Historic Photos Freeze-Frame the Development of Long Island: A Key Battleground during the Revolution and a Vital Military Weapons Supplier during World War II, Long Island Is Well-Known for Its Beautiful Beaches and Sprawling Suburbs

By Czachowski, Joe | USA TODAY, September 2009 | Go to article overview
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Historic Photos Freeze-Frame the Development of Long Island: A Key Battleground during the Revolution and a Vital Military Weapons Supplier during World War II, Long Island Is Well-Known for Its Beautiful Beaches and Sprawling Suburbs


Czachowski, Joe, USA TODAY


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WHAT IS IN A NAME? In the case of Long Island, both words are key. Long Island is long--ff 118 miles. Its widest distance is 23 miles--and it is an island, the largest in the continental U.S. Long Island is comprised of four counties, two that are boroughs of New York City (Queens and Kings, the latter better known as Brooklyn) and two that contain suburbs of the city (Nassau and Suffolk). This collection of historic images reflects all four. Amazingly, Long Island has not sunk under the weight of its nearly 8,000,000 people. Though it is part of New York state, that has not stopped some from suggesting it should be the nation's 51st state. It certainly has everything to survive and thrive on its own: industry, agriculture, natural beauty, and, most importantly, its inhabitants.

As is emphasized by town names such as Matinecock, Massapequa, and Quogue, American Indians inhabited L.I. when the European colonists first arrived, and their impact on its culture has been lasting. The Dutch were among the island's earliest settlers, spreading out from the growing town on the smaller island of Manhattan, while New England Puritans crossed Long Island Sound from Connecticut and Massachusetts. All embodied those "Yankee" ideals marked by hard work and religious conviction.

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The British eventually dominated on Long Island, commanding trade and settlement. The farmland was rich and the sea was plentiful, with bountiful harvests of things common and exotic. With sheltered harbors available, shipping became a major force. The area was settled slowly, and those who wanted a change and challenge found it a paradise. As was the case with other profitable colonies, people on Long Island had divided loyalties and, when the first shots were fired in the Revolutionary War, rebel and loyalist firmly were entrenched.

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Commander in Chief of the Continental Army George Washington had the Declaration of Independence read aloud to his troops on Long Island in that famous July of 1776. A defining battle erupted a month later. England won that round and retained the island for the balance of the war, but the colonial militias learned how to fight delaying actions and secure proper retreats, which bode well for later battles. When the Revolution was won, loyalists left for points north, and Long Island went about growing and becoming stronger as an important part of New York state.

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New York City in the 19th century was the center of American commerce. The wealthy and powerful of the Gilded Age--families such as the Morgans, Vanderbilts, and Roosevelts--began to see Long Island as a place to escape the grime of the city and build lavish homes and estates.

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Historic Photos Freeze-Frame the Development of Long Island: A Key Battleground during the Revolution and a Vital Military Weapons Supplier during World War II, Long Island Is Well-Known for Its Beautiful Beaches and Sprawling Suburbs
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