The Spirit of New York: Defining Events in the Empire State’s History, by Dr. Bruce W. Dearstyne, published in 2015 by SUNY Press, is a scholarly book that is intended for a popular audience. It presents the history of the state in a novel way, in the form of narratives of sixteen key events, from the promulgation of the first state constitution on April 22, 1777 through the resilience of the Fire Department of the City of New York on and after 9/11. Each event took place on a single day and its chapter describes what led up to it, the event itself, and what happened afterward as a result or impact. The book is extensively researched but it is written to bring exciting people to the center of each story. As much as possible, the narrative lets the people who made or observed the history tell their stories in their own words. It also weaves in other first-hand accounts from newspapers and other primary sources. The Spirit of New York also links local history to state history and, in turn, to national history.  Some of the stories have never been told before or where they have, the book brings new research or a fresh insight and perspective.


1. April 22, 1777: New York State Begins

2. February 4, 1826: Fiction Trumps History

3. July 4, 1839: The Farmers’ Rebellion

4. July 20, 1848: A Demand for Equal Rights

5. October 1, 1851: Striking a Blow for Freedom

6. March 30, 1899: Pollution and Politics

7. April 15, 1903: Intervening for the Children

8. May 29, 1910: First in the Air

9. March 25 and 29, 1911: Fires Change History

10. February 14, 1924: Leading into the Information Age

11. April 15, 1947: Breaking the Color Line

12. June 24, 1954: A New Enterprise for Moving around New York

13. April 22, 1964: The World’s Fair Opens in New York

14. August 2, 1978: Environmental Crisis and Citizen Activism

15. September 11, 2001: New York’s Resilence


Bruce W. Dearstyne
Albany, NY

Award Details

2016 Award of Merit

Online Details

Book Webpage

Contact Details

SUNY Press
353 Broadway
State University Plaza
Albany, NY 12246-0001