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Do You Remember?

"Henry B. Dawson, Early Newspaperman and Historian"

Tom Casey provided this image of
Henry B. Dawson.

(Reprinted from the Bronx Times Reporter on March 10, 2005)

Henry Barton Dawson, an early Morrisania resident, wrote numerous historical essays and a number of history books. He was born on June 8, 1821 at Gosberton in Lincolnshire, England and immigrated to the United States on June 9, 1834 at age thirteen. The family settled in upper Manhattan where his father found employment as a gardener at the Bloomingdale Lunatic Asylum. Henry would work with his father there and elsewhere at that trade before being apprenticed as a wheelwright. He later would find a job as a clerk, moving from firm to firm acquiring a vast amount of knowledge and contacts.

He had loaned some money to the proprietor of a weekly magazine called The Crystal Fount in 1845 and when the loan could not be repaid, he found himself in the writing and publishing business. Although that magazine would eventually fail, it did give him a reputation for writing, which would lead to other opportunities. He wrote "The Park and its Vicinity" for the Common Council of New York City in 1855, "The Life and Times of Anne Hutchinson" for the Baptist Historical Society, and "The Retreat through Westchester County in 1776" for the New-York Historical Society.
His first book was written at the request of Messrs. Johnson, Fry and Company, publishers, in 1856. It was entitled "The Battles of the United States by Sea and Land" and was released as a serial in forty parts; the initial number appeared in the fall of 1858. He then worked on a seven-volume set on the Constitution of the United States. Numerous other works would follow.

This was followed by a stint as editor of The Gazette, a Yonkers weekly. The following year, 1866, he purchased The Historian magazine. In 1868 Joseph Shannon and F. J. Twomey, Esq. of "The Manual of the New York Common Council" invited him to pursue historical subjects therein. Among the papers submitted for this publication was one on the Battle of Harlem Heights.

An 1871-2 Morrisania directory lists Henry Dawson's occupation as historian and his house as being located on the north side of Home Street, the first house east of Boston Road. His son, Henry Jr. is listed as a printer at that same location. Henry had eight other children and one adopted child with is wife, Catherine. A Bronx street was named for him in 1894. Part of it has since been demapped for the construction of the John Adams Houses but a section of it still remains in the Longwood section of our borough to remind us of this early Bronx historian.

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