British Invasion Walk

A Self-Guided Walking Tour of 72nd St. to examine British influence in the former colonies.

from Walking Off the Big Apple. home of flâneur wholesome goodness. See if you can find the page of Buried Treasures.

Many New Yorkers have spent much of the last 400 years trying to keep British subjects* uneasy about settling here. Even with the first encounter in 1609 the indigenous peoples of this area greeted English explorer Henry Hudson with some good trading deals but then shot arrows through his crewmen's necks.

It's been like that ever since. In our time, for example, David Bowie, Esq. (David Robert Jones, b. 8 January 1947, Brixton, South London), and Mr. Sting (Gordon Matthew Sumner, b. 2 October 1951, Wallsend, Newcastle-upon-Tyne) have financed a proposed burlesque club in the fashionable neighborhood of NoLita, only to face opposition from some New Yorkers who don't get the redefinition of burlesque as ironic performance art.

So I've poured some Lyle's Golden Syrup on my porridge this morning and unfolded the map of Manhattan next to me in order to plan the next walk.

I will first explain where I am not going. I am not walking up Greenwich Avenue, a street with some very good English-themed shoppes such as A Salt and Battery (fish and chips) and Tea & Sympathy. This past spring merchants along here organized a lobbying campaign to designate the avenue as Little Britain in the Big Apple. I wish them well.

WOTBA is interested in the big picture. Knowing that these repeated invasions from the British Isles have indeed made an impact far larger than afternoon tea, I have decided to walk west to east along 72nd Street, a journey that should serve as an exemplar of British power and might. If you already know what awaits at the corner of 72nd and York, then you may be surprised at what we'll find along the way. This modest itinerary will necessitate several posts over several days. At the end I will reveal the identities of the truly powerful, London-based gents who control everything in our refrigerators and medicine cabinets and keep many Americans in a steady state of self-medication.

OKAY! Now everyone shout out the answer - "Are you a mod or a rocker?"

Images: Letter from the Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, and a Union Flag. Click on the letter to enlarge.

* American Presidents born as British subjects: Washington, J. Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, J. Q. Adams, Jackson, and W. Harrison.

British Invasion Walk: Atlantic Overtures


We were all on this ship in the Sixties. Our generation – a ship going to discover the New World. And the Beatles were in the crow’s-nest of that ship. We were part of it and contributed what we contributed: I can't designate what we did or didn't do. It depends on how each individual was impressed by the Beatles, or how shock waves went to different people. We were going through the changes, and all we were saying was, "It’s raining up here!" or "There’s land!" or "There’s sun!" or "We can see a seagull!" We were just reporting what was happening to us. - John Winston Lennon (9 October 1940 Liverpool, England - 8 December 1980 New York City) quote, from Anthology 201


Sept. 12, 1609. Very fair and hot. In the afternoon at two o'clock we weighed, the wind being variable, between the north and the north-west; so we turned into the river two leagues and anchored. This morning at our first rode in the river, there came eight and twenty canoes full of men, women and children to betray us; but we saw their intent, and suffered none of them to come aboard us. At twelve o'clock they departed. They brought with them oysters and beans, whereof we bought some. They have great tobacco pipes of yellow copper, and pots of earth to dress their meat in. It floweth south-east by south within. - Robert Juet, crewman aboard the Halve Moon, Henry Hudson's Third Voyage to the New World. The quote at top is from Juet's entry from the previous day, September 11, 1609.

The British Invasion Walk, 72nd St. from the Hudson River to the East River.