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Long Island has transformed many times over the last 200 years; from an agricultural identity to, most recently, a suburban one. Evidence of these transformations are visible in the types of businesses Long Islanders pursued. In 1820, for instance, only 5% of the population lived in what the census termed "urban" areas and the remaining 96% lived on farms. Agricultural pursuits accounted for most families' income. As the transformation of the area took shape, from a mostly agricultural way of life to a more industrialized one, many businesses flourished and then ceased to exist. As an example, during the last several decades of the 1800s and through the 1960s duck farms were a source of income for many on Long Island and were producing about 7.5 million ducks a year for the restaurant industry. By the late 1960s, the duck farms either moved away or went out of business due to environmental concerns or reduced need. Other examples include the aviation industry, general stores, small theaters and summer resorts, and hotels. Not many residents today know much about these once thriving local industries.
The Long Island Studies Institute has undertaken efforts to preserve the records of many of these businesses and industries, providing researchers, scholars, and students alike the opportunity to peer into Long Island’s past and learn about the thriving enterprises that helped shaped the communities and landscapes we know today. The Long Island Business and Industry Catalog project was launched to gather information about the business-related collections housed at the Institute in a single portal, presenting patrons with an overview of the records available through the LISI. Nearly forty business and industry collections are listed in this catalog, ranging from a small general store and grocery in Sag Harbor at the end of the 19th century to the hugely influential Grumman Aerospace Corporation which helped put humanity on the Moon.
These collections include documents and artifacts running the gamut from everyday business records such as account ledgers and day books, photographs, video recordings, theatrical programs, business cards, personal and business correspondence, artifacts including pins, lace samples, ashtrays and matchbooks, menus, trading cards, bottles, corkscrews and bottle openers, and other paraphernalia related to Long Island’s business and industries both past and present. The catalog is readily searchable using the search bar to the left of each of the catalog’s pages, allowing ease-of-use to patrons. A PDF index of the catalog’s collections, organized by both subject and location is provided here as well for browsing on and offline.
The Long Island Business and Industry catalog was made possible by a grant from the Robert D.L. Gardiner Foundation and with the assistance and resources of Hofstra University. For more information on the Long Island Studies Institute or to make arrangements to examine any of the collections listed in the Catalog, please contact the LISI via telephone at 516-463-6411 or by email at email@example.com.