2. Why is there a Hyphen in New-York?
Back in 1804, New York was typically written with a hyphen between the words New and York, so it only made sense that the Historical Society should adopt this punctuation in its name. The hyphen was used in newspapers and books and applied to other states as well, such as New-Jersey and New-Hampshire. In the mid-1800s, the hyphen began to fall out of use, though the New York Times was another hold out, keeping the hyphen in the paper’s masthead until the 1890s. As an homage to the time of its founding and its mission of preserving the state’s history, the Historical Society continues to keep the hyphen in its name.
The hyphen was an uncontroversial mark until 1945 when, according to a New York World-Telegram report, an angered councilman noticed the hyphen on a subway ad and brought his frustration to his peers. Chief Magistrate Henry H. Curran told the president of the City Council that the hyphen was “like a gremlin which sneaks around in the dark,” and called for its removal. The Council did try to pass a law barring the use of the hyphen in New-York, but librarians and curators of the Historical Society held their ground. One curator even remarked that they couldn’t change it now, it was after all chiseled into stone on the building. This incident took place amidst the tragedy of World War II and was largely viewed as nonsense. A group of musicians even wrote a song poking fun at the debate, called “The Hyphen-Song,” which they performed at a City Council meeting.
Today, the hyphen remains proudly part of the Historical Society’s name. The Society’s summer softball team is named “The Hyphens” and its library blog is called “The Hyphen.”