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Better Than Google

The Tappan Zee Bridge has never been without controversy.  In 1936, when the bridge was first proposed, there was much outrage that the bridge would despoil the natural beauty of Rockland County. This plan was considered unfeasible and was dropped.  In the early 1950s, when the bridge was again proposed to be built between Tarrytown and South Nyack, people were confused and upset.  Why build the bridge at the widest point of the Hudson?  It made no sense.  This caused great consternation among the citizens of these two municipalities who worried that their quality of life would change for the worse. Despite bitter opposition from the locals, the bridge was approved and opened in December 1955, altering the character of sleepy Rockland County forever.
How did I find this out? I simply typed in the words Tappan Zee Bridge into the search box of Proquest Historical New York Times (1851-2010) and came up with a load of primary source articles that appeared in that august paper.  If I were doing research into the history of the bridge, this would be the perfect place to go. The Journal News would also be a logical place to try, but unfortunately, no index exists before 2002.
If you are researching a topic, an obituary, a person, whatever, the Historical New York Times is a goldmine of information.  First hand accounts of great historical events such as wars, assassinations, moon landings, deaths of famous people, will tell you what it meant to people at the time.  While Rudolph Valentino is no longer a household name, his death in 1926 devasted millions.  The extensive coverage from his hospital deathbed to his funeral speaks to his one-time fame. You can read news articles about the Titanic, both before and after her sinking. Did you know that one of President Grant's pall-bearers was a rabbi? How about this for a job listed in the Jan 29, 1910 classified ad: Refined young lady to take out a little girl 10 years of age, afternoons.  No salary was mentioned. Display and classified ads are enlightening and tell us much about what life was like at that period of time.
If you want to learn about the big events of the day, or just get a feel for ordinary life at the time, peruse the historical New York Times.  You'll find you can waste just as much time as you would using Google, but you'll learn something.

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