and centralized Board of Education. Brooklyn established its own system of public schools in 1843.

The New York and Brooklyn school systems first served children until the age of 14, as New York City was the last major city in the country to establish public high schools. In 1874, the city made education compulsory for all children. However, by 1898, due in part to the increase in immigration, the system was serving half a million students and schools had to turn students away. Municipal consolidation provided resources to build new, larger school buildings, and the first day high schools opened in Manhattan and the Bronx.

During the 1880s, Manhattan and Brooklyn opened schools to all races, and the last racially designated school closed in 1900. Residential segregation during the 1960s led to unintentional racial segregation of elementary schools, and “tracking” in high schools, where students were assigned separate courses of study. The city experimented with voluntary transfers and redistricting, and in 1970 passed the school decentralization law. Under the law, elected community school boards governed elementary and middle schools and the Board of Education controlled high schools. Bilingual, experimental, and magnet schools began opening in the later part of the 20th century.

In addition to the system of public schools, New York City is home to nearly 900 private and parochial schools. The Dutch opened the Collegiate School in 1628, which remains the country’s oldest independent school. Independent schools are primarily located on Manhattan’s Upper West and Upper East sides, in Riverdale, the Bronx, and Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn.

Kings College was the first college or university to open in New York City in 1754. The college closed throughout the American Revolution, and reopened in 1784 as Columbia College. The University of the City of New York, now known as New York University, opened in 1831 to provide an alternative to what was considered a conservative curriculum offered by Columbia. Nationally recognized private New York City university colleges include Barnard College, Columbia University, Cooper Union, Fordham University, New York University, Pace University, Pratt Institute, St. John’s University, The New School, and Yeshiva University. The Free Academy was established in 1848 and provided the city’s first public university education. In 1866 the Academy was renamed the College of the City of New York, and again in 1929 to the City College of New York. In 1961, the City Univeristy of New York was established as the institution for the city’s municipal college system. Today, CUNY has campuses in all five boroughs. There are nearly 110 universities and colleges in New York City, and the city is home to more university students than any other city in the United States.

New York City has long been considered a haven of religious diversity. The Dutch West India Company initially had a difficult time attracting settlers to the colony in the early seventeenth century, leading to an acceptance of diverse religious beliefs. This not only included a variety of Christian denominations, but also Judaism. The English gained control of New York City in 1664, and while there was dispute amongst religions, there remained a general acceptance of religious diversity. New York City remained largely Protestant until an influx of Catholic and Jewish immigration throughout the nineteenth century. Protestants and Catholics experienced significant tension with one another as Protestants tried to convert Catholics, but by the 1860s, New York City was the Catholic center of the United States.

Jewish immigrants fleeing pogroms and extreme discrimination in Central and Eastern Europe sought refuge in New York City in the late nineteenth century. A majority of these immigrants settled in the Lower East Side and Harlem. A variety of religions developed further in New York City throughout the twentieth century, including Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. By the late twentieth century, Catholicism was the largest religion in the city, with 2.35 million followers. According to the 2014 Pew Research Center Religious Landscape Study, 59% of New York City metro area respondents identified as Christian, with 33% as Catholic, 8% identified as Jewish, and 3% as Muslim. 24% of respondents identified as religious “nones”, and 15% said they identified with “nothing in particular”.

Scope and Content
The Museum of the City of New York Collection on Education and Religion consists of ephemera ranging from 1705 to 2003, with the bulk of the objects dating from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The collection illustrates the evolution of educational institutions and churches throughout New York City history. The vast majority of the collection focuses on New York City education through public and private schools and colleges and universities. The bulk of the Religion series focuses on Christian churches. The primary formats of materials in the collection are merit awards, report cards, programs, and invitations.

Series I: Public Schools
Series II: Private Schools
Series III: Education – General
Series IV: Colleges
Series V: Churches

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