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1920 NYC

1920 map of New York City, showing its boroughs and neighbouring cities.

New York City (New York or NYC for short) is a city in the state of New York and the most populous city in the United States of America, and a secondary setting in the show Boardwalk Empire along with Chicago. By the early 1920s, when Boardwalk Empire takes place, NYC is already one of the biggest cities in the world and the global trade, financial, artistic and industrial center it remains today, plus the main entrance to the country of thousands of European immigrants (mostly from Ireland, Italy and Germany) that arrive each year.

Bootlegging and the criminal underworld in general is largely controlled by the Jewish mafia of Arnold Rothstein, although the competition of more recently arrived Italian mobsters like Joe Masseria is on the rise. Its location in one of the largest natural harbors in the world and constant trade with Europe and Canada also make it one of the most prominent entries for illegal alcohol in the country after the passing of Prohibition - however, the tighter political control place it at a disadvantage to other Atlantic ports like Atlantic City and Philadelphia.


The area was inhabited in precolonial times by various Algonquian tribes including the Lenape, whose homeland Lenapehoking included the future Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and the lower Hudson Valley including The Bronx. Europeans visited the place in different occasions during the 16th century but it wasn’t until 1614 when a Dutch fur trading settlement on the southern tip of Manhattan was founded. This would be called New Amsterdam in 1625. Dutch colonial Director-General Peter Minuit purchased the island of Manhattan from the Canarsie, a small band of the Lenape, in 1626 for a value of 60 guilders (about $1000 in 2006).

The colony surrendered in 1664 to the English without bloodshed and was promptly renamed New York after the English Duke of York and Albany. New York grew in importance as a trading port while under British rule and became a center of slavery, with 42% of households holding slaves by 1730, more than any other city other than Charleston, South Carolina. In 1735 the city hosted the influential John Peter Zenger trial, helping to establish freedom of the press in North America. In 1754, Columbia University was founded under charter by George II of Great Britain as King's College in Lower Manhattan. The Stamp Act Congress met in New York in October 1765 as the Sons of Liberty organized in the city, skirmishing over the next ten years with British troops stationed there.

The Battle of Long Island, the largest battle of the American Revolutionary War, was fought in August 1776 within the future limits of Brooklyn, ending in British victory. The city became then the British base of operations in North America, a safe haven for Loyalists and escaped slaves who joined the British Army in exchange for their freedom. The city was evacuated in 1783.

In 1785 the Congress of the Confederation made New York the national capital. In 1789 the first President of the United States, George Washington, was inaugurated; the first United States Congress and the Supreme Court of the United States each assembled for the first time, and the United States Bill of Rights was drafted, all at Federal Hall on Wall Street. By 1790, New York had surpassed Philadelphia as the largest city in the United States.

In the 19th century, the city was transformed by development related to the western and cotton trades, as well as European immigration. The city adopted the Commissioner’s Plan of 1811, which expanded the city street grid to encompass all of Manhattan. The 1819 opening of the Erie Canal through central New York connected the port to the agricultural markets of the interior via the Hudson River and the Great Lakes. Local politics became dominated by Tammany Hall, a corrupt political machine supported by Irish and German immigrants.


View of Central Park ("Ourselves Alone").

The city also became a center of the cotton trade: by 1822 cotton shipments comprised nearly half of its exports, with most going to Great Britain and European markets. Upstate mills manufactured textiles from the cotton, so much of the state's economy was connected to the cotton trade. So many southern businessmen came to New York that they had favorite hotels, and businesses and restaurants catered to them. Slavery, however, was gradually abolished between 1799 and 1827 and the city’s black population reached 16,000 by 1840. Public-minded members of the merchant aristocracy lobbied for the establishment of Central Park, which in 1857 became the first landscaped park in an American city.

The Great Irish Famine brought a large influx of Irish immigrants, and by 1860, one in four New Yorkers—over 200,000—had been born in Ireland. There was also extensive immigration from the German provinces, where revolutions had disrupted societies, and Germans comprised another 25% of New York's population by 1860.

Democratic Party candidates were consistently elected to local office, increasing the ties to the South and its dominant party. In 1861 Mayor Fernando Wood called on the aldermen to declare independence from Albany and the United States after the South seceded, but his proposal was not acted on. Anger at new military conscription laws during the American Civil War led to the Draft Riots of 1863, led by ethnic Irish working class, which deteriorated into vicious attacks on blacks and their property as they were blamed for the war and there had been fierce competition for a decade between immigrants and blacks for work. About 100 blacks were killed and many more attacked. Because of the violence, many blacks left the city for Williamsburg, Brooklyn and New Jersey; the black population in Manhattan fell below 10,000 by 1865, which it had last been in 1820. The white working class had established dominance.

In 1898, the modern City of New York was formed with the consolidation of Brooklyn (until then a separate city), the County of New York (which then included parts of the Bronx), the County of Richmond, and the western portion of the County of Queens. The opening of the subway in 1904 helped bind the new city together. Throughout the first half of the 20th century, the city became a world center for industry, commerce, and communication.

New York's nonwhite population was 36,620 in 1890. In the 1920s, New York City was a prime destination for African Americans during the Great Migration from the American South. By 1916, New York City was home to the largest urban African diaspora in North America. The Harlem Renaissance of literary and cultural life flourished during the era of Prohibition. The larger economic boom generated construction of competing skyscrapers that changed the skyline into its identifiable twentieth-century shape. By the early 1920s, New York had become the most populous urbanized area in the world, overtaking London.

Season 1[]


NYC's Times Square, as it appears in The Ivory Tower.

NYC kingpin Arnold Rothstein and his second Lucky Luciano travel to Atlantic City in January 17 1920 to broke a deal with Nucky Thompson over importing illegal alcohol through his town, under the mediation of Chicago's crime bosses Big Jim Colosimo and Johnny Torrio. Luciano comments that AC's infamous nightlife is nothing compared to New York's, to which Torrio replies that New York won't be the same after Prohibition. Rothstein then claims that New York will continue to be New York if it depends of him, and buys $60000 worth of liquor from Nucky Thompson. However, over the course of that same night Rothstein and Luciano break the house winning $93000 at Lolly Steinman's casino, which is controlled by Nucky, forcing Nucky to give Rothstein the alcohol shipment for free and pay the $33000 of difference in addition. Unknown to Nucky, his driver Jimmy Darmody brokes a parallel deal with Torrio's man Al Capone to steal that shipment the next night, and in the process they kill the five men that Rothstein trusted with its transport - or they think so. Shortly after Colosimo is assassinated in Chicago. ("Boardwalk Empire")

Thompson refuses to answers Rothstein's calls, but Rothstein gets word of Yale's travel to Chicago and concludes that he murdered Colosimo. Rothstein has Lucky Luciano summon Yale to his office in New York City, but Yale claims to know nothing about that. Rothstein, playing pool, recalls a time when he tricked a performer that could swallow and then regurgitate billiard balls into swallowing a cue ball, thicker than the rest, and how he chocked to death as a result. Rothstein tells Yale that if he could kill a man for his own amusement, then he can only imagine what Rothstein could do to him if he didn't tell Rothstein who hired him to kill Colosimo. Yale swallows his drink whole as Luciano shows to be ready for violence. ("The Ivory Tower")

Season 2[]


  • Rothstein's office
  • Rothstein's home
  • Lansky's game place
  • Tompkins Square Park
  • Brooklyn
  • Manhattan
  • The Bronx

External links[]

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