Knickerbocker, Knickerbocker, 0813545161, 0-8135-4516-1, 978-0-8135-4516-5, 9780813545165, , , Knickerbocker, 0813548624, 0-8135-4862-4, 978-0-8135-4862-3, 9780813548623, , , Knickerbocker, 0813580439, 0-8135-8043-9, 978-0-8135-8043-2, 9780813580432,

The Myth behind New York
Elizabeth L. Bradley (Author)
192 pages, 24, 5.5 x 8.5
Cloth, May 2009 $26.95   ADD TO CART
epub, May 2009 $26.95   EBOOK VERSION AVAILABLE
Subject Area:
American Studies, Literary Studies, New York City and State
A 2010 AAUP Best of the Best title


Deep within New York's compelling, sprawling history lives an odd, ornery Manhattan native named Diedrich Knickerbocker. The name may be familiar today: his story gave rise to generations of popular tributes—from a beer brand to a basketball team and more—but Knickerbocker himself has been forgotten. In fact, he was New York's first truly homegrown chronicler, and as a descendant of the Dutch settlers, he singlehandedly tried to reclaim the city for the Dutch. Almost singlehandedly, that is. Diedrich Knickerbocker was created in 1809 by a young Washington Irving, who used the character to narrate his classic satire, A History of New York. According to Irving's partisan narrator, everything good and distinctive, proud and powerful, about New York City—from the doughnuts to the twisting streets of lower Manhattan—could be traced back to New Amsterdam. Terrific general interest, cultural history of a city with a rich and lively literary past. First-ever book on the eponymous myth that has informed New York City culture since the early 1800s. Coincides with the two-hundredth anniversary of Washington Irving's publication of A History of New York. Perfect gift book or addition to library collection of New York Cityùthemed books.

Includes a gallery of images that brings Diedrich Knickerbocker, his myth, time, and place to life Knickerbocker engagingly traces the creation, evolution, and prevalence of Irving's imaginary historian in New York literature and history, art and advertising, from the early nineteenth century to the present day. Who would imagine this satiric character, at once a snob and a champion of the people, would endure for two hundred years? In Elizabeth L. Bradley's words, "Whether you call it 'blood,' style, attitude, or moxie, the little Dutchman could deliver." And, from this engaging work, it is clear that he does.

Bradley's stunning volume offers a surprising and delightful glimpse behind the scenes of New York history, and invites readers into the world of Knickerbocker, the antihero who surprised everyone by becoming the standard-bearer for the city's exceptional sense of self, or what we now call a New York "attitude."


"A briskly engaging book."
—Christopher Benfey, New York Review of Books

"This is cultural history at its best."
—Journal of American Culture

"Elizabeth L. Bradley sorts, catalogues and deciphers the shifting Knickerbocker currents in a metropolis constantly reinventing itself. She does the sturdy Dutchman proud in a scholarly and polished rendition."

"Bradley creates an engaging account of the city through the fictional Knickerbocker, who was a steady presence 'over two centuries of wrenching urban transformation, from the post-colonial to the postmodern.' Bradley is a perceptive and lively writer and does a superb job of tracing the many strands of the Knickerbocker myth. She provided the historical context necessary to illustrate the ways the Knickerbocker brand was invoked and provides deft analysis of the cultural meanings it accrued."

"Diedrich Knickerbocker...gets a history and identity worthy of New York's swagger in this exploration by Bradley of how Knickerbocker shaped the city's identity. Literary historians and proud New Yorkers alike will delight in the character who brought pomp and legend to the city first nicknamed Gotham by Washington Irving 200 years ago."
—Publishers Weekly

"Brims with information about the burgeoning use of Knickerbocker as a literary device in novels, newspaper articles, and advertisements as a touchstone of popular culture. Entertaining enough for the general reader—including those planning a trip to one of the world's most visited cities—and amply annotated for the scholar, this is highly recommended."
—Library Journal

"These days the word 'knickerbocker' represents 'little more than a comical handle, a Dutch-inflected sound—or a heartbreaking season at Madison Square Garden,' observes Elizabeth Bradley in Knickerbocker: The Myth Behind New York. Her slender, charming volume aims to change that. Bradley delves into the 200-year history of the term, which originated in Washington Irving's 1809 History of New York and given that New Yorkers are famously preoccupied with their own exceptionalism, they would do well to learn more about one of the city's original boosters."
—Barnes & Noble Review

"Knickerbocker is a very valuable work, particularly as one of the few contemporary histories to explore how fictional texts and reading practices can have material effects on a particular place. Bradley's analysis of Knickerbocker's significance will be of great interest to literary scholars and historians of the American nineteenth century, and her counternarrative of New York's development will reward the professional and general reader alike."

"Those who puzzle at the incessant branding and rebranding of New York City would do well to read this fascinating, sophisticated, and witty social history of a myth. Bradley knows her facts and shrewdly and convincingly interprets them. A delightful contribution to urban studies."
—Phillip Lopate, author of Waterfront: A Journey Around Manhattan

"Is New York different from other cities, or does it just have different myths? Focusing on a tale first spun by Washington Irving two centuries ago, Knickerbocker answers this question with grace and skill. It is a delight to read."
—Kenneth T. Jackson, editor-in-chief, The Encyclopedia of New York

"Knickerbocker is a storied name steeped in tradition—one that I am proud to have been a part of. Bradley's Knickerbocker: The Myth Behind New York offers a unique examination of how a name familiarized by Washington Irving two hundred years ago grew to become a cultural symbol of New York."
—Former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley

Author / Editor Bio

Elizabeth L. Bradley is deputy director of the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. She is the editor of Washington Irving's A History of New York, a contributor to the Encyclopedia of New York City, and has written about New York history and culture for several publications.

Table Of Contents

The Picture of Knickerbocker
Inheriting Knickerbocker
Fashioning a Knickerbocracy
Knickerbocker in a New Century


Wired TV
Denise Mann
Urban Underworlds
Thomas Heise
Migration of Musical Film
Desirée J. Garcia
Animated Bestiary
Paul Wells