9. Why Does New-York Historical Society Have a Hyphened Name?

Back in 1804, New York was typically written with a hyphen between the two words. Used in newspapers and books, the practice even extended to the names of other states like New-Jersey and New-Hampshire. Usage of the hyphen decreased in the mid 1800s, with the New York Times being one of the last holdouts still put it in the masthead of the paper until the 1890s. The Historical Society kept it given that that was the common spelling of the city during the Society’s founding, and also reinforced its commitment to preserving New York City history.

The hyphen generally went unnoticed, until 1945 when an angry city council men noticed the hyphen on a subway ad. According to a New York World-Telegram reporter, Chief Magistrate Henry H. Curran told President of City Council Newbold Morris “This thing -this hyphen- is like a gremlin which sneaks around in the dark… You should call a special meeting of City Council immediately and have a surgical operation on it! We won’t be hyphenated by anyone!”

Even after a silly exclamation, the Council, did in fact, tried to pass a law barring the use of the hyphen in New-York. Librarians and curators of the Historical Society held their ground and explained it has been there since its founding. One curator even remarked that they couldn’t change it now, it was after all chiseled into stone on the building. The World-Telegram report was mocked by many citizens since it was World War II. A group of musicians even wrote a song called “The Hyphen-Song” which they performed at a City Council meeting.

Today, the hyphen remains proudly a part of the Historical Society’s name, and is even part of the Society’s summer softball team name “The Hyphens.” Who new a little line could cause so much hullabaloo.