SOME FAMOUS STATEN ISLANDERS

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Alice Austen (1866-1952) Pioneering photographer documented turn of the century life on Staten Island and around New York City. She lived in a Rosebank house called Clear Comfort overlooking the Narrows. It is now a museum dedicated to her photographs. A ferryboat and PS 60 are named for her.   

Thomas Adams Founder of the chewing gum industry, later teamed up with William Wrigley Jr., Adams got the idea while working as secretary to the ex-dictator of Mexico, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Santa Ana chewed a Mexican plant called chicle, which Adams first tried to make into rubber, but when that failed he added sugar to the chicle making the gum that would become known as Chiclets. Adams lived in West New Brighton in the 1860s and 1870s.

Aaron Burr  (1756-1836) Third Vice President of the United States under Thomas Jefferson from 1801-1805. In 1804 he killed his long time rival Alexander Hamilton in a duel after Hamilton had publicly accused him of being “dangerous”. He lived his later years and died in Port Richmond.

Dorothy Day  (1897-1980) Editor and social activist, she founded the Catholic Worker movement to promote social justice, pacifism, and communalism. She bought a beach cottage in Pleasant Plains in 1924 where she lived with her common law husband until her conversion to Catholicism caused the two to split. She was baptized into the Catholic faith in Tottenville at Our Lady Help of Christians Church. In 1935 her Catholic Worker movement set up a communal farm on Staten Island. She is buried in Staten Island’s Resurrection Cemetery. Often mentioned as a candidate for sainthood, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2001. Her autobiography is called The Long Loneliness (1952).

Charles Goodyear (1800-1860) Rubber pioneer lived in West Brighton in the 1830s where he had a factory that made rubber toys, maps, and surgical bandages. He invented the revolutionary process that prevents India rubber from melting in the summer heat and made rubber a practical product for thousands of uses. Goodyear received little profit from his work and lived most of his life in poverty and debt.

Paul Newman (1925-2008) Movie star lived at 30 Daniel Low Terrace, St. George while working in the New York theatre. His films include The Long Hot Summer, Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting. He was nominated for six academy awards before finally winning one for his role in The Color of Money (1986). His Newman’s Own brand food sales raise millions of dollars for charity every year.

Vito Picone ( Vito and The Elegants ) (born March 17, 1940) He was born and raised in South Beach. The Elegants had a  hit record Little Star, it went #1 in 1957.

Daniel D. Tompkins (1774-1825) Vice President of the United States under President James Monroe from 1817-1825. He lived in St. George and died on Staten Island. He was elected governor of New York State in 1807 and served for ten years. He paid much of the cost of defending New York City in the War of 1812 out of his own pocket causing him near financial ruin. An abolitionist, he lead the fight which finally outlawed slavery in New York State in 1827. The neighborhood of Tompkinsville is named for him.

Amy Vanderbilt (1908-1974) Author of the best selling Complete Book of Etiquette (1952). A native of Staten Island, a Curtis High School graduate and a reporter for the Staten Island Advance.  She was crowned “successor” to the other famed Islander and etiquette expert, Emily Post, when the seven hundred page Complete Book of Etiquette was published.

Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877) With one hundred dollars from his parents he bought a sailboat and began ferrying passengers and freight from Staten Island to Manhattan. Soon the “Commodore” had steamships circling the globe and railroads crossing the continent making him the richest man in the United States. He was born on Staten Island.

.Charles R. Wittemann (1885?-1967) Founded the world’s first airplane manufacturing plant in his father’s garage on Todt Hill. He built his first glider in 1901 and his first biplane in 1907. He was also a founder of Teterboro airport. 

Paul Zendel  Wrote numerous books for children and young adults. He grew up in Travis, attended PS 26 and Wagner College and taught chemistry at Tottenville High School. Some of his young adult fiction books set on Staten Island include: The Pigman (1968), The Pigman’s Legacy (1980), and Rats (1999). His Pulitzer and Obie winning play, inspired by the Tottenville High School science fair, is The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds (1971) which was also made into a film by Twentieth Century Fox in 1973. His autobiography is called The Pigman and Me (1992).

THESE ARE JUST OF A FEW OF THE MANY FAMOUS STATEN ISLANDERS.

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